Stray Master

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[Chapter Sixteen]

🔓🔎🗝

Scottish Translation -

Ghràdh - Love

M’eudail - My Dear/My Darling

Bairn - Baby

Bonnie - Beautiful/ Pretty

Nyaff - Irritating person

Mo Leannan - my lover, my sweetheart.

🔓🔎🗝

Lewis is a man of his word and any promise he gives, I know he’ll keep if he has any choice in it. This is why I find myself walking in the cafe exactly on time for my shift with Ryan, hearing Lewis’s obnoxious truck rumble away from the building and down the road. I’m disappointed he couldn’t stay all day as he does sometimes, but he needs to get home to his apartment and get a change of clothes and make sure he doesn’t need to work until later. He had given me his word that he’d stop by later and hang out until the end of my shift. He had also told me that if CeCe starts questioning what is happening, to tell her to come over to my apartment and we’d explain.

CeCe is already at the counter, apron on and in a black mid-thigh ruffled skirt over thick leggings with some kind of goat skull on them. She has a new hoodie on, a wide hood on it while the torso and sleeves are tight, it has the moon cycle on the sleeves and the edge of the hood, another design similar to it on the back of it. She has a black V neck shirt under it, the top three buttons undone and revealing a peek of cleavage, not too much, a tease of it. I like this outfit, it’s cute even if I have no clue what the symbols and designs are. The skirt is just the right length and it pulls the look together for me. Her clunky boots are on her feet, platformed and loud as usual. Her hair isn’t blue anymore, now half white and half black, in a bun that mixes the colors beautifully

I can’t see Miss Parry just yet, although I know she has already seen me. She has cameras and knows everyone who comes in or goes out. If she isn’t distracted by her cooking or baking, that is. Either she knows I won’t acknowledge her presence or she actually feels guilty for what she did and can’t bear to look at me. I’d rather she just come clean to Ryan, no matter that he knows the truth from me. Own up to her mistake (is it really a mistake if she did it on purpose?), and act like an adult. I wonder if she told Oliver about her plan, I doubt he’d let her do it if he knew. He’d try to convince her otherwise and how much of a bad idea it was. I’m assuming she didn’t mention it to him.

I’m still having issues believing she’s doing all this, I’ve never seen her act like this over something and it’s scary to an extent. I’ve known Miss Parry for years and thought I knew her well enough to call her my second mother, she was always kind-hearted and caring; supportive. She hadn’t, even once, shown this side of her and it’s scary to see someone completely switch to someone I don’t know. She acts like a person I never met, the woman I know wouldn’t have done this to me. She wouldn’t even think of accusing someone of abusing another person. One could think she was possessed by something, if that kind of supernatural thing existed.

I don’t know how to get her to understand, I’m at a loss and, honestly, scared. Not of her, but of what she could do to Lewis or our blooming relationship. Lewis is a decently patient man, especially if it’s something he deems important. He’ll get angry but I know he’ll stay until it either gets to be too much or she crosses another line, that’s the only outcome I see from her doing any of this is him leaving. I’m frightened, worried he’ll do just that. Lewis is beginning to be a necessity for me, he makes everything better and easier and I adore having him around me. I don’t know how I’d go back to the way I was before, and I don’t want to.

I like where I’m at now, with my rules and getting to work on time and showering every day, and remembering to eat. Living in a healthy apartment. Having Lewis with me. He makes me feel loved and protected, as if I’m royalty with how he cares for me and getting to sit in his lap with his arms holding me tightly as if I’ll disappear. I’ve never felt so strongly for another person and while it’s frightening to think about, I won’t have it any other way. But while it’s amazing and I love it, we haven’t been on very many dates, not that it matters since we hang out enough to make up for required getting to know each other dates. I want to go on more though when Lewis and I are free from work, and we can’t do that if Miss Parry keeps this one-sided war with Lewis up.

Maybe I could contact Oliver, he might be able to talk sense into her. Besides, with how she seems determined to label Lewis as a domestic abuser, it could pay off to have a police officer in on what is happening. If it comes to it, Oliver can state what’s been happening and explain clearly. I don’t know if it’ll come to that, I hope it won’t, but at this point, I should be prepared if things go wrong by Miss Parry’s words. Although, maybe she figured out how crazy she sounds and how her actions won’t help me but hold me back from happiness. Maybe she’ll apologize and we’ll move on. I need to keep some hope for her to see, otherwise, it feels like giving up and waiting for her to push Lewis away from me.

