45 Days

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Chapter 18- Away in September

In the following weeks, things gradually fall back place. Eddie continues to save money for a new place and chips in with part of the bills.

Eddie and Aiden use the last of their spare time to rebuilding the CRX when they’re not busy with work, band practice, or playing at the Import Room.

“Yo, Aiden, I think I found the issue. Take a look at this. Your distributor and crankshaft are damaged.” Eddie reveals wiping the grease off his hands.

“Son of a biscuit, that would explain it,” Aiden replies when Eddie holds up the parts.

Taking a moment to write down the parts that need to be replaced, Aiden goes to the bench for a swig of sun tea.

“Damn, this thing pretty much needs a complete overhaul. Wonder if it’d be better just to buy a brand new engine and just drop it in?” Aiden wonders out loud.

“That’s a good chunk of change, bro, for real,” Eddie mentions with a concerned look on his face.

Aiden doesn’t bat an eyelash, “I don’t think you realize just how well off I am. Between mom and dad’s life insurance policies, the settlement in court, and their jobs paid out their retirement plans and their life insurance plans from work carried too. I’m set for a good while. Also, the house is paid for, and I make good money at work.”

Eddie can’t believe his ears, “Do what… For real, you can just do about anything you wanted?”

Aiden shakes his head, “yeah, for the most part. Just like when I gifted Dakota and Heather the cabin, I reserved for myself and Ally. I have something for you. I have yet to figure out something for Rey.”

Eddie pauses before he replies, under suspension that his mind is playing tricks on him, “So wait… Do you mean you got me a gift?”

Aiden snickers and looks at the freshly painted Supra before he picks up the keys to the car and tosses them over to his housemate.

“It’s yours, and the title is signed over. All you need is to sign it and put the car in your name.”

Eddie’s jaw drops when the keys land in his hands, “No flipping way!”

“Why else would I have it painted that Carbon Blue you like.”

Eddie can’t remember how to walk, much less talk.

“Simple as that, the Supra is all yours. The Starion is a good car, but it is a little old, you know. Put it back, and make it a show car or something.” Aiden suggests as he’s up against the bench.

Scooting his feet against the oil-stained cement floor, Eddie goes out to his new car to gather his thoughts, “Oh damn, this is badass!”

Aiden smiles and returns to the front of the CRX to make a final decision on the engine, “Guess I’ll take these parts, buy them and get busy on the rebuild when I get back.”

“Get back, taking a trip, bro?”Eddie overhears the comment, and he seems a bit flustered.

Aiden stops to look over at Eddie, “Yeah, I still have my vacation week on the calendar at work. I made other arrangements.”

Concerned, Eddie tries to pry just a bit.

“Taking a week to yourself?”

“Yeah, I leave off Friday evening when I clock out. It’ll take me a while to get there. I’m driving up to the coastline of Maine.”

Eddie’s surprised expression says it all.

“Don’t give me that look, bub. It’s far from here. I can take the chance to be alone and recharge. No TV, work, band stuff, and most importantly, I can try to get Ally off my mind and don’t worry, I’m not going to drink.” Aiden says with a profound tone to his statement.

That eases Eddie’s worries.

“Thank you, God,” Eddie spits out and sighs in relief.

Shaking his head, Aiden goes back over the list of items needed for the rebuild. Eddie’s attention returns to his new car and the overwhelming sensation of going for a drive.

Aiden and Eddie spend the rest of the day dicking around as they wash their cars and detail the Mustang and Supra’s interior.

They admire their work while the sun sets in a bright redness.

“Now that’s picture-worthy!” Eddie brags, smiling.

“Hell yes, these two rides look good side by side,” Aiden says, flinging the rag over his shoulder.

“Come on. I’ll get started making tacos.” Aiden tells Eddie smacking him on the arm with the rag.

“Sweet, tacos!” Eddie cries as they make their way inside for the rest of the evening.

That week Aiden writes down the day he’ll leave and begins marking the days on his calendar in the kitchen.

“It’s getting close. C’mon! This week just keeps dragging on!” Aiden sulks at the time until he’s set to leave.

When the time clock at work finally hints that he’s only minutes away, Aiden watches with anticipation.

