Deven drove her Harley-Davidson up the long drive to her house and into the garage.
She revved the engine a couple of times just to annoy the neighbors before shutting the bike off. Removing her helmet, she sat on the motorcycle for a few minutes, enjoying the quiet of the spring night and the soft pings of the engine as it began to cool down.
What a night, she thought. She'd managed somehow to play two more games of pool before giving up. All efforts in maintaining an acceptable level of composure were proving to be fruitless, so she returned her cue to the rack with a purpose that almost cracked the wood, and headed home.
The ride home had been agreeable, as she had opened the bike up on the interstate. Riding the Harley always made her feel better. It gave her a sense of freedom she could never seem to grasp anywhere else. The stresses of life melted away with each rev of the powerful engine and were blown away upon the wind passing over and around her. Maybe a ride up into the mountains is exactly what I need.
Dismounting the bike, she headed for the door leading into the house. As she passed from the garage into the utility room, she activated the automatic door sealing the garage off from the outside world. Entering the kitchen next she laid her helmet on the counter and removed a bottle of water from the refrigerator. What a night indeed, she mused.
Entering her office, she checked the answering machine. According to the display she had three messages waiting and she momentarily toyed with the idea of erasing them all without listening. “Jeez, could you be any more childish?” she taunted herself. She pressed the play button than dropped into her desk chair to listen to the messages. The first voice to emit from the machine was that of a child – her child.
"Hi, Mommy. This is Tiernan. I wanted to know if you were coming to see me tomorrow. It's Saturday tomorrow. I made a drawing for you in school, and I want to give it to you. Okay? I love you Mommy. Please, please, please come see me."
Deven released a long sigh and looked at the picture of Tiernan on her desk. It had been taken last November as a Christmas present for her. Her hand tentatively reached out and lifted the picture as the second message began to play. This one was from her sister.
"Deven, it's Laura. I hope you can find time in your schedule to visit Tiernan this weekend. He misses you and has something he made in school for you. If you don't intend to stop by please let me know so I can find another activity to take his mind off your absence. Call me."
She took a long drink of the water and then pressed the cool water bottle against her forehead. “Well, I guess you told me. Huh, sis?”
The last message was from Kelly Preston. “Deven, why don’t you come over on Sunday? If the weather stays nice, Carl is going to grill some steaks. Jay will be there, and we’ve all agreed not to mention what happened at the Pit tonight. Carl says to tell you that if you don’t come over here, we’ll just invade your domicile. What do you say? See you Sunday afternoon!”
"Damn, damn, damn. Well, so much for a quiet weekend." She wondered how long it would take for tonight's fiasco to be forgotten. She realized she had to consider that it might never be forgotten without a little intervention on her part. "I should have kicked him while he was laughing on the floor," she confirmed to herself
She looked at the picture of Tiernan still in her hand. With a gentleness that would have surprised everyone including herself, she traced her son’s face in the picture. She was always torn when it came to Tiernan.
She had mulled over the decision to get an abortion right up until it was too late. A decision she had never come to understand. She didn’t want a child. She had never even considered the possibility. His conception had been a drunken mistake. A moment in which the need for sexual release and too much of a good time had led ultimately to a living breathing person.
Becoming pregnant did signal a major change in Deven’s life. A turning point in which she shifted her focus away from the post tournament parties and drunken biker rallies to building a thriving business. She supported Tiernan financially and always would. She took that responsibility seriously.
If she had permitted herself to, she would have acknowledged his presence in her heart, but Deven didn’t follow her heart. She placed more credence in her head, and her head with all its self-depreciating righteousness staunchly believed that Tiernan was better off in an environment of stability. An environment she believed she could not create. Her mother and sister however, seemed to be doing just fine providing him with a home life suitable for a four and a half year old.
Laura had married well. She and her husband had purchased a parcel of land in Virginia’s vineyard country. Deven conceded they had a nice home if a little too country for her tastes. In addition to their own home, they had a guesthouse on the property in which their mother resided. It was an arrangement that suited her sister quite well.
Tiernan lived with Laura and her family and had the added bonus of having his grandmother close by. To Deven it seemed like the perfect set up for her son. To her mother, Deven was only concerned with her own needs, and was causing Tiernan to suffer because she was too self-absorbed. They had never understood, and she doubted they ever would.
Thoughts of past confrontations with her family only served to stoke the ever-present anger in her stomach. Setting the picture down, she picked up the phone and dialed her sister’s number. She knew it was late, but didn’t care.
