Stray Master

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[Chapter Seven]

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Scottish Translation

Halò - Hello

leannan - Sweetheart

M'eudail - My Dear/My Darling

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Being interrogated is uncomfortable, especially if it's your boss. In my case, Miss Parry is being kind and patient with me yet still demanding answers as to why the cameras in the shop displayed Lewis throwing someone out. She wasn't happy with a potential customer being treated that way, she hadn't been able to hear through the camera and didn't know what happened; hence she came to me.

I had wanted to wait for her to meet Lewis, at least until we became official and knew we'd make a good match for each other. Miss Parry practically ordered for me to get Lewis to the shop the next day, it was supposed to be my day off but Miss Parry was upset and she wanted answers. I'm not mad, rather I understand because anyone would be angry over a customer being tossed out of their business over seemingly nothing.

She spoke to me first before asking me to get Lewis to meet me here, demanding to know what happened and who Lewis was. I explained and told her everything she wanted to know, if hesitantly. Once she got the story and realized Lewis was indeed assisting me, she softened up and hugged me. Apologizing that she wasn't paying attention to the camera screen in the kitchen where she bakes and cooks, usually, if she sees something happen, she's right on it. She must've been preparing something and was distracted, I'm not upset at her.

I had Lewis to defend me and he did so very well, I'm glad he showed up when he did. I rarely get treated that way and when I do, it's mainly men who are interested exclusively in sex and arrogant enough to think even gay men will take them to bed- as if every gay man has the same type and are desperate for sex. When gay men do come in and find me attractive enough, they're respectful. Granted, not all of them are. Some have had huge egos and were arrogant, but they also seemed to recognize there is a line people don't cross.

CeCe takes over for me when it does happen, putting space between me and the man- or woman, because that has happened before. A lady age flirted with me and wouldn't allow me to explain that I was gay, didn't even let me open my mouth to say anything. CeCe had grabbed me, glared at the lady, and started, simply and clearly, "He's mine, bitch. Get coffee somewhere else.'

The lady left a bad review on whatever Miss Parry uses to help promote, probably google, and our boss had scolded us; mostly CeCe. It didn't seem to drag us down much seeing as most customers come back and regulars know CeCe has a certain temper and weren't all that surprised she snapped at someone. My friend still got a cut out of her pay that week as a punishment for her actions.

It was unnerving to be alone and have to sit through someone speaking to me like that, I can't just snap at them or physically touch them. They'd probably report me to Miss Parry for being rude to customers, or worse, assault or harassment to the police. I don't want to test my luck with that.

Lewis showed up at the perfect time, I don't know what would have happened if he hadn't. I've read or heard of people being attacked by others for rejecting them, I find it hard to believe that some would do that just because someone didn't like them. It is always in the back of my head when I get in situations like that, what if I'm attacked? What if they are a secret killer? I'm paranoid at best when it comes to that, I blame crime shows.

Having Lewis here, his comforting presence and touch, relaxed me surprisingly quickly. I've known him long enough, been around him enough to know he'd protect me. He wouldn't let me go through what that man was saying to me, and he didn't. Lewis defended me and made sure I had the physical weight of his hand on me to help ground me and realize he'd take care of me. He took control of the problem and then came back to me to make sure I was okay.

We also began our date as soon as I was able to get off work, Lewis sat and waited. Spoke to me between customers that occasionally came in and texted Seán while I dealt with them, he'd tell me what they were talking about; mocking the new man working with Seán that day. But as soon as Miss Parry's husband walked in, I was ready to leave, and Lewis led me to his truck.

It was my favorite date ever, except for our first one. He took me to a small art gallery for lesser-known artists and walked around with me, holding my hand and allowing me to drag him to pieces I liked. He never complained about my gushing over the technique or colors, or the meanings I theorized over sone. Lewis listened and even commented on things, asking questions, and which ones I liked and why I did.

Lewis is interested in art because of me, he said it himself, 'I wanna support ya, gotta know some stuff to do that. 'Sides, could do some good to learn new shite.'

The Scotsman encouraged me to enter some of my artwork into the gallery, said that from the pictures I send they are great. Told me I'm an amazing artist. I honestly never felt more loved and cherished when I heard that, no one had tried to encourage me to do my art. Everyone thought it was just a hobby I do for fun, and it is, but it's a dream to have my art in galleries and sold to others who would enjoy it. It gave me hope I could be seeing my own painting on a wall in the gallery.

