Chapter 11

Having gotten into the truck and managed to strap herself in, Hayley watched as Aracely drove the vehicle through town, on its way toward the city. “Sooooo….”

“So? What?” Aracely replied as she turned the radio down so that they could talk easier.

“Are you having fun? Trying to make Jason jealous I mean,” Hayley asked bluntly as she stared at her friend with intent.

“Eh, he’s not jealous. I’m not jealous of him and that Candy girl,” she shrugged.

“Well, you’re either jealous of him or you’re sleeping with him, I saw the way the two of you were smirking, trying to one-up each other.” Hayley replied. “So which is it.”

She rolled her eyes and let out a sigh. “Did she have to be blond?” she asked, glancing over at her friend.

“See… I KNEW IT!” she grinned before stopping herself. “Sorry. Believe me, nobody was more shocked than Steve… when they were teens, Jason would always go for brunettes or redheads like us. I guess people change. Or maybe its the person… have you met her?”

“No, but I talked to her. He had me answer his phone for him while he was working with his dad on a project I hired them for,” she replied. “Seemed nice enough.”

“Sweetie… it’s me here, I know what Jason means to you. Seeing him with someone else… or at least hearing about it must be tearing you up inside. You don’t have to be nice about the girl if you don’t want to be.”

Aracely laughed. “If its meant to be, it’ll happen in its own time. Right now I just want to have fun!”

“And you can’t do that with Jase? Have you seen his body lately? You can grate cheese on his abs,” Hayley replied. “Imagine what the guy’s learned in ten years. If you want fun, he’s like Disneyland for women.”

“So ask Steve if you can have a pass to have a night with him,” she replied.

“I did once,” she grinned from ear to ear. “The last time he was home, before you came back to town, Steve and I were joking around and the subject of our 5 unconditional passes came up.”

“And you chose my ex-boyfriend?” Aracely asked slowly, and carefully.

“Well yes, we all had crushes on Jason Quinn back in high school… you were lucky enough to nab him,” she grinned. “Don’t worry… I would never have slept with him because of his history with you. Besides… Steve said no. Though I did see him naked before you came back to town. Went up to use the bathroom, he was just getting out of the shower.. hence my 5 free pass choices.”

“Uh huh…”

“Is he on your list… now that you guys are friends again, you’ve got to have thought about it,” Hayley grinned. “Marine life has certainly been kind to him.”

“Jason Quinn is not on any list my friend. Can we not talk about him anymore for the day? This is supposed to be you and I, away from everyone else,” Aracely sighed.

“I know it’s supposed to be you and I today, and what do we usually talk about when we’re alone? Men…” Hayley replied, smiling triumphantly. She was making progress.

She rolled her eyes. “We can talk about anyone that does not involve anyone from Mullens,” she said, shooting her with a glare.

“No fun bestie… no fun at all…” Hayley sighed as her daughter kicked softly.

“Oh I’m plenty of fun Hayles. You just don’t see that,” Aracely grinned and winked at her.

“So what’s the plan for today?” the pregnant woman asked as she reached into her purse and pulled out a snickers bar.

“I was thinking lunch at the new bistro downtown and maybe some shopping in the surrounding stores,” she replied. “I know there are a couple baby stores right by the place.”

“Great,” Hayley smiled as she tore open the candy bar. “Because I’m starved!” With that, she devoured the chocolate. bar quickly. “You know kid… if I can’t shift this baby weight once I’ve dropped you, you’ll be out the door on your 16th birthday!”

“Then we’ll be sure to start a work out regimen that you and I can do together. How’s that sound?” Aracely laughed.

“Oh yeah… like you need to work out. You’re so lucky you can eat what you want and not gain an ounce!”

“I don’t think so. I do a lot of running and heavy lifting. You just don’t get to see it when I do.”

“Yeah… sure…” Hayley teased, “I guess we could work out together. I know that Lisa’s been dieing to shift some baby weight too. But what with the problems she’s had with the builders and Bobby working as much as he can, she’s not had the chance to.”

“Question is, do you think you can do the running? I do five miles easily through the woods,” Aracely asked.

“5 miles? Damn…” Hayley’s eyes went wide. “When do you find time for this?”

She chuckled. “I usually go early in the morning before most of the town is awake. I’ll be by your place bright and early once the baby starts sleeping more regularly for you. Then I’ll kick your butt into action.”

“Now you’re starting to sound like a soldier,” Hayley grinned. “I guess he’s a good influence on you.”

“I thought we agreed not to talk about him,” Aracely said raising her eyebrow. “How about we play a game? One of the ones we used to whenever we traveled into the city.”

“Kiss, Fuck, Marry,” Hayley grinned evilly.

“Celebrity edition,” she warned.

Jason sighed as he settled into the large bath he’d drawn for himself. After telling Steve about the plans for the baby shower, he had to endure 20 questions about his friendship with Aracely. As he enjoyed the mixture of steam and hot water, he knew that Aracely was suffering the same fate. Reaching for the remote to the stereo, he pressed play. Moments later, soft guitar music filled the room and he let out another sigh of relief.