Lewis can’t be shoved away, not like this anyway. He may be the single best thing to happen to me in a long time, and I can’t lose that. I refuse to.

CeCe’s shout of surprise captures my attention from searching for Miss Parry, turning to my friend grinning, and leaning on the counter as I pass to go to the staff room, seeing CeCe staring at Ryan curiously. They know each other from when Ryan and I dated, or closer to the end of our short relationship. CeCe had just started to work here when Miss Parry also hired me and they had been quick friends, bonding on stories of me being clumsy and laughing over jokes on how often I lost my balance. CeCe joins us for lunch or dinner when Ryan visits, sometimes she can’t make it because she’s busy but she tries to show up when we plan a meal.

I can hear them strike up a conversation behind me on my way into the staff room to grab my apron. I don’t pay much attention to the room itself, going straight to my locker and opening it. No one besides me and CeCe come in here, Miss Parry will when she needs to speak with us before our shift, and Oliver comes in often after his shift at the police station to start here. I suspect Miss Parry is cooking in the kitchen and Oliver is normally at the station at this time unless he has the day off. So I don’t expect anyone to speak and when a voice sounds from behind me, I startle and my hand flings into the locker door with a bang.

“Tom.” It’s Miss Parry.

“God damn! Warn a guy!” I lean on the locker and take a deep breath to calm my heartbeat. My hand has a dull ache in it, now.

I can’t turn around to face her, I keep my forehead on the cool metal of the locker. The thought of speaking to her right now, when the knowledge of her lie and betrayal of my trust is too raw, fresh, makes me nauseous. It’s hard enough to even think that she convinced Ryan, lying through her teeth as if it was the easiest thing to do, that Lewis was hurting me. A woman I looked up to, who had cared and promised to never hurt me. A woman wanting a family, to add to the one she has; Oliver, CeCe, Ryan, me. A woman who had never once judged a person wrongly; until Lewis. Harder still to look her in the eye and confront her about it, knowing I’d either get excuses, lies, or her ashamed expression that says she’s sorry but she’ll never say sorry because she thought it was the right thing to do even if it was wrong.

It hurts, hurts so much. I wasn’t prepared, never seen it coming. The betrayal I feel from her having done that, my trust in her to let me be happy as she promised she would, ‘No matter what, Thomas. Anything, whatever makes you happy, you do it. I’ll be here to make sure you stay smiling. I Promise.’ It’s overpowering, sitting in my chest like a massive boulder, unmovable, unshakeable.

I’m used to hurting like this, was used to it. It hasn’t happened since I found Miss Parry. But it was, once upon a time, a constant feeling. Living with who I did, it was a requirement to live with it. The dread, the pain, the betrayal. Not a day went by that this boulder wasn’t just there when I woke up to screaming, shouting, glass shattering. It had disappeared though when I met this family, this group of people; Miss Parry, Oliver, CeCe, even Ryan. It was a struggle at the beginning, yet over time the monstrous boulder got smaller until it was a tiny rock. Then it was just, gone.

It feels like it’s crushing me now.

I want to call Lewis and have him pick me up, take me home and hide in his chest in bed like this morning. He’s safe, he’s protection and he’ll make the boulder go away. It’s what I desperately want, yet I force myself to throw my apron on and speed walk to the door. My eyes, blurry and watery, stay on the floor. I don’t take a glance at her, ignoring her with bated breath as if to keep myself from suddenly causing a scene- crying or angry shouting, I’m not sure which.

I’m pushing the door opening when she decides to speak again, staying on the other side of the room, smartly assuming I need space from her. Her voice is thick, a tone in it I can’t think to place. “Thomas, please, let’s talk-”

The door swings closed in the middle of her sentence as I walk out, already emotionally drained from being in the same room as her. It wasn’t very serious before when she met Lewis, the freak out she had could’ve been a number of things and something triggered her, I understand that. She thought she could protect me from a threat that wasn’t there. But now it isn’t just an innocent dislike for a son’s boyfriend, she went and called my ex-boyfriend to tell him my current boyfriend was beating me up. Not only is she accusing Lewis of a very serious issue, but she is also threatening his career and life with it. Ryan could have easily gone to the police with her accusation and had Lewis arrested, I imagine his boss wouldn’t want someone with a record working for them or anyone else for that matter.