“C’mon, you bloody bastard! Two more minutes, hurry up!” He teases, holding his briefcase in his hands.

“Hey Aiden, have fun and see ya when you get back!” Chris shouts.

“Thanks, it’s a trip well worth the wait.”

Aiden holds his badge over a scanner to clock out then walks quickly to his car. Slinging his briefcase into the back, Aiden slides down into his seat, rolling down the windows, “Time to go.” He mentions cranking over the V8.

On the other side of town, not far from the exit, Dakota hurries home nearly an hour later. Heather has her Legacy packed and ready to go as soon as he gets home.

“Come on. You slow pricks, let’s move it!” Dakota yells, anxious to get moving with the ring box hidden inside his suitcase.

Waiting by the window in the foyer, Heather taps her foot, excited to get moving since this is her first real vacation on her own.

“Dakota, where the hell are you, honey buns?” She says, nervous that he’s taking his time.

By the time he pulls down the driveway, Heather rushes out the door, locking it behind her, “About time!” She yells, marching to her Subaru.

“Sorry, traffic was a bitch, and I had too many people in front of me.”

“Well, let’s get going. I wanna make it there before dark if we can.” Heather says, already in the driver’s seat.

Inside the car, they share a quick kiss before they get on the road. A couple of hours into the trip, they reach the state line between Kentucky and Tennessee.

“Oh, the welcome center, we need to stop and get pictures!” Heather mentions with excitement.

“Sure, babe, I’ll finish the drive if you want. I’m sure you’re probably tired.”

“Yeah, my feet feel a little swollen and sore. Thank you, my sweet prince.”

Able to have the chance to stretch their legs and snap a few pictures with a disposable camera Dakota and Heather head inside to purchase a couple of drinks and chips for the final leg of the trip.

They leave and merge back onto the interstate, and Heather begins with some questions.

“How much do we owe Aiden for this?”

Shocked for a moment, Dakota replies, “nothing at all. He gave it to us for helping him out.”

That seems difficult to believe, and Heather pushes a little more, “No way anyone would just give up a cabin. What’s the deal?”

Groaning a bit, Dakota lets out a few more details.

“Okay, so here’s the deal, he had originally reserved it for him and Ally. He had this romantic idea to make things better before they got worse. Since that didn’t happen and they don’t even talk, he gave it to us since he would’ve lost out completely since he can’t get a refund.”

“Ahhhh…” She breathes out, “that’s more like it, but don’t get me wrong. I’ll take a free trip, especially to the Smoky Mountains. I hate it came at the price of his misery. I am glad at the same time that we have a chance to get away before I get like huge, and we have a baby.”

Nodding his head Dakota agrees, “Yeah, he’s been generous lately. We got this trip. He gave Eddie that Supra and Rey haven’t gotten anything yet. I think he’s going to be the one surprised when he finds out that through all this, he got Rey and Addie together.” Dakota says as only he and Eddie know that.

“Do what!” Heather squeals placing her hands on her face.

“Yeah, babe, they got together just before he hit rock bottom.”

Ecstatic over the revelation, Heather lightly claps her hands together, “I always knew that they’d be a cute couple. Oh, I am so happy for them!”

Dakota snickers as they cruise closer to the cabin and chit-chat the rest of the way there. Once Dakota locates the turn, he slowly rolls along the road away from the interstate., it’s down a dirt road. They pull up to a massive private area away from the other cabins.

“Fuck me,” Dakota spits out, leaning forward.

“I wanna go inside!” Heather giggles like a child at Christmas.

“Damn straight, let’s check this place out.” He mentions getting out of the Subaru.

“The last one inside goes and gets dinner.” Heather teases, running up the steps touching the door first.

Laughing at his loss, Dakota hangs his head low, returning to the car.

“Oh, here’s the key.” He calls out and tosses the house key for Heather to grab.

“Thanks, sweetie, I’ll get settled in, and thank you.”

Dakota waves as he backs out of the parking spot.

She heads inside to explore. She’s in awe over the size of the place—high vaulted ceilings with skylights that accompany an open floor plan with an oversized island in the kitchen. Walking through the cabin, Heather makes her way to a set of French double doors that lead out to the back deck, where she discovers a jacuzzi large enough for nearly a dozen people.

