Generation 5, Chapter 4

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I can be pretty competitive. It depends on what it is, who’s around and if there’s a prize at the end, but even a friendly soccer game between my brothers and my friends can get a little.. Out of hand at times.. But, hopefully today, we can keep it together and avoid a fight at the end. The fights, if any, are usually between August and someone else, but I’m hoping that he can keep his cool today.

This is the first time we’ve hung out ever since I went over to his place last week, but so far he hasn’t mentioned anything about it, so neither have I. Even if I wanted to help him out of the situation he was in with Dad, I still had no idea how to do it, so for now, I think I’ll try to mind my own business like Tavish told me I should do from the beginning.. At least just until it gets out of hand, if it ever does. But, enough about that.. Today was about having a friendly game of soccer and that’s exactly what I intended this game to be. Friendly.

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Our games tended to draw in a small crowd sometimes and even though it was mostly made up of our girlfriends or friends, there were some strangers that would see the game and stop by just to watch for a little while, but for now, the stands were empty. Our games tend to be pretty entertaining, though. Not only did all of our competitive natures come out during these games, but also our athletic abilities and the games can get pretty rough at times. I got kicked in the face once, if you can believe that. We tend to pull off some pretty risky moves that could cause a sprain or even a broken bone, but that’s what made them so fun. Of course, we tried to avoid these things, but.. Accidents do happen.

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I was one of the strongest players, so was August, Pia and Tavish, but everyone else in the game was pretty good, too. Pia could definitely hang with the boys, but she was best at being a goalie and could block any shot that came to her. Tavish was usually always my backup to make goals, and I, his. Anthony and Ian were friends of mine and they attended the games religiously. Then there was Jiro, the one that was the baby of the game and was able to play only because he was my little brother, and mostly because he talked to Dad and Pop about it.. Even though I’ve told him to buzz off, our parents were able to convince me to be nice and let him play.

Niko was back in town solely for the game, which most of the time he can’t make because of school, but since it was the weekend and he didn’t have class or any assignments to turn in for a few days, him and AnneMarie drove out here. I loved seeing Niko and I wished I could see him more often, but the seldom times I did get to see him were that much more enjoyable. I was actually pretty fortunate to be able to see him twice in the past two weeks.

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“Are we playing football rules this time, or no?” Ian asked in the circle we had made, discussing the rules. Sometimes we played tackle rules where anyone that’s on your side of the field with the ball on the opposing team can get tackled by whoever is closest to them, so you gotta be fast if you want to score that goal.

“Nah, we did that last time. And Jiro almost got his elbow broken because Anthony tackled him so hard,” I replied with a smirk and Jiro rolled his eyes.

“It wasn’t that bad,” Jiro tried to brush off and Anthony laughed as he punched Jiro’s arm playfully.

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“You almost cried, little dude!”

“No I didn’t!” Jiro defended himself, but we all knew that he really did almost cry and he tried his absolute hardest not to let a single tear fall from his eye so he wouldn’t get made fun of.

“The next time that rule is in play, though, and we’re on opposite teams, you better watch out, kid,” Anthony poked fun at him and the group gave mixed laughs and chuckles as Jiro stood there a pouted.

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“All right,” I added, bringing the conversation back to the game, “So, no football rules, just normal play. Everyone know their teams?” I asked and everyone nodded, “Cool. Well, let’s do this, and try to avoid being dicks to each other so we can avoid a fight.. August,” I singled him out and he mockingly gave a fake laugh before we all separated and went to our designated spots.

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So far in the stands were only AnneMarie and Lien.. Dad and Pop sometimes came by to watch the games, but they weren’t here yet and I wasn’t sure if they were coming or not. I hoped they would. It was always nice seeing them on the sidelines whenever we were on a team of some sort in school when we were all little, so seeing them still come to our games now, even just-for-fun games, meant a lot.. But, then again, it was the weekend and all the kids were out of the house, which usually meant they enjoyed their alone time to do things that I didn’t dare even try to waste my time thinking about. They deserve these short breaks with one another after raising six kids, so I could safely assume they weren’t going to show up.

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I started the game off with August, AnneMarie coming to the middle of the field to drop the ball in to begin it all.

“I want a clean game, boys. No rough housin’ and be nice to one another. Ya’ll seem to forget sometimes that it’s a game just for fun and ya’ll are friends,” she instructed and I chuckled.

“You got it, sweetheart,” I replied.

“Can’t make any promises, but I’ll try,” August added and AnneMarie readied herself, holding the ball out and ready to drop it, though also standing in a way where she was ready to run, knowing August and I are rough players and she needed to get out of the way as fast as she could.

“..Okay, ready? Andddd… Go!” She called out, dropping the ball and running as fast as she could off of the field.

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August and I fought only a second for the ball, but I quickly got it from him and kicked it to Tavish who was already heading for their goal. Anthony was trying his best to get it from him and he eventually did before Niko could get close enough to take a shot, using a powerful kick of his to get it across the field and away from our goal. Tavish jumped to use his chest to stop it and he brought it back to the middle, more than ready to be the first team to get a point and I was right there with him. Even with only four people on a team, our games were still played at a very quick pace and taken just as seriously as a professional team, though I guess there was a little more leniency when it came to ours since we were all friends and family. Either way, it was still a blast every time because everyone always put in their best effort, aggressive or not.

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I ran towards their goal and Tavish managed to launch the ball straight at me, jumping up to chest the ball like he had done to gain control of it and the second that it hit the ground, I kicked it hard into the goal straight passed Anthony and Ian and my team cheered.

“Fuck yeah, Luca!” Tavish called out.

“Woo! Already off to a good start!” Pia added from our goal and I went back to my side of the field, more than ready to do that again.

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“Nice job, man,” Niko complimented and I grinned.

“Why, thank you. Why don’t you take this next one, try and impress your lady?” I implied and he smiled.

“I’ll try.. I’m not as good as you three, though,” he said modestly, but he was just as competitive as the rest of us, just way less aggressive and the only one that actually tried to avoid hurting anyone the most out of all of us. If he could be goalie every game, he would, but one of the rules was that if you were goalie the last half of the last game, you couldn’t be the goalie again in the first half of the next. It was just to keep things interesting and to mix up the game a little.. Keep things fair, for the most part.

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A quarter of the way through the game, the score was already three to two and our team was winning thanks to those two goals being mine and one to Tav, and although August’s team was sticking close with us and it was hard to keep ahead of them in score for very long, we still managed to keep our team ahead. Every game, we played until one team got to ten goals and even though that seemed like a lot, if we made the score any lower, our games wouldn’t last long and we all wanted to make these monthly games worth it. We all liked making a day out of them and some of us even treated them like a vacation day because some of us had to work all the time or be at school all the time, so these games were a nice get away.

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Half way through the game, I switched out with Pia, standing in front of the goal and watching the game play out in front of me, but when I noticed a head full of shiny, eye catching silver hair, I lost my focus on the ball and stared.

..Riley came?

Damn.. AnneMarie must’ve invited her..

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As she scanned the field, I looked back towards the game to make it seem as if I hadn’t noticed her yet, but out of the corner of my eye, I could tell she noticed me. When she assumed I hadn’t seen her yet and I refused to look directly at her, she then stepped over towards AnneMarie and they hugged, then sat down together to watch the game. I don’t usually get nervous about this kind of stuff and even though I didn’t think there was anything between us anymore, I hated that I still had a strong urge to impress her. 

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“Luca, heads up!” I heard Niko yell and I looked to the field to see Jiro coming in and kicking the ball straight at the goal, but right before it was too late to catch it, I stopped it from going in by catching it before it devastated my face.

“Ha-HA!” I said cheerfully.

“Aww, man!” Jiro whined.

“You almost made it, it was a good try, bro,” I reassured him, but he still pouted.

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“Why are you the goalie? Why can’t Pia still be the goalie?” He asked and I tossed the ball at his chest roughly, Jiro letting out a sound of mild pain and the ball bounced off of him and I caught it again.

“Ow! What the fuck?!” He let out as he tried to catch his breath.

She would’ve been able to stop that and not have taken it like a bitch, so you wouldn’t have scored, anyways.. Plus, you know our rules, we switch out half way through, so deal with it or don’t play,” I pointed out with a smirk.

“Whatever,” he replied as he rubbed his chest.

“Stop complaining and go away. We still got a game to play and the goal isn’t to bitch and moan all the time,” I instructed and he grimaced at me before jogging away from the goal and I kicked the ball back into play, launching it across the field.

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The rest of the game was rough.. With me taking over as goalie for the last half of the game, I wasn’t even doing a good job at it since I couldn’t stop thinking about Riley and glancing over towards her.

Goal. Goal. Goal.

I don’t know how they were getting passed me, but they were, and I could tell everyone was getting a little frustrated with me. But, Riley was so distracting, especially in the outfit she wore. It was a simple outfit, not even all that revealing, but the memory of what she wore around me last weekend was still engraved into my mind and I knew a lot of what the clothes she wore now were hiding. I haven’t been with anyone in the week I haven’t seen her, which is something that was even surprising to me, but the build up without any release was starting to kill me inside and even a gentle breeze that would blow passed me and up my shorts made me hard. 

Fuck, I need to get laid.

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“Time out!” Pia yelled and I snapped back into the game instead of daydreaming about Riley.

“Why a time out?” I asked as Pia, Tavish and Niko came over to me.

“Luca, where the fuck is your head right now?” Tavish asked, ” It’s nine to six. They’re ahead by three points and it’s because you keep letting them score. They only need one more goal to win.”

“I think that’s the reason,” Niko pointed out, nodding his head over towards Riley. Tavish and Pia looked towards where he had gestured and slowly, they both smirked and looked to me.

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“Oooooh, that explains it. Now I’m going to be distracted, too.. She’s super hot,” Pia replied and Tavish chuckled.

“Makes a lot more sense now,” he teased and I scoffed.

What? I didn’t even know she was here,” I tried to defend myself and Niko laughed.

“You’ve been looking at her ever since she got here,” he continued to call out exactly what I’ve been doing, but I ignored it.

“What are you doing watching me and not the game, huh? You’re as much of the reason why we’re losing as I am. Let’s just finish this game so I can get out of here,” I expressed in annoyance.

“And where do you have to be?” Pia asked defensively, as if she knew I had nothing to do, and since she was right, I stuttered for a split second.

“N-None of your business,” I replied with a rather childish tone and Pia laughed at me as they all went back to their places on the field. 

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This time, I was focusing, or at least I was focusing a little better than I was a few seconds ago. I still glanced over at Riley a few times, but I didn’t nearly stare as long as I had been and I gave equal attention to her and the ball. Tavish was fighting August for the ball, but August soon prevailed and came straight for me and the goal. Pia and Niko tried to stop him, but Ian and Anthony helped clear him a path by blocking them off and when August was about twenty feet from the goal, he completely psyched me out. He acted as if he was going left and so did I, but when I noticed he was faking me out and going right instead, it was too late. I slipped on the grass trying to fix my error and the ball flew passed me, brushing against the tip of my middle finger and straight into the goal. 

“Dammit..” I let out in defeat as I continued to lie on the ground and August cheered for himself and his team and their victory.

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Tavish, Pia and Niko came over to me and looked down at me on the ground.

“I’m sorry,” I said with a large sigh.

“It’s no big deal, you were really close at stopping it. Augie’s really good at those fake out’s, that’s all,” Niko said with a warm smile.

“Yeah, I know. I noticed what he was doing too late and I fucked up,” I continued.

“Well, now that the game’s over, you can go and do whatever it is that was so important,” Pia teased and I chuckled, Niko holding out his hand, wanting to help me up from the ground and I accepted it, standing to my feet.

“Good game, guys. Next month I’ll do better,” I replied, grabbing the ball from the goal and walking over to the bench I had left my bag on.

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As I packed up a few of my things, Niko and AnneMarie came over to me to say goodbye.

“Well, we’re headed out,” Niko began and I zipped up my bag before looking to him.

“Always good seeing you, bro. Until next month, yeah?”

“Yup, until then.”

“And don’t forget about me. You can call me from time to time, you know.. We still have to discuss when you kids are getting married so I know when to plan the bachelor party,” I said with a grin and Niko smiled.

“Don’t worry, I’ll call you soon to keep in touch. And AnneMarie and I still have to talk about a date, so I’ll get back to you on the whole bachelor party thing,” he answered and I nodded.

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“AnneMarie.. Always good to see you,” I added and she came in for a hug.

“Likewise, Luca,” she replied, but hesitated a moment after our hug ended, “You know.. Riley said that your guys’ date went well, but she hasn’t heard from you since. Is she wrong in thinkin’ it went okay?” She asked and I sighed softly.

“N-No, it, uh.. It did go good, I just haven’t had a chance to call her again,” I lied, “I had a few appointments during the week and I’ve been a little exhausted, that’s all.”

“Oh, well, you should tell her that, because she’s gettin’ that feelin’ again like you’re not interested,” she pointed out.

“She still is?” I asked and she nodded.

“Of course she is! I talked to her the day after and she said she had a great time and couldn’t wait for another date,” she explained and I was surprised.

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“..She said that?”

“Yeah! What, did ya think she wasn’t interested anymore after that date?” She asked and eventually, I admitted it.

“Well, yeah, kind of..”

“You two really need to learn to communicate better,” she said jokingly, “Both of you are feelin’ the same thing when both of you couldn’t be more wrong.. Talk to her, you’ll see,” she advised and I nodded in agreement.

“I will.. Thanks.”

“See ya, Luca,” Niko said with a smile and AnneMarie gave me a smile, as well, before they both walked away to the parking lot.

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Tavish and Pia came over to me after everyone else had gone, though Riley was still sitting on the bleachers not too far from me, waiting for me, no doubt.

“Hey, we’re gunna go grab some drinks. Do you and your sexy lady friend wanna come with?” Pia teased and I smirked.

“Not now. I’m going to sit here for a bit and talk with her. Maybe we’ll meet you guys there later, just text me and let me know where you two end up,” I replied and she nodded.

“Want me to take your stuff home so you don’t have to worry about it?” Tavish offered and I smiled.

“Thanks, man, but I got it.”

“All right. I hope you meet up with us later,” he answered.

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“You better come out, it’ll be fun!” Pia added and Tavish wasn’t expecting her to jump onto his back for a piggy back ride, but he caught her after a second of catching on.

“I’ll see what she wants to do. Maybe I’ll see you guys later,” I answered and Tavish carried Pia back to his car.

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Well, the moment I was nervous about was finally here, but, what made me a little less nervous about talking to Riley was what AnneMarie had told me. I shouldn’t have assumed everything went to shit after I had left Riley’s house and I shouldn’t have avoided talking to her and just found out for myself what she thought of the date.. I need to get it through my thick skull that it was a date, not something that was only meant to last a night and getting turned down for something as serious as sex on the first date really wasn’t out of the ordinary. 

I threw on a clean backup shirt I pulled out of my bag and left my stuff on the bench, taking a deep breath as I looked over at Riley and finally walked over to her.

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“Hey,” I began and she looked up at me.

“Hi,” she said softly, a smile on her lips.

“Can I sit?” I gestured towards the seat and she nodded.

“Of course,” she answered and I smirked nervously as I then sat down next to her.

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“How’d you like the game?” I started the conversation with something less interesting than what we should really be talking about.. Us.

“Well, from what I saw, it was pretty excitin’. Your brothers and friends are all pretty competitive. I thought you’d be just the same, but you seemed pretty laid back standin’ in front of the goal,” she pointed out and I assumed she only saw the second half of the game where I was too distracted by her to do good anymore.. I usually always aimed to impress when I had the chance to, but my performance in the last half was anything but impressive.

“Yeah, well.. I wasn’t really into playing this one, I guess. I don’t like being goalie, so I don’t try as hard as I should,” I made up an excuse and she nodded in understanding. 

“I never knew you had such a big tattoo, as well. I only noticed the one on your arm last weekend, but you had your chest hidden. I was a bit surprised when I saw it. Didn’t know it was you at first,” she brought up, still holding a smile on her lips.

“You don’t like chest pieces?”

“No, no, I’m ain’t sayin’ that. I’m just sayin’ that I was surprised, that’s all. It seemed interestin’, but you were too far away on the field, I couldn’t tell what it was of..”

“Well, maybe I’ll give you a close up of it someday,” I couldn’t help but flirt, seeing her cheeks flush a soft pink and her view went to the grass in front of her. I’ve heard that remark from a lot of different women already, it was a good ‘in’ for them to flirt with me, but in my reply, I’d usually switch the word ‘someday’ with the word ‘tonight’. The reply I gave to Riley was out of my control and it just rolled off of my tongue, I don’t think I could’ve held it back even if I wanted to.

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“So.. AnneMarie tells me that you had fun on our date,” I began and she nodded as she continued to look down at the grass.

“I did, yes.. But, by how I hadn’t heard from you, I didn’t think you did.. Am I wrong?” She asked, looking up from the grass over to me.

“Yeah.. I had fun, too,” I replied, seeing her smile grow warmer and I couldn’t help but smile, as well, by how pleased she seemed to hear me say that.. But, I felt as if I should tell her the truth on why I hadn’t called her sooner.

“Look, I, uh.. I’ll be honest. I didn’t think you were interested because I might’ve been too aggressive and I wanted to apologize for that,” I said truthfully and her cheeks went a slight pink again as her eyes went right back to the ground.

“Oh, Luca, you don’t need to apologize-”

“-No, I do.. I don’t really date, like, at all, and it’s been a really, really long time since I ever even considered dating again. I’m used to, uhm, different company that doesn’t involve anything serious later on, so.. I, uhm.. Well, the truth is.. I was really bummed getting turned down that night. So much to the point where I overthought everything and assumed you didn’t like me as much as I thought you did.. Usually my behavior is welcomed, but when you told me to stop, it just.. Caught me off guard, I guess,” I explained. 

“So, you worked hard with no reward.. You ain’t used to bein’ turned down, is that what you’re sayin’?”

“More or less.. Yeah,” I admitted in slight embarrassment.

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“Well, thank you for tellin’ me that and I appreciate the honesty, but just because I turn you down doesn’t mean I don’t like you, and just because you told me that, doesn’t mean I won’t turn you down in the future, too, if you try anythin’ again that I ain’t ready for. I’m not goin’ to pity you just because you’re sad you didn’t get laid and I don’t feel guilt when turnin’ a man down,” she said with a grin and I chuckled. I actually admired that and it make me like her more.

“Understood.”

“And, since we’re bein’ honest.. I thought that you weren’t interested anymore because I turned you down. When AnneMarie invited me to the game today, I had already convinced myself you were just some kinda pig, but I decided to come anyways and when I saw you on the field, I didn’t think that was the truth anymore. I was nervous to see you and a little angry, but, I figured I owed it to myself to talk to you and see where things might’ve gone wrong before tryin’ to get you outta my head, so I came.. You actually played well in the first half,” she admitted and I loved everything that she had said, warmed by her words, even the insults.. It told me that even though she had some bad thoughts about me, I was still on her mind.

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“..So, you did see the first half of the game?” I asked and she nodded.

“I did,” she said with a sly smirk as she looked at me, “Please, tell me if I’m wrong, but I wasn’t the one that made you laid back during the second half, was I?” She put emphasis on her words, knowing that what she really meant was to say ‘distracted’ and I chuckled.

“And if I said you were?” I asked with my own sly grin and she giggled softly.

“Then I’d be awfully flattered, although I’d feel bad, too, since I’m pretty much the reason why your team lost today,” she replied and I shook my head, disagreeing with her.

“Well, you were right. I was distracted by you, but no, I’m the reason we lost today, not you. I’m even a little surprised the game didn’t come to an overall standstill when you walked up,” I complimented, my eyes traveling down her body as she faced towards the ground again with pink cheeks and a smile on her lips.

“I’ve thought about you every day since last Saturday, you know,” I spoke quietly only to her even though there was no one else around to hear me. 

“You have?”

“Mhm..”

“What about me?” She challenged and I snickered.

“I don’t think you’d like me anymore if I told you,” I replied and she laughed softly.

“And just what does that mean, huh?” She asked.

“Only good things, don’t worry.. And you can’t act so surprised, I was laying it on you pretty hard that night and you looked so gorgeous.. How could I not think of you?” I added and she let out a slightly nervous laugh, “And you can’t even act like you haven’t thought about me every day since, too, right?” I asked back with words abundant in self esteem and she smiled.

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“And what if I say I hadn’t?” She wondered and I put my hand over my heart.

“Damn, babe.. That hurts,” I said with a fake, pained expression and she giggled again.

“Fine. Maybe I had thought of you every day, but with each day you went without talking to me, the thoughts got meaner,” she admitted and I laughed.

“I guess I deserve that.. But, the phone goes both ways, you know,” I pointed out and she slowly began to nod.

“..You’re right. Let’s just both admit we messed up and leave it at that,” she concluded, looking over at me with a sweet smile.

“Sounds fair,” I answered, observing her prepossessing skin of her legs that shined in the sun, her alluring hair and enchanting green eyes that shined just the same, and I noticed all over again how completely beautiful she was.

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“My roommates are going out for a drink.. They invited me along and want me to bring you.. You interested?” I asked and she nodded almost immediately.

“I’d love to.. Are your roommates the ones that were playin’ soccer with earlier?”

“Yeah, Tavish and Pia,” I replied and she seemed a little confused at first.

“Oh.. From your team? I assumed one of the boys from the other team, but.. You live with a woman?” She seemed a little concerned, but I didn’t blame her since she didn’t know Pia.

“Don’t worry, we’ve been best friends since freshman year of high school and she’s like a sister to me. Even if she wasn’t, I don’t have the right stuff between my legs. I guarantee she finds you way more attractive than she finds me,” I pointed out and she gave a rather surprised smile. 

“Oh. Well, that’s a little relief then,” she answered and we both stood from the bleachers to walk back to my car.

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“..Isn’t it a little too early into this for you to be getting jealous already?” I asked with a sly grin, nudging her playfully and she scoffed.

“I am not jealous. And why would I be? This is only our second time hanging out.. We aren’t even that serious yet,” she pointed out and I kind of liked how she used the word ‘yet’.

“So, you’re dating other people while trying things out with me?” I asked and she looked at me as if I had insulted her.

“Oh my Lord, of course not! Didn’t AnneMarie already tell you that I don’t know anyone ’round here? I only know you, her, your family and a few clients from the salon, that’s it.. I’m there so much during the week that I don’t have time to go out, and when I do, it’s on the weekends and I usually just stay home.”

“Or go out with me,” I added with another grin and a proud nudge and she smiled.

“..For the past two weekends, yes.”

“Well, then hopefully we can have as much fun tonight as we did before so I can see you again next weekend. And of course, if you can’t wait until then, just call me and I’ll come right over. I’m sure we can think of something fun to do,” I teased and she giggled.

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“I think our ideas of fun, at the moment, are wildly different,” Riley joked back, stopping at the passengers side of my car and I stopped with her.

“All right, then give me some examples,” I requested and she thought for a moment.

“Hmm.. Mini golfin’, goin’ to the beach and swimmin’.. Snorkelin’ and maybe even fishin’,” she named a few things.

“That’s all you got? What are we doing, going on a vacation with our parents?” I teased again and she smiled as she shoved my arm playfully, “Hey! What’s that for?”

“Don’t you be makin’ fun of the things I like! Besides, I’m almost afraid to ask what your kind of fun is,” she said humorously and I stepped closer to her.

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“I’d be more than happy to show you,” I spoke smoothly, looking down at her lips briefly before looking back up to her eyes.

“I think I’d let the suspense kill me before I’d agree to that,” she replied, not going for any of my flirting or advances and she really did seem to have her do’s and don’t in order. This ‘hard to get’ game she was playing was killing me, but.. For some reason, I really liked it.

“Mind if we stop at my place so I can take a quick shower? I feel like I smell and should change,” I wondered with a soft laugh, “And I won’t even joke and ask if you want to join me.. Of course, unless you want to, then feel free,” I continued and she looked at me with smirk, though her eyes were scolding me.

