Chapter fifteen- Liv
Twirling the blade of grass between my fingers, I stared at my father's grave stone, right beside my mother's. Eighteen years old, and I've lost both of my parents, I wondered at the fact.
My father had suffered an aneurism they'd discovered through the autopsy, which had made sense unfortunately. He'd always complained of headaches, for as long as I could remember, was even on medication for migraines. But they'd been unable to detect a problem in the past, so it was forgotten about. Now he was dead. I wiped the few tears off of my cheeks, and sighed as I peered up at the blue sky.
"Well, we lost mom four years ago, and now I've lost you too. It just doesn't seem fair to me… why do some people never lose their parents? Why did both of you have to leave me here, alone, so soon?" I wondered. It had been crossing my mind for days now. The funeral, two weeks ago, had been packed much to my surprise, but a good portion of the guests had been students and former students my dad had taught over the years. And it had touched me, to hear a few of the stories they told me about him… I'd never known that side of my father, the professor.
Jake had come up as well, for his sister, and for me. He hadn't told us that he would be there, but we'd both cried when he showed up at the house the day before the funeral, and he'd held us both for close to an hour. He'd gone back home after the service, packed, and was back for good. He'd sold his garage, and shipped everything up that he'd kept, including all of his cars. And he was staying at the house with Dawn and I until he found a place of his own. I told him to take his time… mostly because I knew his sister didn't want him to leave, and neither did I.
"I-I'm grateful though… that we weren't still fighting. I don't think I could have lived with myself, if this had happened a year ago," I whispered, tracing the carved letters in the stone. "I hope you and mom are together again. I hope you're both happy, because I'm sure as hell not, and I don't want us all miserable."
I stood up, took the dead bouquets of flowers from my parents' graves, set the fresh ones down, and headed towards my 'vette. It was late afternoon, and I had to get over to Damien's. He was leaving in the morning for Baltimore.
That had been a huge fight… he swore up and down that he wasn't leaving me, not now, not after my father's sudden death. But I didn't want him around for what I knew what would come… he was better off at school. I loved Damien fiercely, and I didn't want him around to see me fall apart, because that's what I felt was happening. Everything was just going to fall apart around me, inside of me, and I didn't want Damien to see me helpless. So, he was going to Hopkins, and taking my Shelby with him. I'd had to make so many promises I could have written a book to reassure him that I'd be fine, but I had to do it, so he'd do what's best for him. I knew he'd regret it if he didn't go.
I sighed as my cell phone began to ring, and shook my head when I recognized the number. It was my lawyer. He'd been ringing me off the hook since my father was buried, about all kinds of miscellaneous things. It was shocking, how much unfinished business a sudden death left behind…
I was keeping the house, for the time being. Dawn, Jake and I were going to live together until… well, until. But I was selling the horses. I couldn't take care of them, and even though my father had hired ranch-hands to do it, it seemed like too much. My lawyer was dealing with all of the financial aspects and loose ends, like my father's social security, all of our insurance and whatnot. I trusted the man, as I'd known him since diapers, and told him to do what he thought was best. So he was doing it. I was grateful; I didn't want to have to worry about mundane things such as that. But he was supposed to be calling to tell me exactly how much money my father had to his name, and how much he had put away for me. I wasn't sure I wanted to know. I already had some idea, I knew my father had had money, and I had money of my own from my accident, but I was nervous.
My cell phone rang again, and I groaned, but snatched it off the seat anyhow and glanced at the number. Damien.
"Hey," I answered as I gunned the engine.
"Hey baby, where are you?" he asked, and I smiled when I heard all the commotion in the background.
"I'm on my way, I'll be there in about twenty minutes," I said, and then just stared blankly at the steering wheel as my 'vette shut off. "Or not," I muttered.
"What? What's wrong?" he asked. "Will you all shut the hell up?" he shouted at his brothers, and I winced.
"It's nothing, I'll see you in a bit, okay?" I asked, and I hoped as I gunned the engine again, held it until it finally turned over and caught, and revved it a few times. This thing needs a new starter, I thought to myself, mentally adding it to a list of other parts I was still in need of for the repairs I was doing on Damien's car. Finding the person who wrecked it seemed unimportant now… but for Damien, I still planned on discovering the truth. I had an idea on who it was, but I didn't want to tell Damien, he'd be crushed.
"Okay, babe. Be careful," he said with a sigh, and I nodded absently.
"I will, bye Damien," I snapped the phone shut after he said goodbye, and headed over to his place.
"Hey bro, you want to take all of your speakers for your stereo?" Jaimie asked as I stuffed the last of my clothes into another suitcase and zipped it up.
"Yeah," I said, tossing the suitcase in a pile we were making at the front of my room.
"Damn it," he muttered, and began untangling the wires and taking everything apart. "Why? It's not like you're going to have room anyway," he commented.
"Just so you can't have them," I shrugged, and winced when I felt the remote to the stereo hit the back of my head. "Asshole," I snapped, and threw it back at him and nailed him right in the forehead.
"My eighteen year old is going off to college, still acting like a five year old," we both turned when our mother walked into the room, and quickly avoided her gaze.
"He started it," I said, pulling my desk drawers open, and emptying all the contents into a box. I didn't even bother to glance at my mom as she sighed in frustration; she hated the way I packed. I saw a picture of Liv and Nell float down on top of the pile, and sighed. Deacon had snapped the picture when they'd been cheering Adam and I on at one of our football games junior year, before we'd been dating. She was wearing one of my jerseys. Barely speaking civilly at the time, yet she wore my number. I smiled at the fact. But I glanced over when I heard one of my brothers tackle another, and found Liv smiling a bit as she stood in the doorway.
