Thursday, August 30, 2018

Update to The Consolation Prize

Hi ya'll—

Hope you're having a good week. In this chapter we get to meet Will's family—hope you enjoy. Look forward to hearing your thoughts! 

Chapter 13 

Table of Contents 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Update to Love Bites

This next chapter of Love Bites starts out with Jamie rushing to Brooke's rescue.  I sorta think those two should end up together... just saying...

Chapter 7

Table of Contents

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Update to The Consolation Prize

Hi everyone!

I hope you’re having a good week! 

I’m traveling and had to post this from my phone which proved to be a formatting nightmare. I apologize for the lack of order! As soon as I’m able to fix it from a computer I will. I knew getting the story posted was more important than making it look pretty, though, so I hope you guys enjoy! I also know this hasn’t been proofed like it should but still, I hope ya’ll will provide feedback. 

Have a great weekend. Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Chapter 12

Table of Contents

The Consolation Prize - Chapter 12

Will knew his mom worried about him. She worried about him a lot. His parents had taken his injury hard and his prognosis even harder.

There was a conversation they’d had when he’d been coming out of anesthesia after a complication had arisen from the initial fusing, a few days earlier, of the vertebrae he’d crushed. They’d thought that he was still so deeply asleep that he couldn’t hear them. He was still in the murky middle ground between sleep and waking, but he could hear them. And he’d never forget what he’d heard. 

He could remember the muffled crying, so soft and timid that in his drugged haze he thought it might have been a little girl. But then, she spoke. 

“My baby boy,” she had said over and over again, face pressed against his shoulder, her hand threaded with his. The IV tube slightly tangled like some grotesque snake between them. 

“Ari, stop,” his father’s voice had graveled over her hiccups. “For Christ’s sake pull yourself together.” His mom had let go of his hand suddenly and turned around to face her husband. He’d just come into the room and stood, statuesque, at a little over six feet. He was handsome in a gruff aged-wine way. Ari sniffled a little then nodded, wiping at the corners of her eyes. She brushed her thick black hair behind her ears and hugged herself. 

“John, it’s just so hard to see him like this,” she whispered, her voice as soft as tissue paper, as she risked a glance at Will’s shrunken pale form under the bloated blanket—lousy with hot air being pumped continuously to keep him stable.  

“To see him like this?” John snapped, keeping his voice low, but poisonous. He gestured to his son, the once strong man of his memories felt like a wisp of smoke. Then he thought of Pete, who was out in the lobby, and the man returned, alive, and full, and glowing. It opened up a chasm of ache in his chest. 

“He looks too fragile,” Ari said more to herself than to John. He kept his distance. Giving into his wife’s emotions felt dangerous—for both of them. She’d crumble if she was given an outlet. And him? He couldn’t risk even a crack. He’d never been good with these kinds of things and letting the situation’s painful truth wiggle inside of him would burn him from the inside out. 

“You think he looks fragile now?” he asked harshly. Ari turned to look at Will before fixing her gaze on her husband. Her cheeks were salty and wet, but she didn’t move to wipe them. Her hands were shaking too badly. “You remember what the doctor said.” He wasn’t asking a question. Will’s mom nodded once and scrunched her eyes closed. She didn’t want to think about it. “Imagine how fragile he’ll look when he’s in a wheelchair for the rest of his life?” John’s voice sounded cold even to him, but he had to protect himself.  Ari whimpered and shook her head. 

“He’s alive,” she murmured, clinging to anything she could. 

“He just got a life sentence,” he retorted, “he’s better off dead.” The words hung heavy as boulders between the couple, their crumpled crippled son between them, breathing steady. 

“You get out of this room,” a strong voice came. Will remembered, in his haze, thinking a third person had entered the room. A much more imposing woman than his petite mother. But she grew feet as she stood, her strength returning to her, coming from somewhere nebulous, unknown, and powerful. “Until you fix your attitude, you get the hell out of this room. This is our son, and he is alive.”

John stood still as a statue as he watched his wife in awe. She was stronger than he was. He’d always known it, but this was the moment he’d needed it most. 

<> 

His mom always called on Wednesdays when she presumed he was having lunch. Sometimes it was around 11:30. Some days it was more around 2:00. Will suspected it had everything to do with when she herself was sitting down to lunch. She didn’t call Pete as regularly.  


That particular Wednesday the call came in around 1:13. Emily was leaning over him, her honey blonde hair wafting vanilla, pointing to something on the deck he’d created for a presentation the next day. Her proximity was familiar and unwelcome. Will fidgeted in his chair and reached for his phone. 

“Ah,” he exhaled, “I should take this.” He leaned forward and unlocked his brakes, attempting to back up and away from her. 

“We’re in the middle of this,” she replied to the screen rather to him. Her brow was furrowed. Will bit his lower lip and took a deep breath. 

“It’s my mom. Promise it will be quick,” he said, then added, much to his own irritation, “she worries.” Why did he feel the need to add that he mom thought him incapable of living independently? Emily turned and studied him for a second. Will couldn’t read her expression and he didn’t like it. 

“Fine,” she conceded as Will took the call and wheeled away. His chest felt tight. Emily had been hot and cold lately. Today she was leaning heavily toward cold. Will knew without a shadow of a doubt that it had to do with Scottie. Even though Emily had been the one to end it all back in June, for the sake of her conscience and her husband of seven years, she’d maintained a presumption of ownership. Now that Will had a few months of perspective, he supposed that Emily, who did have a flair for the dramatic, had needed to let off a little steam to quell her moral misgivings, and take back a little control. Will had a hunch she didn’t mean for the breakup to stick. She hadn’t banked on Will meeting someone—someone wonderful—only a few days later. 

Will’s irritation was hard to hide some days, and that was probably why it was a good idea to never sleep with one’s boss. But what was done was done. Emily was married, apparently happily, and Will had Scottie. And as he thought of her—sitting cross legged on his bed this morning, doing an imitation of Chistopher Walken from Wedding Crashers in nothing but her bra and underwear—he smiled and loosened.

“Mom,” he answered, voice coming across solid and secure. 

“Darling, hi,” his mom’s voice was warm and comforting, despite his macho insistence that he didn’t need anyone to take care of him. 

“How are you?” 

“Well, how are you?” He could hear her chewing something quietly and he pictured her in a cream sweater and jeans—her uniform—leaning against the counter in their quaint blue and white kitchen. 

“I’m great. How’s Dad?” 

“Stubborn!” she laughed richly, her faded accent peeking it head out slightly. “He won’t let me buy a new TV for the family room but I’m sorry, I’m just going to have to do it behind his back then.” 

“I think that’s a good idea.” She started into another story—this one about the neighbor’s dog, Pepper. Will listened and commented where it made sense, but he wasn’t tracking. He was watching Emily from across the room. She seemed agitated and kept running her hands through her hair. She’d taken a phone call as well and had moved toward the kitchen. He rubbed absently at his thigh and readjusted his left foot on the footplate. 

“Mom, I actually can’t chat for long today. Big deadline coming up.” 

“You work too much,” she commented, clucking her tongue. 

“Do you say that to Pete?” Will snapped, immediately regretting his tone. 

“Of course, I do,” she replied after a few seconds, sounding wounded. 

“Sorry,” Will replied bitterly, hating himself a little bit. It was his mom after all. 

“Sweetie, it’s fine, I’m sorry too,” she whispered, and an understanding passed between them. She knew he sometimes felt babied, but like a knee jerk reaction, she couldn’t help herself, and he loved her for that. “Before you go though, I wanted to see what you were thinking for Thanksgiving.”

