How Far

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Three years.

 

She couldn’t believe how much time had passed since leaving him, leaving everything behind that ever mattered to her.  Nalani pressed her forehead to the glass window, looking outside with a cup of hot tea in her hand.  She always had a cup after putting her beautiful children to bed, a soft smile gracing her lips at the thought of them. 

 

Megan and Matthew.

 

Nalani remembered when she first found out she was pregnant, completely scared out of her mind.  It wasn’t the happy memory she always envisioned when finding out because, honestly, Nalani had no idea who the father was.  She hadn’t cheated on her boyfriend either, she was…Nalani immediately pushed that memory out of her mind, vowing to never think of it again.  She didn’t regret having her children, not even for a second, even though they were possibly conceived out of hate and rage instead of love and passion. 

 

Tears slipped down her cheeks at the memory of leaving the love of her life, her soul mate, the only man who ever fully accepted her for who she was.  Even after three years, it still hurt and Nalani didn’t know how much more time it would take to heal and forget about him.  Hell, she knew deep down she never would and her heart would always belong to the one man she singlehandedly destroyed.

 

Mark Calaway.

 

Every night she stayed up wondering about what he was doing, if he was happy and had moved on with his life…if he was safe.  That was the most important thing to her was wanting him to be safe.  She remembered the way he always smirked at her whenever he had something up his sleeve.  How he’d take her for surprise rides in the middle of the night on one of his many motorcycles, only to stop in the middle of nowhere to make love on it.  He definitely was a man of full of mystery and surprises, which intrigued Nalani, making her want to know more.

 

Everything about him set her heart on fire.

 

Now it was nothing more than an ice cold shell, the only love and feeling she gave was toward her children.

 

Megan and Matthew both had deep ocean blue eyes that matched their mother.  Matthew had honey blonde hair while Megan’s was long beautiful auburn red.  They were fraternal twins, Megan born three minutes before her brother.  Mark was nearly seven feet tall and had long raven black hair with the deepest green eyes she’d ever seen. 

 

They reminded her of emerald stones, especially when they sparkled.  Nalani honestly didn’t know if Mark was the father, which is one of the many reasons she hadn’t told him she was pregnant when she left him three years ago.  The twins had just celebrated their third birthday a few days ago and it broke Nalani’s heart that Mark wasn’t there to see it.

 

What absolutely crushed her and made the tears fall at night was when the twins asked her about their father.  She sent them to a daycare so she could work to support both of them at the local hospital as a receptionist.  It wasn’t the greatest job in the world, but Nalani had to do what she had to do to survive and support her children.  They were her life, all she had left.

 

Her mother died during childbirth, delivering her younger sister, Nicole, and leaving her father, Michael, completely heartbroken.  Olivia was his everything and he was never the same after her untimely death; Nalani knew deep down her father blamed Nicole on some wavelength.  Both her sister and father were taken from her five years ago in a robbery that still haunted Nalani’s thoughts and plagued her dreams with nightmares. 

 

She met Mark shortly after their deaths and he slowly opened her up again because Nalani thought her spirit died along with her family.  Mark showed her that she didn’t have to be a shell of her true self.  That she could go on living without feeling guilty every single day she was alive.

 

He taught her to keep moving forward.

 

Michael Kensington had been a very wealthy man and left Nalani everything, since she was the last heir to his throne so to speak.  Instead of taking the money, Nalani donated most of it to every charity she could think of, which included St. Jude’s Research Hospital, Give Kids the World, Make-A-Wish Foundation, animal charities, starving children in Africa…the list was endless.  In her mind, Nalani didn’t deserve the wealth her family left her and knew it would be put to good use. 

 

Of course, her family still had stocks and bonds that she had to keep, but Nalani refused to touch any of it.  Instead, she would save it until her children grew up so they could go to the best colleges of their choice.  Their education was set in stone, nothing would touch that, Nalani wasn’t a total fool.  She had kept about five percent of the total inheritance that was left to her, along with the Kensington family mansion, not having the heart to sell it.

 

Nalani refused to live off of her family’s wealth, wanting to make it in the world on her own by working hard, which is what she did at the hospital.  She also had a part-time job as a local bartender in downtown Dallas every other weekend.  Very grateful she’d found a young woman by the name of Keela to watch the twins while she worked, Nalani also knew she was missing pieces of her children’s childhood whenever she left to work.

 

It was half past two in the morning and Nalani knew she wasn’t getting any sleep, too many thoughts swirling around her mind.  Mark lived in Houston, though now Nalani didn’t know where he was.  She shouldn’t worry about it because she left for a good reason, a reason that nobody could ever know. 

 

She only knew the truth and that’s the way it had to stay, no matter the cost.  Nalani knew she would never see him again and never fall in love, which was fine with her.  She had the two loves in her life, all she ever needed, though Mark would always be in the forefront of her mind on nights when she slept in a cold bed alone.

 

Like tonight.

 

“I love you, Mark.” She whispered to the silence, a few more tears falling. 

 

Nalani made it a ritual to say that every night for the past three years and shed tears of guilt, sorrow and pain.  She never showed her children the pain she felt, knowing they didn’t deserve it.  It was bad enough they didn’t have a father in their lives and Nalani would never get rid of the guilt, wishing deep down she had stayed with Mark.

 

“I did the right thing.” She clutched the glass in her hand and suddenly set it down, not wanting it to shatter in her grasp.

 

After going through nine months of her body changing and mood swings alone, Nalani could handle absolutely anything in her life.  On top of the pregnancy and interesting cravings –Nalani would never look at pancakes and syrup the same way again-, she never had the comfort and encouragement, having to do it all on her own alone.  She had to learn everything from books and her doctors, had to remember not to eat certain foods.  To watch her body completely transform from being slender to a big fat beach ball that was ready to burst, Nalani chuckling at the memory. 

 

Finding out she was having twins put a lot of things in perspective for Nalani, such as how much more she valued life.  She thought about terminating the pregnancy after leaving Mark because there was a chance he wasn’t the father.  She didn’t want to carry another man’s children and thought about having an abortion.  Suicide also came to mind, but Nalani was too terrified to go through with it.

 

It was nine months of hell Nalani wouldn’t have traded for anything because, in the end, she got two beautiful angels out of it.  They were the reason why she hadn’t completely broke down and given up on living life.  She had to be strong for her offspring, especially when she first felt them both kick her at the same time, the feeling incredible.  It was a feeling and a moment that made Nalani realize she could do anything, that she could raise them on her own without any help. 

 

She could survive.

 

Needing some air, Nalani pulled on her long sleeved black sweatshirt and walked out on the porch of her two story small house.  It was on the outskirts of Dallas, not wanting to live directly in the city, the stars glistening in the sky breathtaking.  She always loved Texas, born and raised, so she had a natural golden tan that made her even more beautiful to other eyes.  Nalani had beautiful long honey blonde hair and blue eyes that mirrored her deceased mother’s.  Her father had black hair and green eyes, her younger sister taking after him.

 

Nalani often thought about her deceased family, hoping they were resting peacefully wherever they were.  She wasn’t very religious, though she did believe a god existed.  Her father had tried shoving the bible down her throat, which is why Nalani refused to do that to her children, wanting them to make their own decisions and beliefs in life.  Mark was the same way, an honorable man that worked hard to make a living. 

 

He owned his own security company that specialized in training new cops of the Houston area with weapons.  Other companies from all over also called him to install security in their facilities.  That included hiring guards and anything else revolving around safety, one of the many reasons Nalani felt safe with Mark.  She was terrified after the deaths of her family and didn’t trust him at first, but slowly Mark edged his way inside her cold heart and warmed it up again.

 

The cool air flowed through her hair as Nalani sat on the swing, just enjoying the cool October night.  Before she knew it, Christmas would be here and Nalani had all kinds of plans in mind for the twins, smiling at the thought.  Again though, that little stab of sadness entered her heart because Mark wouldn’t be there to witness their happiness as they opened gifts from Santa. 

 

Nalani often thought about contacting Mark, but knew she couldn’t do it…ever.  She had to stay away from him, no matter how much her heart and mind screamed at her night after night to make the phone call.  Somehow, she knew he wouldn’t just pack up and leave Houston, his hometown.  He had a very successful business there along with a beautiful house; there was no way he would ever leave his home.  She still had his number in her memory and it would always be there, those seven digits burned in her mind.

 

So deep in thought she was, Nalani didn’t realize how long she’d been outside until the buzzer on her phone went off, signaling it was time to get ready for work.  Five o’clock in the morning, Nalani would be hurting later on, but knew when the twins went down for their afternoon nap, she could do the same.  Heaving a weary sigh, Nalani stood up from the porch swing just as a car pulled up, knowing it was Keela.  She immediately wiped at her eyes, not even realizing she’d been crying for the past three hours outside.

 

“Hey girl, yer up awful early.” Keela commented while walking up the stairs, the smile fading from her face. “Are you alright?”

 

“Yeah, I just didn’t sleep well.”

 

Keela knew Nalani for almost two and a half years and she knew the woman had demons that she couldn’t quite contain.  This wasn’t surprising finding Nalani outside on the porch with dried tear streaks on her face.  Keela never said anything though, simply giving the woman a comforting embrace.

 

“Why don’t you go take a shower to wake up a little and I’ll make some breakfast?” Keela suggested softly, opening the screen door so both of them could walk in. “The kids would love pancakes I’m sure.”

 

Keela watched the twins during the week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday along with every other weekend whenever she worked in downtown Dallas.  Nalani didn’t want her children exposed to daycare for too long, so she only let them go on Tuesday and Thursday, knowing that would eventually change to also Wednesday.  Keela was going to college and she would need Wednesday off, which Nalani could work around.  Luckily, the daycare was understanding on her situation and said that Nalani could bring the twins whenever she needed.

 

After a much needed cool shower to wake up, Nalani stepped out and slipped on a black pencil skirt with a buttoned up baby blue blouse, her hair swept up in a clip that fanned over the top of her head.  A few tendrils framed her face delicately as she sat down at the vanity mirror in her bedroom, doing her makeup.  It consisted of thin black eyeliner with clear gloss and foundation to hide any blemishes, especially the awful black circles under her eyes. 

 

Nalani could smell the food downstairs that Keela was whipping up, though she wasn’t hungry, knowing the twins would eat most of it.  They ate like they had tapeworms, definitely determined to eat their dear mother out of house and home.  Nalani smiled at the thought of them possibly having Mark’s appetite and stood up from the vanity, knowing she had to push him back in the box in her mind until that following night…like always.

 

Right now, she was a happy, joyful woman that loved everything about her life, especially her twins.  She could hear little padding as both of them emerged from their bedrooms, the smell of food waking them no doubt.  Nalani slipped her black pumps on and headed downstairs, immediately being bombarded with hugs from both Matthew and Megan.  She bent down and kissed each of their foreheads, ruffling their hair, and set them up at the kitchen table.

 

“That smells incredible, Keela, thanks again.”

 

“No problem, you look like you’ve woken up more.” Keela grinned, her soft brown eyes warm and walked over with a plate full of blueberry pancakes with eggs and sausage.  Her brunette locks was currently up in a messy bun away from her face, not wanting to get hair in the food.

 

“Foooood.” Matthew groaned with delight, licking his lips, and immediately dug in as soon as the plate was set in front of him.

 

“You look pretty mommy.” Megan smiled, her blue eyes sparkling with joy as soon as food was set in front of her. “Thankies Kee!”

 

Keela chuckled softly, winking. “Not a problem, sweetheart.” She set down at the table as well, after giving Nalani a plate full of food as well. “You need to eat, Lani.”

 

Nalani sighed and managed a weak smile, swallowing down a few bites.  She kissed the twins goodbye and thanked Keela again for all of her hard work, promising to be home no later than three o’clock.  Keela told her not to worry about it, knowing how the hospital could be depending on how busy it got.

 

As Nalani drove away from the house, all she could think about was how different her life would be if Mark was here.

 

Chapter 2

 

The fight with her father was something Nalani would never forget.

 

After a rough shift at the diner down the street, Nalani simply wanted to go home and soak in her huge black garden tub in bubbles.  Yet another thing her father didn’t approve of.  Michael Kensington couldn’t believe his firstborn wanted to work in a scummy diner, mopping floors and assisting other people, when she could clearly do so much more with her life. 

 

She had the funds to do it, thanks to her family’s wealth, though Nalani wanted nothing to do with it.  Nalani would rather work her fingers to the bone to earn what life gave her rather than use her family’s wealth to get ahead in life.  It wasn’t her style, unlike her younger sister Nicole, who spent money nearly every day on a new outfit or went out with her friends until late hours of the night.

 

“You deserve better than working in such a hole that we have Mandy buy our groceries from!” Michael had said time and time again, but Nalani simply ignored him.

 

Mandy was their housekeeper and maid, doing her father’s every command.  He paid her a decent amount of money for what she had to put up with, but Mandy was always smiling, ready to do anything for Michael.  It sickened Nalani the way she followed Michael around like a lost puppy, though that was her job.  Nalani supposed she couldn’t fault the woman for it, but at the same time, she would never do something so degrading.

 

Working at a diner was good for her; it gave Nalani character and got her out of the house from her overbearing father.

 

Michael wanted his daughter to succeed in life and take advantage of the rare opportunities not many had that were in the palm of her hand.  She wouldn’t take the ball and run with it, which infuriated him to no avail.  He loved his daughter more than anything, but Nalani had to grow up and realize who she was, what her name represented.

 

Stepping out of her Ford Focus, Nalani pressed the alarm button on her keys before heading up to the huge mansion she lived in.  It was the Kensington mansion, which was on the outskirts of Houston and built in an old Victorian style.  It was a deep brown and had four floors, over ten bedrooms, the upstairs strictly her father’s work space.  Even when he was at home, he brought work with him and Nalani had gotten used to it over the years. 

 

She walked up the stone steps to the huge double oak doors, unlocking them and stepping inside, the huge chandelier glistening above her.  Sighing tiredly, Nalani started up the huge silver winding staircase, when her father’s voice calling her name stopped her.  Nalani was tempted to ignore him and keep going up to her room, really not wanting to argue with him tonight.  Work had been hellacious and all she wanted was to relax for the rest of the night, knowing she had to be up at seven AM to be in work again at eight for the morning shift.

 

“Nalani, do not ignore me, girl!” His voice sounded again, causing her to groan inwardly.

 

“Damn it.” She muttered and turned around, walking down the hallway toward the foyer, already hearing the crackling fire coming from the fireplace. “What do you-” Her words died as soon as she entered, stopping at the sight of her father with his surprising visitor. “What are you doing here?”

 

The man turned around with glowing blue eyes, his short red hair cropped neatly, standing with a glass tumbler in his hand, full of what she no doubt knew was bourbon.  He had on a long sleeved black dress shirt with black dress pants, the top three buttons undone, his white teeth glinting off the firelight.  Her cerulean blue eyes narrowed slightly, arms folding in front of her chest, wondering what the hell was going on here.

 

“Your father invited me over for a drink.  He thought maybe we should talk…” The word talk implied more than just that and Nalani wasn’t falling for it.

 

“I don’t think so.” Nalani looked at her father, wondering what he was thinking. “You’ve lost your mind, what is he doing here, Dad?”

 

Michael cleared his throat somewhat awkwardly, finishing off his own tumbler. “Nalani, you know how much I love you and I want what’s best for you…” He smiled, walking toward her slowly. “I really think you two should work things out.”

 

Nalani blinked, wondering if her father truly belonged in a nuthouse. “That’s not going to happen.  I want nothing to do with him.” Her voice was final, refusing to meet Scott’s eyes. “Dad…”

 

Michael growled, wondering why his daughter had to be so stubborn all the time. “Nalani, I don’t understand what could’ve happened between the two of you.” He tried again, but his daughter stood there scowling, knowing he wasn’t making any progress.

 

“Yes Nalani, I’m wonderin’ the same thing honey.” Scott sounded hurt, though she knew he was putting up a front because her father was here. “Please, I want to make things right with us.  I love you…”

 

“No you don’t.” Nalani refused to buy his lies, knowing he was simply acting like the good guy to impress her father, just like he always had. “And you REALLY don’t want me talking about our breakup in front of my father, Scott.  You should leave now.”

 

Scott narrowed his eyes slightly, finishing off the tumbler and set it down beside Michael’s, slowly walking toward her. “Just tell me what I did and we can make it right.  Please, I love you so much and I don’t want to lose you, Nally.” That was the nickname he gave her and Nalani despised it, her lips pursing tightly together.

 

“Why can’t you at the very least hear what he has to say?” Michael pressed suggestively, both men staring at her with pleading eyes.

 

Nalani wanted to kill Scott for this, but knew she had no choice except to air his dirty laundry. “You know you claim to be a good guy and you put up a hell of a front in front of my father, but it’s all a lie.  You’re full of shit, Scott and you always have been!  I know why you wanted to date me; I know why you really wanted to be with me!  It’s about the money; it’s about security and you don’t love me so you can stop playing games and stop saying you do!” She stalked away from both of them, needing some space, tears shining in her eyes.

 

Scott frowned, ignoring the look Michael was giving him. “Nalani, I don’t care about the past.  I don’t care what you think or say, I know what I feel for you and there’s nothing you can do to change it…” He suddenly lowered himself to one knee, staring at her through those blue eyes that used to melt her insides. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Nally.  Please, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”

 

He even spoke differently when around her father and Nalani knew he was lying through his teeth.  Scott even told her he never wanted to get married, he never wanted a family.  Now suddenly he was having a change of heart?  He didn’t have a heart and Nalani could already feel the tears sliding down her cheeks, pure hatred burning in her eyes.

 

“No.”

 

“Nalani Olivia Kensington!” Michael growled, using her full birth name and stalked toward her with angry eyes of his own.

 

“What?” She yelled, arching an eyebrow at him, knowing it was ultimately her decision if she wanted to marry this sack of shit or not. “I’m not marrying him, Dad.”

