Abbotts · Dylan and Blake · Lucas and Ash · Vanished

Dylan

This is going to be a cluster fuck I can tell already.

Lucas is practically vibrating with tension waiting for the light to change so we can cross the street. His eyes are scanning the windows of the coffee shop on the other side, I’m sure trying to spot Ash. She stopped answering her cell twenty minutes ago and if she’s not in this cafe I’m going to have 200 lbs of tattooed male rage to try to diffuse.

I eye my … friend… warily. I guess we’re friends. I have a lot of respect for Luke and the bastard is pretty funny when he wants to be but there’s a mountain of unspoken suspicion between us which makes it challenging to form much of a friendship. He calls me when there’s trouble because he trusts me to handle it, blur rules for the right reasons, keep my mouth shut when necessary and not throw him attitude based on his past unlike a lot of guys in the department.

There’s less of the attitude since he’s become a local celebrity but we go back to long before his Top Ink win.

And I’ve got my own reasons for wanting to keep close.

Of course this situation could complicate everything.

Finally the light changes and forces traffic to stop so we can cross and enter the coffee shop. Lucas pulls the door open so aggressively I think he may pull it off the hinges and explodes through the entryway. I see him visibly relax as he crosses the room and grabs a pretty brunette, pulling her against him. She’s clearly confused by his behavior and I know she has no idea why we’re here.

Yet. Damn. I hang back, waiting for Luke to take the lead.

“The battery died. I tried to tell you it was going to but you hung up too fast. My work cell was on.”

Lucas gives a rough chuckle. “I guess I need to get that number, huh?”

The smile she gives him makes me feel like I’m intruding.

Finally, Luke pulls away and introduces us. “Ash this is Dylan Melrose.” I give her a practiced smile, one designed to inspire confidence but not overly friendly. I come in to people’s lives when bad things are happening to them. They need to like me but also know I’m not happy to be there. I’m there because I have a job to do and they can trust me to get it done.

I shake her hand and answer the first question in her eyes. “Ash. I’m a Detective with the Chicago PD.”

She frowns looking between me and Lucas. “What – what’s going on?”

I nod to one of the back tables. “Let’s sit.”

Ash glances again at Lucas. He grabs her hand and moves to the table I indicated. He guides her in first so she’s in the corner seat then takes the chair next to her, pulling her in close. I sit across the table my back against the wall.

“Lucas, you’re really freaking me out. What is going on? Are you okay?”

I note that her first concern is for him.

He exhales heavily. “I got some threatening text messages today.”

“Threatening how?” She rests her hand on his forearm, squeezing gently. “Are you okay?” She asks softly.

“They weren’t threatening me, Ash. They threatened you.”

“Me? I don’t understand.”

“Show her,” I urge, when he seems to hesitate. He scowls at me but does as I suggest.

She scrolls through quickly, face paling. “That’s from my lunch break today. I ran to the farmers market. And that’s as I was leaving the hospital.”

“I don’t understand,” she repeats.

“This happens sometimes. I mean, I’ve gotten weird fan mail, threats before. Not much but some. But this is different. This is someone who was able to get my personal cell. And knows about you.”

I lean forward. “It might be nothing. Just some crazy fan and this is the end of it. But I think we should take it seriously until we know for sure. That’s why Luke called me.”

She nods. “Right. Of course.”

“Do you feel up for answering some questions for me?”

She nods again. Lucas leans back in his chair, clearly giving me the lead. He rests one arm along the back of her chair.

“Did you notice anyone out of the ordinary today around the time these were taken?”

She shakes her head. “No. It was a perfectly normal day.”

“How many people know about your relationship with Luke?”

“Not many. Hospital staff know I was on Jax’s case while he was there but only my roommates know we’ve seen each other outside of the hospital. And the staff at Vanished.”

“Any idea who could be doing this? Has anyone been giving you a hard time?”

“No. No one.”

“Any ex-boyfriends?”