After a long afternoon with Hayley, Aracely was happy to be home. Dumping her jacket and purse on the table, she walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge to see what there was to drink and was more than relieved to see she still had coffee left over for iced coffee. Making herself a glass, she peeked out the window to find Jason not outside. “Jason?” she called out, making her way nearer to the stairs.

“Upstairs…” he called, half yawning as he felt completely relaxed.

She could hear the exhaustion in his voice and decided to leave him be. “When you’re done, I’ll be outside. Take your time,” she called back before taking her drink to the would be patio and stripped out of her clothes before slowly entering the cool water of the pool and let the water manage her weight comfortably.

Draining the water, Jason towelled himself off and made his way downstairs and out into the back yard. Stepping onto the deck, he dropped the towel and approached the pool. “What a day…”

“Steve give you hard time?” she asked as she swam her way over to the side. “Hayley finally calmed down after an hour or so.”

“It was un-freakin-believable,” he groaned. “He picked apart everything I said. The subject always came back to you…”

“Oh? Anything juicy?” she grinned cheekily.

“He just wanted to know how we became friends so quickly… even going so far as to plan the shower together. He kept going on about how Hayley is suspicious and that I seem off….”

“Ah, well, did you know that you are one of Hayley’s five unconditional passes? I learned that today,” she said simply. “Just relax. There is what? A week before we go through them jumping us again?”

“A week… this better be worth it….” he sighed before diving into the pool.

Once Jason resurfaced, Aracely grinned. “To see the looks on their faces, it will be well worth it. You know that.”

“Yeah… but what about the aftermath… if today was anything to go by… we’ll have more questions to answer,” he groaned as he swam up to her and pulled her close to him. “I just don’t want to hurt their feelings. When we got together in school, Steve was the first person I told, Lisa the second… it was one of the happiest days of my life. Is it wrong for me to want to share that with them again?”

“No it’s not, but they need to learn to leave us alone too. Hayley will probably throw whatever she could at us but once they settle down, they will be fine. I’m sure of that.”

“They better be,” he said as he began to kiss her neck, shoulders and chest. “Because if they’re not, I’m blaming the whole thing on you…”

“Well that won’t be anything new. I always got the blame for the trouble that you got us into as well,” she laughed as she wrapped her arms and legs around him.

He’d only been to the house a handful of times, and it still amazed Steve that Aracely could afford such a place. Pulling up behind the Camaro, Steve got out of the rusted out old shitbox, the drivers side door groaning loudly as it opened and closed.

The couple had been in a slow and steady kiss when she heard the sound of a door closing. Pulling back from him sharply, she turned her head back toward the house. “Did you hear that?”

“Uhh… I have blood rushing to my ears… and other parts,” he said as he kissed her again, finally sitting on the bench running along the shallow end of the pool. His mouth found its way to her breasts once again and he was about to take advantage of their current position when he noticed Aracely was staring wide eyed at something behind him.

“WHAT. THE. FUCK!!!” Steve exclaimed, dropping the bags that Aracely had left at the Diner by mistake. His eyes were wider than Aracely’s until his mind caught up with what he was looking at. “Hayley’s gonna kill me!!! Then YOU!!!” Clasping his eyes shut he turned around.

“Hey buddy!” Jason said, laughing aloud.

“Well that cat is out of the bag,” she sighed as she shifted so that she was hidden more by Jason’s body.

“What the hell guys?” Steve said, his back still facing them. “Go put some clothes on, for gods sake!”

“I’m fine right here, man. And it’s not like it’s anything new to you,” Jason grinned.

She laughed at that, burying her face into his shoulder to muffle it. Once she was under control some, she finally started to speak again. “If you toss over a towel, I’ll wrap it around myself for you.”

Tentatively, Steve reached for a towel which was on one of the lawn chairs and tossed it in the general direction of the pool. “Tell me when you’re wrapped… please! I’d like to be able to walk out of here with my eyes open.”

Aracely chuckled again as she reached for it and secured it around her, not caring that it was wet from the water. “You’re safe now Steve.”

Opening one eye, he slowly turned toward them, visibly sighing that she wasn’t as naked. “Thank you… now start talking… and it better be good because I’m three seconds away from calling my wife.”

“Steve, meet the real Candy,” Jason grinned.

“Jason and I ran into each other while I was on the way home from dumping Eric off at the airport. Lisa and Hayley were pissing us both off with their texts about the two of us that we decided to play with them. Teach them a lesson,” Aracely explained sincerely. “This, this wasn’t until yesterday.”

“Guys… what the hell?” he repeated, “Do you have any idea of how much my wife and your sister have been wanting you two to get back together!”

“Yes, we do Steve and you are not going to say a word about this. They need to learn to keep their noses out of everyone else’s business. Seriously!”

“You’re talking like they’re trying to destroy your lives. They just want you two to be happy, because they love you both… and you’re pulling this shit!?!” Steve couldn’t believe what was going on. Partly because he couldn’t get the image of Aracely’s breasts out of his mind, partly because he literally could not believe what was going on.