 

“Why the hell not?” Michael demanded irritably, wondering what was wrong, what had happened that was so terrible Nalani wanted nothing to do with him. “The entire family loves Scott already, including me.  I consider him a son and I want you two to get married and start a family!  He’s already agreed to work for my company so you will be well taken care of along with my grandchildren and…”

 

“Wait, stop right there!” Nalani couldn’t believe she was hearing this, wiping her tears away hastily. “What makes you think I’m even ready to take that step, that I would just marry him on a whim and have a kid?  I don’t want children right now, Dad!  I want to focus on getting my life together without using my name to get by in life!  Why can’t you accept that and let me live my own life?!” She was getting angry fast, turning her head when the doors opened and Nicole stepped inside.

 

“Nikki, now isn’t the time…” Michael started to say, stopping at the sight of the man beside his youngest daughter. “Who is this?”

 

“Hello sir, my name is…”

 

“What the hell are YOU doing here?” Nalani demanded, stalking past Scott toward her sister. “And what are you doing with him?!”

 

Nicole blinked, her blue eyes widened slightly, clutching onto her new boyfriend’s arm. “He’s my new boyfriend, I wanted him to meet Dad…” She didn’t understand why her sister was upset, frowning.

 

“Y-Your new boyfriend?  Really?” Nalani glared hatefully at the man standing beside her younger sister, wanting to rip his head off. “And I’m going to take a WILD guess here and assume you two didn’t just run into each other, right?”

 

“Nally…”

 

“RIGHT?”

 

“Hello Mr. Kensington, my name is Bradley Silverman.” The man introduced himself, placing his hand on Nicole’s reassuringly. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, I’ve heard a lot about you.”

 

“I’m sure you have…” Nalani slowly turned her head, staring back at Scott through narrowed eyes. “I’m sure this is all just one big fucking coincidence.”

 

“Nalani!” Michael was appalled by his daughter’s language, scowling. “I taught you better manners than that, girl!”

 

Nalani knew Scott had planted so many lies inside her father’s mind and it would be impossible to get past them. “Dad, Brad is Scott’s friend.  You honestly want your youngest daughter, your baby, dating a twenty-two year old?!”

 

“Twenty-two?” Michael stroked his chin in thought, staring over at Nicole, who gazed up at the man with happiness shining in her eyes. “I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad…”

 

“WHAT?”

 

“Nally, they’re happy.” Scott had walked up behind her, snaking his arm around her waist, her back pressed against his chest. “Why can’t you just be happy for them?” He asked in her ear, sighing when she broke free from him.

 

“Because I know what a scumbag he is, just like you!” Nalani shouted, not believing this was happening, and walked over to her sister. “Nicole, you can’t be with him.  You’re only seventeen!” Why was her father letting his seventeen year old daughter date a twenty-two year old?  It didn’t make any sense!

 

“He’s not a scumbag!!  How could you say something so hateful about him?  You don’t even know him!!” Nicole shouted, losing her temper fast, Bradley trying to calm her down. “He’s good to me!”

 

“If you only knew…”

 

“I don’t care what you say, I’m with him and there’s nothing you can do about it!!  Come on Bradley, we’re leaving!” Nicole grabbed his hand, storming out with her new boyfriend in tow, tears streaking down her cheeks. “I hope you’re happy, Nalani!”

 

“Nicole, wait!!” Nalani groaned when the front door slammed shut, knowing her sister was gone, and turned back to face her ex-boyfriend. “You son of a bitch!”

 

“I didn’t do anything!” Scott held up his hands, looking alarmed. “Nalani, please I don’t want to upset you…”

 

“Go to hell, go to hell all of you!!” Nalani shouted, beginning to run out of the foyer, needing to get away from everyone, but her father stopped her. “Let go of me, Dad!”

 

“No!  You’re going to stay here until you agree to marry Scott!  I’m not taking no for an answer!” Michael growled, clutching his daughter’s arm tightly and thrust her into Scott’s awaiting arms. “Now apologize to your future husband!”

 

“NO!  I’m not marrying him!!” Nalani shouted, struggling in Scott’s arms while her father went to get another tumbler of bourbon. “How can you do this to your own daughter?!  This son of a bitch has tapes, Dad!  Tapes fucking other women WHILE we were together!!”

 

Michael waved her off dismissively, Scott trying to calm her down by turning her around to face him. “It’s his past, he’s changed and you need to give him another chance.” He simply said, taking another long swallow. “He loves you, just as I loved your mother…”

 

“No he doesn’t!!” Nalani glared up at Scott, shoving him away from her with as much strength as she could muster, stumbling away. “I’ll never marry him.  NEVER!!”

 

“Then you’re no longer my daughter!” Michael shouted, tossing the tumbler into the fire as the flames hissed slightly, his eyes cold. “I mean it, you marry him and have a family or I will disown you!!”

 

Nalani’s heart shattered in her chest when her father said that, giving her an ultimatum. “You’d disown me because I won’t get married to the man who cheated on me with countless whores and made videotapes of them?” She was absolutely floored when her father nodded affirmatively, feeling sick to her stomach. “Fine, choose him over your own daughter, I hate you!!”

 

Michael tried stopping her, but Nalani had already fled from the foyer, the front door slamming shut signaling she left. “She’ll return.” Michael said, placing an assuring hand on Scott’s shoulder, both men scowling for different reasons.

 

Nalani ended up driving to her best friend’s house, tears streaming down her cheeks.  Not only was her father against her, but now so was her sister and Nalani couldn’t handle it.  Ever since her mother’s death, Nalani had felt a void in her life and now she was losing her family over a man.  A stupid worthless boy that didn’t know love if it bit him in the ass! 

 

What the hell had Nalani seen in Scott Mitchell?

 

Kaci immediately welcomed Nalani with open arms, guiding her inside.  Kaci lived with her boyfriend named Randy Orton, who was currently in the military.  They planned on getting married as soon as Randy was done with the military, having dated for several years. 

 

Nalani cried her heart out for hours with Kaci, explaining what happened after she got home from work and her father’s ultimatum marrying Scott.  Kaci couldn’t believe what a heartless bastard Michael was and assured Nalani she could stay with her as long as she needed to.  Falling asleep that night, Nalani couldn’t help wondering what the future held for her as silent tears fell from her eyes.

 

A few days later, Nalani received a call while she was at Kaci’s that changed her life forever.

 

Her father and sister were both brutally murdered.

 

Chapter 3

 

“So Mr. Calaway, we can expect you tomorrow around ten o’clock in the morning?” Sandra asked, already jotting down a few notes in her schedule book.

 

“Yes darlin’, it might be a little later, but not much after that.” Mark replied, rubbing his temples, knowing he had to go oversee what was going on at the hospital in Dallas. “I’ll be there.”

 

“Very good, we’ll see you then.”

 

Mark sighed and hung up the phone, leaning back against the couch with a long neck beer in hand.  He was exhausted from work and just wanted to relax, taking another long swig.  Who knew opening up a security company would be such a damn hassle? 

 

Mark’s company specialized in training new cops of the Houston area on weapon training.  Other companies, like Medical City Dallas Hospital, contacted him as well to install security and Mark hired people to do that for him.  However, he was a perfectionist when it came to his company and decided to make the near four hour drive from Houston to Dallas to make sure the guy he hired did the job right.

 

Today was rough; Mark couldn’t focus on doing all of the paperwork and still had the stack of folders lying strewn on the coffee table.  They were all clients who needed security installed throughout Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin.  The police department also contacted him, needing training done as soon as possible for the new officers they hired, who just graduated from the academy.

 

No matter how hard Mark tried, he couldn’t stop thinking about the past…about her.  Draining the long neck, Mark tossed it in the recycle bin and grabbed another one, standing in the kitchen staring out the window.  He didn’t understand what happened, even after three years, and wondered what he’d done to push her away.  She’d told him they were going in separate directions and she had to get away to find herself, which in Mark’s mind, was a bunch of lies.

 

Nalani Olivia Kensington-Martin was everything Mark could’ve wanted in a woman and more.  She had a gorgeous smile and personality, honey locks and blue eyes always taking his breath away.  He honestly saw himself marrying her one day, but she hadn’t given them a full chance at a future.  Mark knew that was partially his fault because of what happened before he even met Nalani…before he finally got his act together and grew up.

 

Mark had a rough past that involved violence, robbery, and anything else that broke the law.  Name it and he’d done it with his group of friends, a small crew known as the Hell Raisers.  Of course, they did simple things that ticked the police department of Houston off, painting the town red, and robbing liquor stores.  Mark could hotwire a car in two point five seconds or break into any building, though he stopped before completely ruining his life.

 

It all came to a head when Scott came up to him with a master plan to rob a mansion on the outskirts of Houston.  Scott Mitchell was a little over six feet tall and had short auburn red hair with blue eyes, almost one hundred percent Irish.  He always wore blue jean overalls with no shirt, a true southern hillbilly.  Mark made fun of him several times to put on a shirt, but Scott declined, always complaining about how hot he was.

 

Mark didn’t mind robbing small liquor stores because most of them couldn’t afford proper security, but he knew innocent people lived in that mansion.  He refused to be a part of it and declined Scott’s offer, stating he was getting out of the crew.  Mark had enough and wanted to get his life together, the guilt for everything he’d done finally catching up with him.  His conscience was kicking his ass and Mark finally couldn’t ignore it anymore, which ticked Scott off.

 

“Why do you gotta be like that, man?  Come on, this is a HUGE bust and we can get a LOT of dough!” Scott had tried convincing Mark, scowling when the man simply threw his hands up.

 

“I’m not doin’ it.  I’m done with this shit, Scott.  It’s not worth it anymore.” He glanced at Kevin, Steve, Brad, Nick, Jack and John, folding his arms over his chest. “I’m out, you can do what you want, but I don’t want any part of it.”

 

“Get the fuck outta here then, chicken shit!” Scott growled, shoving Mark and ended up eating Mark’s fist when he punched Scott in the face.  He went flying through the air and landed on his back with a hard thud, causing the rest of the guys to shake their heads.

 

Everyone knew not to piss Mark off.

 

That was the best decision Mark could’ve made with his life, having heard about two murders taking place during the robbery.  Mark vowed to make amends, to atone for his past with the crew, and came up with the idea to open up his own security business.  Steve and Kevin had gotten out of the crew as well, having decided against going with Scott and the others that night.  All they knew was that two murders took place and they ended up escaping with not being caught by the police, no dough in hand.

 

“Serves’em right.” Mark muttered, draining his second beer and set the bottle down on the counter, pinching the bridge of his nose.

 

Mark honestly wished Scott and the others had been caught, but they were slick.  There were no fingerprints or DNA that matched anything that linked them to the crime.  Mark had heard a seventeen year old girl had been brutally raped and murdered, stabbed over fifty times. 

 

It made him physically sick because he knew one of the crew had done that and stripped her clean of all clothing, no semen found.  That meant whoever raped her used a condom.  Mark knew they weren’t stupid by any means and silently hoped whoever raped that poor girl burned in the depths of hell.

 

When Scott tried contacting him again several months later, Mark told him he never wanted to talk to him again because he was out of the crew.  He was in the process of starting his own security company, which was now known as Calaway’s Safety Inc.  It was also well known as C.S.I., which is how the receptionist at the company’s headquarters answered phone calls.

 

He hadn’t heard from Scott in nearly six years.

 

His mind instantly went back to Nalani. 

 

He wondered if she was happy and why she left him without a proper explanation.  She threw some bullshit lies at him and walked out of his life, which nearly destroyed Mark.  He loved that woman more than anything and she shattered his heart.  He wished he could forget about her and move on, but Mark couldn’t and didn’t understand why.  Maybe they had unfinished business; maybe he needed some kind of closure because her leaving left a bitter taste in his mouth.

 

Mark thought they were happy and had enough spontaneity in their love life to keep the spark alive.  Hell, Mark could feel the spark between them the day Nalani walked away from him in a fit of tears.  She didn’t want to leave him and Mark could feel it deep in his heart, fighting as much as he could to stop her.  Nalani simply told him to forget she ever existed and she couldn’t be with him anymore, getting in her car peeling out of his driveway.

 

The squeal of tires still echoed in Mark’s head after three years.

 

Mark grabbed his third long neck and walked into the den, sitting down in front of his huge flat screen television, simply staring straight ahead.  He’d turned the fireplace on; just needing some kind of sound besides the uncomfortable silence he’d suffered through for three years.  He honestly missed Nalani and wished she wouldn’t have left him the way she did.  Closing his eyes, Mark took a long swig as the pain washed over him, lowering his head.

 

There was one other thing that could’ve scared Nalani away, but Mark was sure he hadn’t told her the truth.  Nalani had finally told him about her family’s brutal murder and robbery at the Kensington mansion.  Mark never realized her family was the same ones that Scott and the others murdered for their fortune, raping her baby sister in the process. 

 

Mark couldn’t believe that was Nalani’s family and felt sick to his stomach, having disappeared for three days shortly after.  He left to track down the crew, Scott in particular, to find out what exactly happened that night.  Only he couldn’t find Scott anywhere, it was almost as if the man disappeared off the face of the earth and left Mark feeling like a failure.

 

Vowing to never tell Nalani the truth, Mark returned back home and immediately noticed a change in her behavior.  Mark didn’t think anything of it then, chalking it up to her still mourning the death of her family, and comforted the best he could.  Nalani slowly distanced herself from him, refusing to make love, and Mark knew she had an insatiable appetite when it came to sex…just like him. 

 

For the next three months, Nalani tried acting like everything was fine between them, finally allowing Mark to touch her after a month.  He held her at night, wishing she would tell him what was wrong, and even caught her crying in the bathroom a couple times.  Again, he chalked it up to her having demons to deal with and left her alone, which was a huge mistake on his part.

 

“I shoulda made her tell me somehow.” He muttered, draining the fourth long neck and tossed it right in the fireplace, scowling.

 

Finally, it got to the point where Mark would work late hours just to give Nalani some space, only to come home after three months of no communication.  Her bags were packed and her face was tear-streaked, the pain shining in her blue eyes.  He would never forget how haunted she looked, the fear burning in her gaze.  Trying to stop her wasn’t happening and all Mark could do was plead for her to talk to him about whatever was bothering her.

 

“I love you…”

 

“I love you too, but I can’t stay here anymore.”

 

How could she say she loved him, only to leave him high and dry like that?  Mark slammed his fist on the coffee table in frustration and stood up, walking out on the back patio, staring at the beautiful sunset.  He remembered coming up behind Nalani after a hard day of work, finding her standing out here and wrapped her in his strong arms, his chin resting on her shoulder. 

 

She would melt against him and ask him how his day was, how she missed him.  Mark would nuzzle her neck affectionately and they would eat whatever Nalani made for dinner.  That was followed by a ride on his motorcycle or spending the rest of the night making love.

 

Three years they were together that involved passionate fighting and incredible sex.  He could talk to her about anything and Nalani knew how to make him forget whenever he had a horrible day at work.  She knew how to relax him, how to read his body language, and knew exactly what to do to turn him on the fastest. 

 

Deciding to call it a night, Mark headed upstairs to take a much needed shower, not even buzzed because of how much thinking he’d done.  Nalani was always on the forefront of his mind whenever he was alone.  Mark didn’t understand it and heaved a sigh, pushing open the bathroom door.  He had a huge see through shower along with a black garden tub, a gift to Nalani for their one year anniversary. 

 

Groaning, Mark stripped out of his jeans and boots before stepping under the hot sprays, feeling them envelope him whole.  This shower held a lot of memories too, Mark had contemplated moving several times, but he wouldn’t.  He was comfortable in this house and he wasn’t going to let bittersweet memories conflict that. 

 

Washing his black hair, Mark planted both huge hands against the shower wall, and let the sprays pound on top of him.  Something told Mark he wouldn’t be getting much sleep that night and he desperately needed it, knowing he had to get up at the crack of dawn to take a long ride to Dallas.  He was taking one of his motorcycles, not having had time lately to go for a ride and needing one.

 

Stepping out of the shower an hour later, Mark towel dried himself off and hung it up on the rack, tossing his clothes in the hamper.  He brushed his hair and teeth, shaved and padded down the hallway to the spare bedroom.  He couldn’t sleep in his bedroom anymore ever since she left because he could smell Nalani everywhere, even after he washed all of the sheets and blankets.  It was almost as if her scent was permanently caked into his room…their room.

 

Slipping into the bed, Mark stared up at the ceiling for a long time, contemplating several things.  He often thought about tracking her down and forcing her to tell him why she left.  Mark felt he deserved a full explanation, but at the same time, he didn’t want to bother her.  Obviously she left him for a reason and refused to tell him, so why should Mark waste his time and energy finding her? 

 

She was scared, she’d been scared ever since they met and let that fear get the best of her.  If he could just see her again, just once, then he could make things right, even if he had to tell her the truth about the murder of her family.  He didn’t know specifically who killed them, but Mark had a pretty good suspicion.  If Nalani found out he was involved with the crew who killed her family, then she’d kept it hidden well.

 

“You need to just forget ‘bout her and move on, man.” His friend Steve had said repeatedly and actually tried getting Mark laid several times.

 

None of the attempts worked, Mark simply told Steve he needed time to get over Nalani and threatened the man bodily harm if he kept the antics up.  Steve reluctantly backed off and left Mark to do whatever he had to do, though that didn’t stop the men from going out to bars.  Steve was a bar hopping gigolo, always on pussy patrol as he liked calling it.  Mark warned him he would end up getting a disease if he didn’t stop screwing anything with two legs.

 

He knew Steve was trying to help, but all Mark could think about was Nalani and three years later, absolutely nothing changed.  Mark knew she was his soul mate and one day they would cross paths again.  One day Mark would finally know the truth about why Nalani really left.

 

Until that time arrived, he wouldn’t be able to move on with his life fully.