“No.” She sounds frustrated. “I was in Africa for almost three years. I’ve only been back about two months and haven’t dated anyone. I mean. Until, Lucas. I mean, not that we’re dating exactly. We’ve just been hanging out. But there hasn’t been anyone else dating or hanging out,” Ash rushes to explain.

I hear Luke grunt and he folds his arms across his chest staring at her. “We’re not ‘just hanging out’. Words aren’t going to scare me, Ash.” He looks at me. “We’re together. She’s my girlfriend.”

I nod. And there it is. I really hope this is just some over zealous stalker fan.

I continue with my questions. “No one who might want to rekindle something from before you left?”

She shakes her head, “No. There wasn’t anyone serious enough they’d still be pining after me three years later.”

Luke’s expression changes briefly but he remains silent.

“What about at the hospital? Could there be anyone who resents your position? Someone denied a promotion because you got the job or thinks they deserve the spot more than you?”

Shrugging, she informs me, “Maybe, but I doubt it. The position only exists because of a grant the hospital got based on the work I was doing in Africa. If it wasn’t me doing it, the position probably wouldn’t exist at all.”

“Okay.” I nod and pull one of my cards out of my pocket for her. “Here is all my contact information. Put it in your phone and memorize it. I’ll want you to come in to the station in the next few days to make a formal report. In the meantime, safety in numbers okay? Don’t go anywhere alone. I’ll see about tracing the texts. If you see anything or think of anything else call me. Even if it seems silly. I’m here to help.”

Ash nods. “Thank you.”

I make contact with Lucas and subtly incline my head.

“You be okay here for a second, babe? I’m going to walk Dylan out.”

“Yeah, of course.”

We step outside into the cooling night air. “You think you’ll get anything from the texts?”

Deciding to level with him I shake my head, “Doubt it. Anyone savvy enough to pull this off is going to know enough to use a burner. We’ll try, but…” I leave it hanging with a shrug.

“Right.”

“Want to tell me what’s bugging you?”

“Besides my girlfriend being stalked?”

“Besides that.”

He takes a deep breath and looks away. I wait patiently while he decides what he wants to tell me.

“There’s a guy at the hospital. Dr. William Parker. I don’t know why she didn’t mention him. I’m pretty sure they used to date.”

When I don’t respond he continues. “We haven’t really gotten to the ‘tell me about your exes’ phase but I overheard a couple conversations. I don’t know how serious it was. But they still work together and he didn’t seem pleased when he walked in on us kissing once.”

“I’ll look in to it,” I promise.

“Thanks, man.” Lucas clasps my left hand, pulling me in slightly to pat me on the back with his right. “I appreciate it.”

“I’ll keep you posted.”

He thanks me again and goes back inside to Ash.

Fucking hell.

I watch them through the window briefly before heading back to my car. It’s pretty obvious to me they’ve gotten deep fast. Lucas falling in love is… an unforeseen complication. I like her though and I’m pretty good at reading people. She could be good for him if these texts are just a small flicker and not the beginning of the raging assault I’m supposed to be preventing.

Although if it’s love and this isn’t the threat we’ve been waiting for then Ash will just be around when it does eventually come. Another person to keep safe.

My source is sure he’ll come back eventually. I’m not as convinced but I let her take the lead. I curse under my breath. It’s not like I had enough to deal with when Lucas decided to become famous and change his last name.

I slam my car door shut and pull out my cell.

Ethan and Sloane are going to be fucking livid.

There’s more on Lucas and Ash’s story available here, here, and here.

Dylan and Blake

Blake

Sloane picks up on the first ring. “Hey! What’s up?”

“Well, Dave and I are done.” I inform her, fury still causing my voice to waver.

My best friend pauses a beat before responding. “What happened?”

Four hours earlier:

The alarm on Dave’s cell phone goes off – which is always annoying but more so this Saturday when we didn’t stumble home until well after bar time last night. He has a meeting in the Loop at 9am this morning. Responsible adults probably would have gone home early last night but that’s not what our ‘relationship’ is based on. Despite the fact we work in the same field, in the same circles, our relationship centers on drinking, partying, and sex.

