A knock on Chase’s room door, which he had left cracked open like he did most of the time, while he was engrossed in a computer game. His parents had gone out, just his sister was home, he had heard the doorbell earlier and assumed it was Logan or a family member.
“Just come in, door’s open anyway.” he said without ever taking his eyes off the monitor, assuming it would be family.
“Hi Chase.” he heard a female voice, familiar, but unexpected.
His head jerked around, with a gleeful sound the game proclaimed “Game Over” as his attention was fully on the visitor.
“Piper!” he exclaimed as he jumped up.
“I hope this is okay. I was in the neighborhood and thought instead of firing messages back and forth I could just drop by and see if you wanted to have dinner with me?”
“Dinner. Yeah. All right. Oh yeah. Totally …” Chase muttered perplexed.
She walked over to him and kissed his cheek.
“How did you know my address?!” Chase’s mood was between confused and over the moon.
“I didn’t. You told me that you lived in Brindleton Bay and in some Beach House everybody knows, so I asked someone at the local supermarket and they really did know. Your sister let me in and sent me up.”
‘I will kill Kiera!’ Chase thought, feeling humiliated, while Piper curiously looked around his room, the same room he had since he was a teenager, not much, if anything had changed, except he was now almost 24 and currently very embarrassed.
“Want something to drink?” he offered.
Piper accepted and he ran downstairs to find Kiera, pulling her with him into the kitchen, angrily whisper yelling.
“Are you insane!? Why didn’t you have her wait down here and called me down?!”
“Why? I knew you were dressed. Thought you’d have more privacy up there.”
“You send a girl like her to my room?! I look like a moron now! She has a pretty nice apartment and I live in my little boy’s room at mommy and daddy’s! Seriously Ki, what were you thinking!?”
“Can you chill?! If she cannot accept you the way you really are or if she still hasn’t realized what a great guy you are, or if she hinges liking you or not on how and where you live, then you don’t need her anyway! Logan has been in my room a million times when we first started dating and he never thought anything of it. Obviously, seeing how he is still around. And I am STILL in the same room.”
“You’re a girl, that’s different! And I guarantee you, when you take him to your room, Logan has other things on his mind than decor and furniture.”
“Maybe she does too! So go up and see why she came here, instead of flipping out at me, you dummy!” she smiled.
He ran back up and Piper smiled at him.
“Hope you didn’t give her too much grief.” she said.
“Your sister. For letting me up here.” she stated, and Chase felt found out.
“Me? No. Why would I? What do you mean?”
“Because you went downstairs for drinks several minutes ago and come back without anything, but pretty flushed. You know I have an older brother too.”
“Oh. Right. Well, yeah. So this is me. Yup, I live with mom and dad and my sister in a small home in a small town. I play video games on Saturday afternoons. And to be completely honest with you, I thought you weren’t interested in me at all and seeing other guys already.”
“I told you I had to travel for work. Hard to go on dates when you are not even in the country. I also remember telling you I had the best date imaginable with you. And I also told you that I work a lot. Thought you did too and would understand.”
“I do. Just … seemed … hopeless. You had pretty much fallen off the face of the earth, and not because of your work schedule. Your replies to my messages were super-short, super delayed and non-committal.”
“Is that you telling me you moved on?”
“No. I mean, not gonna lie, I have gone on a couple dates. But nothing went anywhere worth mentioning …” Chase thought of Kaydence.
They had made out like it was going out of style last time, after the Stryker incident, but that was the last he had heard from her too. Maybe she had taken it personal that he had declined her very obvious offer to spend the night with her. It had been radio silence since then.
“Are you free today?” Piper asked.
“How about we have dinner somewhere and then dessert over at my place? I’ll even show you my bedroom, since I have seen yours now …” there was a certain promise in Piper’s tone.
Chase’s knees got weak. Was she suggesting …?!
“Would you mind hanging out, so I can take a quick shower and get dressed in something more suitable for a date?”
“Don’t mind at all.” she smiled.
