The next morning Dono and I got up early. Determined to get this mess figured out. We headed down to the police station to meet the Chief, Jimmy, Dono’s friend. I had to give an official statement and they asked me if I wanted to press charges. I said yes. I’d only been here a week and I was involved in an assault case. It didn’t bode well for the rest of the visit. I know it wasn’t my fault but I felt horrible for putting Dono through this. He had done nothing but go out of his way for me. I think I was done going out for the rest of my week here. The Chief informed us that Tyler would have to give a statement too and that I would have to identity my attacker. The thought made my heart race and my breath uneven. Dono gave my hand a squeeze. I did my best to smile back. Apparently Dave was going to be discharged from the hospital today. His face was pretty beat up but he hadn’t suffered any permanent or serious injuries. I was relieved. That would certainly help Tyler’s case because Dave was pressing charges.
“When he hears you’ve made a statement he might feel differently.” Jimmy informed us.
“Why?” I wonder.
“Well Dave has a record. He’s actually on probation right now. If he gets convicted he goes straight to jail.”
“I’ll drop the charges if he drops the charges against Tyler.” I say spontaneously, not really thinking it through.
“Alana!” Dono says shocked. “You can’t do that.”
“Let’s give it some time and see what happens.” Jimmy says. “You did the right thing by coming here today.”
“Thanks.” I nod weakly. Dono and Jimmy say their goodbyes and we leave. We get in the car and head home.
“I need to call your Mom, tell her what happened.”
“What?! No you can’t do that! She’d be devastated. She’d cut her trip short. She’s had enough stress to deal with.” Dono takes a deep breath, considering this.
“OK but we have to tell her when she gets back. You should call Joe and tell him.”
“OK.” I relent. At least I knew Joe would handle this calmly.
“I don’t want you to drop the charges. Whatever happened with Tyler he has to face the consequences of his behavior.”
“I don’t want him to go to jail for defending me!”
“Tyler’s an adult…”
“Barely!” I scoff. “And you said yourself he doesn’t have parents.” I was overly sensitive to that at this point in time.
“You can’t go around fighting people, no matter the justification.” Dono was right. We sat in silence a moment. Thinking things through. “I’m going to head over to his place and check on him.” I thought better of offering to join him. Even though there was so much I wanted to ask Tyler. Dono dropped me back at the house and went straight to Tyler’s. I decided to give Joe a call. No time like the present. Besides I wanted to hear his voice. His calm reassurance would make me feel better. I was certain of that.
Joe was understandably upset. He was worried about my safety but as I predicted he handled everything calmly and agreed there was no need to tell Mom.
“It doesn’t help anything for her to know.” I tell him.
“Well if you’re going to be involved in an ongoing assault case she’s going to have to find out eventually Alana.”
“Ugh, this exactly why I didn’t tell anyone in the first place, why I didn’t report it.”
“Yeah but this asshole would keep doing it and maybe the next girl won’t be so lucky.” He was right of course. “I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this on top of everything else.” It seemed like nothing in comparison to what we had just been through as a family.
“I’ll survive.” I had made it this far.
“Call me if you need anything. I can come down there if you like.”
“I came here to get away from everything not to step right into more shit.” I sigh exasperated.
“You’re tough Alana, you dealt with me your whole life you can handle this. I’m kind of proud you got a good knee in. You fought him off.”
“Yeah I just missed the head swing.”
“We better brush up on your skills. I’ll come down in a couple of weeks and we can spar.”
“I look forward to it.” I say to him with a smile. The first reason I’ve had to smile all day. Joe had a punching bag in his room as a teenager. He was super into boxing and he used to teach me a few moves and we would take out our teenage angst on the unsuspecting bag. I think he had even brought the bag with him when he moved to San Francisco. I suddenly missed him so much. And I missed my Dad. I missed home and my family. Now I was involved in a police investigation? I wanted to cry. If I hadn’t cried so much in the last two months I might have. Maybe I should just cut my losses and head home. But I felt I owed it to Dono to stay and not let this incident mar what would have otherwise been a good trip.
