Abbotts · AtoZ Challenge · Logan and Connor · Vanished

Connor #AtoZChallenge

I can’t get in to the book I’m reading. I catch myself, realizing I have no idea what has happened on the last three pages. Instead of going back, again, and re-reading them I give up and toss it on to the couch next to me. Checking the time I realize I still have forty minutes before the rest of my teammates are going to arrive.

I’ve got too much adrenaline to sit still, ready to get started. My team has decided to get tattoos, commemorating the end of our season, our Division Championship. It doesn’t help I’m on my own, early for our appointment due to travel schedules and thunderstorms. It didn’t make sense to go home when I landed so I came right to Vanished. Luckily, Lucas Abbott was here early and able to let me in, otherwise I would be sitting in my car right now watching the storm rage.

Shifting forward, I rest my elbows on my knees and grab my phone to scroll through my unanswered texts. I respond to the ones from my brother and my mom but ignore several from my ex. I wish Therese would let it go. We’ve been over for months. During the season the travel was too much for her and she found some other guy to spend her nights with. But now that I’m home and have a winning record she wants to ‘work things out’.

I don’t.

My thoughts are interrupted when I hear someone yelling “I’m here! I’m here!” the voice getting closer before the door crashes open and a rain-drenched blond blur rushes in. Slightly stunned, I watch as she crosses to the lockers on the far wall, stripping off her soaked t-shirt as she goes, revealing a navy bra.

“Uh – Don’t mind me.”

She whirls at my voice gripping her vintage band, I can’t quite make out which one, shirt to her chest. “What the hell, perv?!”

I raise my hands as if surrendering. “I’m just here waiting for my appointment. Minding my own business. You’re the one who ran in and started to get naked.”

She glares at me – and it takes all my self discipline to keep my eyes on her face and not allow them to slip to her hastily covered breasts. She’s a mess, soaked to the skin, eye make up running and smeared, hair clinging to her cheeks and neck. But she’s still gorgeous. I know from the few times I’ve watched this crew’s reality show that this is Logan, currently the only female member of the team although there are constant rumors that Lucas is looking to add new staff. So far though, it’s remained the core four.

“People usually wait out front. In the waiting area.”

I shrug. “Luke told me to wait back here until the rest of the guys arrived.”

She rolls her eyes but seems to loosen up a little with this information.

“You mind?” she raises her eyebrows at me and spins one finger in the air.

Belatedly I realize she’s telling me to turn around and I stand to face the wall, my back to her, giving her a tiny bit of privacy. I can’t seem to help the grin on my face.

“Crazy storm, huh?” I toss out, then cringe. Am I seriously talking about the weather right now? I clearly need to work on my conversation skills and less on my fielding. But to be fair, most the women I meet during the season aren’t that interested in what I have to say which is probably why I’ve been in a bit of a dry spell since Therese.

Logan doesn’t respond to my witty repartee and I shift awkwardly from foot to foot, listening to clothing rustle and things clang against the metal lockers. I’m about to make another effort to break the silence but I hear the locker slam shut and almost as quickly as she entered, Logan is rushing back out the door.

Well, that was… interesting.

I manage to wait five minutes before following after her.

I find Logan sitting on a high stool behind the front counter, her knees tucked against the edge and a notepad balanced on her thighs as she sketches away. I lean against the opposite side of the counter, arms resting on the top and try to engage her in conversation.

“What are you working on?”

“Some designs for a client,” she responds without looking up.

“I’m Connor, by the way.”

“Welcome to Vanished, Connor. Lucas should be with you in a minute.”

Apparently Logan isn’t much for small talk.

Her absorption in her work gives me a chance to study her. She’s piled her blond hair into a messy bun on top of her head, the ends still damp. Streaks of blue, her signature look intermingle with the silver blond strands. After her quick change in the break room, she is now wearing a black Vanished tank top showing off long toned arms and a pair of faded jeans with black chuck’s. She had also managed to do some repair work on her eye makeup, wiping off the streaks. She looks both punk and artsy.

Before I can think of something else to ask her, the door behind me dings as it’s pulled open and three of my teammates and friends walk in and yell hellos. I lift my chin, acknowledging them but stay with Logan.

