Storm Warning

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Shelter From The Storm

“…I lied to you. Yeah, I did. And I bet you resent the hell out of me for that. But I guarantee that I resent you more for putting us in this position in the first place…” Rayna shot back at Deacon, tears filling her eyes. They fell when she saw the hurt that filled his already tear-filled eyes and the way he flinched, as if struck, at her words.

She was struck with immediate remorse, berating herself for speaking so impulsively, especially when deep down, it wasn’t true. She didn’t resent or even blame him for putting her in the position where she had to lie to him about Maddie being his daughter…she couldn’t. He’d had a disease…a sickness that she knew he battled with and against daily. She could no more resent him for that than she could the person somewhere with lung cancer. Alcohol, cigarettes…they were an addiction. And it was the human condition to be attracted and addicted to that which hurts you. She didn’t understand it, just as she’d never understood her addiction to Deacon…her need to have him in her life when there were so many reasons why she shouldn’t. So many reasons why she should have turned around and walked away, just as she should have right then. But she didn’t. She couldn’t. Not when he was hurting…especially not when she’d been the one who’d done the hurting. Torn, she took a step towards him, reaching out.

“Deacon, I’m sorry…” she began.

He stepped back, out of her reach and held up his hands as he shook his head. “No…don’t be. You’re right, Ray. I did do this. I put us here. This whole time I’ve been blaming you, when it’s been me all along who’s to blame. You’re right to resent me. I would too if I were you,” he said, wiping at his face, and wiping away all traces of emotion and any weakness that showed with it.

She silently cursed herself. “No, Deacon…it’s not true. I shouldn’t have said that. I don’t resent you. I couldn’t. I resent the circumstances that brought us here, yes, but not you. Never you, Deacon. Please believe me when I say that,” she pleaded even as she closed the distance between them and placed her palm atop one of his crossed arms and squeezed gently to comfort. “I’m sorry.”

He just nodded and shrugged, stepping away again. “It’s fine…I um, I think I’m going to call it a night. It’s just been a long day driving from here and then back and the whole GMA taping thing…” his voice trailed off as he walked to the door, his hand on the handle.

She nodded. “Yeah…right, yeah, it’s getting late,” she said, looking out from the porch, feeling awkward. “I-uh--I should probably go before I get caught in the downpour,” she said as she turned to leave, grimacing and making a face at the light, foggy mist of rain that had started almost as soon as she’d neared the cabin, and worked itself into a steady drizzle since.

He caught the expression on her face and glanced out and upwards towards the sky, which was darkening as they spoke, and inwardly groaned, cursing his luck. Swallowing hard, he put his pride aside and cleared his throat. “You know um…why don’t you stay and take the guest room? Like you said, it’s kind of late to start out now and the weather’s getting crappy…I know you hate driving when it’s like this, so…” his voice trailed off as he shrugged.

She bit her lip in hesitation, quietly contemplating his offer. She was on the verge of turning it down when she heard the slow rumble of thunder in the distance and caved into the fear. It wasn’t that she was afraid of storms. Rather, the opposite was true. She loved storms…being in them, standing outside in them…feeling the rain and the wind and the mist. It was driving in them that she didn’t much care for…having always associated her mother’s accident and death with the horrible late-summer storm they’d had that night. Though she knew that it had been an accident…she couldn’t help but shake the feeling that if it hadn’t been storming that night when her mother had packed her bags and driven off angry at her father, she might not have lost control, hydroplaned, and crashed that night. In that path of logic, were it not for the storm, her mother might have lived and so many things in Rayna’s life would have been different. That somewhat irrational fear is what had her nodding her head and accepting Deacon’s less-than-enthusiastic offer to have her crash at the cabin for the night. “I-I’d really appreciate that, Deacon…thanks.”

He shrugged. “It’s nothing,” he said as he pulled open the sliding glass door that served as the front door to the cabin and motioned for her to go on ahead. When she did, he followed her inside, easily shutting out the mist and brewing storm. Though he had a bad feeling that shutting out the emotional one brewing inside him was going to prove more difficult. Shaking it off and shifting focus, he headed over to start a fire in the hearth, knowing how cool the interior of the cabin could get during a storm. As he crouched down, he hoped like hell this was a quick, uneventful storm…and unlike the one they’d had several months back when Maddie and Rayna showed up out of nowhere. The last thing he needed or that he wanted, for that matter, right then was another close encounter with Rayna. Particularly of the storm-inspired, emotionally heated, sexual variety.

After a light dinner prepared by Deacon, they sat down in silence in front of the crackling, blazing fire Deacon had so masterfully enacted, each on their respective ends of the sofa with a mugs of hot tea in their hands. Neither said a word, with each pondering who would make the first move and break the awkward silence that had lingered through the meal and after still.

After a prolonged while, it was Rayna who finally wove the figurative white flag, so to speak, and spoke. “So, how are things going with the tour?” she asked him softly.

He hesitated, and then gruffly cleared his throat before shrugging. “It’s going well. As well as can be expected, I should say,” he said. “The album’s getting a better reception than I’d hoped, so I’m glad for that,” he said.

She smiled and gave him a disproving look. “Did you honestly expect otherwise? Come on Deacon, your music is wonderful. And your album—I heard some of the vinyl you gave Maddie—after we lugged out the player I might add—“ she added with a chuckle “—and the sound was incredible. The acoustics are amazing. Maddie said you recorded some of it right at the Bluebird. Who’d the label get you to produce?” she asked him conversationally.