Chase took her downstairs to hang out with his sister Kiera.
“…just be nice to her, no embarrassing details, nothing weird about me. Just small talk! Can you do that?” he instructed his little sister after pulling her aside before she could follow Piper into their living room.
“Okay okay, chill … my goodness!” she giggled.
The girls had a pleasant conversation while they waited for a nervous Chase to get himself to where he thought was presentable enough for Piper.
The dinner was very enjoyable. Just like before, they never ran out of things to talk about, he felt comfortable talking to her, especially about his work, since that was one of the main focal points in his life. He took his career serious and it took up a lot of his time, same was true for her. She shared a lot more details about herself than she had before.
After dinner he took her to her home and was invited inside. His heart was racing. Was this really going to happen tonight? If it was, he was gonna do nothing to stop it. Quite the contrary! From the first moment he got her message on that dating site, and definitely after the moment she happened upon him at his work, he had been smitten by her, but always felt a little inferior somehow. They were the same age, but she seemed more confident, more mature. For those reasons, he had almost written her off, thinking she felt the same way and moved on.
Sitting on her couch, wine poured, they spoke until the dynamic of the evening shifted from pleasantly comfortable with each other to romantic flirting and from there quickly to steamy romantic making out and knowing that this night would get a lot more intimate yet.
Piper actually leaned in for the kiss first, but Chase didn’t need to be begged and took it from there, pulled her into his lap. They made out for a while, until she got up off his lap, pulling him with her down the small hallway, still kissing all the way to her bedroom.
In between kisses, both unmistakably ready to take it to the next level, Piper said
“By the way, this is my bedroom.”
“Best I’ve ever seen!” Chase told her, without ever taking his eyes off her, which didn’t go unnoticed by Piper who showed him another, very seductive and passionate side of her.
The night ended as passionately as it began, until both finally fell asleep exhausted as it already began to get light out.
Waking up together – on the first day of Summer, no less – began the same way the night had ended for them, first in her bed, then during a shower together.
They had coffee and a late breakfast, it was comfortable, cozy, something real. It felt …. right. Like they belonged.
When Chase left her apartment at almost noon, he neither was uncertain about how they felt about each other, nor did seeing Emma even cross his mind for a millisecond.
They were going to see each other again later today, Sunday, for dinner and a movie, so he didn’t have the doubts that tortured him last time and they were going to try to see each other at least once, if not several times, during the week, each of their busy work schedules allowing.
Moreover, he had invited her to his home for the following Saturday to officially meet his family. And she wanted him to meet hers on Sunday.
To Chase, this registered as very real and very much like he had a girlfriend now.
The same weekend went a lot different for Briar Rose and Stryker. They were also out together on the same Saturday that Piper surprised Chase, one might have considered it a date, if Bri hadn’t been so adamant that it wasn’t.
Stryker normally spent the weekends at his apartment in San Myshuno, driving back to Brindleton Bay on Sunday nights, but he came out on Saturday to try out the new and long anticipated dance club in Brindleton Bay, which finally opened its doors, after Briar Rose had asked him to go with her on opening night.
Dancing their hearts out, then going outside to cool down again, the mood took over and ended where moments like this had often ended for the both of them before. But unlike before, expectations had changed for both of them, which had lead to friction between them several times now.
“What?” Bri asked, slightly annoyed, after shaking out her hair to make sure no debris from their quickie behind some shrubs was left in it.
“Nothing. Can I not look at you?” was his mildly defensive response.
“Sure, but you are looking at me weird.”
“How do you look at someone weird?” he snorted a laugh.
“Don’t play hard to get, Stryker, doesn’t suit you. You were looking at me a certain way and you know that I know. So say it or get over it.” she decided.
“Fine! Maybe I was looking weird at you, cos I am wondering what all this even means. I am trying here, Bri, you gotta give me that, but none of this makes sense.”
“I have no clue what you are talking about.”
“Us. This. Your seductive grinding up against me in that certain way on the dance floor. What we just did. Again.”