“Oh my gosh, that’s amazing!” Heather says, bent over to uncover the gigantic jacuzzi, “oh, he’s going to love this.” She tells herself, beginning to fill it up and adjusts the temperature with the digital settings, so she doesn’t get it too hot to risk anything early in pregnancy.

James picks up some fried chicken and all the fixings from a local ‘mom and pops’ shop. Dakota carries two bags of hot steaming food and a gallon of homemade southern sweet tea.

“Dinner’s here!” He shouts and is immediately drawn to the size of the interior much like Heather was earlier.

“Breathtaking, ain’t it, sweetie.” Heather begins coming in from the back deck.

“Like whoa, I mean I knew my boy was loaded, but damn! This is way over the top.”

Lifting the bags as he walks to the kitchen, they locate the plates in the cabinet and settle in for the evening.

“Any idea of what you wanna do tonight?” Dakota asks, pouring gravy over his mashed potatoes.

“I got an idea,” Heather states with a twinkle in her eye.

“Oh? A surprise, I take it?”

She nods since her mouth is stuffed with food. She eats in a rush and moves her eyes towards the French doors, but Dakota fails to see the signal.

“Sounds like fun, you know I like surprises.” Dakota teases, shoveling down the last few bites on his plate.

“Well, it’ll be worth it, trust me,” Heather assures him up on her feet, taking their plates to the sink.

While Dakota sits there wondering, he fails to notice that Heather struts back from the sink naked.

“Hey, big boy, ready for your surprise?”

Gawking with his jaw dropped, Dakota gets up, stripping in a few seconds. He notices a slight bump beginning to take shape at the base of her stomach.

“Oh, a baby bump, how cute.”

Her hand over her mouth in shock, Heather stands there as a shade of crimson covers her face.

“No, no, no, I didn’t mean to make you embarrassed, baby. It’s cute. It shows your momness in bloom.” Dakota says to try to save his ass.

Still self-conscious, Heather stands there unsure if she should go through with the plan.

“Come on, beautiful, I’m sorry, but listen, we’re here, I love you, and this is going to be the best week of our lives,” Dakota says, rubbing his hands up and down Heather’s arms

“Well, if you say so but follow me.”

She leads him out back to the deck with Dakota by the hand, where the water jets blasts at full force.

“Oh, sick! A jacuzzi…Ohhhhhhhhh…” Dakota puts the pieces all together when it hits him.

“Yeah, let’s have some fun,” Heather whispers sweetly in his ear.

He gives Heather a hand into the jacuzzi. Dakota slides down, getting comfy, and leans his head back. When he’s relaxed, Heather surges through the water to sit on Dakota’s lap, placing herself in the right position.

Their lips meet, and Heather begins to run her fingers through Dakota’s hair. She moans as she pushes him further into the mood. She takes one of her hands down between them to place his dick where she can slide down on it working her magic.

“Oh, God, yes,” she moans, bucking her hips dipping her head back as the ends of her hair dip into the water.

“Heather, oh yes, baby.” Dakota whispers, eyes shut, clinging to her body with all his strength being neat his climax.

“That’s it, baby boy, yes…YES!” She screams, sinking her nails into his shoulders, feeling Dakota unload in her body.

Huffing for a couple of minutes, they hold onto each other. The passion rides high between them.

“I love you, Heather Gilkerson.”

“I love you too, Dakota Jacobs.”

They pull themselves together for one final kiss before they relax in silence in the jacuzzi until they decide to crash for the night.

Over the next few days, they enjoy everything Knoxville and Gatlinburg have to offer. They go out hiking, then visit the Hollywood Memorabilia Museums, aquariums, and more. Each night, when they return, they have sex in the jacuzzi milking it for all it’s worth.

The second to the final night before they head home, Dakota pulls out his plan of taking Heather out for a formal dinner at a high-end restaurant, throwing on a wine red long sleeve dress shirt with a pair of slacks and a brand-new leather belt.

Dakota waits in the front room. When he listens to the bedroom open, he’s stunned at what he sees.

Coming out from the bedroom, Heather strolls out in a rose-colored evening gown. She’s unsure how she looks in the strapless gown. When she looks at Dakota for his approval, he is speechless with only a stare as a signal.

