Authors: Laramie Briscoe
“Yeah,” she answered. “Thirsty.”
They made their way to the kitchen, and Meredith went to work getting a snack ready and pouring her a sippy cup full of juice. As she finished slicing an apple and grabbing a few cubes of cheese, she had a seat at the table and put the pate in front of Addie, who sat in her high chair.
That was odd. Tyler was supposed to be at the shop for a few more hours at least.
“We’re in here,” she yelled.
He burst through the doorframe, his eyes bright. “You wanna tell me why you have Steele researching a fuckin’ license plate?”
Blowing out a breath, she rolled her eyes. “Damn, I thought something was really wrong.”
“It is wrong, if you feel threatened in any way.”
“I don’t.” She shook her head. “I’m not sure what I feel. It’s weird.”
“The feeling is weird, or the situation?”
She cut her eyes at him. He’d learned well from their sessions with Doc Jones. “Both.”
He sighed and had a seat at the table. “Why don’t you explain to me what’s going on, and then I can help you determine if the feeling or the situation is weird.”
“I don’t need you to save me all the time, Ty. I’m perfectly capable of making a decision on my own. If I feel threatened, I would definitely tell you that. There’s no way I’d put any of us in harm’s way.”
He counted to ten. Another little trick he’d learned from good ole Doc Jones. “I know you’d never intentionally do something to hurt anyone else, but you of all people should know that everyone is not like you.”
That hurt, but she knew he was right. “Did Travis find out anything?”
“Then why the hell did he already sell me out?” Her mouth hung open in shock. There was such a thing as friendly courtesy.
“He was worried that something had happened at CRISIS. He couldn’t get hold of Christine. He did what you should have done and called me.”
“Well I’m here to tell you, things are okay. There’s one woman though, a young one, who came in the other day. There’s something about her that I can’t put my finger on. Something about her seems off, and they found drugs in her room. Christine sent me home so I wouldn’t have to deal with it before we left for our trip.”
“Good for her; now we’ll leave a day earlier. I told Liam I wouldn’t be in tomorrow. I wanted to make sure things were okay with you.” He grabbed her hands, kissing the back of one of them. “Took a few years off my life.”
“I promise you, if something feels bad enough that I’m worried about my life, you’re the first person I’m calling. There is no way in the world I would let myself walk into something that was obviously dangerous. We have her to worry about now.” She hitched her chin over in the direction of the little girl who still sat in her high chair.
He scooped her up in his arms, pulling her flush with his body. Pushing her hair back from her face, he tucked her head under his chin. “Make sure you keep that people radar oiled well, I don’t want you to ever be wrong.”
And neither did she.
etting up early had never been one of Meredith’s strong suits. Tyler was used to it because of his morning workouts with Drew, but Meredith liked to sleep. This morning, however, wasn’t one of those mornings. She was up with the sun, getting the three of them ready to hit the road.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this excited about anything.” Tyler laughed as she all but bounced through the house, directing him on which suitcases and bags to take.
“I am excited. I’m excited to spend a couple of days with my family, knowing that neither one of us are going to be called away for something. Plus, this is our first vacation with our daughter. I can’t help it.” She shrugged.
His excitement matched hers, but he’d had a lot more experience over the years hiding his feelings from others; it was much easier for him. “You ready?” he asked Addie, who lay on the couch, drinking her morning sippy cup of juice.
The little girl was sleepy, and they figured she’d be out like a light before they even hit the interstate. She nodded and lifted her hands up to him. There was nothing like the unprecedented trust she gave him. No matter what, she always came back to him, always ready to trust him. He picked her up and tucked her under his chin, much like he’d done Meredith the previous night.
“Wait,” Meredith whispered.
He glanced over to her, smiling when he saw she had her phone out, taking a picture.
“Thank you.” She awarded him with a smile. “I’m gonna be on your nerves by the end of this trip. I want pictures, lots of them.”
It wasn’t manly or anything like that, but since he’d never had a family before the club, he’d never had any pictures of himself growing up. Meredith captured everything, and he loved that about her. “Nah.” He leaned down, giving her a chaste kiss. “I love it, as much as I love you.”
She knew that was a whole fucking lot.
“You were right, she’s out,” Meredith told him as they hit the interstate, going north and then east until they got to Somerset, and then they would start traveling south to enter into Gatlinburg.