 

Chapter 4

 

The murders at the Kensington mansion still haunted Mark to this day.

 

He remembered lying on the couch in his apartment, flipping through the channels idly on the television, when the news caught his eye.  He turned the volume up and sat back, wearing just a pair of cut off denim shorts, a sick feeling forming in the pit of his stomach.  He cracked open another beer and slowly took a sip out of it, waiting for the exclusive news report they were all buzzing about.

 

“And now, Connie back to you.”

 

“Thanks Sheri, well it appears that this was a violent end to one of the most well-known families of Houston.  The Kensington family was brutally murdered earlier this evening around nine o’clock.  Authorities are ruling out homicide and suicide because of the evidence, which they are not revealing at this time.  According to authorities, the daughter, seventeen year old Nicole Kensington was viciously raped and murdered.  She was found in her room bound to her bed while her father was lying face down in his study upstairs on the fourth floor.  So far, there have been no witnesses and police are on the hunt for the murderers, so if you know anything, please call this number.  713-288-1928.  Any help bringing justice to this family would be appreciated.  And now onto Tony with sports…”

 

The beer can dropped from Mark’s hand as his eyes widened, staring at the television, afraid something was going to leap out at him.  Had he seriously heard the news reporter right?  What had Scott and the others done?  Mark felt sick and suddenly ran to the bathroom, emptying the contents of his stomach, hurling violently. 

 

Pulling back, Mark finally finished and closed his eyes tightly shut, pressing his forehead to the cool porcelain, trembling from head to toe.  What the hell had happened with the robbery?  Was it even the crew who did this?  So many questions plagued him and Mark suddenly felt weak, all the energy drained from him, knowing no rest would come. 

 

“That coulda been me…” He whispered, knowing he’d made the right decision and hoped the police didn’t come to question him about this. 

 

That was usually the first thing the Houston police did was track down the crew for questioning anytime something terrible happened.  Though, they’d never been associated with murder.  Mark honestly thought none of the boys could be capable of murder, no matter the circumstances, but he’d been wrong before. 

 

Banging sounded at his front door, causing Mark to jump out of his skin, but he couldn’t move from the bathroom floor.  He was leaning back against the small tub, his forehead pressed against the porcelain toilet, refusing to move an inch.  His frame was glued to the spot and Mark couldn’t move, feeling numbness flow through every part of his body.

 

“Mark, come on man, where the fuck are ya?” Steve’s voice was frantic and Mark still couldn’t move, knowing him and Kevin hadn’t been at the mansion that night. “Mark!”

 

“Mark, don’t do this man, please tell us you didn’t go.” Kevin sounded worried, looking back at Steve, both of them having walked inside the apartment without waiting. “Damn it…”

 

“In here.” Mark called, causing both Steve and Kevin to rush inside the bathroom, stopping at the sight of their friend. “I didn’t go, I told you both I wouldn’t.”

 

“We didn’t either.” Steve said, hoping Mark believed them, the bathroom too damn small for three large men like themselves.

 

“I wasn’t about to destroy my life.” Kevin stated, still not believing what he heard and saw on the news. “Did you watch…?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Do you think…?”

 

“I don’t know.” Mark slowly lifted his head up, not feeling like a weight was on it anymore, though his complexion was incredibly pale.

 

“Come on man, Scott is an asshole, but he wouldn’t stoop to THAT level…” Steve said, blue eyes widening slightly, trying to convince himself as well as the two of them and wondering if the crew had stepped up a dangerous notch too much. “Would he?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Mark, you gotta snap out of this man, and try to help us figure it out!” Kevin didn’t like the condition Mark was in, swallowing hard, and looked at Steve worried. “We weren’t involved in it and we knew nothing about what they were gonna do.”

 

“Do you honestly think that’ll stop the pigs from huntin’ us down?” Steve demanded, suddenly needing a beer as he exited the bathroom, groaning. “Damn it, Mark!  You wasted a perfectly good beer!  What a damn waste!”

 

Kevin couldn’t help chuckling, knowing seeing that spilled can of beer on Mark’s carpeted beige floor was like sticking a dagger in the man’s heart. “He seriously has a drinking problem.”

 

“Kev, help me up.” Mark instructed softly, extending his hand to his friend.

 

Kevin did as he asked, though they didn’t leave the bathroom right away, just in case Mark had to vomit again. “I’m alright, I think.” He raked a hand through his long black hair. “We need to figure out what to say to the cops when they track us down.” He already knew it was coming, rubbing his temples. “I need a beer.”

 

“You just threw up, man.  Are you sure?” Kevin sighed when Mark glared at him, both men walking out of the bathroom, Steve already having a fresh beer in hand. “Did you hear what I said, Austin?”

 

“Somewhat, I was too busy suckin’ down a beer.” Steve grunted, leaning back against the couch, trying not to think about what happened at the Kensington mansion.

 

“We need to figure out what to say to the pigs when they come for us.” Kevin reiterated, taking a seat in the nearby chair, allowing Mark to take the other spot on the couch by Steve.

 

“Why the fuck would they hunt us down?” Steve demanded somewhat irritably, groaning when Mark shot him a knowing look.  “We haven’t done anythin’ THAT bad!”

 

“That doesn’t matter and you know it.” Mark cracked open his beer and took a long swig, bending forward with his elbows resting on his knees, sighing. “Chief Layfield isn’t gonna go easy on us either.”

 

Kevin and Steve both groaned in unison, wondering what the hell happened in that mansion. “What if we could prove the crew didn’t do it?” Kevin suddenly blurted out, causing both Steve and Mark to stare at him skeptically.

 

“They were planning on going tonight, man.  They went there…”

 

Mark didn’t understand why the crew would kill old man Kensington and his daughter when all they were doing was robbing the place.  Why would they murder and rape the daughter, a seventeen year old girl, who barely started her life?  He felt sick again and stood up, needing to breathe a little. 

 

What if Mark had been wrong about Scott all along?

 

“Who all went, do you two know?” Mark asked, every headlight outside making him uneasy, every car passing by making him assume it was the police.

 

“As far as we know, just me and Kev didn’t go.” Steve said, seeing the haunted look in Mark’s eyes, frowning. “That means…”

 

“Scott, Brad, Nick, Jack and…”

 

The front door suddenly swung open and John stood there, breathing heavily with slightly widened blue eyes. “Please tell me you three didn’t go to the mansion with Scott.”

 

“Cena, shut the damn door.” Kevin growled, stalking over and slamming it shut, the man looking like he’d been chased. “What the fuck are you doin’ here?”

 

“I had to talk to Mark, make sure he didn’t go along with Scott’s asinine plan.” John replied, trying to catch his breath. “Goddamn I’m out of shape.”


Mark’s eyes narrowed and he suddenly shoved John down in the other free chair, shaking his head. “As I was sayin’…Scott, Brad, Nick and Jack went then.”

 

“There’s no way that family could’ve fought off those four either…” Kevin’s voice was barely above a whisper, slamming the rest of his beer down. “Damn…”

 

“Are you three seriously thinking those four are capable of MURDER?” John blinked, wondering if they were all on crack and started laughing nervously. “Come on, guys! They wouldn’t do something like that!”

 

“How the fuck do you know, Cena?” Mark growled in annoyance, his head throbbing. “What if we all assumed wrong about Scott and the others?”

 

“You’re sayin’ you think Scott would actually…kill someone and rape a seventeen year old just for the hell of it?” Steve raised an eyebrow when Mark simply nodded, all four men growing considerably quiet.

 

That was the night Mark decided he would open his own security company to save others from what happened to the Kensington’s.

 

~!~

 

“So why don’t you tell me what you know Calaway? Make my job a little easier.” Chief John Layfield coaxed, or at least tried too; sitting on the table with his arms folded in front of his chest, staring down at the man he knew was responsible for the Kensington murders. “Come on, it’ll stay between us.”

 

“I don’t know anything, sir.” Mark stated for the millionth time through gritted teeth, his wrists shackled in handcuffs. “None of us know what the hell happened.” He was going to hell for lying, but Mark knew if he mentioned anything about the robbery plans, he would end up taking the fall for it.

 

There was no way that was happening.

 

“So you’re tellin’ me that none of your scumbag friends had anythin’ to do with the murders and robbery?” Layfield wasn’t buying it and Mark knew he was treading on thin ice.

 

“No.  I was at home sleeping when it happened and found out on the news like everyone else.  Kevin, Steve and John were with me.  They came over for a get together, had too much to drink, so I wasn’t lettin’ them leave.” Mark explained in a neutral tone, staring straight ahead.

 

“Why were you all so interested in the murders?” Layfield pressed, his eyes gleaming hungrily. “Surely you’ve heard of other murders happenin’ in town.  Why did this one peak your interest?”

 

“If you didn’t notice, sir, those murders were all over the newspapers, television and anywhere else you can think of.” Mark replied smoothly, knowing those murders were one of the most talked about in town because of how wealthy the family was. “Who didn’t talk about it?”

 

“I’m asking the questions here, not you!” Layfield growled, turning red in the face, and slammed his fist down on the table. “I will break you, boy!  You will tell me what I need to know or I’ll break you down piece by fuckin’ piece!”

 

“You can try, but you ain’t got nothin’ on me and you know it.” Mark shot back, his southern accent seeping through his tone, wishing they would remove these damn handcuffs already. “You know I didn’t kill those people, Layfield, so why the fuck are ya holdin’ me here?”

 

“Because you know who DID kill them and you’re not leavin’ until I find out who it is!” Layfield spat, clenching his fists tightly at his sides, grinding his teeth. “I know it was one of you scumbags and I'll find out who it is, I promise.”

 

“But you KNOW it’s not me.  You have no right keepin’ me locked up because I didn’t do it!” Mark growled, the handcuffs cutting into his wrists, wanting to kill Layfield at that moment. “For the final time, I don’t know who did it and I didn’t do it.  I’m not the man ya want so you need to let me go.”

 

Layfield scowled darkly and stormed out of the room, slamming the door shut with authority.  Mark breathed a sigh of relief and leaned his head back, staring up at the ceiling, hoping Scott didn’t commit these murders.  If he was trying to frame Mark, the man was going to wind up dead cut into a million pieces, Mark vowed it.

 

~!~

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hey Mark, it’s Scott.”

 

Mark blinked, not having heard from Scott in four months, scowling. “What do you want, man?” He demanded, cutting right to the chase.

 

“Just wanted to call and see how you were.” Scott lied, nodding at the whore he currently had in his bed, licking his lips hungrily at her. “Stay put.” He ordered softly, standing up from the bed, a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand.

 

Mark sighed, really not having time for this because he was busy trying to get his business up and running.  He’d saved everything he made, sleeping at Steve’s currently, who was going to work for him as soon as the business was ready to go.  They were getting there, but had to jump through hoops so to speak, finding the building headquarters a bit of a problem.  Neither of them had good credit and apparently that’s what one needed to start a business.

 

“What do you want, Mitchell?” Mark asked again, sipping a cup of coffee, having barely gotten sleep since he started planning opening his business. “You put me and the others through hell while you made a quick escape.  What the fuck do you want?”

 

“Mark, you know I had nothing to do with what happened at the mansion!” Scott hissed quietly, not wanting his whore overhearing the conversation. “I didn’t…”

 

“Bullshit!” Mark shouted, suddenly standing up and walking away from the blueprints, not wanting to damage them in any way, shape or form. “You killed those two Kensington’s and one of you raped that poor seventeen year old girl.  You’re responsible and I TOLD you the robbery was a bad idea, the whole thing was a bad idea, but you didn’t listen.  I spent over two months trying to clear my name with the cops and finally did when they couldn’t find not a drop of evidence that linked to the murders.”

 

“They have no proof?” Scott hadn’t heard about that, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “Are they still investigating?”

 

Mark closed his eyes, realizing now why Scott had called him.  It was for information on what the cops were up to and he wanted to know if it was safe to come back to Houston. “What did you do, Scott?” He demanded, scrubbing a hand down his face. “What did you do?”

 

“Nothing, I told you I didn’t do it.” Scott couldn’t believe Mark didn’t believe him, knowing they had a falling out before the murders happened. “Look, by the time I got there, someone else beat us to the punch.  We pulled back and had no idea what was happening or we would’ve stopped it.  You gotta believe me, man.”

 

“I wish I could.” Mark looked out the window, a storm brewing as a streak of lightning flashed across the sky. “I have to go, don’t call me again.  I don’t wanna ever hear from you.” He hung up before Scott could get another word out, pressing the cell phone to his forehead. ‘I need a new cell phone.’ He thought, snapping the cell phone in two pieces and tossed it in the trash.

 

Grabbing his keys, Mark walked out of the house and headed toward the nearest cell phone store, needing one for his up starting business.

 

Chapter 5

 

Another wonderful day at the hospital.

 

It didn’t help the twins had cried for her to stay at home today, Keela saying how they’d been missing their mother.  Nalani scowled the entire ride to the hospital, wearing a pair of black dress pants with a pale blue top that had short sleeves, buttoning up the front.  Her hair was down, curled at the ends for style, Nalani honestly not giving a damn what she looked like after dealing with two whining three year olds.

 

“How about we all go out for dinner tonight, my treat?” Keela had suggested with a soft smile while helping Matthew and Megan eat their cereal.

 

“Sure, that sounds fine.  We can go to that place over on Fourth Street.  The Jungle Gym or whatever it’s called so the kids can play.”

 

Nalani had wanted to take her children there for awhile, but she’d been too busy with work lately and felt guilty about it.  She knew she was missing a lot of their childhood, but also had to support all three of them.  There was no choice in the matter, she had to work and Nalani couldn’t cut back on hours either, her finances were tight enough as it was.

 

“Cool, what time do you think you’ll be off?  Do you mind if I bring Glen along too?” Keela was almost hesitant, looking up at her friend and boss. “I’ll understand if-”

 

“Not a problem, Kee.  You know I like Glen and I’m sure the kids would love to see him.” Nalani had smiled through the pain she felt inside, not wanting to upset her nanny. “I should be off around five or so.  I can just meet you and the twins there, it would be easier that way.”

 

“No problem, I’ll call Glen at work and see if he can meet us too.  Sometimes I wonder about this new job he’s taken on recently.”

 

Keela looked sad and Nalani made her escape while she could, knowing the woman could talk her ear off if given the chance.  Nalani was already running late for work.  She kissed the twins goodbye, promising to see them later, and headed out toward the hospital.

 

“Momma don’t go, momma stay!” She could still hear the twins’ cries as she drove away from the house, breaking her heart, while Keela consoled them.

 

“Damn it.” Nalani muttered quietly to herself and pushed the memory of that morning out of her mind, needing to focus on checking patients in and out of the hospital. 

 

She answered the phone, turning her back for a second because it was Doctor Robbins on the third floor, asking if a patient had arrived.  She looked through the log book, informing the doctor her patient was currently in the lobby, waiting to be examined.  Doctor Robbins had the patient sent up, who was an elder woman with a heart condition, and Nalani instructed her on where to go from the lobby.

 

“Well, well, look what I found.” A voice sounded behind her, causing a bright smile to light Nalani’s face, turning the chair around.

 

“Kaci!” Nalani squealed and walked around her desk, both women embracing tightly as tears streamed down their faces. 

 

Neither cared, they were always emotional  with each other and Kaci even more so because she was nearly six months pregnant.  She was there today for an examination and ultrasound, alone of course.  Her fiancé, Randy, was currently in the army and overseas in Iraq, so Kaci really didn’t have anyone else to come with her.  She didn’t get along with her parents and Kaci insisted on coming to Dallas for her exams, saying she had an excuse to see her best friend.

 

“My god, look at you!  You’re glowing!” Nalani exclaimed with excitement, blue eyes glittering. “Where’s my godchildren missy?”

 

“Please, there was no way I was bringing them here, are you kidding?  A two and five year old in a hospital, bored out of their skulls and causing chaos?  No, don’t think so.  They’re at home with mom, who was more than willing to take her grandchildren for the day.” Kaci explained with a smile, both of them walking to get a cup of coffee –Kaci getting just water or tea because of her pregnancy-, while Marissa took over the reception area for a few.

 

“So you seem like you’re doing good here.” Kaci commented, both of them sitting down in the waiting room, Doctor Mable running a little behind in her schedule today. “Though it’s nothing compared to Houston…”

 

“Kaci,” Nalani warned, sipping her coffee. “You know why I left.”

 

Kaci sighed with a nod, placing her hand on top of her best friend’s. “I miss you being in Houston, Nala, that’s all.” That was her special nickname, nobody else had ever called Nalani that and nobody ever would. “I mean, I don’t have a lot of friends and the ones that I do have, they annoy the shit out of me.”

 

Both women laughed softly, Kaci downing half of her water, having been somewhat dehydrated lately. “I’m sorry I haven’t been there.” Kaci didn’t miss the guilty tone and hugged Nalani, completely understanding why she left Houston.

 

“Don’t worry about it, Nala.  You come to visit me whenever you can and that’s enough for now.  Maybe someday you’ll leave this place and come back home.” Kaci always hoped for that, smiling softly, deciding to change the subject. “How are MY godchildren doing?”

 

“Good, though they kinda guilt tripped me this morning because they miss me.” Nalani admitted with a heavy heart, staring down at her coffee sadly. “I feel guilty all the time, Kace.  It’s like…I know I’m missing out on their childhood, but I don’t have a choice.  I have to support us somehow.”

 

“I know sweetie and they understand that, believe me.  Tony and Jen are always asking about their daddy and I keep explaining to them he’s a hero, that he’s fighting for our freedom and country.” Truth be told, Kaci silently prayed Randy left the military once he did his time because she honestly missed him, wanting the father of her children home to help raise them. “It’s difficult, you just have to remember you’re doing this for them, everything you put yourself through.”

 

“I know, but that doesn’t stop the guilt from consuming me at times.” This is what Nalani really needed, talking to her best friend about her problems, which they couldn’t do often. “Anyway, enough about me, how are you feeling?”