"Liv, sweetheart, how are you honey?" my mother was quick to wrap her up in a hug before I could even walk across the room.
"I'm okay," she said with a smile. I just shook my head as my hands formed fists on the edge of my desk. She wasn't okay. The smile was not a genuine one, and her eyes were dead. She wasn't okay. I walked over, and pried her out of my mother's arms.
"Mom, you can mother her later," I said, gripping Liv's hand in my own and leading her out of the room.
"Damien, where are we going? You have to finish packing-"
"It can wait," I said, tugging her down the stairs and to the family room, and shut the door after her. She sighed as she sat down on the sofa and pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes. "Where were you?" I asked quietly even though I had some idea as I sat down beside her.
"The cemetery," she replied, and I tugged her into my lap. "Damien, stop it, I'm fine," she muttered, standing up. I just watched as she wandered the room, and stopped at the window. "So when are you leaving tomorrow? What time?" she asked.
"Six in the morning, have to check in by five, and I'm sure we're going to hit traffic," I replied. "Are you going to talk to me?"
"What do you want me to say, Damien? What do you want me to say to you that you already don't know?" she asked, her voice tight. She turned on her heel to face me, and her eyes were bright with anger. At least it wasn't that dead look they held before…
"I don't know," I sighed.
"I'm hurt, okay? My father is dead. He's dead. How am I supposed to feel, Damien? How? And what in the hell am I supposed to do?"
"Well for one thing you can stop pretending that you're okay in front of everyone, we all know you aren't. You shouldn't feel the need to have to put on a façade in front of my family-"
"I don't want to be pitied, I don't want people always asking me how I am; I don't want the damned attention! I just want to be left alone, okay? Is that too much to ask? I just want to be by myself for a while. I want to go to work everyday, do what I do best, go home with Dawn and Jake, read a book or something, and go to sleep. That's it. I don't want people stopping by the shop to ask about me, I don't want people showing up at my house with food anymore, I don't want anymore cards or phone calls with condolences, I don't want to deal with my lawyer… I just want – I want to be left alone, that's it," her voice tapered off at the end, losing the pure rage it held in the beginning. She wiped her eyes, and then headed for the door.
"Liv, where are you going?" I quickly got to my feet and followed her out into the hall, and snatched her keys before she could.
"Home," she said simply, holding her hand out.
"You want me to come by tomorrow morning?" I asked, taking her hand and pulling her close. She came willingly, wrapped her arms tight around me.
"No, you have to be on the road early, don't bother, okay?" she said softly, and I closed my eyes against her hair, tangling my fingers in it.
"Yeah, just call me when you get down there, after you're done unpacking," she sighed, slightly pulling away. I looked down at her, gently rubbed my thumbs beneath her eyes to wipe the stray tears away. I pressed my lips to her brow before kissing her, and I could taste the tears on her lips… I hated it.
"I'll call you. Let me know how Nell's appointment goes tomorrow," I murmured against her lips.
"I forgot about that," she said absently, playing with the ends of my hair. "I hope she has a girl," she smiled a bit.
"Nah, I hope it's a boy," I said, just to get a rise out of her, and she didn't disappoint me as she smirked and lightly tugged on my hair. "Just so he can drive Nell and Deacon crazy."
"You are an ass," she declared before kissing me again.
"Maybe, but you love me anyway," I said, and she smiled, really smiled for the first time in weeks.
"Yes, I do. I love you," she said.
"I love you too, Liv." I watched from the front door as she walked down the stairs, turned and gave me one last smile, and hopped into her 'vette and drove away. And I stood there for a while, staring down the driveway, and somehow knew that I'd lost her.
"Christ this place is nice," I glanced up from where I was hooking up the new DVD player I'd bought for the living room, and watched as my new roommate took in the room, followed by his parents and whom I assumed was his younger sister. She was the feminine version of her brother, shorter and more petite, but they both shared the same golden brown hair and pale blue eyes.
"The size of the bedrooms, it's going to shock you," I sighed as I plugged everything into the surge protector and flicked it on and stood up. "Damien Devoir," I said, offering my hand, and he took it.
"Andrew Mason, and these are my parents, Laura and Mike, and this is my little sister Kelly," he introduced his family, and we did the whole exchange of pleasantries and whatnot before they looked around the apartment.
"So where is your family, Damien?" Laura asked as she carried in another box and setting it down on the kitchen counter.
"Oh, we left around five this morning, so they were tired and headed back after helping me move everything in here. And two of my younger brothers stayed behind, so my mom wanted to get back before they terrorized the house," I explained, and she laughed as she cut the box open.
"Two of your younger brothers? How many brothers and sisters do you have?" Kelly asked, and I smiled as I shook my head.
"There are seven of us," I said, and her mouth dropped.
"All guys. My oldest brother CJ is married, expecting a couple of babies in a few months, then there's Rick. We're all waiting for him to propose to Diana, it's only a matter of time, but he's going into Law school, her Med. school, so they want to wait a while. Then there's me, Jamie, Kirk, Aidan and Nick," I said, picking up one of Andrew's bags as he dropped it and a box in the doorway and headed back downstairs.
"Do they all look like you?" she asked, and I laughed.
"Kelly Anne!" her mother snapped, but the girl just shrugged as she glanced at her mother.
"It's just a question," she said with a smile.
"Come on, I'll show you a picture," I said, picking up another box in the doorway and dropping it in Andrew's room before leading her into my own. "How old are you, Kelly?"