After the gallery, Lewis took me to a restaurant. Nothing fancy and expensive, at first glance it seemed like it. Everything was spotless and the interior was whites with light grays, little fairy lights hanging with a grand Chandelier, and someone playing the piano. I was expecting the menu to be filled with expensive, elegant, unpronounceable foods. It was a nice place and I liked it, right on the verge of luxury and casual in the theme. The menu wasn't at all what I expected, meals and drinks were reasonable and didn't nearly give me a heart attack or lose my appetite.

To my shock, they had nearly everything fast food places have just cleaned up to look and taste better. I imagine there is a chef back in the kitchen that knew what he was doing. It was delicious and Lewis had encouraged me to take another meal home to warm up later, 'Better than that one meal ya eat every day. Gonna have ta take you shopping for food.'

When we finished, Lewis took me back to my apartment building and walked me to the door. Giving me a list of things to do when I get in my home; shower, get changed, text him, and paint. Before he left, he gave me a sweet kiss on my cheek.

I feel lucky to have Lewis, I like him so much already. I hope it works out between us, I'd hate to lose a great man like him.

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I'm sitting on the edge of a booth with Miss Parry standing across from me after I get a text from Lewis stating he'll be walking in the shop in a few minutes, nervous. They weren't supposed to meet yet and I'm unsure as to how Miss Parry will react to meeting Lewis, in the oast with Ryan she was sweet and kind because we had been young, he was also sweating and fidgety and wouldn't look her in the eye.

Lewis won't be like that, he has more confidence than Ryan ever had and he isn't intimidated by much. He told me he wouldn't be rude or disrespectful to Miss Parry, that he'll behave. I doubt he would have behaved badly anyway, whenever he's around a woman- especially older women- he's respectful and sweet. He wouldn't treat Miss Parry any different.

But, Miss Parry is going to interrogate him on what he wants with me, who he is, where he came from. She'll be merciless if she wants to me. She doesn't know him, which means she doesn't trust Lewis and will decide after one meeting if she likes him or not. If she decided she didn't like him and told me so, I'd be heartbroken. Because if she doesn't like him, she won't think he's good for me and will show it. I can't have them not getting along, they're both big parts of my life now.

I hear the ding and glance up, smiling at the usual grin Lewis has. He's in a big hoodie today and jeans, hair in a bun, and seemingly clean instead of covered in sweat and dirt. He makes his way to us, his grin never once falling. I stand up and take a few steps to meet him, wrapping around his waist and feeling his chuckle as he leans down slightly to kiss my hair.

"Halò, Tommy Boy. How ya doin?" His chest rumbles as he speaks, the vibration of it comforting and satisfying.

His long arm had wrapped around me, enclosing my body, and pressing me against him. It feels wonderful, safe to be in his arms and feeling his chest shift as he breaths, and if I move my head a bit I'm able to hear his heartbeat. Being with him calms my nerves and I suddenly feel as if I can't be touched by Miss Parry, that she can't take me away from Lewis because he won't let her. He'll protect me, even if from my boss and unofficially adopted mother.

"Hi...Sorry, you had to come here so quick, I was being rushed." I apologize because I don't know what he was doing, I could have interrupted something or he could've been trying to get sleep in for work this evening.

I hear Miss Parry scoff, disagreeing that she was rushing me to get him here when she was. Standing over me and watching me text him, urging me to tell him to hurry and that it was important. Granted, Lewis doesn't appear annoyed or upset and just smiles happily.

"Ah, it's fine. Was doing nothin important, paintin a wall can wait. What's going on, leannan?" Green eyes glance away from me to the woman standing to the side of us, studying Lewis closely.

Right, that. We're here for a reason. "Uh, Lewis this is Miss Parry, Miss Parry Lewis."

Lewis recognizes her name from me telling him about her and he gives a short nod and smiles, "Heard good things bout ya, nice to finally meet ya."

I know he would have offered a handshake but my boss is appearing anything but kind and approachable, and Lewis once said that he knew not to upset an already angry woman because nothing good would come from it. He was speaking mostly about Seáns mother and grandmother, those women seem to have something at hand to hit them with no matter what.

Miss Parry raises an eyebrow, "That's funny, I never heard of you before."

I wince at that, already not enjoying this. I had told Lewis I wanted to wait until he meets her and CeCe properly, he agreed it would be better in case we didn't work out. I never mentioned Lewis to Miss Parry before and apparently, neither did CeCe. I knew she'd be upset I didn't tell her but I want to see where this goes without her asking questions or trying to softly push me into something.

