“Lia, it’s fine. I promise. Nathan has to do that to appear unbiased and make sure nothing gets them called out.” Dani attempted to comfort her about Cody’s arrest.
Dani had convinced Lia to go back into the house and sit in the living room, where they were seated now. Lia had been alternating between shaking and crying to pacing and anger.
“I hate this so much. I have brought so much drama and nonsense with me. I should’ve just stayed in New York and handled this myself. I was foolish to think I could have a life, start a life settling down.” Lia grumbled, thinking out loud.
“What?! You deserve all the happiness in the world, and this, all of this is not your fault.” Dani looked at her friend with sadness. “You’re not a victim; You’re the strongest chick I know. Such a badass, and you’re going to let this crap bring you down? C’mon!”
Lia went to speak, but before she could, Nathan walked in the door. Noticeably absent was Cody.
“You girls okay?” He smiled.
“Why are you smiling?!” Lia fussed.
“Um, because my two favorite girls are here. We got that bastard locked up, and he’ll be long gone soon. Why not?” He shrugged, heading over and kissing Dani’s cheek.
“He’s fine. William bailed him out and is taking care of everything. He’s with him.”
“Fine? You arrested him! He was just protecting me. He’s done nothing but help me since he met me, and now, he’s been arrested, quit his job on top of interacting with a Father he has been estranged from!” Lia huffed, sitting down again.
“Lia. Seriously, he’s fine. I had to do that; I can’t ignore that he did break the law; if I did, then I’d be out of a job as well as him. William is an influential man and an attorney; he’ll take care of it, it will not negatively affect him in the slightest, promise.”
“Lia here seems to think she has brought chaos and drama upon us and feels incredibly guilty,” Dani explained.
“Sis, come on now. You’ve done nothing. All of this is happening to you as well, so stop acting like you did anything wrong.” Nathan went over to his Sister and wrapped his arms around her. Lia started crying again; she was frustrated with herself for all these tears.
“What about Brett?” She whispered.
“Well, Dr. Brosen violated a protective order. It turns out he also was not licensed to practice medicine, among several other charges. All of these, of course, violate the parole he was on, so pending some paperwork and phone calls, he’ll be back in a New York prison for quite some time.”
“Protective order? I didn’t have one?” Lia asked, confused.
“Oh, but you did.” He winked.
“Do you want to know?” He asked.
“Yes, of course!” Lia cried.
“William pulled some strings and had one put into effect shortly after Cody spoke with him.”
“Wow. Just wow.” Lia shook her head.
“What? That was awesome of him. It helped, especially with him showing up here.” Dani stated.
“No, I mean yeah, it’s great. It’s just a lot to take in. I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed. This situation was not what I imagined when I decided to try and settle here. Not at all.” Lia sat, feeling defeated, instinctively looking at her phone, hoping to hear from Cody.
“He’ll call or come by later, I’m sure.” Nathan noticed her checking her phone.
“Anyone up for some dinner? I’m starving.” He went to the kitchen, opening cabinets. Nathan was quite pleased to have thrown Dr. Brosen into a cell and knew he’d be long gone soon.
“I can whip something up, babe.” Dani offered, following him.
Lia sat in the living room. So many thoughts running through her head. Thoughts she never wanted to have again, memories flashing back, and just an overall feeling of sadness and grief. Eating was the last thing on her mind.
“I think I’m going to go lay down.” She started toward her room.
“Lia, come on, sweetie, you’ve got to eat,” Dani called out to her, but Lia continued and crawled up into her bed where she had been so happy with Cody a few hours before. She wrapped herself in the blanket and let the tears flow as she drifted off into sleep.
“My heart breaks for her; this has got to be a lot and bringing up all kinds of awful memories,” Dani said, as she and Nathan sat eating the dinner they prepared together.
“I’m trying not to dwell on all that. I got the guy and got him back where he belongs. She’s safe here, with us, and I know she can have a great life if she can just overcome the emotional toll this has taken.”
“I’m a little worried about Cody and her,” Dani whispered.
“What? Why?” Nathan asked with a mouthful of food.
Dani shook her head at him. “You know him; he’s so closed off about things. I don’t want him to hurt her and shut her out when things get real.”
“Not sure it gets any more real than all of this, babe. He got himself arrested for her.”
“I know. He’s definitely different with her, that’s for sure.” Dani rose from her seat, clearing the table. She made sure to make a plate for Lia and tuck it away in the microwave for her.
“Cameron gave me the night off; I think she’s a little tired of all this drama affecting the work situation,” Dani spoke as she finished the dishes.
“She’ll get over it, and if not, it’s not like you have to work, babe.” He reassured her.
“It’s my career, Nathan. I want to work.”
“Okay, babe. I’ll talk to Cameron if you need.”