"I'm fourteen," she said, flopping into the desk chair as I sorted through a photo album. I skipped through until I found a picture of all of us in the backyard taken only two months ago during a cookout.
"Ah, you're Nick's age. This one's Aidan, he's fifteen, and there's Kirk, he's sixteen, then that's Jamie and his girlfriend Lacey, they're both seventeen-"
"Who's the blond?"
"That's Nick, he's your age, the youngest, and the oddball. He's the only one who got my mother's blonde hair, the rest of us got the dark hair from my father. And that is CJ, he's twenty five, and that's his very pregnant wife, she's having twins. There's Rick and Diana, both are twenty one, and that's me and my girlfriend Liv," I pointed everyone out, and she giggled over Kirk and Aidan for a few minutes.
"She's so pretty," she sighed, closing the album and handing it back to me.
"Who?" I asked, stuffing it back into a drawer, and we headed back into the kitchen.
"Your girlfriend," she said, and I smiled.
"I know – whoa! Watch it, you're going to drop the damn thing," I said, rushing over to help Andrew carry in the television. We managed to place it on the stand without breaking it, and within a few hours, with the help of his family, we had mostly everything unpacked. Laura decided to take on the roll of mother hen, and helped me finish unpacking my room as well.
"Alright guys, looks like everything's in order," Mike said, glancing around the living room with a nod.
"You just need to find a grocery store, get the things you couldn't buy before hand," Laura said as she surveyed the cabinets and the refrigerator, jotting down things on a list while she was at it.
"And, you've got to decorate," Kelly declared, and Andrew and I glanced at each other before staring at her. "Well, you do," she muttered, crossing her arms over her chest. "Posters at least, guys. It is college after all," she said knowingly. I couldn't help but laugh.
"Kel, leave your brother and Damien alone," her father sighed, slightly shaking his head. "Come on, let's get out of here, traffic is going to be horrible getting home."
"Your father's right, Andrew. If you think of anything you left at home that you want, just call us-"
"Mom, please. I'll be fine," Andrew sighed, and I smirked.
"It took my dad a half hour to get my mother to leave, I don't think your parents are going anywhere for a while," I murmured as I walked past him and headed towards my room. "It was nice to meet you all," I called.
"Oh you too, Damien-"
"Hey, can I have a picture of your brothers?" Kelly interrupted, hopping down from her perch on the counter. "Please, I have to show my friend Cara, she'd love-"
"It's okay, I'll get one," I said with a slight laugh as I walked back into my room. I pulled a double of the photo I'd shown her out from behind it, and gave it to her. She tucked it into her purse after a dozen thank you's and few comments about the amazing genetics of my family. The girl was amusing to say the least…
"I thought they'd never leave," Andrew sighed as he collapsed onto the sofa in the living room. I grabbed an extra coke from the fridge and tossed it to him as I sat down on the opposite sofa and turned the TV on.
"My family was the same way," I said absently, flicking through the new channels, looking for the TV guide. "You know any channels down here?"
"Yeah, I only live twenty minutes away," he said, so I threw him the remote.
"Then why are you living on campus?" I asked as he settled on ESPN.
"I wanted to get the hell out of my house and away from my sister," he said. "Sorry about her, by the way, she's…" he just shook his head and smirked. "Well, she's going to be a tramp."
"She's just a kid, let her grow up first," I smirked.
"So where are you from?" he asked.
"A small town in Massachusetts."
"Damn, then why didn't you just go to some Ivy League school up there? Why come all the way down here? Trust me, there's not much to do," he sighed.
"I'm a Pre-Med major. No where else better to go than Hopkins for a med major."
"This is true. I was going to do that, then decided I couldn't deal with four to eight extra years of school, not to mention the loans, so I'm a business major," he explained.
"Pre-Med to business? What in the hell are you going to do?" I raised a brow as I glanced over at him, and he smiled.
"Open a restaurant," he said.
"That's cool… my girlfriend owns a business back home."
"No shit? How old is she?"
"Eighteen," I said, and he nearly choked on his drink.
"She opened up her own body shop this summer. She's a genius when it comes to cars, been working on them since she was fourteen. Well, she's been a collector since she was fourteen believe it or not, you should see some of these classics she has. She buys them when they're trash, and restores them," I told him, and felt a surge of pride at the look of amazement on his face.
"Awesome girlfriend," he finally said, and I laughed.
"Yeah, she is," I murmured, staring at the drink in my hand. On the drive down earlier that morning, I couldn't help but wonder how she was going to hold up. Liv was good at putting on a front for those around her, and as far as I knew, I was the only one who could get her to drop it. Every instinct I had told me to turn around a hundred times as I crossed state lines, but what good were instincts if you didn't listen to them? And after I got off the phone with her that night before going to bed, I wondered why I hadn't listened. I shouldn't have left.
"Sit down," I said, voiding my face of any emotion. I studied the kid intently as he sighed noisily and arrogantly took a seat across from me at my desk. He idly tapped his fingers against his jeans as he looked around the bare room before finally meeting my gaze.
"I've got somewhere to be. What do you want, Liv?" he asked.
"Hey Liv, when you get a minute I want you to take a look at the engine in my car – oh, hey Kirk, what are you doing here?" Jamie asked, wiping his hands off on a rag as he lounged in the doorway.
"I don't know, she asked me to come down here," Kirk shrugged, and began tapping his foot. Jamie glanced at me, shot his younger brother one last look, and then left the room.
"Here," I said, handing him a slip of paper.
"What's this?" he asked, taking it.
"The amount of money you owe me for repairing Damien's car," I said, and watched as he visibly paled.