The phone rang three times before the sound of her sister’s voice, heavy with sleep, reached Deven’s ear. “Hello?”
"Hey, Sis. You said to give you a call," Deven replied smugly.
"Deven? What time is it?" Laura queried with a definite trace of irritation in her voice.
"Um, sometime after midnight I'd say. I just wanted to let you know that I'll be by tomorrow, no, make that later today, to see Tiernan." Deven's gaze again fell upon the picture of her son, and her sarcastic mood began to dissipate.
Laura hesitated before replying. “You’re sure. I don’t want to tell him you’ll be here and not have you show. It breaks his heart, Deven. He doesn’t understand.”
Deven felt the kernel of anger begin to glow in her stomach, and fought hard not to snap at Laura. She wasn’t really mad at her sister. She knew this was an old anger she held solely for herself. “I’ll be there. Tell him I’ll take him to lunch.”
Laura kept her skepticism to herself. “All right. He’ll be ready. What time will you be here?”
"Tell him I'll be there at noon." Setting the picture back in its place, she ran her hand across her face as if the gesture would erase her weariness. As her gaze settled on the same hand, she remembered the feel of the blonde woman's hand in hers. It had felt nice. Hers was definitely larger, but their hands had fit together just right nonetheless.
"I'll have him ready. Deven, why don't you have lunch here instead? I'll fix something up, okay?" her sister offered.
The martial artist really couldn’t care less one way or the other where lunch came from, but the thought of spending time with Laura and their mother was too much. “No thanks. I don’t think I’m up for another meal with mother. Tell Tiernan I’ll pick him up.” She disconnected the phone call before Laura could respond.
Rising from her chair, she made her way upstairs to her room shutting off lights as she went. Upon entering the bedroom she made quick work of stripping out of her cloths and flopped down on her large bed. The cool sheets felt good against her bare skin as she lay there staring out the window. Her thoughts drifted over the evening, and she discarded images until finally settling on the memory of amazing emerald eyes. What is it about this young woman?
She thought about the disturbing feelings that had invaded her when she had first gazed into those eyes. No matter how many different angles she viewed the moment; she could not come up with a viable explanation for the intense feelings contained in that single instant. She thought of the woman’s laughter and how it had made her smile.
An involuntary groan escaped her as she remembered the few words she had managed to speak to the woman. Deven, what an idiot! Why didn’t you ask her what her sign was? I mean, how cliché can you possibly get? And if anything, Deven Masterson, you are not cliché!
"What is the matter with me?" she asked the empty room. What does it matter? I'll get some ribbing from the gang, but I don't even know the woman's name. She isn't a regular at the Pit, so chances are I won't lay eyes on her again. Let it go Deven! With that she rolled onto her side, closed her eyes, waiting for sleep to claim her. Fortunately, it wouldn’t be a long wait this night.
Nicole managed to steer a somewhat inebriated Rhian from her car to the door of the Mackenzie residence. After four or five attempts, the young blonde got the key in the door, unlocked it, and stumbled forward over the threshold. Nicole tried to keep her quiet, but it was a hopeless task. The first to greet them was Daisy.
Rhian slid to the floor next to the beagle despite Nicole’s attempts to keep the tipsy woman on her feet. Wrapping her arms around the beagle, she gave her a hug. “Isn’t she cute? Don’t you just love the way she wags her tail? Her tail? More like she wags her whole body. Her tail goes this way, and her butt goes that way, and..”
Nicole cut her off. "Yes, Rhian."
The blonde looked up at her friend then back to the dog. “You are cute. Aren’t you, you wiggle butt?”
Nicole sighed heavily. Daisy, of course, couldn’t have been happier and demonstrated that fact with her acrobatic tail wagging. She looked from the woman on the floor to Rhian’s father as he stepped into the hallway. “Hey, Mac. Could you help me get her back on her feet?”
Looking up, Rhian grinned. "Hiya, Pop! How ya doin'? Isn't Daisy cute?"
"Nicole Mullens! I allow you to take my daughter out for the evening, and you bring her home like this?" All three turned to see Kate standing in the entryway with her hands on her hips.
"Mama K, it wasn't my fault," Nicole whined.
"Let's get her on her feet, shall we?" Mac gripped Rhian under her arms and lifted his daughter up.
Rhian managed to make it to her feet, which served to place her face to face with her mother. “Hiya, Mom!”
"Hi yourself," Kate replied. "Did you have a good time?"