“Thanksgiving?” he asked. It was still a little more than a month away. 

“Yes,” she responded, back to her all-business tone.

“Now?”

“Well, I talked to Pete last night and he wants to bring Lise,” she continued cautiously, as if she weren’t sure what Will’s reaction would be. Will had still refrained from telling his mom about Scottie. It wasn’t that he didn’t want her to know about the woman who’d stolen his heart so completely, but he was nervous. He didn’t want his parents to get involved and then get hurt in all of this. They were too fragile when it came to him. Too brittle when it came to his future. His ability to live a so-called “normal” life. Would he ever get married? Would he be able to father children? He’d been with Scottie only a few months. It was still so new and fragile. 

“That’s so great!” Will replied earnest and enthusiastic. Wynn had been bringing her boyfriend for the past two years. Olivia didn’t have a boyfriend, but she was only 25. But Pete? Pete was Will’s able-bodied twin, and his mom navigated that particular snarl with the kind of caution you’d use on thin ice over a frozen lake. Will’s dad on the other hand handled it like a bull in a china shop, knocking over shelves, shattering flimsy confidence, and asking a smattering of humiliating questions with as much delicacy as a meat cleaver. 

“It is?” she asked, genuine and empathetic. 

“Yes, Lise is wonderful. It will be great to have her.” He could feel his mom exhale and smile through the phone. She was probably rubbing her temples with her left hand, trying to forget minefield she’d just successfully tap danced through. And Will was suddenly struck with an idea as he watched Emily eye him from across the room.

“Mom?” he asked, “I actually think I’m going to bring someone home too.” 

He swore he heard her cellphone clatter to the counter. 

¨        


Scottie was late. Very late. She’d been visiting her mom—who’d thrown her dinner tray directly at her head across the table. Scottie had spent the last half hour working sweet potatoes out of her hair in the nursing home bathroom. Will had texted her that it was no problem—and she was sure it was actually no problem. Will didn’t mince words, and it was a breath of fresh air. She’d learned quite a bit about Mr. Nash in the few months that they’d been dating since the beach, and one of those things was that he was incredibly laid back and incredibly candid. It was an inspiration to Scottie, who often found herself wound too tight to sleep and too marred in politeness to be honest. Still though, he’d been sitting at the restaurant for twenty minutes already, and she felt badly. 

Pushing through the front door of, she saw him waiting by the bar, fiddling with his phone. She came up behind him and leaned down, wrapping her arms around him from behind and kissing him on the cheek. 

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered in his ear, smelling the sweet potatoes she’d obviously missed in her hair. 

“You smell good,” he replied as he turned his chair to face her, a wide smile cracking his face in half. She laughed to herself and shook her head. 

“You’re terrible,” she teased. 

“You smell like Thanksgiving dinner,” he argued, “what’s wrong with that!” 

“Let them know I’m here,” she pressed, purposely ignoring his jests and he nodded, smirking as he wheeled toward the hostess who grabbed two menus, gave Will an odd once-over that Scottie had grown accustomed to, and led them to a table near the back. Will had a little bit of trouble maneuvering around some of the tighter tables, but like always, he handled it with grace when he bumped a woman’s purse. Scottie followed closely, reminding herself that he always asked if he needed help. Offering help—he’d told her a few weeks into their relationship—wasn’t necessary. She’d asked him to set ground rules and explain as much as possible. She knew this relationship would be slightly different, given Will’s paralysis, and she’d wanted to be respectful. She didn’t know how much he’d appreciated that. Everyone else Will had ever dated had assumed what he needed from them—Scottie had asked, and it made all the difference. 

The hostess asked Will if he needed the dining chair and he shook his head, opting instead to remain in his wheelchair. Sometimes he transferred out, if they were somewhere with a booth or if the table was the wrong height, but it was generally easier to just stay put. Plus, strangers were infamous for staring. Scottie had been stared at all her life. She was objectively beautiful and statuesque. Striking even. Ad she’d been affirmed many, many times by men and women alike, but she’d never experienced this kind of curious staring that seemed to follow them like a shadow. Will was a good sport about it, but like everyone, he had bad days, too. Scottie wasn’t above telling someone off, but Will, thus far, had prevented it. She heard him order some wine from the waitress—he knew what she liked—and felt him reach across the table and take her hand. Her chest fluttered just as it did when they first met. She turned to look at him and he smiled. 

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” she replied warmly, leaning forward. Will fidgeted a little, taking his hand back and shifting his weight which, Scottie had noticed, he’d done only a few seconds earlier. She was learning his cues, as they were spending almost all of their time together—both waking hours and non—and she could tell something was up.                

“You okay?” she asked slowly with a smirk. The waitress came back with a beer for him and a red for her. She reached for hers and took a small sip, her green eyes never wavering from his blue ones. He leaned back and ran his hands through his hair, squeezing the back of his neck.

“I uh,” he started, then stopped. Taking a deep breath. She cocked her head. “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” Scottie exhaled a nervous breath. There was this wild irrational part of her that thought he was going to tell her he loved her. Or that he wanted to marry her. She wanted both of those things—she’d never been so sure of anything—but she didn’t feel quite ready to face what that meant. It had only been a few months. A few wonderful months with the best person she knew. Every morning she had to remind herself that he was hers. But she wasn’t stable, and she knew it. She couldn’t saddle him with that baggage until she’d worked through it herself. It wasn’t fair. 

“I guess, Nora and Cory’s? Maybe my mom? I hadn’t thought about it too much,” she said the latter option sadly, depressed by the thought of having to spend the holiday in the drab dining hall with the stained curtains, then later having to wash not only sweet potatoes out of her hair, but gravy too.

“Oh,” he replied, his face falling slightly. “I was just going to say that I’d love for you to come home with me if, well you want to, or can, or whatever.” His nerves were frayed, and he felt like he couldn’t get quite enough air. 

“You want me to come home with you?” she asked, slightly incredulous. 

“Of course, I do,” Will replied, incredulous at her incredulity. 

“And meet your family?” she asked, tone not changing. Will laughed, his eyes widening. 

“Yes, of course!” Scottie’s heart sped up at the thought. Will had a family. A real, loving, living, breathing, non-drug addicted, whole family. 

“I,” she started then reached for her wine, taking a healthy sip. She felt the slight wobbliness in her legs from the drink and it helped. 

“Look,” Will interjected, “I understand if it’s too soon, I don’t mean to–“

“Yes,” Scottie interrupted. 
                  
“Yes, it’s too soon or?” 

“No, it’s not too soon. Yes, I’ll come. I’d love to come,” her voice was light and shaky, but she was so caught up in herself. Why was it so hard for her to believe that he wanted her to meet his family? 

“Look, you can say no,” Will offered earnestly, “I know it’s a lot and we’ll have to stay over a few nights, and our house isn’t much but—” His insecurity was intensifying like water boiling. 

“Will,” Scottie appealed, reaching of his fidgeting hand. She took it in hers and ran her thumb across his knuckles, adoring the feel of it. “I would love to come.” Will nodded once and took a swig of his beer, laughing nervously as he put it down. 

“Okay,” he said tentatively. Then, with more assurance, “okay.” 

“Okay,” Scottie mimicked to his growing grin. It was rising like bread dough. She was nervous, but her heart felt full. He wanted her. His family wanted to meet her. And she wagered that no one would throw a tray of sweet potatoes at her face, but that, she supposed, remained to be seen. 
                  

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Update to Love Bites

OMG, I almost forgot to post this!  I was getting ready for bed and it totally slipped my mind.  Sheesh!