"What in the hell are you talking about, Liv?" he asked, but his voice betrayed his guilt, and I sighed as I dragged a hand through my hair, fisted it at the nape of my neck.
"Just tell me why you did it, Kirk," I said, but he shook his head.
"I didn't touch my brother's car," he said through gritted teeth. So I opened my desk drawer, pulled out his wallet and tossed it on the desk. I'd found it stuck down between the seats the day I brought his car in.
"Why'd you do it?" I asked again. He stared at his wallet for a good minute before tentatively reaching for it, but I quickly snatched it back up before he could. He just dropped his head into his hands.
"I just wanted to take it for a spin… he wouldn't let me, so I hotwired it while he was upstairs one day and just went. I didn't mean to wreck it; I lost control and… shit. Liv, please don't tell my brother," he said, finally meeting my gaze, and the anguish I saw in his green eyes nearly undid me. Out of all of Damien's brothers, he and Kirk shared the most physical features, although they were polar opposites.
"All right. I won't tell him, you'll tell him. And, you're going to work off every penny I put into fixing it right here, you understand?" I asked.
"You obviously know something about cars if you were able to hotwire Damien's, so you're going to help Nic, Jake and Jamie out and do odd jobs for me. I pay very well, so if you come in every day after school-"
"Every day after school, and on Saturdays, I think you'll be finished by Christmas," I said, and watched as his mouth dropped.
"No! You have got to be shitting me! No, I'm not doing it, and you can't make me do it either-"
"Yes I can Kirk. It's either you work your bill off here, or I'm going to the police. A report was filed that day when Ryan found the car, so they're still looking for the guy that did it," I lied, but it scared him, and that's what I wanted.
"You wouldn't, Damien would kill you," he said, but uncertainty was clearly written all over his face… and I sort of felt sorry for him. Sort of. But he stole his own brother's car, and wrecked it; he needed to learn the consequences of his actions, and I hoped by the time he was finished "doing his time," he'd decide to stick around. The boy obviously needed someone or something to keep him out of trouble…
"No, I don't think so, Kirk. He was devastated when he first saw what you had done to his car, so don't count on any sympathy from him. I seriously doubt your own brother would press charges, but it'll still stand on your record, and I don't think your parents would be too happy about that," I informed him, idly straightening up papers strewn on my desk. "So, what's it going to be?" I asked, and he sighed as he slumped back in his chair.
"Fine, when do I start?" he asked.
"Right now, come on. Let's go take a look at that engine Jamie asked me about," I said, standing up and tugging him out of his seat.
"Liv! Hey babe, come here, I've got something to show you," I glanced over as Jake jogged into the shop.
"One minute," I called, leading Kirk over to where his brother was bent under the hood of his own car. "Working on your own car?" I asked, and he nodded.
"Nothing came in today, and I finished up the Expedition. I've got some time," he said, flipping through pages in the manual.
"Jamie, say hello to our new employee," I said, and he stood up, and raised a brow as he stared at his brother.
"What's going on, Liv?" he asked.
"I think he can tell you. Keep an eye on him for a while," I asked, and he nodded.
"Alright, come on Kirk," he sighed. "You know anything about cars?"
"Yeah, considering I hotwired this thing a few months ago without you figuring it out," I heard him reply as I started over towards Jake, and I just shook my head and groaned. The kid was nothing but trouble. I was sidetracked by Nic, literally, as he grabbed my wrist and pulled me over to his toolbox.
"What's with the kid?" he asked.
"One of Damien's brothers. He owes me almost two grand, so he's working it off here. Don't worry, Kirk actually knows his way around underneath a hood, although no member of his family knows that," I sighed, looking over at him and Jamie. And I smiled at the shocked look on Jamie's face when his brother shoved him aside and started working on the engine while explaining to Jamie what he was doing.
"Is he the loner in the family?" Nic asked, dragging my attention back to him. I nodded.
"He's more than a loner, Nic. He has completely distanced himself from his brothers. I don't understand it, but I know he doesn't like it. It's why he took Damien's car and wrecked it. I know he didn't lose control of that car; he did it on purpose, for attention, and fled. I think that's why he left his wallet behind," I told him.
"So how long is he going to be here?" he asked, curiously watching the kid.
"Well, he's working for free until Christmas, and then…" I shrugged.
"You hope he sticks around," he said, and I nodded.
"It'll keep him out of trouble," I agreed.
"So he wrecked Damien's car?" he chuckled a bit as he shook his head. "He reminds me of myself when I was that age. Badass to the bone, or so he thinks anyway. He'll get what's coming to him, trust me. Tell him when he's finished with the Mercedes I want to talk to him," he said, and I wrapped my arms tight around him.
"Thanks, Nic," I said.
"Don't worry about it, princess," he laughed before ushering me over to Jake. He got out of the car he parked over his lift, and grinned when he spotted me.
"Come here, I've got a surprise for you," he said, taking my hand as he headed toward the side door. He covered my eyes with his hand and guided me outside. I shivered in the autumn air, but kept walking, trusting he wouldn't let me walk into a parked car.
"Jake, what's going on?" I asked.
"Okay, ready?" he asked, and I nodded. He uncovered my eyes, and I gasped as I stared at the completely restored '62 Coupe Deville parked in front of me.
"Oh my god!" I shrieked as I jumped into his arms and planted a loud kiss on his cheek. He laughed as I ran over to the Cadillac, hopped over the door into the driver's seat and stared in awe. "Where in the world did you find this?" I asked, reverently running my hands over the steering wheel.