“Hey, man. About ready?” Lucas comes out of the back and slaps me on the shoulder.

“Just about. Last couple should be here soon.”

He grins and then heads over to greet the rest of the guys.

“Friends of yours?”

She raises her eyebrows again. I’m beginning to get she does this right before she says something snarky. Surprisingly on her I’m finding I like snark.

I glance over my shoulder taking in the others joking around and giving each other a hard time. Turning back I tell her, “My teammates.”

She hums noncommittally and returns to drawing in her sketch book.

I grin. “You…really have no idea who we are do you?”

Her frustrated sigh is a sure sign I’m annoying her. And that I’m right.

She shakes her head dismissively and shrugs. “Sorry. Should I?”

I tap on the schedule on the screen in front of her. Then I click the mouse so it’s on the correct date.

She rolls her eyes at me before glancing back at the appointment list. I grin at the grimace on her face as she realizes her mistake.

“Well, that explains why Lucas was pissed I was running late,” she mutters. I watch as she presses her lips together.

Now I’m starting to feel bad about giving her a hard time. This is her job after all. And she’s clearly had a rough morning considering her arrival.

Then she just shrugs again. “Sorry. Baseball isn’t really my thing.”

“Fair enough.” I chuckle.

She goes back to ignoring me.

I should leave her alone. Go talk shit with the guys while we wait the last few minutes. But there’s something about her that both intrigues and amuses me. She’s so prickly for no obvious reason. I want to find out why.

“So am I scheduled with you for the tattoo? I’ll have to take my shirt off so we’ll be even.”

She rolls her eyes and glances at the computer screen. “You’re with Lucas.”

“What if I want you to do it?”

“Sorry. Lucas is the boss.” Then she hops off the stool and walks away.

I laugh out loud and turn to join the guys.

AtoZ Challenge · Vanished

Bodhi #AtoZChallenge

Another wasted trip. Another lead that was nothing. Another tip that went nowhere. Another disappointment.

Another stab of hopelessness.

What am I doing?

The lights of downtown Chicago quickly approach through the windshield and I exit onto Division driving into the west side neighborhoods. I drive with muscle memory, knowing exactly where I’m headed and not paying much attention. It’s after 10pm on a Tuesday so even in Chicago traffic is minimal.

I’m late enough the shop’s lights are off, all locked up for the night. I half expected that to be the case so I make a right at the corner knowing the route she’ll take home. I catch up to her a few blocks later, spotting her white blond hair easily even in the dark.

I pull up to the curb and honk, startling the blond walking down the sidewalk. For a heartbeat she tenses, then relaxes, recognizing my car even before I lower the passenger window to call out to her.

Smiling now, she walks over and climbs into the front seat next to me.

“Hey, babe.”

She pulls the door shut and responds automatically. “Don’t call me babe.” Then leans over to give me a slow kiss hello.

“Nothing?” she asks softly, searching my eyes. I shake my head but she already knows the answer. I would have called if I’d had any luck, discovered anything helpful. Settling back into the passenger seat, her hand grips mine and squeezes.

“Have you eaten?”

She shakes her head, “I was going to grab a slice of pizza on the corner.” Logan lives two houses down from a great pizza place. It’s incredibly convenient.

“Sounds good.” I put the car back in gear and head to her place.

A few minutes later I’m turning on to her street and find a parking spot. With the car stopped, she digs through her bag searching for something.

“Here. Before I forget.”

She hands me an envelope thick with cash.

“I’m taking a new job. I should be making more money soon.”

I smile briefly. “That’s great, Lolo.” I glance at the bills she’s handed me. “You sure you want to keep doing this?”

I feel her surprise. I get it. I’ve been single minded about this quest for four years now. I’m not sure why this last trip has made everything seem so futile.

I shift enough to stuff the envelope in my pocket but make no move to get out of the car. Instead I stare blindly at the dashboard, eventually focusing on my key chain still in the ignition. I flick my finger, setting the keys swinging. The street lights glint off the copper of the elongated penny that acts as my key chain as it sways back and forth. Light dark light dark light dark.