“You can shower, but I’m definitely not joinin’ you,” she replied and I laughed, Riley putting her hand to my chest and giving me a gentle push so she could open the passenger side door to get in my car. A smile was cemented on my lips as I walked around my car and tossed my bag in the back, getting in, revving up the engine and driving us back to my place.

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When we got to my house, Riley and I got out of my car and walked up the steps.

“You live here?” She seemed skeptical.

“Yeah.”

“It’s huge..?” She added with surprise and I chuckled.

“Well, it wasn’t always a house. It used to be a law firm or something run by this guy and his two sons, but when they left, we all pitched in and bought it from them ’cause it was pretty cheap. We fixed it up a little and with a lot of help from my savings, it turned into this,” I explained as we approached the door, taking out my keys and unlocking it.

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“It looks amazin’. You guys did a great job,” she complimented as she looked around after we came inside.

“Thanks.. Tavish and I added a few walls to help separate the place, although this is mostly Pia’s work as far as decorating. A woman’s touch is one of the best things in this world, wouldn’t you say?” I asked, shooting her a quick grin and she rolled her eyes with a smile.

“Go take your shower,” she brushed off my comment and I chuckled as I began walking upstairs.

“Fine, I’m goin’.. Make yourself at home, I’ll be back in ten minutes,” I answered and she gave me a quick smile before giving herself a tour of the place as I went up to the bathroom.

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I quickly rid myself of my clothes, cleaning my hair and my body hastily under the water so I had time for some relief after today. No matter how much or how little I flirted with Riley and got nothing in return, not being able to have her was beginning to build up and although I’ve taken care of myself during the week without seeing her, seeing her today made it build up all over again. Normally by now I would’ve gotten off with a handful of women, but I couldn’t do that when Riley was the only one that clouded my mind and no one else would do. Instead of seeking relief with someone else while thinking of her, I started taking care of things myself. It just seemed easier that way.

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Getting hard was no problem since all day today I’ve been trying to fight it back and the warm water with the help of Riley’s lips and body on my mind instantly got me there. I shut my eyes and took a hold of myself, stroking slowly at first as I thought about Riley lying on my bed completely naked, starting at her mouth and imagining her biting her bottom lip in anticipation to my touch. Begging for it. Her neck, her bare shoulders, her clavicle, her breasts that lay so perfectly as I knelt on my bed before her. Her tight, lean, soft stomach. Long, smooth legs that I spread open myself to reveal her tight, moist warmth that I can barely wait to dive into. I imagine myself falling over her, my lips going straight to hers and I kiss her hard as I guide myself into her using only my hips’ sense of direction and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I knew exactly where I’m going and how to get there. I’ve had too much practice to not know exactly what my hips needed to do and I didn’t need guidance by anything else.

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How I imagine what she might feel like inside makes me breathe harder, makes me stroke faster. I plant my hand on the shower wall for leverage as I continue to shut my eyes tightly and think of Riley and how hard and fast I wanted to thrust into her. She’s panting. Moaning. Saying my name. Clenching the bed sheet under her. The warm water from the shower with the help of my clenched hand painted me a perfect picture in my mind of what she might feel like and the harder I went in my mind, the closer and closer I got to coming against the tile wall. 

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“Ahh, fuck, just a little more,” I told myself just above a whisper in a slightly desperate tone, now going full force at my thoughts and fucking Riley silly until I imagined her telling me she was close to coming. I squeezed myself a little harder to imitate the feel of her insides tightening from reaching her climax and with a few more rough strokes, I came against the tile wall of the shower and I hummed a long moan at the intense feeling of my own release.

God damn, did I need that. Knowing she was here in the house, too, made it a little more exciting.

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I panted heavily as I stood in the shower, finally opening my eyes as I now put both of my hands against the wall to hold myself up and I watched as the evidence of my release was slowly washed away from the hot water that continued to pour over me. After it was all gone, I finally was able to stand normally and support myself on my own two legs without the need of the wall, reaching up to pull my hair back and let the water wash over me for one last minute before turning the faucet off and stepping out.

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After rubbing down my hair a little and drying some of my body, I wrapped the towel around me and walked out of the bathroom, but I stopped in the hallway when I noticed my door was open. Riley was brave enough to venture into my room without asking? She better be wearing next to nothing and lying on my bed if she thinks she can just barge into my room like that.. I know I told her to make herself at home, but.. Really? She went as far as my bedroom?

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I stepped up to the open door and looked in, seeing her looking out my window closest to my bed and I leaned against the frame of the door as I watched her.

“You really took ‘make yourself at home’ pretty literally, I see,” I spoke and she turned around quickly.

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“Oh, I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to invade your space or anythin’.. I was just kind of curious about what your room looked like,” she replied, seeing her eyeing my body for a moment before turning her attention to the ground.

“How’d you know this was my room?”

“It smelled like your cologne,” she replied and I was a little flattered by the fact that she had memorized it already.

“You got a good nose,” I complimented with a smile and she looked back up to me with a smirk on her lips.

“How was your shower?” She wondered and I stepped up to my dresser.

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“Very relaxing,” I put simply, undoing my towel and letting it drop to the floor.

“Ah! Luca! Why did you do that?!” She exclaimed in a panic and I looked over my shoulder to see her covering her eyes.

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“Do what?”

“Drop the towel!”

“Hey, this is my room. If you’re going to invade my space, you best be ready for what I like to do in it, and what I like, is to get comfortable enough after my shower to change into my clothes. I can’t get dressed with my towel still on, now can I?” I put simply and she still seemed rattled.

“You couldn’t have asked me to leave?!”

“Where’s the fun in that?”

“J-Just.. Just put some clothes on, please!” She requested and I simply turned around and leaned against my dresser.

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“All right, all right.. There.. You can look now,” I replied and she dropped her hands, but instead of seeing what she expected to, I gave her a full frontal and she gasped.

“Oh, my God! LUCA!” She exclaimed again and I laughed as she put her hands back over her eyes and turned around as fast as she could, “What the hell?!” She asked and I continued to laugh.

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“Hey, I warned you.. My space, sweetheart. Don’t be surprised by anything I do, you asked for it by coming in here,” I continued to justify my actions.

“So this is what you do in your ‘space’? You flash women your genitals?”

“That’s usually what happens if there’s a woman in my room, yeah,” I agreed with a slight attitude, “But, most of the time the lack of clothes I have on is more expected and welcomed rather than shocking.. Although, no, some women have been pretty shocked, actually, when I drop my pants.. It’s a compliment, really, so I guess I should thank you for your reaction,” I said with a grin, turning back to my dresser and picking out some clothes to wear for real this time.

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“You’re unbelievable.. I can’t believe you just did that..”

“Did you like what you saw?” I asked with an ego that my room could barely contain and she scoffed.

“You’re a jerk, you know that?” She expressed with a little annoyance in her tone.

“What? How?” I asked, perplexed by her words as I slid a pair of underwear up my legs and secured them around my hips.

“Just because,” she answered and I chuckled as I slid a pair of pants on next, then threw a plain shirt.

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I stepped over towards her and stopped an arms length away, “You can look now, no more surprises,” I assured her, but she didn’t budge.

“I don’t believe you,” she replied with a stern tone.

“I promise.. You can even kick me in the nuts if I’m lying. Free shot,” I offered and I heard the tiniest giggle from her that I assumed she probably didn’t want or expect me to hear.

“I wouldn’t do that.. I’d leave and never come back, that’s what I’d do,” she threatened, but I knew she was bluffing.

“Okay, fine, do whatever you want. Just turn around, please?” I answered.

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Riley ever-so-slowly looking over her shoulder, removing her hands from over her eyes and she looked me up and down quickly, seeing that I was telling the truth. 

“See? I don’t break promises,” I added and I wasn’t sure if she was acting angry despite hearing her giggle a little just moments ago, or if she was actually a little angry with me now.

I stepped closer to her, closing the gap between us and I reached to touch her hips, expecting to be pushed away, but surprisingly, I wasn’t.

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“Hey.. I’m sorry, okay? A lot of the time, I don’t think before I do things,” I apologized with a slight smirk, slowly wrapping my arms around her.

“Well, maybe you should start usin’ that brain a’yours a little more often when I’m around,” she scolded and even her angry face couldn’t get me to stop smiling.

“I kinda like when you’re angry.. You pucker up your lips a little like you just ate something sour,” I pointed out and her cheeks turned a light pink.

“I do not,” she defended and I laughed softly.

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“Yes, you do, and it’s adorable,” I complimented, pulling her in a little more and pressing my lips against her cheek that lasted only a few seconds, “You ready to go?” I wondered and she nodded with a smile, pulling herself from my grasp and I followed her out of my bedroom and back outside to my car.

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As I drove Riley and myself to meet up with Pia and Tavish, I kept glancing over towards Riley, seeing how relaxed she was in my car like she was already used to it. Legs crossed, arms and hands limp, her face relaxed as her eyes scanned both things close and far away, as if not wanting to miss a single inch of anything. My favorite, however, was watching her hair be tousled around by the wind that blew into the car and there wasn’t a single inhale I took in that didn’t have her scent all over it. I enjoyed how she looked at the world with such a sense of wonder and amazement and not as if she were bored seeing palm trees over and over again. 

“The trees and the ocean are my favorite,” she spoke softly, turning her head towards me and giving me a quick smirk before looking back out the window.

“You’ve never see a palm tree or the water?” I somewhat joked and she looked back over to me.

“Well, I saw the water when I was a little girl. My mom once drove me down to Mobile Bay on the Gulf of Mexico, so I saw the water, but palm trees don’t grow down there. So, I guess, yeah, I’ve never seen a palm tree before I moved here, and I absolutely love them,” she continued, keeping the smirk on her face the entire time she talked and it was easy to see that she really did genuinely enjoy her choice in moving here.

Suddenly, I didn’t want to go to the party anymore. For the first time in a long, long while, I actually wanted to, well.. Just talk.

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“Change of plans,” I announced, taking a turn down a different road when I was meant to keep going straight.

“Where are we goin’?” She asked with the same smirk on her lips, curiosity evident in her brows.

“It’s a surprise.. Do you want me to tell you where, or can you trust me?” I asked, giving her a quick grin and she gave me a suspicious smile.

“If it’s anything like the surprise you gave me in your bedroom, then no,” she replied and I laughed.

“No, no, nothing like that.”

“Well, all right then,” she agreed, putting her view back out the window and I kept my excited grin as I continued down the road of changed plans. 

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Before taking Riley to the surprise location, I stopped at a liquor store and grabbed a nice bottle of wine for us to share. She gave me another suspicious smile as I gave it to her to hold onto, but I didn’t say a word as I continued on our way to where I wanted to take her, as well as a place I knew she wanted to go. 

When we were finally there, I pulled into a small dirt path meant for a single car to park and Riley looked to me with a rather happy face.

“Is this the dock?” She asked and I nodded.

“Yup.. You still wanted to come here sometime, right?” I asked and she nodded with a strong sense of enthusiasm, “Well, let’s go,” I added, shutting my car off and getting out as she opened her own door and did the same. 

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“I should warn you that it’s a lot more boring here without a huge group of people to get drunk with, but it’s still nice,” I pointed out as we walked up to the dock and she shook her head, disagreeing with me.

“I think it’s beautiful and romantic and I like it better without a lot of people. It’s quiet, you can listen to the ocean and relax, and we don’t need a ton of people to get drunk with. I don’t mind spending the night alone with you, anyhow,” she replied and I gave her a rather mischievous brow with an accompanied grin on my lips and she suddenly changed her expression, “Don’t you look at me like that. You know exactly what I meant, so.. Whatever you’re thinkin’, stop thinkin’ it,” she disciplined me and I couldn’t help but give a quick chuckle.

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied as I bit my bottom lip and checked her out without her noticing.

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When we reached the edge of the dock, we stopped and looked out onto the water, standing there and listening to the ocean for a moment together.

“Thanks for takin’ me here. I already think this is a lot more fun than a party where I won’t know a single soul,” she expressed and I nodded.

“Sure thing.. Besides, I’d just be introducing you to people and I doubt you’d remember every single person’s name. Who knows if you’d even get any drinking in or even have any fun at all. Plus, the moment Pia met you, I bet she’d drag you away from me somewhere and that just won’t do,” I replied with a coy smoulder and even now, I could see her cheeks turn a soft rose hue. Riley then peaked over the edge of the dock and a gentle gasp came from her.

“My gosh.. This is the dock you were talkin’ about where you were drunk and fell off with Niko, right?” She asked and I nodded again.

“Yup. Long fall, huh?” I asked rhetorically, seeing her continue to look over the edge and I grinned as a playful prank came to my mind.

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I took a strong hold of her hips and pushed her forward a little, “Don’t fall!” I said, but quickly pulled her back so she wouldn’t and she let out a quick, quiet, panicked scream before whipping her body around and clinging to me. I couldn’t help but laugh as she held me, knowing she was trying to figure out what the hell just happened, and when she finally did, she released me and hit my chest.

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“You really are a jerk! You know that!?” She expressed in both anger and relief.

“I’m.. I’m sorry,” I tried to speak through my continued laughter, “I just saw the opening and couldn’t pass it up,” I continued and she hit my chest again before I managed to put my hands up to try and block the blows.

“My heart’s beatin’ so fast right now! Good lord,” she continued and I finally managed to die down my laughing enough to speak clearly.

“Okay, okay, stop hitting me, I’m sorry! I’ll never do that again, I promise, it was just a joke!” I said with a apologetic smile, trying to get her to not be mad at me and when I noticed a gentle twitch of a smirk on the edge of her lips, I held out my hands to invite her into my arms.

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“Come here,” I invited and she slowly stepped over towards me.

“You ain’t gunna try to push me again, right?” She stopped to ask just before she was within my reach and I chuckled.

“No, never again,” I assured her as I leaned forward so then she was within my reach and I grabbed her hips, pulling her the rest of the way into me and securing my arms around her. Riley put her arms around me, as well, although her lips puckered a little like I’ve noticed they do when she was a little angry.

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“Aww, are you still mad at me?” I asked as I observed her face, though she shook her head.

“..Just tryin’ to get my heart to stop racin’, that’s all,” she expressed with a slightly embarrassed smirk and now I was genuinely starting to feel bad.

“I’m sorry.. I didn’t think it would scare you that much, but it was a stupid joke and I shouldn’t have done it,” I apologized again, but she shook her head as she looked down to my chest.

“It’s all right, it just startled me, is all.. How about I get the wine from the car? You still seem to like makin’ me a little nervous, so.. Maybe that’ll help me loosen up a bit,” she admitted, her eyes coming back up to meet mine and I nodded.

“Yeah, sure. I actually forgot about it.. I left my car open,” I replied and let her go, watching as she smiled and let go of me, too, then walked back down the dock and back to my car.

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I liked how she admitted she was still nervous around me, because I was still a little nervous around her, too, even though I never really seemed like it. Her being nervous made me feel like she still liked me a decent amount and was still willing to put up with my stupid jokes, and really, overall stupidity, which was nice.

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Although I liked that she was getting the wine so she could loosen up to be on my level of apparent relaxation, I suppose I should do some compromising, too, and not be so loosened up to the point where it seems like I don’t care. I needed to try and stop playing it this cool because it reminded me of how I was with other girls, ones that I would only know for a single night, and I constantly needed to remind myself that she wasn’t one of them.. At least I didn’t want her to be.

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When I noticed Riley coming back, a smile grew on my lips as I watched her trying to figure out how to open the bottle, but it was no use. 

Riley handed it off when she reached me, “You got a cork screw?” She asked and I thought for a quick moment, then patted my legs looking for my keys, knowing I had a mini pocket knife attached to them that had a mini cork screw on it and I took the bottle as I pulled my keys out of my pocket. Flipping out the cork screw with my thumbnail, I began twisting it in and when it couldn’t go anymore, I put the bottle between my knees and pulled. A loud ‘pop!’ came from the bottle once I’d opened it and I handed it back to Riley as I tossed out the cork and returned my keys to my pocket.

“We’re just drinkin’ outta the bottle since we don’t have any cups, right?” She asked and I chuckled.

“Yup.. I guess I forgot to pick up some plastic ones while I was at the store,” I replied and she shrugged, not caring at all.

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“What should we toast to?” She wondered as she observed the bottle and I thought for a short moment.

“Hmm.. To avoiding a potentially awkward and crowded party.. And having a second first-date that isn’t a blind one, instead,” I offered up and a warm smile came to her lips as she looked to me.

“I like that.. Cheers,” she replied, taking a quick swig of the bottle and handing it off to me as I then took a quick chug, as well.

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I stepped over to the edge of the dock and sat down, letting one leg hang off the edge and the other lying comfortably on the dock and Riley came to the edge, too, and joined me in sitting. She hung both legs off, staring off into the ocean and I figured I should think of something to talk about since I was the one that decided to suddenly change our plans and choose to be alone.

“Do you remember any more of that day your mom took you to Mobile Bay?” I asked, bringing up the subject she was talking about in the car and Riley took another sip of the wine before setting it down.

“Yeah, I do.. I was about eight years old and my daddy had just passed about six months prier,” she began and I already felt bad for bringing it up again.

“Oh.. I’m sorry to hear that,” I added before she continued and she looked at me with a genuine smile.

“It’s all right, I’ve come to peace with it. He was very sick, so it was only a matter of time,” she looked back to the ocean, “But, that trip with my momma helped me recover from the loss, in a way.. My momma did everythin’ to distract me from grievin’ and she did a good job. The months after he died were rough, but, eventually my momma was thinkin’ that we need to move on and experience the world a little more like my daddy loved doin’ instead of bein’ sad all the time.. She’d cry alone by herself sometimes, like she didn’t want me to see it. I knew she was havin’ a hard time, we both were, but I think she mostly put it behind her for my sake. She wanted me to be strong, so she had to set an example..”

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“Understandable..”

“My parents first date was at Mobile Bay, actually, and she even took me to the seafood place that they had gone to on the shore that made the best crayfish dinners and pecan pies.. I absolutely loved goin’ there and eatin’ the same meal they fell in love over,” a bigger smile came to Riley’s lips and it was contagious, a smile spreading on my lips, as well. Her voice and the way she described things made me think I was listening to a narrator in the first opening scenes of an old, southern love story, or something like the opening to the movie Fried Green Tomatoes that Pia forced me to watch with her. It was actually quite soothing listening to Riley talk and I didn’t mind listening to her one bit.

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“What did your dad do? If you don’t mind me asking,” I wondered and she looked over to me.

“He was a butcher, a farmer, a fisherman, a tractor and heavy machinery mechanic.. Pretty much anythin’ that had to do with farm work, he did it. When I mentioned him experiencin’ the world, I meant that he would catch his own fish and crayfish, butcher his own born and raised cows, chickens, pigs, and what-have-ya and go around to so many different towns, cities and states and try to get them to buy their product from him. Everything he did was clean and natural, no added anythin’ to the feed of the animals or in the water he used to grow his crops. He was a kind, gentle, but very persistent man and he had an amazin’ way of talkin’. You ever heard of the sayin’ a good businessman can sell a ketchup popcycle to a woman in white gloves?” She asked and I shook my head, though it did paint a pretty good picture at how good he was, “Well, that’s exactly what he could do.. Every place he’d visit, too, he’d always bring me home a souvenir. My momma then took over the business after he passed and has kept it goin’ ever since. He built it up so good for us that whatever you find in a grocery store in the southeast is probably from our farm,” Riley finished and I took a quick sip of the wine before addressing her words.

“Damn.. With all that on his back, he must’ve been working twenty-four-seven,” I pointed out and she giggled softly.

“Dawn to dusk. Momma and I would help, of course, but it was hard work. She had to hire a few people for help after he was gone because he did so much around there that her and I combined couldn’t even do half of what he did.. But, luckily we could afford it thanks to him bein’ the good businessman he was and gettin’ the farm some buyers for our products before he was gone,” she answered.

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“Well, he sounds like he was an amazing man,” I complimented and she smiled with a nod.

“Thank you.. He was,” she answered, grabbing the bottle of wine and taking a generous sip of it.

“So, then.. What made you want to become a beautician? You didn’t want to work on the farm anymore?”

“Well, I’d always loved hair and nails and fashion and all that stuff ever since I was a little girl. There wasn’t much of a fashion scene in Maycomb, so when I saw stuff like beautiful celebrities in magazines and on TV with these perfect nails, perfect hair, perfect makeup, I kind of became obsessed with it because it was just so different from what I was raised ’round.. I used to always take tiny paintbrushes and paint my Barbie dolls’ nails, or take scissors and try to cut and style their hair,” she laughed at herself in such a cute way that it made me smile more, “I even cut our dogs hair, put bows in it, and painted their nails when daddy wasn’t lookin’. Man, they would be so pretty, though, running around all dolled up chasin’ the sheep,” she continued her laugh and I joined in with a genuine chuckle from picturing it. Seeing her this happy talking about where she came from and looking back on her past made my heart race a little. Every smile, every laugh, every look she gave me when talking about it was so pure and honest and if she talked about it for hours and hours more, I don’t think I’d mind.

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“What’s the craziest thing you’ve done? By yourself, with AnneMarie, anything,” I asked next and she thought for a moment before answering me.

“You know what a longhorn is?” She asked and already I was a little weary.

“Yeeaaahh..”

“Well.. We had this one named Pinky, but don’t be fooled by the name. He was huge, and so were his horns. My daddy let me name him when I was real young and he was all black with a bright pink snout, so that’s why, but.. We pretty much grew up together and one day, I wanted to try to ride him,” she explained and my eyes widened.

“Holy shit.. Were you able to?”

“Oh my Lord, of course not!” She said with a gentle laugh, “He was big and mean and hated everyone but my daddy. I don’t know what I was thinkin’.. But, when we were dumpin’ the feed off the back of the pick-up we had, he was walkin’ along the side of the truck and when my daddy wasn’t lookin’, I climbed over and jumped on his back. Huuuu-wee, did Pinky get mad.. He let my daddy pet him, so at first, for a split second, he didn’t notice because he was eatin’.. He probably just thought it was my daddy pettin’ him, but when he turned his head a little, he suddenly noticed me and the very second that Pinky made a fuss, my daddy saw me, too, and dropped the feed and grabbed me off of his back before he could lash about to get me off. Pinky sliced some pretty good gashes into the side of the truck from his horns, and the idea to ever try that again was far, far from my mind. I was terrified of him after that, but it was my own fault,” she finished and I sat there in slight awe.

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“Jesus.. I definitely need a drink after just hearing that story,” I replied and she laughed a little as I picked up the bottle of wine and helped myself.

“Enough about me now, tell me more about you.. Like, where’d you get that scar on your face, if it ain’t too much to ask?” She asked, taking the bottle from my hand when I was done with it and taking a sip, as well, then setting it back down.

“It happened about a year ago. I was hanging out with Pia and Tavish at a bar and we were pretty drunk, but Pia was completely wasted.. There was this guy that wouldn’t leave her alone and one minute she was there, the next she was gone and we knew he had something to do with it. Tavish and I caught up to him pretty quick, though, because she said she was going to the bathroom, but she was gone longer than we thought she’d be.. He had taken her behind the bar and of course we had to intervene. Dude had a knife, though, so he pulled it out and he managed to catch my face with it before Tavish got the knife away from him and knocked the guy out. It’s a boring story and I wish I could say that I saved the day, but I was useless and all credit goes to Tav,” I summed it up quickly, not really justifying it with any details because I believed it was more of a story that Tavish told best, not myself.

“You were anythin’ but useless. Doesn’t matter who knocked the guy out, you both stepped in and helped her. Who knows what would’ve happened if you hadn’t.. You’re a good friend, Luca, and the thing that matters most is how selfless you were in that moment.. Don’t sell yourself so short,” she replied with a smile and I had lost count on how many times I’ve heard that before.. Not from her, but from everyone else, too.. Especially Niko.

