After five minutes, Chase finally decided to knock on the bathroom door. Certainly it couldn't take her that long to take a few pills.
"Presley? Are you okay?"
He heard her sniffle before replying. "I'm fine. I'll be out in a minute."
"Nothing. I said I'll be out in a minute."
He turned the knob slowly and realized it wasn't locked. "Can I come in?"
"No!" she cried. "Chase, please. Don't come in here."
Every possible scenario crossed through his head, and he could think of only one thing that might have brought this sudden change in her mood. "You know, if you started your – um, your – you know, if it's that time of the month –"
"That's not it," Presley said just loud enough for him to hear through the door.
Chase took a deep breath and chanced Presley being even more upset – he opened the door. She was seated on the edge of the tub and tears were streaming down her cheeks. The shirt she was wearing was on the floor nearby; he still couldn't figure out what could have possibly upset her. He knelt down in front of her and wiped away her tears, begging her to tell him what was wrong.
"I wasn't serious about the shirt bugging me to where I couldn't sleep next to you. Is that what's wrong?" he asked.
Presley shook her head. "No. That's not it."
He sighed, feeling defeated. "You have to help me out here, darlin'. I'm at a loss."
"I shaved my legs," she shrugged. More tears came, but Chase still didn't understand.
"Okay. And I didn't notice?"
She shook her head again. "I shaved my legs because for the first time in over two months I wasn't worried about nicking the skin and bleeding to death. I shaved my legs because for the first time in over two years, I have a boyfriend who I love and who actually loves me back and who I want to – I want to be with. I shaved my legs because that's one of the things girls do when they want to really impress someone, but what does it matter if I shaved my legs or not when I'm all skin and bone?"
For the first time, Chase realized he had never seen Presley in less than shorts and a t-shirt. He'd noticed how petite her frame was and anytime he carried her, he was always concerned by how slight she felt. Because he'd never seen her anywhere near naked before, he hadn't realized what the weight loss had done to her.
He could count her ribs without touching them. Her hips protruded out under her skin and her abdomen was completely flat. The muscles on her arms and legs were minimal. She didn't look anorexic, but she didn't look healthy either. He was concerned for her health, which was the only way any of it mattered to Chase.
"Presley, look at me," he pleaded with her. "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever met. So you're tiny – it's not a big deal. I like that you're small. Plus, I'd never be able to piggy-back you anywhere if you weren't small."
That comment at least got a small laugh from her. "I've seen Lauren, remember? She's gorgeous. Her hair is so long and she's more filled out."
"I don't care about Lauren. I love you, and if you really need to know, she's not half as beautiful as you are. She doesn't have your breathtaking eyes or your completely kissable lips." He stopped here to emphasize his point with a chaste kiss to her mouth. "She doesn't have your smooth skin or your perfectly adorable features. Your hair is already much longer than when we met and I love it – and I don't recall ever having complained about the curves you've got." He made a quick glance down to her chest and then grinned up at her.
"You're crazy," she smiled, playfully pushing his shoulder. Chase smiled too and caught her chin in his hand.
"I'm crazy about you. I just want you to be healthy, and I don't care what weight that comes at, okay?"
Presley nodded. "Okay."
"Do you feel better?"
She looked uncertain but nodded again. Chase bit his bottom lip and then gave a decisive nod. He picked her up from the side of the tub and carried her back to bed. He laid her down on her side and then stripped down to his boxers and crawled in beside her.
"How about we just start sleeping like this, until you're comfortable with me?" he suggested.
"I am comfortable with you. I love you."
"And I love you, but that doesn't mean we're going to be completely comfortable with each other. That's okay. We don't have to rush into sleeping with each other just because we're in love. There are so many other things we can do."
Chase spooned up behind her and kissed her neck. "Like this. Just being here with each other."
"Do you ever get sick of rescuing me?" Presley sighed.
"Never," Chase replied. "Not one bit."
Thirty-six hours later, they found themselves in the New York airport. Presley's bag was checked and all they had to do was say goodbye.
"You could stay another couple of days, you know. I wouldn't mind and neither would Evan or Wyatt. Maybe we could get Kyla and Janie out here for the weekend," Chase suggested.