Lewis could’ve been thrown in prison, it isn’t very likely but it is a possibility. I would’ve been labeled as a victim and too scared to say anything against him, nothing I could’ve said would be believed. Of course, CeCe would’ve backed us, but I don’t know what that would’ve done besides make things complicated. Ryan and Miss Parry would’ve been passionate enough to make sure Lewis was away from me, Ryan would be convinced because of my boss and Miss Parry started it.

She’s not messing with just my love life now, she’s messing with Lewis’s life. Every decision has consequences and her’s is no different, except they’ll affect someone else.

I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m not ready to confront her and have that conversation, not ready to hear her excuse for why she told Ryan what she did, or hear any fake or bullshit apology. I’d rather have Lewis with me when I do that, for the comfort and the fact that she said what she said against him and he deserves a reason for why Ryan came to confront him about it. It sounds pathetic, but I want Lewis to have the whole conversation with her, while I just sit next to him or on his lap and listen. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to accept that she attempted to ruin what makes me happy and that she broke one of the first promises she ever made to me.

The promises she made when we met are important to me because she was the first person to be able to keep said promises. She didn’t have someone keeping her from fulfilling them, didn’t have someone there with a bb gun threatening to shoot her a million times with metal bullets. She wasn’t child services or anyone else involved that had done nothing to help. Besides my Aunt, Miss Parry was the first person I trusted. She swore she would be supportive, let me be happy when I found something that made me smile and grin and laugh. Lewis does that, and she accuses him of abuse. It’s more than wrong, not only to me and Lewis but to her conscious and I know someday she’ll feel guilty for it.

A hand on my shoulder startles a flinch from me, eyes blinking into focus to see CeCe and Ryan staring at me, concerned. Ryan’s hand is warm and firm on my shoulder, helping ground me to keep my thoughts at bay. CeCe raises her eyebrow, “Tomboy, you good? You blanked out on us.”

Ryan looks over my shoulder and scowls before smoothing his expression out back into concern, “Should I call Lewis for you?”

I nearly nod on reflex, wanting Lewis to be here but remembering he needs to check his apartment and his schedule and probably wants to mess with his truck. So I shake my head, “No. I’m fine, I was just thinking and got sidetracked with other thoughts. Sorry.”

My friends don’t believe me. It’s clear with CeCe glaring at my shoulder and Ryan’s soft eyes as he searches my face for a lie. I’ll be fine when I get home, away from the cafe and not actively avoiding my boss. Hopefully, they’ll let it go for now and interrogate me later. It seems to work as Ryan gives one short nod and squeezes my shoulder before kissing my temple and stepping past me. CeCe stares for another few seconds, then jerks her head in the direction of the line of customers that is filled with regulars. Most of them smile at me and watch me with varying looks of concern, at least the ones that had taken a liking to me as a somewhat friend.

We start our shift and I quickly busy myself with coffee and creamers and chocolate syrup with whip cream, going by muscle memory to get everything done. Not paying attention to the eyes I feel burning the back of my head, or CeCe who glances at me between people and orders. I catch Ryan on my phone at some point, which I vaguely wonder how he got it because it was in my hoodie pocket, then realize CeCe is next to me and she can be sneaky when she wants to be. I don’t bother asking why he has it or what he’s doing on it, I have some idea and I’m not all that bothered by it, I trust them with it.

I don’t take any breaks unless I’m forced by having nothing to do. I clean the machines at least twice when people stop lining up and orders are slower, wiping down the counters as soon as a coffee or drink is out of the way and in someone’s hand. Keeping busy is the only way to escape thoughts and the idea of turning around to lock eyes with Miss Parry, I don’t particularly enjoy it but it helps calm my raging mind down a bit and allow me to avoid any conservation about a certain woman who is currently the evil stepmother.