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“Besides.. The mystery of it before was hot, but the story behind it makes it sexier somehow,” she complimented and my left brow perked up curiously as a grin slowly crept over my lips.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yup,” she replied casually, gazing back at me as she blindly lifted the wine bottle to her lips and took a quick sip before offering it up to me. I took it without question and took a generous sip before setting it aside and scooting a bit closer to Riley, one tiny scoot after another in a rather too-excited manner and she couldn’t help but laugh as I made it obviously how much I loved her words.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have said anythin’,” she joked.

“Nope, too late. Can’t take it back now,” I replied with the same grin on my lips and she giggled as she faced back towards the water.

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“Your stories are so short and I feel as if I’ve been talkin’ the most tonight.. Talk about somethin’ else now,” Riley brought up, leaning back and getting comfortable as my left hand came over to her leg and my fingers slid slowly up and down her thigh. But, Riley soon couldn’t contain a soft laugh and she stopped my hand.

“Stop doin’ that, it’s only ticklin’ me and makin’ my leg twitch,” she said with a smile and I chuckled softly.

“Can I just leave it here then?” I asked, pausing my hand in its place and gently gripping her left leg before then caressing her skin with my thumb.

Riley smiled and nodded, “I guess that’s all right,” she confirmed and I was happy that she seemed relaxed enough to let me get a little touchy with her.

“So.. What do you wanna know? Ask me whatever you want,” I offered and her view momentarily went to her lap before looking back up to me.

“You’d mentioned before that you haven’t dated in a long while before you met me, so.. Mind if I ask why?” She wondered and my expression fell blank very quickly.

Fuck.. Ask me anything else but that..

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Riley seemed to notice my reluctance, “I’m sorry, you don’t need to tell me if you don’t wanna.. I shouldn’t have asked, anyways,” she apologized, but I smirked softly and brushed it off like it was nothing.

“No, no, it’s fine.. It’s just kind of an annoying subject because everyone else but me seems to want to talk about it,” I let out a quiet chuckle and my view went down to her thigh that my thumb still continued to rub gently. I sat there silently thinking to myself about what I should and shouldn’t say, but, I suppose honesty was the best way to go about this, not to mention that I thought I might score some points with her if I opened up a little more, but.. Opening up to a woman like this was still a little difficult. It was a pretty foreign need of mine.

“Well, uhh.. Fuck, I don’t even know where to start,” I took another quick moment to gather my thoughts and Riley took that short time to drink from the wine bottle, “It was a long, long time ago.. I met this girl when I was sixteen and it was kind of an unhealthy infatuation straight out of the gate.. We were inseparable for the entire year we were going out and a few days after my seventeenth birthday, she kind of just.. Disappeared,” I explained and her expression went remorseful. 

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“That’s awful.. Did you ever find out what happened to her?” She asked and I shook my head.

“Nope.. Never heard from her again. No call, no letter.. She wasn’t even at school the next day, or ever again. The only thing that I managed to find out was that she left school without dropping out, so her mom must’ve took her out with the right paperwork or maybe made her transfer, I don’t know, exactly..”

“..Did you love her?” Riley asked next and the question made me a little uncomfortable, but I let out a soft laugh to cover it up.

“I don’t know.. Can you even be in love that young?”

“I believe so. Look at Nikolai and AnneMarie.. They’ve loved one another since they were preteens,” she gave an example and I scoffed.

“Yeah, well.. They’re both freaks of nature,” I replied and she giggled softly as I took the bottle of wine and had myself a hefty chug before putting it back to the side of her right leg.

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I cleared my throat before I continued the conversation, but finally decided that maybe taking a leap into the unknown might be good for me. I do it a lot anyways, just not really in these particular circumstances. 

“I was,” Riley looked to me, “In love with her, I mean,” I finally admitted, “It seems stupid now looking back and knowing I was, though. I even told her I did on my birthday and she said it back, but I didn’t realize just how much I was until she left a few days later.. Made me wonder if she was lying to me and just saying what she thought I wanted to hear, or maybe she just said it as a birthday gift or something and I actually scared her off.. I was young and dumb and obsessed with the ‘first love’ blinders I had on. But, I was just a kid.. I didn’t know any better yet,” I explained.

“..Do you still love her?” She asked, and although I only hesitated for a second, it still seemed like too long of a pause.

“No.. Haven’t for a long time.. I struggled a lot after that, acted out and was a huge pain in the ass.. I’m sure my parents hated me for a while, but eventually I got out of the angry-rebelling or whatever the hell I was doing to deal with her leaving and started to get my life back on track.. Tried to forget her and stuff..”

“So, you’ve been avoidin’ daitin’ seriously because you don’t wanna get hurt again, right?” She asked and I nodded.

“Yeah, I guess.. To be honest, I was soooo not looking forward to being set up on that blind date with you and I mostly didn’t want to go because I hated knowing that Niko and AnneMarie and probably everyone else thought I was lonely or some bullshit, and I agreed to it to kind of prove them all wrong.. But.. Turns out that the blind date was fun and I was fixed up with the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” I explained and I could tell how flattered Riley was just by the look in her eyes and how she shied away her gaze down to her lap to hopefully avoid me noticing how pink her cheeks were.

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“She was real stupid,” Riley said softly with a slight sense of anger as she stared down at her lap.

“Who?”

“Your ex.. I bet that leavin’ you was and will always be, by far, the biggest mistake she’s ever made,” she replied, my heart beating a little louder for a split second from her words and she finally lifted her gaze to look at me again, “You’re sweet and funny and outgoin’ and easy to talk to and fun.. So many great things in one package that any woman would be lucky to have,” she went on, but the more that she said, the less I believed it. I’m no prince charming, no knight in shining armor, and I’m not too good for her or anyone else, which is what she’s making it sound like. I just never saw myself that way.

“You don’t have to say those things to make me feel better about myself or to feel better about what happened or anything like that..”

“And I’m not. I’m sayin’ it ’cause it’s true.. All that you did was love her and look what she did in return. Forgive me if I’m comin’ off as rude or anythin’, but by how it sounds and how you describe it, I can tell you blame yourself for why she left and you have no reason to do that.. Maybe you should start thinkin’ that she was the mistake, not you,” she explained and I didn’t know what to say. Every person I talked to about my ex would just call her a dumbass or a bitch for leaving me. It would make me laugh and it did help, but only for a short time.. I’d never heard it put in the way that Riley said, though, and it actually did make me feel better about it all.. More at peace with it.. I hated admitting that the subject still bothered me, but it did, and I knew it always will, but hearing Riley’s view was what I needed to hear in order to truly realize that it really isn’t my fault.. It never has been.

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“Thank you for saying that.. I think it’s something I always wanted to believe, just never could.. It’s hard not to blame yourself for things going wrong when you get no explanation for why they really did,” I spoke quietly, my fingers idly fiddling with the fabric of my pants.

“I’m sorry it took this long for you to see that,” she replied and I couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Heh, yeah.. Knowing it a lot sooner would’ve been nice and would’ve saved me a lot of time beating myself up, but, had I realized it sooner, I might’ve already been dating someone and I wouldn’t have been introduced to you,” I answered, giving her a soft smirk and she gave a bashful smile.

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There was a long pause after my words, watching as Riley picked up the wine bottle we seemed to have ignored for a short while and taking a few generous sips from it before handing it off to me, and I did the same before setting it back down.

“..I like you, Luca,” she admitted with a hushed voice, staring down at her lap as she spoke and a smile slowly crept over my lips.

“Then you’re even crazier than I am,” I replied and she looked up to me as if she couldn’t believe that I had just said that.

“It’s really not all that strange for someone to like you,” she pointed out and I looked away from her and out towards the water.

“Yeah, well.. Didn’t go too well last time, so you can understand my skepticism..”

“Hey,” Riley grabbed my hand that I still had on her thigh and she held it tightly, “Look at me,” and I did, “I promise that if there’s anythin’ wrong or if there’s ever a problem, I’ll tell you. You know that I’m honest, I really do try to be, and I’m not goin’ to hide anythin’ just to spare your feelin’s. If for whatever reason this doesn’t work out, I won’t abandon you, I’ll tell you why it didn’t, but for now, there ain’t anythin’ wrong with you, or me, or us. I understand you not likin’ the idea of it and you don’t wanna get hurt again and I do understand your hesitation, but I wouldn’t have said it if I hadn’t meant it. I do like you, Luca, and I wanna keep seein’ you.. If you wanna keep seein’ me, too,” she answered, her last sentence sounding almost like a question and oddly enough, I felt a sense of relief.

“..I do want to keep seeing you,” I finally replied, making up my mind and deciding that maybe this could be worth it. Maybe, despite my reluctance and uncertainty, I wanted to see where all of this would go with her. I was still going to be careful, I was still going to just try this out instead of putting both feet in at once, and I hoped it wouldn’t turn out like last time.

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Riley has made me feel things that I never thought I’d feel again. The need to kiss and show affection, the need to share and be shared with, so many things that I couldn’t put into words just yet, but it felt good. It even scared me a little to admit it to myself because part of me, most of me, didn’t want to believe that someone like her could have the ability to put up with someone like me, but the affectionate side of me that only my close friends and family saw was something that I wanted to start showing her.. Riley was easy to talk to and she understood things without all that much explanation needed, and I thought that came in handy since it’s a little difficult for me to share, especially with a woman I just met, but..

I liked her, too, and that scared the hell out of me.

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I noticed Riley gently bite her bottom lip and I assumed she wanted me to kiss her, but even though I don’t much care for that kind of thing, I felt a strong want to do it with her. A need to. I leaned in rather quickly, but she wasn’t surprised by it, and the moment my lips touched hers, I was brought back to last weekend when we were standing outside her home on her doorstep, but this time was different. This time it felt less like a goodbye kiss and more like the start of something exciting, the start of something new and terrifying, but, fuck it. I was sick of living in the past and constantly being reminded of it, and I was sick of people looking at me as if I needed to be pitied or coddled because they thought I was alone and lonely. 

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Our kiss was electric and I felt a tingling down my spine as she made the kiss deeper by letting go of holding my hand and bring it up to grip the back of my head. She pulled at a chunk of my hair, her nails gently raking against my scalp, her mouth opening more for exploration and my hand that still remained on her thigh gripped at her a little roughly. She was so damn sexy and all I could think about now was touching her, pleasing her, making her feel the best that she possibly could and I wanted her to feel it with me.. I wanted to be the one that she’d remember and the first one that would come to her mind when she would think about a time she felt the best she ever had.

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We were breathing a little harder than normal, every now and then she’d even moan against my lips and it made me melt just knowing that a kiss between us made her feel this good. Riley brought her other hand up to touch my neck and she gripped another chunk of my hair that made my loins quiver in excitement. She didn’t strike me as the rough type, but with everything she was doing, pulling my hair, quietly moaning, her thigh tensing up every time my hand gripped it roughly which told me she was just as turned on as I was.. It drove me wild. I could even feel through her leg every single time her hips would gently flex as if she wanted to grind on something, my something, and I couldn’t control myself anymore.

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I brought my hand away from her thigh and it traveled straight up to the warmth between her legs. I rubbed her over the thin fabric of her shorts, giving her hips something to grind against until I could get her back to my car and have her grind in my lap instead, but what came next was something I should’ve known would happen..

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Riley gasped softly against my lips and immediately pulled back, No, please don’t-!” She let out in a panic and the second I heard the ‘no’, I had already jerked my hand as far away from her as I could.

“Shit! I.. I-I’m so sorry, Riley, I’m sorry!”

“N-No, it’s-” she stopped to take a deep breath, “It’s okay, I’m just-”

“-No, it’s not okay and I’m so sorry, I’m such a fucking dumbass,” I said with disappointment and embarrassment.

“Luca, really, you just startled me, is all.. It’s-”

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“-I just thought that-” I couldn’t believe how stupid I was, “I.. I don’t know what I thought.. I’m sorry, Riley, I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me,” I said in complete disbelief, as if I had no clue what the hell my hands were thinking.. What the hell was I even thinking?

“Luca, don’t.. It’s really not you, I’m just.. I’m not ready, is all, all right? It’s completely all me, I swear. I’m sorry I panicked like that and scared you, I don’t know why I did that,” she continued to try to put the blame on herself, but her apologizing to me for what my stupid, idiot self did make me sick to my stomach. I don’t understand why I can’t keep my damn hands to myself.

“Don’t apologize to me for stopping me, please don’t.. You’ve already made it completely clear that you’re not looking to move that quick and I don’t know what I was thinking.. I.. I don’t know what I was thinking,” I kept repeating, sitting there with a storm cloud over my head, gloomy and disgusted with myself.

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“..I’ll take you home,” I assumed she wanted to leave, about to get up to my feet, but Riley stopped me.

“No, I don’t wanna leave like this,” she urged, reaching out to touch my face and she made me look at her, “Listen to me. It’s o-kay. I’m sorry I reacted like that. I-” she paused for a moment, “It’s been a while for me and you just startled me, all right? I ain’t used so movin’ fast, but I do want to do things with you, just not yet.. Okay?” She tried to make me feel less bad about it, but that wasn’t going to happen. I was so disappointed in myself that even if she didn’t want to go home yet, now wanted to.. 

“..I’m still sorry,” I replied and she gave me a warm smile.

“I know, and I forgive you.. Believe me, when I’m ready, you’ll definitely know,” she encouraged and I nodded in understanding, giving her a fake smirk and Riley leaned back in again to briefly kiss my lips, “Have you stopped punishin’ yourself yet?” She asked and I nodded.

“Yeah,” I lied.

“Good.. Then now you can take me home,” she said with another smile, standing up and I stood up with her, leaving behind our empty bottle of wine and walking off the dock back to my car.

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Driving Riley home was agonizing. She tried her best to lighten the mood, trying to talk to me or make me laugh or whatever else, but all that I could really give her back were one-word answers and half-assed laughs that I forced myself to muster up to not make her feel bad. No matter what she tried to do, I still couldn’t get my mind off of what I did at the dock. God, I’m seriously such a fucking idiot! I’m used to getting what I want, but this was something else. This was me trying to get what I wanted without permission and I couldn’t get my stomach to stop turning as I replayed the scene over and over in my mind. Riley’s voice and the tone she used kept replaying, too. She sounded so startled and even a little scared.. Just the thought of me possibly scaring her made my stomach turn even more.. This wasn’t who I was, so why did I act that way?

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When I parked my car in her driveway, I didn’t even have the confidence or the strength to walk her to her door. I stared down at the steering wheel for a long, silent moment, and it wasn’t until Riley had reached over and touched my hand did I come out of my trance.

“Are you all right? ..Truly?” Riley asked, looking over to her and nodding a lie.

“Yeah.. I’m fine.. Are you?”

“Yes,” she said with another smile, “Do you wanna do somethin’ next week, or next weekend again?”

“Yeah.. Call me whenever you want to,” I offered back, feeling a lot more comfortable if she were the one to do it first and she nodded.

“All right, I will,” she replied, a quick, awkward silence then filling the car as she continued to sit in the passengers seat.. I thought she would’ve bolted out of my car by now.

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“Are you gunna kiss me goodnight?” She asked next and I chuckled softly.

“Only if you want me to,” I replied and her expression filled with a slight concern. 

“Of course I do.. You don’t need to ask permission for every little thing, just the more serious things, okay?” She made clear and I nodded, seeing her lean towards me and I did the same, meeting in the middle and our lips were locked for a few long seconds before she pulled away with a smirk on her plump lips, “Goodnight, Luca.”

“Night,” I answered, watching her get out of the car and I sat in her driveway until she had gotten into her place safely. 

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I pulled out of her driveway and went straight home, coming into the house and hearing Pia and Tavish and a few other people they brought home from the bar in the living room, being loud and laughing and drinking, but I wasn’t in the mood. Luckily, I managed to come inside undetected and I went straight up to my bedroom.

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I left my lights off, stepping over to my bed and throwing myself onto it, lying on my back and staring up at the ceiling and letting out a deep, heavy sigh. I was so disappointed with myself. I just couldn’t understand what was wrong with me.. Why did I do that? Why did I touch her like that when I knew well enough not to? I just can’t get anything right..

Not a damn thing. 

Generation 5, Chapter 3

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I’m done. I’m done feeling sorry for myself and I’m done being this pitiful, little thing that does nothing for himself in order to change the current path that they’re on. A week ago, after that whole terrible situation with Becca, Tavish and I had a long talk at the bar and I was able to get buzzed enough to tell him exactly what was going on with me. I told him the good news first, announcing Niko’s engagement to AnneMarie and how he made me his best man. Tavish bought us both a couple shots after that news. I then proceeded to tell him how I was a little jealous of Niko in general and Tav put it so brilliantly that I was forced to take his advice. I’d be stupid not to. From what I can remember, I think it went something like this..

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“So, what’s going on? Seriously, you’re acting all mopey and sad and I don’t like it,” Tavish began after our first few beers and some bullshitting to keep the silence away, but I knew this was bound to be brought up. For as long as he tried to avoid asking me, I knew he was going to eventually, and I kind of did want to talk about it, even though I thought I didn’t at first..

“I don’t know anymore,” I replied, starring down at my fresh beer, “So much shit happened today and I don’t know how to feel about any of it. It’s all made me confused on what I even want with my life anymore,” I answered.

“Just tell me what happened,” he offered and I chuckled softly.

“Fuck, where do I start?” I asked rhetorically, “I guess I’ll start with the only good thing about today.. Niko came home from college with AnneMarie, that’s why we all got together for dinner. He finally proposed to her tonight and asked me to be his best man,” I said with a smirk.

“Really? That’s awesome, man! Congrats to him, and to you for getting that awesome responsibility,” he expressed his excitement for the situation, finding a waitress we knew and calling her over.

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“Hey, guys! What can I get you?” Our friend, Cassandra, asked.

“Four shots of whiskey, please,” he ordered and she smiled.

“Oh? What are we celebrating?” She asked.

“Luca’s brother is getting married and he made Luca the best man,” Tavish announced the good news and Cass looked at me with her excitement about to make her burst.

“Oh my God! You mean little Niko? Finally?!” She asked and I nodded.

“Yup. Little brother’s finally all grown up,” I replied.

“That’s so great! Congrats to him and you!” She then leaned into my ear a little, “Invite me if you get strippers for the Bachelor party,” she added and I laughed.

“I’ll see what I can do,” I answered and she winked happily before going off and filling our order.

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Tavish then continued the conversation, “I always thought it was weird how all that the best man has to do is plan the bachelor party, while the maid of honor has to cater to the bride hand and foot and break her back for her.. Seems so.. Unbalanced,” Tav answered with a chuckle and I snickered.

“Huh.. Never thought of that before.. Sucks for AnneMarie’s maid of honor.. Which, actually, is probably going to be this girl that AnneMarie is trying to set me up with..”

“I thought you hated blind dates?” He guessed and I nodded.

“Oh, I do, it’s just a favor for her and Niko.. A wedding gift, I guess. The girl just moved a few towns over not too long ago and she doesn’t know anyone.. AnneMarie seems to think we’d be good for each other, so I told her that I’d think about it,” I answered with a shrug.

“The two best friends of the happy couple getting together.. It seems like the quarterback dating the prom queen type of cliche shit,” he added and I chuckled.

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“Okay, here you go,” Cass came back to the table and set down four shot glasses, which Tavish and I downed two each quickly and gave them back.

“Thanks, Cass,” I replied.

“No problem. You give that little cutie my best, okay? Congrats, again, that’s a huge honor being a best man, too! ..And I was very serious about you inviting me if there’s strippers at the Bachelor party,” she added again and like before, I couldn’t help but laugh.

“I’ll talk to him. I’m sure he won’t mind a few of my friends coming along for the good time,” I gave her a little something to believe in and she seemed excited all over again.

“Yay! Okay, I’ll leave you two alone. Let me know if you need anything else!”

“Will do, Cass,” Tavish replied and she happily went off back to the bar.

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“So, what else happened?” Tavish wondered and I appreciated him sitting here and listening to this boring shit, but I also appreciated that he could tell there was a lot more for me to get off my chest.

“My dad brought up my ex and asked if I was seeing anyone steadily because he doesn’t think I’m over it yet.. And my Pop’s ‘joked’ again for the millionth time that he wants grandkids..”

“Fuck.. Again?” He asked with exhaustion in his tone, as if he was just as sick of hearing it as I was.

“Yup.. And August stopped by, but none of us saw him except for my dad. I guess he showed up, made my dad feel like complete shit like he always does, then left.. And you know my dad, he’s just.. Sensitive, really sensitive, and one little thing can make it so he can’t appreciate the good in front of him no matter how hard he or anyone else tries..”

“Kind of sounds like what you’re doing now, too,” he pointed out and I chuckled.

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“I’m not that sensitive.. I don’t know, man, it’s hard to talk bad about my dad, but he’s just weak, you know? Really, just.. Emotionally weak, and we all know it, but we cater to it because he needs us to in order to get better.. We try our best to make him feel better, too, because we love him and it sucks seeing him like that, but August is the only one of us that could give a complete shit about him. It’s like he goes out of his way to knock my dad off his rocker and it’s up to all of us to pick him back up.. Well, I try to pick him back up, at least, because I seem to be the only one that really notices their beef.. But, I just want to know what it is between them that makes August hate him so much,” I explained.

“I’m sure Augie doesn’t hate him.. Maybe they just don’t get along anymore?”

“Yeah, but, why? That’s what I want to know.”

“Have you asked your dad about it?”

“Yeah, but he refuses to tell me..”

“Well, not to be a dick, but.. It’s between them. I know you want to protect your dad against the wrath of the mighty beast we all call August, but it just doesn’t concern you. They’ll work it out eventually, I’m sure, you just gotta give stuff like this time. If it was hurting all of you guys, yeah, butt the hell in, but it just sounds like it’s between those two, so just let it go,” Tavish advised and although I didn’t like hearing that there was nothing I could or should do, he was right.. But.. Maybe going to the problem starter was better than going after the victim..? I haven’t asked Augie about any of this yet, whereas I’ve asked Dad plenty of times.. Hmm..

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“What else? I know there’s more.. Like, who did that bikini top come from? You came home a lot more wound up than I thought you’d be after seeing that,” Tavish hinted as he pointed out the top Becca had left behind in the back seat of my car and I sighed heavily.

“Fuck, I dunno.. Everything just didn’t sit right with me at my parents place and I wanted different company.. Becca texted me telling me to come over.. I was glad to get out of there and go see her, take my mind off of things, you know? But, we started everything and it was good for a little bit, but then in the middle of it all, she drops the bomb that she’s had a boyfriend and this is the last time we’re hooking up because she’s moving in with him,” I explained and Tavish seemed more pissed than I was.

“What the fuck? She never told you?”

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“Nope.. Never even told me about the other boyfriends she’s had other times we’ve fooled around, too.. You know me, I don’t like messing with other guys girlfriend’s, it’s just fucked up, so I got pissed and stopped everything and told her to never talk to me again. She got mad, started an argument, belittled me and called me pathetic, so I said some shit back that I’m not too proud of now and left. I don’t even remember all of what I said to her, I was angry, so.. Yeah, that’s it,” I put simply and he shook his head in disbelief.

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“Fuck, man.. I’m sorry you had to go through so much today. That’s just not right, though, her not telling you something like that. It’s like, we protect ourselves for a damn reason, you don’t know what kind of stuff he’s working with down there, you know? Then what if she has it, too, and the condom breaks or something? You’re totally fucked,” he gave examples and I nodded strongly.

“Exactly! Or, what if he finds out and he’s a master of jujitsu or a fucking assassin or something and puts you in the hospital or worse just for sleeping with his girl?” I exaggerated a bit, “Taken girls just aren’t worth it.. I’ll never do that again. From now on, I’m asking straight off the bat,” I made a promise to myself.

“Well, it’s good that things are over between the two of you, though. Good riddance,” he replied and I chuckled.

“I know, right? I don’t even know why I ever thought hooking up with her more than once wouldn’t came back to bite me in the ass later. Fuck, was I wrong..”

