I haven't been the best about updating lately and I apologize for that. To make up for that, I tried to make this chapter as satisfying as possible, and you'll notice it's longer than what I normally post. The reason for that is because this will be the last chapter I post before I go on vacation. I leave Sunday, July 26 and return late on Sunday, August 16. I'll be spending three weeks touring some of the southern states and unfortunately won't be able to get to a computer often let alone update.
I super stoked because our first stop is Pittsburgh--it'll be my first time in Pittsburgh. =)
Alas, I thank you all for reading my story and I pinky-swear to post as soon as I can once I get back. I'm nowhere near done this story so expect some interesting updates when I return.
Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy chapter forty-eight.
Oh, and I encourage you to leave a comment letting me know how you felt about it. I love reading them!
Coasting Down Memory Lane;
She didn’t respond right away; her brain couldn’t seem to function as it normally would. Riley was confused as never before. She was passed back and forth between the two concerned men, with each of them murmuring words of assurance in her ear.
While they stared at her, she worked on processing a single sentence.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” She eased back and looked at Jordan, Kris and Brett who stood at her side just as confused. “What are you guys doing here?”
“We were just hanging out around my place when we heard them talking about you on the news,” Jordan said, a hint of anger edging into his voice. “So, we started to watch it. At first it was just talking about your career and stuff, then…”
“Then one of the reporters started talking about how you and Sid had supposedly broken up,” Kris told her, picking up from where Jordan had trailed off. “We didn’t believe it until they started to show this footage—recent footage—of Sid still in Nova Scotia and you here.” He aimed a questioning glare at her.
“So, as we’re watching,” Jordan continued after a short, awkward pause, “some guy starts saying how you’ve been here for a few weeks with another man—sorry,” he said to Brett. “I don’t think we’ve met.”
“No. No, I don’t think we have. I’m Brett Sharpe, a friend and former colleague of Riley’s.” Brett extended his hand to the two men.
“Well, I’m Jordan Staal and he’s Kris Letang,” he said in friendly tones. “Anyway, so they cut to this live feed where we see you standing at your front door talking to someone. We then see that it’s Cooper—son of a bitch—and that’s more than enough reason for us to come over.”
Riley was well aware of Kris’ eyes watching her the entire time Jordan spoke and pretended not to notice. He was pissed and she could tell. She reluctantly shifted her gaze to him when he began to speak.
“Then, as luck would have it, the camera turns and we catch a glimpse of the crowd on your front lawn.” He sneered as he said it.
“So then we’re really hurrying,” Jordan said. “We get here and see mostly everyone leaving and we run up and, well, here we are.”
While Riley absorbed, Brett questioned. “How did you get in? I locked the door.”
“Oh, Kris has a key,” Jordan said easily.
Brow raised, Riley was confused yet again. “I’m sorry?”
“Well, you see, a few months ago Sid gave me a key to your place. When I asked him what it was about, he told me that it was in case you needed help and he wasn’t around for you. He worries, a lot.” Kris smiled sheepishly.
Overwhelmed with shock and confusion, Riley took a moment to process it all. Sidney had given his friend a key to her home in case she was in trouble. She didn’t know if she was angry or appreciative about it.
“Oh,” was all she mustered.
“So, you’re fine, right? That freak didn’t touch you or hurt you, because if he did we’ll kick his ass so bad he’ll feel it for years.” Jordan smiled and laid a comforting arm around her.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m all right.” She nodded and sat down on the couch. “You guys don’t have to stay if you’ve got other plans.”
“No,” Kris said, “we’re staying.”
“Yeah, Rye, you’re like our little sister,” Jordan added.
“I’m older than both of you.”
“Yeah, well… you’re smaller,” Jordan laughed.
She laughed, truly laughed, for the first time since she had left Sidney three weeks before. These guys were like family to her and she was grateful for that. Sidney had picked these two to be the ones he trusted so deeply to look after her. Mario probably had a key, too, she mused, Hell, the entire team probably did.
Somehow just knowing that warmed her.
Riley took a deep breath and prepared to say what had been on her mind over the past three weeks. “Guys,” she said, “I can’t live here anymore.”
For several moments there was complete silence. All three of them looked at her with faces covered in shock. They looked at her, she thought, as if she’d just informed them that the world was going to end.
“What?” Jordan asked, still gaping at her.
“I don’t want to live here anymore, it just doesn’t feel like home, you know?”
“In Pittsburgh?” This time it was Brett who asked.
“No. No, just this house,” she said and saw some relief flood over their faces. “I don’t feel safe here, especially with Cooper living across the street."
“You can’t just pick up and leave,” Kris told her.
“Why not?” She wasn’t going to give in, she had to get out.
“Because it’s not only you living here,” he stated. “Sid lives here, too. Sure, he’s in another country right now but he spends most of his time here. You can’t just move everything out of here—his stuff is here, too—because you don’t want to live here.”
“Yeah Rye, where would you stay?” Jordan looked concerned.
“I don’t know,” she said, a sob escaping. “I don’t know, okay? I’ll stay in a bloody hotel if I have to. But I don’t—can’t—live here anymore. Don’t you understand?”