“I figured she would be.” He took his eyes off the road long enough to look back at Addie in her car seat. The sleep of the innocent always amazed him. Her head was cocked at an odd angle, and her sippy cup dangled from one hand. “You might wanna grab that cup.” He nodded back, so that Meredith would turn in her seat.
She glanced back, laughing softly taking in the scene. Unbuckling her seat belt, she reached back and grabbed the cup, sitting it in the holder attached to the car seat. Sitting back down in her seat, she buckled back up and smiled over at him. “Thank you again for taking time off so we can have a vacation.”
He reached over and grabbed her hand. “I don’t mind at all. I’m glad that Liam was able to give it to me. It’s gonna be nice to have a few days with you without a ton of people needing either one of us for something. It’s been way too long.”
Meredith tried to think back to the last time they’d had completely uninterrupted time together, and it had been well before Addie had come to live with them. Since he’d taken the VP position in the club, he was needed constantly, and she was obviously needed in her capacity at CRISIS. “Do you think our relationship has suffered because of that?” she asked him quietly.
He was silent for a long time. That either meant she’d touched a nerve, or he was giving it a lot of thought. She hoped he was giving it a lot of thought.
“If I’m being completely honest with you…” he started.
“Please do.” She swallowed roughly. “Because if you haven’t been, then there are some issues we need to work on.”
“It’s not a big deal,” he was quick to soothe her. “It’s just kind of like, we’ve gone from one extreme to another in our relationship, and I have to admit, some of that is probably my fault.”
Her eyebrows screwed together, she wasn’t exactly sure what he meant. “Can you explain what you mean?”
Scratching the back of his neck, he wondered if he’d just stepped into some shit he wouldn’t be able to get out of. “When you first came to stay with me, and even after we ran off and eloped, our whole lives were each other. Then we decided to try for a family. It was like every month you didn’t get pregnant, we pulled away from one another just a little more. You would volunteer more at CRISIS, I would work out more, or I would take on more responsibilities within the club. Now we have Addie in our lives and we’re still being pulled, but it’s different now…she pulls us, not circumstances we can’t change.”
She’d had no idea he’d felt that way, and truthfully, she hadn’t realized they’d pulled that far away from each other. If she was brutally honest with herself, she could see where he was coming from, and she could pinpoint the month that she’d started to retreat within herself. It was the month her period had been a week late, and she’d known with such certainty she was pregnant. Early the next morning, she’d woken up to take the test, only to find that her period had come, and it was then that she knew she wouldn’t be having her own child. That was the month, day, exact minute, she’d given up, and a piece of her had closed off from him, and it wasn’t until Addie had come into their lives that the part had opened back up. “I’m sorry you felt that way,” she whispered. “I see where you’re coming from, and I know exactly what you mean.”
“Marriage isn’t easy.” He cleared his throat. “There have been some circumstances we’ve been put in that would have broken other couples, but here we are.” He lifted up their hands, which were still clasped together. “We’ve never let petty bullshit tear us apart, and all I can tell you now is that from this moment on, we’re aware of the things we tend to do to one another. We keep our eyes open for when that happens again, because it will—we’re human. We call each other on it, and we don’t let our relationship suffer because of choices that we are making or have made.”
“Sounds good to me.” She smiled over at him, and for some reason, the clarity she saw in his eyes brought tears to hers. “Sorry.” She laughed, pushing against the tears that had started to leak out. “I am super emotional lately, and I have no idea why.”
“It’s been an emotional couple of years for us.” He chuckled. “You’re fine, baby, you just need some time away, and that’s exactly what you’re going to get.”
The rest of the trip went off without a hitch. They never hit a lot of traffic, and it turned out that Addie was a good traveling partner. As they entered Gatlinburg, Meredith assumed that they were staying at the same cabin she and Tyler had stayed in the last time they’d been here. To say she was surprised when he pulled into a condo was an understatement. From the car, she could even see a lazy river that went around it.
“Surprise.” He laughed as he parked. “I’ll be right back, just gotta get the room key.”
It was weird to see him walking out in public not wearing his cut. It was such an integral part of who he was on a day-to-day basis that she almost didn’t recognize him. She knew, though, that for their safety, he wouldn’t be wearing it. She grinned, thinking about the first time they’d come here, how they’d walked hand in hand with the snow falling down and asked people to take their picture. Some of those pictures were still displayed in their home. For the most part, they were wedding pictures, since they’d not had anyone there, and some people still weren’t sure if they were joking when they told others they were married. That trip to Gatlinburg had been one of the best times of her life, and she couldn’t wait to make more memories with Addie.