 

“Huge.” Kaci laughed, rubbing her protruding stomach. “I still can’t believe Randy and I are having our third kid and we’re still not married.”

 

“You’re waiting for him to get out of the service, right?” Nalani asked, causing Kaci to heave a sigh, her shoulders slumping slightly.

 

“I don’t know anymore honestly.” Kaci replied truthfully. “I mean, part of me knows deep down inside he’s going to marry me eventually, but I just don’t want everything to fall apart at the last minute and I’m stuck with three kids.”

 

Nalani grabbed both of Kaci’s hands in her own, locking eyes with the woman who had gotten her through so much in her life, including her family’s murder. “You’ve always been strong and good-hearted.  If Randy ever left you, that would be the biggest mistake of his life and it wouldn’t be your fault.  He won’t leave you, he loves you way too much.  I’ve never seen two people more in love than you and Randy, it’s almost sickening.”

 

“What about you and…”

 

“No.” Nalani stopped her before Kaci could utter his name, not wanting to think about him right now. “We’re not talking about that right now.”

 

“We never talk about it.” Kaci pointed out, raising an eyebrow. “You do realize eventually you’ll have to talk about it right?  Otherwise, it’ll eat you up inside and out.”

 

This happened every time Nalani and Kaci got together, the subject of Mark surfacing.  Nalani didn’t want to talk about him, how hard was that to understand?  It hurt her way too much to talk about the man she walked away from three years ago carrying twins that probably weren’t his.  It was bad enough Nalani barely got sleep at night because her dreams were always plagued with him and nine times out of ten, they turned into nightmares.

 

“You know I love you right?” Kaci nudged Nalani, who had grown considerably quiet, sighing softly. “I’m sorry for bringing him up, I’m just worried about you.”

 

“I know, I just don’t want to talk about it right now.” She saw Marissa was becoming swamped at the reception desk and stood up, setting her empty coffee cup on the table. “I have to get back to work.  I’m going out to dinner tonight with the twins and Keela, why don’t you join us?”

 

Kaci smiled sadly, shaking her head. “Wish I could, but my mom has to get to work by eight tonight.  Maybe next time I’m in town.” She winked, both women embracing once again.

 

“Take care of yourself, Kace; call me if you need anything.”

 

“You too, Nala.”

 

~!~

 

“Mommy!!” Both Matthew and Megan squealed, clapping their small hands as Keela pulled them out of their car seats one by one.

 

Nalani was all smiles in front of her children, lifting one up in each arm, kissing their cheeks.  Matthew groaned while Megan giggled, their beautiful blue eyes glowing back at her with happiness.  Nalani set them down on the ground, taking each of their hands, refusing to let them walk in the parking lot without strict supervision.

 

“Stay with mommy now, guys.” She ordered, causing both twins to grin up at her, Keela and Glen following suit.

 

“It’s nice to see you again, Nalani.” Glen said by way of greeting, once everyone was seated in the restaurant.

 

“You too Glen, thanks for coming.” Nalani smiled back, busy trying to get the twins to settle down a little bit, but all they wanted to do was go play in the jungle gym. “I thought you two wanted to spend time with me, huh?”

 

Glen and Keela chuckled while the twins groaned, Nalani finally giving in as she set them down from their booster seats, watching them run off to play with the other kids.  Glen chuckled while sipping a beer, Keela sticking with soda and Nalani having a glass of wine, needing it after the conversation she had earlier that day with Kaci.  She glanced back at Glen, not believing how much he resembled Mark, though she would never say that aloud.

 

The man stood just a little under seven feet tall and had long dark brown curly hair that was currently pulled back in a loose tail, a goatee surrounding his perfect mouth.  He had solid hazel eyes, though they were mostly blue with hints of green in them.  Nalani wasn’t sure what the man did for a living, though she’d recently heard Keela talk about Glen working for some kind of security company. 

 

Nalani didn’t really pay attention.  She was more focused on making sure the twins were taken care of while she was gone at work, which she knew Keela did an amazing job of.  They really enjoyed their nanny, always asking when Kee-Kee was coming back to see them whenever she left for the day.  It both lifted and broke Nalani’s heart, knowing she was the one the twins were supposed to be asking about and she was the one who was supposed to be taking care of them.

 

Once again, the guilt ate her alive.

 

“Excuse me ma’am?”

 

Nalani was jolted out of her thoughts midway through dinner, having been listening to her children yammering about the jungle gym.  She looked up and into a pair of blue eyes, the man standing over her having a soft smile on his face.  Nalani cleared her throat, setting her napkin down on the table, and raised a slow eyebrow while Glen and Keela grew silent.

 

“Yes?” Nalani folded her arms in front of her chest, tilting her head slightly.

 

The man stood a little over six feet tall and had fiery red hair that was pulled back in a braid, reminding her of both of her ex-boyfriends.  He had on skintight blue jeans with a black beater along with a grey bomber jacket and black fingerless gloves, black shades on top of his head.  He was definitely a looker, though Nalani wasn’t even mildly interested, simply waiting to hear what he had to say.

 

“Hi, my name is Tommy and I was just wonderin’ if I could take you out sometime?” His deep blue eyes were pleading, not even noticing the bantering by the two kids. “You look like you could use a night out on the town.”

 

Nalani couldn’t believe this was happening and glanced over at Keela, who bit her bottom lip, trying not to laugh.  There was no way in hell she was going out with someone who reminded her of the man she loved unconditionally and the man she despised most in this world.  Of course, Nalani wasn’t about to be rude, knowing the man didn’t mean any harm, but he had completely ruined her appetite and evening.

 

“Thanks, but I think I’ll pass.” She stood up from the table abruptly, ready to get home and away from this place. “You two ready to go?”

 

“But I…”

 

“Look buddy, I said no and I meant it.  Go find someone else to pick up.  I’m NOT interested.” Nalani heatedly stated, lifting both twins in her arms and carted them out of the restaurant, leaving Keela behind to pay for the dinner since it was her treat.

 

“Mommy, you okay?” Megan asked, sensing her mother’s distress, frowning slightly with those big blue eyes. “Mommy, love you.”

 

“I love you too sweetheart, both of you.” Nalani smiled, kissing each of their cheeks again while she strapped them in their car seats, knowing Keela and Glen would probably stay behind to stop the guy from walking out after her.

 

After they were securely fastened, Nalani slipped in the driver’s side and sped out of there, being careful since her children were in the backseat.  She couldn’t stop the tears from sliding down her cheeks, knowing her children wouldn’t notice because they were too busy bantering about the jungle gym again.  Sighing, Nalani wiped her tears away, feeling the aching in her heart increase with each mile that brought her closer to home.

 

Why couldn’t she just forget about Mark and move on with her life, not to mention Scott?  Life would be so much simpler if she could just forget about what happened, but Nalani knew it would never cease.  If anything, her feelings for Mark had only increased for the past three years, try as she might to shove them in the back of her mind. 

 

It wasn’t happening.

 

“Home sweet home.” Nalani mumbled, cutting the ignition and slipped out of the Ford Focus, Matthew and Megan having fallen asleep. 

 

She smiled and lifted them in her arms, used to it by now, but knew she wouldn’t be able to do it much longer as she carted both of them inside the house.  After tucking them in and kissing each of their foreheads, Nalani went to soak in a nice hot bubble bath, trying to forget about the man at the restaurant and the past.  For once, she wanted a good night’s sleep and vowed to do so, allowing the hot liquid to soothe her.

 

After all, tomorrow was another day.

 

Chapter 6

 

The funeral was a complete blur to Nalani.

 

All she could remember doing was sitting there, wearing a simple black dress and tears kept sliding down her face.  Staring straight ahead was all she could do, Nalani couldn’t even manage to speak to anyone, not believing the last of her family was dead.  Granted, she had some aunts and uncles, but she wasn’t close to them, so she didn’t really consider them true family.  Nalani couldn’t help thinking that this was somehow her fault, even though she would probably be dead as well if she hadn’t moved out of the mansion.

 

Kaci was there for support, holding her hand and keeping people at bay, not wanting her friend feeling surrounded.  That was never a good feeling to anyone, Kaci knew because she’d also had to suffer the lost of a loved one many years prior.  Randy sat beside her in a crisp black suit, keeping silent, while Kaci consoled the woman she thought of as a sister.

 

They both cried for hours that day over the two graves that marked Michael and Nicole’s graves.  It didn’t feel real to Nalani and all she could do was let Kaci hold her, both of them not moving from the graves even after the funeral ended.  People came over to express their condolences, saying how sorry they were her family was gone, but all Nalani could manage to do was nod.  She couldn’t even thank them, not having the strength, and was thankful Kaci was there to do it for her.

 

Nalani cried her heart out when it turned out Michael had left her and Nicole everything split equally in his will.  Nicole wasn’t around so it all went to Nalani and that just made the guilt eat away at her even more.  She had more money than she knew what to do with, but all Nalani could do was grieve for her lost father and baby sister. 

 

There was no way she could go back inside the mansion and decided to hire some movers to put everything that wasn’t destroyed in storage.  Kaci did this for her of course, Nalani wanting nothing to do with it, simply handing over a credit card to get it taken care of.  Nalani wanted to put the mansion up for sale, but didn’t have the heart to do it, so many childhood memories linked to it.  So instead, she left it the way it was, vowing nobody would ever live in it because of what happened to her family.

 

Who the hell would honestly want to live in a mansion where a seventeen year old teenager was brutally raped and murdered along with her father?

 

Nalani ended up staying with Kaci and resumed work after taking two weeks off, drinking herself silly nearly every night.  She just wanted to numb the pain somehow, not knowing how else to do it.  Kaci had been extremely worried about Nalani’s mental well being and sat her down one night, needing to knock some sense into her best friend.

 

“You’re destroying yourself by doing this, Nala.  You can’t keep drinking this heavily or it will tear you apart.”

 

“Shut up, I can do what I want.” Nalani had tried walking away from her, or rather stumbling, but Kaci stopped her.

 

“No!” Kaci took the bottle of booze Nalani had and hurled it against the wall, the glass shattering into pieces. “You’re not killing yourself in front of me or my child!  I won’t let you!!”

 

Nalani remembered seeing the tears build up in Kaci’s eyes and immediately collapsed to her knees on the kitchen floor, burying her face in her hands. “I’m so fucked up…” She whispered painfully, not knowing where to go from here or what to do anymore, how to cope.

 

Kaci held her close that night, stroking her hair, promising things would get better with time. “Maybe you should go to therapy?” She offered and Nalani knew she would have no choice, simply nodding, more tears falling.

 

Therapy helped a little bit, though it was ultimately up to Nalani to get better, having accepted the death of her father and sister wasn’t her fault.  That’s what the therapist stressed at every session for the next three months, wanting Nalani to truly believe it.  Eventually, she did and ended up going to their graves at least once a week to grieve, which is what the therapist suggested as a coping mechanism.

 

Before Nalani knew it, nearly a year had passed since the death of her family and she was finally starting to come around.  She would never be the same cheerful Nalani, though she’d stopped crying at night and the nightmares vanished.  She continued working at the supermarket and decided to change her last name from Kensington to her mother’s maiden name, Martin. 

 

It was easier because not very many people knew who she really was, Nalani having always kept out of the spotlight.  To most, Michael only had one daughter and that was Nicole, which Nalani was completely fine with.  Nalani didn’t want to be in the spotlight and only close family, friends and relatives were allowed at the funeral, most of them living in other states.  So it all worked out in her favor, nobody knowing she’d lost her family because of their ridiculous fortune.

 

It was a cool October evening on all Hollow’s Eve, the thirtieth, and Nalani simply sat inside Kaci’s house watching a scary movie.  Kaci was currently getting ready for a Halloween party one of Randy’s close friends invited them to.  Jen was currently being watched by Kaci’s mother down the street for the evening and Kaci wouldn’t stop getting on Nalani about going with.

 

“Come on sweetie, you have to get out of this house.  All you ever do is work and it’s heartbreaking.” Kaci frowned, currently dressed as a sexy grey wolf. 

 

The outfit was five pieces, which included a bustier style top with faux grey fur, lacing up the front and back.  It came with a faux fur mini skirt with a large tail, faux fur gloves and a wolf hood along with leg warmers.  She had on silver eye shadow with liquid black eyeliner to bring out her violet eyes.  Kaci left her long black hair down, pooling over her shoulders, the costume made for her.

 

“Please?”

 

“No.”

       

“Pretty please?”

 

“No.”

 

Kaci sighed heavily and suddenly snatched Nalani up by the couch, dragging her into the bedroom. “I’m NOT taking no for an answer.  Halloween used to be such a big deal to you and you’re going.  I’m not kidding.” She sat Nalani’s grumbling form down and grinned, beginning the transformation. “Trust me; this is going to be fun.”

 

“Why are you forcing me to go?” Nalani practically whined, causing Kaci to hum happily.

 

“It’s for your own good, now shut up and let me do your makeup.” Kaci ordered, having picked out the perfect costume for her best friend to wear.  She’d sent Jen to her mother’s for a reason, ignoring Nalani’s insistence that she would watch the little girl.

 

“Kace, I don’t wanna go…” Nalani sighed, knowing there was no point in arguing with her best friend, and knew she would have to suffer a night out with her and Randy. “I’ll feel like a third wheel, no offense…”

 

“Which is precisely why there’s going to be a lot of available bachelors at this party.  John is throwing it and you know how crazy he can get.” She winked, causing Nalani to groan, not looking forward to this at all.

 

“The guy who enjoys being naked ninety-nine percent of the time?” When Kaci nodded excitedly, Nalani just closed her eyes, shaking her head.

 

“Don’t do that!  You’ll screw me up!”

 

“Sorry.” She muttered, clasping her hands in her lap. “You do realize I don’t find him even remotely attractive, right?”

 

That didn’t change Kaci’s mood as she continued doing Nalani’s makeup. “I know that Nala, but maybe you’ll meet someone there who you ARE interested in.”

 

Kaci was forever trying to play matchmaker and Nalani had gotten used to it, though she was also sick of being disappointed.  Kaci finished the last of the makeup and then moved to doing the hair, curling a few strands and pinning half of her hair on top of her head.  Nalani knew Kaci had a vision and just let her do it, knowing the woman wouldn’t be leaving the house without her.

 

“You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Nalani deadpanned, staring in the mirror, wondering if Kaci was joking. “You can’t expect me…”

 

“You are and it looks fantastic on you!” Kaci beamed proudly, smoothing the fabric down her sides. “You seriously do look like a roman goddess.”

 

The toga dress was a shimmery white that had a slit up the left leg that went to mid-thigh, an attached veil that flowed down her back.  It had a gold rope wrapped around the midsection, hanging down the front and side of the dress for style.  The headpiece was a simple thin gold band around her forehead with a braided rope dangling from it on the left side of her face, gold arm cuffs on each of her arms.  Two inch gold heels accented her feet, strapping up her calves.  Her makeup was simple black eyeliner that outside her blue eyes, gold shimmery eye shadow and peach gloss on her lips.

 

“You’ve officially lost your damn mind.” Nalani muttered, still not believing who was staring back at her in the reflection. “I look…”

 

“Hot.” Randy’s voice rumbled from behind, both women turning. “Though, nothing compared to my sexy little she wolf.” He grinned, pulling Kaci into his arms, kissing her passionately. “You bout ready to go, beautiful?”

 

Randy was in tight black jeans with a red flannel shirt on, werewolf hands with fur that had long claws on them, covering his arms up to his elbows.  He had a werewolf headpiece with ears, refusing to wear a full-fledged mask for the outfit.  There were slashes in the flannel to make it look like he was transforming slowly into a werewolf, grey makeup under his eyes to make it realistic. 

 

Kaci was having a hard time keeping her eyes off of him, giggling when he started growling some pretty sexual things in her ear that Nalani couldn’t overhear.

 

She was thankful.

 

“Behave or you won’t get bit later.” Kaci laughed when he growled at her again and lifted her up over his shoulder caveman style, letting out a howl. “Come on Nala; don’t make me come drag you out!”

 

Sighing and resigned to her fate for the evening, Nalani reluctantly followed them out to the car, slipping in the backseat.  She looked down at the costume Kaci picked for her and shook her head, admitting only to herself she looked beautiful.  Glancing out the window, Nalani decided to try having a good time tonight, wanting just a few hours to forget about all she’d been through in the past year.

 

The Halloween costume party was in full swing, everyone dressed up, dancing and carrying on.  Nalani stepped out of the vehicle, being careful of the costume, and followed Randy and Kaci inside to greet John.  John was currently in…Nalani had to look away because he wasn’t wearing much of ANYTHING at this point.  A sparkling blue thong with a huge wig that looked ready to crush his head.  There was even a bowtie on the thong and Randy nearly keeled over from how hard he was laughing.

 

“Dude, you should go work for Chippendale’s!” Randy crowed, holding onto his headpiece so it didn’t fall off, Kaci giggling uncontrollably.

 

John simply grinned, shaking his ass. “I think I look damn…WOW…” He stopped shaking his money maker and slowly walked over to the beautiful goddess, knowing exactly who it was. “Nalani, you look…”

 

“Different?” She offered with a small smile, John kissing the back of her hand, knowing he was glad she came.

 

“I’m so glad you came.” He then went back to shaking his ass to anyone who would watch, Nalani deciding she needed some fresh air and a drink.

 

She walked toward the punch bowl, knowing it was spiked, and honestly didn’t mind as she filled a cup.  It smelled tropical and Nalani began slowly sipping it, not realizing a dark figure standing beside her.  Nalani stirred her drink absentmindedly with a spoon, wanting the alcohol to be even in the punch, and slowly turned to walk away.

 

“You look like you have a lot on your mind.” A deep husky voice sounded from behind, causing Nalani to slowly stop and turn to face whoever spoke to her.