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“Anything else to get off your chest?” He asked and I still hadn’t explained how I thought I was going nowhere in life, not accomplishing anything useful, and also being jealous of my little brother made me uncomfortable to admit.. I didn’t want to talk about it.. It made me feel like I was being weak like my dad and getting too sensitive over things that didn’t make all that much sense to be bothered about.

“Nah, I guess not..”

“Come on, Luca.. You left your parents house only because you didn’t like seeing your dad upset? Don’t you dare think that I don’t know how happy he was after Niko proposed to AnneMarie.. I bet he completely forgot about August when he found out one of his sons was getting married. There’s obviously something else that bothered you enough to leave a celebration you all have been waiting years to have,” he called my bluff and I sighed.

I love you, Tav, but fuck you, too, for knowing me so damn well..

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“I don’t know.. It’s a little difficult to talk about because I feel so stupid saying it..”

“..But?” He encouraged.

“But, I guess I’m just.. A little jealous of my brother,” I admitted and he chuckled.

“How so?”

“He just has everything, you know? Great education, free ride in college, pretty much the perfect woman, he’s getting married, probably will have a baby on the way soon after.. With everything he does, he makes my parents so fucking proud, he just.. He has it all, you know? And I don’t have shit,” I described.

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“What the hell are you talking about? Did Becca fuck the ‘stupid’ into you?” He seemed bothered by my words and I looked up from my beer, “You have everything, too, Luca. You didn’t want to go to college, so you didn’t. You don’t want to get married, so you’re not going to, and no one’s forcing you. You don’t want kids, so you avoid the seriousness of a girlfriend that could lead to the marriage that you don’t want, too. Your parents are proud of you no matter what the hell you do. I’ve seen how they look at you and it’s the exact same way they look at Niko, or the girls, or Jiro, and even August, for fuck’s sake, and look at what a delight he is,” he said sarcastically and I couldn’t help but smirk.

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“You don’t need a crazy-good education, either, because look at the job you have and look at how much you help Blair and the rest of your clients. If you’re looking for your parents approval or something, just be yourself, because that’s all they want. Sure, they might hound you to find a girlfriend, and sure they might hound you for grandkids, but that’s probably only because they have each other and want you to experience love, too, and they want you to experience what it’s like to have kids because yeah, it could be fun, but they don’t realize it’s just not for everyone. My point is that if you want to do something, then you do it, and if you don’t, then you don’t. You have full reign and freedom over your own life and that’s something to be really proud of.. Just because your brother has a different life than you doesn’t mean he’s doing life better than you. Your paths are just different, simple as that,” he put so perfectly and immediately I was feeling a lot better about all of this.. Why didn’t I just call Tavish after I left my parents place instead of going to Becca’s?

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“And if I’m way off and you’re starting to want the things that Niko has, then do it. It’s been a long seven years, I know, but maybe it’s time to start doing things a little different if you’re not feeling fulfilled enough? Go for the change.. Go out with the girl AnneMarie wants to set you up with and enjoy yourself, take her out, talk to her, maybe kiss her at the end of the night, marry her eventually, or maybe not? Who fucking knows? Do whatever you want, though. If you’re not happy, then change things, and if you are happy, they keep doing what you do in order to keep it that way,” he concluded and I felt as if I was at a loss for words.

“You’re a wise, wise man, Tav,” I replied and he smiled.

“It’s been said,” he replied with a full ego and I chuckled softly.

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Ultimately, what I took away from all of that was Tavish was right.. I needed to start taking charge of things that I wanted, that I was jealous of, that I was sick of not having. I needed to stop feeling so sorry for myself and look at the bigger picture, focus on something more and focus on things that didn’t revolve around my own self pity and what brings me down just thinking about it. The first thing on my list of stuff to figure out? What the hell was wrong with August and Dad.

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I went out for a run this afternoon, but after thinking about what Tavish and I talked about a week back, my feet led me to August’s place. I walked through the open parking lot to the elevator that led up to the condos, but I didn’t look forward to seeing him. I’m not even sure if I ever really did.. I could already hear August’s voice in my head whenever he would answer the door, asking what the hell I was doing here or maybe just getting the door slammed in my face, but it as worth a shot, anyways. I wanted to get to the bottom of this.

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I lifted my right hand and balled it into a fist, pounding on his door and standing there, waiting, listening and trying to see if anyone was coming to answer it. After a long wait, I raised my hand again and pounded on the door once more, finally hearing some life from the other side.

“I’m coming! God!” I heard, although the annoyed, feminine voice that came from behind the door didn’t sound anything like Blair’s..

Oh, fuck.. Not her.. What the hell is wrong with you, Augie?

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The door flung open and Lien answered, a terrible woman that none of the family liked and someone I was surprised to see after the advice I had given August a while ago about how to get Blair back.. Clearly, however, he managed to fuck that up if she was here.

“Luca? What do you want?” She asked and the moment I realized she was wearing one of August’s shirts, I rolled my eyes with a face of disgust, pushing passed her and ignoring her to go look for my brother.

“Ew, you smell!” She exclaimed as she shut the front door and followed me into the condo.

“Yeah, that’s what happens when you run for exercise instead of making it through the day on your back,” I insulted and she didn’t seem too amused, “Where’s Augie?” I asked as I looked around the living room and kitchen, but no Augie in sight.

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“He’s in the shower.. Something you should consider doing a lot more often,” she replied with a snappy attitude that I was all too familiar with from her.

“Ever thought of washing all that ‘bitch’ off of you, or is that just permanent?” I asked in return, looking to her as I stood in the living room and she smirked.

“Well, this bitch can get you feeling pretty dirty in other ways,” she flirted, a trait of hers that seemed more dominant than the rest of them, but I cringed at the thought.

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I gagged a little, “Wow, sorry, I think I threw up in my mouth a little bit..”

“Oh, is the smell of all the meaningless sex and self pity you reek of making you sick?” She rebutted.

“..Are we still talking about me? Because that’s rich coming from you and where you are right now.. Wha’d Augie do? Call you out of the blue after ignoring you for a few months because he was with Blair? It must suck to always be the backup, huh?” I spat back and that seemed to be the one thing that phased her, but before she could reply, August came into the hallway with a towel on.

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“..What are you doing here?” He asked, though he seemed to not even care as he then walked to his bedroom before I could respond.

I followed him, wanting to get away from Lien and I stopped at the doorway of his room.

“I came to ask you something,” I replied.

“And, what? You wanna ask me something when my dick’s out as I change? Get the fuck away from my room and gimme a second,” he replied harshly before slamming the door in my face and I had no choice but to go back to the living room.. It seems I received both greetings from him in a little under ten seconds.

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After a few minutes, being forced to listen to the deafening silence of the room as Lien looked me up and down the entire time, August finally came out of the bedroom to where we were.

“Why’d you come here?” He asked, watching him walk passed us towards the kitchen and he grabbed a beer from the fridge.

I looked to Lien, “Do you mind, Medusa?” I said towards her and she rolled her eyes, walking out of the living room and going to the bedroom, shutting the door behind her.

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“So? What do you want? Come to steal my watch again, or maybe one of my records this time?” He named a few things I had swiped off of him in the past.

“I deserve that, but.. What the fuck is she doing here? I thought you patched things up with Blair?” I brought up immediately and he was quiet for a moment as he shut the fridge and twisted the cap to his beer off.

“..You didn’t tell her, did you?” I guessed, knowing he didn’t take my advice and he didn’t tell Blair that he loved her like I thought he would.

“No, I didn’t.. I wanted to get what we fought about behind us first, but.. It just didn’t work out that way,” he explained, taking a sip of his beer and standing by the counter.

“Coming from a guy that’s constantly looking for a fight.. How surprising,” I said sarcastically, “How hard is it? If you feel it, then why don’t you just say it?”

“Yeah? And how’d that turn out for you? Please, enlighten me,” he rubbed in my face with a hostile tone and I threw him a hard grimace as my anger rose quickly. I was getting really fucking sick of being reminded of that by every damn person in my life.

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“Fuck you, dude-”

“No, fuck you! Don’t give me that shit! You come here wanting answers to something I probably don’t give a shit about, but then you question me about my relationships when you haven’t had a real one in years? I’m not taking advice from a man who failed and got walked out on after he said it, that’s just pure stupidity,” he continued and I hung my head for a moment before I looked back up to him again.

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“You know what? You’re right. I did fail. But, what you have with Blair is so much different than what I did. You still have her, she didn’t abandon you and she still lives right here in town.. You let her go on without knowing what you really feel because you’re too much of a chicken shit to do it! At least I’ve fucking said it! What’s your real reason for not, huh? That thing in the bedroom cannot be the reason, either, I know that for a fact without you even saying it,” I argued back and the look on his face that he gave me told me all that I needed to know. He regretted not telling Blair when he had the chance, but I could also tell that he was already getting pissed off about my presence in general.. How surprising..

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A large sigh escaped passed his lips, “What do you want, Luca?” He changed the subject, which was probably better for the both of us.

“I wanna know what’s going on with you and Dad,”  I explained and his eyes held a hatred that I was familiar with, but I summed it up to his normal look, anyhow, and didn’t know how to read it.

“None of your damn business, that’s for fucking sure,” he replied harshly.

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“Come on, man.. Niko invited all of us to the house for a reason and you talked to Dad for two seconds, then split.. Do you have any idea what happened that night? What you missed out on because of whatever the hell you and Dad have going on?” I asked and he gave me a questionable look, as if he really hadn’t heard the news and I was disappointed all over again. He must be on his monthly binge of ignoring everyone’s phone calls..

“No.. What happened?”

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“..Niko proposed to AnneMarie,” his eyes widened behind his blonde hair, finally seeing an emotion besides anger from him.

I saw guilt.

“He did it at the beach behind the house after dinner.. A dinner that you missed, even a simple hello that you missed out on because you saw Dad, made a bee line towards him, did whatever the fuck you did, then left,” I continued and he looked down at his beer in his hand, shaking his head gently at himself.

Yeah.. You missed it.. So, tell me why,” I continued, but more so demanded, and he looked back up to me.

“You wouldn’t understand,” he said quietly.

“Try me,” I challenged.

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August came over into the living room and set down his beer on the table, sitting on the couch and I walked over to join him, sitting down as well and waiting for him to explain himself.

I spoke up first, “You know you can talk to me, man.. We’re brothers, I want to know what you’re dealing with so you don’t have to do it alone.. I know how you can get a little quiet about stuff and hide yourself away and I admit that I do the same, but come on.. I wanna help, if I can,” I continued, still watching him staring down at his beer and he made an expression I hadn’t seen in so, so long.. A look of hurt, maybe even a look of betrayal.. What the hell was happening between the two of them?

“I don’t think you can help,” he answered.

“And why not?”

“Because only Dad can, but he refuses to..”

“Stop being so damn vague.. What are you trying to get out of him?”

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“Well, you know that I wasn’t born from Cybal, right?” He asked and I squinted my eyes slightly in suspicion.. 

“..Yeah?”

“I just wanted to know who my mom was, that’s all, but Dad hates talking about her. It took me a long time to even find out what her name was, but he eventually told me..”

“And where are you going with any of this? Why is it so important to you?”

“I just want to know what happened.. Why they didn’t work out and why she left me in his custody.. Why she gave me up so easily,” he answered and I sighed softly.

“Have you ever maybe thought that you don’t have a mom? Because you don’t. None of us do, we just have Dad and Pop. Why isn’t that enough?”

“Because it’s not,” he stressed, frustration in his voice, “You all grew up knowing exactly where you came from, but I didn’t. Instead of being born from someone that wanted to give a family some kids, I was born from someone that wasn’t a surrogate.. It’s completely different, Luca.. Cybal isn’t your mom, but I had one.. Why don’t you think that that would bother me?”

Shit.. I guess I could see what he was trying to say, but.. Why now?

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“But, Augie, why the hell now? It’s been twenty six years and now you’re curious about it? That doesn’t make any sense,” I tried to understand.

“After finally learning her name, I tried to find her to get my own answers,” he admitted and I scoffed softly.

“Behind Dad’s back?”

“He had every chance to tell me this shit himself,” August immediately defended himself and I guess I couldn’t really argue with that, “Plus, it’s not like this is out of the blue. I’ve asked him a few times before to talk to me about it and he just really doesn’t like to. He says he doesn’t know what happened to her, but I can tell he’s lying,” he said with a rather solid attitude.

“What’s he told you, exactly?” I wondered.

“He said they had a home birth.. After I was born, they tried to get sleep and the next morning, she wasn’t there. It’s like she just disappeared into thin air. One day she’s giving birth, the next, nowhere to be found and no way to find her. She didn’t leave and check herself into a hospital to get checked-up, she didn’t go home, never went back to college.. She’s just.. Gone,” he went on and I found that to be very odd.

“That’s.. Weird..”

“Tell me about it,” he said rhetorically.

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“What’s so weird about it, though, is that whenever I try to talk to Dad, I really can’t tell how he feels about everything.. I can’t tell if he hates her and hates talking about her, or if he actually loved her and it pains him too much to talk about.. Kind of like how you are about your ex,” he brought up again and I was so over this subject.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.. For the record, I don’t fucking love her anymore, okay? Let’s just.. Stick to one subject,” I expressed in slight annoyance, “And either way, Augie, it obviously upsets him no matter which way he feels about it. Why do you torture the guy?”

I’m torturing him?” August repeated my words in anger, “He’s the one that’s torturing me by not just telling me the damn truth! I don’t give a shit if it hurts him, what about me? Don’t I deserve some information? Some closure? Why the fuck did he never even sit me down and talk to me about it? Why was I the one that had to bring it up first? And then when I do, he wants no part of it! How the fuck is that far, Luca?” August was starting to get upset to the point where I didn’t know how to calm him down.

“Hey, hey, take it easy, okay? Listen.. Have you ever considered that maybe he’s protecting you from something? What if she was a complete bitch and treated Dad like shit? What if she just stuck with him long enough to give you up and after, she didn’t want to be a part of it? Ever think about maybe that’s why she can’t be found, because she doesn’t want to be? What if she just didn’t want anything to do with Dad? I know it’s harsh, but it could also be absolutely nothing against you, so why are you-”

“But, I want the reason. The real reason. I can’t just keep going off of what-if’s. None of this shit makes any sense and it’s driving me nuts not knowing.”

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“I can understand that, but why is this so damn important to you to the point where you’re breaking Dad down? I’ve seen the look on his face after he gets done talking to you and it fucking sucks! He looks as if he does hate himself for something, but maybe it’s just him being mad at himself for how upset you are over how he withheld all of that information? He hates making any of us mad or upset and you know how he gets.. But, he’d never intentionally hurt any of us, you know that.. It’s not like he’s getting a kick out of this stuff. This shit really does upset him, but if he gets so upset about it, then maybe you would get upset, too, if you knew the whole truth and he could just be trying to prevent that.. That’s just the type of guy he is,” I explained and August scoffed.

“You stick up for him way too much-”

Someone has to! You can’t be understanding about any of this shit. I bet even if he did tell you the truth, you’d still be acting like this and being a complete asshole! Lying or truth alike, it wouldn’t fucking matter and you’d still put him through hell for no damn reason. You fucking know you would, too,” I spoke the truth and he shook his head lightly.

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“I knew you wouldn’t understand,” he said softly with disappointment, standing up and taking his beer, “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out,” he finished coldly, walking away from me and I stood up quickly.

“Augie, come on, man, don’t be like that-”

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His bedroom door slammed shut and I sighed as I stood there alone, knowing he wasn’t going to come back out until I was gone and I had no choice but to leave. Well, at least I can say that I tried to help, and at least now I know what’s going on between Dad and August.. Tavish was right, yet again, maybe this is something between them that they need to figure out on their own.. August was right, too, I really don’t understand and I felt a little bad for acting like I did, but I can at least see why this bothers him so much.. I just have no idea how to help and that’s what bothers me the most.

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I left Augie’s and began the long run home, so caught up in my thoughts on the way to August’s that I hadn’t realized just how far I ran. I tried my hardest to understand what kind of position Augie was in, but it was hard to do because he was alone in this. I’m the first born from Cybal and all my siblings after me have only ever known Dad and Pop and we never have to worry about who our mother was because we didn’t have one, simple as that. But August was right, he actually did have a mother and she left him behind. Hypothetically speaking, if I had a mother that left Dad after the second I was born, I’d like to think I wouldn’t care and say good riddance because anyone that doesn’t like me can fuck off, but then again, I can’t honestly say what I would do because I’ll never be put into a position like Augie’s been forced in and I’ll never truly know how I’d react.. I think the thing that bothers me most about this, though, is that August isn’t happy with just Pop and Dad like the rest of us are. He wants more and it makes it seem like neither of them is enough for him. His mother had to have left for a reason, right? So why bother with the bitch at all?

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The only difference is that we came from different places. Cybal’s not our mother, she’s just the woman that brought my little siblings and I to life for Dad and Pop, but she’s still been a huge part of our lives, even August’s. She’s taught us all Spanish, she babysat us all the time and she loves all of us as if we were her own kids, like Juliana and Napoleon.. Well, I guess we technically are her children, but that’s not the point.. I would think that August would look at her as his motherly figure that he seems to crave and call it a day, but it’s just not good enough for him. He has all of his siblings, Cybal, our parents, Blair and even gross Lien.. How many more people does he need in his life before he’s happy? I just don’t get it.. I truly don’t.

I just hoped that August hasn’t been trying to look for her because of how differently his life is from all of ours, because it really isn’t at all and I fear the worst for him if he continues down this rabbit hole.. If Dad really is hiding something from August about his mother, then he must be doing is for a damn good reason.. He has to be.

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When I got home, I went straight upstairs to the shower. I took my hair down, jumped in and washed all of the stink off of me that Lien so nicely pointed out. I tried my best to stop thinking about August and how I could help him because I really couldn’t think of anything. This problem was so foreign to me and something I’ve never dealt with before, and as much as I wanted to help Augie so him and Dad could put this behind them, I just couldn’t. I hadn’t the slightest clue as to were to start helping, either.

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I got done showering and went to my room to change, but when I was about to get dressed, my cell phone rang and I saw that Niko was calling me.

“Hey, man, what’s up?” I answered.

“Hi! Do you have any plans tonight?” He asked straight off the bat.

“No, not that I’m aware of.”

“Are you busy right now?”

“No, just caught me getting out of the shower,” I replied.

“Oh, awesome!” Awesome? Why awesome? “I was wondering if you’d want to do something fun tonight?”

“..You’re still in town?”

“Oh, uhm.. No, I’m not,” he replied and I was confused a little.

“Sooooo.. Would you drive here, or are you asking me to drive there?” I wondered.

“N-No, that’s not, uh.. Dang.. I wasn’t exactly talking about having fun with me, in particular,” he hinted at and I was slowly becoming more suspicious of this phone call.

“So, what do you mean by doing something fun and asking me my plans for tonight if you’re not even going to be there with me?” I asked and he hesitated a moment.

“Well, I won’t be there, but someone will,” he replied in a rather quiet tone and it all suddenly dawned on me.. The blind date him and AnneMarie had mentioned to me a week ago.. 

If he was about to say what I think he was going to, I was going to drive all the way to the southern end of Cali and beat the shit out of him.

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“Niko?”

“..Yeah?” He asked rather questionably with a high tone.

“What did you do?” I asked with a dead serious attitude.

“I-It’s.. It’s not really what I did-”

“What did AnneMarie do?”

“Okay, don’t be mad at her, please? Promise?”

“Niko, I swear to God, man.. What the hell have you guys done?”

“It wasn’t my idea! I swear!” Niko stressed, trying to save his own ass.

“Nikolai!” I heard AnneMarie scolding him in the background, “Let me talk to him!” I heard her again and the phone was being passed on to her.

This can’t be fucking happening right now.

“Luca?” I heard AnneMarie’s sweet voice, “Look, honey, I’m sorry, okay? It was my idea to, well, trick you into seein’ Riley, which Nikolai ruined the surprise of,” she said in slight annoyance, knowing she had just shot Niko a strong glare before she continued, “I told her that you might be interested in settin’ somethin’ up with her, but after a week without hearin’ anythin’, she started to get a little down on herself and figured you weren’t interested anymore. I felt really bad, so I ended up tellin’ her that you finally called and wanted to set something up tonight and I convinced Nikolai to call you to get you to meet up with her. It’s all my fault, all right?” She explained and it was so hard to be mad at her.. Even if it was Niko’s idea, it was smart of her to take the blame because I could never be mad at AnneMarie, but this situation still sucked.

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“So, she’s under the impression that I set up this date, am I right?” I asked in slight annoyance.

“Y-Yeah.. I’m sorry, honey, but a week is long enough to think about it, right? I just kind of thought you might not figure it out ’till you got there and saw how lovely she was, so then it wouldn’t be a big deal anymore,” she continued and I sighed, trying to figure this out as well as try to keep my anger down while I was talking to her.

“Well, you better hope I like her, because after this, I’m not doing you any more favors. I don’t care how hot or perfect your friends are, I don’t like being put into these situations, especially if I’m not even aware of what’s going on and I don’t like not being in control of it, either. This is completely blindsiding and that’s exactly what I didn’t want,” I expressed.

“Understandable.. Do you want me to call her and cancel?” She asked, the most depressed I had ever heard her sound and I let out an aggravated groan before answering.

“Ugh.. No, it’s fine.. Where am I meeting her?”

“Okay, good. She’ll be at the tiki lounge at seven.. I hope you have fun, and you best not be using that dirty mouth around her, neither,” she added and I fought back the urge to tell her to fuck off strictly out of anger and to spite her.

“Thanks for this, AnneMarie. No really, thanks,” I said sarcastically and I hung up, tossing my phone on my bed and I stood there in the silence of my room trying to talk myself down from being so pissed off.

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Dammit.. I’ve been trying to better myself and open up to things a little more, take better control over my life, but some things are still hard for me. I did want to agree to this blind date bullshit eventually, but only after I had a lot of time to think about it and prepare myself, and to me, a week wasn’t nearly enough time. I felt a little guilty about AnneMarie telling me that her friend was getting a little discouraged and sad about how I hadn’t expressed any type of interest for a whole week, I could see how that might make her think I didn’t want to meet her anymore, but I wasn’t trying to go at her pace, I was trying to go at mine, and if waiting a week, a month, or even a year is what I needed, then that’s what I’d do.. However, I wasn’t as lucky to get as much time as I wanted and was being forced into this tonight. From what AnneMarie and Niko have explained to me about her, I guess tonight was the night to put their words to the test.

She better be fucking worth it.

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After calming myself down a little from being rather put off by this whole situation, I stepped over to my dresser and grabbed my contacts case, unscrewing each individual cap and I picked up the right contact first. I put it into my eye, no problem, but when I started to think more about tonight being a date, I started to get a little nervous again. My whole mindset was fucked up because of what I talked to August about, and now I had to force myself to be ready to go on a date that I wasn’t even prepared for? Not ideal in the slightest.. I hadn’t been on an actual date in years and even the thought of it made my hands shake a little bit.. I handled the left contact longer than I needed to before opening my eye and dropping it in, but something was off.

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“Ow, ow, ow, fuck,” I let out quietly the second that the contact met my eye, quickly taking it back out and giving it a look over. 

I ripped it.

“God dammit,” I said under my breath, knowing I should’ve just left them in during my shower instead of taking them out to clean them..

“Just my fucking luck,” I added as I then quickly looked over the top of my dresser, through my drawers and around my room, but when I realized I didn’t have any backup lenses, I had no choice but to put on my glasses.. I hated wearing my glasses.. I looked way too much like my Pop and they were annoying to wear, but I wasn’t going to go to this thing without being able to see, so I reluctantly put them on and got myself dressed.

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I checked myself out in a mirror, trying to figure out if I looked okay when Pia suddenly came barging into my room.

“Damn, Pi! You don’t knock? What if I was jerking off or something?”

“That’s what I was hoping to walk in on,” she joked and I cracked a quick smirk.

“Whatcha need?” I wondered.

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“Nothin’, I’m just bored and wanted to see what you were up to. What are you doing?” She asked back, curiosity evident in her voice.

