Chapter 8

After an earth shattering goodnight kiss, just like the one earlier that evening, Jason reluctantly returned home. Parking the truck by the apartment, he got out and headed up to it. The house was quiet, with only the porch lights switched on so he breathed a sigh of relief. Lisa had gone to bed.

Sliding the key into the lock, the door was suddenly snatched open. “There you are!”

“Geeeyah…!” Jason jumped as Lisa got up in his face. “Oh… hi sis.”

“We need to talk,” she said, folding her arms over her chest, her eyes looking sternly into his.

“Uh… no we don’t,” he replied. “You know, I think I hear Tommy crying.”

“Bobby’s taking care of him,” she replied before jabbing a finger into his chest. “Are you nuts!?!”

“Last time I checked, no…” he replied with a raised eyebrow.

“Don’t test me big brother!” she growled. “What’s the matter with you? Hooking up with some random blond just as Aracely gets rid of Doctor Dick?”

“She’s not just some random blond, Candy’s a nice girl,” he said as he walked passed her and into the apartment.

“Oh… Candy is it? That’s a stripper name if ever I heard one,” Lisa muttered. “You can’t tell me that you don’t have feelings for Aracely. I know what you’re like when she’s around.”

“Look, Aracely will always be special to me, I’ll always love her. But she just got out of a bad relationship. She deserves to have some fun, we both do.”

“Then have fun together instead of with some gorilla and a blond stripper,” Lisa replied, following him toward the shower only for him to shut and lock the door. “You know I’m right.”

“I know you’re annoying!” he shouted as he turned the shower boiler on and began to strip. “Now I’m going to be walking out of my shower without a towel, so unless you’re here for a show…”

Lisa’s face scrunched up in disgust. “You’re gross! This isn’t over!!!”

“Oh I know!” he shouted back. “Looking forward to round two.”

“Sometimes I really hate you!!!” she shouted as she began storming out.

“Love you too sis!”

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Because of his early start, he decided to skip early morning run and just jog over to Aracely’s. He wouldn’t have to deal with round 2 over breakfast and could easily get something on the road. Given that it was summer, it was bright out and it wasn’t even 07:00 yet. Truth be told, it was a nice run that he knew he’d be doing a lot more, now that they were getting closer. Running up to her house, he pressed the doorbell and waited patiently.

Aracely grumbled as she had overslept but still wanted to eat a decent breakfast before leaving. Glaring at the bacon and eggs she had going over the stove she winced, hoping it would still be viable for the trip to the front door.

Quickly, she rushed over to open it and smiled. “Hi, come in. Sorry. Trying to make breakfast and get ready at the same time,” she said before running back.

“Go get dressed, I’ll finish your cooking,” he smiled as the smell of bacon filled his nostrils. “Good morning by the way.”

She turned towards the kitchen, then to the stairs and back, unsure of what direction. “You sure? I haven’t even started the coffee yet…Alright, I can’t even think about where everything is but I trust you not to break anything so just look for whatever you need anywhere. Not like I have anything to hide and all. I’ll be back down quickly – there should be enough for the two of us – I think.”

“Go, will you,” he grinned as he walked through to the kitchen, “I’ll be fine.” He was taught how to cook by him mother from a young age, citing that a way to a good woman’s heart was through her stomach.

“I’m going!” she replied sticking her tongue out and ran up the stairs. Making her way back into her room and to her closet, she looked around for the most comfortable thing to wear. LA did affect her taste in clothes somewhat but not by much. She still wore the jeans and clothes but just a different style cut and sometimes costing a lot more. Pulling on her favorite pair that had finally gotten broken in nicely, she went to look for a sleeveless t-shirt to wear under her lab coat in the office later on. Adding in her leather boots that she more than loved, she went on to focus on her hair and make up which was really the more time consuming part of her daily routine.

With the eggs and bacon cooking nicely, Jason dug through the cupboard, finding some bread, a toaster oven and some mushrooms. Dicing the mushrooms he added them to the frying pan with the bacon before slipping some bread into the toaster. It would be a simple meal. Had he known, he would have brought some ingredients from home for something a little more special. He had enjoyed cooking for Aracely when they were teens and he knew he’d have to make her something very, very special sometime soon.