 

The man towered over her and he was currently in a sorcerer costume, a silver rope wrapped around the black robe, a hood pulled over his forehead so she could barely see his eyes.  He stood nearly seven feet tall and Nalani watched mesmerized at how huge his hands were as he grabbed a cup of spiked punch.  Her breath was completely stolen when he removed the hood and she stared into a pair of the clearest green eyes she’d ever seen on a man, reminding her of small emeralds.  His black hair was currently pulled back in a ponytail that the hood held most of at the moment, slicked back, black eyeliner outlining the bottom of his eyes.

 

“I’m sorry what?” Nalani had to stop staring and pulled her gaze away from his, focused more on her punch.

 

A deep low chuckle escaped his sensual lips as he took a step closer to her, Nalani swallowing hard. “I said you look like you have a lot on your mind, darlin’.” His voice still held that same huskiness and Nalani could already feel her knees weakening.

 

“Yeah I do, but who doesn’t?” She managed to retort, feeling her throat suddenly turn into a desert, and sucked down half of her cup.

 

“Can’t argue with that.” He smirked, leaning against the wall, this beautiful roman goddess having caught his eye as he was walking through talking to his friends. “What’s your name?”

 

“Why do you want to know?” Once again she retorted, raising a slow eyebrow up at this gorgeous man with guarded blue eyes.

 

He shrugged nonchalantly, deciding if she didn’t want to tell him, she didn’t have to. “Just curious what a beautiful goddess like you calls herself.” He said charmingly, taking a slow sip of the punch and tried not making a face.

 

“You tell me yours first.” Nalani decided to compromise, wondering if he would take the bait.

 

That smirk only grew wider and he turned fully to face her, extending his large hand, wondering if she would take it. “Mark.” He watched her stare at his hand hesitantly, knowing he intimidated people with his height and size, especially women. “I won’t hurt you, darlin’.”

 

Nalani had two choices: she could either run away from him or take his hand.

 

Taking his hand, Nalani watched in amazement as his hand practically swallowed her own, roses instantly blooming in her cheeks. “Nalani.” She said in barely above a whisper, chewing her bottom lip, feeling him pull her to stand closer to him.

 

She had no idea what adventure she was about to embark on with this man.

 

Chapter 7

 

Mark felt like taking his shotgun he went hunting with and blowing his head clean off.

 

His first mistake had been calling Brandy to come over to keep him company, which involved a fifth of Jack Daniels and a lot of sex.  They didn’t see each other often, only when he needed a release and Brandy was more than willing to give him anything he wanted.  Of course, Mark used protection, already knowing Brandy didn’t use birth control and he wasn’t taking any chances.  It made Mark feel sick every time they finished and normally he would kick her out of his bed right after sex.  He normally called a cab for her, flat out refusing to let her sleep over with him, but last night had been different.

 

They both were so wasted, they passed out after sex.

 

So now Brandy was looking at him through her dark brown eyes with happiness shining in them and Mark felt like dying. “You need to leave; I’m goin’ out of town for a few days.” He rumbled, his back turned to her and sighed when she slid her hands up his broad muscular back.

 

“I don’t think you want me to leave.” She tried using a sultry seductive voice, Mark pulling away from her instantly. “I think I should go with you.”

 

Mark froze when he heard that, slowly turning his head until green locked on dark brown. “What?” He wanted to make sure he’d heard her right, arching a slow eyebrow.

 

Brandy smiled wickedly, slipping from the bed, still naked from head to toe. “I said,” She paused, rubbing against him, kissing his chest. “I want to go with you wherever you’re going, baby.  We could make it a weekend getaway with all your favorite things?” Trying to sound convincing, Brandy batted her fake eyelashes up at him, smiling softly.

 

This didn’t turn Mark on at all and he pushed her away at arm’s length, picking up her black dress –if he could even call it that- and tossed it at her. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.  You need to get dressed and go home.” There was NO way she was going with him to Dallas, Brandy had officially lost her mind.

 

Brandy frowned, not believing how distant Mark was acting toward her. “Okay…” She had to think of something and reached out to grab his arm, trying to get him to look at her. “Why won’t you even look at me?  Don’t I make you happy, Marky?”

 

Mark pinched the bridge of his nose, wanting to strangle this woman, but knew he wouldn’t make it to Dallas if he did. “My name is Mark, not Marky.” He cringed, that nickname leaving a bad taste in his mouth. “And you know you should’ve gone home last night after we fucked.  I don’t want a relationship or anythin’ with you, Brandy.” Mark had made it perfectly clear he didn’t want anything from her except a night of sex every once in awhile.

 

“That’s not what you were saying last night!!” Brandy snapped, shoving her legs into the black dress she wore over to entice him, scowling angrily. “You were saying how much you loved me and how much you wanted me in your life.  You didn’t just fuck me, Mark, you MADE LOVE TO ME!!”

 

“Whatever I said last night I didn’t mean and I was under the influence of Jack Daniels.” Mark stated in a growl of his own, already feeling his head pounding from her yelling.

 

“Oh likely excuse, you piece of shit!” She shouted, slipping into her three inch stiletto heels, tears falling down her cheeks. “You’ve used me for the last fucking time!”

 

“Then stop answering your goddamn phone whenever I do call!!” Mark shouted, fed up with Brandy’s attitude and yelling, wanting her out of his house. “Just get the fuck out of my house, woman, damn!”

 

“NO!  You’re not just going to dismiss me like I’m some kind of whore!” Brandy cried harder, burying her face in her hands, trembling from head to toe. “You said you loved me, you said that last night!  I thought we were happy!  Don’t I make you happy?  Why can’t you just give us a chance?  I love you, Marky…”

 

“MY NAME IS MARK!!” He roared, causing her to jump about three feet in the air, the sound of his voice shaking the foundation of the house or so it seemed. “NOW GET THE FUCK OUT!  I DON’T LOVE YOU, I LOVE SOMEONE ELSE!!  WHILE I FUCKED YOU LAST NIGHT, I WAS THINKIN’ OF MY EX, JUST LIKE I ALWAYS FUCKIN’ DO!!  NOW GET THE FUCK OUTTA MY HOUSE BEFORE I THROW YOUR ASS OUT!!”

 

Brandy was too terrified to speak and simply bolted out of the room, the front door slamming shut a moment later downstairs music to Mark’s ears.  He hadn’t meant to blow up at Brandy, but the woman didn’t take no for an answer.  She wasn’t the one he wanted, there was only one woman for Mark and nothing would change that. 

 

With a pounding headache to start his morning off, Mark went to take a much needed shower, not wanting to smell like Brandy’s perfume, which made his stomach churn.  He still had packing to do and Mark had to email the hospital for directions, rubbing his temples because the hangover was literally kicking his ass.  He didn’t know what possessed him to drink a whole bottle of Jack Daniels with Brandy, consuming most of it because of his size, and honestly didn’t want to know.

 

After the shower, Mark popped two aspirin and grabbed some water, wearing a pair of skintight blue jeans with a long sleeved hunter green thermal shirt that hugged his arms and chest perfectly.  It had a design on it that had tan throughout the artwork, so Mark tied a tan bandana around his head, pulling his black hair back in a tight braid.  He was riding his motorcycle all the way to Dallas and knew he was already running late, packing his things as quickly as possible.  It was going on eight AM and Mark was supposed to leave at seven, so he’d already missed an hour of on-road time.

 

“Fuck.” He muttered, scrubbing a hand down his face in frustration, and groaned when his cell phone went off. “What?” He demanded irritably, busy trying to finish gathering things he would need for Dallas.

 

“We gotta problem.” Steve grunted, scrubbing a hand over his bald head.

 

“Austin, I’m kinda busy at the moment…” Mark didn’t need any more distractions, especially since he had to get on the road immediately if he was going to make it to Dallas by noon.

 

“Well boss man, ya better make time because the company might be sued.” Steve stated, his tone serious, still not believing what happened.

 

“What happened?” Mark immediately stopped what he was doing, green eyes narrowing.

 

“Bobby got hurt installin’ security at one of the jewelry stores in town.  Apparently, the damn box slipped and cracked him in the shoulder.  The dumb sumbitch didn’t move and now he’s cryin’ and screamin’ bout suin’ us.” Steve explained, causing Mark to literally roll his eyes in the back of his head, beyond irritated by now.

 

He was pissed.

 

“What did the fuckin’ doctor say?” Mark growled, slamming his fist down on the kitchen counter, wondering what else could go wrong today.

 

“Nothin’, the doctor said the shoulder isn’t even dislocated, but Bobby is complainin’ of a lot of pain so the doc gave him some pain killers.  He won’t be able to work today.” Steve snorted, not believing a word Bobby had said to the doctor. “It smells like a load of bullshit, if ya want my honest opinion.”

 

“No shit.” Mark could smell bullshit a mile away and this definitely sounded like Bobby was just trying to make a fast buck at Mark’s expense.  It wasn’t happening. “Look, I gotta get on the road to Dallas, just keep an eye on him and keep me informed.  You’re in charge while I’m gone.”

 

Steve blinked, then cursed because he’d completely spaced Mark’s trip to Dallas. “Fuck, I forgot ya were leavin’ today, man.  Damn I shouldn’t have called…” He felt like a big asshole right now and Steve didn’t apologize to Mark often.

 

“No, I’m glad you did.” Mark stopped him, running a hand down his face in frustration. “I’ll be gone a few days, I wanna make sure this new guy lives up to CSI’s standards.” Glen Jacobs had a hell of a resume, but Mark wanted to see how the man worked with his own eyes.

 

“Hopefully he doesn’t disappoint ‘cause we really need someone who can kick serious ass in Dallas.” Steve said, nodding over at his beautiful blonde girlfriend, who batted her eyelashes back at him. “So I’m in charge eh?”

 

“Yeah, if you fuck my business up, I’ll kill you.” Mark threatened, meaning what he said, and looked around one last time while finishing up his quick cup of coffee. “Okay I really gotta get movin’, keep me posted on Bobby’s ass.  He’s fired when I get back, so put an ad in the paper for a new installation tech.”

 

“You’re serious?”

 

“Yes, get it done Austin.” He clicked his phone shut and rubbed the edge of it against his forehead, sighing heavily. “Goddamn problems…”

 

He grabbed his bag and walked out of the kitchen toward his garage, wondering which motorcycle he wanted to take for the long trip.  He decided on his silver Titan, one of his favorites that he’d built from scratch.  Mark slipped his things in the saddlebag and made sure it was fully secure before straddling the beast, running his hands along the handlebars.  He pressed the garage door opener and slowly backed the motorcycle out, looking down at his silver Rolex, groaning.

 

It was going on nine o’clock.

 

Just before Mark could fully get the bike out, a flash of lightning lit up the sky and a downpour followed seconds after.  Mark couldn’t win, cussing violently and actually kicked his motorcycle, which angered him even more.  He ripped his things out of the saddlebag and groaned when the bag tore apart, his clothes flying everywhere.

 

“MOTHER FUCKER!!”

 

After getting another bag of fresh clothes, Mark hopped in his black Silverado and peeled out of there, grumbling about what a horrible morning he was having.  He glanced at the clock once he arrived on the expressway and gripped the steering wheel tightly, gritting his teeth.  He was running THREE hours behind schedule now, which meant he wouldn’t arrive in Dallas until after one. 

 

Sighing, Mark pulled out his cell phone and went to his email, having been taught to do this in order to start his business.  Keeping his eyes on the road, Mark proceeded to send a quick email to the hospital from his personal email address, demanding to know the directions.  He meant to do it sooner, but his morning had been complete hell and Mark still hadn’t called Glen to finalize plans to meet at the hospital.

 

“Yeah?” Glen grunted, having recently gotten up, his voice still gruff with sleep.

 

“Glen Jacobs?”

 

Glen’s eyes shot open, knowing exactly who it was, nodding. “Mr. Calaway, I was waitin’ for your call.” He said, immediately sounding more awake.

 

“Yeah well, I’ve had a rough mornin’ so I won’t be makin’ it to Dallas until after one…” He trailed off, biting back a groan when he had to slam on his breaks, running right into a traffic jam that seemed to go on for miles. “Make that after two, possibly three…”

 

“Alright, so what time do you want me at Dallas Memorial?” Glen asked, glancing over at Keela, who slept peacefully in bed with a soft smile on her face.  All he wanted to do was join her back in bed, though Glen also knew he couldn’t screw this job opportunity up.

 

“Make it three, I just ran into a fuckin’ traffic jam.” Mark was beyond angry by now and knew if he didn’t get off the phone, he was going to end up crushing it in his large hand.

 

“I’ll be there, see you then.”

 

“One other thing, Jacobs,” Mark paused briefly, popping in a CD. “My name is Mark, no Mr. Calaway.  I’m not formal.” He then hung up, his phone buzzing, signaling he received an email from the hospital.

 

Mark read the directions and saved it before sending another email since the traffic was stopped dead on the expressway.  He let the hospital know he was running late and would be there as soon as he could, a heaving sigh escaping him.  He still couldn’t believe the tantrum Brandy through, wondering if the woman was daft or just plain stupid. 

 

Telling her from the very beginning he just wanted sex every once in awhile was about as plain and clear as he could get.  That was the first and only time Brandy ever stayed the night with him and Mark couldn’t remember saying the L word during sex.  Hell, he was thinking of Nalani because that’s what always happened, it was always HER. 

 

It drove Mark crazy and made his sexuality rise, which was the only way he could get through sex with Brandy.  Besides Brandy, Mark hadn’t slept with anyone else in three years, feeling guilty every time he did have sex with her.  He was a man though and had needs that only a woman could fulfill, refusing to lie dormant.  He waited one year for Nalani to return and when she didn’t, Mark had gotten piss poor drunk and found the first easy lay he could find…Brandy.

 

Growling, Mark leaned back against the seat and got another email from the hospital, telling him to take his time.  Mark snorted and decided not to reply because he was never late when it came to his business, very angry at himself for losing control last night.  He was paying for it now, annoyed when the throbbing in his head started up again.  Mark popped two more aspirin as the traffic began to slowly move forward, going from ten miles an hour to twenty.

 

This was going to take forever and a day.

 

Mark couldn’t have been happier when he saw the Welcome to Dallas sign, breathing a sigh of relief.  It was a little after two thirty, which was fine because he had to get to the hospital first to finalize a few things with the owner.  Mark pulled into the parking lot of Medical City Dallas Memorial and cut the ignition, slipping out of the Silverado.

 

He grabbed a few things out of his bag, some paperwork he needed Glen to fill out before heading inside, sighing when his cell phone went off while walking toward the entrance. “What Austin?” He demanded gruffly, hoping this day ended quickly so he could get some rest in his hotel room.

 

“Bobby quit, that sumbitch is gettin’ a lawyer, but the doctor won’t give him anythin’ to make a case!” Austin shouted, a machine going in the background and what sounded like gunshots. “I gotta go; I’m at the police station trainin’ these damn rookies on the new guns!”

 

“Just let me-” The words died on his lips when Mark walked inside the hospital, his eyes instantly going to the woman who was behind the receptionist desk.

 

“Mark?  Mark??”

 

His phone dropped to the floor, wondering if this was a mirage, and felt all the breath suddenly leave his body at the sight of her.

 

It was Nalani.

 

Chapter 8

 

Getting Nalani to trust Mark was nearly impossible.

 

Some days he felt like giving up and walking away, but then he would stare in those beautiful blue eyes, suddenly remembering why he stayed.  From the moment he spotted her at John Cena’s Halloween party dressed like a Greek goddess, Mark knew Nalani was it for him.  Everything about her, right down to her perfectly pedicured toes, intrigued him and drew him to her with every day that passed.

 

Mark started out somewhat subtle, not wanting to scare her, especially after finding out some back information from John.  The man didn’t know much, but apparently Nalani was going through a rough patch in her life and needed a distraction.  Deciding to be a gentleman, Mark sent Nalani a bouquet of flowers with a note attached asking her out on a date.  Three times she declined until Mark came into the diner she worked at one evening, watching her with the customers.

 

He loved the way her uniform clung to her body, showing off delicious curves, and her hair was up in a high ponytail that bounced with each step she took.  Nalani had the voice of an angel and her smile made his heart skip a beat.  It lit up the entire diner, making customers feel welcome and safe.  Mark could tell Nalani enjoyed serving others and if she didn’t she was one hell of an actress. 

 

He sat down at a nearby table, the whole diner allowing customers to seat themselves wherever a spot was vacant.  He leaned back against the booth, wearing a simple black muscle shirt with a V cut in the collar, hating anything on his neck.  Black jeans clung to his muscular thighs and legs, black boots on his feet and he had a black bandana wrapped around his head, his black hair pulled back in a sleek braid.  He had black shades on top of his head, black fingerless gloves covering his hands and a simple silver chain dangling around his neck.

 

Nalani noticed him instantly.

 

“What can I get for you tonight?” Nalani asked politely, holding a notepad and pen, staring down at her surprising customer.

 

“A date with you.” Mark cut straight to the point, smirking.

 

“Fresh out of those, I’m afraid.  Anything else?” Nalani asked, ready to walk away from him to serve others who actually wanted something from the diner.

 

Mark knew this wasn’t going to be easy and simply leaned back against the booth, his eyes never leaving hers. “Hmmm I’ll take a beer with the chicken fried steak dinner.” He wasn’t leaving until Nalani agreed to go out with him and would order everything off of the menu if that’s what it took.

 

“Coming right up.” Nalani went to walk away and felt a huge hand wrap gently around her wrist, causing her head to turn to lock on emerald green orbs. “Did you need something else?”

 

Mark simply smiled and slipped a single rose in her hand, curling her fingers around it. “Not right now.” He then released her wrist and watched the beauty walk away, waiting on his dinner.

