After a long day cleaning up and meeting with the insurance adjuster, everyone is tired and turns in early. Paisley bids goodnight to Cody.
She smiled. “Thanks, Cody. He’s everything right about mine too. It’s going to be weird heading back to my place tomorrow.”
“Mom and Dad wouldn’t mind if you stayed,” he said. “You’re like family, you know. We all love you.”
“I love you guys too. It would be hard on Kai having me so close—and no privacy.”
“True. No alone time would suck a lot. Invite him to stay with you,” he murmured, leaning over conspiratorially. “Night, Pais.” He gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Paisley said goodnight and shut her door, leaning against it. Asking Kai to move in with her had appeal. However, it would raise certain expectations she wasn’t quite ready for. She cared deeply for him, even loved him, but she wasn’t sure she could make the physical commitment he wanted. Not yet.
Once she was ready for bed, Paisley lay in the dark, staring at the ceiling. Her mind eventually dove into the deep, fearsome chasm she had tried so hard to cover up. Finding out about TJ’s mother upset her. She hated to think that anyone had endured that kind of abuse for so many years. She hoped that they could help, and soon.
Troubled, she rolled to her side, but couldn’t get comfortable. She wanted Kai’s arms around her to keep the monsters at bay. She couldn’t keep waking him to watch over her like a little girl. Eventually, he’d get fed up with her being such a nuisance. She couldn’t bear the idea that he’d reject her. It didn’t occur to her that Kai would never treat her like that. Years of enduring Ralph’s jealous rages had blinded her to some of Kai’s best qualities. Eventually, she slept, but not well. Someone tapped on her door around 7:00. Tempest stuck her head around the door.
“Sorry to bother you, but Dad wondered if you’d be willing to step in for Mom today. He knows you can’t be on your feet for another day or so. And it’s easier to find someone to take classes than it is to find someone smart enough to do the office work.”
“Sure. Nina’s shown me some things already. Without the pool, it will be easier for me. Yeah.”
“Great! We’ll all be around, so we’ll all pitch in.”
“Thanks, Tempy. Let me get a quick shower and I’ll be down.”
“No problem. Take your time. We’re opening a little later today. We won’t start regular hours until Monday.”
It was strange being in charge. Paisley wasn’t sure if she liked it or not, but found she was good at it. Brad dropped in around noon, bringing them lunch. He headed back to the house to be with Nina, promising a nice dinner when they got home.
The day went well. It was blissfully uneventful and went smoothly. Tired, but happy, the young people headed home. Brad had a good meal ready, so they sat down to dinner together.
Kai was a bit disappointed that he had to go to work with the EVAC that night. He’d wanted to spend time with Paisley, but didn’t feel right about asking for time off, when it wasn’t urgent. More bad weather was expected, as the storm made landfall on the northwest coast. They might not take a direct hit, but bad weather seemed to come on the lea side of the storm.
He’d wanted her to spend the night at his parents’ house, but Paisley felt they’d been more than generous. Reluctantly, Kai kissed her goodbye.
“I’ll call you before I go to bed,” he promised. “If it’s not too late, that is. I wish you were staying at Mom’s.”
“I’ll be fine. I have Brill and the guys watching over me. I’ll be okay.”
“Call if you need me. No matter what time it is.”
“Will do. You’d better get going.” She kissed him again, before closing the door.
Kai didn’t move until he heard the deadbolts and the chain. Slowly, he walked to his Jeep. He glimpsed a couple of Brill’s guys in a vintage GTO about halfway down the block. He stopped as he drove down the street. The driver lowered his window.
“Yo, Kai. We got your lady’s back,” the man assured him.
“Seen anyone around?”
“Thought we saw that freaky dude around again, the one from the picture, but he turned out to be the boyfriend of the building manager. Not seen her ex, though. Brill even put in a couple security cameras.”
“Really? He didn’t need to do all that.”
“He takes family seriously,” the man replied. “And to TM, you’re like family—so’s Paisley. We got this, dude. You get on to work.”
“How did you know?”
The young man chuckled. “Dude. White shirt, shiny name tag…. I’d have to be a moron not to figure it out.”
“I could be going home,” Kai said with a chuckle.
“No, man. Lady that pretty, if you weren’t working, you’d be all up in that.” He winked. “Go. We got this.”
Kai thanked them and left. He felt uneasy. Something didn’t sit right. Even with Brill and his men, he didn’t like how it felt. Trying to pass it off as paranoia, he called TM.
“Yeah, Kai. Sup?”
“Can you drop by and check on Paisley? Brill’s guys are watching, but I’d feel better if someone was there.”
“Yeah, sure. You think her ex is around?”
“I doubt he’d do anything himself. But he’s rich, connected. He could easily send someone to do it for him.”
© 2019 Dellani Oakes