Chapter One: http://bloodyroseandthorn.blogspot.com/search/label/Ch%201
Bekah wasn’t the slightest bit surprised to find Dan standing behind them. However, the redhead at his side who held his hand had completely caught her off guard. Bekah may as well have been the main dish at a Freddy Kruger smorgasbord, especially since Dan appeared to be caressing the woman’s porcelain hand.
The fair-complected woman’s bright green eyes scanned over the room, locking briefly on Bekah before dipping to the floor.
Who the heck was she and how the heck could Dan feel remotely attracted to this older Kelly McBride look-alike? She wore a baggy white sweater over a pair of loose-fitting khakis that failed to hide her rounded figure. Definitely not as chunky as Bekah’s mom or as thin as Kelly, but her eyes, complexion and long, golden-red curls screamed that she’d been picked straight from the McBride family.
And there Bekah stood, her hair no doubt a mess, scantily clad in the Wonder Woman suit with a half-made-up Dracula at her side. She and Ryan must have looked like complete lunatics. Dan’s wide eyes seemed to confirm this suspicion, but then she realized he’d zeroed in on her haircut.
Her fingers laced into her layers, drawing them away from her face and she and Dan cleared their throats simultaneously.
Ryan chuckled and released a loud, “Oooh!” And then, “So, this is why you didn’t want us here tonight!”
Dan gaped as though Ryan had just spoken the worst of obscenities- and in Bekah’s opinion, he had!
Wrapping an arm around the woman’s shoulder, Dan said Ryan’s name sternly. He then glanced at his pale-faced date, who appeared to have lost the ability to raise her head. “This is Grace. Rebekah…”
Don’t introduce your date to me, you big freakin’ fake!
Not two hours ago, he’d been acting like a lovesick idiot, standing across the table from her and discouraging any alone time with Ryan. No way…he hadn’t been acting all antsy and upset just because he’d wanted to bring his date to the attic. Ryan had to be smarter than that.
Dan peered sheepishly over at Bekah. “You know Grace’s sister…”
Well, duh. I think that’s obvious!
Pushing Grace’s hair over her shoulder, his brows curled and his Adam’s Apple bobbed. Yeah, he knew he’d been a bad boy. Super-duper bad boy. If he’d been so entranced by this other woman, why had he been ogling Bekah in her Wonder Woman suit tonight? Maybe he hadn’t made a display of it, but he’d snuck a few peeks at her figure and she felt half inclined to point that fact out.
But why drop that bomb on Grace when she didn’t seem anything like-
“Kelly,” Dan said, as though Bekah needed clarification. “Kelly is Grace’s younger sister.”
Oddly, Grace still wouldn’t even look up and Dan frowned as he sandwiched her one paw between his two. Keeping his focus on the redhead, he asked, “Could you two please excuse us for a moment?”
“By all means.” Bekah swallowed so harshly that it felt like something sharp had stuck in her throat and she caught Ryan’s double-take in her periphery. Dan’s cheeks pinkened and judging by the clenching of his jaws, he felt like telling her to shut the frik up. But he’d better not. Not the way she was feeling at the moment.
Turning, she snatched Ryan’s cape from the white couch against the wall and draped it around her bare shoulders, trying hard not to stomp toward the staircase.
Certainly, we’ll leave you and Miss McBride alone, Teacher. Obviously you’ve chosen someone who needs babying more than I do!
Dan cringed as Ryan took Rose’s hand and lead her toward the stairs, and then stood there feeling like a two-timing twit who’d been picked for the boiling pot. He hadn’t been two-timing, but the expression on Rose’s face…she’d glared at him with same hostility that Denise had thrust upon him when she’d learned of his moving plans.
Feeling betrayed, no doubt, but if Rose was so stuck on Ryan, why would Grace’s presence anger her so much?
Good question. And why do you feel like punching your own brother every time he touches a certain student?
He took a breath but the oxygen failed to loosen the tension around his midsection.