 

The chicken fried steak was delicious along with mashed potatoes and buttered vegetables, though Mark had to make room for more food.  He was a big man so that wasn’t a problem, not to mention it gave him a reason to be at the diner with Nalani.  Mark was a patient man and knew he would slowly break Nalani down until she agreed to go on one date with him.  His confidence told him that just one date is all it would take and she would be his in every way.

 

Of course, sex isn’t all he wanted.

 

Nalani noticed Mark wasn’t leaving after ordering the chicken fried steak, which unnerved her to say the least.  She didn’t tell her boss though, having a feeling Mark wouldn’t hurt her…she hoped.  Sighing, Nalani reluctantly headed back over to his table, keeping the smile on her face even though what she really wanted to do was throw the beer in his face.

 

“Hello again darlin’.”

 

“Anything else I can get for you?” Nalani asked, her pen ready, staring at him expectantly.

 

Mark tapped his chin and thought about it for a few seconds before grinning. “Actually, I’ll take a nice healthy slice of that apple pie I saw on my way in.” He said and finished the rest of his beer. “And another longneck if ya don’t mind.”

 

Sighing resignedly, Nalani went to retrieve his order, wondering if he would ever leave so the butterflies in her stomach would disappear.

 

This went on for the next several hours, though Mark stopped drinking because he had to ride his Harley.  He wasn’t that stupid and refused to get pulled over with a DUI unlike some idiotic people he knew.  Three beers was his cut off, though he’d had two more desserts and the place was packed, so it took Nalani a little while to get back to him with his orders.  Mark didn’t mind a bit and enjoyed watching her walk around helping others, the view making his mouth water. 

 

When he couldn’t possibly eat anymore food, Mark decided to vacate, leaving the beautiful waitress one hell of a tip, before exiting the diner.  He didn’t leave though.  Instead, he waited until the diner closed, simply sitting outside in the cool night on his bike, waiting patiently for Nalani to emerge.  He sat up a little more when she finally did, waving to one of the other waitresses, glad that they walked out together.

 

“Nalani.”

 

Her body froze mid-step going toward her vehicle, slowly turning to face the huge figure in the darkness. “You didn’t leave.” She said somewhat shakily, once her vocal cords decided to work, and watched as he dismounted the bike with ease.

 

Mark could tell he scared her and immediately held his hands up, showing her he didn’t mean any harm. “I’m not gonna hurt you, darlin’, I swear.  I would never hurt a woman.” He vowed, watching her swallow hard, and he hated seeing the nervousness build in her beautiful blue eyes.

 

“What do you want?” Nalani asked resignedly, folding her arms in front of her chest, and watched as Mark came toward her slowly, cautiously.  The man was smarter than she originally credited him for, though Nalani refused to let her guard down.

 

Sighing, Mark rubbed the back of his neck somewhat awkwardly before holding out another single red rose, his eyes pleading with her to hear him out. “I just want a chance, darlin’.  Why won’t you give me just a chance?  I know you feel something between us.” He wasn’t backing down until she gave him a legitimate reason why she didn’t want to go on a date with him. “Just dinner and a movie or whatever you wanna do.  Name it and we’ll do it, Nalani.”

 

“Why are you so adamant about taking me out?” Nalani immediately became suspicious, backing away from him a little, not accepting the rose. 

 

Did he know she came from a lot of money, that her family had been the one who was murdered in the Kensington mansion?  Did he know she was a full-blooded Kensington, even though she’d changed her last name to her mother’s maiden one shortly after the murders?  Why was he so hell bent on going on a date with her when there were plenty of other women out there that would’ve been more than happy to be with him?

 

“Because you look like you could use a night out.” Mark answered honestly, wondering what had gotten into her, frowning. “I’m sorry, darlin’ I just wanna show you a good time.  Cena’s a good friend of mine, the guy who threw the Halloween party we first met at…” He smiled at the memory of her dressed as a goddess and, as beautiful as she was then; she was even more beautiful now in his eyes.

 

“What about him?” She demanded stiffly, walking toward her vehicle and knew Mark was following suit. “Look, if Kaci put you up to this…”

 

Mark reached out and stopped her, forcing Nalani to tense in his grasp.  He wasn’t letting her go though and slowly turned her around until blue met deep emerald green, Nalani’s mind becoming cloudy.  He went to say something, but all Mark could think about is the feeling of her mouth against his, nearly losing all of his resolve when her pink tongue swept out to wet her dry lips.

 

“Nobody put me up to this, Nalani.”

 

Her name sounded husky and low, which turned Nalani on like a light switch. “You swear?” She didn’t know what to believe or who to trust anymore, knowing Kaci was trying to set her up with a few of Randy’s friends recently. “Because if I find out you’re lying to me, I will find a way to hurt you.”

 

Mark chuckled, loving the fire that came from her eyes and body language. “I swear, Nalani.” He even did a cross motion over his heart as a joke, though he meant what he said. “I did ask about you though and Kaci actually warned me to stay away from you.”

 

That surprised Nalani and it showed as she blinked at him, folding her arms in front of her chest. “Why?” She couldn’t help asking; wondering what had gotten into Kaci.

 

Mark shrugged and stepped closer, just wanting to be near this woman. “She’s overprotective of you, not that I can blame her.  I am very intimidating.” He winked, smirking when Nalani rolled her eyes.

 

“You’re a big man, I’m not going to deny that, but you’re not THAT intimidating.” Nalani stated, turning to unlock her door and could feel him behind her, looming over her small frame. “Nice try, you don’t scare me.”

 

His laughter reverberated from his chest and it reminded Nalani of rumbling thunder in the distance from an approaching storm.  It was very soothing and made her knees weaken, her heartbeat increase and her pulse race rapidly.  Normally men his size would’ve made Nalani uneasy and nervous, but with Mark it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

 

“I don’t, eh?” When she shook her head, Mark decided to press a little further. “Then prove it to me.”

 

That caught Nalani off guard and she turned around, staring up into those beautiful green eyes with guarded blue. “How?” His large hand came out and very gently ran the pad of his thumb over her cheek, causing to Nalani to sigh gently.

 

His smirk widening, Mark suddenly lifted her up by her waist with ease and took two strides before setting her down, planting her on the trunk of her car. “Go on a date with me.” He requested again, causing her eyes to instantly lower from his face.

 

“I don’t know…” Nalani wrapped her arms around herself, though Mark being this close to her warmed her to the core. “What does that have to do with me proving I’m not scared of you?”

 

“If you go on a date with me, then that proves you’re not afraid of me.  I already can feel somethin’ between us, darlin’.  You can deny all you want, but I can see it in your eyes.  So prove to me you’re not scared of me.” Mark gently ran his hand down her arm, feeling the goose bumps form and smiled.

 

Nalani groaned in exasperation, pushing his hand away from her. “You’re not going to give up, are you?” When Mark shook his head, she sighed resignedly and suddenly a thought popped into her mind. “One date you say?”

 

“One is all I’m asking for.”

 

“Well,” Nalani paused briefly, chewing her bottom lip in thought. “Dates consist of having dinner with conversation, right?” She smiled at him when he nodded eagerly, knowing she was about to burst his bubble.

 

“Whatever you want to do, it doesn’t have to be dinner and a movie.  It could just be us talking for hours or not saying anything at all.”

 

An evil gleam suddenly came over her blue eyes as Nalani slid from the trunk right in front of him, her feet landing on asphalt. “Then I do believe you just had your one date with me.” She stated, watching the look cross Mark’s face.

 

“What?”

 

Nalani couldn’t stop the giggles from erupting, covering her mouth with her hand, trying to remain neutral. “Well…there was dinner and conversation between us with dessert.  You’ve taken up my time and I’ve taken up yours.  Yup, this was definitely a date in my book.” She explained coolly, her keys jingling in her hand.

 

“Now wait a damn minute, woman!” Mark growled, not believing he was being played by her. “This…you’re calling THIS a date?  You’re callin’ me stuffin’ my face full of food from yer diner and then waitin’ for hours for ya to come out a DATE?” His southern accent was seeping through in his tone from how pissed he was, though Mark refused to show his anger…much.

 

Nalani nodded with a grin. “Of course, what would YOU call it?  I mean if it wasn’t a date, then I’d have to consider it stalking…” She knew she caught Mark off guard because his entire face turned red and Nalani was thoroughly amused by this point, unlocking her car door.

 

“I don’t believe this…” Mark muttered, raking hand through the top of his hair, the bandana falling to the ground. “Nalani, this isn’t fair, darlin’…”

 

“I know, but don’t you just LOVE getting what you want?” She retorted with that same sweet smile before slipping into her car. “Have a nice night, Calaway.” Before he could stop her, Nalani had started the ignition and peeled away from him; laughing so hard tears were streaming down her face.

 

Mark let out a stream of cuss words that would’ve made the devil blush furiously, kicking rocks out of the road, not believing he’d been tricked!  She wasn’t a goddess, she was a damn devil child with an evil streak that both pissed him off and turned him on all at the same time.  His blood boiled as he stalked over to his bike, still cussing violently, thankful nobody else was around to hear his temper tantrum. 

 

The entire ride home, Mark went through the motions in his head, wondering how the hell Nalani could construe this as being their first date.  It sure as hell wasn’t what he planned, but he grudgingly admitted she made several good points.  He envisioned having her in his arms instead of trying to convince her to go on a date with him.  This wasn’t a date and, if it was, it was the worst one he’d been on yet!

 

“Damn it…” He grunted, punching the gas even more on the bike, revving it to the point where probably everyone on the block was waking up.  He didn’t care; he just needed to get his frustrations out somehow.

 

This wasn’t the end; Mark vowed he would meet up with Nalani again as soon as his blood cooled long enough to actually approach her again.

 

Chapter 9

 

She was having the worst day of her life.

 

From the moment her alarm went off –Nalani hadn’t gotten much sleep as usual-, her day from hell began by stubbing her toe on the dresser.  She literally had to bite her tongue and hoped she hadn’t pierced it because the twins were still sleeping.  It was Tuesday, one of Keela’s days off, so she had to get up extra early to make the twins breakfast before dropping them off at daycare.

 

“MOTHER FUCKER!!” Nalani screamed as soon as she’d started the shower, muffling the sound as she hobbled over to the toilet, chancing a glance down at her foot.

 

Sure enough, the first three toes were already bruising and Nalani knew she’d be limping for the rest of the day.  Groaning, she managed to step inside the shower, the pain in her foot throbbing forcing her to fully awaken.  She’d barely gotten three hours of sleep, though Nalani was used to it by now, always staying up late at night to ponder the past.

 

After showering, Nalani felt a little better and ignored the pain in her foot, slipping on a simple black pencil skirt with a lavender buttoned up silk blouse that had long sleeves.  She went to plug her curling iron in when something caught Nalani’s eyes, causing her to groan again.  Her makeup was strewn all over the place and two of the buttons on her curling iron were gone.  She already knew the culprits responsible and rubbed her forehead, already feeling a headache approaching.

 

Once the twins woke up, things just went from bad to worse.

 

“Momma, where’s a daddy?” Matthew had asked while they all ate breakfast Nalani made, seated at the table.

 

Immediately cringing, Nalani tried her best to change the subject. “Matty, how about we go over what you learned from daycare the other day, hmmm?”

 

Matthew frowned, shaking his head. “No.” The boy wasn’t going to be dissuaded easily. “We want a daddy, right Meggie?”

 

Megan bit her bottom lip, looking apprehensive for a three year old, looking over at her twin brother. “Yeah, where’s our daddy?” She took a bite of her food, not thinking anything was wrong.

 

Nalani did not want to deal with this early in the morning, putting her head in her hands and tried grasping the control that was slipping away. “He’s not around, you guys.” She didn’t know how else to put it and stood from the table, blinking tears out of her eyes.

 

“Why not?”

 

“Why momma?”

 

Gripping the kitchen sink, Nalani knew she had to escape the house before completely breaking down; hating that this day had already come so soon.  It seemed as though they’d been born yesterday.  Now they were asking about their father, knowing they’d gone to daycare and watched fathers kissing their children goodbye.  Nalani didn’t particularly like the daycare, though the staff was very kind and more than willing to work around her work schedule.

 

“Because he doesn’t live anywhere near us.  Now eat your breakfast.” Nalani ordered, still not turning around to face her children as a few tears slipped down her cheeks.

 

“But…”

 

“But…”

 

“Be quiet, Matthew and Megan.” She wiped the tears away and turned back to eat her breakfast, nibbling at some toast, her appetite ruined.

 

Once breakfast finished, it just became worse because the twins refused to comply with anything Nalani said.  She picked out a purple shirt with blue jeans for Megan, who refused to get dressed.  Matthew wasn’t any better and tried dressing himself, only to stumble over putting his jeans on backwards and ended up flying face first into the wall.  Luckily, his little hands stopped him from busting his nose, but that didn’t stop a huge lump from forming on his small forehead.  Nalani had to bandage him up while he screamed and carried on, making her headache turn into a pounding migraine.

 

By the time Nalani got them dressed in and strapped in their car seats, she was running an hour late, which annoyed her even more.  It didn’t help that traffic was horrendous and the twins would not stop bickering.  Their incessant whining was slowly grating on Nalani’s nerves as she pressed the accelerator and gas back and forth, moving very slowly while trying to get a hold of her boss at work to explain the situation.

 

“Stop touchin’ me!”

 

Matthew grinned maliciously and continued poking his sister, laughing.

 

“Mom, Mattie’s touchin’ me!”

 

“Oh shut up!”

 

“MATTHEW FELIX MARTIN!!”

 

The little boy instantly closed his mouth and stopped the antics, biting his bottom lip.

 

“Knock it off both of you!!  Mommy is trying to drive!” Nalani shouted, glancing at them through the rearview mirror, her blue eyes lit on fire. “Megan Nicole, that goes for you too!”

 

Nalani had named her daughter after her little sister, her own closure with the untimely death.  Felix was her father’s middle name, so Nalani went with that, absolutely hating how Matthew Michael sounded and looked on the birth certificate.  There was no way she wasn’t going to name her children after her father and sister, missing them more than words could say.  Of course, Mark popped into her mind, but Matthew William or Matthew Marcus didn’t sound or look right on a birth certificate either.  Not to mention, Nalani had no idea if he was even the father of her twins and knew she’d never find out.

 

“Sorry mommy…” Megan murmured quietly, lowering her eyes to her lap, and sniffled as silent tears fell from her eyes.

 

“Sorry Meggie…” Matthew held his hand out to his sister, their hands clasping together tightly, much to Nalani’s relief.

 

Megan nodded, leaning back against the seat with a sigh. “Sorry Mattie.” She murmured, both of them staring straight ahead at their mother with big blue eyes that mirrored her own.

 

“Sorry mommy…” They both said simultaneously.

 

“That’s my angels, now be quiet because we’re in heavy traffic right now.” Nalani said in a softer tone, hating that she’d upset her children, but honestly her nerves were on edge.  She sighed with relief when her call finally clicked over to the receptionist, pressing her finger to her lips.

 

“Hello?” A rather annoyed Maureen finally answered, commotion sounding in the background. “HELLO?”

 

“Maureen, it’s Nalani.  Listen, I know I was supposed to be there an hour ago, but I’m currently stuck in heavy traffic and I still have to drop my kids off at the daycare.” Nalani quickly explained, scowling at a driver who decided to slide right in front of her, cutting her off and nearly forcing her to rear-end him. “I’m so sorry, I’ll try to be there as soon as I can…”

 

“It’s fine, I’ll let Mitch know what’s going on.” Maureen hastily said and hung up the phone before Nalani could say anything else.

 

“Stupid bitch.” Nalani muttered under her breath, not wanting her twins to overhear the foul language, and clicked her phone shut before tossing it in the front seat.

 

It made Nalani’s blood boil to know that it was such an inconvenience for Maureen to stick around the office for more than five hours a day.  Nalani had been called in on several occasions to cover for Maureen because the woman refused to learn how to set her alarm clock.  She’d actually went to her boss and complained about how much time Maureen missed from work, but instead of firing the useless employee, Mitch decided to cut her hours as a ‘punishment’.  Nalani wished she could tell him where to shove that punishment, but refrained for her children, knowing she needed the job.

 

About a half an hour later, Nalani finally managed to make it to the daycare and sighed when the twins began whining about not wanting to go. “You have to go so mommy can work.” She tried explaining, but they just clung to her legs, refusing to let go.

 

“No!  Stay mommy!”

 

“We love you, don’t go!”

 

It broke Nalani’s heart as she tried extracting the twins from her legs, wishing this would stop already.  They’d already gone through terrible two’s, but honestly the three’s were WAY worse than two’s in Nalani’s opinion.  She smiled apologetically when Cindy, the head director of the daycare, came out to help with the situation. 

 

“Come on you guys, there’s lots of fun stuff inside for you to play with.” Cindy encouraged with a bright smile, her black graying hair pulled up into a bun.

 

“I’m so sorry about this…” Nalani was on the verge of tears again, the frustration building quickly, but she tried in vain holding them back. “I’m sorry…”

 

“It’s alright, Nalani.” Cindy said kindly, her warm brown eyes telling the woman she wasn’t the least upset. “We were just sitting down getting ready to do some coloring…”

 

Nalani could only nod and bent down, both of the twins tossing themselves at her, her arms wrapping around each twin, kissing their foreheads softly. “Mommy loves you both; I’ll be back after work.” She whispered, knowing she would end up crying herself all the way to the hospital.

 

“No!!  We want mommy!!”

 

“Don’t go mommy!!”

 

Cindy pulled them away after Nalani extracted their arms from around her neck, smiling gently down at the crying children. “We’ll take very good care of them, Nalani; you have nothing to worry about.” She assured the woman, already guiding the twins inside. “How about some coloring and snacks?”

 

“MOMMY!!” The twins wailed, trying to pull away from Cindy, and both watched heartbroken as their mother drove out of the parking lot.