“Do I look all right?” I asked, turning around to face her and she whistled flirtatiously towards me, which actually put a genuine smile on my face.

“You look hot! What’s the occasion?” She asked as she continued to look me over.

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“Got a date to go on that I was forced into,” I replied with an annoyed tone.

“Ohhh! With that girl AnneMarie wanted you to meet?” She asked and I nodded.

“Yeah.. Kind of pissed me off, too,” I added reluctantly.

“Noooo, don’t be mad,” she expressed, walking over to me and straightening out my collar and my clothes, “You look handsome, especially with your glasses on. The girl isn’t gunna know what hit her when she sees you,” she said with a smile and I couldn’t help but smirk.

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“Thanks, Pi.. I just don’t know if I’m ready or not. I haven’t even had time to think about it and prepare myself.. I feel like a lamb being thrown into a pack of lions,” I said with a rather lost tone and she scoffed.

“Oh, shush. You’re ready. It’s been a long time, but it’s not like you lost that charm of yours. That bed of yours is rarely empty, I know that ‘dating Luca’ is in there somewhere buried among your need for flings and sleazy past fucks,” she said with a smile and her words were a little more insulting than she led them on to be, but I couldn’t really deny it.. I guess I have been around a lot and have been successful with a lot of women, but this was different. This was one woman I felt the need to impress, and it also came with the end result of possibly needing to see her again.. Something I’m not too familiar with.

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“Who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and she’ll never want to see me again after this, so I’ll just need to get it over with and put it behind me,” I added and she quickly hit my arm with a balled fist.

“Ow! Fuck, Pi! I forget how strong you are,” I replied in slight pain, rubbing the part of my arm she hit.

“Well, that’s what you get for being stupid! Don’t go into this just looking to fuck her and get it over with or else it’ll never end, you’ll be dying to get out of there and you’ll be a complete dickhead that leaves having a terrible time and without getting any. Open your mind a little a just relax. Embrace the change. Test the waters, you know?” She suggested and I gave her a suspicious grin.

“Have you and Tav been talking about me behind my back?” I asked and she smirked.

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“Only a little, and we think it’s exactly what you need. Hey, Niko said she was hot, right? At least it’ll be easy for you to flirt with her since you’re so good at it. Plus, what if she’s really nice and you end up liking her? What’s so bad about that?” She asked rhetorically and my expression fell blank, “Nooo, nooo, don’t you dare start thinking about that witch, anyways. She obviously didn’t know how good she had it. And past is the past, right? Let’s keep it that way,” she encouraged, feeling her finish fixing up my outfit for me and I nodded.

“Thanks.. I guess I’ll try it out, see how it goes..”

“That’s the spirit!” She tapped my chest joyfully, “Now go and have fun! I want you to come back with nothing but smiles.. Oh, and if you don’t come back tonight, I’ll just assume it went very, very well,” she added with a wink and I was finally able to hold a genuine smirk again.

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“Thanks for always helping me, Pi, you and Tav. I don’t know where I’d be without you guys,” I said genuinely and she smiled, reaching forward and pulling me into a hug and I held her tightly in return.

“Never a problem. Now go on, go get her,” she pushed me towards the door, “Good luck, and I hope you have fun! Love you!”

“Love back!” I added as I left my room and went downstairs and outside to my car.

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I left the house after straightening out my hair a bit and putting on some cologne in my car, driving to the tiki lounge as my nerves were still getting the better of me and I could barely hold on to the wheel because they were constantly getting clammy. I’m usually so composed and confident when going out to find someone to potentially have fun with, but this was nothing to compare a fling to and there was so much more pressure to impress and I also felt like I had to be on my best behavior. I don’t do well under pressure and I especially don’t do well in situations where I know I’m supposed to be a gentleman. My parents can attest to that. I just hope that I don’t make an ass out of myself, because if I screw up and make myself look like one, this won’t only be between Riley and I, AnneMarie and Niko will hear about it eventually, too, and Riley isn’t the only person I need to make a good impression for.

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I got to the tiki lounge a little before seven and as I walked towards it, I decided to test myself and see if I still had at least some composure.. I needed to be on my game tonight and if I could pull this off, I’d feel a lot more confident in myself..

A man walked towards me on his way out, nice shoes, nice clothes, clean.. Right when he was about to pass me, I acted as if I didn’t see him, yet deliberately bumped into him.

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“Whoa!” The man said in slight anger.

“I’m sorry, man, completely my fault. I wasn’t paying attention,” I apologized immediately.

“Well, keep your eyes open, will ya?” He warned and I nodded.

“I will, I’m just a little nervous because I got a first date tonight. My apologies,” I said with a sincere tone and he accepted it.

“Oh, well.. Good luck, I guess.. Just watch where you’re going next time,” he kept a serious face, though he seemed genuine enough.

“Thanks, man, I’m gunna need that luck,” I said with a nervous chuckle, “Have a good night,” I added and he continued on his way.

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I stepped off to the side of the building where a fog machine was going, pulling the wallet out of an inside pocket of my sweater I had stolen from the man and when I looked inside, I found a little over a hundred dollars, some coupons for some pretty nice cigars, and credit cards galore.

“Well, thank you, Mr-” I looked at his I.D., “Elliot DuPont, for paying for my date tonight,” I said to myself with a grin.

I took everything except things that had his name on them and when no one was looking, I tossed it on the ground somewhat in the path he was walking so if he ever came back, it would seem as if it just fell out of his pocket. I was already starting to feel a little better about tonight, too, now knowing my sleight of hand was still spot on.

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I waited by the front of the deck for about five to ten minutes, but still no Riley, so I took it upon myself to go onto the deck to the bar and have a drink so I could hopefully get my hands to stop shaking and sweating. The bartender was a friend of mine, Dillyn Beck, whom I’ve always gotten along with. I loved flirting with her, too, but she always seemed not interested, which made it funner, for some odd reason.

“Well, well, haven’t seen you here in a few weekends,” she began as I approached the bar.

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“Always good to see you, beautiful. I don’t know why I don’t come here more often just to see your face,” I decided to test out my charm level and by the way she gave me a flattered, yet coy smile, I’d say I was already succeeding.

“So, what brings you here? On the prowl for your next in-and-out?” She teased and I chuckled as I shook my head.

“That hurts, sweetheart, you make me sound like a complete pig.”

“You’re not?” She teased and I scoffed.

“No way! Ladies don’t only fall for my incredibly good looks, you know,” she rolled her eyes with a smile, “If you’d ever give me the chance, you’d see that I can be pretty charming and I’m definitely a giver,” I added as I wiggled my eyebrows suggestively. 

“Oh, is that all? Please, tell me more about how amazing you are and what I’m missing out on,” she said sarcastically.

“I’m really good in bed, too,” I bluntly replied with immense prowess and she laughed.

“I’ll take your word for it,” she replied with an amused smile, though still uninterested, “What can I get you to drink?”

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“Just a beer for now, I guess. I’m actually a little nervous about tonight,” I admitted and she got my drink ready.

“Oh? Why’s that?”

“I have a date tonight,” I said with a sense of confidence, actually starting to feel a little proud of myself for taking this step, even though I was tricked into it.

“Wait, wait.. That word is actually in your vocabulary?” She teased again and I chuckled.

“You’d know it was if you ever went on one with me, but now you may never know what they could’ve been like. Look, I know you can’t keep your mind off of me and this must be hard to hear, but you’re just going to have to accept that I might not be available anymore and know that you had plenty of chances,” I teased back and she laughed.

“I’ll definitely lose sleep over it,” she said with her famous sarcasm as she handed me my beer.

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Dillyn went off to tend to other customers and I didn’t really take my time with my beer, finishing it within about three minutes and ordering another, but with this one, I tried to go a little slower so I wouldn’t lose track, drink a little too much, and find out too late that I was buzzed. I didn’t want to make that kind of impression on Riley and I wanted to do this right the first time, so getting a few drinks in me before she gets here was strictly to calm my nerves, not to get drunk and be a jackass straight out of the gate.

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Throughout my entire second beer, which I really did take my time on, I had been constantly looking over my shoulder and around the area to see if I could find a pretty woman with short blonde hair and green eyes that would appear to be lost or looking for someone, but I hadn’t seen anyone like that yet.

It was almost seven thirty by the time I finished my second beer and I didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t standing me up, was she? Didn’t AnneMarie tell me she was looking forward to this? I was starting to get a little discouraged, sitting there staring at my empty bottle just counting the minutes go by.. I even debated whether or not I should leave so I could avoid looking like an idiot that got stood up on a date that he wasn’t even ready for, but..

..Maybe I’ll give her a a little more time..

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It was about ten minutes before eight and I was sick of waiting here for nothing.. I gave it my best. I showed up even though I didn’t really want to and I waited for almost an hour. She wasn’t coming.

I knew this was a stupid idea and I can’t believe I agreed to this. I thought I wasn’t ready to get back into the dating scene and I was right, because shit like this happens and there’s no way to see it coming. I wasn’t ready to get turned down like this and I wasn’t prepared on how to handle it if I did, so I slouched in the stool I sat on like a defeated man and even though I never even met the girl yet, I felt as if I was being broken up with.. Well, being stood up and broken up with weren’t the same thing, of course, but for me, it hurt just as much.

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I got up from the bar at five after eight, threw Dillyn a few bills and a nice tip and made my way off of the deck and towards my car. This was such a mistake, a stupid mistake that just made me look like an idiot and I can’t believe I even gave this a chance. This is why I don’t do blind dates. This is exactly why I don’t date at all. There’s always a risk of the other person never showing up, being abandoned and making yourself look like a fool because you thought this was going to be different, but in all actuality, things are just never going to change. I’m a lost cause and I’m really not worth anyone’s time.

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“Luca?” I heard from the area by the dance floor and before I unlocked my car, I looked over, seeing the woman that had been described to me getting up from her seat at a table by herself. 

I was.. Wrong?

“You’re Luca, right?” She continued, walking away from the table to come over to me, “Have you been here the whole time?” She asked with worry, her accent just as sweet and smooth as AnneMarie’s and once she came into the light so I could see her better, I was in awe.

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“Shit,” I expressed as I looked her up and down, but it wasn’t until I saw her cheeks blush that I realized I didn’t say that it my head, I said it out loud.

“I-I mean, shit, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that.. I, uh-” I stopped myself from talking, taking a moment to calm myself down and she giggled quietly as I took a deep breath, “Yes, I’m Luca.. And you’re Riley, right?” I asked.

“Yeah, I’m Riley,” she said with a sweet smile and instantly, as if nothing had ever happened, my defeated attitude about this whole thing disappeared, “How long ‘ave you been waitin’?”

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It was a little difficult to find words to say when I couldn’t stop staring at her and getting tongue tied.

“I, uh.. I got here around seven and waited at the bar,” I replied, still unable to take my eyes off of her. Niko really didn’t do her justice with his description of her, but I was glad to see that he at least wasn’t exaggerating at all, and if anything, he didn’t exaggerate enough. She was pretty breathtaking. 

“I got here about ten minutes after seven, but I just kinda assumed we’d be eatin’ together, so I got a table. I thought you might’ve been runnin’ a little late, too, but you were just sittin’ at the bar, huh?” She said with another soft giggle and I nodded.

“Y-Yeah.. I thought I was getting stood up, so I was just about to leave,” I replied and she made a concerned expression.

“I feel so bad, I should’ve checked the whole place instead of assumin’-”

“No, no, it’s my fault completely.. I should’ve waited for you in a spot you could see me easily, so I apologize,” I took the blame and I dared to think that she seemed a little impressed with me already.

“Oh, there’s no need for that. I’d hate for you to have left feelin’ like I didn’t wanna come, so I’m just glad I stopped ya before you drove off,” she expressed genuinely and I smirked.

“Yeah, me too,” I replied and she smiled sweetly again, “Do you want to go back to the table, now that we’re both here?”

“Yeah, let’s do that,” she agreed and I guided her back towards the table she had been sitting at.

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Wow, she was.. Something else. Something else entirely that caught my interest immediately. Her hair was a lot more blonde than I thought it would be, or maybe it was a silver color? Either way, I liked it a lot, and AnneMarie also wasn’t joking when she said Riley had such pretty green eyes that you could stare at them for hours. I actually wouldn’t mind if I got the chance to.

But, I couldn’t believe that a swear was the first thing that came out of my mouth, then with the stuttering? What was wrong with me? She looked past it a lot better than I could’ve asked her to, but that’s still not at all how I wanted to represent myself. AnneMarie told me to pretty much be on my best behavior and if Riley was anything like her, swearing was a turn off, and so far I didn’t think I came off as much of a gentleman as I had hoped I would.. But, from here on out, I’d show her as much respect as I could so just in case this thing doesn’t work out, there isn’t all that many bad things she can say about me other than that it just didn’t work..

Fuck, I really needed to stop thinking like that.. I feel like my dad and how he overthinks things and I really didn’t need that, especially at a time like this.

Calm down, Luca, just calm down.

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I pulled her chair out for her and she took her seat before I then sat in mine, taking another moment to look her over with a cemented smirk on my lips.

“You’re, uhm.. You’re single, right?” I asked first, keeping to the promise I had made to myself and she giggled softly.

“Yes, I am..” Awesome.. I’m in the clear of any competition I didn’t want.

“Well, then forgive me for being so forward, but.. You’re pretty beautiful, you know that?” I complimented right off the bat and she blushed profusely, knowing she wasn’t expecting it.. I was trying to make a smooth recovery after that bad first impression.

“Oh, stop that. You’re too kind, truly,” she said with a bright smile and already, I could tell she was a gentle and kind person. She oozed charm, just like AnneMarie did, and solely by her choice of words and how polite she was, she had to be just as sweet, too.

“Just pointing out the obvious,” I continued and she was still blushing, but for her own sake and seeming to be a little embarrassed, she changed the subject.

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“AnneMarie has told me a lot about you. I mean, we’ve been friends for so long and she’s known Niko so long, you’ve been mentioned a few times before this whole setup ’cause you’re his brother an’all, but she always talks about how much she loves your family. I almost feel as if I already know you a little,” she replied and I found that a little amusing.. You haven’t seen anything yet, sweetheart.

“I hope whatever they’ve told you were all good things,” I said the classic line and she nodded.

“Yeah, they were all very nice things. So many nice things, in fact, that I can hardly believe you’re anythin’ less than a gentleman,” she expressed and I laughed.

“Well, I don’t mean to disappoint, but I am definitely not as good as I’m made out to be.. All of that was definitely one big hype, I’m sure.. I don’t want you to have the wrong idea about me and be surprised by anything that you wouldn’t expect me to do because of someone else’s description,” I explained.

“Oh? You make it sound like you don’t want me to get to know you,” she said curiously.

“Well, I mean.. Do you really want to? I’m told that I can be a bit of a handful..”

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“Who on earth would say somethin’ that mean? I only just met you and you seem real sweet,” she complimented and I nodded appreciatively. 

“I’m just warning you that I can be a little bit, you know, out there.. I’m spontaneous, I like to drink, and I love to do anything that gets my adrenaline pumping. I’ll try anything once,” I explained a little more, yet she seemed more intrigued than I expected.

“I think I’m up for that challenge. I’ll have to think of some fun activities for us to do to keep you interested in me, now won’t I?” She said with a warm, inviting smile and I couldn’t help but take it a little sexually, which made me grin slightly.

“I commend you for your bravery,” I joked and she laughed.

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“So what do you do, Luca?” She wondered.

“AnneMarie or Niko haven’t already told you?” I asked and she gave me a coy smirk.

“I’d like to hear it from you,” she replied and I obliged.

“My dad’s a physical therapist and I didn’t know what to do after I graduated high school. I’m pretty athletic and pretty good with people, I’m told, so he suggested I become a personal trainer for the people that he gets done doing therapy with. For example, he’s had this one client since she was a kid, her knees were pretty messed up, but eventually, with a lot of patience and therapy, he was able to get her walking normally again. Once I got my certificate, she stopped going to her other trainers because she never really connected with any of them, but she’s known me a long time, so she felt comfortable with me even before I got into making it my career, or hobby, whatever it is,” I explained and she nodded in understanding.

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“Oh, she’s the one that’s datin’ August, right?” Riley wondered and I didn’t want to get into what they were going through right now, so I simply agreed.

“Yeah, that’s her.”

“Do you not enjoy what you do?” She asked, “I just mean that you called it a hobby, so is it not somethin’ you’re that passionate about?” She continued and I thought for a moment.

“You know, I-uh.. I don’t know, really. I like doing it and I enjoy how happy my clients are after they’ve made even the slightest progress, but do I want to do it for the rest of my life?” I asked myself aloud, “I guess only if I can’t find anything else better,” I answered, a slight shrug lifting my shoulders and I watched her think for a moment to herself, which made me the slightest bit nervous again.

“You must think I’m a mess or something.. Don’t have anything figured out with no goals in mind and-”

No, no, Luca, not at all!” She said with a smile, “I like that you’re keepin’ yourself open for new possibilities. Takin’ a chance is what it’s all worth, right? At least you can say you tried it,” she pointed out and I smirked slightly at how her words sounded like my own thoughts that I’d been having the past week since my talk with Tavish.

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We ordered a drink for ourselves and some food, continuing to talk into the evening and I was surprised at the fact that I realized way later into the date that I was nervous up until we sat down together. I was completely fine now and she actually made me feel pretty comfortable. It was nice talking to her and I absolutely loved listening to her talk. She could call me every terrible insult in the world and I’d still love hearing it with that accent of hers. 

“So, you’re a stylist, right?” I asked, putting the subject back onto her.

“Yeah.. Well, actually, more of just a general beautician or cosmetologist because I don’t only do hair, I do it all. I do nails, massages, hair and makeup.. Pretty much anythin’ else you can think of that involves gettin’ pretty, I ‘spose,” she said with a soft smile and I nodded. After she finished her sentence, I couldn’t really focus on anything else but her. I loved the way she battered her eyelashes when you could tell she was thinking, or the cute expressions she made when she was sheepish and the way she held her lips tightly together to keep herself from smiling so much. I think my favorite thing about her, though, was the way she smiled when she laughed.

“And just what are you lookin’ at?” She asked with a wide smile and a teasing tone and I smirked briefly.

“You really are the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in a long time,” I complimented again and her cheeks immediately turned red.

“Didn’t I tell you to stop that?” She jokingly disciplined and I chuckled at how embarrassed she was, taking her hand within my own and pulling the top of her fingers to my lips to kiss them delicately.

“Can’t help it. Can’t be mad at me for being honest,” I answered and I could tell that she was appreciative of my words, though she seemed like the type that doesn’t really know how to handle a compliment. She doesn’t say ‘thank you’ as if she can accept it, her cheeks turn a brilliant red as if every time she hears it, she can’t believe it, and it’s hard for her to even look me in the eye after I say it.. But, I’m up for telling her how beautiful she is a lot more, so maybe eventually she’ll start believing it.

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So far, tonight has been pretty entertaining and I really enjoyed Riley’s company. Honestly, I knew I’d enjoy spending time with her from what AnneMarie’s told me about her, but I didn’t expect it all to go so well. I thought that we were going to hang out, have a few drinks, then call it a night, but even though we’ve been sitting here for an hour longer than I thought we would’ve, I didn’t want to say goodbye yet. I even already wanted another date with her.

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Since I loved how she smiled when she laughed so much, sometimes trying to hide her mouth with her hand, I tried to make her laugh as much as I could. One of the main things women look for in a man is a good sense of humor, right? It seemed to be going pretty well for me. 

To me, the cutest thing that a girl can do is try to hide her smile when she laughs. It’s the most glorious thing you could ever witness, making a beautiful girl smile. It makes you want to pull her hand away just so you can see a glimpse of it before it leaves her face.

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“Are you tired at all? I don’t want to be keeping you from anything,” I expressed with some hope that she still wanted to stay.

“To tell you the truth, not really.. I wouldn’t mind another drink or two.. But, if you want to leave, then that’s fine! I-I don’t wanna keep you, either-”

“I don’t have anywhere more important to be than here,” I replied happily and her cheeks were a slight pink.

“I’m havin’ a really nice time, Luca. Thank you for bein’ so kind,” she said with such a genuine sweetness that I felt as if I was getting a cavity.

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I got up from the stool and stood next to her, holding out my hand as my Pop had done for my Dad in order to get him to go see Niko get engaged and she looked to me curiously. I wanted to dance with her and touch more of her than just her hand.

“Well? Come on. You’ve been looking at everyone dancing all night, so let’s go,” I encouraged and she laughed nervously as she shook her head.

“Oh! N-No, no, it was just something to look at! I really can’t dance at all,” she expressed in embarrassment and I chuckled.

“Then just follow my lead. It won’t be hard, I promise,” I tried to inspire her, but she was still hesitant. 

“Is this you bein’ spontaneous?” She asked with a suspicious smile and I smirked.

“This is me wanting to dance with a beautiful woman that I’m having a great time with,” I said with a simple shrug, still holding out my hand and finally, after a few long seconds of her thinking about it and batting those long eyelashes of hers, she slipped her hand into mine and I helped her down off of her stool and guided her to the floor.. I knew taking pointers from my parents would eventually help me down the road.

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“Don’t laugh at me, please,” she said with a rather low voice so no one else could hear her and I smiled.

“Why would I laugh at you?” I asked as I showed her where to put her hands.

“Because, I don’t know how to actually dance. All I know is the Do-Si-Do and Square dancin’ and what not.. Not any of this fancy stuff,” she added.

“You’ve never been to prom or anything like that?”

“Well, yeah, I just didn’t go with anyone special. I went with a few girlfriends, but we all kinda just stayed off the floor if it was a slow song,” she admitted and she avoided eye contact for a moment.

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“Nothing wrong with that. But, I have to admit, it’s hard for me to believe at least ten guys didn’t jump at the chance to have you as their date.. You sure you’re not lying to me?” I replied with a grin and she looked back up to me with an appreciative smile.

“No fibbin’ here,” she confirmed.

“I didn’t go with anyone special, either. My friends and I left practically right after we got there because it was lame and I got my older brother to buy us some alcohol. We just went to the dock, brought a boombox and drank all night. When prom got out, too, everyone had the after party at the dock, so everyone was on the beach getting wasted in their tuxedos and dresses. Pretty wild night,” I explained and her expression then went excited.

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“Oh! AnneMarie’s told me a lot about the dock when her and Niko have gone there for parties.. Tell me more about it,” she implied excitedly.

“Well, it’s nothing special, just an old dock, but it’s a place where boats had to stop coming to because the water level had gone down so much over the years, rendering the dock useless, so it’s abandoned and is a really popular place for high schoolers and college kids to hang out at now and party without too much trouble from the cops. If you’ve lived in Sunlit Tides within the past one hundred years, you learn quickly that the dock is the place to be and a good place young people to hang out, so the cops never really liked to ruin our fun because they know what it represents and have experienced it themselves when they were younger, too. Only when it gets a little too loud and routy do the cops come and warn you to be quiet, but that’s about it.. I actually have a funny story about the dock with Niko, too,” I brought up and she smiled.

“I’d love to hear it.”

“Well, I loved going there with Niko when we were young and drinking together. It was always hilarious watching him be a good citizen and go after my empty bottles that I would chuck into the ocean when I was finished drinking them.. I’d always make sure to throw them really far, too, so he had to go into the water at least up to his waist,” I began and Riley giggled.

I continued, “This one time when I was sixteen and he was fourteen, we were sitting on the dock and I went to throw the empty bottle of scotch we ‘borrowed’ from our parents into the ocean, but Niko went to stop me and it ended pretty bad. I lost my balance on keeping myself on the dock and Niko was holding onto my arm to stop me from throwing the bottle, but I ended up falling off of the edge of the dock down about twenty feet and Niko was brought down with me. Luckily, even though I was drunk, I fell in a way where I let him land on top of me to lessen his fall and I broke my arm in the process. Being drunk helped it hurt less, too.. Niko walked away with only the wind knocked out of him, but I walked away with a broken arm and probably a concussion.”