“No, I’ll handle it.” She followed him into the living room, sitting next to him on the couch. She cuddled up to him. “I’m so thankful for you, babe.” She kissed his cheek. “I am thankful for you too.” He held her close. They snuggled up together, watching the news and just trying to relax together. Nathan’s phone rang; seeing Cody’s name, he smiled and answered quickly.
“Hey. How’s Lia?” He asked immediately.
Nathan smiled. “She’s still a little upset, but I think she’s okay. She’s been sleeping for the last bit.”
“Oh. Okay. I wondered why she hadn’t responded to me.” Cody stated.
“You good, man?” Nathan asked.
“Oh, yeah. I’m fine. William took care of the charges, no worries there, and he assured me that the bastard is gone for a long time. They’re waiting for some papers from New York, and he’ll be shipped off. I’m at the house now, got cleaned up and was gonna come by but wasn’t sure if Lia would want to see me.” He said, uneasy.
“Why wouldn’t she want to see you, man? You’re like the hero!” Nathan laughed.
“I don’t know. It’s been a crazy day.” Cody spoke to Nathan, hearing the questioning in his voice.
“No, don’t do that! Do not start second-guessing anything. It’s been going great, and it will continue to be great. All of this was a bump in the road; everything is getting straightened out and will be fine.” Nathan tried to comfort him.
“I know. I know. It has to be fine; I promised William we’d come over for dinner on Friday.” He laughed nervously.
“No way?!” Nathan asked, shocked, looking at Dani with a big smile.
“Unfortunately. That was what he asked for in return for helping. Strange eh? I’m sure something else will be asked of me at some point.”
“Hey, you never know. Maybe this will be a healing thing for you guys.” Nathan looked up, seeing Lia walk into the room. She looked like she had been crying nonstop.
“Yea, not going to hold my breath on that one. Ha.” Cody smirked.
“Lia just came in; wanna say Hi?” Nathan teased.
Lia gave him an exhausted, frustrated look.
“No man, I’ll come over. Let her know I’ll be over soon.” He hung up.
Lia felt a little pain in her heart that Cody didn’t want to talk to her, even though she wasn’t really ready to speak either. She scooted into the kitchen to get a drink.
“Cody is coming over in a few.” Nathan sang to her. Lia felt excited but tried to hide it.
“They dropped the charges, and his Dad is taking care of everything else.” He explained, coming into the kitchen with her. “See, I told you it would be okay.” He hugged her close.
“I want to believe that.”
“Then believe it, girl! It’s only going to get better!!” Dani cried, joining in the hug. “Now eat! I put you a plate up in the microwave.” Dani fixed some coffee for her and Nathan while Lia warmed up her meal. As she sat at the kitchen table with them, Cody walked in. Unsure why Lia suddenly felt nervous. She realized what a mess she must look like, still wearing her nightshirt from the night before, her hair pulled up in a messy bun. She took a bite of her food, acting distracting by her meal.
“Ah, the criminal himself!” Nathan laughed.
Cody shook his head. He looked at Dani smiling at him and then looked over at Lia, eating her food facing away from him. She was still wearing the overnight shirt from last night, and her hair was in a messy bun, but she looked terrific. He was feeling butterflies in his stomach after everything that had happened today, he wasn’t sure why. He held up a bag of food, he had grabbed some take out in case they hadn’t eaten, obviously, they didn’t need it now though.
“Thanks, Cody, I cooked though. Lia may want some to go with the rest of her food.”
“Hey! I can always eat!” Nathan laughed, grabbing the bag as Cody sat next to Lia. She finally managed to look at him. He looked good as ever. Fresh from a shower, with damp hair pushed back a little messy, a tight plain t-shirt clung to his body while he wore jeans and boots. He smiled at Lia, his blue eyes sparkling. She felt like she could just melt right then and there. ‘How is this man making me so crazy?’ she thought to herself.
“I brought some goodies.” He laughed, pulling some bakery treats out of the bag. He didn’t want to ask her how she was doing; he knew she was tired of hearing that. She didn’t want to be a victim, and she wasn’t, and he certainly didn’t want to make her feel like one.
“Oh, thank you!” Lia smiled, grabbing a cookie.
“Wait... how did you know?” Dani asked with her brow raised at Cody.
“Know what?” Cody asked genuinely confused.
“That your girl there LOVES her some baked goods.” Dani laughed as Lia ate her cookie.
“Oh.” He shrugged. “Who doesn’t?”
“How are you?” Lia asked Cody, still feeling so guilty.
“I’m fine. Starving but fine.” He laughed, grabbing his food from the bag.
“Please, thank your Father for me. I’ve never met the man and he’s helped so much.” Lia spoke soft, careful with her words considering his relationship with his Father.
“I will. Though, I have a confession.”
“Uh oh.” Dani leaned in, Nathan nudging her under the table.
Cody shook his head at Dani.
“Okay?” Lia turned her full attention toward him.