 

Sure enough, on the way to the hospital, Nalani cried as tears blurred her vision while she was stuck in heavy traffic.  She received a few text messages from Mitch, who told her to take her time and not to worry about rushing to get to the hospital.  Nalani wiped her tears away, knowing Mitch had somewhat of a crush on her, which is why he was lenient with situations like this.  He also had a crush on Maureen, the man had too many hormones and needed to work them out on his wife instead of eyeballing every woman in sight.

 

Nalani was so involved in her thoughts that she didn’t notice the Buick swerve into her lane, until it was too late.  She’d only been going not even twenty miles an hour, but the impact was enough to hurl her forward violently, snapping her head back.  Thank the stars for seatbelts, Nalani’s chest burned as she tried getting her equilibrium back on track, blinking, having smacked her head on the steering wheel.  Her head was now pounding from not only crying, but more than likely having a concussion from the heavy blow and screaming outside her window.

 

“YOU STUPID BITCH!!”

 

“Excuse me?” Nalani growled, unsnapping her seatbelt after flashing on her emergency lights, letting people know to go around her if at all possible.

 

“What the hell were you THINKING?” The woman screamed at the top of her lungs, tossing her hands up in the air, her bleach blonde hair flailing all over the place. “DIDN’T YOU SEE ME TRYING TO GET OVER, YOU STUPID BITCH?”

 

Nalani finally had enough and scowled, blue eyes flashing. “NO I DIDN’T BECAUSE YOUR STUPID ASS DECIDED TO SWERVE IN MY LANE AT THE LAST GODDAMN SECOND!!  SO BEFORE YOU START CALLING ME A STUPID BITCH, LOOK IN THE MIRROR HONEY!”

 

The blonde scoffed and planted her hands on her hips, wearing a barely there strapless pale blue dress that looked ready to pop off of her at any given second. “Just wait until my husband hears about this, he’ll sue you!!” She shouted angrily, taking a few steps back from the angry woman.

 

“He can try, but the fact of the matter is that you swerved in my lane, cutting me off and not giving me enough time or room to stop!”

 

Nalani couldn’t believe this was happening just as a police car pulled up, rolling her eyes as the blonde began bawling to the officer about the fender bender.  She simply stood there on the side of the busy highway and watched the officer take down what the big breasted bimbo said, mostly lying.  Instead of becoming hysterical and wailing like the blonde idiot did, Nalani remained cool, calm and collected, knowing officers were more keen to believe calmer people in a situations like this.

 

“Alright ma’am, license and registration please.” The officer said, his kind sky blue eyes begging her not to become hysterical.

 

“Sure.” Nalani handed it over, already knowing she would need the both, and leaned back against her car while the officer took down the information.

 

“Tell me what happened here, Mrs. Martin.” The officer ordered softly, though had to speak loudly over the traffic somehow miraculously zooming past them.

 

“It’s Miss.” She corrected with a smile of her own, trying not to sound short even though she’d had the morning from absolute hell. “I had my eyes on the road and there wasn’t that much room between me and a Chevy Silverado.  All of a sudden, this convertible swerves into my lane, squeezing between me and the Silverado and I didn’t even have time to stop, officer.  I barely had time to slam on my brakes before I was already rear-ending her.”

 

The officer nodded, continuing to write down the information. “I have taken both of your statements and you’ll have to take it up with your insurance companies.” He glanced over at the blonde, who looked positively infuriated. “I will file an accident report and let you two be on your way, unless either of you need medical attention?”

 

The blonde gaped at the officer and scowled, but kept her mouth shut because he was the authority, simply shaking her head.

 

Nalani shook her head as well. “I actually work at the hospital and was on my way there.  Thank you, officer, it won’t happen again.”

 

Nalani was glad SOMETHING went right with her morning and watched as the officer nodded before walking away, slipping back in her car.  Her hands trembled violently, but Nalani had to get to the hospital, running over two hours late now for work.  She immediately sped toward the hospital, trying not to start crying again because she was afraid if she did, she wouldn’t make it to the hospital in one piece.

 

“Where the hell have you been?!” Maureen demanded as soon as Nalani came running through the doors, her heel breaking off one of her two inch heels.

 

“GODDAMN IT!!” Nalani cursed, her ankle having twisted violently, causing Maureen to even blink in shock.  Somehow, Nalani managed to hobble over to the desk, not realizing a huge half crest moon shaped bruise formed across her forehead. “Sorry I’m late.” She gritted out, her ankle and toes throbbing.

 

What else could go wrong today?

 

Nalani wished she’d never thought that because, at that second, a patient came stumbling up to the desk. “Excuse me, I need he-” Suddenly, the patient in waiting vomited all over the front of Nalani’s lavender blouse, causing Maureen to instantly stumble back, Nalani staring down in pure shock.

 

Then, to put the cherry on top of her fantastic morning, when Nalani looked up she was staring into the cold angry emerald green eyes of none other than her ex-boyfriend, Mark Calaway.

 

Chapter 10

 

“Hello again, darlin’.”

 

Nalani had just walked out of the diner after a long shift and stopped, blinking at the sight of Mark, wondering what he was doing here.  Hell, she would’ve thought he’d gotten the point the last time they saw each other, but apparently not.  Maybe if she made a run for it to her car, she could possibly make it, but had a feeling Mark would catch up with her quickly.  He towered over her with his near seven foot frame and had legs that seemed to stretch for miles.

 

She was screwed.

 

“What do you want, Mark?” She reluctantly asked, trying not to notice what he was wearing.

 

This time Mark wore light blue jeans with a black t-shirt and leather vest over it, a bandana around his forehead, though he also had a baseball cap backwards on his head.  He leaned against the diner building, one foot propped up pressing against it with his arms folded in front of his chest.  He looked positively scrumptious, especially when those deep emerald eyes locked on hers, forcing Nalani to lose her breath.

 

“Funny you should ask.” He chuckled darkly, pushing away from the wall, his eyes never leaving hers. “That wasn’t very nice what you pulled on me, Nalani.”

 

“Mark…” She sighed when he pressed a finger to her lips, having closed the distance between them instantly.

 

“No more talking.” Mark growled, watching Nalani’s eyes widen slightly, a smirk crossing his sensual lips.

 

Slowly, Nalani began backing up away from him, Mark taking a step forward whenever she took a step back.  She hit the building and knew everyone else had gone home for the evening, volunteering to stay after and clean up for extra money.  Her big blue eyes couldn’t help falling under his trance, though Nalani knew she couldn’t succumb to this, no matter how gorgeous this man was. 

 

She lifted her hands up and pressed them against his strong chest, but that wasn’t stopping Mark from trapping her, one long muscular arm on each side of her head.  When she opened her mouth to speak, Mark suddenly went in for the kill and lowered his head, capturing her lips in a passionate hot kiss.  Nalani gasped, her hands gripping his vest to try to pull away, but instead she found herself thoroughly enjoying what was happening between them. 

 

Suddenly, she began kissing him back.

 

Mark growled huskily when he felt her small hands grip his vest, pulling him closer to her, and suddenly pulled her away from the wall.  He wrapped his arms around her body and lifted her, breaking the kiss only long enough to press her back against the building, his lips finding hers again.  He didn’t want her having a clear thought and loved how her legs instinctively wrapped around his muscular waist, feeling the heat between their bodies ignite.

 

It’d been so long since Nalani had been touched like this and felt a man’s lips on hers, especially one that could kiss incredibly well.  Losing herself was something Nalani never did, but Mark’s mouth was persuasive and she shivered at the feeling of his tongue swiping against her lips.  He was begging for access to her mouth, but Nalani wasn’t giving in that easily, her hands beginning to explore the rest of his body. 

 

They slid up his muscular tattoo sleeved arms to his broad muscular shoulders, pushing the baseball cap off of his head.  Mark didn’t care and held her tighter against him, the kiss intensifying when her soft hands buried in his silky black tresses.  His hair was pulled back in a loose tail, though that didn’t stop Nalani from finding it, her arms wrapping around his neck as soft moans escaped her lips.

 

Strength and power radiated from Mark’s body and Nalani knew he could snap her like a twig within seconds, but the way he held and kissed her right now didn’t scare her.  It felt wonderful to be in his arms, she hadn’t been able to get him out of her mind for the good half of the week, wondering if she’d ever see him again.  Hell, what man in his right mind would come back after being treated the way Nalani had to Mark?  Apparently he enjoyed punishment and a good challenge, which is what Nalani was to men. 

 

Punishment and a challenge.

 

With another swipe of that incredible tongue against her lips, Nalani finally succumbed to the desire flooding every part of her body and opened her mouth for him.  Mark growled, instantly taking it, and tasted her for the first time as their tongues touched.  The sensations flooding each body increased by seconds and Mark could feel Nalani shiver from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.  Her mouth was so warm and inviting, her tongue felt soft as silk and the way she kissed him took Mark’s breath away, which rarely happened.  It was usually the other way around and that made Mark believe even more that this woman was meant specifically for him.

 

Knowing they needed oxygen to breathe, Mark slowly and reluctantly broke the kiss, watching those beautiful blue eyes flutter open to meet his.  He loved the way her cheeks flushed, the roses blooming fully, making her even more beautiful to him if that was possible.  Nalani’s chest rose and fell rapidly, trying to regain her breath before she passed out, but couldn’t pull her gaze away from those incredible emerald stones.  Nalani bit her bottom lip when Mark pressed his forehead very lightly to hers, taking one of her hands and pressing it over his pounding heart, feeling it vibrate against her palm and fingertips.

 

The feeling was indescribable.

 

“You feel that?” Mark whispered, his breath hot against her lips and watched her nod, smirking because he knew she couldn’t talk right now. “That’s what you do to me, Nalani.  Every time I see you, hear your voice, anytime you’re around me that’s what happens.”

 

“Why me?” She finally spoke, confusion entering her eyes as they mixed with desire and lust for him. “I don’t understand, what’s so special about me?”

 

“I don’t know, but I’m beggin’ to find out, darlin’.” Mark inhaled, her scent completely engulfing him, and that just made him hold her even tighter against him, their chests pressed together, his forehead not leaving hers. “Tell me you don’t want to give me a chance.  Tell me to go to hell, but you have to convince me before I even think about walkin’ away.”

 

“You never answered my question.” She tried pulling away from him, but Mark stopped her from doing so, grabbing her chin in his strong hand. “Mark…”

 

“You want to know why I want to be with you so damn bad, but I don’t know, Nalani.  I don’t have the answer.  If I did, I swear to fuckin’ god I’d tell ya.  I’d tell ya in a heartbeat, but I don’t know what it is about you that makes me keep comin’ back and fightin’.  Usually, a woman who did what you did to me would’ve been left the hell alone.” Mark was being honest and hoped he didn’t hurt her feelings, sighing heavily. “But you’re afraid and I wanna take away the fear and pain I see in your eyes right now.  I just want it to go away because you don’t deserve to feel any fear or pain.  All I’m askin’ for is a chance, just one chance, and if I hurt ya, you have every right to kill me if you want.  Hell, I’ll give ya the damn shotgun to shoot me with, but I promise I won’t hurt you ever.”

 

Did he know she was really rich and part of the Kensington fortune?  Did he know it was her father and sister that was brutally murdered and raped in that Kensington mansion on the outskirts of town?  Could he deal with the constant nightmares and pain she felt in her heart over the sudden loss of the only family she had left?  Could Mark be the answer to her prayers, the answer to wash away all of that pain and despair, or was Nalani simply a fool?

 

“Alright,” She paused, having had her eyes closed while he spoke to her, his words touching her in so many ways, and slowly opened them. “You have one chance, don’t blow it.”

 

Relief flooded through Mark as a soft smile spread on his lips, his knuckle gently caressing her cheek, knowing he was sometimes a volatile man. “Thank you.” He then captured her lips again, kissing the breath right out of her and pulled her away from the wall, heading toward his motorcycle. “You wanna get out of here?”

 

“What about my car?” She asked, already being placed on the bike with Mark mounting behind her, Nalani’s eyes widening. “Mark, I can’t…”

 

“You’re not leavin’ my sight and don’t worry, I’ll do all the ridin’.” He promised, his voice husky in her ear, causing Nalani to do a full body shiver while Mark placed her purse in one of the saddlebags.  He’d managed to scoop it up along with his baseball cap while kissing her, Nalani weighing lighter than a feather helping out tremendously.

 

Pure exhilaration filled every part of her as Nalani leaned back against Mark’s chest, the motorcycle speeding off into the deep dark of the night.

 

~!~

 

The first couple of months together were rocky, along with some fighting and Nalani trying to walk away from Mark, but he was steadfast.  She kept telling him he was making a mistake and to find someone who was good enough for him, but Nalani was all he wanted.  He couldn’t imagine being with another woman, no matter how stubborn and bullheaded she was.  Hell so was he, which made them the perfect couple in his eyes or damned near close.

 

Mark would be outside of the diner every night Nalani worked, always making sure to put Nalani before his job.  She didn’t understand that because he’d worked so hard to acquire the business and get it started...only to push it aside to make her the center of his world.  Nalani had tried telling Mark it was pointless wasting his time on her, but again Mark wasn’t walking away, which warmed her heart to the core.  He would pick her up from work, always leaving her car there for the morning when they would reluctantly part ways.

 

There were some nights they didn’t see each other, around two or three days out of the week, which was good because space apart gave them both time to miss each other.

 

On Nalani’s nights off that she did see Mark; he would always bring her something, no matter how small it was.  Though they weren’t the typical cliché gifts every day men bought their girlfriends or spouses.  No, these gifts made Nalani’s cheeks flame to the point where they looked like cherries.  They consisted of lingerie, body oil, candles with the sweetest smelling scents Nalani ever experienced, bubble bath, massage lotions -Mark was incredible at using them and knew exactly what to do- and even body candy, especially for Nalani’s lower extremities.

 

Sex was definitely not a problem in the relationship and they had just enough of it to make it mind blowing.

 

Nalani sighed as she stared in the mirror, not believing her and Mark had been together for six months, a soft smile spreading on her lips.  She felt completely safe with him, especially after finding out what kind of business Mark decided to open, which was a security company.  It specialized in training new cops of the Houston area on weapon training, though other companies contacted him to install his state of the art security system that Mark’s company was becoming rapidly famous for.

 

Calaway Security Incorporated.

 

Nalani couldn’t help laughing and made a joke, calling Mark’s business CSI, to which she got growled at for.  She loved his growls and the way he carried himself, everything about this man drew her in; Nalani already knew she was falling in love with him.  CSI was taking off without a hitch and Mark was traveling all over Texas, which made him gone for more than three days in a row sometimes.  Nalani was fine with it though, wanting to support him in any way she could, always telling him to be careful and she’d miss him.

 

The feeling was more than mutual to Mark.

 

He’d spend his nights in his hotel room wishing Nalani was by his side and even asked her about traveling with him.  Nalani was loyal to the diner, loving her job, and declined his offer because she enjoyed working to make a living for herself.  The woman was incredibly independent, which made Mark wonder if she would ever consider getting married.  That would be a huge step, one that he knew both of them were not ready to take, but he had other plans in mind.

 

Finishing up her makeup for their date, Nalani nodded in the full length mirror of her bedroom, hoping she could save up enough money to get out of Kaci and Randy’s hair soon.  She knew they needed this room, but Kaci assured Nalani she could stay as long as needed.  Nalani wore a simple of pair of skinny blue jeans with an off the shoulder black top that had flowing sleeves down her arms, knowing they would more than likely be going for a ride on Mark’s Titan. 

 

She quickly strapped on her steel toed boots Mark got for her so she would have proper riding shoes, her hair pulled back in a tight braid that hung over her shoulder.  Mark hated it when she put her hair back and always managed to get it down before the night ended, which nine times out of ten was at his house in his bed.  Nalani flushed and tried clearing her mind, pulling her leather jacket on because it was chilly tonight, her heart leaping when the doorbell echoed throughout the house.

 

Taking a deep breath, Nalani walked out of her bedroom, flipping the light switch off and headed toward the front door.  Randy and Kaci were out for the evening with Jen, so Mark and Nalani had the entire house to themselves, which didn’t happen often.  She opened the door and nearly lost her breath at the sight of her boyfriend, gasping when he yanked her into his arms and kissed her hungrily, Nalani completely melting against him.

 

They hadn’t seen each other in four long days because Mark had to go to San Antonio to overlook a security installation that was happening at a school.

 

“Goddamn I missed you.” He muttered against her lips, finally pulling away long enough to stare down in those enchanting blue eyes, loving the smile that lit her face.

 

“I missed you too.” Nalani reached up to caress his face with her soft hand, reluctantly pulling away to pick her purse up, which went flying when Mark pulled her into his arms. “So, what are the plans for tonight, Mr. Secretive?” For the past few days, Mark had been hinting he had a surprise for Nalani and, no matter how hard she tried; she couldn’t get him to spill the beans.

 

“Move in with me.”

 

Nalani dropped her purse and stared at him in shock, seeing the next gift from her boyfriend.

 

Chapter 11

 

“Nalani?  Lani, can you hear me, sweetie?”

 

Her head was incredibly fuzzy, but the voice was slowly getting through, her eyelids twitching just the slightest bit.

 

“I think she’s going to be alright.” Another voice said, sounding relieved, though Nalani couldn’t fully place it.

 

“Can I go home now?  Christ, I’ve been here nearly NINE hours!”

 

Nalani knew that voice anywhere and slowly opened her eyes, groaning as a bright light shone in her eyes. “Turn the damn light off!” She growled, her head throbbing, and sighed with relief when it suddenly vanished from sight. “Thank you…”

 

“You’re welcome.” Cheryl said with a soft chuckle, glancing over at Mitch, who was the other voice that said she was going to be alright. “Maureen, talk to the boss, I’m just the nurse.”

 

“Go home, Maureen.” Mitch ordered gruffly, his eyes focused on Nalani, hoping she was going to be fine. “I’ll walk you out myself.” He escorted the whining employee out of the exam room, deciding he would be firing her on the spot for her attitude and behavior.