“Like it?” She asks, approaching with her hair curled resting just below her shoulders.

“I love it; holy hell, where have you been all of my life?”

“Waiting for you to find me. You look so good, by the way. Ready to go to dinner?” She asks about half a foot away.

“Heather, I’ve been more than ready to get to this night,” Dakota says with a plan in mind.

Dakota escorts Heather to dinner, but little does she know what he has planned. Taking their time to the restaurant, Dakota pulls in close to the doors. He peeks at the cherry colored skies above with the clouds moving in.

“Looks like rain, sweetie.”

Heather squints at the sky, “Yeah, you’re right, a good thing we’re close to the door.”

They walk, arms locked together inside where they’re greeted, “Reservation names, please.” They hear upon entering the fine dining establishment.

“Yes, Hart, Aiden Hart is the name,” Dakota says.

“Ah yes, Mr. Hart, we’ve been expecting you, sir. Please come with me and enjoy yourselves.”

The couple is escorted to their table and assisted with their seats as they settle in for dinner.

“Here is our wine selection. I suggest the Merlot or the Moscato. Especially if you order the pasta, it’s a fine divine wine aged in time.” The host spouts out, trying to be funny.

“That’s a good suggestion, thank you, sir,” Dakota says, unfolding the entrée menu.

“This is beyond fancy and flat out amazing. Can you afford this, babe?”

“Yeah, I’ve been saving back just for this place. Aiden told me about the reservation not long after I took the trip stuff from him.”

Surprised, Heather unfolds her napkin placing it on her lap, “Okay, good, because I see that they have lamb on here. I’ve been dying to have it ever since I left home. My mother loved making it, and it was so good.”

“Well, then order it if you want. Tonight is all about us and no one else.” Dakota looks over the menu and comes across his favorite food, “Oh, a ribeye steak sounds pretty damn good.”

Licking her lips, Heather rolls her eyes from side to side, waiting for their server to appear.

The server creeps up on them when she seemingly comes out of nowhere.

“Hi, I’m Lucy, and I will be your server this evening. How about I get your drinks, and then we’ll see if you’re ready to order.”

“Actually, I think we are ready. I want the ribeye steak, medium well, just a little pink.” He winks at Heather when he says that, “with a baked potato with butter only and asparagus.”

Once she writes it down, the server looks to Heather, “For you, ma’am?”

In a deep breath, Heather spills her desire.

“I want the lamb, medium please, with a chef salad with French dressing and colored greens covered with vinegar please.”

“Excellent choices and for your drinks?”

“Sweet tea for me please, I can’t drink for a while,” Heather explains with her hands over her stomach.

“Oh, congratulations y’all, a baby on the way, how precious.” Their server expresses in excitement.

Dakota blushes a bit, listening to the server, “Thank you, and I’ll have a Budweiser with mine.”

Giving the server a few steps to get away, Dakota goes to get his plan in place.

“Hey babe, I’ll be right back. Gotta use the bathroom.”

“Oh, okay, well, hurry up, miss you already.” Heather teases, sitting there glowing from the waitress’s kind words.

Dakota walks away, hoping Heather doesn’t see him catch Lucy as she’s nearly back to the kitchen.

“Psst, miss, can I talk to you for a second?” Dakota calls out to get her attention.

“Yes, sir, how can I be of service?”

Dakota pulls out the ring box and reveals his idea.

“Listen, I want to propose to my girlfriend tonight, and well, I wanted to preorder any dessert that this can sit on and have you distract her while I get down on my knee.”

Overjoyed to be part of the plan, Lucy is excitedly eager to help, “Oh, that is so sweet. Trust me, I got this, and the dessert it’ll be on is on the house.”

“Oh my gosh, how big is that thing?”

Lucy’s eyes say it all, looking at the ring, getting a glimpse on the rock.

“A full karat diamond, only the very best for my girl,” Dakota admits in a false sense of pride.

She takes the ring box from his hand and stares at it on her way back to the kitchen.

“Motherfucker!” He hears walking away from the doorway.

Flopped back in his seat, Dakota sits and waits as time ticks by ever so slowly.

“You okay, babe?” Heather asks after a few minutes with the vibe that something’s off.