She nodded her head vigorously up and down. “I saw the Prestons. I met a nice guy named Jay Thomas. The food was good. The music was classic. Oh, and I knocked the wolf on her cocky butt!” She burst out laughing. Mac and Kate looked to Nicole for an explanation, but all she could do was shrug her shoulders. She really didn’t have a clue. “Maybe we should get her to bed,” she suggested.
Getting Rhian down the stairs and into her room proved to be less difficult than any of them anticipated. Once in her room, Mac excused himself leaving Kate and Nicole to get her into bed. Rhian had amiably gotten ready for bed much to everyone’s relief however getting her into bed was more challenging. The young blonde made an abrupt move away from the bed towards the bedroom door. “I have to see Seana.”
Kate quickly placed herself between her daughter and the bedroom door. “Honey, she’s asleep.”
She looked at her mother as intently as she could, given her current condition. “Was she a good girl?”
"Of course she was. She finished her dinner, took a bath, and read your father a story or two. I tucked her in and read her a story," Kate assured her daughter.
"I have to see her," Rhian pleaded.
Her mother moved away from the door to allow her daughter to pass. “Okay, let’s go.”
Rhian looked at the sleeping form of her child. As usual, Seana had kicked off the covers and maneuvered herself crossways on the bed. Carefully she repositioned the child in the bed, and covered her back up with the sheet and comforter. Placing a kiss on the child’s forehead, she whispered, “I love you,” before returning to her own room.
Once Rhian was back in her own room, and tucked into bed, Kate bid them a good night. As Nicole moved toward the door, the still slightly unsteady woman called out, “Aren’t you staying?”
Nicole regarded her friend. “Not tonight, kiddo. I’ve got to work in the morning. My boss is a real slave driver.”
Rhian giggled. "Funny, Nic! I'll be sure to let him know."
"You would. 'Night, my friend."
"'Night. Thanks for tonight. It was fun," Rhian conceded.
Nicole gave her friend a gentle smile. “I’m glad you had a good time. We’ll do it again. Get some sleep. I’ll see you later.”
Rhian settled back into the pillows. I really did have a good time. With that thought she drifted off to sleep.
Rhian rarely awoke feeling energetic, but this morning she felt even less so. She cautiously opened her eyes, and was greeted with a sense of disorientation. Quickly closing her eyes again, she lay still as the memories of the previous evening came back to her. She remembered most of the evening, or at least she believed she remembered most of it. She endeavored to concentrate on the memories, but found that a difficult task given the dull ache in her head. Her mind suddenly settled on her child. Where is Seana?
Rhian forced herself out of bed and went to her daughter’s room to discover that the child was not there. Based on the aroma filtering down from the upper level, she surmised that her daughter was in the kitchen eating breakfast. She walked back to her room for a shower that she hoped would help clear her head.
Standing under the warm water of the shower, Rhian replayed the prior evening in her mind. She remembered the music and beer as well as the food. All of which had been surprisingly good. She remembered seeing the Preston’s and meeting Jay. She smiled in recollection of Angela’s little stories. She recalled laughing out loud and how good that had felt.
And then she remembered that woman. What was her name? The name would not come to her but the unsettled feeling did. What is it about her?
Rhian let the water run over her head. The frustration remained, as she couldn’t comprehend what had happened to her whenever she had interacted with what’s her name. Shutting the water off she decided that it didn’t matter. She never expected to have to deal with that situation again.
Rhian toweled herself off, swallowed a couple of aspirin, and dressed for work before climbing the stairs in hopes that there was something left of breakfast. Reaching the top stair, she slowly peered around the corner, which only served to make her feel foolish. She was a grown woman after all. Then how come I feel sixteen? She noticed no one was seated at the kitchen table, and was startled by her mother’s voice as she stepped into the room.
"Glad you could join the day."
She looked sheepishly at her mother. “I...um…overslept.”
"I see that." Taking pity on her daughter, Kate guided her to the table. "Sit down, honey. I have some pancakes and bacon for you."
Rhian sat down at the table in her usual spot. “Where’s Seana?”
"She's with your father. He took her to the garden center. I'll pick her up in a bit," Kate replied while placing a plate of food in front of Rhian. She was pleased at the way in which her daughter attacked the stack of cakes. At least her appetite is normal.
She left Rhian to her breakfast while she cleaned up the breakfast dishes. When younger woman was almost finished she inquired of the previous evening. “So, did you have a good time?”
Rhian swallowed the last bite of her breakfast and stared at the plate as if the answer was hidden somewhere in the syrup that remained there. Finally she looked up at her mother. “Was I terrible last night?”