By the time I had hung up with Joe, Dono had returned. I wander downstairs to greet him.
“Hey,” I say tentatively. “How did it go?” Dono sinks into the couch. I can tell the last twenty-four hours had drained him.
“Well he was totally apologetic and pretty embarrassed. He’s a sensitive kid and he’s ashamed of his behavior.”
“Is the guy he beat up the same guy that attacked me?” Dono nods.
“Although he didn’t say it I’m pretty sure he did it in your defense.” I can tell there is more Dono wants to say but he doesn’t. I slump down on the couch next to him feeling guilty. “He did say that none of this was your fault. He was pretty adamant about that.” I feel hot tears prick my eyes. “He said you did nothing to encourage Dave’s advances at the bar in fact you were trying to get away from him.” That was certainly true.
“So what happens now?” I wonder.
“Well the police are currently investigating. No formal charges have been brought yet. Tyler will be a witness in your case. We’ll go from there.”
“I can’t believe this is happening.”
“I’m sorry your trip has been ruined. I thought you would come here and we would have a great time together.”
“We were having a great!” I protest. Dono is quiet a minute thinking things through. “Is this going to affect Tyler’s job?” I ask. Dono shakes his head.
“No. Everybody makes mistakes. Especially when there’s drinking involved. No one knows that better than me. He’s a good kid and a hard worker. If you knew anything about his upbringing…” Dono stops himself. “Well let’s just say he turned out pretty damn good considering.” I don’t ask any more questions. I can tell Dono’s done talking. I decide to give him some space. I grab my e-reader and phone and head out to the deck. I sit there a minute contemplating the view and everything that had transpired. It was pretty obvious that Dono had a special bond with Tyler and that he felt responsible for him in some way. I knew that Tyler’s mother had died when he was young but I got the sense that there was way more to the story. My phone starts ringing. It’s Tina. I answer. She dispenses with the formal niceties and launches straight in.
“Have you heard?” She asks her voice brimming with a mixture of shock and excitement.
“About what?” I ask cautiously.
“Tyler! The story is all over town! He beat that guy up for you!” Oh God. So now I was fodder for gossip that was spreading like wildfire. Shit. I was hoping no one would know.
“OMG he must be sooooo into you!”
“What?” I asked shocked. We barely knew each other I don’t know where Tina had got that idea.
“I think it’s so romantic!”
“What? That I got assaulted and now he could be facing criminal charges?” I say a little too aggressively. Tina was a nice person but her interpretation of the situation annoyed me. This was real and frightening, anything but romantic.
“I’m sorry, I guess I didn’t really look at it that way,” she responds but I can tell I’ve hurt her feelings.
“I’m sorry too. I didn’t mean to sound angry. I’m just frustrated by the whole thing.”
I explained to her everything that happened last night and how I had to go down to the station this morning to give a statement.
“Well if makes you feel any better, I think Tyler’s cousin, Ethan is trying to get Dave not to press charges.”
“I doubt that case will go anywhere. Dave and Ethan are a bunch of shady fuckers. Tyler doesn’t usually hang out with them but Ethan is his cousin and he doesn’t have much in the way of family so they keep in touch.”
“What do you mean by shady?”
“I don’t know drugs, petty crime and now you can now add assaulting women to the list. Truthfully I just try and stay away from their crowd. They are always fucked up or high on something.” That was quite the indictment. I wish she would have warned me about Dave when he tried to dance with me at the bar but she was probably to busy with her ex-boyfriend to have noticed.
“I know it wasn’t the right thing to do,” she continued “but you got to give it to Tyler for going up against Dave. Dave is almost five years older and runs with a pretty rough crew.”
“I wish I could thank him.” I mention. “Apologize for getting him involved in this mess.”
“Why don’t you?”
“I don’t have his number.”
“Just go over to his place.”
“I don’t know where he lives!”
“Duh…Alana, he lives in the apartment above your Uncle’s shop.” Oh. I didn’t realize. I guess Dono forgot to mention that.