“Actually, I asked Avery Barkley to do it,” he answered. “I don’t know if you remember him, but you met him at one of your shows in Nashville. He and Scarlett used to go together,” he said.

She nodded, eyes widened in surprise. “I remember him. Wow. He’s that good, huh? I might have to consider him when I look into producers for Scarlett’s album. Think they’ll be a good fit?” she asked him.

He nodded. “Yeah, sure. I mean, you never know. And I know they were back on again for a while a few months back after she and Gunnar split up. I think it was an amicable split,” he said with a shrug.

“Is there even such a thing as an “amicable split”?” she asked off-handedly, and then as if she hadn’t realized she’d said the words out loud, she caught herself, glancing down at her lap with embarrassment. Her head popped up a moment later. “So, subject change--how are things with Megan?” she asked, her voice a little too upbeat.

He raised a brow at her unknown gaffe and smirked. “Well…I’d say that it was an “amicable split” too. But maybe that’s wishful thinking on my part,” he replied, forcing himself to keep his tone serious.

He got the reaction he was looking for when her jaw dropped and her eyes went wide. If she hadn’t caught herself, he expected she probably would have dropped her hot tea all over her jean-clad lap. Narrowing her eyes at him, she nodded and leaned forward, carefully placing her steaming mug on the glass coffee table before sitting back, pulling her feet up under her and turning towards him. “Okay, um…what did you just say?” she carefully asked.

He sighed and placed his mug on the coffee table next to hers before sitting back and shrugging. “We split up,” he replied in simple explanation.

She scoffed at his easy manner. “Uh yeah, I got that. When? Better yet, why? What happened, Deacon?” she asked.

He sighed again. “A few months ago,” he answered calmly, and then shifted uneasily in his seat as he cleared his throat. “As for why…I’m sure that if you rack for your brain for a minute, you can come up with the answer to that one all on your own,” he said, his words veiled…his expression not so much.

Her eyes went wide at that and she flashed him a look of shock. “You told her?!” she asked, leaning towards him, her voice filled with disbelief. “Why? Why would you do that, Deacon?” she demanded.

He raised a brow. “Why? Why did I tell her Rayna? Maybe because I’m not as great at keeping secrets as some people in this room clearly are. Maybe that’s why!” he said angrily, getting quickly to his feet. He inwardly cursed himself when he saw her flinch and turn quickly pale at the obvious insult, but pride alone had him stopping just short of speaking the automatic apology that was on the tip of his tongue.

Swallowing hard, she composed herself the best that she could before standing to face him. He saw her jaw work silently as she struggled with the right words to say and how she wrapped her arms around herself before speaking, her voice still a little shaky. “Deacon…I’m so…so sorry,” she said, her voice barely a whisper. “I never meant to…God, Deacon; I wish you hadn’t done that. I know you were happy with her. You deserved that. You deserve to be happy with someone,” she told him, tears filling her eyes as she struggled with the guilt of her actions.

He swore and took a step towards her. “Ray…stop. I told you that morning and I’ll tell you again…it’s not your fault. I was with you that night because I wanted to be. I was there of my own volition. And I made love with you because I wanted to, Ray. God…” he sighed as he shook his head. “Was it wrong? Hell if I know. I mean, I feel horrible that it hurt Megan…but I’d be a goddamn liar if I said that I regret that it happened. Because I don’t, Rayna. Maybe I should, but I don’t. And I had to tell her. I had to. If the situation were reversed, I’d want to know. She had a right to know…she deserved to know, Ray. You and I both know that it was the right thing to do,” he said.

“Even though it cost you her?” she asked softly.

He shrugged. “You know how it goes, Ray. The whole “if it’s meant to be” and all that,” he said carelessly.

She gave him a raised-brow look. “Don’t play that with me, Deacon. I know you too well for that. You’re hurting. This wasn’t some fling. You cared about her. I know you did.”

He nodded and sighed. “Yeah…yeah, I did. I still do. She’s a good woman, Ray. She didn’t deserve to be hurt like that.” He hesitated. “No one does,” he added, looking away.

“Did you love her? Do you still love her?” she asked him. It was the same question she’d asked him several months before, right there in the same room, standing in nearly the exact spot as she’d been then.

He hesitated and she could see him contemplating the question. Finally, he answered. “Honestly, Ray…I don’t know. For most of my life, I’ve only ever loved one woman…and I lost that love a long time ago. So I really don’t know…” he spoke softly, sadly.

She reached out to him. “Deacon…”

He cleared his throat roughly, shaking his head as he stepped out of reach. “You know what, Ray…It’s been a long day. I’m going to turn in. You’re welcome to crash down here or the guest room, whichever…you know where the extra blankets are…just make sure you turn down the fire before you go up, if you decide to, alright?”

Again, he evaded her with a curt shake of his head. “Ray…good night,” he said firmly, his tone clipped…making it clear that he was done with the conversation. Nodding, he sidestepped her and headed for the stairs. When he disappeared from her view, she turned and walked towards the hearth. Her eyes burned as she stared at the dancing flames of the fire and she heard the quiet sound of a door slamming upstairs. With an escaping, wracking sob, the tears that had welled up inside them finally fell. She slid to the floor, covering her face with her hands…her heart in pieces…torn between whether to go to the broken man upstairs or follow his lead and leave him be…
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