He silences the alarm and then rolls over, throwing his arm across my chest and squeezing. His voice is raspy and hoarse from misuse and probably a little from the abuse inflicted last night attempting to talk over the music in the club. “I gotta get in the shower.”

I nod, running my fingers through his hair. His head is resting on my naked shoulder and I feel him press a soft kiss against my skin. Sighing, he rolls over and gets out of bed. He grabs some clothes and heads to the bathroom down the hall.

I feel sick.

I know what I’m about to do and I can’t believe this is who I’ve become. But I have to know.

My face prickles and my stomach rolls with a combination of dread, betrayal, and pissed-off pride.

The thing is, I do know. I know. But I want proof.

I don’t even bother to get dressed before reaching for his cell. Early on when we hooked up he claimed he could guess my pass code, that he could read me that well. It became a weird power struggle and form of flirting but ultimately we both ended up knowing how to unlock the others phone. I changed my code, but he never bothered.

I scroll down to the name I’m looking for: KARA, hands shaking with nerves.

I can’t believe I’m that girl. Checking my boyfriend’s messages.

He’s not my boyfriend, I correct myself. Not technically. Not by most people’s standards. But this will end us. We’re over either way. If I can’t trust him to live by the incredibly generous guidelines I’ve laid out I can’t stay in this relationship no matter how casual. If I do this I have to break it off even if I’m wrong. This is not who I want to be.

But I’m not wrong. I know I’m not.

We have a standing date on Wednesday nights. He always has to work late and I have drinks with friends who happen to live in his neighborhood. We always meet up after. It’s been part of our routine for months now. Two nights ago he bailed. Couldn’t meet me as usual because he and some of the crew were taking Kara out to welcome her to the team.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been cheated on. My cheat radar is highly fucking tuned. I knew right then. He wasn’t going home alone.

So why did I go home with him last night? Why am I currently lying naked in his bed?

I guess that’s just what I do.

He didn’t act any different than any other Friday last night. But that pit of certainty stayed in my stomach. The whole time we partied. The entire time we drank with our friends. It was there when he grabbed my hand and we hopped a cab to his house. It was there as I entered his apartment.

Even while I let him fuck me, I knew.

There’s no point in confronting him. I know he’ll lie. And I know without proof I’ll hesitate leaving the tiniest possibility he’ll convince me to change my mind.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been cheated on. But I really, really, want it to be the last.

I feel sick.

I need to know I’m right. My thumb hovers over her name.

And there it is.

Just like I knew it would be.

Dave and I have been casually screwing for six months now. Casual on both our ends but when we first hooked up the rules were mine. Even if I was looking for something serious he wouldn’t be the guy. I was well aware of that fact right from the beginning and my friends groans that I was once again dating someone not good enough for me only reinforced my impression.

But if the good guys fuck you over the assholes definitely will. So I may as well know what I’m getting into right from the beginning. I’m self aware enough to know this is some weird defense mechanism and a therapist would probably tell me it’s related to my unhealthy and emotionally abusive relationship with my father but it’s been my MO since college, nearly a decade now. Most of the time my personal life is pretty simple – when I’m not working I want to have fun. That’s the standard I apply to the men I spend time with. I have enough serious in my life I don’t need any more complications.

Unfortunately Dave just created a shit ton of complications and I’m furious with both him and myself for allowing it to happen.

Again.

KARA: Are we having another sleepover? Should I bring a change of clothes this time? 😉
DAVE: Hey beautiful. Can’t tonight. Saturday?

Fucking man-whore.

When we got together I was very clear about my rules. I’m not looking for love but my career is important to me. You want to date other people go for it but no one in my company. I don’t need that drama at work. So six months in who does this asshole decide to put his dick in?

My new assistant.

We live in the third largest city in the country. I asked him not to sleep with roughly 30 of it’s female inhabitants and even that’s too much to ask?

Quickly I pull my clothes on and get the hell out of there before he’s done in shower. He hates it when I ‘sneak out’ in the morning and I take some satisfaction that my disappearing act will annoy him.