We hang up the phone with plans to meet later this week. I pick up my e-reader but don’t turn it on. My head is spinning with everything I’ve learned. I become aware of a building desire to see Tyler and find out what happened. Find out why he went after Dave. Was it out of loyalty to Dono or was it for my sake? Or was there some other reason I didn’t know about. It suddenly felt vital that I find out. I go upstairs to get my keys. I glance in the mirror and decide to add a swipe of lip-gloss and brush my hair. I head back downstairs wondering what I was going to tell my Uncle. I had a feeling he wouldn’t approve of me going to see Tyler and I didn’t want to lie to him but at twenty-one years old I didn’t think I needed his permission either. But I needn’t have worried.
“I’m going to take the boat out for a little bit and fish. You want to come?” He asked politely but I got the feeling he needed some alone time. I knew fishing was like meditation for him, a way to center himself when things got crazy.
“You go ahead. I might run out and pick up something for dinner, just in case you don’t catch anything.” I tease.
“You doubt my skills?”
“Never!” I assure him. He laughs and heads out the door. I feel a twinge of guilt as I get in my car but I needed to do this. I make the short drive to Dono’s shop. I park in front. There are plenty of spots because the shop is all closed up. I take a deep breath, releasing my death grip on the steering wheel. I was nervous and I wasn’t sure why. I was just going to thank him and apologize. No big deal. But as my mind conjured up his face my heart moved to a rapid beat. I took deep breaths trying to control it but eventually gave up and got out of the car. I could hear music coming from the apartment above the garage. The windows were open. The temperature must have risen by ten degrees since this morning. It was sweltering and as I climbed the steel spiral staircase I could feel the heat emanating from it. I got closer to his apartment and was able to decipher the song, Cry to Me by Solomon Burke, one of my favorites. I shook my head in disbelief. His taste in music was so surprising. I knocked lightly, nervously on the door. Too lightly, he couldn’t hear me above the music. I knocked again, harder this time but he still didn’t come. I moved over to the window and called his name.
“Tyler!” I look and see him, standing in the middle of the room his back towards me. He was shirtless, just wearing trunks. Shit. “Tyler!” I called again, louder. He finally turned around. I could tell he was stunned to see me because he didn’t move. He just stared back at me. To be fair I was doing quite a bit of staring myself. Mostly at his six-pack, which at this proximity I had quite the view of, I could see exactly how carved it was. His shoulders were broad and anchored his strong, well-defined arms. Again my heartbeat raced. I willed it to behave but it was beyond my control. I was however, able to find my voice.
“Hey, can I talk to you?” My voice seemed to wake him from his own stupor. He snapped to attention.
“Sure, come in.” He moved to the door grabbing a shirt. By the time it opened he was wearing a tank top. I couldn’t decide whether I should be grateful for it or not.
“Sorry, I couldn’t hear you over the music,” he said, using the remote to turn it off.
“That’s one of my favorite songs.” I told him. He didn’t respond. “Can I come in for a minute?” I ask suddenly feeling very awkward.
“Yeah!” His eyes widened as he answered. “Of course.” He moved back to let me in. As I walked into his living room I noticed that one end was set up like a regular bachelor apartment, a large comfy couch, a beanbag and a big screen TV but the other end, closest to the window was set up as an art studio. There was a tarp on the floor and an easel in the middle. He was in the middle of something when I arrived. I noticed then that the walls were covered in paintings and photos, mostly of the Lake.
“Is this all your work?” I ask, gesturing to the pieces on the wall. He nods shyly. I walk around taking a closer look. His work is incredible, really beautiful. It has depth, emotion. There is so much of it I can barely take it all in. “I’m sorry for dropping by like this.” I say dragging myself away from the pictures.
“What’s up?” He asks, giving nothing away. His face was unreadable again.
“I heard about what happened. That you were arrested.” He still doesn’t say anything. I guess this isn’t going to be easy. “I’m sorry about that.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” he responds vehemently. It was the most I’d gotten out of him since I’d arrived.
“Can I ask you something?” I say. He raises an eyebrow and breaks it to that genuine smile that lights up his entire face.