When she was finally finished, she made her way back down into the kitchen. “Thanks,” she smiled at him. “Coffee?” she asked, looking around.

“On it,” he said as he darted around the kitchen as if he’d been living there for a while. Slipping a new filter into the machine, adding the coffee and filling it with water, he switched it on. “Now sit, relax. I got this.” It was then that he began humming as he cooked.

“Yeah yeah,” she replied as she pulled herself up into the stool of the small breakfast bar that separated the kitchen from the dining area. “So how did it go last night when you got home?”

“Well, as I thought she was in the apartment waiting for me. Called Candy a stripper and reaffirmed that your new guy is a gorilla,” he grinned as he added some more eggs to the pan.

Aracely looked Jason up and down pointedly. “Well he is, so she is right there.”

“I’ve put on some muscle since we were kids. What does that make me?” he asked with a raised eyebrow as the toast popped out of the oven.

“An overgrown ape,” she replied. “Anyway, I was thinking last night…”

“What about it?” he asked, his face losing its smile.

“Well, I have this house and now that it’s light out, you can see and appreciate the outside. The patio and pool…Thinking about having everyone over for a barbecue. Have Hayley’s baby shower here. Really, no one has been over with Eric around. No one ever wanted to if he was.”

“Oh…” he said, his eyes drifting to the sprawling back yard. “That sounds nice. I’m sure people would love it, especially your family, Hayley and Steve.”

Aracely nodded as she reached over to pour herself a cup of coffee before the pot was even done as she just needed it that bad. “How much longer til she’s due again? Because she looks like she’s ready to pop.”

“June… sometime during the 3rd week, so we’ve got what? Four weeks at most,” he smiled before it suddenly dawned on him. “Do you think the prank will be over by then? Because if not… I might not be coming…”

“No, you’d be coming. But – maybe it would be fun, for us and them that if they don’t find out before then, you know how much that Hayley would love that being her present,” she said.

“Alright,” he said as he fixed her a plate full of eggs, bacon, mushrooms and toast. Placing it in front of her with some cutlery, he returned to pour her a cup of coffee. “But you know, I’m going to find it hard to act frosty around you.”

“No need to be frosty. Just be ‘happy’ for each other. We talked, and that is that,” she replied. “I have my coffee already!”

He gave her a blank look. “The way you drink your morning coffee, you’ll be getting up for a refill. This way, you won’t have to.” He knew her all too well. The times he had to buy her a take-away cup from the diner so that she had something to drink for their walk to school. Dishing up his own meal he sat down at the breakfast bar to eat.

“On the way back, we can stop off at the store and pick up some of those invitation cards. I think if we do something in two weeks should be enough time, right? But question is, can everyone keep it hush from her?”

“You mean you forgot how my sisters threatened everyone and their mother about keeping my parent wedding vow renewal party a secret from them?” he asked with a raised eyebrow, “I’m sure it’ll be fine. The biggest concern is who’ll be doing the barbecuing.”

Aracely pursed her lips before looking up at Jason sweetly. “Would you or your dad be willing to?” she asked, batting her eyes.

“So long as you don’t make me wear one of those ridiculous aprons that your father likes to wear,” he grinned, knowing full well that he’ll end up wearing one anyway because she’ll pout, or flash him a smile, or offer him a kiss, something that would make his resolve falter as it always did when it came to his Ace.

“How about I let you choose which ridiculous apron to wear. You know my father will make you slap one on anyway,” she pointed out. “Or we can pick one up for you that would be yours?”

He sighed, “I’m doomed…”

“At least it wouldn’t be a floral one that my mother likes. We can find a camouflage one I’m sure.”

His smile returned. “Now you’re talking… but if I’m getting an outfit for you to enjoy, you’ll have to return the favor.”

“Oh dear. I’m almost afraid to ask,” she mumbled as she dug into her breakfast. “Out with it already.”

“Well, if I’m gonna fix the body work on the truck and repaint it in time for this party while keeping up with my studies. You’re gonna have to help me with the repaint,” he explained with a smirk, “If I recall, you look pretty sexy in overalls.”