Anyway, here is another exciting chapter of Love Bites:

Chapter 6

Table of Contents

And for those of you who are following Tom Blake's story, this is an extremely eventful update:

Tom, Part 3

Friday, August 17, 2018

Free Fridays short story: The Waterfall

Hey guys, hope you're having a chill summer! Here's a short(-ish) story I wrote while on vacation. It's technically in a fantasy setting, though I didn't do much worldbuilding. Let me know if you want to see more of these characters, and I might write some more chapters to continue their journey. 







Also, shoutout to Rowan for the idea of adding an illustration, I love your artwork :) So yeah, there's a larger, more NSFW version of the above drawing at the beginning of the story. Hope you guys enjoy!

Ps. I've been working on a longer story but I just lost two months of work. I'm still deciding if I want to rewrite all those chapters...

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Update to The Consolation Prize

Hi ya'll! 

I hope you're having a good week. Enjoy this week's chapter—excited to hear your thoughts. 

And just so you know, this isn't the last chapter even though it kind of seems like it could be at the end. Didn't want anyone to be upset! 

Chapter 11

Table of Contents 

The Consolation Prize — Chapter 11

Slipping into the cool water, Scottie drifted lazily over to Will. He was hanging off the left side of the pool, facing the ocean, a flimsy paperback cracked open in his hands. 

“Any good?” she asked, feeling flirtatious. Will smirked as she came into his peripheral vision. 

“Not good enough to keep reading if you’re here,” he teased, closing the book and tossing it over near his chair, which was still locked on the edge of the pool. 

“Why weren’t you here that summer I was?” Scottie asked Will as she half submerged her face in the water, blowing bubbles with her nose. 

“What summer was that?” Will replied, leaning forward on the pink noodle he’d commandeered from the pool shed. 

“Uhh,” she hesitated as she considered it, “I guess, about seven-ish years ago?” 

“I was still living at home,” he answered flatly. The memory used to have a searing effect on him, but it had lost some of its bite over time. Scottie studied his face carefully. “It wasn’t that long after I got hurt, so I was still…” he hedged, trying to pick his next word carefully. He settled on “adjusting.” Scottie nodded and floated closer to him. 

“I just wish I’d met you sooner,” she said softly, “that’s all.” Will felt the heat rise in his cheeks as he looked at the extraordinary, beautiful girl in front of him—so happy one minute and then seemingly so sad the next. He watched her push the pool water back and forth with her hands, fingers straight and locked together like paddles. His heart hitched, longing to give her some kind of comfort that he knew she probably didn’t need anymore. He wished he had met her earlier as well, perhaps, even before he was paralyzed. The mere foggy thought of walking hand in hand with her on the beach was as tempting as a batch of fresh cookies out of the oven—the visceral reaction to the melted chocolate and cooling dough fresh in his mind. 

“Nah,” he joked to hide his ache, “you wouldn’t have liked me then.” 

“Oh no?” she asked, practically simmering as she floated closer. “Maybe you wouldn’t have liked me.” 

“Impossible,” Will quipped. 

He drifted backwards and reached his hand out to her. She watched him curiously as he bumped gently against the wall, using his left hand to align his legs and feet with the bottom of the pool. Exploiting the generous boost from the water and the support of the wall behind him, he slowly rose to his full height, leaning his elbow back on the stone to keep steady. Scottie’s face flew open—eyes wide, mouth in awe, smile broad—as she stepped toward him boldly. He took her in his strong arms and kissed her hard, allowing her to slip her arms around his neck. Will ran his hands down her back and Scottie bucked against him. They existed in that equilibrium, completely enveloped in each other, losing themselves, blurring the lines. 

Finally, they surfaced when Will’s foot slipped, and he tilted to the right, sliding down into the water up to his shoulders. Scottie chuckled and let herself slide with him, settling into the nest she’d made for her face in the hollow of his neck. He kissed the top of her head, savoring the slight saltiness from her wet hair on his lips. His chest felt tight and light at the same time. He was so incredibly happy—the hot sun beating down on the back of his neck, and the cool water around him, and Scottie—her warm body leaning, fitting seamlessly with his. 

He didn’t want to talk about sex, but he felt like he owed it to her, before she got in too deep. He knew things were still new, but it felt like they were taking the express lane. He wanted his cards on the table. 

He cleared his throat nervously and used his arm to propel them to the shallow end of the pool. Scottie pushed them along with strong legs, and soon enough Will was situated on the second step with Scottie sitting between his legs on the third. She ran her hands down his calves and wrapped her arms around them as they swayed slightly with mild current coming from the jets nearby. She leaned her head on his left thigh and gently kissed a spot on the side of his knee. He swallowed hard, choked by the desire to feel her there, but in awe of what she was doing to him. 

Turning to look up at him, she was struck by his expression. He seemed to be lodged somewhere between mild embarrassment and admiration. Whether both were directed at her, she wasn’t sure. 

“What?” she asked quietly. He shook his head and swallowed again. She smirked and stood to kiss him on the lips. He took her in his arms again and savored the fullness of her mouth on his. Pulling away he shook his head lightly and smiled. 

“What?” she asked again, crouching back down in the water and looking up at him curiously. 

“Just,” he started, finding his word bank conspicuously empty. “You.” She smirked and playfully splashed him. 

“Right back at you handsome,” she teased. Will gave her a tight smile and looked down at his hands. Taking a deep breath, he steeled himself for a bit of reality. 

“I can have sex, just so you know,” he sputtered awkwardly, refusing to look at her. 

“I know that,” she said flatly, refusing the hedge on the subject. “I did some research.” He laughed at her directness. 

“Direct, good. To the point.” he laughed, feeling a bit less strained. She was thinking about it enough to find out more about it. He also cringed a bit at all the stuff out there on sex after paralysis. It wasn’t always pretty. He felt the heat rising in his face, despite the ease he felt at her matter-of fact tone. Starkly contradictory feelings. “You know it will be different with me,” Will added apprehensively. 
“It’s different with everyone, Will,” she replied softly, taking his hand in hers and running her smooth thumb over his knuckles. It was a nice thing to say, but it didn’t make it any easier for Will to explain what he needed to explain to her. 

“Being a paraplegic doesn’t really lend itself to spontaneity,” Will continued. 

“I don’t like spontaneity,” she said half-jokingly, but he could see when she looked up at him, her luminous eyes were serious. She meant it. She’d had enough impulsiveness to last a lifetime. What she needed now was stability and consistency. 

“I’m not sure I’ve told you this, but I’m a T-12 complete. It’s where I broke my back,” Will said, his voice wavering. “It was a car accident. I was driving. Sober, but I fell asleep at the wheel. We careened off the side of a hill and rolled a bunch of times. Cory was there. So was Kristin. They weren’t hurt badly thank god. I would never have forgiven myself if something like this had happened to them.” 

Scottie’s throat felt tight at the thought of how much guilt Will had imposed upon himself for something that could have happened to anyone. Will remembered the boy before that night, wistfully and ruefully—young and lost and dumb and free. Scottie nodded quietly and moved closer to him. 

“A terrible accident,” she whispered. 

“Terrible,” he agreed. “But they weren’t hurt. And I’m alive.” 

“You’re alive,” she replied with a slight smile that warmed him for a fleeting moment before the chilly doubt clutched at his lungs and heart. He wasn’t quite done yet. 

“Well, I have no feeling or voluntary movement below the level of my injury,” he said flatly. “I can get an erection if I take something and with stimulation, but I have trouble keeping it. Unfortunately, its just, how things are.” 

“The perks of paralysis,” Scottie kidded. Will chanced a glance up at her face at it was completely void of judgement or disgust. Just warmth and respect. 