"Dawn has been asking me to run a trace on this thing for years. We used to own it, years ago before my dad sold it. I ran the trace a few years back, bought it for a grand off the owner because it was in shit condition, and I've been working on it when I could find time. I finished it last night," he said, popping the glove compartment open and handing me the registration. It was in Dawn's name.
"Oh Jake… and it's pink," I murmured, turning to look at him as he crossed his arms and leaned down on the door.
"Think she'll like it?" he asked quietly, and I nodded.
"She'll love it," I said, sliding over and hugging him. "You are a good brother, Jake Malone, the best."
"I want to take it over to the house right now; I need to see her smile again. You want to drive?" he tempted, dangling the keys in front of me, and I whined as I fisted a hand in my hair.
"You know I can't leave, I've got too much work to do. I haven't even started on that Infinity that came in, and I know the kid wants it back as soon as possible… have you seen the inside of that car?" I asked absently.
"Yeah I've seen it, and I don't think he needs it back anytime soon if he's going to blow another motor," he smirked.
"Anyway," I said dryly. "I can't go. But you have to, now," I said, opening the door and sliding out. "When you get back, let me know how she liked it."
"Yes ma'am. I'm going to trailer it over to the house, that cool?" he asked, gunning the engine, and I grinned as he revved the engine.
"That's fine, you want to take the truck?" I asked, referring to the Ford Super Duty 450 I'd bought just for that purpose, transporting cars.
"Yeah, just leave the keys on the front desk with Nell while I bring this around front," he said. So I went back in, grabbed the keys from my office, watched Kirk baffle Jamie even more, and then went to the front.
"Hey," Nell sighed, absently rubbing her tummy as she jotted a quick note down and posted it on the bulletin board behind her.
"Here, give these to Jake when he comes in," I said, handing her the keys, and she nodded as she pulled up Excel on the computer.
"Deacon and I are going to find out the sex of the baby tonight," she announced just as I was about to leave.
"Are you sure this time?" I asked, crossing my arms. Last time she had went for a sonogram the day Damien had left, over a month ago, she had decided last minute that she didn't want to know the sex of the baby, she wanted to be surprised. Deacon threw a fit.
"Yes I'm sure this time," she smirked. "You see, I really want to start decorating the nursery, but I can't because I don't know if it's a girl or a boy," she sighed, thoroughly dejected. I smiled as I sat down in the empty chair.
"And you have to start picking out baby clothes," I added.
"Yes those too," she nodded. "So, have you heard from Damien lately?" she asked.
"We talked a few days ago," I murmured, absently picking at my nails. "Whenever I try to get a hold of him, his phone is off, or he's extremely busy. I think I'm just going to take a weekend and drive down there to see him. I miss him," I said, and looked up as the front door opened. I scooped up the keys for the truck again, and tossed them to Jake, and he left without a word.
"I think that's a good idea, surprise him, just show up. What's he going to do, make you leave?" she laughed a bit.
"What's next weekend?" I asked, spinning around to look at the calendar.
"First one of October, Liv," she replied, typing away at the computer. "Now shoo, I've got work to do unlike some people."
"Ha! Would you like replace the motor in the Infinity that's sitting in there?" I asked, jerking my thumb towards the shop.
"Nope, that's your job grease monkey," she said with an infuriating smile. I just shook my head.
"I'm not a grease monkey, I'm a mechanic," I muttered under my breath as I walked back into the shop and stopped in front of my lift, and glared at said Infinity. Nic laughed as he slung his arm around my shoulders.
"You want me to take this one, Liv, and you try and figure out what's going on with the transmission in that Pacifica?" he asked.
"Please? You know I hate these things," I sighed.
"I know, princess. They just don't make 'em like they used to, do they?" he asked, opening the door and getting in.
"I'd take a classic over this souped up piece of shit any day," I said, flicking the radio on and opening the top drawer of my toolbox to get a hair tie. And softly singing along to the Journey song blasting from my radio, I got under the hood of a car for the first time that week. Running my own shop gave me almost no time to get grease beneath my fingernails. I missed the work, but it was definitely worth having Jake, Nic and Jamie around all of the time. They managed to take my mind off of my own life for a few precious hours during the days, and it was a blessing, because otherwise, I knew I'd drive myself crazy. So I lost myself beneath the hood of the car, and began planning my not so impromptu trip to Baltimore.
"I officially hate road trips," I muttered under my breath as I finally found a parking garage that allowed overnight stays. I drove the Mustang that Damien and his brothers had given me down to Charm City; there was not a chance in hell that I was risking one of my babies.
"Charm City my ass… no place to park, bumper to bumper traffic, one way streets! Face it, Liv, you could never live in a city," I huffed as I parked the car on the fourth level, and jotted down the lot letter on a slip of paper and stuck it in my pocket. Glancing at myself in the mirror, I quickly ran a brush through my hair, reapplied my sparse make up, and grabbed the small bag I'd packed for the weekend and left for Hopkins.
The parking garage I'd found was only a few blocks from his dorm, but I was still slightly nervous walking the city streets. Growing up in a small town where I recognized everyone's face if not his or her name, I was definitely startled by the urban atmosphere. But I made it to Damien's dorm house in less than fifteen minutes, and sighed with relief when I spotted a security camera. I glanced around as I headed towards the door, and glared at the card swipe. Now how in the hell was I supposed to get in without calling up to his room? I wondered. Dragging a hand through my windblown curls, I let out a frustrated sigh as I sat down on the steps, and waited for someone to come out.
"Hey," I turned my head and smiled at the guy sauntering towards the door. "Forget your key?" he asked as I stood up and followed him.