Grace’s hand continued to tremble inside of his and he waited until the footfalls on the staircase became muffled by the carpet below before clearing his throat. A second time. A second time that probably made him appear more suspicious to a woman who’d already been holding him at arm’s length. It had taken three nights of pleading and promises to get her to take this step and now she acted like a scared rabbit, ready to turn and hop back into her hole.
“Grace, I’m sorry. Regardless of what Ryan thinks, I don’t plan on making any moves on you.”
She peeked at him and shook her head choppily. “I…I know, it’s just…”
“No, you don’t. My brother knows nothing of your issues and I’m sure he’d apologize if he did. Please trust me. I brought you here to show off my observatory and Allie will be right downstairs the entire time. I’m not going to break any of my promises.”
Though he wouldn’t deny her eyes and her soft, caring attitude made it extremely difficult not to kiss her. Her figure helped very little but even more enticing than all of that was the fact that she shared his beliefs.
She withdrew her hand and he felt as deflated as he always did after encounters with Rose. Lord, why couldn’t he have a normal relationship with a woman? Seemed every female he began to care for carried Tess-like burdens upon their shoulders. All except for Denise, whose controlling personality matched her better with the likes of Hedda Gabler. But then, he suspected a bit of that in Rose, as well.
Folding her arms, Grace licked her soft, pink lips. “It’s OK, Dan. I get scared but I don’t…don’t really think you’ll do anything. It’s just…” She shrugged. “…old fears, that’s all.”
“Are you sure?”
He waited, his frown deep enough to bring on a migraine.
“Who was that girl?” She glanced at him and away. “She looked like she was ready to beat me to death.”
Wincing, he peered over the rail and listened. Ryan’s laughter rolled from somewhere below, so Dan doubted Rose had heard anything or that she’d been standing in the closet, straining to listen.
Caressing Grace’s back in a slow circle, he chose his words carefully because revealing the truth would place him several rungs down on her trust ladder. “She…isn’t great friends with Kelly, Grace. Remember when I told you one of your donuts wound up crushed on a student’s head?”
Finally she blessed him with the attention of her emerald eyes. “That was her?”
He nodded. “Like I said, I’m not sure Kelly knew Brian intended to assault anyone with that donut, but…”
“Assault?” She grinned. “That’s kind of a strong word, isn’t it? For just the use of a soft, fluffy pastry?”
“The sugar makes it a pretty threatening weapon in my book.”
Her expression clouded over but he didn’t entirely regret his comment. However, he offered an apology and tugged her fingers. Announcing his intention to grab them some drinks, he directed her to the couch and prayed he’d be able to live up to his word tonight. One bad move and she’d probably slap him and never speak to him again.
Though that might have been a good thing, he conceded and slowed his pace. She may have shared his faith but he feared they’d wind up fighting over the nutritional issues and if she continued to spurn intimate contact beyond hand-holding…how could he even consider marriage?
Even without all of the details of what had happened, he understood why she struggled and he wished he could ease her pain. But a marriage without intimacy would drive him nuts. As it was, he constantly fought the urge to keep his hands to himself. Which would be the case with any woman he dated, since this time around he was determined to behave himself until his wedding night. But if he even dared to run his hands along her curves, she’d freeze up.
He doubted Rose would freeze. And in that Wonder Woman suit-
He paused in the middle of his bedroom and shook his head as though trying to dispatch a little demon from his mind.
Foolish idiot. The only girl in school who’d managed to draw him was Rebekah and if he didn’t get a grip of this problem…better not to entertain the notion. Just leave it with God and focus on his work.
Thanks to some “tweaking,” Hack had begun to trust him, but keeping the principal on his side was no substitute for maintaining a straight and narrow path.
He stepped forward and nearly tripped on the stinking basketball he’d left out after school. After a long day of flirty girls and slacker students, he’d hit the court for an hour before rushing home to take a shower and dress in the costume Rose had referred to as “stupid.”