“Oh boy. Fine,” Aracely sighed. “You are setting the tarp up so that you don’t get any paint on my driveway or grass here. It would be too obvious at your house with them coming over as much as they do.”

“Alright. Speaking of the paint job, I was thinking that… because they’re having a girl, we should paint the car cotton candy pink,” he grinned, knowing how Steve would love that.

“Jason, be practical. As much as Hayles would love that, even she wouldn’t go for it. How about a nice cherry red?”

“Oh… when you wanna prank our friends and family, it’s okay. But when I wanna make my best friend squirm, I’m impractical… I forgot how much I love your logic,” he grinned.

“I’m only going to help paint the car once. If you want to paint it pink, you’re on your own, but when you are ready to change it to something else, then I’ll help,” she smiled. “It’s all yours to work on how you wish anyway. Don’t let me stop you.”

“You’re no fun. Cherry red it is,” he replied, knowing full well that he couldn’t paint it all on his own in time for the party in addition to everything else he wanted to do.

“Instead of hiring out to cater, I may just close the office for the two days before and do all the cooking. Maybe get Lisa over to help,” she said as she eyed the kitchen. She was certain she wouldn’t be able to handle having both her mother and Jason’s hanging around in there with her.

“Great,” he nodded.

“Well not all, all. Lasagna, the cake, and that stuff. Burgers and dogs are all on you. Maybe steaks depending on who all shows up. It’ll have to be RSVP so that I can get an accurate head count.”

“I know a butcher that can get us the meat we’ll need, at cost. He and I served together during that first tour, he left to join his family’s business,” he explained. “I’ll call him tonight.”

“Does he have chicken too?”

“Probably, if not I bet my Dad could get some fresh from one of his poker buddies,” Jason replied.

She grabbed a pad from beside the phone on the counter and started writing a list. “If I don’t get it down now I’ll forget later to do all this…Invitations, food, decorations. Steak, burgers, dogs, chicken breasts, lasagna, sausage and peppers… What else?”

“Drinks… I’ll talk to Joe,” he said, “Um… music?”

“Oh um…We’ll just tell everyone to bring their CDs and set up the radio outside. Doesn’t have to be anything fancy since it’s a BBQ/pool party for her.”

“Okay… uhh…. party games?” he asked. This was Ace’s best friend’s baby shower, if she wanted to go all out, he’d help her go all out. “Some for the kids, some for the adults.”

“We are not getting strippers for the adults,” she deadpanned.

“No… I meant stuff like poker, beer pong,” he grinned. “I know we’re not in high school anymore, but I think it’d be nice if we could do the stuff we used to do during those last few years.”

Aracely shrugged as she wrote it down. “Can you handle that stuff or should I see if Lisa can get Bobby to?”

“You’re talking to the son of a poker champ. My dad can sort of the chips and cards, and I’m pretty sure we have a ping-pong table in the basement. As for kids games, leave it to Bobby, he’s a big kid himself,” Jason chuckled. “My sister sure knows how to pick ‘em.”

“I don’t know. I think you and him have a lot in common,” she smiled as she pulled the page from the pad. “I’m sure we can get a lot of the stuff while we’re out today. You’re driving cause I haven’t a clue exactly where we are supposed to go for that dog.”

“Fair enough,” he smiled as he finished his meal. “Do you want me to put that second cup of coffee in your thermos cup?”

“Sounds like a plan. I have a large one in one of the cabinets. Here are the keys, you know your way downstairs. I just have to go get my bag and I’ll be down quickly. Just leave the dishes – I’ll get them later when I get home no problem.”

“Ma’am yes ma’am,” he grinned as he cleared the table and looked for her thermos cup.

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The drive had been a memorable one, they spent the trip up to the breeding farm reminiscing about their childhood and teenage years, retelling stories they’d both heard dozens of times but still ended up laughing all the same.

As he fought to stop himself from laughing them off the road, he realised that they were almost at the farm. “So, are you ready to fall in love?” he asked as they reached the short dusty road leading to the house.

“You know I’m not much of a fan of animals,” she sighed as she looked at him. “Maybe a cat, but a dog?”

“We’ll see,” he grinned as he pulled up to the house where a man in his mid-50’s waited for them.