“When I asked William for help, he had a condition.”
“Oh, Cody, you didn’t have to do that!” Lia groaned, feeling terrible, not even knowing what the condition was. Cody laughed.
“Well, the condition was that I bring you over to dinner at his home Friday evening.” He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling shy and awkward in front of Nathan and Dani.
“Bring me to dinner?” Lia asked, shocked.
“Uh-huh.” He bit into his meal.
“Why?” She asked, curious.
“Because he likes control, and this is his way of bringing me back in, and he wants to meet the woman I asked him for help for,” Cody answered honestly.
“Oh. Do you want me to go then? Be part of that?” Lia asked.
“Of course. If I must go, then you’re definitely going.” He teased her.
“Fair enough.” She smiled.
Nathan and Dani sat watching the two interact, giving each other glances and smiling at the chemistry between the two. Dani spoke up, wanting to leave the two of them alone.
“Nate baby, I’m worn out. You wanna go back to my place?” She purred at him.
“You sure? Lia, you okay if we take off?” Nathan asked.
“Of course, that’s fine. I’m not a baby; I don’t need a sitter.” She huffed.
“Let’s not go there. I think you’ll be safe with Cody if he’s up for hanging out.” Nathan laughed.
“Alright, we’ll just be at Dani’s. I’ll be home tomorrow evening; you know how to get me if you need anything, though.” With that, Nathan and Dani got up and left.
“Ahh, so we’re alone?” He asked, with a twinkle in his eye, reminding her of their earlier interaction.
“so, it seems,” Lia laughed, cleaning up her food from the table and putting the leftovers away.
“Cody, I really do have to thank you for everything.” Lia started, turning toward him. “You’ve done so much in such a small amount of time; I’m not sure I can ever repay you.”
“Dinner with my Father on Friday, remember?” He winked at her.
“Yes, but that’s not even a drop in the bucket. You were arrested, for Christ’s sake.”
“That was pure fun.” He smiled wide.
“Oh my gosh! You’re terrible.” She smacked at his arm.
“It was worth every minute, I promise you. I’m just glad I was here.”
“Me too. As I said, I can’t thank you enough.”
“It was nothing. I owed you after that dance the other night.” He smiled at her as they sat together on the couch.
“Ahh, I see. So, dinner and dancing are the ways to your heart then?” She teased.
“Clearly.” He leaned back, relaxing and enjoying being with Lia again, even though it had only been a few hours.
“It’s getting late. Do you not work tomorrow?” She asked, biting her lower lip. Cody was fighting the urge to kiss her lips when she did that, the sweetness driving him mad.
“Here’s the thing, I’m in-between jobs right now. I had taken this temporary leave from one job to start another, and it turns out I don’t actually need this other job now. I’m in limbo for a few days, I suppose. That and a recent arrest have kind of put my boss in an awkward position, so for a couple of days, I’m free to do whatever.” He shrugged, smiling.
“Ugh! Again, Lia strikes!”
“Causing chaos and disruption.” She frowned.
“You gave me vacation days; I owe you.” He laughed, turning and picking her legs up and placing them across his lap. She smiled at his gentle touch.
“Okay, if you say so. I’m working on this whole not apologizing thing. Dani says I do it way too much.” Lia laughed.
“She’s right. You have nothing to apologize for.” While talking, he took her slippers off and started massaging her feet. Not for any particular reason, just out of an almost instinct to care for her.
“I’m working on it, promise.”
“Any plans for your late evening?” He asked, raising his brow.
“At the moment? Melting with this foot massage, I’m getting. It’s been quite some time since I’ve had a foot rub, and it feels pretty amazing.” She smiled wide.
“Oh yeah? Well, then I suppose I can continue. I’d say it’s much deserved. Would you like me to shut on the TV? Music?”
“No, I like this, just us talking.”
“Alright then.” He continued rubbing her feet; Lia was thankful she had painted her nails recently, and her feet weren’t looking rough. “What shall we talk about?” He questioned.
“Oh, anything. OH! I would LOVE to hear how you met my Brother.” She giggled.
“That’s top secret.” He shrugged before laughing. “It actually wasn’t anything that interesting. We met in school; I think freshman year biology class. He was making jokes, surprise, and surprise, and I found him hilarious; we hit it off and have been buddies ever since. Whenever I had the chance, I’d hang out with him and your Dad, just guys being guys. My Father isn’t much on being a guy’s guy; he’s too stuffy for that.” Cody opened up to her.
“So, you’ve spent a lot of time with my Dad too?” Lia asked quietly.
“Yes, well, definitely growing up, not as much now, but when I have a chance or when we go fishing or hunting. I always heard He and Nathan talk about you, stories about when you were little.”
“Interesting.” Lia looked down, chewing her lip.
“Can I pry about something?” He asked, stopping the foot rub.