Presley smiled and hugged him. "You know I would love to, but we would both have to answer to my mother. I'm not quite sure that is how you want to meet her for the first time. Daddy, either."
"You're probably right about that." He kissed her forehead and sighed. "You should get through security before you miss your flight. Call me when you get to Jacksonville, okay?"
"I will. Be careful getting back."
"I will." He lowered his head so that he could kiss her; Presley got up on her tiptoes and smiled against his lips. "I love you, darlin'."
"I love you. I'll talk to you soon."
Chase watched her leave and felt his spirits drop a little. He knew there were going to be times that they wouldn't be able to be around each other but he also knew that those were going to be some of his least favorite days. Taking a deep breath, he fished his keys out of his pocket and made way back for the apartment.
Kennedy didn't let her sister get out so much as a 'hello' before she was asking for the dirt on what was new with Presley.
"Slow your roll," Presley smiled. "I will tell you everything when we get to the car."
"Fine. Let's get your bag and go then."
Thanks to Kennedy being in such a hurry, they were out of the airport and back in traffic fifteen minutes later. Presley fished her mobile phone from her bag and dialed Chase's number. Kennedy glared at her.
"Give me two minutes to let Chase know that I'm here and I will tell you everything," Presley promised. She frowned a little when the call forwarded to voicemail but left him a brief message. "Hey, it's me. I'm in Jacksonville, and Kennedy just picked me up. Call me later. I love you."
"Did you just tell him you love him?" Kennedy shrieked.
"You could let me end the call before you yell like that. Yes, I just told him that I love him. That's one of the things I wanted to tell you," she grinned. She recounted the entire story from when she arrived on Chase's birthday, to their walk in the park, and finally ended up with their non-sex evening.
"That is so cute," Kennedy cooed. "You guys are like that little high school couple that everyone just knows they will end up together and they get engaged on graduation day and just live this happy ever after life."
"You've been spending too much time around Mom. Anyway, we're just really happy right now. I didn't know it could be like this in a relationship. You know? I didn't know that a man existed that could just be okay with the fact that I have cancer – had cancer, I guess – and is there no matter what."
Kennedy reached over and squeezed Presley's hand. "That's how it happens though, Pres. When you least expect it. It's amazing to see you so happy."
"Thanks. Tell me about this baby stuff – are you guys stressing about it or what?"
"I think Cody is, a little bit. He was already a little anxious, and then when I started, he was really disappointed. He feels like if I don't get pregnant, it's his fault. The doctor sent home some brochures for him to read and I think he feels better about it now that he knows more of the details. It'll happen, I know it will."
"When you least expect it," Presley smiled.
The smell of pumpkin and spices was the first to assail Presley's senses when she walked into her parents' house. The next was her mother's perfume as the other woman appeared in the room and accosted her daughter into a hug.
"It's so good to see you!" Dorrie O'Brien told her daughter.
"You, too, Mama," Presley beamed. "How are you?'
"I'm doing all right. How are you, baby? You look amazing. Skinny, but amazing."
"I'm good. I feel great. I'm planning on your home cooking to help me put some weight on, so you'd better not disappoint."
"You know your mama wouldn't let you go back to Oklahoma without a few extra pounds," a deep voice boomed from the nearby doorway. Presley turned to see her father smiling at her and ran to hug him.
"Hi, Daddy!" She squealed as her father swept her up off the ground.
"Hey there, sugar. Good Lord, you're not kidding, Dorrie. This child can't weight more than eighty pounds."
"I do too. Kennedy, what do you have?"
"A piece of Mom's pumpkin pie," Kennedy answered with an evil smirk; she knew it was Presley's favorite of all the baked goods their mother made.
"Kennedy Maria, that pie is for your sister," Dorrie scolded. "You could have at least let her have the first piece."
"Don't worry; I'll eat the rest of it. Is there whipped cream?" Presley inquired, heading for the kitchen.
"Also homemade," Dorrie replied proudly. "Come on in here and I'll get you set up. Craig, will you go ahead over to the store so I can get started on supper soon?"
"Sure, honey. Where'd you put the list?"
She pointed him in the right direction and they shared a sweet kiss before he headed off for the store. Dorrie then fixed herself a piece of pie and sat at the table with her daughters.