“Hello there Jason, today’s the big day, huh,” the man said as Jason got out of the car.

“Sure is Bob,” Jason replied, “I take it my cheque went through without any problems?”

“It certainly did,” he replied, “In fact you added an extra hundred?”

“Consider it a donation. You do some good work here,” Jason nodded.

“Thanks he said as he noticed he wasn’t alone. Another sister?” he asked. “Hi, I’m Bob.”

Aracely smiled and laughed. “Ohhh no. I’m no sister,” she grinned and reached out to shake the man’s hand. “Aracely.”

“Ahh, I see,” he smiled as he shook her had. “Are you looking to purchase an animal today or are you here for the collie too?”

“I am good without, thank you. Just here to keep him company.”

“Fair enough, but feel free to browse, we have several breeds of dogs, kittens and rabbits,” he smiled as he pointed toward the dog shed. “Shall we?”

“Sure,” Jason smiled before they followed Bob toward the sound of dogs barking. Hanging back slightly, he offered his hand to Aracely and whispered. “You sure you don’t want to pick up a friend for yourself? My treat.”

She scrunched up her nose and shrugged. “I doubt it, but if it makes you feel any better I’ll look and consider it. Deal?”

“Deal,” he smiled as they reached the shed. there were dozens of kennels all with puppies at various stages of their lives. Some were still with their mothers, others were on their own. Jason knew that they were all well treated and well fed though, he hated animal cruelty.

During his time in the middle east, insurgents would use attack dogs against allied soldiers. Putting the dogs down to save his squad was one thing, but he also made sure their insurgent masters got what was coming to them.

“She’s right up here,” Bob explained, “Her papers are all ready and she has all her shots. I also had her chipped as per your instructions.”

“Thanks Bob,” Jason smiled. “Is there anything I should be aware of?”

“Nope, she has a healthy appetite, she loves to play and I know you’ll give her plenty of exercise,” the breeder explained. “It’s good of you to take her to be honest. She was the last pup left from the litter.”

“I think that’s why Hannah picked her, she said that she looked lonely,” Jason smiled. “She’s gonna be thrilled when she comes home to find the dog waiting for her.”

Aracely had left Jason to talk with the guy about the dog more and wandered off to look at the other animals. There was one in particular that caught her eye. A young rottweiler that had a bit of a limp to its hind leg. Frowning, she knelt down to get a closer look and saw that the bone structure actually curved inward on it. It came up and easily started to kiss her fingers that were hanging on the wire of the cage making her feel bad for it even more.

Jason spotted Aracely with the dog and smiled softly before Bob finally handed the collie over to him.

“Hello,” he said as she licked his face. “You remember me, huh?”

“I’m gonna go check on the rabbits. I’ll see you back at the house before you go,” Bob smiled before walking over to the exit close to Aracely.

Jason scratched the collie behind her ear and also made his way over to Aracely.

“You do know how much I hate you right now, don’t you,” she said, not looking up at him as she scratched the rottweiler’s nose.

Jason smiled, “See, told you you’d fall in love.”

“Yeah, poor little guy. You noticed the leg right?” Bob asked as he knelt down to check the pup, having noticed Aracely’s interest. “I’d love to be able to get him the surgery to fix it, but we’re on a budget. We may have to amputate and keep him on the farm full time unless we can find him a good home.”

Aracely glared at Jason. “You knew about this the entire time you kept asking me about my having an animal, didn’t you? I really hate you.”

Standing up, she looked at the guy. “How much is the surgery?” she asked. “Do you know what the problem is?”

“The tendons in the leg aren’t growing at the same rate he is. It’s a relatively simple procedure to correct the problem. But it costs about fifteen-hundred. Not the sort of money I could spend on one animal. As much as I wanna help the little guy, it’s just not an option.”

“Well,” she sighed, scratching her head as she thought about the math and the money that would be needed. “I can take him and bring him up to animal hospital in Lafayette next month when I have to go to the conference there. I know someone there that I’m sure can get him in for the procedure while I’m stuck there for the weekend.”

“Sure, but I won’t be able to afford the surgery,” Bob said. Lafayette’s animal hospital was one of the best vet surgeries in the region. “I couldn’t ask you to pay for it, it wouldn’t be right.”