“Oh my gosh, you poor thing!” She expressed with worry and it made me smile.

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“That night was a mess. We walked home because I refused to let Niko call our parents to come get us, I wanted to try to sober up a little before I faced them. Niko cried the whole walk home because he felt so bad for what had happened, he was scared of what our parents would say and getting punished for it, and also because he’s an emotional drunk, so once those tears started, he couldn’t stop them. When we got home, I did all the talking and we managed to get away with it for a few hours, but after we got back from the hospital from me needing a cast, Niko’s conscious got the better of him and he told our parents the truth..”

“Aww, he told on you?”

“Yeah, I got into a lot of trouble after that.. It’s still funny to me looking back on it, though,” I finished.

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“I wanna go there sometime and see what all the hype is about. AnneMarie has been there so many times with Niko and she always had stories to tell me,” she brought up again and I couldn’t help but feel like she wanted me to take her.

“I’m sure you’d have a lot of fun there. Next time I know of a party, I’d love to take you. Or, even if you just want to go there with me? ..Either way, could be fun,” I offered with a sly grin and she smiled wide.

“You mean, like, some kind of beach date?” She asked and I nodded, “You just want to see me in a bathin’ suit, don’t you?” She teased and I chuckled.

“That would be an amazing plus, sure, but.. I do actually enjoy hanging out with you. I’ve had a lot of fun tonight,” I replied genuinely and I could tell she was flattered by my words.

“Me, too,” she agreed and I couldn’t express how comfortable I had gotten around her as the night went on. It was actually really refreshing.. I forgot what it was like to actually spend time with someone you enjoyed to be around instead of making small talk until either of you were brave enough to instigate fooling around, which actually didn’t usually take very long, in some experiences. But, this was different and I was actually enjoying myself without thinking too much of what she looks like naked. I’d say that’s quite the accomplishment.

..However, now that I noticed I hadn’t been thinking about it, suddenly it was all that I could think about. Dammit, I was doing so good, too.

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She was so beautiful. With every minute that passed, she was getting better and better at this, which made me think that she actually did know how to dance.. Either that, or she was just a quick learner.. There were a few times where I had spun her around or dipped her back and she was all for it, arching her back perfectly as I supported her and the moment she’d shut her eyes to lean back, my view draped down her jaw to her collar bones, then down to her prominent cleavage that I found hard not to stare at every chance that I could without her noticing. There was even a few times where I felt myself getting excited just by the curves of her body that peaked through her clothing, as well as what I could feel, myself, but it was as if a war was going on in my head every time I looked, too.. 

..Stop staring at her chest.

Stop thinking about sliding your fingers up her skirt..

..I constantly had to remind myself to be respectful, but her body was too incredible not to think about.

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Around eleven thirty, after a few drinks and getting her to be comfortable with dancing a little more, I paid the bill with the help of the guy I had stolen from earlier and escorted Riley to my car.

“You took a taxi, right? I can just give you a ride home instead of you waiting here,” I offered.

“Oh, no.. That’s not necessary. My place is twenty minutes in a direction you ain’t goin’, I don’t want to inconvenience you at all,” she turned down the ride, but I didn’t want to take no for an answer.

“I really don’t mind. Plus, I kind of want to hang out with you for as long as I can until you want to tell me goodnight,” I replied and her cheeks went a soft pink.

“Can you drive?”

“Yeah, I only had a few beers and my last one was about an hour ago. I feel fine,” I assured her and the second that she nodded, I went around to the passengers side door and opened it for her, watching every curve of hers that she had as she sat in the seat and I gently closed the door behind her.

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As she gave me directions to her place, I pointed out a few spots along the way that were nice hangouts, decent cafes, a place that had the best Mexican food around, and even a few bars that were somewhat like the tiki lounge if she ever wanted a drink. Even though I lived about half an hour away from her, I still knew a lot about the areas around where I lived and a lot more than she did since she had just moved here, and she seemed to enjoy everything that I showed her along the way. We made jokes, subtle flirtations, casual conversations, the works.. I had a lot better time tonight than I thought I would and I was actually a little thankful to Niko and AnneMarie for making me do this.

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When I pulled into the driveway she pointed out, I looked at the odd looking home of hers that resembled that of a small abandoned warehouse and I chuckled softly as I got out of the car with her.

“What’s funny?” She asked with a smile and I tried to not make it seem as if I was making fun of it at all.

“Nothing, I was just.. I don’t know.. How do you fix up an abandoned warehouse? You’re not bringing here to kill me, are you?” I joked and she giggled.

“Of course not! And if you’re goin’ to judge it just by its cover, then you best believe I’m not invitin’ you in,” she teased and I chuckled again.

“No, no, it’s not that.. I just kind of expected you to live in a condo or an apartment or something since there’s so many around here in this area.. You don’t usually get this lucky with stuff like this. They’re real treasures, actually. I like the whole industrial look about them,” I explained myself and she smiled.

“It was labeled as a loft when I saw it online and it was super cheap, which is exactly what I needed since I spent all my savin’s on openin’ my salon.. My momma paid for some of the remodeling on this place, but I’ve completely redone it inside and put my own touch into it. It feels like a nice home now,” she answered and I kept my smile as I followed her.

“I’m glad it makes you happy,” I added and she tried to hide her blushing face as I escorted her to her front door.

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I noticed the workbench just outside of her door as well as another station next to it with a large block, “You sculpt?” I asked.

“I dabble. I haven’t even had time to use it yet since I’ve been busy getting my salon all set up. You ever tried it?” She wondered and I laughed at myself.

“No way. I’m not artistic, I could never make anything even if my life depended on it.. I could probably make that block into a slightly smaller block and that’s it,” I explained and she laughed.

“Well, maybe I can give you a few pointers sometime and you’ll be able to make something besides a slightly smaller block,” she joked back and I nodded.

“I’d like that,” I replied and she gave me a pleased smile as she stepped up to her door.

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A few feet from her door, Riley stopped and turned to face me, her eyelashes bouncing again as she thought to herself and I could tell she was trying to decide whether or not to invite me in. I really, really wanted her to, but, if it’s taken her this long already to ask me, then I knew she wasn’t comfortable with it..

“Do you mind if I, you know.. Get your number?” I asked and she looked up to me with bright, joyful eyes.

“Yes! Yes, o’course.. I’d feel so stupid if we forgot about doin’ that,” she expressed with a nervous laugh and I smiled as I took out my phone, adding her to my contacts and I texted her, as well, so she had my number, too.

“All right, I got it,” she confirmed and I tucked my phone back into my pocket and stood there for a moment, wondering what the hell you’re supposed to do at a time like this when I hadn’t gone on an actual date in years and I wasn’t sure if you should kiss them on the first or third date.. Or, no.. Is the first date kissing and the third date sex? ..Honestly, at this point, I had no clue what to do.

I’m thinking way, way too much about this.

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“Well, I, uh.. I had fun, actually.. I’m glad I got to meet you, Riley,” I expressed as my departure and she nodded.

“I had fun, too, Luca. Thank you for teachin’ me how to dance a little.. That was a first for me and it meant a lot, so.. Thank you,” she expressed with a sweet smile.

“No problem.. I’m glad I’m a good teacher,” I answered, a short silence falling over us and I could start to feel my heart beat picking up the pace.

“Well.. Goodnight,” she said quietly as she looked at me, but I couldn’t tell what she wanted me to do.

“Y-Yeah.. Night,” I answered, watching her turn around and go to her door and I sighed as I turned around as well and slowly walked to my car.

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I was a little disappointed that she had said goodnight to me and I wished she had made it more clear whether she wanted me to kiss her or not.. It seemed like she did, but then again, by how she stepped away from me after saying goodnight told me she didn’t. If I couldn’t come in, then I suppose a kiss could hold me over, but leaving with nothing at all? ..I wasn’t used to it and I didn’t like it.

Fuck it, I’m going back. At this point, I don’t really care anymore if she doesn’t want a kiss.. I’m gunna get one anyways.

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I turned around after only taking a few steps and I caught her before she went inside, pulling her away from her door and she let out a surprised hum when my lips suddenly met hers. I could tell she didn’t know what to do with her hands, not pushing me away, though they weren’t really inviting me in just yet, either. Although, after a second or two of testing the waters and never feeling her pushing me away, I went the slightest bit further and kissed her a few for times in a massaging manner, something she was welcoming more and more as it went on and I finally knew she was liking it when her hand came up to the back of my head to slide her fingers through my hair.

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I was glad to have finally gotten my kiss, but all that I could think about now was going even further and I knew she didn’t want to, I could tell by how hesitant she was by a simple kiss, but I just couldn’t help myself. I deepened the kiss by adding my tongue and I slowly pushed her back up against the brick, then pressed the front of myself against her and she was such a great kisser that I found it hard to stop or even take a small break. I slowly slid my hands over her sides and down to her hips, gripping them tightly as I then pressed my pelvis against hers, a risky move, and one that didn’t seem to pay off as I then felt her slowly end the kiss and pull back.

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“I-I’m.. I’m goin’ to have to stop you there,” she said softly through a light pant that escaped her lips and disappointment quickly replaced everything else I had felt just a second ago.

“I’m sorry, I just got a little ahead of myself, I guess.. I must’ve read things differently,” I answered.

“No, it’s all right, I’m just not one to move very quickly and if I don’t stop ya now, I think we’d regret it,” she explained and I nodded in agreement, even though I felt completely different about the situation. She might regret it, but I wouldn’t.

“Yeah, you’re right,” I replied reluctantly, “I’ll, uhm.. I’ll talk to you soon then?” I wondered and she smiled as she nodded.

“Yeah. Real soon, I hope,” she answered and I smirked.

“Goodnight, Riley.. For real, this time,” I somewhat joked and she giggled softly.

“Yeah.. Goodnight,” she answered, slowly pulling my hands away from her hips and I watched as she stepped away from me and finally went inside of her home.

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The second that her door shut behind her, I let out a defeated sigh, sticking my hands in my front pockets and slowly pulling myself away from her home and walking back to my car. This was a first, not being invited inside of a girls place so we can mess around, and as much as I enjoyed Riley’s company, I admit that I was pretty surprised when she turned me down since I thought I had done a good job with impressing her tonight, but.. I guess I didn’t impress her enough as I thought I had. Did she even really want me to kiss her? I thought she enjoyed it, but now I can’t stop thinking, what if she was just letting me kiss her and waiting for it to be over so she could finally go inside? She welcomed it later, but at first, she seemed hesitant about it.. Was I too forward? Too aggressive? I probably just ruined my chances with her completely and it’s all thanks to my stupid overconfidence.. I should’ve known better.

I don’t know what I was thinking agreeing to this date. I ended up making myself look like an ass, anyways.

Generation 5, Chapter 1

Hello all! Happy Birthday to TIDL (it was 3 years old yesterday), and today is the anniversary of me joining WordPress 6 years ago! :O

Enjoy the chapter! It feels awesome to be back for a new generation <3

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There isn’t all that much to me like everyone thinks there is. Everyone has it in their heads that I’m someone to be with, look up to, or someone to be jealous of, but in all actuality, it’s not true in the slightest. I’m really nothing special. Guys have this depiction of me like I’m some sort of God when it comes to women and they always ask me for advice or tips or whatever, but it’s so much simpler than that. All I do is treat women with the respect they deserve and men think that there’s some magic spell or something that I have up my sleeve. It’s a lot easier to not put on an act like I’ve see so many other men do, which ultimately gets them shot down.

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As far as women, it seems that I’m quite popular with them, but that doesn’t mean I’ll go home with any tail that comes up to me and bats their eyelashes. I have respect for women, but that also means I expect the same in return and even if they make it blindingly obvious that they’ll sleep with me if I so much as breath hard enough, it doesn’t mean I will. As far as looks, I’m not picky, but as far as everything else, I have my fair share of do’s and don’ts. The woman lying next to me, for example, had a lot more reasons behind the do’s.

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Although it didn’t matter all that much since we didn’t really plan on seeing one another again, her name was Jean and she was pretty fun. After I had met her at a beach party I had been invited to last night, we spent pretty much the entire time there joking around together and drinking, and then, well.. Now here we are.

I broke my view from staring at the ceiling and looked over to her, my eyes trailing from the back of her head all the way down to her pantie-less bottom and I enjoyed how her tan skin gleamed from the sunlight coming in through the windows of my bedroom. It made her look angelic. Hmm.. Maybe the guys were right, maybe I am some sort of God since all I ever have around me are angels.

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I glanced at the clock in my room and it was a little after one in the afternoon, realizing we had slept in a lot longer than I wanted to and I just remembered I had an appointment with Blair at two.

I scooted closer to Jean and put my hand on her hip, sliding it slowly down her leg and her skin was just as soft as I remembered from last night. I leaned into her a little more, her hair smelling like cherry pie and the lotion I could smell on her skin was that of warm vanilla, a calming combination that I very much enjoyed. 

“Hey.. Sweetheart.. You gotta be anywhere? Work or something?” I whispered softly and she let out a soft moan before replying ‘no’.

“Okay, well.. Normally, I’d let you sleep in as long as you wanted, but I got work in about forty minutes and I still have to shower and all that, so it’s time to get up, okay?” I added, trying my best not to be an asshole and rush her or make it seem like I was kicking her to the curb, although to anyone else, it would seem that that’s exactly what I was doing.

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I sat up when she did, a yawn forcing my jaw open for a few seconds and I cracked my neck as I watched her dangle her legs off the side of the bed. She took a moment to wake up a little more by stretching her arms over her head, my eyes finding so many little details about her skin and the way her muscles moved beneath it that I almost wanted to say screw it to my appointment with Blair and have one last go at this girl, but I quickly talked myself out of it within seconds.. I really didn’t have the time and doing things like sex more than once on separate days told them more than I ever intended to say. I wasn’t and haven’t been in the right mind for a long time to handle something as dedicated and difficult as dating, so one-time things have become a lot more frequent and normal for me.. More comfortable and a lot easier to deal with.

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Jean stood to her feet and walked around my room naked, watching her and trying to get one last good look before she covered herself. She picked up her panties first, slipping those up her legs and as she made her way over to her pants and shirt lying on the floor, she looked at me curiously.

“Can I ask you something?” She wondered as she pulled her pants up her legs and fastened them.

“Of course,” I welcomed with a smirk.

“Might be a stupid question, but last night is still a bit fuzzy, so.. Did we wear something?” She asked as she threw on her shirt, hinting at protection and I nodded confidently.

“Yeah, we did, and that’s definitely not a stupid question by any means,” I replied and she seemed relieved even though I was fairly sure she knew, but just needed a reminder to put her slight worry at ease. I’m big on any and all types of protection. There’s only been one time that I haven’t used anything and it was with the girl that took my virginity and I took hers, too. We mostly did it like that for the first half of it just to see what it felt like, but even then, we still didn’t finish without anything.

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“Well, uh.. I guess I’ll get going now and let you get ready for work,” she said with a brief and awkward giggle as she slipped her shoes on.

“All right. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime?” I threw out there casually, not really knowing what else to say and she shrugged.

“Yeah, maybe,” she replied with a sweet smile, walking over to me and kissing my cheek, “See ya,” she added.

“Bye,” I answered before watching her make her way to my bedroom door and seeing herself out.

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I let my body go limp and I fell back onto my bed, a large sigh escaping my lips and looking back up at the ceiling for a moment longer before getting up to get ready. My dad was a physical therapist and it was his idea that I go into personal training for a job since I had no desire to go to college. I still had to get some kind of certification, but it didn’t take me long at all. It was easy to get started, too, because whenever my dad was done with a patient of his, he’d recommend them to me to help keep up with their physical training and to keep their limbs and joints and everything else strong after their recovery with him. Blair was one of my dad’s patients for a long time, her knees being her weakness, and she’s tried many different personal trainers, but once I got my certification a few years ago, she started coming to me and it’s been working out pretty well. My dad told me she had a hard time finding a physical therapist when she was younger and he’s the only one she ended up liking. It’s been the same way with me, too, because she tried a lot of different people before finally coming to me. Maybe she liked the vibe our family gave off, maybe we made her feel the most comfortable, maybe she wanted to stay close to us so she could stay close to August, but whatever the reason was, it didn’t really matter in the end.. As long as she was getting the treatment she needed, which she was and has been since she met my dad and then starting coming to me, her knees would only get better and better.

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After lying in my bed for ten minutes doing nothing, I got up and finally jumped in the shower so I could meet Blair on time. I wondered if August would be there with her today? He’s a pretty jealous person and he’s protective of Blair, he didn’t even trust her being alone with me even though he had nothing to worry about. I’d never do anything with her in a millions years because of the fact that her and August had a past and she’d never do anything with me, either, for the reason that he’s my brother, but August was still kind of a freak about us together for whatever reason. I’ve told him a million times that he has absolutely nothing to worry about, but.. August never believed it. There have even been times where he’d come along and watch our routine together, but the second I’d put my hands on her to show her how to stretch or work out correctly so she didn’t hurt herself, he’d go ape-shit. She’s usually able to put him into his place whenever that happened and he’d stop being an asshole, but it still made us both uncomfortable when he’d just sit there and watch us, or rather, watch me, like a hawk. He’s been coming around a lot less when she has her appointments with me because she isn’t able to focus with him there.. Sometimes he’s good about it and stays where he’s told to stay like some kind of disciplined, trained dog, but he still sometimes doesn’t listen and shows up randomly because, well.. I don’t even know why.. Maybe he’s less of a good dog and more-so a puppy in constant training that no one wants to deal with.

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When I got out of the shower, put my contacts in and got dressed, I went downstairs through the house until I came to the kitchen where I saw my two best friends and roommates, Pia Salves and Tavish Woods, talking about something.

Pia was incredible. She was the life of every party wherever she went, she was funny and flirty and smart and beautiful and sassy and I could go on and on about her. She and I had a lot in common and although there was never a spark of romance between us, there was definitely a spark of something that drew us to one another and we’ve been together since high school. Tavish, on the other hand, was a lot different than Pia and I, but that’s what I loved the most about him. He’s funny and brash, sarcastic and incredibly smart, and we had a lot in common when it came to athleticism and especially women. It made it really easy to be able to open up to him since he’s been through a ton of the same stuff I have. Pia and Tavish were friends before they met me, so they went back a little further than all three of us combined, but they welcomed me into their duo with open arms and I’ve never regretted knowing either of them for a single second. I’ve never said anything like this to them and neither have they to each other or to myself, but we don’t need everything to be laid out on the table in order to completely understand one another. I know they care about me and they both know I’ll never stop caring about them.

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“Hey, what’s up, guys?” I announced as I came into the kitchen and the first thing I did was take Pia’s freshly poured coffee that sat in front of her.

“Pia fucked up last night,” Tavish announced as I took a sip of the hot coffee and I grew concerned.

“What, why? What happened?” I asked.

“Tell him,” Tavish encouraged with a smirk and Pia was already annoyed.

“Wipe that stupid smile off your face and I will,” she warned and Tavish chuckled.

“I’m sorry, it’s just funny,” he said with a shrug.

“It’s not funny-”

“Ehhhh, it’s a little funny,” he gave a rebuttal.

“Okay, okay, what happened?” I broke up their little battle and Tavish kept his mouth shut so Pia could explain.

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“So, you know the girl I’ve been seeing? Tessa?” Pia asked and I nodded, “Well, last night when we were at the party we all went to, somehow the subject of ex’s came up and-”

Somehow?” Tavish accentuated with surprise, “You always bring it up. It’s like some kind of bait you use on a hook to eventually real them in, then when they’re almost there, you catch them by telling them how great it is with them now to tug at their heartstrings and hopefully get lucky,” he pointed out and I smirked.

“You do do that a lot, Pi..” I confirmed and Tavish laughed softly.

“Because it fucking works, all right?” Pia defended.

“Not this time..” Tavish said under his breath.

“I will seriously burn you with my coffee,” Pia added, going to grab her cup, but missed because I had taken it. She shot me a look as if she was going to grab a knife off the wall and stab me with it, so I gave it back to her quickly before the thought could cross her mind.

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“So, anyways.. Continue,” I said politely to stay on her good side.. I’d hate to get stabbed after only waking up a little less than an hour ago.

Anyways.. I brought up the subject and it was all going fine, we were laughing and drinking, whatever, so I continue to talk about my ex and also how stupid her girlfriend was at the time because she was dumb and completely oblivious that her girlfriend was cheating on her with me while they were still together. I must’ve called her ten different synonyms of the word ‘stupid’ and by the time I was almost done explaining everything, I let her name slip out..”

“And?” Tavish asked with a smirk still on his lips and Pia sighed.

“Well, apparently she was the stupid bitch I was talking about the whole time..”

“..No fucking way,” I said with a smile, looking to Tavish and he nodded to confirm.

“Yes fucking way,” he replied.

Pia continued, “So, on top of me calling her all different kinds of names to her face, I was the one her girlfriend was seeing behind her back.. I’m the reason they broke up.. She eventually found out after I don’t even know how many months of us fooling around, but she never new my name then or who I was exactly.. Until now,” Pia explained and I let out a soft whistle when I sighed.

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“Well, shit.. I’m sorry, Pi,” I gave her comfort, putting my arm around her and she rested her head against my shoulder.

“It’s all right..”

“So, you guys are totally done now?” I asked her and he scoffed.

“Duh.”

“Maybe it was for the best?” I suggested.

“Yeah, maybe.. It was fun while it lasted, at least. Plus, it seemed like she was wanting to get more serious and I didn’t really want that.. I just mostly wanted to fool around and have fun because she was super hot,” she replied, shrugging softly after her words.

“Want me to pick up something on the way home? Some nice vodka? We can get drunk and watch movies all night like we do sometimes, how’s that sound?” I tried to make her feel better and she eventually nodded.

“Yeah, that does sound nice,” she said with a soft smile, looking up to me appreciatively and I pulled her closer into me for a brief half-hug before letting her go.

“When do you close the gym tonight?” I asked Tavish and he shrugged.

“Depends on how many people are there later.. If there’s only a couple, then I’ll probably close at nine. If it’s full up or close to it, then it’ll be more around eleven or midnight,” he replied, “But, I’ll try to get out around nine. If you’re going to watch movies, save Mad Max for when I get home,” Tavish added.

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Pia let out a soft groan, “We’ve watched that movie, like, ten times already-”

“And it’s still a good one to watch ten more times,” he said with a grin and Pia smirked, “Besides, each of us always pick out our own, and for me, I choose Mad Max for the eleventh time. We can even make a damn drinking game out of it somehow if you want,” he teased more and Pia rolled her eyes.

“Fine, we’ll save it for when you get off work, but Luca and I are starting one of our movies with or without you,” she replied and Tavish looked to me.

“Text me and let me know if she puts some romantic comedy on.. Then I’ll definitely be home a lot later,” Tavish said to me and I laughed as Pia reached over the counter and smacked his shoulder.

“You’re such a dick!” She exclaimed and he laughed as he held the spot she hit.

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“I’m just fucking with you! And don’t do that shit near my coffee, you could’ve spilled it on my laptop,” Tavish warned and all I could do was stay out of the way of flying hands and get to work.

“All right, I gotta get to my appointment with Blair.. Don’t kill each other while I’m gone.”

“Bye, Luca,” Pia replied.

“See ya, man,” Tavish added and I left the kitchen.

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Before leaving, I ran upstairs to grab my athletic bag, which was really just my old high school book bag that held some towels, a stopwatch, a few bottles of water and some energy bars, and I tossed it into the backseat of my car before getting in and pulling out of the driveway. With my windows rolled down and the temperature at a perfect eighty degrees, I felt calm and relaxed as the wind weaved through my hair and the sound of my GTO’s engine rumbling filled my ears. I’ve been living in Sunlit Tides, California since I was born and I couldn’t even dream of living anywhere else. I’ve been on a few road trips with my brothers, but we’ve never made it further than Colorado, and even then, it was mostly just passing through, camping, then coming home. I haven’t known much of anything else besides Cali, but, it didn’t bother me in the slightest. Maybe one day I’ll have the random urge to travel and see the world, but I’ll always come back home.