“Exactly,” he agreed a bit sadly. He didn’t want to saddle her with this kind of baggage. It felt unfair and selfish of him. He looked down at his lap again, the loss punching him in the gut like it did from time to time, but he felt, against his rationale, a flicker of hope. “It won’t be like other guys.” 

Before he knew what was happening, she leaned over to kiss him with such urgency that his trepidation evaporated. He ran his hands through her hair, letting his tongue properly explore her mouth. She was down his back, pulling herself toward him and up onto his lap. He wrapped his arms around her, the muscles taut against her slim frame. After a few minutes she pulled back, breathing heavily and pressing her forehead to his, her peppery salty scent intoxicating and lingering. After a minute, she whispered huskily, “I don’t want other guys, Will.” 

And she didn’t. 


<>


Will ended up in the ocean. It wasn’t what he intended, nor expected, but when Pete appeared pool side with a wild grin on his face, Will knew that it would be where they were heading. 

“What’s your preference little brother?” he goaded, leaping into the deep end and surfacing almost in front of where Will and Scottie sat on the edge of the shallow end. Will groaned playfully. 

“Fireman carry it is then,” Pete teased, standing up and making his way toward the steps, water dripping down his muscular tanned chest. Will put his hands up and stopped him. Pete turned to Will curiously, his blue eyes dancing. 

“Piggyback,” Will replied exasperatedly, “if I have no choice.” 

“What do you think, Scottie?” Pete asked her, cocking his head slightly in amusement. “Does our boy here have a choice?” She chuckled and shook her head. 

“I suppose you can’t come to the beach and not go in the ocean, at least once,” she replied smartly. Will turned to her in counterfeit incredulity. 

“Unbelievable,” he mumbled through a grin that was fighting its way through his grumpy fa├žade. He was feeling so light that he almost felt as if he could float to the ocean. But before he knew it, he had his arms wrapped around his brother’s neck as Pete hoisted him up off the side of the pool and up the steps. Scottie grabbed the pink noodle and tumbled behind them as Pete careened down the sand dune toward the group. The beach was almost empty as the 5pm sun warmed his back. Will thought that Pete would plop him down on a towel with everyone else, but he carried on, picking up the pace as the sand became firmer. 

“Pete!” Cory’s voice floated toward them but was wholly swallowed by the sound of the tide crashing on the shore. The brothers hit the water with a flourish as a wave crashed, taking Pete’s feet out from under him. Cold salt water rushed over them, and Will pulled himself to the surface laughing so hard that he swallowed more water than he would have liked. Sputtering and rubbing his eyes, he looked up at Pete as he stood, precariously, and shook his hair out of his eyes. 

“Fuck,” Pete shouted joyously. Will floated on his back, staring up at the cloudless blue sky. Scottie dove into an upcoming wave with grace, and kicked her way over to Will, buoying herself with the noodle. 

“Need a boost?” she asked offering it to him as Will bobbed up and down with the swell. He could only smile as he took it, pulling her closer to him in the process. The water was refreshing and wonderful, the sun hot and bright, and the day still felt young and full of promise. Scottie smelled salty and fresh as he kissed her cheek. Pete slapped him on the back and slid down to Will’s level, the three of them facing the waves from the same vantage point. 

Will suddenly found that he didn’t hate the beach as much as he had initially thought. 


<>

Scottie was fairly sure she was in trouble. No, she was definitely sure. Had she completely fallen for Will Nash? In a matter of what? Mere days? She had never been this kind of romantic putty. 

But here she was, as she watched him talking spiritedly to Lise as she approached the fire pit, she felt this warmth rise in her chest and butterflies erupt out of nothing in her stomach. She didn’t want to not be with him for one second longer. Sitting down next to him she handed them both marshmallows on sticks. 

“Oh, how did you know that S’mores are my weakness?” Lise cooed. Will laughed at the unbridled enthusiasm in her dark eyes. 

“Pete did mention you had a bit of a sweet tooth,” Scottie replied, popping a piece of chocolate in her mouth. 

“A little bit is an understatement,” she countered, leaning closer to the fire to roast her marshmallow. 

“Not a fan of melting the chocolate?” Will asked Scottie, twirling his own marshmallow stick between his fingers as he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs, and turning to look at her—and only her. Her face glowed something fantastic in the light of the flames, and as she smiled he swallowed hard. He was utterly, completely, totally smitten. What this girl did to him was absolutely out of this world. 

“It’s all a bit…” she started, the hesitated, thinking. “Messy.” 

"Isn’t that part of the fun?” he asked. 

“I suppose,” she laughed delicately, “but then you have chocolate all over your fingers, and the marshmallows are never quite roasted all the way.” Will nodded in agreement. 

“If you’re going to roast them, you’ve got to burn them,” he stated solemnly. 

“Absolutely.” 

“Lise gets it,” he said, gesturing to her marshmallow, now black with fire. She giggled and pulled it toward her, blowing out the flame. 

“That was an accident,” she sighed heavily. “Oh well.” 

“Here,” Scottie intercepted, handing her another stick with a marshmallow on it. 

“I’ll take the burnt one,” Will offered, reaching to trade with Lise. She took the new one willingly and stood up to get closer, using the kind of care you’d use when picking up a newborn. Scottie snickered. 

“The reverence over there,” Will joked and nodded his head toward Pete’s girlfriend. Scottie shook her head. They could hear the others coming out of the house with cocktails, their voices lazy with the satisfaction of a summer day well spent. 

“It’s unbelievable,” Scottie whispered as Will’s face lit up as he laughed with her. 

“Bite?” he offered, holding the blackened husk out to her. Scottie took a small nip of the burned part. 

“Mmmm,” she sang as she chewed. 

“Go big or go home,” Will replied as he tipped the burned marshmallow back into the fire. 

“You have to be willing to jump right in, you know?” she said suggestively. Will looked up from the marshmallow, her green eyes yellowing in the odd light. The marshmallow, now wicked with flames again, was utterly forgotten. 

“I’m willing to jump right it,” he said slowly, his tone even and serious. 

“Oh?” she questioned, popping another piece of chocolate in her mouth and pursing her lips as she sucked on it. 

“I am,” he reassured her. 

“I am, too,” she answered after a moment. They couldn’t take their eyes off each other. The sound of the crickets in the tall grass was like a symphony, building to crescendo. 

“Have dinner with me,” he stated. 

“I just did,” she countered sardonically, referring to the steaks they’d grilled and the corn they’d roasted on the deck only an hour earlier, the night thick with laughter and affection. Everyone was in the kind of mood you wished you could hold onto. 

“Just me,” he pushed. “Have dinner with just me, after we get back to the city, tomorrow night.” 

“Mr. Nash, are you asking me on a proper date?” she asked slowly, cocking her head and twisting a curl between her fingers. 

“I hardly think sharing a twin bed for a night qualifies.” 

“What about driving from Manhattan to the shore?” She pressed friskily. Will shrugged nonchalantly and smiled. 

“Foreplay,” he teased. 

“And you meeting my mother?” 

“Happenstance,” he replied lightly. Scottie smiled and blushed suddenly and completely. Looking down at her feet and running her hand through her hair she closed her eyes for a second and took a deep breath. 

“Fine then, Mr. Nash,” she agreed doggedly. 

“You’re in?” he asked, leaning closer. 

“I’m very in,” she responded with ardor. 

“Can I kiss you?” he questioned, his breath warm on her face. She scooted closer to him and placed both of her hands in his. His brakes weren’t locked, so he rolled toward her as she pulled, their knees brushing. Even though he couldn’t feel it, just seeing them touch like that sent a jolt through him.  She didn’t have time to say yes as he pressed his lips on hers and she leaned, jumping fully, and completely in. 