“Why did you not move here with your Dad and Nathan?” He looked into her eyes, genuine care.
“Ugh. Well, when my parents split, it was kind of messy. My Dad was always great, no issues with him then, but I guess they decided the boy should go with Dad and the girl go with Mom.” She shrugged. “He didn’t really fight her on it, and I wasn’t really given a choice.”
“Touchy subject?” Cody asked.
“No, not really. I think I’ve accepted what is and can’t change the past. They did the best with what they had, I suppose.”
“You’re too forgiving and kind.” Cody began rubbing her feet again. “Can I ask what it was like with your Mother? Nathan has never really spoken about her.”
“Oh, I’m sure he feels abandoned by her as well. Sending cards and occasional phone calls aren’t Mothering. We never lived in the same spot for too long for her to have time to think about him. My Stepfather was military and an overall asshole. He couldn’t get along with anyone long enough to stay in one spot. He could care less about his own kids or me, for that matter.” Lia thought back to the abusive episodes with Michael, her Stepfather. He never put a hand on her Mother, but the kids were a different story, even as teenagers. Lia lived with them and her two Stepbrothers, twins, who were three years older than she. Kevin and Covan, horrible boys. She shuddered, even thinking about it.
“Bad memories?” Cody whispered, noticing her change in demeanor.
“Some. Yes. But I really think I don’t need to share anymore sob stories about myself.” She scoffed.
“I’m sorry, Lia. Anything bad that has happened, none of it you deserved.” He reached up to touch her cheek but stopped. “Perhaps I should wash my hands?” He giggled, hopping up. When he came back, he leaned down to her and stroked her cheek. She smiled under his touch, and just as she was going to open her eyes, his lips hit hers. The kiss was soft and caring but intense and intimate. She could feel a million butterflies exploding in her chest as her heartbeat faster. They kissed until they could no longer breathe and had to stop for oxygen.
“Wow, again.” Lia smiled, taking a breath.
“Always wow.” He rubbed his nose against hers. “I feel like the timing on this is a little awkward, but I’m not going to lie, I haven’t felt this way in a very long time.” He confessed, staring into her eyes.
“Same.” She breathed out before leaning up and going in for another kiss. Cody loved it; his heart was exploding with happiness. While he had an occasional one-night hook up in the last few years, no relationships and no connections like this, the one he felt with Lia. While he loved every kiss and couldn’t wait for more, he wanted to take it slow, to protect the budding relationship. He pulled away, despite the overwhelming desire not to. He smiled at Lia, sitting back and patting his chest for her to come close. She happily obliged, snuggling into him.
“What about you, your Mother? You said she lives out West?” Lia asked cautiously.
“Yes, she does, promise.” He laughed, remembering the confusion about his Father. “My parents divorced when I was in middle school, so it’s been some time. My Mother stayed here until my Sister passed, then she took off to California with her new husband and business ventures. I speak to her every now and again, haven’t seen in her since she left, though.” He spoke softly, running his fingers lightly through Lia’s hair. She could feel the tingles from the back of her scalp up as he did so, relaxing her.
“Oh. Do you have a good relationship with her?” She continued.
“I suppose, It’s not bad. Just not what it once was.”
“Ah, No, Ma’am.” He laughed.
“Ugh! Sorry. Damnit! I do say that a lot!” Lia grumbled, and Cody laughed.
“Okay, so let’s take a break from Parents. Tell me, what were you like as a teenager? Teenage Nathan was a nightmare.” He chuckled.
“I can only imagine! I was an angel, of course! Perfect grades, thriving social life, I mean really, stuff dreams are made of.” She said sarcastically.
“Somehow, I’m not sure I believe that, but Okay.” He snuggled her closer to him. “Okay, so serious question... you and Nathan, how have you remained close?”
“Mutual emotional scaring from our parental units.” She laughed, looking up at him. “We were close as kids; we fought like normal siblings, but he was my Brother always looking out for me, and when our parents split and making us split in the process, I always felt like part of me was missing. It sounds super cheesy, I know. I always tried keeping up with him as we got older, then, of course, college and work kept me busy; he came to visit a few times when I first started in New York.”
“Not cheesy at all, and I remember him visiting; I was a bit worried he’d become the newest naked cowboy in times square.”
“Thank God that did not happen. He was not a fan of the city at all. Dani loved it, of course, but I’m pretty sure she’d be happy anywhere.”
Their conversation effortlessly flowed until Lia couldn’t hold back the yawns any longer and drifted off to sleep while laying in Cody’s arms. He quietly lifted her and carried her bridal style to her room. Pulling back the blankets, he tucked her in nicely. Content to return to the couch to sleep, Lia’s voice stopped him at the door.
“Lay with me, please?” She whispered out.
“Of course.” His heart swelled as he crawled in next to her. He pulled her close to him as he fell into a slumber.