"Um, no. I'm actually here to surprise my boyfriend," I explained as he opened the door, and held it for me to pass. "Thanks," I said, and hopped onto the elevator. I was not walking up six flights of stairs.
"No problem… so, who's your boyfriend?" he asked, punching the button for the sixth floor.
"Damien Devoir. Do you know him?" I asked, and he laughed as he nodded.
"Actually I'm his roommate," he said, offering his hand, and I took it. "Name's Andrew Mason."
"It's nice to meet you, I'm Liv," I introduced myself.
"I know," he smiled. "I should have recognized you, he's got pictures of you and some of your friends from back home all over the place," he said, and I smiled.
"Yeah, so do I really… didn't think I'd need the photo album my girlfriend packed me, but I'm glad she did," he sighed. "Well Liv, you are going to find your boyfriend passed out in his bed. We hit Bahas last night and I was designated driver for him and a bunch of other guys."
"And Damien got trashed…" I chuckled a bit. It had been a while since I'd seen him with a hang over.
"I'm surprised," he commented, glancing at me as he swiped his card in the lock and opened the door. "My girlfriend would be pissed if she came as far as you did only to find me drunk and passed out." I just shrugged.
"Damien likes to party, and besides, it's not like he knew I was coming," I said simply, and slowly took in the room. It wasn't what I thought it would be. Of course he'd described it to me, and so had Jamie, but I wasn't expecting it to be as nice as they claimed. It was like an apartment.
Istood in the center of a living room, sort of. There was an area with two sofas, strewn with sweatshirts and papers, a coffee table that I couldn't see, but common sense told me that papers didn't float, and of course, the TV. It led into a small kitchen nook, covered in half eaten bags of Doritos and Lays and crushed coke cans. Apparently they hadn't gotten around to taking out the trash I determined as I spotted the overflowing trash can. I could barely make out the counter, but I was sure there was a stove under the junk somewhere. I did spot the sink and the microwave, and I smiled as I ran my fingers over the said pictures of Damien and myself on the refrigerator. There were several of Deacon and Nell and his brothers as well, along with a myriad of pictures of Andrew and his own friends from home.
"Yeah, sorry about the mess… there's really not a lot of time to clean up around here. And you just kind of showed up, unexpectedly, I'm sure Damien would have made me bust my ass to get this place cleaned if he knew you were coming," he laughed a bit as he dropped his book bag onto the sofa, tossed his keys on the counter, and absently rubbed a hand over the back of his neck.
"It's okay, I was expecting something along these lines… he's not the neatest person I know," I sighed, but couldn't help the small laugh either. "Which one's his room?" I asked, pointing over at the doors.
"Second door," he replied, and I heard him laugh as I darted to Damien's room. Opening the door, I felt my heart tumble in my chest and land somewhere in the vicinity of my stomach when I saw him. He was in fact, dead asleep, in his boxers, sprawled across the bed as if he'd just dropped there the previous night and passed out. Well, he probably had. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed him until just that moment, and I reached up and wiped at my misty eyes.
His room was no cleaner than the living room. I kicked my way through dirty laundry and whimpered when my bare toes connected with what suspiciously looked like a text book. The noise startled Damien somewhat, but he just rolled over and covered his face with a pillow. I glared at his back as I rubbed my toes, and carefully treaded my way over to his bed. He groaned when I sat down on the edge, and shifted until he managed to pull the blankets up with his legs and bury himself beneath them. But I pried them away from his face, and gently traced my fingers along his jaw. He murmured something unintelligible, but I caught my name in there somewhere and grinned.
"Damien, you do realize that it's two in the afternoon, don't you?" I murmured beside his ear, and nuzzled his neck as I wrapped my arms around his shoulders.
"Mmm… don't care. Bad hang over, baby," he said, his voice slightly muffled against his pillow. And I waited for recognition to dawn on him. It took four seconds. "Liv!" he rolled over again, and blinked up at me a few times before finally focusing his gaze on me.
"Hi," I whispered, pressing my lips to his. "You taste like rum… coconut rum and menthol cigarettes," I smiled, playing with the ends of his hair that were tickling my neck.
"Jesus Christ… Liv, what are you doing here? Why didn't you tell me you were coming? How'd you get in?" he asked, somehow managing to pull me under the blankets with him, wrapping me tight in his arms.
"Then it wouldn't have been a surprise," I explained quite simply, and smiled when he just shook his head. "I didn't even think about the fact that I needed a key to get into the building, but luckily, someone came along to let me in, your roommate, actually. Aren't you happy to see me?" I asked, and he smirked as he flipped me onto my back and devoured my mouth.
"What do you think?" he muttered against my lips, kissed me once more, and then climbed out of bed. "God I've missed you. Give me two minutes," he said quickly, and I laughed as he rushed into the bathroom and shut the door. I heard the tap going, and sat up to slip my sandals off, and found a clean pair of Damien's sweatpants and changed into those. The drive had been long, and I was tired… I listened to the rattle of a medicine bottle, and sighed when the shower came on.
"Well, if you want to be complicated…" I muttered, and I shut his bedroom door, and stripped, but not before snatching a condom out of the box I'd brought with me. I planned on keeping him preoccupied all weekend by making up for the weeks we'd been apart.
I sighed as I propped my chin on my hand, and watched more of the sailboats drift in and out of the harbor, and absently brushed my hair out of my face when the light breeze stirred again. Maybe this city does have it's charms after all, I thought to myself.