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Cory’s voice cut in like a sharp blade, as Will pulled back slightly. Lise was clapping like she was watching the best thing she’d ever goddamn seen. Max punched Scottie in the arm playfully.

“I knew you had it in you, kid,” he joked as he took the seat next to her and handing her a gin and tonic. She took it with shaking hands, and risked a sip. Passing it to Will, she crossed her arms and smirked. 

“So are you guys like, a thing or something?” Nora asked, eyes boring into Scottie. Will relished that Nora wouldn’t look at him. He laughed as he took a sip of the drink, the bitter liquid exceptional after the warmth of her kiss. 

“What do you think, Will?” Scottie asked before Will could respond. She turned to look at him, eyes dancing, the confidence in her voice almost toxic. 

“I’d say we’re a thing,” Will replied boldly to Scottie only, feeling smug as Cory gaped at him openly for a split second before he tried to rearrange his face to hide his doubt. 

“We’re definitely a thing,” Scottie answered, turning back to Nora. 

“Oh,” Nora replied thinly. “That’s so great and unexpected.” Her voice strained against its high decibel. 

“Yeah I never would have seen this coming,” Cory added, trying to sound light but coming across as rude. Scottie noticed his hands were clenching and unclenching at his sides. 

“I for one think you guys make a great couple,” Max announced, raising his glass. Scottie was sure he’d picked up on the tension between Cory and Will and the astonishment dripping off of Nora, but in typical Max fashion, he forged ahead, smoothing the seams and stepping over the cracks. He was a peacekeeper through and through. 

“To Scottie and Will,” Pete chimed, unaware that he was recreating the twinkling moment before Cory and Nora’s wedding, when Scottie and Will had first met. Will felt the heat rise in his face and everyone, albeit some less enthusiastically than others, toasted the two of them. 

He never would have guessed that the woman he watched roll out of a cab barefoot and ragged through the window at Wave Hill would be reaching for his hand in the firelight only a few weeks later. Will felt, for the first time since Scottie met his twin, like he wasn’t the consolation prize. He was exactly what she wanted. 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Update to Love Bites

I'm back with another terrifying chapter of Love Bites.....

Chapter 5

Table of Contents

And for those of you who are following Tom Blake's story in 1905, I've updated it in the TOC... but Part 2 is here:

Tom, Part 2

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Update to the Consolation Prize

Hi everyone! 

I think you'll really like this week's chapter—we get more Scottie and Will alone time.

And just a note, I’m traveling this week and had to post this using my phone—wasn’t able to do a final proof. I apologize if there seem to be more minor typos/kinks than usual.

Enjoy! Can’t wait to hear what ya’ll think.  

Chapter 10

Table of Contents 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Update to Love Bites

Thanks so much for your feedback last week!  I'm glad you're still reading and enjoying this story.  In this chapter, Brooke goes out on a date with Hunter.... but will it put her life in danger?  I got lazy and didn't make a TOC yet, but here is:

Chapter 4

Entire story

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Consolation Prize - Chapter 10

Easing the door open into the cool dark, Scottie saw two large shapes in front of her—two sets of bunk beds. Will’s breathing was low and even, like a metronome, and Scottie was mesmerized by the rise and fall of his chest. His chair was up against the side of the bed and it looked so odd empty. One of his arms was under his pillow and the other was lying across the bed. She was struck with a potent urge to just crawl into bed with him and curl up, nestling herself in the crook of his arm. He was wearing grey sweats and socks, lying on his side with the covers nudged off and a pillow wedged between his knees. He shifted slightly then let out a loud snore. Scottie laughed to herself, stumbling a bit over to her bag. 

She unzipped it as quietly as she could and undid her jeans with her other hand, slipping them and her underwear off and pulling an oversized t-shirt over her head and a pair of Calvin Klein underwear up her legs. She quickly splashed cold water on her face in the bathroom and ran a toothbrush over her teeth. She felt confident getting into the other bottom bunk, resisting the urge to join Will, but she shouldn’t have. BAM. 

“Jesus, fuck,” she yell-whispered, rubbing the spot where she had smacked her forehead on the base of the bottom bunk. “Fuckkk,” she whistled quietly. Will stirred and, lifting his head off the pillow, he half turned to look at her. She gave him a single wave and a pinched smile and wondered absently if her subconscious did that on purpose.

“Hi,” he said, sleep hanging on his eyelids. 

“Hi,” she said back.

“You okay?” he asked softly. She nodded, feeling shy all of a sudden. 

They looked at each other, the silence full of so much and Scottie felt a twinge in her chest. Will propped himself up on his elbows, twisting toward her, without breaking her gaze. The room was quiet and dark, with moonlight and a cool breeze streaming in through the open window. Scottie made it to him in two steps and he pulled her down onto the bed urgently, tucking her hair behind her ears before pressing his lips onto hers. Scottie’s body buckled as she reciprocated, biting his lower lip, as she gracefully kneed him hard in the thigh while trying to straddle him. 

“Fuck, sorry” she said, laughing under her breath, pulling away from him for a painful second. 

“For what?” he asked, pressing his forehead to hers. 

“I just like, rammed my knee into your thigh.” She shook her head, but he shrugged, tenderly tracing the side of her face with the coarse pad of his thumb. 

“Perks of being paralyzed,” he murmured, and Scottie laughed hoarsely as he kissed her again, more insistently this time, hungrier. She returned voraciously, arching her back and once again, attempting to straddle him. That second attempt was slightly more graceful, and she was successful. He slipped the t-shirt over her head and repositioned himself underneath her, pausing to run his eyes over her. Will felt his breathing quicken as she looked down at him. She was so beautiful framed against the dark, all hooded eyes and taut skin. He wished he could flip her over and fuck her the way he knew she wanted to be fucked, but instead he just laid there resenting his dead legs. She leaned down, her hair brushing his shoulders and nibbled at his neck, thrusting him back into the moment. 

His hands were on her breasts, working her nipples between his fingers. She exhaled as his breath grazed her neck and her skin tingled hot as he ran his tongue down to her collar bone. Pulling his shirt over his head, she laid both of her hands flat against his incredibly muscular chest. She ran them over his strong shoulders and down his hard back, brushing the knotted scar that ran down the middle of his back, wanting to touch every inch of him. He pulled her closer, so they were pressed against each other, skin on skin, his hands threading through her tangled mess of hair. She felt utterly open and it was so foreign it threatened to take the breath out of her lungs. 

Without warning she pulled away and sat back on her heels, concentrating on her breathing. Will’s heart plummeted. Had she changed her mind?

“What’s wrong?” he asked, hearing the desperation in his voice and hating the way it sounded, reaching for her hand. Scottie squeezed his back, running her thumb along his callused palm. 

“Just, I’m, I’m overwhelmed,” she managed to say. He smiled gently and ran the thumb of his other hand down the outside of her shoulder, letting the relief envelope him—so pure and invigorating that it felt like a bump of cocaine, a relic of his early 20’s. Goosebumps prickled their way down her arms. 

“Come here,” he said quietly, scooting over just enough so she could fit right where she’d wanted to when she walked in. Laying down next to him, he wrapped his arms around her from behind, kissing the back of her neck. 

“Sorry about my hair,” she said offhandedly. 