“What if I bought the dog in addition to my girl here?” Jason interjected, scratching the collie behind the ear. “That way he gets his leg fixed and gets a good home.”

“It’s fine by me, and judging from the pictures you showed me of your families land, he’ll have a nice place for his rehab,” Bob explained. “How does one dollar sound?”

“A buck?” Jason frowned.

“You’d be doing me a favor. Getting the dog his treatment, giving him a good home. The reality is that a limp legged dog, or even a 3 legged dog would be overlooked by most people coming to look for their pets here,” Bob explained. “He’s got papers and shots already. So what do you say?”

“I’ll take him,” she said staring at the pup still. “But you’re helping to clear out the basement room so that I can get it animal friendly.”

“Done,” Jason smiled smugly. “And let me pay something toward the surgery, considering I brought you out here.”

She shook her head. “Don’t worry about it. I’ve got plans for you to last you through the summer with the number of projects I need done around my house now. That’s your pay back.”

“Okay,” he grinned, shaking his head as Bob opened the enclosure. “Would you take her while I carry your new friend here?”

“Oh he can walk, just got that limp.”

“Alright,” he smiled as Bob clipped a lead on the collar and handed it to Aracely. “I’ll go get everything you guys need. I’ll see you at the house.”

“Okay Bob, see ya soon,” Jason smiled before putting the collie down in front of the rottweiler. “So Ace, have you got a name for your new friend?”

She looked down at him. “I don’t know right now. Maybe it’ll come to me on the ride back but I think we should take a side trip to the city and get some supplies. I don’t exactly have anything set up for a dog right now so I need a lot. How about you?”

“I was thinking I’d let Hannah and Becki help me pick a name. So long as its not something like Princess or Trixie, I’m open to suggestions,” he smiled as he headed back to the car.
Aracely’s dog seemed to limp along happily enough alongside Jason’s dog. They both started exploring the ground around them, sniffing wildly.

When they reached the truck, Jason opened the trunk. Having already laid out a blanket before they left, he lifted the collie into the trunk and allowed her to explore a little more before she returned to him for some attention. “Want me to…” he his, nodding at the rottweiler.

“Sure,” she smiled and handed over the leash. Once the dogs were secured inside, she leaned up against the side while they waited for Bob to come out with the rest of their papers. “Would you be able to work on the basement room for me while I deal with the office in the afternoon? I guess shuffle everything into the small room upstairs.”

“Of course,” he smiled. “It shouldn’t take too long. Want me to keep an eye on him while I’m at it?”

“I think it would kind of go hand in hand? I can’t really bring him to the office right now. Maybe after he has his surgery for awhile, but that will have to have some things shuffled around too. Maybe make a list of things you can think of while you’re at the house that I might need and I’ll get later.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll help you get everything sorted,” he smiled, “It’s part of the deal, isn’t it? You just love seeing me in a tool-belt…”

“Hm,” Aracely hummed as she narrowed her eyes on him. “I’m not going to comment on that because there are young ears around.”

Jason grinned before leaning in and kissing Aracely’s forehead. “You’re amazing, you know that.”

“Yeah, I know,” she replied cheekily. “He’s coming back,” she nodded towards the main house.

“Okay guys, here’s everything you’ll need. I need you to sign these forms, then they’re all yours,” Bob explained as he handed Aracely a clipboard and a pen.

“And I owe you a buck,” Jason smiled as he dug out his wallet and pulled out a note before handing it to Bob.

“Thanks for your business. Please feel free to come back any time,” Bob said as he pocketed the money.

“Will do,” Jason nodded as he signed the form and handed the clipboard back to the breeder.

“Well then, congratulations, you’re dog owners,” Bob said as he shook their hands. “Take good care of them, and each other.”

“We will, thanks,” Aracely replied as she handed him back the clip board. “Have a nice day.”

“You too,” Bob smiled and made his way back inside the house.

“So, city pet store, and then back to your place?” Jason asked as he offered her the keys.

“Yeah,” she said and shook her head. “You can drive. I still need more coffee before I’m willing to.”

“I guess we’ll be making another coffee run then,” he grinned before getting in the truck.

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