"Is everyone coming over for supper tonight?" Presley asked.
"Don't torture her, Pres. You know she only asked Daddy to leave so she can talk to you about Chase," Kennedy said, giving Presley a pointed look.
"Can you blame me? You might as well have had ants in your pants waiting for whatever she had to tell you when you picked her up at the airport," Dorrie defended herself. "Come on though, Presley. Tell your mother everything."
Presley shrugged as she licked the whipped cream and pie off of her fork. "I used to look at you and Daddy when I was younger and when I was with Jonathan and wish I could find that kind of love. I don't have to wish anymore, Mama. Chase is just – he's wonderful. When I went to Tulsa, I never would have thought in a million years that I would find someone I was meant to be with but I did."
Dorrie sighed and smiled at her daughter. "So do I get to marry my last baby off soon?"
"Oh, come on. I've only known him for two months!"
"I know, but you just seem so in love. You know that my life holds no greater joy than my children and their weddings."
"If I promise not to wait as long as Kennedy to get married, do you promise not to pester me about it?" Presley asked.
"In my defense, I was barely seventeen when Cody and I started dating. There was absolutely nothing wrong with how long we dated before we got married," Kennedy scoffed.
"Except that it drove me nuts," Dorrie replied. "And yes, Presley. If you promise not to wait seven years before you get married, I will promise not pester you about it."
Presley answered the rest of her mother's and sister's questions for the next forty-five minutes until her father returned from the store. Dorrie turned her attention to supper and Kennedy went home to pick up Cody. Craig dragged her out to the front porch and asked all the fatherly questions about Chase – was he taking good care of her and did he really love her and when was he going to come meet the rest of the family. Presley answered all of the questions, except for the last. She had to explain Chase's vocation to her dad at that point. He laughed and puffed on his cigar.
"What's so funny?"
"Never would have pegged you for the type to get with some famous guy, sugar. That's all."
"I wouldn't have either. Maybe it's because that's not what Chase is to me. His music is amazing, and when he and his brothers get together and make music, it's absolutely incredible. Still, he's just Chase. I love him, Daddy."
Craig gave a small nod. "Just don't go eloping or anything like that."
"Between you and Mama, I think I'll be married before I know it. Chase and I have only known each other for two months. I don't think there will be a wedding anytime soon."
"That's fine, but I am just telling you now. I don't want to hear that you were on some exotic vacation in Mexico and have you come back with a different last name."
Presley kissed her father's cheek and promised not to elope. "I'm going to see if Mama needs any help with supper."
Hours later, Kennedy dropped Presley off at her beach house. Cody dragged her bag up the stairs and dropped it in her bedroom. Presley bid them good night and headed for the balcony to call Chase before she went to bed.
"Hey there," he greeted.
"Hi. Sorry I couldn't get back in touch with you before now. I just got back to Topsail from my parents' house."
"That's all right. Did you get my text message?"
"I did. That was probably better than calling – it was a busy house."
"I'm sure it was. Was everyone glad to see you?"
"Yeah, they were. Although, I think they were more interested in seeing me so I could be questioned about you as opposed to the fact that I'm in remission."
Chase laughed. "I wondered how that would go. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone else. Hopefully soon."
"Hopefully." Presley took a deep inhale of ocean air and shivered as a breeze tickled across her skin. "I know you've seen the ocean before and been to the beach and all, but I wish you could see it here. The general atmosphere just adds to how amazing it is."
"Not to mention the fact that we'd be there together," he teased.
"That too," she agreed with a yawn. "I need to get some sleep. Can I call you in the morning?"
"Of course. Night, darlin'."
Chase ended the call and smiled to himself. He closed his eyes and pictured Presley on her balcony, looking out at the ocean. Suddenly motivated, he got up and searched out his calendar. Presley made Carolina sound so inviting and peaceful; maybe it was time for him to find out for himself.
A/N: I was going to wait to post this, but I am anxious to hear what you all think about how this one wraps up! Please please please review -- I'm loving the feedback.
The sequel is entitled Every Day That Passes and I have four chapters done. Once I have the fifth chapter done, I will go ahead and start posting it on fp.
Thanks so much for reading and don't forget to review -- thank you. : )