“I love your hair,” he muttered, running a hand through it again. Scottie exhaled, letting herself unwind and bleed into him. His hand slid into her underwear and she trembled at his rough skin as he slipped a finger inside of her. She gasped, heart ramming against her chest, as he kissed her shoulder and moved against her. They fell into a rhythm, Scottie’s body pressing against his, her hand wrapped around his back, pulling him with her as she writhed at his touch. A fine line of sweat ran down her spine as her mind went gloriously blank, warmth rushing through her like wildfire. Will held her snugger against him as she gasped lightly in his ear. He bit her playfully as she shuddered, caving into him. He kissed her cheek and Scottie rolled over to face him, their noses almost touching. 

“Hi,” he whispered. 

“Hi,” she whispered back. Her cheeks were flushed pink and her eyes were shimmering as Will cupped her face. 

“This is the room for the grandkids, Scottie,” he teased, playing scandalized by her suggestive tone. 

“Those poor grand kids,” she said, kissing him tenderly at first, then more urgently. He ran his hand through her hair again, enfolding her in his arms, pulling her closer. She followed because she couldn’t get enough. 

Her feet were hanging way off the bed, and oddly, it didn’t bother her at all.  


<>

The next morning came too soon, rushing up to meet them with haste. Scottie felt Will stirring against her, his skin warm on her bare back. He kissed her on the shoulder and tucked her hair behind her ear, so he could reach her cheek, too. Sun streamed through the half-closed curtains and the cyclical crashing of the waves played through the open window. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. She closed her eyes again, trying to file this moment away to revisit later. She felt utterly at peace, like she was in the right place—between talking with Max and stumbling into bed with Will—and she hadn’t felt that way in longer than she could remember. 

Will shifted himself into a sitting position and looked down at Scottie. Her hair was spread across the pillow, thick curls brushing her olive skin, the sun illuminated the dappling of freckles over her nose. She was so beautiful that he could barely believe she was sharing a twin bottom bunk bed with him. He was still stunned that she’d climbed in last night. 
Rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands and stretching his arms against the bottom of the top bunk, he confirmed that it wasn’t a dream. Shifting his weight, he pulled his chair as close as he could to the side of the bed and adjusted the angle. He expertly transferred his butt onto the seat with practiced ease, pulling his legs out from under the covers and dropping them onto the footplate a little bit crooked. It didn’t matter since he was about to shower, but he’d never leave them like that. It bothered him to no end. And it bothered him that it bothered him so much. He knew it had to do with maintaining a little bit of control over a part of him that he no longer had any. He sighed as Scottie stirred, rolling over and snatching his wrist. Her slender fingers warm on his skin. 

“Hi,” she whispered, a smile emerging through sleep. She blinked a couple of times and gave a slight yawn. 

“Hi,” he said softly, wanting to lean over to kiss her, but the bed was too low for him to pull it off without transferring back. He had a feeling she was about to slip back into the folds of sleep anyway.

“Early riser, huh?” she asked, voice thick. He nodded. He was. He always had been. His internal clock ran a tight ship. She smiled and rolled her eyes. 

“I’ll see you in a few hours then,” she said. Will kissed her hand and let her roll back over, feeling a slight pang in his chest as he made his way to the bathroom. He had this fear that had lodged itself in deep in his mind that she would wake up and change her mind about him. She made him self-conscious, and it was only partly her fault. She did have an inexplicable hold on him. He’d spent the better part of the last eight years, veritably fucking around—he never pushed for anything serious. It was his own insecurity about his body that still lingered, even after a so many years of being this version of himself. He didn’t understand why she would be interested in him—especially when he had a literal clone of him walking—ahem—walking, around.

 He knew he was attractive. He’d never had trouble with women before, but there was always a moment when they saw the reality of his paralysis. Even Emily. He cringed remembering the first time she saw him completely naked, his legs too thin for the rest of his body. She didn’t say anything. She knelt down in front of him and kissed him fully, unafraid to touch the paralyzed part of him. But he noticed the flicker in her eyes, the nanosecond of hesitation, the micro expression of pain. Though she grew more comfortable with him, he never forgot that moment, that raw heat of wanting to hide himself and his atrophied legs, despite the passive range of motion he did daily and the special bike he’d bought to get his legs moving a few years ago. The diffidence wedged itself under his skin. He knew Emily would never leave Steve for him, and he wondered, rather, masochistically, how much had to do with the desire not to saddle herself with him for the rest of her life. 

Katie had been his first since getting hurt, and he’d seen the shock in her eyes when she’d walked in on him in the bathroom, in the middle of sticking a catheter into his dick. She’d flinched, her face going icy, skin white as a sheet. 

“It doesn’t hurt, if that’s what you’re worried about,” he’d said, knowing full well that it wasn’t what she was worried about at all. 

And then there was Kristin. He felt a need to prove her wrong. He was still a whole man. But, as he pulled out his travel shower chair, which was really just a bench he laid over the sides of the tub, he felt like the vulnerable kid she’d ripped in two. Will bit his lip at the memory. The pain physically cut through him and took his breath away. Leaning over, with his face in his hands, he concentrated on breathing. 

“Let it go,” he said, realizing he’d said it out loud instead of in his head. “Fuck,” he continued out loud. Why not? 

Lifting himself up with his right arm, he shimmied his sweats down his hips and legs with his left, tossing the clothes onto the floor even though they would be annoying to pick up later. He turned the shower head on and hot water pounded the bathtub as he hoisted himself out of his chair and onto the bench, lifting each of his legs over the side of the tub individually and dropping them with an unceremonious thump. He put two folded towels on his chair—one to sit on, and the other to dry himself off—and pulled the circus themed curtain closed. This was the grandkid’s room after all. He felt like the cartoon lion, roaring in its cage, that was repeated in a horizontal line all the way across about a hundred times. The steam filled his lungs as he rubbed shampoo through his hair letting out an exhale that he felt like he’d been holding in for weeks. 

Kristin had told him she couldn’t be with half a man, and that had haunted him. She’d gone through the motions when he was in the hospital. She could barely look at him, recoiled when she touched any paralyzed part of him. He’d held on because he’d been desperate, unable to care for himself, giving into the quicksand surrounding him. He lied to himself, because some truths were better left untold. Who could ever love him? For months after, that was the first thing he thought when he woke up every morning. 
He’d thought he would marry her. He thought she’d stay by his side, but he’d been so terribly wrong. Perhaps that was what most upset him—the fact that he thought he knew her. But then, the other side of him understood why she did what she did. He didn’t think he would walk away from her had things been reversed, but how could he be so sure? He had no choice but to adapt to his new life, but she did. She had a choice. He didn’t want her to go almost as much as he didn’t want to saddle her with the burden he had become. 

His heart ached when he thought of her sobbing at the foot of his bed. Breaking up might not have been what either of them wanted in an ideal world, but they weren’t living in an ideal world—it might have been what both of them needed. Will had been too caught up in self-pity to understand the magnitude of what he had been asking of her.
And seeing her again? Hearing her wrenching apology over the phone? A wound he thought had healed was sliced open, hot and bleeding. 

“Let. It. Go,” He said, punctuating every word, slamming his fist against the shower wall. He took three deep breaths and closed his eyes, beseeching himself to stop pacing the dusty floorboards of his painful recollections. Resting his forehead on his fists and his elbows on his legs, he made himself feel the present, emerge himself in it, as the water beat down on his back, numbing hot. He felt his muscles unclench just slightly. It was an almost undetectable beginning, a whispering, of release. 

Scottie was lying in bed—his bed. He wanted to emerge from the bathroom and situate himself back where he was confident in all parts of himself, not just his disability. So, what if he was paralyzed? So, what? It didn’t mean he couldn’t live exactly how he wanted to live. It didn’t mean he couldn’t be with exactly who he wanted to be with. He decided, right then and there, that if she gave him the chance, he wouldn’t hesitate. He wouldn’t apologize—not for a second.