“You seemed to enjoy it.”
“I did. So did you, from what I can tell.”
“So, what’s your problem then?”
“My problem is failing to understand why you dodged my kiss and touch just after we crawled back out from the bushes after nookie, when you saw other people. Why are we still hiding, sneaking around?”
“Who is sneaking? Looks to me like we are right here in public. We only went for privacy for the quickie, or did you want to do it out on the dance floor in front of everyone? I can tell you right now, I am up for trying a lot of things, but that isn’t going to be one of them.”
“No, not that, but let’s make it official.”
“Official? Like how?”
“Tell your family.”
“Tell my family we just screwed behind the new club?”
“Fucking hilarious. Tell them about us.”
“I think they gathered that when I told them you are the father of my child. Pretty sure they deduced that I am not the immaculate conception type.”
“Bri! Goddamn it, girl! Tell them we are a thing. Together.”
“Are we? News to me.”
“Are you shitting me?! Are you telling me I am nothing but a sidepiece to you?!” Stryker’s mood hit a low point while his anger level went through the roof.
“No. In order for you to be my sidepiece, I’d have to have a main piece, which I don’t. Just you.”
“If you are trying to be funny, you are not! So is that all it is then to you? I am good for a quick fuck behind some building for some extra kick, since you can’t get any otherwise with that baby belly?” he barked at her, his volume level increasing, drawing some attention of other club patrons.
“Oh, is that what you think? Well, have I got news for you, buddy. Watch me getting some elsewhere from now on then! Can’t get any … I can get more with my baby belly than you if you poured liquid gold over yourself and rolled around in 100 Dollar bills!” she hissed back.
She turned to walk off, he grabbed her and slammed her back hard against the brick wall of the club.
“Stop it! Bri, I have been working my ass off trying to show you I can be something decent. What more do you want?” he growled just inches from her face.
“What more do YOU want?” she hissed back, unimpressed.
“You! I want YOU!”
“You just had me!”
“Not like that! Okay, like that, not just JUST like that. I want you to be my … I want to be us … just us … exclusive.” his tone softened a little, changing to pleading.
“You still cannot say it, can you?”
“The L-word, Stryker!” her tone became annoyed again.
“Oh, come on, Bri … we’re not like that.”
“The type that swear stupid sappy stuff to each other.” Stryker sounded dismissive.
“We may be not, but I might be. If I am exclusive with a guy, he better dish up the sappy stupid stuff we swear to each other, all day long!”
“Are you for real?”
“Serious like a heart attack.”
“So what now? You need me to crawl on my hands and knees and propose so we can be something serious?”
“Who crawls on hands and knees to propose and who said anything about proposing anyway? Who said I’d marry you or anyone?!”
“If that’s not what you want, then what is the problem?”
“Goodbye Stryker! Just go fuck yourself!” she yelled in his face.
“What the fuck do you want from me Bri?! You know how I am …” he matched his tone and volume level to hers.
“And you know how I am. Looks like we reached a fork in the road here. Either or, Stryker, either or.”
“You cannot force me to say something I don’t believe in. That word you are so keen on is just another word. I am not going to roll over and show my belly to some dumb, outdated expected chain of events from someone else’s rule book that ultimately has no effect whatsoever.”
“Sounds to me like you’ll be showing your belly and other parts to another girl from now on then.” she almost spat the words at him.
“Fine! If you want to be so difficult, screw you, bitch!” his filter came off completely and his volume level increased dramatically.
Briar Rose began to walk off, turned and showed him what she thought of that with some definite, vulgar hand gesture, which he responded to in kind.
Once they each were alone, things looked a lot different though.
Bri ended her night crying her frustration into her pillows until she fell asleep and Stryker punched his fists bloody on every wall and tree he passed, then stopped by a liquor store on his way back to his apartment in San Myshuno, starting his one man drinking party before ever even entering the highway, then breaking every speed limit, weaving his motorcycle in and out of traffic in the most reckless and death-defying way imaginable …
-to be continued-