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Decisive Moments - Chapter 4

"The Fallout"

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Looking back on things, I can see where I could have handled things at that point a bit better. Blurting out, “Are you shitting me? Who are they for?” probably wasn’t the best route to take. Especially if the look on Teagan’s face was any indication. Not one of my smarter moves at all.

He turned and looked at me in disbelief. “They’re for me, Aislinn,” he snapped.

I recoiled in surprise at his tone. Even at his angriest with me, he’d never been rude. I opened my mouth to respond in kind, but quickly thought better of it. Now wasn’t the time for my mouth to get ahead of my brain. For once, I needed to think things through. I took a deep breath and moved around to sit down on the loveseat and studied Teagan.

He still stood by the couch, his head bowed and hands clenched into tight fists. I watched as the papers he held were crumpled and wrinkled beyond repair. His shoulders were tense and I could just barely see how tight his jaw was. The anger and anxiety radiated off of him in waves. It was a tangible thing and I felt as if it were trying to strangle me and swallowed hard against it.


I jumped at the sudden outburst. My attention had wandered briefly and now I saw that he had turned slightly toward me. His shoulders were hunched up and he had his hair in tight grip with one hand as he took several deep breaths.

“Teagan?” I kept my voice soft, much like I would with a wild animal. “I really need you to explain to me what’s going on here.” I was so confused and I didn’t know what to think or how to act. And if that was how I felt, I could only imagine how he felt.

He whipped his head toward me and frowned. “It’s pretty obvious, don’t you think?” he exclaimed.

At that I narrowed my eyes and felt my temper flare. I stood up and pointed at him. “No, actually, it’s pretty damn far from obvious, if you ask me!” I forced myself to take a deep breath and relax. An ‘Aislinn Fit’ right now would accomplish nothing.

Teagan began pacing back and forth, making several circuits from the front door to the hallway and repeating. He kept running a hand through his hair and his breaths were heavy and erratic. He finally stopped after several long minutes and stood, still as a statue, studying me. I tilted my head, looking at him in confusion.


He sighed and shook his head before he moved around to sit on the couch. He sat heavily and rested on arm on his leg while he rubbed the back of his neck. I had never seen him look so unsure of himself before.

All the while I watched him, I struggled with the guilty feeling of not being more sympathetic. I was preoccupied with questions. Questions that created more questions. They built upon each other, one after the other, and I felt I needed answers. Who had filed against him? How old was the baby? Was the baby his? How long were they together?

But the one that I kept circling back to, time and again was, did he love her?

“Jesus, Aislinn! Now really isn’t the time to do that shit, OK?” he said, his tone biting.

I bristled at the attack. “What are you talking about?”

“Disappearing into your head. Just… don’t,” he muttered.

“For your information,” I said while I waved my hand in a dismissive gesture, “I wasn’t doing that. Thank you!”

He shot me a pointed look, complete with a raised eyebrow. He accompanied it with a snort. Personally, I felt that part was unnecessary. It also succeeded in pissing me off immensely. I straightened in my seat and sucked in a breath to fire back at him when he cut me off.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled as he bowed his head. “You didn’t deserve that.” He sighed and tossed the papers onto the coffee table. “This isn’t your fault; I shouldn’t take it out on you.”

Well, that certainly took the wind out of my self-righteous anger sails.

He scrubbed his hands over his face as he released a long breath. He looked up and saw me watching him and gave me a confused frown. “What?”

I had to ask the questions that were the most pressing for me, despite what the consequences could be. I needed to know; I had to know! Therefore, I took a deep breath, straightened my shoulders, steeled myself and blurted out the questions. I wouldn’t address the fact that I couldn’t look at him when I asked them.

“Teagan, is the baby really yours? Did you know about it?”

Silence met my queries and I glanced at him and gulped when I found him giving me a steady glare. I won’t lie, being on the receiving end of Teagan’s anger really kind of sucked. I didn’t like it and honestly just wanted to be away from it. I made to stand up when he stabbed a finger at me.

“No,” he stated in a cold, firm voice. “You’re going to sit there and listen to what I have to say about this.”

I shook my head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea right now. We’re both upset and things-”

“I really don’t give a shit, Aislinn.”

My jaw dropped at his cool tone and his choice of words as he interrupted me. I glared at him and stood up anyway. “I’m leaving. I’ll talk-”

“No, you’re not,” he interrupted me once again, blandly.

I pursed my lips and squinted at him as I pondered the possibility that he’d lost his mind. Whether he had or not, he was seriously pissing me off. I planted my hands on my hips and opened my mouth to blast him, when he threw me.

“Baby, please,” he whispered. “I really need you here with me. Please.”

With those words all of my anger drained away and my heart ached for the man who sat on the couch in front of me. The man who now had his head in his hands. The man whose body language screamed ‘defeated.’ I walked over to him and laid a hand on his head before I ran my fingers through his hair. With a shuddered breath, Teagan reached out and wrapped his arms around my waist. He drew me close and then buried his face in my stomach, his breathing choppy and tremors wracking his body. My heart continued to break for him as I ran my fingers through his hair and stroked the back of his neck and shoulders.

I don’t know how long I stood there like that before he heaved a breath and turned his face slightly. He tightened his grip around me, almost as if he were afraid I was going to disappear. I kept my arms securely around him while I continued to attempt to soothe and comfort through touch.

“Her name is Lauren Halloway,” he said quietly. “I dated her for a few months back in high school. I was a senior, she was a junior.”

I paused in my motions at his words for a moment as a mixture of surprise and a bit of hurt raced through me. So he had dated seriously before me! And they’d obviously taken things further than he and I had. Not that I was bitter or anything. I glanced down when I heard his dry chuckle.