“I have a feeling that’s why you’re here.” It wasn’t a yes but I took it as my invitation.
“Why did you go after Dave?” His blue eyes look at me from beneath his thick lashes, penetrating into mine. It’s so intense I want to look away but I can’t.
“You know why,” he answers finally, his voice deep and gravelly.
“Because he attacked me?”
“Yes.” I draw a sharp intake of breath. Even though I had suspected I was the reason it was still shocking.
“But now you’re in trouble. And it’s my fault.”
“No!” He jumps in aggressively. “It is not your fault. I drank too much. The liquor got me fired up and I went after him. Not my best move but he deserved it.”
“I should have gone to the police in the first place.”
“Yes you should have. Not for my sake but for yours and all the other women he could potentially hurt.” I’m surprised.
“You know most nineteen-year-old guys don’t think like that.” I tell him.
“Well I’ve probably seen more than most nineteen-year-olds.” He reflexively folds his arms in front of his chest, as if defending himself against something.
“Like what?” I ask. He smiles again.
“You ask a lot of questions.” I’d obviously asked one too many.
“Well really I just came here to apologize and thank you.” He doesn’t say anything. He gently rubs his shoulder with his right hand. I notice his knuckles are bruised and swollen.
“You’re hurt!” I exclaim.
“It’s nothing,” he responds dismissively but before I know what I’m doing I’ve closed the distance between us and I have his hand enclosed in mine examining it.
“You should put some ice on that. Does it hurt?” I ask looking up at him and realize that we are inches apart. His breath is ragged in his chest and his eyes are that stormy blue again. For a moment it feels like the whole world is suspended and we are the only things that exist in time. No past, just present, no thought of future.
“It’s fine,” he says pulling his hand away. I step back. He was impossible to read. I had felt something between us that kind of chemistry was undeniable. But clearly he had no intention of acting on it. Maybe I had imagined.
“OK, well, I’m going then. Thank you, again.”
“Bye Alana.” I hurried out of there feeling bewildered. What was it between us? Something and yet…nothing.
I stopped by the store on my way home and picked up a pre-roasted chicken and some other things just in case Dono’s plan didn’t work out. I hadn’t been at Tyler’s very long so Dono was still out by the time I got home. I put the groceries away and stepped out on to the deck. It was still hot out but the hotter it got the more beautiful the Lake seemed to look. It fact it looked too good. I ran upstairs and put my bathing suit on for a quick swim before dinner. Maybe the water would help organize my thoughts that seemed so desperately scattered. I plunged in to the Lake, surrendering to the cool water. I wasn’t sure what to make of Tyler Crouch. He was my rescuer, defender yet he kept me at arms length and acted like he wanted very little to do with me. I thought back to the night at the bar when I had first seen him. He had been staring. He said it was because I was beautiful, hypnotizing. That was quite a thing to say to girl. It wasn’t a line because he hadn’t acted on it. But then again he was nineteen. The way he behaved sometimes made me forget how young he really is. I was certainly baffled by his behavior. At his house he seemed so distant but the second I got close to him I literally felt him light up. Like he was on fire. Or maybe that was just me? There was no denying that he ignited something inside of me. Something I had never felt before.
From the distance I saw Dono’s boat returning. Time to get out. I swam back to the dock and climbed out realizing in my haste I had forgotten to bring a towel. As I padded up to the house in my bikini the hot air was quickly drying me off. I arrive at the terrace to find … Tyler. What was he doing here? And of course I was in my bikini! He smiled when he saw me. It was that same genuine smile but this time it was laced with mischief. He was definitely looking at my half-naked body and his unmistakably hungry gaze made me blush. I was more confused than ever by his sudden appearance and the way he was staring at me now, like I was wearing too many clothes for his taste. I stood there frozen for a minute under his penetrating gaze. He seemed immobile too neither one of us wanting to be the first to speak.
“Hey guys!” Dono said cheerfully as he approached from behind, his voice cutting the tension between us. I quickly hurry to the trunk where Dono kept towels and other water gear. Dono was obviously in a better mood than when he left. He was right; he needed nature.