The clock gets the most attention from me today, the closer to the end of my shift the sooner Lewis gets here to pick me up. He’ll have to go to the site he’s working on in a few hours, but I’m positive Ryan will understand if I drag the Scotsman straight to my bedroom to hide under the blankets and in Lewis’s neck. CeCe and my ex have most likely already made plans to catch up, whether they wait to have a discussion with me first or give me some space with Lewis is questionable. I assume they’ll want to know what’s wrong with me before to reassure themselves and me, but they’ll also great at seeing when I need space to calm down and think something through. If they want to know, I’m sure Lewis wouldn’t mind explaining to CeCe what’s happening but I’d have to talk about how Miss Parry tried to ambush me and why I was distracted today.

I don’t think I can accurately explain what I’m feeling, the emotions are easy; sadness, anger, disappointment. The more complex feelings, no idea. Why I feel betrayed, hurt so deeply I feel it in my bones, I can’t find the words to even begin to attempt an explanation. I could just say how helpless I feel, and I do. I can’t think of a way to make Miss Parry stop what she’s doing to me, to Lewis, us. The helplessness just adds extra spice to the hurricane of emotions and feelings cooking inside me, and I don’t know how to handle them.

I just wanted to be happy, how did that turn into what’s happening now?

There’s an hour left of my shift and I’m cleaning the counters for the fourth time, my arms are getting an ache in them from scrubbing and reaching and wiping in large circles, my head is quiet and I’m not paying attention to anything other than the caramel stain on the surface. Through the conversations of people sitting in booths and at tables, I can hear CeCe and Ryan having a quiet discussion. Miss Parry hasn’t shown herself, yet her eyes burn through me like a branding iron. The door dings, but I figure CeCe could get the customer while I battle the damned stain. It won’t come off no matter how hard I scrub or scratch at it, I’m taking most of my anger and frustration out on it.

I only stop when a large, warm hand appears on my upper arm and gently pulls me away. Another one takes the rag I was using and slides it further away from me, I’m blinking and struggling to come back to focus to see what’s happening. My body is encircled by huge arms and pressed against a big chest, sawdust and oil scents linger on the hoodie and it’s enough to snap me back to recognize who is hugging me. I clutch Lewis tightly and bury my face in his collar bone with a small whine that I have no control over. The Scotsman shushes me, murmuring words into my hair, his lips moving against me as he showers me with praise and encouragement, and saying how proud he is of me for working so hard.

He doesn’t move us, just standing next to the coffee machines and hugging me; a solid, immovable statue of comfort and safe. How long we stand there, I have no idea. My entire focus is on how Lewis’s body is warm and large, his arms act like shields from my thoughts, and Miss Parry, how his hoodie is soft and smells like a construction site mixed with a garage. His breathing and heartbeat are calming, the movement of his nose on my throat as he nuzzles me just adds to it. My body loosens from the bowstring tight that it was and my muscles ache, and I feel like crying from stress and frustration. My hands-on Lewis’s back grasps his hoodie so tightly my fingers hurt as I clutch at him even harder, trying to get him closer with another whine.

Lewis shifts, crowding me against the counter, blocking me from view like a wall. The edge of it is at my back, but not pressing into me. The Scotsman drags one of his hands to my hair to clasp a clump of it in his fist, giving it a firm tug, not enough to cause pain, merely to help ground me. He continues to nuzzle me, his nose, breaths, and facial hair tickling my skin as he goes from my neck to my jaw to my temple. When he speaks, it’s in a soft mutter against my skin, “Calm, Ghràdh. Calm.”

I can only try to get closer again, wanting to reassure myself that he’s here and Miss Parry hadn’t actually called the police. I wouldn’t put it past her now. Lewis tugs my hair again, a bit harder this time, and clinks his tongue, the sound loud and sharp in my ear. A tiny whimper escapes, “Lewy…”

He hums, his chest and throat vibrating with it. “’m here, M’eudail. Ya got me. Peace, Tommy Boy. Breathe.”

Wanting to listen, even if I don’t think it’ll help, I take deep breaths. My face is still buried at the base of his throat and the only thing I breathe in is his scent; men’s body wash, sweat, and the sawdust and oil that is on his hoodie. It’s strangely comforting, being able to recognize how he smells. It’s not one of the things I’m interested in, it won’t turn me on in any way, but I am aware that I find it calming.

Lewis starts rubbing my back with his free hand, slow and soothing. Humming, “Good Boy, Bairn. I’m proud of ya. Now, wanna look up here? Shine them eyes at me.”