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I arrived at Blair’s place three minutes before two and I grabbed my bag before getting out of the car and heading up to Blair’s front door. I knocked three times, tapping my foot on the wooden deck and making clicking sounds with my tongue against my teeth as I waited patiently for her to come to the door. A few seconds later, I heard Blair’s voice behind the door getting closer and I could tell she was talking to someone, probably on the phone.. Her front door opened and she gave me a quick smile before her face fell flat again, leaving her door open for me to come in and I was right, she was on the phone.. Let me see if I can guess who with..

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I came in and set my bag down, then shut the door behind me as I listened..

“No, I told you already, do not come by..”

As I suspected, she was definitely talking to August..

“If you come here, I’ll lose my mind.. I left the other night because you were being an asshole, like always, and you wouldn’t listen to me..”

Blair was silent for a moment and I assumed August was arguing back. I tried to stay out of it, trying my hardest not to listen, but I couldn’t help it when it involved my family. Even though it was none of my business, I cared about how August treated Blair because she’s been with him and my dad for so long that I’ve come to know her well and I care for her. Our whole family knows her well and cares for her.

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“Brreoww~” I heard at my feet, looking down and seeing Blair’s cat, Diamond, rubbing against my leg and wanting to be pet. I smiled and bent down, petting her from the top of her head all the way down to the tip of her tail.

“Hey, pretty girl,” I said to her as I continued to give her attention while eavesdropping on Blair and August arguing.

“Yes, you were! And you still are now!”

They continued to argue, my view glancing up to Blair every few seconds or so as I pet her cat.

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“August, I don’t have time for this, I gotta go,” her voice got quieter, “No, it’s not because of that, it’s because Luca just got here and I gotta keep up with my routine. Just leave me alone, all right? I’ll call you later tonight..”

I could hear his loud voice opposing somehow, though I still couldn’t hear his exact words.

“August, if you come here and ruin another routine for me, I swear to God-” she stopped and looked at her phone, “Wow.. He hung up on me,” she said to me and I chuckled.

“So, that means he’s on his way here, huh?” I asked.

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“Probably,” she said with a sigh, putting her phone back into her pocket and I stopped petting Diamond so I could stand up straight and talk to Blair.

“Wanna go somewhere else?”

“No, let’s just..” She sighed heavily, trying to collect her thoughts after being infected by Augie, “Let’s just go outside and stretch..”

“You sure? I don’t mind going somewhere else.”

“No, it’s fine. By the time we’re done with that and start our run, we’ll be gone before he gets here,” she replied and I nodded in agreement, following Blair out the back door and outside to her yard.

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Blair had set up a mat for herself outside and she began her warm up stretching as I did the same.

“Have you been running on the treadmill?” I asked as we stretched.

“Yup, three times a week, just like you told me,” she replied.

“How many miles have you gotten up to so far?”

“Only about three or four every time.”

“Good, that’s good. Did you run today?”

“Only about ten minutes, just to warm up,” she replied and I nodded with a grin. Blair always did really well with following instructions and I only ever needed to tell her things once for her to understand completely. It was obvious that she wanted her knees and legs to be in the best shape that they could be in and so far, she’s never missed an appointment with me.. Although some of our appointments together have been cut short due to August showing up and throwing a stupid fit for no reason, she still focused on what was important and that was keeping her legs in good shape, and damn, did she have a nice pair of legs.

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“You’ll probably be able to run that half marathon by the end of the year.. Still got about nine months to go, but you’ll get there by the time it starts,” I replied confidently and she smiled.

“I know I will, too. How long are half marathons?”

“Just a tiny bit over thirteen miles,” I answered and her expression seemed determined, but also the slightest bit nervous.

“You’re going to run it with me, right?” She asked and I nodded.

“Of course I am. I wanna be there when you cross that finish line first,” I replied and she smiled warmly, knowing she appreciated my confidence in her and she knew that I wasn’t just saying it to say it, but because I knew it was true.

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After about ten minutes of stretching, Blair and I made our way down to the beach behind her little house. We stopped just before the water met our feet and I explained to her what it’s like to run in the sand, knowing she had never done it before. We’ve been working up to this moment for a long time and I thought she was finally ready to put her knees through a little more rough training to make them even stronger.

“Running on the beach is a little difficult. It’s a lot harder than running on grass or pavement because it shifts under your feet the more pressure you put into it. Your feet kind of sink into it and it’s hard to get the traction you need because it shifts. Still, it’s pretty hard to get used to and you might get tired really quickly, but when you do, let me know and we’ll take a break. This might be a little rough on your knees, too, at first, but it’ll make them stronger the more you do it and you’ll get used to it. Once you do, I’ll have you start running on the beach more often instead of the treadmill,” I encouraged and she nodded softly.

“Okay.. So, how long are we running for?”

“We’re gunna run around to the edge of the water over there, then turn back,” I nodded towards the large body of water behind her and I watched Blair take it all in.

“And.. How many miles is that..?”

“Hmm.. Maybe about three, three and a half..? You can do four on the treadmill, so you can do three on the beach, I know you can.. It’s just going to be a little more tiring,” I gave an estimate and her brows furrowed in the slightest, knowing she was a little nervous again.

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“Don’t be nervous, you’ll do great. Again, let me know if you want a break and we’ll stop immediately. How about we jog at first, then once you get the hang of it and the feel for it, we up the pace?”

“Yeah, that sounds good,” Blair agreed and I smiled at her as I then stepped in front of her and dragged the tip of my foot through the sand.

“This is the start and finish line. We’re all done for the day once we pass this, okay?”

“Okay. Let’s start this before August gets here,” she suggested and I chuckled.

“Agreed.. All right, ready? Let’s go,” I began our run.

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It didn’t take long for Blair to get the hang of running in the sand, keeping up a pretty good pace with me for now. Every time I glanced over at Blair, I noticed her expression was determined and confident, but it was also a little angry and I decided to ask about her and August, hoping to ease a little of her tension.

“So,” I began as we jogged, “What’s up with you and Augie this time?”

“I don’t even know,” she replied hopelessly, “I was making dinner for us the other night and I was telling him a funny story from when I went out with my friends. He asked what day I had hung out with them and I told him when, but he was under the impression, for whatever reason, that I told him I wasn’t going out that night and that I was staying in, which wasn’t the case at all since it was a Friday and my friends and I always go out for drinks on Friday’s.. He accused me of lying to him, then he jumped to the conclusion that I told him that because I didn’t want to see him, and because I was sneaking around with someone else behind his back and.. I don’t know.. He just gets so angry about stupid little things, twisting it all into this jumbled mess of assumptions and when I try to talk to him about it, he’s already too angry to discuss it and he storms out because he gets himself so worked up for nothing. That’s what he did the other night and he was trying to apologize as well as continue to argue about it on the phone with me.. That’s when you came over,” she explained and I shook my head in disappointment. 

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“Gah.. I’m sorry about him. I don’t know where the bug crawled up his ass came from when you two started dating, but I think puberty is what made him so short tempered.. Sometimes it’s even hard for me to believe he came from our dad’s like the rest of us did,” I said with a soft laugh.

“You know, it really does make sense.. He was never like this until we got into high school and we started dating.. Is it my fault that he’s like this?”

“God, no, of course not! He’s just Augie and Augie just so happens to be a big asshole. His behavior isn’t your fault,” I assured her.

“Why doesn’t he trust me, though? We’ve been on and off and on and off since we were fifteen and I’ve barely even looked at other men, let alone have gone behind his back with someone else.. I’d never do something like that to him but he’s convinced that I will and I don’t know why..”

“He’s probably just constantly scared of losing you because you’re the only one that puts up with his shit, so if he loses you, he has no one,” I guessed.

“He has his family,” she pointed out and I smirked.

“True, he does, but he doesn’t realize that. He talks to you and spends time with you a whole lot more than he wants to with us, anyways.. Besides, him and I aren’t really on the best of terms, Niko isn’t around like he used to be, he’s not gunna talk to our sisters, and Jiro is too inexperienced. Our parents have tried to help him, but he shuts them out quicker than his siblings, so all that leaves is you,” I explained and when I noticed Blair not running next to me anymore, I stopped and looked back.

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Blair was standing in the sand with a disheveled expression on her face, hands on her hips and taking a moment to catch her breath. I was a little winded as well, but I recovered from the mile and a half we’ve already run quicker because of the shape I was in. 

“You okay?” I asked and she nodded.

“Yeah, just.. Catching my breath-”

“-And thinking about what I said?” I asked and she hesitated a moment before eventually nodding.

“Look, don’t worry about it. Sure, it’s kind of a lot of pressure to be there for Augie, let alone put up with his stupid bullshit and I don’t know how you do it, but.. He loves you, I know he does. I worry about him sometimes, we all do, but we know he’s in good hands because, as rare as it is, you make him smile,” I continued and the slightest smirk lifted the corner of her lips.

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“He loves me?” She asked and I nodded.

“Yeah, definitely.”

“He’s never told me that before..”

“Which doesn’t surprise me given who he is, but, trust me.. He does.. Don’t you?” I asked and I noticed her expression went a little bashful.

“Yeah.. I do,” she admitted.

“Then maybe it’s time to try a new approach. Maybe he’ll stop being an asshole, or at least a little less of one, if you two talk about that together,” I suggested and I could tell she was seriously thinking about everything that I had told her.

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“Thanks, Luca. I feel like you always know what to say, or at least, understand more situations than the rest of us,” she said with a smile.

“Glad to be of help, but I think I just know my stupid brother well enough to know a few things that might make him a little easier to handle.. Had to do it my whole life and I’m still doing it to this day,” I replied with a soft laugh and she giggled, “Had enough rest? Ready to continue?” I asked and she nodded.

“Yeah, I think I am.”

“Cool.. Let’s try to get a good time still and run instead of jog so we can make up for this little break,” I suggested and Blair nodded, picking up her feet again a little faster this time and I joined her. Blair was really an amazing woman.. Beautiful, determined, smart, caring, everything that August wasn’t, but I guess opposites do sometimes attract.. I don’t know what she sees in August, but every time he loses his temper over something trivial, he risks losing her and every time that he does, it only makes it that much harder for her to come back to him because who the hell would want to? If he wants to keep Blair, which I know he does, he needs to finally kill that bug up his ass and stop getting so worked up over nothing or else the next time they fight and it gets too out of hand, he might lose her completely.. I have to admit, it makes me really nervous to think about how he’d react to losing Blair, I just hoped I’d never have to see it. I hoped none of us would have to see it.

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By the end of our run, crossing the finish line I had drawn in the sand, I threw my hands up victoriously as Blair leaned over to catch her breath. 

“Woooo! Awesome job, Blair, seriously. You did really good,” I said with enthusiasm.

“I’m so fucking tired,” she said with a smile as she panted heavily, “Running in the sand really is a huge difference than the treadmill.. My God,” she said with a soft laugh and I nodded as I snickered to her remarks.

“Hell yeah, it is. How are your knees doing?” I asked and she examined them for a moment.

“A little swollen, a little sore, but I feel amazing,” she replied and I was happy with the result.

“Awesome. Let’s go back to the mat you laid out so you can stretch and be done for the day. I’ll get you an ice pack for your knees, all right?”

“Yeah, all right,” she agreed, still trying to catch her breath and I helped her walk back to her backyard so her knees could take a long rest.

“I’ll be right back,” I told Blair and she nodded as she stretched out on her mat in the yard.

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I walked up to her deck and came inside her place through the sliding door, walking over to the kitchen and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I saw August standing there leaning against the counter.

“Jesus fuck, August.. You scared the shit out of me,” I told him, but he didn’t seem to care at all as he glared at me from behind his blonde hair.

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“The fuck are you doing here, anyways?” I asked, walking over to the freezer and I went to open it to grab an ice pack, but before I could even open it five inches, August put his hand to it and shut it hard. 

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I looked over to him after rolling my eyes, “What are you pissed off about this time?” I asked, already planning on messing with him.. I knew he was going to ask questions, but I’d only answer him with questions of my own and I knew he hated when I did that.

“Did you and Blair talk about me on your run together?” He asked and I smirked.

“So what if we did?”

“Good, or bad things?”

“Is that any of your business?”

“Uh, yeah, it is.. Especially if it involves my girlfriend.”

“Are you guys even together right now, or are you on another break because she dumped your ass again?” I asked in return and I could tell he was getting annoyed very quickly.

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“Are you going to tell me what you two talked about, or not?” He asked with a hint of anger.

“Who says we talked?”

“You did!”

“No, I didn’t, actually.. Where’d you get that idea?”

“Luca, this is starting to fucking piss me off-”

“What else is new?” I asked sarcastically with a laugh, although I finally decided I had done enough when it dawned on me that making August even angrier than he already was was fun for me, but not for Blair.. If August was going to stay after I left, which I knew he was going to, then pissing him off probably wasn’t the best thing to do..

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“Dude, this is why she breaks it off with you constantly. You can’t last one entire minute without getting angry about something and she’s fucking sick of it. Why don’t you take your anger out on something else besides her since she doesn’t deserve any of it?” I asked, expecting him to get angry about something I had said, but I watched as he looked me up and down instead and I noticed his lips twitch into a grin for a millisecond.

“Then I think I’ll take it out on you,” he replied and I raised my brow.

“Wait, what-”

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August had me against the doorway in a split second, his forearm pressing hard against my Adam’s apple and it was hard to breathe. I was pretty strong, but I always underestimated the strength that August possessed when he was angry that far surpassed any strength that I had.

“The fuck is wrong with you?” I struggled to ask, my voice slightly raspy and I saw his eyes glance at my wrist.

“Nice watch.. Where’d you get it?” He asked and I smirked, knowing just from the look he gave me that he knew I stole it from him. It was a gift from our parents for his twenty first birthday some years back and I had always taken a liking to it.

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“I got it from this douchebag I know down the stree-” I replied, but my sentence was cut short when he punched me in the stomach so hard that I was brought down to one knee, coughing and gasping for air. August took that opportunity in my weakened state to grab my wrist again and take his watch back, placing it where it belonged back on his own wrist and I caught my breath as he continued to stand over me.

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When I could breath somewhat normally again, I addressed the situation, “You almost made me puke from that one,” I said with a grin, acting as if it barely phased me even though it was still a little difficult to talk or breath.

“Stop taking my fucking stuff, Luca. The next time you come over and I notice something missing, I’ll give you a shot to the kidney that’ll make you shit your fucking pants. Hell, I’ll hit it so hard that you’ll need to be put on the donor’s list,” he warned as I slowly stood back up and leaned against the wall.

“Okay, okay.. Fuck.. I’m sorry,” I said softly, letting out a gentle groan as my stomach tried it’s best to go back to normal.

“..So?” He asked as if I owed him something besides the apology I had just given him.

“Yeah, we talked about you,” I brought up Blair and I as a way of apologizing more for taking August’s watch.

“What about?”

“How fucking psycho you are and how you got mad at her for nothing the other day. She’s still pretty pissed. What the hell is up with you accusing her of cheating all the time?” I asked and he let out an aggravated sigh.

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“I don’t like talking about this with you,” he said as if he was snarling like a wild dog.

“You’re the one that wanted to know, stupid! If you don’t wanna deal with the truth, then don’t ask for it,” I replied as I slowly stood up straight again.

“Just tell me everything you guys talked about and I’ll deal with that. I don’t need you telling me what you think about it because it’s none of your fucking business,” he demanded and I chuckled.

“How? You always do it your way and your way never works. All you do is think about yourself, I feel sorry for Blair,” I pointed out.

“Fuck you. Just tell me what she said and I’ll know what to do from there,” he repeated with a little more annoyance in his tone.

“No, no way. Figure it out yourself. I’ll give you advice if you want it, but that’s all I’m givin’ you,” I put my foot down and I knew he was angry with me, when wasn’t he? But, I could tell he knew that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with Blair unless he either knew the story, or got advice, and since only one of those options was on the table, he took whatever he could get.

“Jesus.. Fine, but this is the last time you discuss our relationship with her. It really is none of your fucking business. You’re her personal trainer to keep her knees in good shape, not one of her fucking girlfriends, got it?” He made clear and I put my hands up briefly in defense, signalling that I agreed to stay out of it.

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“So?” August asked, waiting for my advice and I smirked, stepping up to the freezer and opening it to take out the ice pack I came in for earlier. I handed it to August and he took it from me, through his brow raised in question as to what I was doing.

“Her knees are a little swollen because we ran on the beach and it was a little rough on her. Go out there and take care of her, show her that you’re not always a fucking wolverine with rabies, then apologize.. Just try to be gentle for once in your life.. And while you’re at it, it might be time to finally tell her that you love her if you want her to take your sorry ass back,” I advised and his permanent scowl wasn’t so permanent anymore.

“..What?” He seemed nervous and I chuckled.

“The sooner the better, too.. See ya, bro,” I answered, leaving the kitchen and heading for the door.

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“Wait, that’s it?” I heard August ask after following me into the living room and I turned around, continuing to walk backwards towards the front door.

“Trust me.. That’s it,” I answered, shrugging as if to say I had nothing else to give and I left August at Blair’s house to fend for himself.. I hoped he was smart enough and calm enough to handle this situation like a man and not fuck it up. Blair was the best thing that happened to him and if he doesn’t see that clearly, he truly is lost and it’s no one’s fault but his own.

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I made my way back to my car and tossed my bag in the back seat before getting in and starting her up. I had the rest of the day to myself and all that I wanted to do was go home, sit on the beach and pre-game a little with a few drinks before the movie night with Tavish and Pia, so that’s exactly what I did. I made a quick stop at the liquor store and picked up a six-pack along with a bottle of vodka for Pia, and went home straight after. It was about half after four when I got home and I figured both Pia and Tavish were still at work since neither of their cars were here. 

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I walked to the kitchen to put the vodka in the freezer and my beers in the fridge, then grabbing one of the six beers and I kicked the fridge door shut as I twisted the bottle cap. A quick and quiet ‘tssst’ sound being let out from the carbonation and I put the bottle up to my lips for a long chug. I finished about half of it before finally putting it down on the counter top, standing there for a moment to catch my breath and watching the bubbles inside the bottle weave back and forth as they ascended towards the top only to pop and disappear when they reached it. ..Oddly enough, it reminded me of all the women I’d ever been with. They’re here for what seems like only a quick moment, we have a little fun, I make them come, and then poof, they’re gone from my life.

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Although I’ll never admit it out loud, I don’t particularly like being alone. I was raised in a really big family, I have two close friends, and I have other friends scattered all throughout town, but standing here alone, even if it’s only for a moment, makes me lonely. I can’t help but feel it. All that I’ve known and grown up with is being surrounded by friends and family, so being alone is still something I’m working on getting used to. My mind tends to race a little too much when I’m by myself and have nothing to occupy myself with, sometimes I even go far back in the past to a point where I was unbelievably happy, but that also means being forced to think back on a time where I was abandoned by the one thing that did make me happy.

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I grabbed the beer I had opened as well as another from the fridge before walking through the house to the back door and walking to the beach to relax. I still thought about my family and friends and how I wished at least one of them were with me right now so my mind wouldn’t go to depressing places, but again, it couldn’t be helped when all I had at the moment was myself. There’s three things in the world that I assume everyone loves having, family, friends and a significant other, but I was missing one of the three and to be honest, it didn’t bother me all that much. I had it once, but that’s long over.

What is it about love that I find so unappetizing? I can see it for everyone else but myself. My parents have it, August has it with Blair, Niko has it with AnneMarie, Petra, Umiko and Jiro have it, or at least some sort of puppy love with the ones they’re with, but not me. Honestly, it’s okay, I can live with it just fine, I guess it kind of just makes me think that there’s no one out there that’s good enough for me.. Or maybe it’s that I’m just not good enough for anyone..?

Yeah, that sounds more accurate.

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There was one time where I thought I had a sure thing, someone who’d never leave my side no matter what happened and someone who I thought wouldn’t hurt me or stop loving me, but I was wrong.. I was sixteen, young and naive and completely intoxicated with this girl and I let myself get hurt.. Badly.. I let it all in without even a rational thought that I might get hurt in the end, and surprise, surprise, it ended up happening.. Falling in love for the first time made things so, so much worse the day she moved away and never told me. She never even said goodbye to me and I haven’t seen her since.. Despite that being over seven years ago, I haven’t been able to let myself feel what I felt back then, I don’t let anyone in more than they need to be and I like it like that. I feel safer that way. I avoid love at all costs and prefer the simple company of others, like my family or Pia and Tavish, rather than the company of a someone who’s only going to let me down.. Even though I was young and stupid and emotional to the point where her leaving pretty much ruined me, it still bothers me to this day to think about and I don’t ever want to feel that kind of heartbreak again. Commitment isn’t one of my strengths anymore by any means and I hope to keep it that way so I can avoid anything in the future that could cause me nothing but pain in the end. I can’t do that again.. I can’t feel what I did years ago ever again.. I won’t let myself.

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I must’ve sat out on the beach for about two hours or more because the sun was disappearing behind the horizon and the warmth it gave off was cooling down. The breeze came in over the water and I shut my eyes, taking in a deep inhale through my nose as it went passed me and the smell of the salty sea always brought back some good memories. Good memories involving my family and how often we’d have beach days to look for seashells, play in the sand, or just to simply relax in the sun.. Good memories of my friends and I growing up running along the shoreline to see who could keep going without tripping over rocks or stepping on a sea urchin, drinking and partying, skinny dipping, anything that we could think of to have fun. I even remember a time when Pia got stung on one of her big toes by the smallest jellyfish Tavish and I had ever seen and she milked her recovery for days.. I smiled just at the thought of it because Tavish and I couldn’t stop laughing while she hopped around on one foot saying how bad it stung, swearing up a storm, but it was no worse than a bee sting. 

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But, it was too good to be true for me to think that I could sit here and not think about the bad memories, as well.. I couldn’t help it, I’m a dweller.. The less I went to the beach with my family, the more I went with my friends, which then led me to meeting the one that got away.. Or really, the one that left. We met on the beach at a party Tavish, Pia and I were invited to. Pia was fourteen, I was fifteen, Tavish was sixteen, and the girl I met there was fifteen, like me. We hit it off immediately, even had our first kiss that night just off the shore in the water under a completely clear sky that was only lit by stars. Pretty romantic, I guess. I couldn’t see her for a week because I got grounded for coming home late and drunk, but I wasn’t grounded from my phone, so we constantly texted one another day and night until we hung out when I was finally off the hook. We moved fast, really fast, losing our virginity to one another that same night and we were inseparable for an entire year until she completely disappeared from my life.. She was the best and the worst thing to ever happen to me.

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“Luca! What are you doing?” I heard Pia calling to me from the house and I looked over my shoulder.

“Hey, you’re back from work already?” I asked, thankful that she was home and I didn’t have to be alone with my thoughts anymore.

“Yeah, I only worked a few hours filling in for someone. Now come on, let’s start drinking and watch cheesy movies!” She encouraged with a bright smile and I laughed softly.

“Okay, I’ll be right in,” I replied and I watched her go back inside. 

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I stood to my feet and grabbed my two empty beer bottles before heading back inside and coming into the kitchen where I saw Pia fixing herself a drink. 

“Hey, you doing okay?” Was the first thing she asked when I entered the kitchen and I tossed out my beer bottles into the recycling.

“Yeah, I’m fine.. Why?” I replied and she looked at me as if I were lying.. Well, I suppose I was..

“Because, it’s never really a good sign when you’re out at the beach alone like that. I know you, Luca, and I don’t like seeing you like that. I know where your thoughts can take you sometimes,” she said with a raised brow as if she fully believed she was speaking complete truth, but she was right. She did know me, and it was exactly what I was doing.. Letting my thoughts get to me.

“I’m okay.. Really,” I answered with a smile that I thought was convincing enough.

“You sure?”

“Yup. Okay as I can be.”

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“Well, when you say that, it makes me not believe you,” she said and I chuckled softly.