I’ve had this stupid memento even longer than my fruitless quest. Since we were kids and used to skip school to go places like the Navy Pier. Places we wouldn’t be caught dead now.

“Are you coming?”

I continue watching the penny. Back forth back forth back forth.

“Bodhi?”

Inhaling deeply I finally tear my attention away and look at her. Fierce, stubborn, exquisite Logan. I probably shouldn’t, but I know I will. Selfishly, I’ll take her comfort.

She’s the only one who gets it.

“You okay?”

“No. Not really.”

We sit in silence a few minutes and she shifts, resting her head on my shoulder. Then she voices what has me feeling so destroyed.

“Her birthday is tomorrow.”

I nod a sudden, invisible fist squeezing my lungs.

Another car drives down her street, the headlights momentarily blindingly bright. Logan pulls away and gets out of the car. I hesitate only a moment before grabbing my keys and doing the same.

We walk to the corner to grab some slices to go. I try to shake myself loose from this mood and change the subject.

“So, what’s the new gig?”

She brightens and I’m glad I made this small effort. We grab our food and she responds as we walk out the door, heading to her place.

“Have you heard of Lucas Abbott?”

I struggle with some glimmer of recognition. “Yeah, he just won that tattoo show, right?”

She nods, not quite meeting my eyes. Interesting. “He’s starting his own shop. Asked me to join his team.”

“That’s great, Lolo,” I repeat. “He’s a good guy then?”

Unlocking her door she steps inside and flips the light switch, illuminating the stairwell to her second floor apartment. I follow her inside, locking the door behind me.

Shrugging her coat off, she answers, “Seems like it. But I can take care of myself if he tries any shit.”

She can, I know that. She’s tough. She’s making a name for herself in an incredibly male dominated field and I know that isn’t always easy for her. But she’s got a thick skin and can be a cutting bitch when required. Watching her take down jerks with her sharp tongue is one of my favorite pastimes.

I’m glad she hasn’t had to survive some of the things I’ve seen the last few years though. It takes more than tough to endure the crap that exists in the world.

Shit I worry Wren is neck deep in. Drowning in. My darkest moments I fear she’s already fully submerged.

But I don’t say any of that. Instead we eat our pizza and talk about Logan’s new job and watch a movie before going to bed and pretending we’re doing more than just comforting each other.

Hours later I lie awake staring at the ceiling. I glance at Logan asleep next to me, eyes tracing the pale skin and colorful designs of her naked back. Silently I slip out of bed and back to the kitchen. I grab a shot glass from the cupboard and a bottle of fireball from my bag. I hate the stuff, but it’s a tradition Wren started when we weren’t legally allowed to drink and didn’t know what good alcohol was. So on this day every year, I buy a bottle. I fill my glass and cross to the window. It’s the middle of the night, well into the beginnings of the next day.

“Happy Birthday,” I toast the moon and down the spicy cinnamon flavored liquid.

I will find out what happened to you, little sister. I promise.

Abbotts · AtoZ Challenge · Lucas and Ash · Vanished

Ash #AtoZChallenge

Immediately I know something is very wrong.

Lucas is just ending a call as I enter the kitchen. Years together, and I’ve never seen this particular expression on his face. Something like disbelief and rage and agony.

My stomach drops.

“Luke? What is it?”

“We have to go see Ethan.” His response is distracted. He has yet to look up from the phone in his hand.

“Okay,” I assure him. “Okay, we’ll go see Ethan.”

He nods, his only acknowledgment I’m there. Increasingly concerned I cross the distance between us and cup his cheeks in my hands, bringing him back to me. Where he needs to be. Where we’re strongest. His eyes meet mine, holding torture I haven’t seen there in years. Not since he started making peace with his family.

“Hey, whatever it is, I’m here. We’ll figure it out.”

His tense posture relaxes somewhat and he presses a swift kiss against my lips before pulling me close, arms around my waist. He buries his face in the curve of my neck, another sure sign he’s upset about something.

Dread is settling in my already roiling stomach. “Babe, what is it?” I whisper. I run my hands through his hair, trying to soothe him.

He takes a deep breath before stepping back, his hands still on my waist keeping us connected. “I – I have a sister. She’s waiting in Ethan’s office.”