“I don’t even have to look at you to know what’s going through your head,” he said in a dry voice. “It wasn’t what you think.”

I resumed stroking his hair. “And what is it that I supposedly think?” I countered. “How do you know what goes on in my head?” I let myself enjoy the soft slide of the strands of his hair through my fingers as I demanded my answers.

What I got was a snort instead.

“Aislinn, baby, if nothing else, I think I’ve proven that I know you pretty damn well.” He sat back with a sigh and pulled me into his lap. He raised a hand and traced my face with his fingers before he wrapped it behind my neck and tugged me closer. My eyes closed as his mouth molded to mine and he kissed me carefully. It was almost as if he were afraid we’d break if he pressed harder.

“I’ve never known anyone the way I know you,” he whispered against my lips.

I opened my eyes and stared into his. They stared back at me, showing me the anxiety and fear he was feeling. I raised a hand and laid it along his jaw and flashed him a small, sad smile. “I love you.”

His smile was equally sad. “I love you, too,” he returned. “You’re the only one I’ve said that to, you know.” It wasn’t a question; it was a statement of fact.

I still found myself searching his eyes regardless. The relief I felt at the truth reflected back at me was endless. I wanted to be special, be different, to this man.

“I didn’t love Lauren,” he continued. “It was high school, she was as wild as I was.” He paused and shook his head. ”I had no idea she was pregnant. I’d never have just walked away from my kid, baby,” he told me. His voice sounded almost pleading.

I nodded. “I know. I couldn’t make myself think anything else.” I leaned forward until my forehead rested against his. “Do you even know if the baby is yours?” I frowned as another thought occurred to me. “And if it is, why did she wait so long?”

He sighed and stroked my hair, gently tugging on the strands.

“Those are all good questions,” he murmured. “Questions that I plan on getting the answers to. But for right now,“ he said as he pulled the tighter to him, “right now I really need to just have you close. OK?”

I nodded against his chest and smiled as he maneuvered me around until we were in his favorite cuddle position, me curled in his lap with my head nestled under his chin. For a man that had been such a big time player, he was a complete snuggle whore. That was all right, though. I wasn’t any better.


“Zver, let it go!” I ordered as I tried to wrestle the piece of driftwood from the large dog. “I swear to God…” The stick was beginning to get slimy under my hand and he showed no sign of letting it go anytime soon. “Fine. You know what? We’re done here!”

I let the stick go, which caused Zver to stumble back a couple of steps. He sat down on the sandy strip of beach that we were at and looked at me in doggy confusion. He tilted his head, ears perked, stick hanging out of his mouth. It would have been funny if I weren’t so upset.

With a sigh, I sat down on the steps of the wooden walkway that led to the beach proper and looked around. Teagan had insisted that we keep our plans to go out with Zver to the beach. He said that it would take our minds off of things. Which was great and all, but we had been here almost an hour and he hadn’t left the truck yet. He’d been on the phone pretty much since we decided that we were still going.

I tossed a glance over my shoulder at the vehicle in the parking lot and frowned. I fought the surge of irritation and tried instead for understanding and acceptance. He was going through a lot right now and he had a lot of planning to do before his court date in a couple of weeks. But still, hadn’t he been the one to suggest we come out to forget about it for a bit?

Zver, sensing my mood, sidled up beside me and sat on his haunches. With a whine to indicate he knew one of his humans was unhappy, he leaned against me and laid his massive head in my lap. Familiar affection for the loveable giant bubbled up and I rubbed a hand through the thick ruff at his neck. Thus, we passed the afternoon, one massive canine and one upset female, comforting each other.

The sky was starting to darken when I heard footsteps behind me. Given that my mountain of a bodyguard just thumped a tail lazily, I figured it was a good chance that it was Teagan. My suspicions were confirmed when a large, warm male body sat down behind me and proceeded to wrap itself around me. The annoyance that had just been experienced began to melt away as his scent surrounded me.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered as he nuzzled my neck. “I was on the phone with my dad.”

I shrugged.

“I know you’re probably wondering why I wanted to stay out here,” he said. At my derisive sound, he squeezed me tight then gave me a quick tickle in the sides. “Behave,” he warned.

I rolled my eyes at him. It was time to play. It had been too serious.

“Aislinn, what are you up to?”


“I wonder why I don’t believe you,” he mused aloud. Maybe he continued I suddenly felt his arms and legs cage me in. “Probably because I know you!” and with that announcement he attacked.

I shrieked and laughed as I writhed and tried to wriggle away. Teagan was a Tickle Master and once he started, there was no escaping. It definitely didn’t stop me from trying, though. But he skillfully dodged knees and elbows to dive into the most sensitive spots. It wasn’t long before I fell limp, helpless from laughter.

Zver was no help, either. The mangy mound of fur bounded over at the first scream and joined in on the fun. I’m there, helpless and vulnerable, and he’s licking me. He and I would be discussing his turncoat tendencies over his lack of treats later. In the meantime, I just glared at him, but he wagged his tail, unfazed.

I looked back at Teagan and saw that he gazed down at me with soft look in his eyes. That look always got me, always made my breath catch. It was the look of someone who thought they were the luckiest person in the world. I would know, I often saw it reflected back in the mirror.

It was then that I knew I had a decision to make. It was a choice that would shape both me and us and was scary. Did I stay and take on the responsibilities that Teagan’s life just had? Or did I turn now and create a different path? One that allowed me to shape everything myself.

I smiled and shook my head at myself. There was never an easier choice to be made. I couldn’t leave; this man was more than my present. He held everything that was my future as well.

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