Butterflies are let loose in my stomach and chest, a blush creeping its way to my ears. Being called a good boy is one of the quickest ways for me to melt, which is exactly what happens. My whole body gives up on keeping myself standing, leaning on Lewis in what feels like a relief. I don’t need to deal with Miss Parry, or stress, be frustrated. Lewis will take care of me, he’ll deal with what I can’t and he’ll keep me safe. All I have to do is be good and listen.

When we get home, we can hide in bed and I’ll cry out my frustration. But right now, I don’t need to. It’s bad enough that we’re in public doing this, people can see us and I feel eyes on me, I just don’t care.

Pulling back slightly, I tilt my head up to rest my chin on his chest. I have a small content smile on my lips that grows into a grin when Lewis smiles widely and says, “There ya are, Bonnie. Good boy.”

He presses a lingering kiss on my forehead, releasing my hair yet continuing the motions his hand does on my back. He doesn’t say anything else for a few minutes, letting me completely relax on him and come back to focus on everything. I’m aware that I went to a headspace, just not the one I want, a bad one filled with anxiety and fears and depression. It was mixed with a workspace I go into at work, where I mainly busy around and focus on orders and people. Everything with Miss Parry is planting new fears and stress, doubts and questions. I’m assuming it had built up and her ambushing me in the Staffroom had triggered it. The intense emotions and feelings it had brought on, pushing me into it.

It wasn’t as bad as before, I had nearly died that time, this one I was just cleaning obsessively and ignoring my friends- if they spoke to me, I never heard them. It’s been a long time since I had an episode like this, where I basically turn into a robot and marinate in negative thoughts. I haven’t missed them and I’m glad Lewis showed up, gently pulled me from it and while the emotions and feelings and thoughts are still present, they are smothered by Lewis’s presence and care.

I can hear CeCe dealing with two customers, Ryan assisting her in taking the order and obeying CeCe’s commands on what kind of syrup to grab. I feel guilty for making Ryan do my job and CeCe having to deal with the people herself, and I make a note to apologize as soon as Lewis lets me go. Lewis has his head resting on my shoulder, both of his hands sliding over my back soothingly. It’s another full minute before he speaks when CeCe and Ryan are done with people and chatting quietly behind the Scotsman. Lewis pulls back to look down at me, concern in his green eyes, “Wanna talk ta me? What happened?”

A bolt of shame runs through me at the question, because I went into an episode by just being in the same room as Miss Parry. How pathetic is that? If I can’t be in the same room, how am I going to talk to her? I need answers as to why she told Ryan what she did, but it seems impossible now.

I know I can’t lie to Lewis, not about this or ever, and I know we need honest communication. So, with a heavy sigh, I lean my forehead on his chest, ignoring everyone in the building and all the murmur noise. Voice quiet, “Miss Parry ambushed me earlier and I guess all the stress and shit just pushed me in a bad direction. It happens sometimes, rare recently, but still. I’m sorry.”

I feel him hum and his hands press me closer, his breath appears near my ear and his voice is the same as mine was. “It’s fine, Tommy Boy. Don’t ’pologize for it. Your shift is over, only bout thirty minutes. I’ll take ya home and we’ll lie down, take a nap. Deal with the Nyaff in the mornin.”

I nod, although he wasn’t asking, he was just giving me a plan of what we’re doing. It’s what I wanted to do anyway, a nap sounds amazing after crying. He pulls away from me to turn back to CeCe and Ryan, having a short conversation on if CeCe could cover for me and if Ryan would be okay without a ride back to my apartment. Both agree and tell me to get some sleep and eat, try to feel better, that they’ll be over later. Lewis thanks them and I get out my apology before Lewis picks me up in his arms to carry me out of the cafe.

🔓🔎🗝

Lewis holds onto me securely when I cry into his chest on the bed under the blankets, rubbing my back and pressing kisses to my hair, and encouraging me to get it out. He tells me how proud he is that I’m not bottling up my emotions and that I’m allowing him to comfort me. He doesn’t complain about tears on his gray tank top that he wore under his hoodie or about any snot that could be escaping.

Lewis just holds me in a warm embrace, “That’s it, Mo Leannan. Let it go. Good Boy”

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