"How's Nell doing? I know she's due at the end of next month," I glanced over at Damien as he was flipping through the menu of the restaurant we were eating dinner at… a quaint little place called Nick's.
"Good. She finally decided to let Deacon have his way," I chuckled, reaching for my drink.
"About damn time. So? Do we have a godson or goddaughter?" he asked.
"It's a girl," I replied, and he grinned.
"You said it was going to be a boy, Damien," I interrupted.
"I did not-"
"Yeah you did," I sang.
"Whatever… did they agree on a name yet?"
"Well they agreed on her first name, and that's Ana. So now they're fighting over the middle name. Deacon wants it be Marie, but Nell likes Helene. Personally, I think it should be Ana Helene, it's got a ring to it," I said.
"Either or I guess. Deacon's so traditional though, I think he's going to fight until he gets his way," Damien smirked, slightly shaking his head. "When are they planning on getting married anyway?" I just shrugged.
"They don't know. After the baby's born I know, I don't think they want to worry about that right now. It's not as big of an issue as it was a few months ago to them. I don't care really, whenever they're ready, I'm ready, whether I've got to squeeze into a damn dress or stand by as witness," I said, and looked up as our waiter came over to take our orders. I was a bit tentative about getting crabs, I'd never had them before, but Damien was insistent.
"Just trust me okay? Andrew and a few other guys from around here took me out a few days after we moved in and made me try them. If it weren't for the inconvenience of driving, I'd have crabs for dinner every night," he said.
"Alright, fine… can't be that bad," I sighed as I handed my menu to the waiter. And I was shocked when he returned twenty minutes later, dumped two dozen crabs into the center of the table, and left a roll of paper towels beside them. Damien just laughed. I stared at the pile, and hesitantly swiped my finger over the spices atop one of the shells and brought it to my mouth. "Wow that's spicy," I mumbled, reaching for my glass of water and sipping it.
"Yeah, actually," I laughed a bit, and grabbed one of the crabs. It was heavy. "How the hell do I eat it?"
"Well, I'm no expert, but Andrew swears there isn't a wrong way to eat a crab. Break the legs off first and I'll show you how to open the shell," he said, and I watched as he searched through the crabs, as if he were weighing them, and finally decide on one. "What?" he asked, finally meeting my curious gaze.
"What was that all about?"
"It's heavy," he said simply, and I just shrugged and began to break the legs off.
"Now what?" I asked, staring at the mess I'd made on the table, and on my hands. Now I understood why our waiter had left the paper towels, but as I reached for one, Damien grabbed my hand.
"Don't bother, you haven't even begun to get messy," he promised. "Okay, see these?" he asked, holding up one of the big claws. "Save these for last because I'm still having trouble breaking them right," he said as he tossed the other legs into a bucket on the side of the table. I'd wondered what that was for when we had come in earlier…
"Thought you said there was no right way to eat a crab," I said dryly.
"Claws are another story," he said just as sardonically. "Right at the top of the crab, you can fit your thumb, and just pull it apart," he said, and demonstrated. I sneered at all of the yellow… stuff that was covering the inside of his crab, but he scooped it right up and ate it.
"That was gross," I muttered as I attempted to open my first crab. "It's not working," I snapped, getting frustrated.
"Use a knife to try and pry it open then," he suggested. I picked my knife up, stuck inside, and quickly pulled it back. I gasped, and clapped a hand over my mouth when the shell flew off and landed on the table beside us. The middle-aged couple both looked over at me, but smiled at my stunned expression.
"I am so sorry…" I began to apologize, but the kind woman just laughed.
"It's quite alright, dear. Not from around here, are you?" she asked, picking pu the shell and tossing it into the bucket beside her. I just shook my head. "You'll get the hang of it," she smiled.
"Just aim off the deck next time," her husband chuckled with a friendly wink. I finally turned and faced Damien, and he was red in the face from holding back his laughter.
"It's not funny!" I hissed.
"Yeah it is, because the same thing happened to me when I first tried it," he told me, and then roared with laughter. I couldn't help it. I began to smile at my own clumsiness, and eventually laughed as well. When I looked back down at my crab, I was dismayed to see the same yellow gunk inside of mine that had been in Damien's.
"It's mustard, just try it," he said at my strange look, and I sighed.
"Doesn't look like any mustard I've ever seen," I murmured, but I dipped my finger in some of it nonetheless and stuck in my mouth. "Hmm, it's not bad," I said, more to myself than Damien, and cleaned all of the "mustard" of the crab.
"You don't want to eat the lungs, or as Andrew calls them, the devil. Apparently they make you sick. Just toss them. But from here on out, you just break it open however you want and eat the meat inside," he said, cracking his crab in half after he'd taken all of the lungs off. He cracked it into halves yet again, and gathered a big glob of meat from one of the quarters.
"What's this stuff?"
"Guts, don't eat that either… well, you can I guess if you want. Matt does, and it grosses the rest of the guys out, but it's not bad for you. Here, open your mouth," he said. I did, and he slipped the crabmeat onto my tongue. I was shocked at the burst of flavor, and savored it before I swallowed.
"Oh that's good," I said, and quickly dove into my own crab as he chuckled. We stayed for another two hours, and between the two of us, managed to eat almost three dozen crabs. Once we were finished, he took me to the inner harbor, and we strolled hand in hand along the small boardwalk. I took in the scenes avidly as he showed me some of the sites, and then he took me to the aquarium.