<>

“You’re being a stubborn asshole,” Pete growled, tossing a piece of fresh cut pineapple in his mouth. Will didn’t say anything. He didn’t care that he was being stubborn. 

“Pancakes,” Nora sang as she flitted onto the patio with a large platter of steaming pancakes and a bottle of real Vermont maple syrup under her arm. 

“And bacon,” yawned Scottie, appearing behind Nora with a bowl of bacon. She was wearing an oversized grey t-shirt that Will recognized as his. He couldn’t help but smile to himself. Scottie caught the tail end of it and gave him a meaningful look. 

“Why’s the bacon in a bowl, darling?” Max asked, looking up from his New York Times crossword, his glasses sliding down the slope of his large nose. 

“Bowl bacon is the best way to serve bacon,” Scottie replied casually, reaching for a piece on top and popping it in her mouth. 

“The grease has somewhere to pool all together,” Will interjected, leaning back in his wheelchair. 

“Excellent dipping sauce,” Scottie chimed. 

“Excellent,” Will finished. Max looked from Scottie to Will and back to Scottie before looking back down at his paper, pen poised over 42 across, with a smug smile spreading across his face. No one else seemed to notice the exchange. 

“Shut up you git,” Scottie whispered as she tossed herself into the chair next to Max, nudging him in the shoulder and chewing another piece of bacon absently. Max snickered and shook his head at the paper.  

“Sixteen across a real tickler, Max?” Cory asked. 

“Something like that,” he replied, folding the paper and pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. Nora sat down and pulled a plate toward her, loading it with eggs and fruit. 

“So, what’s Will being a stubborn asshole about this time?” she asked as she speared a strawberry with a bit more force than was necessary. Will visibly rolled his eyes. 

“I don’t—” Will started. 

“He doesn’t want to go down to the beach with us,” Pete interrupted. Their voices sounding eerily similar when they both spoke at the exact same time. Scottie saw Will close his eyes for a second and take a deep breath. Nora eyed Will for a second and scowled. 

“I mean, if he doesn’t want to have fun with us, then don’t force him,” she quipped. 


“It’s not—” Will started but then stopped, resigned to being ganged up on. 

“Scottie will stay up here with you,” Max said lightly. 

"Yeah, she hates the beach,” Edwin continued. Pete laughed and shook his head.

“Who hates the beach!?” he practically shouted, throwing his hands up in the air. Scottie raised her hand guiltily. Pete cocked his head and raised his eyebrows, clearly expecting an explanation. Scottie sighed and laughed. 

"I don’t hate the beach,” she protested weakly. 

“Bullshit,” Max cut in swiftly. She turned and stuck her tongue out at him.  

“Fine,” she said after a minute, “I don’t love the beach. My family went to the Cape one summer and well, it wasn’t a good trip. It was my first time at the beach, I was 14 or something. And I just can’t get the association out of my head.” Her mom was too high to leave their motel room and Sara and Scottie had tried to go without her. They found their way, but it had been cloudy and humid, and Sara got knocked over by a wave, swallowing a mouthful of seawater. Scottie had to hold her hair back while she puked it all up. Then they got locked out of their room and had to sit under the roof overhang in the pouring rain until their mom stumbled out at 3AM to get ice. 


“I didn’t know that,” Nora said, perking up a bit, “you never talk about your family.” 

"Yeah well,” Scottie shrugged evasively, slightly irritated with herself for revealing too much. “I also don’t like sand or seaweed. I’d much rather swim in that beautiful pool over there.” She gestured across the tall grass to a brand-new pool that had to have been a recent installation. 


“Hey, pool is officially open,” Miles said as he chewed on the inside of his cheek. “It does look pretty inviting.” 

“You all are insane,” Pete argued incredulously. “Look at the ocean. Look at it! It’s right goddamn there. Pools are for pussys.” 

“I suppose I’m a pussy then,” Will begrudged. His dislike for the beach wasn’t inherent. It had blossomed over the last eight years as he was relegated to giving up his independence since it didn’t mesh well with sand. He was either stuck on a towel next to someone he wasn’t keen on talking with or scooting his butt across down to the water’s edge only to be stuck bobbing on the surface as everyone waded feet above him. 

“Come on little bro,” Pete pressed, “I’ll give you a piggy back ride down there.” Will furrowed his brow in skepticism, his mood curdling a bit in the warmth of the day. He didn’t have the energy to explain that he’d rather avoid the indignity of having to be carried down the steps and across the sand.

“Hard pass on that one little bro,” he replied sardonically, but he was smiling. Scottie’s gazed bounced back and forth between the two brothers like she was watching a ping pong match. She felt that familiar ache of missing her sister. Missing the girl that hadn’t surfaced in the years since she started using. Swallowing hard she reached for another piece of bacon, but when she took a bite it tasted all wrong. Quietly she put it down on her plate and wrung her hands in her lap. She was feeling anxious and couldn’t really hear the conversation happening around her. 

“Look,” she heard Will say, “I’m going to start at the pool and we can see where the day takes us, okay?” Pete murmured “the fuck we will,” then “ow” as Lise hit him upside the head. 

“He just wants to spend time with you, Will,” she offered helplessly, “and he refuses to outright say it.” Pete shook his head as Will chuckled. 

“See?” Pete said, “I don’t even say anything to this one and she can read my goddamn mind.” Scottie glanced sideways at Will and he slid his hand on her knee. 

“I know the feeling,” Will assured him, squeezing her knee. She immediately felt some of the anxiety she’d been stock piling slip away.

“Anyone know a seven-letter word for sacrifice?” Max asked absently, eyeing the crossword he’d opened back open over his food. 

“Mangia,” Miles argued, smacking the paper out of the way of his plate and pointing to the bacon. Max never ate enough. 

“No that won’t do it,” Max said smugly, looking up at the group. Nora shrugged and slipped her sunglasses on, looking down at her freshly manicured nails. Cory’s mouth was too full of eggs to answer. Pete and Will were still glaring at each other across the spread. Rahil and Anita were still sleeping, and Maggie and Aaron had gone for a beach run. Miles gave an exasperated sigh. 

“I can’t win,” he whined. 

“And neither can I,” Max grumbled, “this is one of my final words. Anyone?” Scottie smirked. 

“Compromise?” she asked. 

“By God, darling, you did it!” he exclaimed, running his pen quickly over the page and kissing her on the cheek. 

“You didn’t know that one, huh?” Will asked knowingly, leaning toward Scottie. His heavily calloused hand still rested comfortably on her knee and she seemed to like it that way. She turned and smiled at him. 

“Yeah,” she supposed, “I think we’ll start at the pool then maybe meet you guys down at the beach later.” The thought of spending this glorious day with Will and only Will was simply too compelling to pass up. 

<>

While Will was changing, Scottie busied herself in the kitchen filling the dishwasher. She felt comfortable with Will, but she wanted to give him as much privacy as he needed. Self-consciousness seemed to radiate off of him at certain moments, and she wanted to give him the space he needed to slowly let her in. She would wait for him because she had this feeling it would be so incredibly worth it. 

“What’s going on with you and Nash?” a familiar voice slipped under the sound of running water. Scottie calmly picked up another dish and began to rinse it. It was large and sticky, but she grasped it to keep from smacking Cory. The condescension in his tone was incensing. 

“Why are you so concerned?” Scottie heard herself snap, voice cracking at the end. Cory leaned against the counter next to the sink and crossed his arms, staring at her sideways. Scottie refused to turn to look at him. She worked on the inside of her cheek with her teeth instead. 