Kate eyed her daughter with a stern look before releasing the laughter she had been struggling to hold in for the past half-hour. “No. You were actually rather humorous.”
Rhian wasn't certain what her mother meant by that statement, and wasn't sure she wanted to know. "I did have a good time. It was an interesting place."
"I'm glad honey. You needed to get out. And no, you have nothing to worry about. You were a little tipsy last night but nothing extreme. Now perhaps you should consider going to work, huh?"
Rising from the table, she placed her plate in the sink before turning to her mother. “Thanks, Mom.” She hugged the woman, grabbed her keys and headed out the door.
For the remainder of the day, Rhian focused her energies on refining the displays in the nursery, the main building, and the commercial greenhouse. There wasn’t much to be done in any particular area as everything had been mapped and defined during the winter months. So, she concentrated her efforts on the aesthetics of each area. By the time she left the garden center that evening, Rhian had reached near physical exhaustion and driven most members of the staff to the point of absolute frustration in trying to keep up with her.
She had no idea why she felt so driven. Perhaps it was the slight feeling of guilt for her behavior the previous night, or perhaps it was that she actually felt good. The evening had been fun. But most importantly, she had managed to move past the fear of going out and had enjoyed the evening despite the ribbing she got from Nicole and her brother afterwards.
Rhian spent Saturday evening caring for her daughter. She bathed Seana and read her several stories before the child finally drifted off. Once the child was in bed for the night, Rhian turned her attention to the various landscape designs she was developing.
Landscape design had always entranced Rhian, and she had concentrated her collegiate studies in that area. She loved to watch each design develop from a blank page to a pictorial representation of a living dynamic environment.
Rhian still did many of the designs by hand instead of using the computer. It was far more satisfying to her to watch her drawings come together, and it served as a venue for her artistic nature. When the season got busy, she would resort to using the design programs on her computer for the more time consuming landscape designs, and for the planting and building layouts.
Late Saturday night, she completed an intricate and extensive design for one of the Preston’s neighbors in McLean. She drove out to the upscale neighborhood the following afternoon to deliver the design and discuss the installation contracts.
The presentation had gone well, the contract had been signed, and she had left the house with a sizable down payment for plant and landscape materials. She would be able to send a crew out the following day to begin the preliminary work and deliver materials. If the weather held, they should be able to complete the job within two weeks.
Walking to her truck, she was about to get in the vehicle when two motorcycles pulled up next to her and stopped. She recognized one of the riders as Carl Preston. While the other rider seemed familiar, she wasn’t certain who it was. When he removed his sunglasses, Rhian recognized Jay Thomas. “Hi guys. How’s it going?”
"Hi Rhian. Good. How about yourself?" Carl asked with an easy smile.
She returned his smile. "Great. Just confirmed another design job. Looks like we'll be invading your neighborhood for most of the next two weeks."
"Excellent. I'm glad for you. Why don't you come by the house? I'm sure Kelly would like to see you," he offered.
"Yeah," Jay added. This young lady interested him. She had managed to captivate the eye of his best friend even though she was nothing like the women Deven usually even noticed. She was also the only person he was aware of whom had ever walked away from Deven without so much as a cursory glance. Hell, she was the only person he knew who had walked away from her at all.
"Sorry guys, but I have to be getting back. Thanks anyway. Tell Kelly I said hello," Rhian added while getting into her truck.
"Will do," Carl replied.
Jay regarded Rhian for a couple of seconds. “Rhian, you planning on coming to the Pit anytime soon?”
She shook her head. "I don't know. Why?"
"Just asking. I thought if you were, we could shoot some pool."
Rhian grinned. She liked Jay. “I don’t know how to play pool.”
He chuckled. "No problem. We could teach you. I'm sure Deven would be happy to give you a few pointers. Right, Carl?"
Carl nodded. "Sure. Well, we best get going before Kelly comes looking for us. Take care, Rhian. Hope to see you soon."
"Take care you two," Rhian replied while starting her truck. As she pulled away from the curb she felt a small sense of disappointment. She would like to have seen Kelly and talk to Jay some more. Truth was her curiosity was piqued and she wanted to learn more about the mysterious woman named Deven.
Rhian had always held a fascination about people and how they acted towards others. Her father claimed that was one of the main reasons she would be a good manager. She had never met anyone remotely similar to Deven in her life, and she supposed that part of her curiosity really had to do more with her reactions at the Pit than with the stranger. Though to some extent, she considered them related.
Oh well, she mused. No biggie. We definitely have nothing in common. With that thought, Rhian turned her attention to the drive home and the family waiting for her there.
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