What?

I bite back a million questions, knowing that’s not what he needs right now. And that he is probably battling the same list in his own head.

“I’ll call Gabby and Riley. I’m sure one of them can stay with the kids.”

We drop the kids off at Gabby’s on the way. As I predicted she was happy to spend the afternoon with them. I know I’ll have questions to answer later – when I hopefully have answers – but my best friend never turns down an opportunity to spoil my children for a few hours.

I insist on driving, Lucas is still too distracted. He’s sitting beside me, fingers drumming on his knees as he silently, broodingly stares out the window. I’ve learned, with time, that sometimes he falls into these dark moods. Jax told me once when they were kids and things got bad that Lucas would turn it in. Back then he would channel it into his art and while that is still his pattern he also has us now.

He isn’t a foster kid being shuffled house to house. He isn’t a poor, angry kid that no one believes in or has any time for. Now he knows he is loved. And when he goes to this place I am there to constantly remind him of that fact so he never stays there for long.

But this.

A sister?

I have no idea how this will affect him.

I turn on to the street where Ethan’s office is located and breath a sigh of relief when someone leaves a parking spot right out front I can pull into.

Lucas is jumping out of the car before I can even finish parallel parking, his patience at an end.

I scramble to catch up with him. He’s half way through the lobby before I do. He presses the up elevator button much harder, and more often, than is required but I don’t say anything.

He turns to me abruptly and busts out, “I love you. Thank you. For being here.”

My eyes sting with tears and uncaring of the people walking by us I wrap my arms around his waist, resting my head against his chest and wait for the elevator to arrive.

“I love you too. I will always be here when you need me.”

He’s stiff in my arms and I squeeze him, listening to his heart beat.

It’s taken time and a lot of missteps but Lucas has slowly made peace with his family, the Abbotts. Some of them, like Riley and Zane, have even become good friends. But for so many reasons, his relationship with Ethan has remained… tense. I’m worried this news is even harder to stomach from this particular messenger.

Finally, the elevator doors slide open, I pull away and we step inside pressing the button for the forty-first floor. It takes an agonizing amount of time to get there, Lucas holds my hand the entire ride. This is when I start to really feel my nerves. Now, when there isn’t anything to do but wait for the elevator to make it’s journey, I realize my stomach is churning.

What does this mean? How is this possible? A sister? Does that mean they found his father? If I’m spinning like this I can only imagine what Lucas is going through. My heart hurts just remembering the anguish on his face when I found him in the kitchen.

A soft ding indicates we’ve finally reached our destination. Releasing my hand, Lucas rushes through the doors and storms passed Ethan’s assistant into his office. Once again I’m running to keep up with his much longer legs.

I enter Ethan’s office just far enough behind Lucas to see him rearing back and punching Ethan square in the face. I rush to his side and grip his arm tightly, before he can decide to hit Ethan again.

“Lucas, let’s hear him out. You need answers right now,” I say softly. He meets my gaze, eyes in turmoil. “Whatever this is,” I remind him, “we’ll deal with it. I love you.”

His chest expands with a deep inhale as he visible relaxes, nodding at my words.

We turn to Ethan who is rubbing his cheek, working his jaw, and eying my husband warily.

“Nice to see you too, Cousin,” Ethan deadpans.

“How long? How long have you known?” Lucas barks.

Ethan sighs, his expression grim.

Suddenly I realize we are not the only ones in the room. Looking over my shoulder a see another couple standing near Ethan’s couch. Lucas had been so focused when we entered he had rushed right by them.

“Years,” Ethan finally admits. “I’ve known for years.”

Oh my god.

I hear a gasp and realize it’s me. Unconsciously, I move closer to Lucas, my hand tightening on his arm. He is visibly shaken by this news, staggering a few steps back.

“How – how could you do that? How could you know this whole time-”

“I wouldn’t let him tell you.”

We both turn abruptly as the woman I had noticed before steps forward.

“He kept the secret because I made him.”

Lucas looks at me in disbelief then back to her.

“You?” He’s clearly stunned, as surprised as I am. “It’s you?”

Click here if you’d like to read about the beginning of Ash and Lucas.