Stupid, it may have been, but the mask had concealed his identity from unsuspecting kids. He’d snuck up on a few amorous couples in dark corners, cleared his throat and waited until they’d peeled their lips apart to see who’d dared to intrude on their make out sessions. As soon as he’d ripped off the mask, their eyes had flung open in utter horror.
He’d laughed. Even now, he grinned at the memory. But perhaps his favorite memory involved Brian Cruise, who’d cowered as though being threatened with a gun.
That’s right, Dan thought. Don’t forget who has the upper hand, Brian.
After that, he’d been irritated by Ryan’s hands all over Rose, but at least they’d behaved themselves most of the night--until he’d come home with Grace. Interrupting their would-be kiss had granted him the best high of the evening but no doubt Ryan felt like slugging him for it. Still, Dan would do it again in a heartbeat.
Allowing the basketball to roll toward the bed, he continued into the hall just as Allie resumed plucking on her guitar. He and Grace had stopped to check on her before heading to the attic and he’d been proud of her rosy complexion and the way her jeans fit more snuggly around her hips- not to mention her beautiful singing voice.
However, Allie had pulled him aside to whisper, “Heads up- Ryan is upstairs with Rebekah and it’s been awfully quiet, if you know what I mean.”
Dan had panicked, mainly over the idea of a student losing her virginity in his house. Of course, the idea of Ryan and her…
He cringed anew and jogged down the stairs to the living room. Rose sat on the couch with Ryan’s cape over her smooth legs, her glare centering on Dan almost immediately. Ryan, on the other hand, was busy setting up the Star Wars Monopoly game on the coffee table, so Dan allowed himself to admire Rose’s new haircut. The shorter style framed her face well but unfortunately made her look more like a teacher than a student.
Why did she keep doing this to him?
Whether she looks older or not, she’s still a troubled kid and don’t forget it!
A kid who didn’t need his little brother coming onto her in the attic observatory. He gnawed his inner cheek but Ryan remained oblivious to Dan’s ticked off state and turned to lift some more fake money out of the box on the floor.
Dan would deal with it later. If he began bickering about the kid’s lack of self-control, Ryan would probably hijack Rose to God only knew where.
Forget it. Better they stayed here where he could keep an eye on them. What had he been thinking when he’d told them to stay away from the house? Grace’s presence had contributed to the complications between Dan and Rose, but that was better than Rose winding up pregnant with Ryan’s kid.
Damn, how would he control them in the future? Something had to be done.
What if they’d already crossed the line?
Though tempted to kick the loveseat, he marched toward the kitchen, feeling Rose shooting holes into his back. Hurriedly, he poured a glass of stevia-sweetened tea into three glasses- one for himself, one for Allie, and one for Grace, and then searched for the tray he usually kept tucked between the refrigerator and the cabinets.
Why did Rebekah think she’d the right to scold him with her eyes like that?
At least his worry beat her simple jealousy when it came to discomfort over ‘the other guy (or girl).’ First off, both Ryan and Rose struggled with alcohol. And their tempers…Ryan’s mainly flared when he’d been drinking, and Rose would inevitably wind up cracking something over the kid’s head. One thing certain about her- she’d take no abuse, no matter how guilty she felt about getting even.
But aside from all of that, they really weren’t suited for each other and he couldn’t figure out why Ryan had honed in on her so firmly.
Rose…Rose may have been dating Ryan to get closer to Dan, but there were plenty of hints that she found the younger man attractive and enjoyed spending time with him. Why, though? What had made her cave so easily to his enticement?
She’d turned onto Ryan far quicker than she had to Dan. Why?
You don’t need to know. Just forget about her, except where your intervention is needed.
Unable to find the tray, he called into the living room, “Ry, you seen my tray?”
After a beat, the kid replied, “In your office, I think.”
The den. Great. He’d run in there, get everything together and march straight back to where he belonged- with an older woman who shared his faith, even if he couldn’t get any much-needed kisses and caresses.