“I won’t ask what you were thinking about, because I think I have a pretty good idea, and if I’m right, then knock it off. Things in the past are meant to be left in the past, right?” She said as if she had repeated this to me a hundred times, and although she has, I still needed to hear it every now and again to remind myself. She was right, the past should stay in the past, especially when it was so long ago.

“You’re right.. Past in the past,” I said with a smile that I actually meant this time and she seemed pleased enough when she gave me an approving smile.

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When Pia had finished making her drink, I grabbed a beer and we went into the living room to start browsing Netflix and pick something to watch. I sat on the couch and Pia laid out on it with her feet in my lap, comfortable and ready to watch movies to get both of our minds off of the shitty thoughts in our heads and distract us from things that have brought us down. We ended up picking a stand-up comedian to bring our spirits up and to make us laugh, both of us believing that laughter was the best medicine  and after watching two different hour long sets, Tavish walked through the door around nine.

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“Hey, guys,” he announced, Pia throwing her hand up to wave at Tav and I looked over my shoulder to address him.

“Hey! Grab a beer or make yourself a drink, we’re on a stand-up binge,” I announced and Tavish seemed pleased with what we had chosen to watch.

“All right, I’ll be right back,” he replied, going into the kitchen and grabbing a beer before coming back out into the living room and getting comfortable on the love seat since Pia and I were taking up the big couch.

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“How was work?” I asked.

“Boring as shit, though I got a good workout in, so it wasn’t all that bad, I guess,” Tavish replied and Pia picked our third comedian to watch.

“How was your appointment with Blair?”

“Pretty good, ran on the beach today. August showed up, too,” I replied and he rolled his eyes.

“Ahh, fuck.. How’d that go?”

“As well as it could go, so pretty shitty,” I said with a chuckle and he joined me with a soft laugh.

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The rest of the night was spent drinking heavily and laughing our asses off to both stand-up comics and the more drunk we got, we usually always switched to cheesy movies that were easy to make fun of so then we could make each other laugh and continue the good times. This was all that I needed and all that I wanted.. To be happy, to be with my friends and to have nothing but good times to fill my head with more good memories than bad. I needed to grow and learn to get over whatever insecurities, bad memories, and wasted worries that I had in order to be happy, and although it’s taken a long time to get there, even though I’m not quite there yet, I still thought I was making some great progress. Really, it was all thanks to the two I was watching cheesy movies with. I honestly didn’t know where I’d be without Tavish and Pia, but I knew that if I didn’t have them, I don’t even know if I’d be the same man I was today.. I’m grateful to them through and through and even though I’ve never told either of them that, something tells me that they knew without me needing to say a word.

Generation 4, Chapter 20, Finale Pt 2 of 2

Isaiah’s POV

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As I drove home, I was as high as I could possibly be. I had just made up with, as well as made love to, my one and only and I was completely floored by the fact that he was mine again. All mine. I was so damn lucky and even just the sight of his car driving a couple hundred feet in front of me caused my lips to curl into different variations of smirks and smiles as I replayed what had happened between Oliver and I in my office at the bar. James was right, I was being completely stupid and leaving Oliver wouldn’t do anyone any good, not me or our boys or the rest of our family, and making up with Oliver made me the happiest I had ever been.. He even wanted more children and he was the first one to bring it up.. How much luckier could I get when the one that was always so concerned about the choices we made was the first one to bring up the subject of having more children? I was almost excited enough to call Cybal right now at ten thirty at night to tell her the good news, but of course, I knew it wasn’t the right time to do such a thing and I held that thought on the back burner of my mind as I drove behind Oliver.

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A street light we came up on turned yellow right after Oliver had drove through it and I caught the red, slowly coming to a stop and I watched as his car pulled off into the distance until I couldn’t see his break lights any longer. I sat there for a good minute, waiting for the car that had triggered the light to make their move and they ended up turning right, something that slightly annoyed me since the light technically didn’t have to change for a bullshit turn like that and I could still be right behind Oliver, but I sat at the red light anyhow as I waited for no one else this late at night. With my window open, the only sounds of the night that I could hear were the chirping of crickets and the waves splashing against the shore in the patch of water to my right and it was all so soothing, something that only enhanced how relaxed I felt after such a perfect night. When the light finally turned green, I gently pressed on the gas and kept going towards our house, excited to get home and I didn’t doubt that I might even catch Oliver getting out of his car and going inside as I pulled into our driveway so I could catch him and kiss him at the front door as we made our way inside the house together.. I couldn’t wait to be in his arms again.

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As I pulled up to our driveway, I noticed Oliver’s car already parked, but I saw a figure that had blonde hair instead of the brunette that I adored.. I grew worried, pulling slowly into the driveway and when I saw a strange man about ten years older than me standing in shock from my headlights, raising his hand to block the blinding lights from his eyes, I then noticed a shine coming from his hand.. It was a knife and it was soaked in blood.. But, wait, what? What’s going on?! My eyes then caught sight of Oliver on the ground just outside of our front door, blood on the ground and all over his white button-up and I swear I could feel my heart stop and my entire world suddenly went silent.

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Before I could even think about what to do, my foot was already on the gas peddle all the way to the floor and my car skid at first, trying hard to get traction and when it did, the man ran, but he was no match against a speeding car. He got about twenty feet down the driveway before my Mercedes slammed into him, the back of his head and his spine hitting the hood of my car first with a loud crash and he tumbled over my windshield as well as the roof and I could hear his body hit the ground before my car then slammed into the garage.  

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I was dazed for only about ten seconds from my airbag deploying, but I quickly pushed it out of my way and popped it to get it out of my line of sight and my eyes opened wide when I saw blood smeared all over the cracked windshield, but it didn’t phase me in the slightest as I had more important things to worry about.

“Ol-Oliver,” I said with strain as I pushed my door open hard and crawled out, my knees hurting momentarily when I had landed on them, but I quickly stumbled to my feet and ran around my car to go to where he was, jumping over the man that I assumed I had killed.. At least I hoped the fucker was dead.

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I almost fell when I saw him, stumbling more as I ran as quick as I could and tears had already formed in my eyes before I reached him, my hands shaking as I touched his face. 

“Oh my God.. Oliver? ..B-Baby?” My voice trembled as I looked at him and the tears in my eyes made it almost impossible to see. A few seconds went by where I had no idea what the hell to even do, but when I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, I calmed myself for him even despite seeing his white shirt thickening in blood with every second that I wasted.

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I knew an ambulance wouldn’t get here in time, but thank goodness he was still breathing and I turned him over carefully so I could I scoop him up in my arms, my one arm under his back and the other under the bend of his knees and with all the strength I could muster, I picked him up and brought him to his Nissan. I put him into the passengers seat and I shut the door, running as fast as I could to the drivers side and I backed out of the driveway faster than my tears could fall from my eyes.

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As I drove to the hospital at about eighty miles per hour on a street that you aren’t supposed to exceed roughly forty, I didn’t give a flying fuck as I could barely even keep my eyes on the road since I was looking over at Oliver almost every second that I drove. I still made sure to get there as safely as I possibly could to avoid any other grievances along the way, and I knew driving this fast wouldn’t help in avoiding any of that, but I couldn’t risk losing him and if driving this fast to get him help meant he’d be okay, then by all that is holy, I’d drive even faster if I knew absolutely nothing was in my way.

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A large gasp suddenly came from Oliver and it scared the hell out of me, looking over at him and I watched as he clenched his abdomen while letting out a pain-filled groan. He then suddenly started waving his unoccupied hand in front of him and I thought that maybe he still thought the man that had stabbed him was in front of him and I reached over to get him to stop.

Hey! Hey! Oliver! It’s okay, it’s okay!” I tried to calm him and he looked over, surprised to see me.

“Wha- I-Isaiah?” He questioned through his pain and his panting and I couldn’t help but smile as tears still filled my eyes.

“Yeah, baby, it’s me, it’s me! I’m right here,” I comforted.

“Wh-what.. What happe-? Ahhh, f-fuck!” He struggled to ask through his pain as he clenched his abdomen more and just as he was about to look down, I reached to catch his chin and I hold his head up.

“No no no, don’t look, just- Just stay awake, okay? You’re going to be fine, you hear me?”

“Wh-where.. Who..” I assumed he wanted to know about his assailant and I continued to look frantically between him and the road.

“Shut up, Oliver. Don’t talk, okay? Just.. Just don’t talk,” I instructed, but when I felt the weight of his head increase in my hand, I knew he was slipping out of consciousness again.

“Hey, Oliver! Stay awake, dammit!” I yelled, but he had slipped into it, anyways, “Fuck!” I yelled angrily, letting go of his chin as I continued to drive as fast as I could.

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To make matters worse, or possibly better, I wasn’t sure, I pulled out my phone. I called nine-one-one and told them my situation before I got to the hospital and even through the panic that was coursing through me, I somehow managed to tell them everything that happened.. How I had pulled into the driveway and saw Oliver bleeding on the ground, how I had run over the one who had stabbed him, and now, how I was driving him to the hospital. Luckily, by the time I ended the call, a few minutes later I was pulling up to the hospital and a gurney was being wheeled out, putting my hand sternly to Oliver’s chest to hold him against his seat as I slammed on the breaks.

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“Where you the one that called about the stabbing?” A nurse quickly asked me as I got out of the car and made my way to the passengers side.

Yes! Yes, I am!” I replied, opening the door and I picked up Oliver myself, not wanting the small nurses to even bother trying to do it themselves and they cared for his head and his limbs as I placed him on the gurney. I shut the passengers door as they wheeled him into the hospital and I followed close behind them.

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“What’s his name?” One of them asked as I followed close behind.

“Oliver! His name’s Oliver!” 

“Oliver? Can you hear me?” The nurse asked, but his eyelids remained shut and I could see the color leaving his normally rosy cheeks, “Prep O.R. four quickly and page Dr. Avery,” the nurse told another nurse that we approached and they ran ahead of us to do as she had said.

“You’ll be okay, Oliver!” I said in a panic as I continued to follow them, but once they reached a certain set of doors, one of the nurses continued wheeling him on while the other stopped me.

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“Please, sir! I know this is hard, but you can’t go any further,” she explained and I instantly grew enraged.

“That’s my fucking husband! Let me go with him right now!” I yelled, but she pressed harder against my chest to stop me and I watched as Oliver was wheeled off down a random hallway and then take a quick turn into a room.

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“Sir! Sir! Please.. I know you’re immediate family, but you have to stay here! He’s in good hands now, trust me,” she expressed and I stood on the tips of my toes to see him one last time before he disappeared into the room the nurse took him to.

“You people better take care of him!” I almost threatened and she nodded strongly.

“We will! But you need to stay here!” She continued and although I wanted to argue to no world’s end, my heart sank and I gave up, letting her do her damned job.

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I pulled myself away from her and she ran to where Oliver had been brought through the doors that I wasn’t allowed, seeing a bench next to where I was and I sat down heavily onto it. I brought my hands in front of my face, trying to hold my hands steady as my legs bounced restlessly from my adrenaline refusing to go away. Why.. Why the hell did something like this have to happen? It’s as if every time we were close to being perfect or even currently perfect in general, something had to go wrong and I don’t know how much more of this I could take. When would this end? When could we finally live out our lives without something like this happening? 

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“Doctor Avery to O.R. Four. Doctor Avery, O.R. Four.” I heard announced over the intercom.

A minute later, I heard running down a hallway and looked towards the doors that I wasn’t allowed to pass, a doctor then coming around a corner and he ran to where they had brought Oliver. I assumed it was Dr. Avery, the one nurse had paged, and I felt the slightest bit of hope calm my heart. He better be a damn good doctor.

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Roughly ten agonizingly quiet minutes later as my hands continued to shake and my legs couldn’t stop bouncing, I looked left to see another gurney being wheeled in by a paramedic accompanied by two police officers and when I looked to the person lying down it in, I recognized the mans clothes instantly.

“You gotta be fucking kidding me,” I said softly, rage lifting me from my seat and I ran at the gurney, unsure of what I was going to do exactly to the man that stabbed Oliver, but by God was I going to do as much as I fucking could.

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Sadly, right before I reached him, the two officers noticed and stopped me and held me back using all of their strength.

“Hey! Calm down!” One of the officers demanded, but I didn’t give a shit about what he wanted.

“You son of a bitch!” I yelled as he was wheeled passed me, “Doesn’t feel good to get impaled by things, now does it!? My husband doesn’t like it, either, you piece of shit! I hope you fucking suffer!” I continued to yell, unsure if he could even hear me, but I didn’t care as I watched as the man was wheeled into a different room through the doors I couldn’t go passed.

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“Get the fuck off me!” I jerked violently and the officers seemed surprised by the strength I had put behind getting out of their grip.

“Please, try to calm down.. Are you Isaiah? The one that called nine-one-one for the stabbed victim?” He asked and I was in awe by how stupid he was.

“Wow, what gave it away?” I asked sarcastically and the officer didn’t seem to like my tone, “And stop fucking saying that! His name’s Oliver, you fucking prick. I don’t need to be reminded every goddamn minute that he’s been stabbed, all right?!”

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“If you don’t calm down, sir, I’m going to have to restrain you,” he warned and I laughed.

“Calm down? You can’t be serious.. The man that just attacked my husband for whatever-the-fuck reason was just wheeled passed me to an emergency room.. An emergency room adjacent to the one Oliver’s in in the hope’s of saving his pathetic ass! Why didn’t you just let the fucker die in my fucking driveway!?” I yelled.

“Sir, if it means that I have to take you down to the station in order for you to calm down, then I will,” he threatened, but his threat hit deep when I quickly realized that if I don’t try to settle myself, and fast, I won’t be here for Oliver when he needs me the most.

I let out a heavy sigh, “Fine. I’m calm, see?” I demonstrated sarcastically and he scowled at me, though luckily he didn’t act on his threat.

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The officers stood with me for a moment as I took a seat in a chair that was close, my leg bouncing uncontrollably again, my hands still shaking, my heart dancing wildly, and then like a train hitting me, tears suddenly engulfed my eyes and I broke. I removed my glasses and tucked them away as I sat there hunched over and sobbing quietly into my lap, consumed with worrying about Oliver and I was completely overwhelmed by everything that had just transpired and I couldn’t hold back how helpless I felt.. All I could think about was the night we just had together and how beautiful it had been.. How no more than twenty minutes ago, I was having a drink with him like old times, how he was telling me how much he wanted another child, how he was in my arms giving me everything he is, and it was just.. Too perfect.. Even without him here now, I could still feel the warmth from his fingertips on my cheek, I could still smell the cologne he dabs on his wrists and his neck, I could even still taste him on my lips. It was all still so fresh in my mind that it was still hard to believe I was even here.. No more than twenty minutes ago, I was the furthest away from the risk of losing him that I could possibly be.. It’s just as amazing as it is terrifying how quickly things can change.

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I wasn’t sure how long I had been sitting here, I wasn’t sure when exactly the two officers had walked away from me, I hadn’t even cared enough to notice when my tears had stopped, either.. All that I knew was that I was numb and cold and I felt so alone and helpless as I sat there staring down at my knees that were soaked in tears. I reached up to wipe my cheeks and my eyes dry from crying and when I put my glasses back on, I then caught sight of my vest and jacket.. I touched the fabric then looked to the tips of my fingers, seeing Oliver’s blood stained on both of them and I was mortified at how I hadn’t noticed it sooner. I quickly stood to my feet, desperate to find a bathroom and when I found one, I stepped in, locked the door behind me and went straight to a sink.

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I scrubbed my vest and my jacket as hard as I could, watching the dried blood being re-hydrated as it mixed with the water and swirled down the drain, the color slowly going from a deep red to a light pink, then finally to clear. When I had done my best to get it off, there was still a slight hue of a dark pink that stained the fabrics and I turned the faucet off, sighing heavily to myself when I realized the effort I put into getting the blood out proved to be pointless.. All that it really did was give me something to let my frustration out on and I had even scrubbed to hard that I was causing the fabric to fray.. I decided then that tossing them out in the trash was my best option at this point, not wanting anything in my possession that had Oliver’s blood on it, anyhow.. After washing my hands clean of any remaining blood, I leaned against the counter as I continued to try and calm myself down, but it was so difficult to do alone..

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Will the owner of a red Nissan please move your car from the emergency zone? Owner of a red Nissan, please move your car out of the emergency zone immediately. Thank you.”

I heard over the intercom and I knew that they were talking about Oliver’s car. After taking a long, long moment to try and compose myself, I looked back into the mirror and I gave myself a final once-over to make sure I was rid of everything the color crimson before going out into the hallway. I sighed heavily, drying my eyes as best as I could before leaving the bathroom and I unlocked the door and stepped out, making my way to the emergency entrance so I could move the car as requested.

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The automatic doors opened and I stepped out into the night, a gentle breeze kissing my skin as I approached Oliver’s car and I slowly came to a stop when I caught site of the small droplets of blood on the ground.. However, before I let more tears fill my eyes, I quickly went around to the drivers side to get in and I refused to look at the seat next to me that I knew was soaked in blood as I pulled his car into a parking spot not too far off from the entrance. There was so much blood that stained the seat that I could even smell it and it made me sick all over again, quickly getting out of the car and slamming the door behind me in frustration. I wished as hard as I could that I’d soon be able to find the strength to pull myself together and be strong for Oliver, but honestly, the only thing in the entire world that could truly break me was if anything bad happened to him, and since something had, it was so, so hard to find that strength I so desperately needed.

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When I made my way back into the hospital, I checked the clock on the wall and it read a little after midnight, knowing now it had been over an hour since I had brought Oliver here and there was still no word from a nurse or a doctor or anyone at all. I continued down a long hallway and eventually, I came across a large window to a room that had tiny beds spread throughout it and I stopped to take a look. A few of the beds were occupied by newborns and I focused on one that was closest to the window, a baby girl that was sleeping peacefully and I felt the edge of my lips curling into a faint smirk at the sight of her. I loved our boys, but I’ve always adored the thought of having a little girl with Oliver and I could already see us spoiling the hell out of her. Oliver seemed like the type to enjoy gender-neutral colors given the nursery he had painted and furnished for me at our old condo, but I adored the thought of giving her a pink or purple room filled with stuffed animals and a doll house and wall art that reminded her of being a princess every time she were to wake up in the mornings. She didn’t even exist yet and I already wanted to give her the world.

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“Cute, huh?” I heard a feminine voice and I looked over, seeing a young blonde woman standing a few feet away from me looking at the newborns like I was.

“Yeah,” I agreed, looking back to the little girl in front of me.

“Do you have any?” She asked.

“Yeah.. Three boys,” I replied.

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“How exciting. What are their ages?” She asked next and I looked over to her again, seeing her do the same with a smile on her lips and our eyes met.

“Six, three, and almost two,” I answered and she made a face as if she were already smitten.

“Aww, they’re all so young. Must be a handful, right?” She joked and I smirked.

“Sometimes, yeah, but they’re all pretty good for the most part, especially my youngest. He’s an angel,” I replied and I actually enjoyed making small talk with the stranger.. It got my mind off of stressing about Oliver.

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“I’m Anastasia, but everyone calls me Ana,” she introduced herself and I looked back over to her.

“I’m Isaiah.. It’s nice meeting you,” I replied and she agreed with a nod, “Do you have any children?” I asked in return.

“No, not yet. My sister was pregnant, but she left before I ever got to meet my niece or nephew,” she answered.

“You don’t talk to her or see her?”

“Nah.. Haven’t for over six years.”

My expression grew remorseful as well as my tone, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” I replied.

“It’s all right. We were never really close or even got along, but it still would’ve been nice to know the child,” she pointed out and I felt sorry for her, but in an attempt to change the subject, I brought up something else.

“Tonight, my husband and I talked about having another one soon,” I said and she looked back over to me, another smile running across her lips.

“That’s so sweet. Do you want a girl this time, since you already have three boys?” She asked and I nodded.

“Yeah.. Our boys are amazing and I wouldn’t mind having another, but, a girl would be a nice change,” I replied and she nodded with her sweet smile.

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“Where is your husband? Is he here with you?” She asked and my lips dropped the smirk I held, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-”

“It’s all right.. He’s in surgery,” I answered, looking back to the newborn and away from the stranger.

“Oh.. May I ask what happened..?” She wondered and it took me a moment to answer her.

“He, uh.. He was stabbed.. Right outside our front door,” I answered and I head her gasp softly.

“Oh my God.. Where was he, uhm.. Where was the puncture?” She asked next while carefully choosing her words, genuinely interested and I looked at my own abdomen.

“Around here,” I pointed and she observed where I had gestured.

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“Well, from what I’ve learned and have seen, it could’ve punctured his stomach or his intestines, which actually can be an easy fix if the organs were only grazed.. But, there’s also a chance that no organs were hit, either,” she advised and I looked over to her, “Probably not very reassuring, but that spot on the lower abdomen is actually a popular spot for something like a knife to penetrate from a mugger or whoever it was that did that.. I’ve witnessed a lot of people living from being hit there, though,” she continued, knowing she was trying her best to cheer me up and a slight hope filled my heart.

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“Really?” I asked and she nodded, “Do you work here?” I asked.

“Oh, uh, no. I’m attending college about twenty minutes from here. I’m trying to become a nurse, though,” she replied.

Thank you for telling me that.. You’ve been more informative in the past minute than anyone else has been in the past hour I’ve been here,” I replied and she smiled sweetly, knowing she was happy that she could help in any way.

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“So,” I began, “What brings you here so late? Do you attend a nursing program here or something?” I wondered and she lost her smile.

“No, uh.. I got a call about an hour ago.. My dad was hit by a car,” she answered and I found it rather oddly coincidental.

“Wow, I’m.. I’m sorry to hear that,” I replied, but she shook her head with an amused smirk.

“Don’t be.. I hope he doesn’t make it through,” she said bluntly and I was surprised to hear that come from her mouth. She seemed so sweet at first, but hearing her say something so cruel caught me off guard.

She noticed my reaction, “I.. I’m sorry.. That probably sounded awful..”

“A little, yeah..” I agreed, “If I ever heard one of my sons say that about me or my husband, I’d be heart broken,” I continued and she looked away from me.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to come off like that.. You have someone in here dear to you that you want to live and here I am hoping that my father dies from his injuries,” she said with slight shame in herself, “Well, he’s not exactly father-of-the-year, he never was, so.. I could care less, honestly.. I know it’s harsh, but.. So was he,” she continued and her words still surprised me, but I decided to not delve any deeper into her reasoning unless she were to continue it, herself.

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But, to my surprise, she did, “I feel like I need to explain myself so you don’t think I’m some heartless witch,” she added and I shrugged.

“Well, it is none of my business, but I can understand where you’re coming from, I suppose. I mean, I don’t wish mine dead, but.. I haven’t spoken to my parents in a very long time and it’s because they don’t want to know me, so I don’t want to know them. They’re workaholics and don’t have time to even remember me. I don’t even think they know I’m married and have three children,” I tried to make her feel less guilty by explaining my own situation with my parents and she seemed rather bothered by my words.

“I’m sorry, that’s just awful.. I guess our situations are kind of similar, though, what with having crappy parents,” she said with a light chuckle, “My mom died about ten years ago and I was the closest with her out of everyone in my family. When she was gone, my dad went a little crazy.. All he cared about was our schooling and he pushed us all really hard to get good grades so we could have good lives and all that, but I don’t think it ever worked.. It was all for nothing, anyways..”

“What do you mean? You seem like you’re doing pretty good for yourself,” I added.

“Well, my dad favored my brother and my sister way more than me.. He wasn’t impressed with my career choice like he was with my brother that wanted to be a lawyer and my sister who didn’t even care to pick anything. I don’t even know why she went to college.. My sister could shit on a pedestal and my dad would think it’s gold,” she exaggerated and I cracked a slight smile at her joke, “My brother was an asshole and him and my sister always picked on me. My brother was convinced that everyone was beneath him and that everyone he met had to kiss his feet or he hated them,” she said with a slight annoyance to her tone.

Was..? What happened to him?”