“I called Tyler and invited him to join us for dinner.” Dono informed me. A little late I might say.
“Sounds great.” I respond. I wonder if Tyler would mention that I stopped by today. It wasn’t a secret but I felt a little guilty for not telling Dono ahead of time.
“What did you catch?” I ask, doing my best to keep my tone light and breezy.
“Bass and a little trout, a veritable feast!” I could tell he was excited.
“I’m just going to run up and get changed, then I’ll come help with dinner.” I tell them both.
“Great. Tyler you can help me clean the fish.”
“Always putting me to work!” He teases Dono. They laugh together and it’s the first time I’ve seen Tyler look so comfortable.
I run up to my room, and take a quick rinse before I changing into a pale blue cotton sundress. I comb through my wet hair. I’m going to have to let in dry naturally. It’s so hot I decide to put it up into a loose bun on the top of my head. I hurriedly put on a light BB cream, a little mascara and some lip-gloss. I don’t want to go over the top with makeup but I feel like I need something. I slid into sandals and go back downstairs.
Tyler and Dono are working together in the kitchen when I come down. They are laughing over something. It’s immediately apparent that Dono has taken Tyler under his wing, so yesterday must have hit Dono hard. It also explains why Tyler was so protective of me…for Dono’s sake. That’s why. Suddenly I felt silly. Tyler hadn’t felt some instant passion he was watching out for me because he cared about Dono.
“Hey, Lani would you mind making one of your amazing salads? I’m going to put these on the grill.” Dono asks taking a platter of freshly prepared fish out to the deck to start cooking.
“On it!” I say starting to put together a summer salad of corn, tomatoes and avocado. Tyler lingers inside.
“Need any help?” He asks as I begin shucking corn.
“Sure.” I respond, handing him a head. We work silently side by side.
“I’m sorry about earlier,” he says finally.
“What are you sorry for?” I look up at him questioningly. He looks back at me and the intensity is back in his gaze. It’s real. It’s there. I’m not imagining it and God he is heartbreakingly beautiful. Yes beautiful. I suppress the urge to reach up and touch his jaw currently clenched with tension.
“I was surprised to see you. And I didn’t think you’d want anything to do with me after the way I behaved.” He looks ashamed.
“You defended me. I’m grateful.”
“I don’t condone violence, no matter the reason. And last night with Dave, I lost control…” he trails off. I know he’s upset and I know there is more to it. “Anyway,” he continues. “I never want that to happen again. And I don’t want you to think I’m that guy.”
“I really don’t know anything about you Tyler,” I say honestly. He smiles that genuine smile again and my heart does funny things in my chest. But I’m surprised by the sudden turn of his mood. “What?” I ask. “What are you smiling at?” He shakes his head as if not wanting to answer. He does, eventually.
“I love the way you say my name,” he replies. I look up at those soft full lips and realize I want to kiss him. Badly. And for a moment I think he wants the same thing. But Dono walks in right then.
“Need any help?” Dono asks, breaking the spell between.
“Tyler is giving me a hand.” I say his name emphatically. He notices and smiles, a small secret between us.
“I may have taught him a thing or two in the kitchen.” Dono informs me. “He usually comes over every Sunday for dinner.”
“Oh really? You weren’t here last weekend.”