I should just stay and have it out but I’m not ready to have this confrontation right now.

This is going to have repercussions and I need to do what I can to minimize the impact they are going to have on my fledgling company. My dream.

Stupid fucking asshole.

So before I confront Dave, there’s some other work I need to take care of. Unfortunately it’s 7:30 on a Saturday morning and I’m not going to start making calls this early. Other people deserve a relaxing Saturday morning at least.
I hail a cab and head home. I’ll shower and order a breakfast burrito from the Mexican place around the corner. Then I’ll sort my life out.

I wait until nearly 10am. I’m already on my way to Dave’s office so I can end things – he doesn’t know that yet but will soon. But there’s one more thing I want to do first.

I call up my contacts and hit the phone receiver icon.

“Hello?”

“Hi Kara, It’s Blake.”

“Oh hi Blake! How are you?”

Kara seems smart and competent, which is why I hired her. She’s also young, barely twenty-two, and new to Chicago. None of this is her fault and I need her to know I know that. Dave and I have kept our relationship on the down-low. Obviously after six months there are people in our circle that know, but I’ve been careful about broadcasting our status. There’s a set of people that work with us everyday that have no idea. There are others we’ve gone out with on a regular basis and I cringe inwardly knowing some of them were probably there Wednesday night watching him leave with her. She has no idea she just slept with her boss’s casual fuck buddy.

“I need to ask you something and I want to apologize in advance.”

Her voice loses some of her enthusiasm. “O-kay?”

“Did you sleep with Dave Westinghouse?”

“Am – am I in trouble?”

I’m sure she’s worried about her job right now. And I’m probably breaking all kinds of HR rules but I’m trying to handle this the best way I know how. We don’t have any kind of fraternization policy (obviously) and the last thing I need to worry about right now is finding another assistant.

“No. You’re not in trouble. I just need to know. I’m sorry.”

“Well – we – yeah.”

“Thank you for telling me. You should know, he and I have been seeing each other for the last six months or so. I know this isn’t your fault. I’m on my way to talk to him right now. But I needed to hear it from you.”

“Oh my god! I had no idea – I’m so sorry! I-”

“No. I know. This is not your fault. This is all on him.”

I hang up with Kara after reassuring her she does still have a job and I’ll see her on Monday. Then I text Dave to meet me in front of his office.

He’s fidgety in front of his office, different from his usually cocky persona.

“Anything you want to tell me, Dave?”

“No, what do you mean?”

“Kara!” I say that louder than I mean to but I’m shaking with rage at the mess this ass has created and want him to know exactly how furious I am.

He looks away and nods. At least he seems ashamed.

“So it’s over.”

I’m proud of myself for saying the words. It’s all that needs to be said really but it feels inadequate, like I’m letting him off the hook too easily. I hesitate and the fact I’m still standing in front of him gives him an opening.

“It was a mistake. If I could take it back I would.”

We argue a bit longer and while it’s gratifying to take my digs and hear his apologies, while it soothes my ego a fraction, there’s really no point. It’s over. There wasn’t enough good here for me to waste any time trying to ‘work it out’. We’re done. It still feels like he’s getting off easy and that annoys me but after just a few minutes I walk away.

I walk away and call my best friend Sloane.

“He slept with Kara.” I tell her. “The one thing I asked him not to do.”

Sloane is silent on the other end and I finally feel tears burn my eyes as I explain the morning events to her. At one point a tear falls and I swipe it away angrily taking a deep calming breath.

“No. He doesn’t get my tears. He doesn’t deserve my tears.” I push that down.

“You want to do a girls night tonight? Slumber party at my place?”

I smile for the first time all day. “Yes. That’s exactly what I need.”

Four weeks later Kara informs me, as her manager, that she won’t be able to tour with the company this summer after all. She’s pregnant. With Dave’s baby.

Seriously Universe? What The Fuck?

Want to know more about Sloane? You can find that here and here. Several years pass between meeting Ethan and meeting Josh.