Miss Parry did that with Ryan after she met him, asked questions about any dates we went on, and if I thought he was the one. I imagine Mothers do that to show support and she is like a mother to me, but it can be suffocating and uncomfortable. If Lewis and I didn't work out, she would threaten and say she hated him and I don't want that. I want to keep Lewis in my life, boyfriend, or not. He's amazing.

Lewis's arm squeezes me softly, "Aye, Tommy Boy wanted to wait for me to meet you. I'm not surprised ya haven't heard bout me."

Miss Parry turns her eyes to me, although I can tell she isn't angry at the situation and she's happy Lewis helped me. She doesn't know what to expect from him when he's with me, doesn't trust him just yet. "Yes, I understand what he wants and I'll respect that. I just wanted to speak to you about what happened yesterday, with the mam you threw out."

Lewis tenses at the mention of the man, obviously disliking him being brought up. His body relaxes when I hug him tighter around his waist. "Wasn't respectin my boy, shoulda taught him a lesson. Didn't wanna fight inside, that woulda been rude to ya. I was taught better than that."

Miss Parry raises her eyebrow, seemingly caught up on how Lewis phrased the last sentence. It wasn't 'raised' it was 'taught'. I can assume it was Seáns mother and grandmother, and his family, that taught him that and his own common sense. Lewis is a nationally kind guy, I doubt he'd purposefully damage or do anything to someone he knows.

I only assume this because he mentioned not having the greatest childhood and that his parents weren't 'happy people'. He hadn't said anything more but I doubt he'd think so negatively about them if he had spent good memories with them or grown-up well enough. At first, I thought it was only recently that they had issues. Now, I'm beginning to think otherwise.

"And you think he should be taught a lesson, how would do you that?" Miss Parry asks, focusing on an entirely different subject as to what I thought.

"Aye. He disrespected my boy, where I'm from he deserves a beatin, should've backed off when he saw me." Lewis is causal in his answer, doesn't see anything wrong with it. I don't either, I think it's rather nice.

If a man comes up to me again and I immediately warn them of my status as taken, they might back off and if they don't Lewis will teach them to listen next time. Imagine if every creep or arrogant person was taught to respect the others they 'flirt' on- if it can be called that. They'd probably be brought down a peg or two. I, for one, feel much safer around Lewis.

"Where are you from? Why do you believe that?" Miss Parry glances at me as if suddenly concerned.

"Born and raised in Scotland, moved to Ireland. My birth family and my Bràthairs family are very traditional, the area of Ireland I lived in with them was too. It's common sense not to harass or disrespect others, when that is not done, we teach a good lesson to do it." Lewis's hand is absently running through the short hair on the back of my neck as he explains this, bringing further comfort to my nerves.

My boss still seems slightly put off with the way Lewis thinks, probably thinking of ways it could be harmful to a relationship. I'm positive it was one of the reasons Lewis warned me of his possessiveness, most people would like to handle certain situations without their partners interfering. I, on the other hand, prefer if my partner handled those situations for me.

If I had the option, I'd make it to where my partner did everything; especially handle money. I wouldn't force them to, I'd ask if they like to first, and if not, I'd let it go. I'd prefer not to be responsible for anything important, bills or money is on that list. If I must, I will, but it causes so much stress and anxiety it feels impossible.

Miss Parry nods, finally giving Lewis her smile. "Well, I thank you for helping Tommy. I'll pay closer attention to the cameras while I'm baking. Why don't we have a seat?"

Without waiting for an answer, she leads sits in the booth I was at while waiting for Lewis, staring at us expectedly. Lewis unwraps me from him and guides us to the seat across from Miss Parry, gently pushing my back to allow me to slide in the booth first. I'm then trapped against the wall and Lewis's body, not that I mind, especially when his arm comes to rest on the back of the seat behind me. Close enough to feel his warmth and a soft brush of contact if I shift a certain way.

"So, Lewis, what do you do for work?" Miss Parry starts the normal questions, hands folded on the table like she's giving him an interview for a job.

Lewis doesn't hesitate, "construction, occasionally remodeling."

"Oh, like decorating houses?"

The expression on Lewis's face makes me want to laugh, he obviously hadn't been asked that question before. "Nah, taken down walls, shit like that. For whoever pays."