“I thought you might want some time with your Uncle,” he responds not looking up from his corn. Dono heads back to the grill. I steal a glance at Tyler, a crease furrows his brows and I feel the distance between us again. I sigh, loudly. He was so confusing. He reached around me for another head of corn. The front of his body brushed against the back of mine and I had to bite my lip to curb the desire it ignited in me. I don’t know if he felt it too but when he stepped back into his spot he wouldn’t meet my gaze. Frustrated and feeling hot I open the fridge and grab an ice cold Coke. I don’t drink soda much but a Coke sounded refreshing. I turn back to the kitchen and walk straight smack into Tyler’s chest. He’s suddenly in front of me our bodies are inches apart. I look up at him he’s looking down at me and not even the cold of the fridge can affect the heat rising between us. My breath is unsteady. He’s not moving. I think about stepping around him but I can’t seem to move its like I’m drawn to him, as if he could command me at will. Silently his hand rises to my cheek and cups it gently, he moves his thumb across my cheekbone as if it was a paintbrush and I’m his canvas. He leans down and brushes his lips to mine, so softly, as if he’s afraid to make contact. My body wants to explode. I want to pull him towards me and melt into him but I don’t. I’m too shocked. His lips finally enclose mine. The featherweight pressure of before gives way to more intensity, as if spurred on by my body rises up to meet his. My fingers find their way, without asking my permission, into his hair luxuriating in the softness, better than I had imagined. My lips part and his tongue dives into my mouth and finds my mine. They move in perfect complementary unison. I press myself into him he pushes back and for a minute I forget who he is and where we are and that any moment my Uncle could walk in. But then, as if on cue, he seems to remember, he breaks away panting.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers his voice tight in his throat and exits to the other room. I just stand there a minute trying to figure out what just happened. Even though it didn’t seem real I hadn’t imagined. Tyler and I were unmistakably drawn to each other. It was the kind of connection I had never felt before yet at the same time it felt familiar. He felt familiar. Even though we had only just met it was like we already knew each other. It was passionate and primal but terrifying. Who is this kid? And why was I so connected to him? And why was he running away from me? I let the cold air of the fridge cool me off another minute. I take a swig of Coke and try and come back to earth before I resume making the salad. Alone. Tyler was MIA. I wonder if he left? But then I hadn’t heard his truck. Maybe he needed a minute. From the way he felt against me I’m sure he did. Remembering every inch of his hard body digging into me offset my equilibrium. I needed something to distract me so I found my phone and turned on some music. I finish the salad and cut up the baguette I bought, placing it in a basket. I down the rest of my Coke and still feeling unsatisfied I decide to open a bottle of wine. Maybe Tyler wanted to avoid alcohol after the night he just had but I was going to need it to get through this dinner. I carry the salad and the bread outside to the deck.
“Just in time. Fish is ready.” Dono says as I walk up.
“Great!” I go back into the kitchen to get the wine. When I come back Tyler is helping Dono remove the fish from the grill. He must have gone out the front and walked around the back. The telltale smell of cigarettes linger. He must have been smoking.
“You know smoking kills.” I tell him vehemently. Dono bursts out laughing.
“I’ve told him that too. He won’t listen to me.” I don’t know why I was so angry. Maybe it was the fact that I couldn’t believe he would do something as stupid and careless as smoke or if it was that he had just delivered the best kiss of my life then had walked away like it was nothing. He was a mystery. The kind my heart, even at this early stage, was desperate to unravel. If I were smart I would just write him off now. Tyler Crouch was clearly going to cause me nothing but angst maybe even heartbreak. But I wasn’t smart. I was twenty-one and those stormy blue eyes had already invaded my shattered soul. It was as if that kiss had reached in with the hope of healing. Just then Tyler stood and pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his back pocket. He slid the pack down the table towards me.
“I just quit,” he says his gaze never leaving mine.
“Nice,” Dono replies cheerfully not imagining what had just taken place between us in his kitchen. Luckily he was too busy fussing with his fish to see the blush on my cheek as Tyler’s eyes bore into mine. I turn away and start to serve the salad, happy for something to do. As we settle into the meal I sip my wine trying to stuff down the affect Tyler’s presence was having on me. I prayed that Dono wouldn’t notice. Dono carried the conversation at first, discussing work with Tyler.
“I actually have to go into LA on Thursday for one night. I’m sorry Alana I know this is your last week.”
“Don’t worry about it. You have work to do I can always head home early.” Tyler looks up at me. I feel his gaze but don’t meet it.
“Would you stay one night alone? I’ll be back Friday by lunchtime and I thought we’d take the boat out Saturday and have a fun day together.” I can see that Dono really wants me to stay. I think he wants to try and erase the bad memories of this trip by replacing them with good ones.
“That does sound fun.”