“Did you guys hook-up last night?” he asked timidly with a quiet dash of good old-fashioned jealousy. Scottie leered at him. 

“Don’t fucking worry about it, Cory.” 

“I just don’t want you to lead him on too much,” he replied, feigning concern and screwing up his face with worry. 

“Oh fuck off,” Scottie hissed as she bent over to place the now essentially clean plate into the dishwasher. 

“I’m serious, Thea,” he pressed, looking down at his bare feet. Scottie snapped to attention and rounded on him, her cheeks going red. 

“No,” she whisper shouted. “You do not get to call me that.” Cory furrowed his eyebrows and looked as if she’d just dropped a steaming pile of dog shit in his lap. 

“Relax,” he mollified, “I’m just concerned about my friend.” 

“Concerned about your friend my ass,” Scottie mocked. 

“He’s fragile.”

“He’s an adult.” 

“Girls like the novelty of dating a crippled guy,” he offered as if it were the only reason in the world a woman might find Will desirable. 

“And that’s what you think this is?” Scottie challenged, hands on her hips, incredulous and rearing to fight. “You think I’m using him for, what was it? The novelty?” Cory stared at her dubiously and pursed his lips. She was struck, quite suddenly, with repulsion. She couldn’t remember what she’d ever found attractive in him. 

“He’s just been disappointed a lot,” Cory argued. 

“Oh yeah? By who? You?” she bit into him, feeling triumphant when his face went pale. 

“That was fucking low,” he murmured after a long moment. Scottie turned the water off. The dishes were only halfway done, but she was tapped out on charity. 

“You know what’s fucking low?” she countered, voice rising and thin. “This.” 

Cory took a deep breath and opened his mouth to shoot back, venom on his tongue, but Will rolled quietly into the room. Sensing the heat radiating from the pair of them, he slowed to a stop and turned, surprised at how red Scottie’s face was and how livid Cory looked. Confusion leaked into his features. 

“What’s up?” he asked slowly, looking from Scottie to Cory to Scottie again, hoping she’d communicate something to him—anything. 

“Cory’s being an asshole,” Scottie answered without taking her eyes off Will. “He’ll tell you about it if you want. I’m going to change.” And with that she pushed past Cory without a passing glance and disappeared into the kid’s room, slamming the door behind her. 

“Cory?” Will questioned. But Cory just shrugged and shook his head. 

“Just something I said to Nora,” Cory lied, rubbing his face in his hands. Will stared at his friend, a prickle of unease rising on his neck. He could smell dishonestly but he didn’t feel like he was in the right position to push it. Whatever Cory was lying about felt bigger than the moment he had seen, and if he was going to find out, it wouldn’t be right here in this kitchen. 

“I’m going for a swim,” he said simply, putting his hands on his push rims and gliding onto the porch. Bumping down the back stairs, a ramp conspicuously absent, he thought about Cory visiting him in the hospital, right after his accident, and how he still rubbed his face when he lied.  

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Scottie pushed open the screened door after changing into her bathing suit to find Pete standing on the porch, staring out toward the ocean, his face a pensive mask. She still had to remind herself that he wasn’t Will. He was a completely separate person, despite having Will’s exact face. 

They could hear the rest of the group laughing on the beach, but it felt so far away, like they couldn’t reach it even if they wanted. 

“Why aren’t you out there?” she asked him as she walked over to the railing and leaned over it, mimicking his body language. 

“Just needed a minute,” he replied almost coldly. She wondered if she’d done something to offend him. Her mind flipped through a slide show of incredibly recent memories of the last twenty hours, none of which felt particularly problematic. She turned her attention back to him and realized he wasn’t watching the ocean at all. His eyes were glued, quite obviously, to his brother. She followed his gaze. Will had just rolled up to the side of the pool. He reached down to lock his breaks and pulled his towel off his lap, dropping it on the stone along the edge. Shifting his weight slightly, he lifted each of his legs—which Scottie realized, she’d never seen without pants—under the knee and dropped them in front of the footplate. They were thin and obviously neglected, but not too thin. He was so strong and composed. His legs looked a little bit like they belonged to someone else. 
Glancing sideways at Pete, she noted the pain in his eyes—Will’s eyes. His hands were clasped in front him and there was tension threaded through his fingers. She turned back to Will as he scooted to the edge of his seat and threw himself into the water—oddly graceful and clumsy in equal measure. 

“You don’t like seeing him like that,” Scottie said as they both watched Will pull himself across the water’s surface smoothly with his arms. She appreciated the steady rhythm of it. It was a statement rather than a question. Pete turned to look at her, slowly. 

“What? Isolated?” he asked. 

“Paralyzed,” she replied softly. Pete flinched, making it plain it wasn’t a word he was comfortable hearing. 

“Of course, I don’t,” he replied sharply. 

“I wasn’t implying you did,” she responded slightly defensively, mentally chiding herself for taking his tone personally. She knew he wasn’t angry at her. 

“I just,” he said as he peeled his eyes off her and down to his hands. Scottie noted that their hands might just be the most differentiated part of them outside of Will’s disability. His were calloused, rough, and strong with well-kept clean nails. Pete’s hands looked as if they hadn’t ever done much physical labor, and his nails were bitten down almost to the quick. “His life could have been so different,” he whispered wistfully. Scottie nodded slowly. 

“You could say that about anyone though,” she replied, rubbing his shoulder. 

“I know, but, this is different. It was so hard on everyone. On our family.” He let out an exhale, his whole body slumping forward, and ran his hand through his wavy hair. 

“I don’t doubt it,” she consoled.

“Sometimes I think that he’s handled it better than any of us,” he mused, a slight smile skirting his lips. Scottie beamed back at Will’s form in the water. His strength gave her hope. 

“Well, he had to adjust his entire life. He had no choice. He couldn’t ignore it.” She felt Pete stiffen slightly next to her, but she didn’t turn to look at him. He sighed. She’d struck a nerve, she knew it. “But he is quite a guy,” she finished warmly. 

“What’s the deal with you two?” Pete asked, sliding back into the comfort of those middle school questions that never quite dissipated. Scottie smiled and blushed. “Ah,” he continued expressively, “so my brother got what he’d wanted after all.” Scottie eyed him suspiciously, thawed by the simple thought that Will had talked about her to the most important person in his life. 

“We’re taking things slow,” she offered, “but it feels…I don’t know…serious.” Pete smiled a genuine smile, the first he’d had on his face since last night. But it fell as Will heaved himself up out of the water onto the side of the pool and scooted himself back toward the pool shed with his hands, dragging his useless legs along for the ride. He leaned back, holding his upper body up with strong abdominals, reaching for a pink noodle from a stack on the grass, and then reversed the process, tipping himself fluently back into the glittering water. Pete grimaced. 

“He shouldn’t be doing that,” he sighed, scoffing. “He could hurt himself and not even know it.” 

“He’s a grown man, Pete,” she replied. 

“I know that, but he pushes himself too far sometimes,” he pressed back. 

“He probably knows his limits better than anyone,” she countered. Pete stood up straight and turned around abruptly, facing the house, his back to Will. 

“I know, it’s just so hard to watch him sometimes…” he hesitated and rubbed his face with his hands. “It breaks my heart.” 

“Imagine,” Scottie supposed softly, “how hard it is for him to watch you.” Pete turned to look at her feeling slightly ill at what she’d just said. The queasiness threatened to overtake him as he considered what his life might have been had the roles been reversed. He quaked just thinking of the resentment that would plague his insides. 

It became clear to Scottie, through his suddenly pale and wide blue eyes, that this was the first time that he was imagining just that.