He earns a nod, then, "Where do you live?"

I glare at Miss Parry, that question doesn't matter. I've never been to Lewis's home and he hasn't been to mine, it shouldn't a question she feels is necessary. Why does it matter anyway? She smirks at me, as an evil witch would. It makes me uncomfortable and she knows it, probably why she did it.

"An apartment few blocks from the park near here. Decent building, nice people, good enough for me." That is the simple answer Lewis provides.

I get to sit through a whole hour and a half of listening to Miss Parry's irritating and semi-personal questions, then Lewis's avoidance of questions about his parents or his past. He doesn't get angry or annoyed as I do, he's calm and respectful no matter how deep she digs at him.

I find it annoying and rude, Lewis doesn't like to speak about his past or parents. I understand that completely and I hate it when people push me to do so, having a bad childhood and parents like mine, I don't talk about it. Especially to complete strangers. It's an invasion of his privacy and I'm upset for him even if he doesn't show his dislike for the situation. He only talks about Seáns family, which I know he considers his family too.

Miss Parry's questions get more personal each time; about his education, friends, childhood. If his parents ever visited him in America. It got to the point where Lewis had firmly stated, 'I don't talk bout my past or the people that raised me. Stop asking bout them. They don't matter.'

The expression that crossed Lewis's face had warned me that if she continued, he would just leave. He doesn't need her to like him, he'll probably deal with her for me if we continuing dating but he doesn't need to be liked or like her. He's around for me, not her. Lewis strikes me as that kind of guy, not caring of what others think of him.

My boss wanted to argue with what he said, Miss Parry wants to be a mother and can't imagine a son saying that about the people who brought him into the world. She understands my case, yet she had never heard me speak about my parents like that. Telling her his parents don't matter to him, is like telling her he won't care for me. Because she thinks parents teach us to care for a partner, if he doesn't think his parent's matter, he won't believe I matter.

It's ill logic, in my opinion, I came from bad parents but to Miss Parry, I had her and her husband to show me how to be towards a partner. I gave up on trying to change her mind about this particular belief of hers.

"Well, I would like to talk to Tom for a minute. If you'd excuse us." Miss Parry stands and watches Lewis get up, helping me slide out from the booth by my hand.

"I'll be right here, we'll go for a walk after you're done." I smile at the decision Lewis makes since a walk sounds amazing after we had happened just now.

"Okay. I'll try to keep it short." I hear Miss Parry scoff.

Lewis shakes his bead, "Take your time, I don't mind."

Miss Parry takes my hand and takes me through the shop to the staff room, where her husband, Oliver, is at. He's messing with a locker that has been broken for a while now, the hinges don't work, and it's been half-closed. Oliver is around my height, only inches taller than me, and Miss Parry. He has silky black hair and hazel eyes, a piercing on his lip and eyebrow, and is covered in tattoos. He's Black and Mexican, his mother is Mexican while his father is Black.

I wave to him and he smiles at me as he stops what he's doing and comes to greet his wife with a kiss, then raises an eyebrow when she forces me to sit down on a chair at the table in the center of the room. He opens his mouth, confused as to why Miss Parry is upset with me, but she interrupts.

"I don't like him."

My mouth drops open, honesty surprised at that statement. Lewis had been nothing but kind and polite to her, answered her stupid questions and had helped me with a perverted man. She has no reason not like him, if anything, he should be the one to dislike her.

"What? Why? What did he do?"

She scoffs like it should be obvious, "Tom, he's obviously not for you. Drop him."

I can only stare at her in shock and slowly raising anger, I don't mad at her often- if ever. But now, is one of those times. She is overstepping big time. Just because she helped raise me, assisted me to get where I am today, and has given love and care I needed; doesn't mean she gets to decide who I can and can't be with.

Lewis makes me happy, more than I've ever been in my life. He's what I've been looking for and I want to keep him as long as I can. He's encouraged me into a better and healthier lifestyle, he protected me and will protect me, he's provided for me when he didn't have to. He's my dream man. She has no right to take that away from me, no right to dislike him when he did nothing wrong.

He was respectful and he answered questions with confidence, told her what he wanted with me- 'Date him, if he wants more or less, I'll give it to him.' Mothers around the world would probably love him for that alone, a partner who will respect limits and is confident in all the right ways? They'd sign their adult children up that. So what could she find wrong?

"He makes me happy, I want to be with him. What he did do?"