“You can always invite Tina to spend the night if you’re scared,” he suggests. I laugh.
“Seriously, I’ll be fine!”
“I’ll check on her for you Dono,” Tyler suggests.
“You?” I say indignantly. “I’m older than you!”
“I’d feel better if you did,” Dono responds to Tyler. Now I’m really starting to get annoyed.
“I’m not a baby! I’m not fragile. I can take care of myself.” I tell them my blood boiling. Who was Tyler to come in here and start thinking he was in charge of me?
“Sorry, Lani. I know how tough you are,” Dono says softly. I don’t respond. Tyler doesn’t say anything either. There is a tension at the table that wasn’t there before. We eat silently a minute. Dono’s cell phone starts ringing. He checks the caller ID.
“Jimmy…” he says looking up at Tyler. He answers the call and walks into the living room leaving Tyler and me alone. I don’t say anything. I just sip my wine. I’ll be damned if I’m going to talk first. Even though he should explain why he kissed me and then just walked away. I don’t look at him but I feel him staring at me. Eventually I give in and look up. He is staring at me.
“What?” I snap unable to keep the edge out of my voice. But he just smiles which I find even more infuriating especially because he’s so damn sexy when he smiles. He doesn’t answer me because Dono rejoins us.
“What did he say?” Tyler asks as soon Dono returns. I can hear the anxiety in his voice and I soften slightly.
“Dave isn’t going press charges against you.” Relief washes over Tyler. “Jimmy does want you to go by the station and talk to him. You can’t be running around playing vigilante Tyler. It’s not going to change anything.”
“I know that.” Tyler responds quietly. I wonder what Dono is talking about. Change what?
“He’s going to plead No Contest in your assault case Lani. Which avoids a trial and will get him a minimum sentence.”
“That’s good. I guess.” I say not really sure how I feel.
“It means you don’t have to worry about it anymore,” Dono reassures me.
“But it means Dave gets a slap on the wrist,” Tyler says bitterly.
“You should just be grateful you’re not facing jail time,” Dono replies. Tyler runs his hands through his hair. I can tell he is dissatisfied with Dave’s punishment.
“Tyler…” Dono begins.
“I’m fine.” He stands up. “Thanks for dinner Dono. And for everything you did yesterday.” The stormy look returns to his eyes and I can tell something is bothering him.
“I have work tomorrow,” his tone lightens. “My boss is a grinder.”
“Ha!” Dono laughs. “See you in the morning.”
“Goodbye.” I respond. Why did every time he said goodbye did it feel like the last time?
“I’ll walk you out.” Dono insists. Tyler picks up his plate and carries it to the kitchen. I can’t help but admire his manners. I couldn’t read him though. He seemed preternaturally calm one minute then on fire the next. And that kiss? Obviously I hadn’t been imagining the chemistry between us but why did he pull away without saying anything? Was it his relationship with Dono? Did he think Dono would be angry with him? He didn’t want to risk his job? But then why did he kiss me in the first place? I had one more week left here. A week left to enjoy this beautiful place. I needed to stop thinking about Tyler.
“Everything OK?” I ask Dono when he returns.
“I’m worried about that kid.” He’s pensive and I know there is something he’s not telling me.
“Wanna talk about it?” I ask gently. I wanted him to confide in me if would help him feel better but my own curiosity to know more about Tyler also motivated the question. He shakes his head.
“It’s not my story to share.” The sun was starting to set and it was finally cooling down, a little. Clearly the subject was closed.
“Wanna go out for ice cream?” He asks. There’s a little place down by the Lake. We can get a scoop and walk around. It’s really pretty.” The idea tugged at my heart. My Dad would always take me for ice cream. It was our thing.
“I’d love to.” I respond, straining to keep the emotion from my voice. We quickly do the dishes before we leave. Despite my best efforts he must have read my mind because he places a comforting arm around my shoulder. I leaned my head into his chest, grateful that I still had a strong man in my life to rely on. Then I felt it, warmth washing over me and for the briefest second my Dad was with us. And then like the wind he arrived on it carried him away.