“Yes! We understand that but if they didn’t back off, I was ready to just pack up and leave town for awhile because I didn’t want to hear anymore Jason and Aracely this and that! I can completely understand what made Eric so bitter around this place!”

“Now just wait one god damn minute here!” Steve growled, “That son of a bitch cut you off from your friends and your family and when they… we started comparing him to the man that you loved once… and apparently still do, he got upset… well boo fucking hoo.”

“Steve. Let’s just drop it now. I don’t want to get into that anymore,” she sighed. “Why did you come visit?”

“You left some clothes at the Diner, thought I’d drop them off and thank you for the shower.”

“Thank you,” she smiled lightly. “It’s not a problem. I’m happy to do that for her.”

“Well don’t… not anymore. Not if you’re gonna humiliate her in front of her friends and family,” he snapped before he stormed off. “I’ll see you guys later.”

She sighed as she moved, turning away. “I’ll call everyone to cancel,” she muttered to herself.

“You’ll do no such thing!” Jason said as he hoisted himself out of the pool. “I’ll go talk to him.” With that, he headed inside to get dressed.

A few minutes later, he emerged, fully dressed. He approached Aracely who was sat in one of the lawn chairs, tears streaking down her face.

“Hey,” he said, placing a hand on her shoulder gently. “It’s gonna be okay sweetheart.”

“He’s not wrong though. I just wanted them to leave us alone!” she sobbed.

“You can’t have it both ways honey… you either want your friends and family back in your life, or you want them to leave us alone,” he said, kneeling by her chair.

“No, there are things that they could just not mention. Like our relationship. They may not realize it but them wanting us together so much, and being so public about their opinions – do you really think that we really would have gotten back together like we did if we didn’t force them to back off in some way?”

“Have you considered that them wanting us to be together so badly, and comparing me to Eric the way they did helped you realise just what an ass he truly was?”

“No. And if you want to think that, then you are free to follow him right out as well,” she snapped angrily, pushing him away. “Yes he was an asshole in the end but he wasn’t like that all the time. I don’t want to hear it anymore!”

“Dress it up like you wish baby, he made you miserable! He crushed your hopes and dreams to get what he wanted,” he growled, “So sue me for being grateful to our friends and families for helping you realise what a jerk he was.”

Aracely glared at him before pushing him away again and stormed into the house. Running up to her room, she slammed her door, locking it. Pacing in frustration and anger, she pulled at her hair wanting to scream and break something.

Jason got into the Camaro, fired up the engine and drove off. He knew that things were going too well for him for things to last. Her hang ups about Eric were going beyond ridiculous. She just couldn’t see that her friends and family interfered in her relationship with Saunders because they knew what he was really like. That was the thing about small town folk, they didn’t trust easy and they could tell when there was a bad apple in their orchard.

It wasn’t for a number of hours that Aracely was finally able to settle down from her agitation. She watched out the window to see if Jason was coming back to the house and when she eventually came to the conclusion that he would not, she found herself curled up on the floor in the dogs’ room with a blanket and their bodies against her for comfort before she drifted off to a restless sleep.

Having caught up to Steve, Jason spent a couple of hours trying to explain the reasoning behind the prank, which was made difficult by the fact that he didn’t fully understand it himself. Yes, they were meddling in his and Aracely’s love lives but they had good intentions. Aracely was unhappy with Saunders, the stories he had heard from his friends and family and some of the locals was evidence enough. He would have eventually persuaded her to leave Mullens, quit practicing medicine and have his children. He’d already sucked all the life out of a medical practice that the town had embraced for decades.

Jason didn’t want to think about Aracely being downtrodden by Saunders ego, manipulated into being a submissive housewife with no role other than to look good on his arm and raise their children. That wasn’t the Aracely Jason knew. His Ace had hopes and dreams, her own opinions and goals, and even though she could be stubborn at times because of those things, Jason loved her more for it.

Entering the house quietly, he immediately went to the basement to check on the dogs, only to find Aracely fast asleep the floor. He was still angry with her. He understood Steve’s point of view about possibly humiliating Hayley and Lisa, as well as the other gossip mongerers, but they pushed it too far. Getting Aracely to open her eyes to Eric’s true nature was one thing, trying to dictate what Aracely should do next and with whom was another.

Kneeling beside her, he slid his arms under her and lifted her from the floor.

She murmured in her sleep and curled into his arms tiredly after looking up at him and blinking a couple times. Repeating the same word over, though mumbled, she kept saying she was sorry for everything.

Carrying her up the stairs, he headed for the master bedroom and placed her gently on the bed. “We’ll talk about it later,” he whispered softly before kissing her cheek. He then carefully draped a quilt over her.

“Don’t go,” she mumbled, her hands gripping his shirt.

Smiling softly, he took her hands and kissed them before sliding into bed with her, not caring that they were both fully clothed. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her close to him and closed his eyes. They’d sort everything out eventually, right now they just needed to hold each other.

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