"Never been here before myself, and all the guys back at the dorm laughed when I said I wanted to go," he said, but he was smiling. "Now I have an excuse, let's go," he said as he dragged me into the building after paying for our tickets. He was more excited about the trip than I was, but his enthusiasm rubbed off, and I even let him convince me into seeing the dolphin show after I'd finished playing with the stingrays. We traveled up to the tropical rainforest too, and when we ended up in the gift shop, I morphed into super-aunt and bought all sorts of things for Nell's baby, including a onesie, a few stuffed animals and an adorable little pajama set.
By the time we got back to his room, I was dead on my feet.
"I'm surprised you're even awake, hangover and all this afternoon," I yawned as I sank down onto the sofa in the living room.
"I won't be much longer," he murmured, catching my yawn. "Come on, let's go to bed," he said quietly as he pulled me to my feet. I managed to change into pajamas without stumbling over anything, but my eye caught onto a picture on his desk of him, Deacon, and Adam surprisingly enough investigating his mustang right after I gave it to him.
"Have you heard from your brother lately?" I asked as I climbed into bed beside him, and snuggled up against his side as he turned the light off.
"Kirk? Yeah actually… he called me a few days ago. Something's on his mind but he won't talk about it. Why?" he asked, curling his arm around my waist.
"Just wondering," I sighed.
"Why, Liv? You and Kirk hardly ever talk, why would you bring him up?" he asked, idly toying with the ends of my hair.
"Don't worry about it…"
"For Christ's sake, Liv, just tell me," he sighed, but I heard the frustration in his voice, and closed my eyes.
"He said he would tell you himself," I muttered, but I knew I couldn't turn back now. It would only piss him off, and I didn't want to do that, not when I was leaving on Sunday.
"Tell me what?"
"That he wrecked your car," I said quietly. He didn't say anything for a few seconds, as if it was slowly processing through his brain, but violently cursed as he sat up.
"He wanted to take it for a spin, so he said, and he hotwired while you were in your room, lost control of it and wrecked it. I found his wallet stuck in the seats," I said as I sat up as well, and laced my fingers through his. He squeezed my hand, and I saw him shake his head in the dark.
"Why'd he do it?" he asked.
"I don't know, he didn't really have an excuse… Damien, your brother is going to get into serious trouble if he doesn't shape up. I told him that he was going to work off the money he owes me in the shop every day after school and on Saturdays. I'm hoping by the time he's finished, which should be around Christmas sometime, that he'll decide to stay. He needs something to do to keep him out of trouble," I told him.
"Tell me about it…" he muttered. "God I can't believe he did it. Why didn't he just tell me? I probably would have beat the shit out of him, but in a very fucked up sense, I'm kind of glad it was him and not some other punk in my car. Damn, how did he just get up and walk away from an accident like that anyway?" he wondered.
"He's very lucky to say the least," I said, and he nodded.
"I guess. Do my parents know?"
"No, I haven't told them, and I'm assuming since he hasn't told you, he probably hasn't mentioned it to them either," I sighed as I fell back into the pillow.
"Probably not," he agreed. "It's repaired, though? Completely?"
"Yeah, I finished about two weeks ago I think. Looks brand new again, well, as brand new as a classic looks," I said, and sighed in contentment when he kissed my temple.
"Thank you," he murmured against my skin.
"Don't thank me, it's just a car," I said softly, curling up beside him again as we settled back under the covers.
"No, I meant thank you for what you're doing for my brother. He doesn't deserve it, Liv. But I'm glad you're giving him a chance," he said, pressing light kisses down my jaw until he brought his lips to my own. "He's always been the mixed up one, but I never realized how bad it was," he said when he pulled away.
"He'll be okay, he's starting to warm up to Nic. And Nic apparently was the same way when he was that age, so I'm hoping Kirk will learn through him and not his own bad experiences," I told him.
"Good," he said, and yawned again before nuzzling the crook of my neck.
"Good night Damien," I whispered, slipping my eyes closed again as I began drifting off to sleep.
"I love you," he mumbled, and I smiled a bit as I sleepily threaded my fingers through his hair.
"Love you too," I murmured, and fell to sleep with a smile on my face for the first time in weeks.
A/N: Well hello there, long time no see, huh? Yeah I know. And I'm very sorry about the long hiatus. If it could have been helped, well, then it would have, but life happens… and mine is so upside right now it's unbelievable. Don't remember what I put in the last author's note, and because it's quarter of three in the morning I'm too lazy to check. But, since then, things have been getting better, slowly but surely. We're still a little out of sorts and dealing with things, but it's getting better. Hope I haven't lost too many readers due to the long wait, but for those of you sticking with me, I greatly appreciate it. This is has not been edited, as I just finished the last sentence minutes ago and just want to get this up on the site for you all. All of your emails and reviews have meant the world to me, you don't understand how grateful I am for your well wishes, we definitely need them right now. So, I think I promised a two chapter update, but… I couldn't even include half of what I wanted to in this chapter because it had reached 17 pages by the time I finished that last scene. I have plenty of ideas stirring around in my imagination right now, and with the end of the semester coming up on April 29th, I should have plenty of time between work and my May course to get that chapter going. Don't know when it will be up and I won't make promises, but I know you won't be waiting for seven months again. So, thanks to all who're still with me, and I hope you enjoyed the chapter, not much going on, but I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless. And I liked writing the crab-picking scene, as I'm from Baltimore and all and we're known for our crabs! And yes, Nick's is a real restaurant, and I've heard that it is delicious although I haven't been there myself yet. Anywho… next chapter, we will see the birth of a new character by the name of Ana , and some other very poignant events. As for the middle name, I know which one I'm leaning towards, but I would like to hear what you all have to say as well, so leave a note in your review if you do review. Thanks again, guys.