“Okay. Riley, shh.” Brett came and sat next to her and rubbed soothingly up and down her back. “Okay,” he said again. “You can live with me.”
“You can live with me,” he said again in a soft yet affirmative tone. “Come on, we’ll pack up some of your things.”
Riley looked up at him with teary eyes. “You’re sure?”
“Yes.” He smiled at her and pulled her in for a hug.
She felt stupid for acting like a child but was grateful that Brett would understand her decision. “I’ll go pack my clothes; can you get the stuff from my den?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“I’ll help you, Riley,” Kris said in a brisk tone that told her he was going to do more than just help pack clothes.
They had barely made it out of the living room when Kris grabbed her arm. “What are you doing?”
“Kris, please. I can’t live here.”
“Yeah, I got that.” His impatience was starting to leak through. “What’s going on between you and Sid? One minute you guys are lovey-dovey, the next you’re broken up?”
Oh crap. She hadn’t told him or anyone other than Brett and Kay that she had broken things off with Sidney. Apparently Sidney had done the same. “Not here, okay? I’ll tell you later.”
“No, Riley, tell me right now.”
“Pas ici. Je vous dirai plus tard,” she repeated in quick French. She was frustrated all right. She only used French now when she was on the verge of snapping.
She bounded up the stairs and was well aware of him following suit. She didn’t have time for this. Didn’t she have a hard enough time explaining this to Sidney? How much harder would it be to explain it to someone who wouldn’t let her just walk away?
“Tell me now, Riley,” he demanded. When she kept walking he repeated it again in quick, harsh French. “Dites-moi maintenant, Riley.”
“Fine,” she snapped. “But you have to help me pack up my clothes.” She wandered over to her closet and swung open the doors violently. “You do the closet and I’ll take the drawers.”
Downstairs, Jordan and Brett packed up her writing materials and other objects they thought she’d want. Both of them had agreed to come back and pack up the rest of Riley’s belongings when she was safe at Brett’s.
“So,” Jordan began, “why does she get to stay with you?”
Brett looked over his shoulder at Jordan, and gave him a puzzled expression. “I’m sorry?”
“You know, I mean she was more than willing to stay in a hotel, and any guy on the team would be willing to have her stay with them. So why did you offer?”
Brett stopped gathering papers and turned to face Jordan. “Riley and I are friends. I offered my place because I thought that’s where she’d be most comfortable. She may have insisted on getting a hotel room, but I read right through her.” He turned and lifted her laptop, placed it gently into a box. “She doesn’t want to be alone. She misses Sid more than anything but she’s so damn determined to succeed on her own that she won’t go back to him. And,” he added quietly, “she’s going to need someone there when she breaks down.”
Jordan walked over to put some more papers and binders into the box next to Brett. “You really care about her, don’t you?”
“Yes. Riley is a very sweet girl. She’s been nothing but understanding and accepting towards me.” He smiled as he picked up a picture of her and Sidney. “That says a lot about someone.”
Jordan glanced over at the man he’d just met that morning. He was tall, slim, and attractive. His hair, a dark blonde, looked about a week overdue for a trimming. HIs eyes were as blue as the ocean, his strong jaw looked as if it could take a punch and the man wouldn’t flinch. It was obvious that the guy worked out. He wondered, even though Riley and Brett had denied it, if there was something more than a friendship going on between the two of them. “So, ah, have you met Sid?”
“Yeah,” he answered. “He seems like a nice guy. I’ve only talked to him briefly.”
“I see,” Jordan said. “Do you work TV?”
Brett smiled, showing off perfectly straight white teeth. “Yes, I do.”
An hour later, Riley and Kris walked down the stairs carrying boxes full of clothes. Luckily, Riley thought, she had gotten the boxes a few days earlier when she was tossing the idea about moving out around in her head.
She was relieved to see that Jordan and Brett had packed up most of her things and were sitting on the couch talking with each other like old buddies. They looked up at her when she walked into the room. Nerves were dancing in her belly.
“You ready?” Brett asked her.
“Yeah, Kris is just bringing down the rest of the boxes.”
“Okay. So we’re going to see if we can do this in one trip. While you were upstairs, Jordan and I went by his place to pick up his truck. With my truck, his, Kris’ and yours we should be able to do this.” He grabbed her arm and led her to the front door where she saw all four vehicles in her driveway. “You think everything will fit?”
“Yeah,” she replied. “Brett, I owe you one.”
He shook his head. “No you don’t. What are friends for, right? Anyway, you lead them to my place, I’m just going to finish loading my truck and I’ll lock up, okay?”
“Yes.” She walked into the living room where Kris and Jordan were. “Follow me boys!”
When they had left, Brett walked around the place that was now mostly empty. A few more trips, he estimated, and everything would be gone. Jordan had assured him that he’d get some of the guys on the team to help him load it all into storage.
He realized as he shut the lights off just how much that team cared for her. He walked around his truck once more to make sure everything was secured in its place. When the inventory was done, Brett got into his truck and made his way to his house where he was sure Riley and the guys were starting to unpack.