You need more than that…you need-
A slap right upside your skull.
Yes, that would do it.
He found the tray with a bowl of leftover soup and a coffee mug and hurried back to the kitchen. While he searched for something healthy to feed his guest, Ryan cursed and announced his intention to dig up missing game pieces in the garage.
Dan began opening cabinets but nothing inside seemed appealing- either that or he just couldn’t focus on any of the boxes to figure out what the hell he had. Within seconds, his brother’s footsteps jogged down the hall and the garage door squealed open loudly.
Rose wasn’t one to sit still. She’d take advantage of her date’s absence.
He ripped a few boxes from the shelves but the words on the packaging jumbled together and his heart began racing as he tried to figure out what he wanted.
Hurry it up, Shields.
He threw some boxes onto the tray with the drinks, cursed under his breath and picked the whole thing up. Once he’d made it back into the living room, he halted next to the staircase wall.
Rose stood in perfect Wonder Woman stance, her arms folded and a daring look on her made-up face. Cocking her head, she smiled a bit devilishly.
“In a hurry?” she asked.
Please not now.
“I think so,” he replied in too uneven a tone for his comfort. He then added sternly, “Grace is waiting.”
She studied the contents on the tray and lifted one of the boxes, her smile widening enough to bring some sparkle to her dark eyes. “You like to eat whole wheat muffin mix straight from the box?”
Dan swallowed. Her lips shined with freshly-applied gloss. Had she done that for him…or Ryan?
“Well?” She lowered the box and lifted another. “Now this is more like it- dark chocolate-covered raisins. Can I have one?”
What was she doing? He knew she could be a tease, but her date wasn’t far behind and he doubted Ryan would excuse or understand her behavior.
He frowned as she tore open the package of raisins and his heart rate quickened when she slowly bit into one.
Balancing the tray on one hand, he ran his hand through his hair. “Look,” he said again. “Why don’t you go whip up those muffins for us?”
She scowled after tossing another raisin into her mouth.
He’d known asking her to cook for him wouldn’t fly well and that was a good thing, wasn’t it? “I’m hungry and you might actually like these. There’s some dark chocolate chips in one of the cabinets- toss some in, but not too many.”
She popped the box of raisins back on the tray just as the garage door squealed shut.
Dan released his breath. Apparently he’d won this round…but he didn’t know about next time.
Rose backed off and reseated herself on the couch, so Dan continued with his tray. Pausing at the bottom of the steps, he tossed the box of muffin mix at her and she gawked at him.
Ryan stalked into the room with a plastic bag and Rose feigned interest as he sat down next to her.
“Make your own muffins,” she told Dan, leaving the box sit by the loveseat.
Ryan’s glower seared Dan before softening on Rose. “What’s going on?”
Dan pointed at the muffins. “I just asked her to fix those for us. Why don’t you both do it? It would be fun, don’t you think? And it would keep you the hell out of trouble, too."
With her elbows perched atop her shapely thighs, Rose tilted her head to plaster him with a tiny yet sinister smile. He could practically read her mind. See? You’re jealous!
Yeah, maybe he was. Maybe he missed the few conversations they’d had. Maybe he wished she’d reopen them by discussing Narnia. Maybe he should toss this tray aside and march her up to the attic. Not for anything physically inappropriate, but he guessed he’d be subjecting himself to temptation while failing to avoid the appearance of evil.
Besides, Grace was up there and Ryan’s glare became more threatening by the second. The last time the kid had looked at him that way, Dan had awakened with toothpaste in his mouth and his underwear strung outside his bedroom window.
“Dan, are you smoking something?” Ryan shifted and began counting money again. “Why would we want to make muffins? We're playing Monopoly, so relax."
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: http://bloodyroseandthorn.blogspot.com/2011/09/chapter-twenty-two-graces-pov.html
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: http://bloodyroseandthorn.blogspot.com/2011/09/chapter-twenty-two-graces-pov.html