“Yeah, just uh, you know, beginning to realize that uh, our vacay is nearly over, and we gotta go home soon,” Dakota says to cover his intentions.

“I understand. I love it down here. If we think about moving, I wanna move down here.” Heather replies with a light-hearted voice.

Blown away by her comment, Dakota feels the same way, “Done deal then, I love the beauty around here. I’m certain I could find a job working for the state here as I have back home.”

Heather’s voice becomes a little shaky when she asks Dakota about something vital to her.

“I have a stupid, silly question. I know Aiden didn’t like Cindy working at Big Bear cause it’s barely above minimum wage. Since I work overnights at Kroger’s, does that bother you as it does him?”

“Hell no, it doesn’t bug me. Just knowing that you will work is enough for me. I know I’m not semi-rich like Aiden or a fancy college degree with a high paying job like him and Rey. I do enjoy what I do working for Courtesy Patrol and fill in for Weigh Station Check-ins. Does me not having a high paying job bother you?”

“Not at all love, I love our lives together. I love our farm home and more now that’s it almost remodeled completely, and we’re starting a family. I think we have it best compared to our friends.”

Dakota feels good about their chances to make it together with a simple country life, “So that means if I don’t make it as a big-time rock band guy, you wouldn’t be disappointed?”

“God no, I love the fact you play and have fun, but if it stays at that, then great. I love coming back to a safe, warm home that I can call my own.”

The conversation ends there when they smile and wait for a couple more minutes when their food arrives.

“Here we are, one ribeye steak, medium well, and the lamb medium with all the Fixin’s. Need anything, y’all, just let me know.” Lucy says, prepared for the next part.

Lucy walks away with a smile on her face keeping an eye on her table, excited to execute Dakota’s plan.

When the time is right, as the plates have very little food remaining, Lucy goes over for a slice of chocolate cake from the dessert cooler. With the ring box from her apron, she places the ring in the icing and carries it out with two forks.

She blocks Dakota so that he can get into position. Lucy holds the piece of cake high enough so Heather can’t see the ring.

“Compliments of myself, hearing you’re going to have a baby. I had to do a little something. From me to y’all, again, congratulations.”

Heather is blown away by the kind gesture and thanks Lucy for the complimentary dessert.

“Thank so you much.”

She sets it down, moves aside as Dakota appears in front of her down on one knee with the other restaurant patrons stare at the table.

“Dakota, what…” He points to the cake where her eyes meet the engagement ring upright in the icing.

“Oh my God…” She clutches her hands over her mouth, speechless.

“Heather Gilkerson, I love you so much, and you’re giving me a wonderful future. One in which I can’t picture without you. Will you marry me?”

Nodding her head yes, at first, she finally remembers that she can talk.

“Yes, yes, a million times yes, I will marry you!” She shouts through her hands as he gets closer, taking the ring from the icing licking off the excess icing at the bottom before he places it on her finger.

The entire restaurant applauds with joy, and some whistles are blown their way. Heather wraps her arms around Dakota’s neck, cherishing the moment.

“I love you so much right now!” She says with tears filling her eyes.

“I love you too.”

When they split from the embrace and retake a seat, they enjoyed the time before heading back to the cabin. Heath and Dakota spend the final few days checking out honeymoon spots and potential homes in case they get serious about moving.

After they arrive home, the joy experienced in Tennessee doesn’t die. Excited, they unpack and relax at home, where Eddie comes out to welcome them home.

“So, let’s see that rock!” Eddie mentions walking through the door.

Heather places her hand out to expose the ring, Eddie whistles, being impressed.

“Now that’s a diamond. Congrats to you both. I know you’ll have a long, happy life together.”

Exchanging a hug, Dakota can’t stop smiling, “Thanks, Ed-man, I can’t wait, and hey, I have a request. Will you be my best man?”

Shocked at the request, Eddie stands there with his mouth wide open.

“Yeah, of course, I’ll do it!”

They give a handshake and make it official.

“That means I get to set up your bachelor party.”

The excitement and high energy carry throughout the rest of the day as they celebrate. Eddie, Dakota, and Heather sit around discussing plans as the day grows old as the evening takes the sun out of the sky after dusk settles in to give way for a new day.

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