Oliver is more confused, looking between us and gathering his wife's troubled expression and my angry one. Then he tries to calm us down, reassuring me before dealing with his wife. "I'm sure there's nothing wrong with the man, Thomas."

But that just makes Miss Parry go off on him instead, "Nothing wrong?! Oli, that man hates his parents! Now could you say he's alright for Tommy! And he's incredibly possessive! I heard him myself! He'd beat someone up for Tommy!"

"I already knew he was possessive! I love that! I feel safe!" I have to shout over her when she starts to argue with me. "And I hate my parents! Not everyone will love their parents! Especially if something horrible happened with them!"

She gasps at me like she hadn't expected me to finally admit my dislike for my parents, gripping Oliver's shirt. "No! I won't believe that! You are not to be around that man!"

"Now, sweetheart isn't that a bit much? Let hi-" Oliver tries to reason with her, but she won't listen.

She pushes him away, glaring at him. "No! It isn't, I will not have Tom around a man like that! Nothing good will come of it!"

I glare at her, I'm thankful Oliver is trying to help me but I can't be around her right now. She's attempting to damage my growing relationship with a man I like and am happy with, I can't be pushed around as I usually am when it comes to this. I won't her force me back to the way my life was without Lewis to encourage me and dominate me as he has. I can't do that, I was miserable.

All because she can not believe that someone has the audacity to hate their parents and not tell her their history. I can't she's acting this way over that, I can understand the concern about Lewis being possessive- most relationships like that tend to end badly according to stories or the Internet. She wants to protect me from a bad relationship, I get that.

The other, and main, reason, I don't understand. I know she wants to be a mother and parent, that she wants to believe children will love their parents and she'll be loved by someone she brought into the world. But she needs to understand, that not every person with children wants that. Some children grow up with horrible parents and hate them, enough to leave them as Lewis did. It's okay to hate them, we have reasons too. She needs to see that, and I thought she did. Apparently, I was wrong.

"You don't get to decide for me! I'm going to continue to see Lewis and you can't stop me! I'm an adult! I can decide who I date or not and I choose Lewis!"

Miss Parry shakes her head at me, going to speak but I interrupt her. "Until you learn to understand that we have reasons to hate them and you can't stop me from seeing Lewis just because he hates his parents, I'm leaving. I'll come to work, but that's it."

With that said, I attempt to walk past them, and Oliver steps aside to allow me to pass to the door. Miss Parry doesn't, she grabs and pulls me away from the door, "You are not seeing him! That is final!"

"Let me go!! Let go!" I struggle in her arms while Oliver rushes to try and pull her off, arms going around her wait to pry her from me.

"Sandra! Baby, let Tom go! Let him leave!"

She doesn't listen to either of us and we struggle until I get tired of not being able to get free. I call the only person I know will be able to get me out of the room and away from the shop, "Lewis!!"

I call for him a few more times before he burst into the room, concern on his face until he sees the situation. Then he's closer in no time and gripping Miss Parry's wrist, forcing them off my middle enough that Oliver can pull her away. Lewis picks me up when she nearly gets free, holding me tightly against him.

I wrap around him, legs around his waist and arms around his neck as I try to hide. Surrounding myself with safety and trying to calm down, drying the sudden wetness from my eyes.

I feel Lewis start to walk and hear Miss Parry shouting, Oliver shushing her and struggling to calm her down. Then the door is slammed shut and Lewis has his free hand, The one that hasn't been holding me up from under my thighs, appears on my head. Petting my hair and mumbling comforting words in an accented voice, humming as he does on the phone at night.

Once we're outside, he speaks quietly. "Imma take you home, m'eudail. Do ya want me to stay?"

I nod into his neck, wanting to be held and cared for, knowing he'd do exactly that.

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I'm relatively calmer once we make it to my apartment building in Lewis's truck. He allowed me to lay in the seat with me on his thigh as he drove, he warned me it was a one-time thing and he didn't want to get in an accident with me like that. He carries me through the door to the building and followed my directions to my door, I dug into my pocket and handed him the keys the let him handle getting us in.

Inside, he set them down on the table and went down the hallway in search of my room. Once found, he laid me on the bed and took off my shoes. He tucked me into blankets then kicked his boots off and climbed in after me, chuckling when I cuddle into his chest. He hugs me tightly and starts humming, his chest lightly vibrating as he does like his throat.

I feel comforted, safe, and sleepy. Sighing contently, I fall into sleep for a nap.
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