 

“What happened to you, Lani?” Cheryl asked, sighing when Nalani winced at the huge bruise on her forehead Cheryl was currently examining. “You look like you got ran over or something.”

 

“Gee thanks.” Nalani snorted, wincing again. “I don’t have a concussion right?”

 

Cheryl shook her head, walking over to grab some salve to spread on the bruise. “This will help with the pain because I know it has to hurt like hell right now.” She explained, spreading it on thick. “No, you don’t have a concussion, you’re very lucky.”

 

“I had the weirdest dream.  This has been a morning from absolute hell.” Nalani grunted, glancing down and groaned at the hospital gown she wore instead of her beautiful lavender blouse. “I guess the patient throwing up on me wasn’t a dream…”

 

“No it wasn’t.” Cheryl chuckled, still looking concerned over at her friend. “I put your shirt and shoes in a bag, separate of course, but the heel on your shoe isn’t repairable.  It broke completely off when you were apparently sprinting inside the hospital.”

 

“Great.” Nalani groaned in agitation, just wanting to get the hell out of there, but knew she still had her shift to do. “I suppose you don’t have something I could wear, right?”

 

Chuckling, Cheryl nodded and tossed Nalani a navy blue scrub top, smiling. “That’s the best I can offer, but it does match the skirt, so you should be fine.” The receptionist was allowed to wear scrubs if they chose, but most preferred to look professional for the patients and look nice.  Cheryl had a feeling Nalani didn’t care either way.

 

“Thanks Cher, I really owe you for this.” Nalani immediately peeled the hospital gown off, after Cheryl was finished applying the salve to her forehead, and slipped the scrub top on, smoothing it down her body. “I need some aspirin…thanks.” She smiled when Cheryl handed over a bottle of ibuprofen, popping three instantly.

 

“No problem, if you want to rest a little while longer, I’m sure Mitch won’t mind.  He had Marissa covering for you right now.” Cheryl walked around the office cleaning up, her bright green eyes sparkling. “Though I have to tell you, when you fainted, it was in front of possibly the most gorgeous man I’ve ever laid my eyes on.”

 

Nalani blinked, tilting her head slightly. “What do you mean?” She asked, deciding resting for a few more minutes might not be such a bad idea.

 

“Oh honey, he was stunning.  Long beautiful black hair, though it was pulled back in a braid and he stood at least seven feet tall, I’m sure of it.  His arms were covered from wrist to shoulder in tattoos and he had the most stunning shade of green eyes I’ve ever seen on a man!” Cheryl gushed, having recently been divorced from her husband of seven years, so she was definitely on the hunt for a new man. “Now that my divorce is finalized, I think it’s time I get back on that saddle.”

 

Nalani suddenly couldn’t move, frozen to the bedding, her big blue eyes as wide as saucers.  Long black hair…green eyes…at least seven feet tall…Nalani suddenly began shaking violently from head to toe, managing somehow to lift her hand to cover her dropped mouth.  The dream she had wasn’t a dream…it was a NIGHTMARE come true!!

 

“Mark…” Nalani whispered, suddenly needing to get out of the hospital before he saw her. “Cheryl, I really hate doing this, but I have to go.  I have to go NOW.”

 

Cheryl blinked at Nalani’s sudden reaction, watching her move around quicker and knew her head had to be throbbing. “Lani, Lani relax.” She grabbed the frantic looking woman by the shoulders, forcing her to stop in her tracks. “Take a deep breath, what’s going on?”

 

“Nothing, I just really don’t feel good suddenly.  I think I’m coming down with something or maybe it’s just been the stress of the morning…I don’t know.  I just think it’s best if I take the rest of the day off and go get my kids from daycare, spend some time with them.” Nalani said quickly, trying to keep the fear and franticness out of her voice, but all she really wanted to do was run as far away from Dallas as possible with her twins.

 

Cheryl narrowed her eyes and pulled Nalani over to sit on the bedding, folding her arms in front of her chest. “Talk right now.” She had a feeling it had something to do with that monstrous man that Nalani fainted in front of.

 

Nalani sighed heavily, knowing she couldn’t keep much from Cheryl, and twiddled her thumbs in her lap. “Patient confidentiality?” Cheryl nodded and waited patiently for her friend to talk, not saying a word, and listened to everything Nalani told her.

 

When Nalani was finished, all Cheryl could do was stare at her in shock, seeing the tears in the woman’s eyes full of heartbreak and pain. “I’m…I don’t even know what to say.” Cheryl stood up, blinking. “How could you just walk away from a man like that?  He didn’t make you happy or something?”

 

“Something happened, Cher, something that I can’t tell anyone.  I haven’t even told Kaci and you know how close I am to her.  I have to take the reasoning with me to the grave.” There was no way Nalani could ever talk about what happened to her and what forced her to walk away from Mark forever.

 

“I understand.”Cheryl knew there were some reasons why women left the men they loved, no matter the circumstances, and placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m here for you if you ever need to talk, Nalani.  You can trust me.”

 

“Thanks Cheryl, would you mind telling Mitch you recommended I went home for the day?” Nalani asked hopefully, wiping the tears from her eyes, sniffling a little.

 

“I was already planning on it, go on home with your kids and we’ll see you tomorrow.” Cheryl knew Mitch would believe anything she said, considering she was a doctor. “Go on and try to relax.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

Nalani walked out of the exam room and headed down the hallway, her head killing her, still not believing Mark was actually here in Dallas.  It’d been three long years since she’d last seen him and…he looked better than ever.  He looked more built if that was possible, though Nalani knew Mark enjoyed working out.  She couldn’t believe she fainted in front of him like that, especially after being vomited on.  Nalani was careful to turn corners in the hospital, hoping she didn’t run into her ex-boyfriend, and somehow miraculously made it out to her car without seeing him again.  She glanced around the parking lot and finally spotted a Chevy Silverado, blinking, knowing that was Mark’s truck.

 

“Fuck me…” She grunted, immediately unlocking her door and slid behind the wheel, starting the ignition.  “What the hell is he doing here?” She wondered, putting the car in drive and sped out of there, trembling from head to toe.

 

Narrowed green eyes watched her drive away and Mark vowed he wasn’t going to let her get away from him again.  He’d watched her since she walked out of the exam room, having been worried she’d cracked her head on the floor when she fainted.  He was the one who carried her to the exam room and had to change his shirt because of the vomit, the hospital gift shop managing to find a plain black t-shirt in his size surprisingly.

 

Why was she running away from him?  Mark didn’t understand it and silently wished he’d eavesdropped on the conversation in the exam room, though he didn’t want to be caught.  Glen Jacobs was currently on the third floor installing the security and Mark already liked the man, knowing he would be a great addition to the company.  Mark wasn’t worried about his company right now, his focus only on his ex-girlfriend who kept running from him at every turn.

 

What the hell was she doing in Dallas of all places?

 

The way she dressed, Mark knew she worked here and that just astounded him even more, not believing how close she’d been all these years.  He knew what he had to do, even though it was going to be somewhat incriminating, which Mark vowed he would never do again because of his past.  He had to see her again though and corner her, had to find out what the hell happened three years ago to make her leave him.  If she really didn’t want to be with him, Mark wanted to see it in her eyes so he could move on with his life.  This was the closure opportunity he’d been waiting for and nothing was going to stop him from having it, even if he had to do something incriminating.

 

Squaring his shoulders, Mark headed back inside the hospital and went to find Glen. “Hey man, how’s it goin’?” Mark asked, watching Glen finish up the rest of the installation.

 

“Good, I’m done.” Glen smiled, turning around to face his new boss. “Thanks for the opportunity, man.  I think I’m gonna enjoy working for your company.”

 

Mark nodded, his mind occupied on his ex-girlfriend, though Glen didn’t need to know that. “Looks good, I need ya to sign these papers and mail them to me immediately.” Mark handed over a packet of papers, which included the official CSI application along with tax forms and other annoying documents the government required.

 

“Great, I’ll have them done tonight.” Glen promised, placing them in his back pocket securely, knowing Keela would be ecstatic to find out he got the job. “Anythin’ else you need me to do tonight?”

 

“Nope, you’re free to go.  Just make sure to get those papers in, you’ll be paid well.” Mark said, already examining the installation, knowing he would have to test it out to make sure everything worked.

 

At least, that’s what he wanted Glen to think.

 

Glen left shortly after; leaving Mark to look over the installation, though Mark could already tell it was perfect.  He began typing on the main computer that showed him all the employee files, one of the many things his company had access to with every company he installed security for.  Narrowing his eyes, Mark typed in the name Nalani Martin on the screen, watching her picture instantly pop up, which was the same one on her hospital ID badge.

 

It didn’t take long before Mark got what he wanted from the file and printed out a copy on the printer that connected to the main computer.  He folded it up and slipped it in his pocket, logging out of the system with ease.  Steve had taught Mark how to use a computer and it didn’t take long for him to catch on, though Mark flat out refused to have any instant messengers or go on any of those ridiculous websites like Facebook, MySpace or Twitter.  He had one email specifically linked to his company and that was it, though Steve on the other hand was a Twitter nut.

 

“What Austin?” Mark answered his phone on the third vibrate, not wanting to be disturbed during Glen’s tryout.

 

“So Rigamortis, how’d it go?” Steve smirked, sitting on the couch with a can of beer in his hand, his arm wrapped around his beautiful blonde girlfriend. “Did he pass or not?”

 

“Austin, what business is it of yers?” Mark grunted, clearly not amused; though Steve was his best friend and Mark didn’t keep anything from him.

 

Austin snorted, pulling away from the couch as he finished his beer. “Be nice or I won’t tell ya what happened with Bobby’s dumbass.” He threatened good-naturedly; grabbing another can from the fridge.

 

That perked Mark up right away as he walked out of Dallas Memorial, heading toward his Chevy Silverado. “Out with it, what did the asshole do now?” Mark demanded, pulling his keys out, knowing he would have to do some driving around to find out exactly where Nalani lived.  He had her address so it wouldn’t be that hard to find.

 

“Apparently, the jackass decided to get piss poor drunk and drove right into a fence in cow shit.” Steve started laughing hard while his girlfriend went to the bedroom to slip into something more comfortable. “He’s all over the front of the newspaper for tomorrow, Trish made sure of it.”

 

Mark smirked, already knowing Steve was dating Trish Stratus, who worked for the local newspaper and was the anchor woman for the seven o’clock news throughout Houston. “What a fuckin’ dipshit.” Mark chuckled, leaning back against the seat, his mood suddenly lifting a little. “What did the cops charge him with?”

 

“DUI and destruction of property.” Steve wheezed as he set his can of beer down, not wanting to waste it by dropping the damn thing. “I swear, the boys at work all cried they were laughin’ so damn hard.  This happened right after I called to let ya know Bobby was gonna try suin’ the company.”

 

“So he did it in broad daylight?” By now, Mark was roaring with laughter, actually hitting his hand on the steering wheel, his stomach hurting from both hunger pains and laughing too hard.

 

“Needless to say, we won’t have to worry about that jackass gettin’ a lawyer besides savin’ his scrawny ass from a jail cell.” Steve smirked, knowing luck had been on their side, even though Bobby hadn’t technically hurt himself.

 

“Good, listen man it’s been a long fuckin’ day.  I’m on my way to the hotel to get some sleep, I had a hell of a day.” Mark lied smoothly, just needing to get Steve off of the phone so he could find out where Nalani resided, hoping it wouldn’t be hard to find.

 

“Alright man, I’ll keep ya posted on what’s going on.  You comin’ home tomorrow?” Steve asked quickly, his eyes widening at the sight of his girlfriend walking out in a pale blue negligee, making his mouth instantly water.

 

“I’m not sure yet, I’ll keep ya posted.”

 

Mark hung up and tossed his cell phone in the front seat, putting the Silverado in drive before peeling out of the parking lot, knowing he would inform Mitch Danielson on the completion of the installation tomorrow.  He pulled the piece of paper from his front pocket and unfolded it at a red light, nodding at the address crumpled, though it was clear enough to read.  His eyes were peeled for the street to turn on, finally finding it after passing it three times, having to turn around.

 

Nalani had to put given the twins a bath and put them down to sleep with a movie, when a knock sounded at her door,  She wore a simple pair of black and white Mickey Mouse pajama pants with a long Mickey Mouse nightshirt she’d gotten from Wal-Mart.  It had to either be Keela or Kaci, knowing both of those women had the uncanny ability to know when she was upset.  Honestly, all Nalani wanted to do was take a hot bubble bath and slip into dreamland, not in the mood for visitors.  When she opened the door, holding some of the twins’ toys, Nalani suddenly dropped them as her mouth fell open, not believing who stood before her.

 

“Hello Nalani.”

 

Chapter 12

 

“You’ve lost your mind.”

 

Mark simply smirked back at his girlfriend, winking. “Nope, I made the right decision.” He assured her, pulling her into his sweaty arms and kissed her softly. “Now go sit down and relax while we move the rest of your stuff in.”

 

“I can’t believe I’m doing this.” Nalani didn’t care if Mark was drenched in sweat; she just needed to feel his comfort and reassurance, having had serious second thoughts about moving in with him.

 

Then Kaci sat down with her after Mark’s surprise moving in proposal and asked her several questions that cemented the whole deal.  Did Mark make her happy?  Did it hurt whenever Mark wasn’t around and she couldn’t see him?  Did she love him?  Nalani knew she did, but Mark hadn’t told her he loved her yet and didn’t want to press him on it.

 

“Give him time, he probably wants to make sure you feel the same way.  Moving in with him is the right thing to do.  Just think, if it doesn’t work out, you can always come back here.  But sometimes you also have to take risks in order to be happy.” Kaci had said, taking Nalani’s hand in her own, squeezing it. “Move in with him, Nala.”

 

“That’s just it; I do love him and want to be with him, but moving in together after only six months?” Nalani thought it was a bit too soon, though Kaci had moved in with Randy after three months of dating, so six months in Kaci’s eyes was more than enough.

 

“You love him and I know he loves you, he just needs time.  All men need time and if we give it to them, it pays off in the end.”

 

Of course, Nalani thought Kaci had lost her mind as well because the woman was one big ball of love.  Guilt won out in the end because Nalani knew Randy and Kaci wanted the house to themselves without having her there.  She understood it wasn’t just her and Kaci anymore, Randy was a huge part of her best friend’s life; Nalani didn’t want to ruin anything.

 

It was one of the main reasons she agreed to move in with Mark.

 

“Are you okay, darlin’?” Mark asked, pulling back to stare down in those beautiful blue eyes, running his finger down her cheek. “You can talk to me about anythin’, you know that right?”

 

“I know.” Nalani whispered, closing her eyes to relish the feeling of his touch against her face. 

 

She brought her hand up to lace their fingers together and felt Mark wrap his other arm around her waist, their lips instantly meeting in a passionate soul searing kiss.  Nalani melted against him, soft mewls escaping her as they became lost in one another, her feet leaving the ground to wrap her legs around his waist when Mark lifted her.  She loved it when he did that because it made her eye level with him, her arms instantly wrapping around his neck as they stood there in a mean heated lip lock.

 

“Yer drivin’ me insane, darlin’…” Mark growled against her lips, his southern accent very deep and rich, shivers flowing throughout her entire body.

 

“The feeling is more than mutual.” She murmured, rubbing her nose gently against his just as Randy and Kaci walked out of the house, having had their own make out session.

 

“Okay, break is over, let’s get this shit done so I can take my beautiful fiancée home and have my wicked way with her.” Randy smirked when Kaci slapped his arm playfully, grabbing her to kiss her again. “Woman, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll stop the foreplay.”

 

“Then don’t walk around me looking all sweaty and delicious.” Kaci winked, quickly grabbing Nalani’s hand after Mark set her down on the steps.

 

Nalani shook her head, though she couldn’t stop heat from flooding her body when Mark turned those dark green pools on her filled with desire.  They definitely would be christening every part of this house and she couldn’t wait for it, even though they’d had sex at his house several times.  It would be different because it was now their house, not just Mark’s, though Nalani didn’t feel the connection yet.

 

“If you two don’t stop it, you’re going to end up popping another kid.” Nalani stated, causing all of them to laugh, the girls walking in the house to unpack some of Nalani’s things.

 

“I swear that man knows exactly what to do and say to make me weak in the damn knees.” Kaci sighed happily, wearing a simple pair of blue jean shorts with a red form fitting t-shirt that clung to her every curve and white sneakers.  Her beautiful long black hair was pulled up on top of her head to keep it off of her neck. “So what about you and Mark?  Thinking about having some critters of your own?”

 

Nalani rolled her eyes, wearing a simple blue jean skirt with a black tank top, glad the diner gave her the night off tonight so she could move into Mark’s. “Please, you know I don’t want any kids, at least not right now, and I know he feels the same way.  I just want us to be us for awhile, ya know?  I don’t want any other distractions besides work.”

 

“I wish Randy and I would’ve waited, but honestly I wouldn’t regret having Jen for anything in the world.” Kaci said, both of them sitting on the black suede couch before starting to go through boxes with Nalani’s stuff in it.

 

“Leave it packed up.” Nalani stated, moving the box away from Kaci, chewing her bottom lip. “It’s meaningless shit, it can stay packed away in the attic.”

 

Frowning, Kaci turned to face her friend, who was staring down at her lap sadly. “Nala, this is your house too now, you can put your stuff up.” She was a fantastic reader, especially when it came to her best friend. “Nala…”

 

“No, this isn’t my house now.  It doesn’t feel like it.  Isn’t there supposed to be some kind of connection or…I don’t know SOMETHING?” Nalani stood up and raked a hand through her hair in frustration, those second thoughts running rampant in her mind. “He doesn’t need my shit all around his house right now.”

 

Kaci sighed and decided not to argue with her for the time being, though she would be mentioning something to Mark later on. “Okay then, tell me which boxes we CAN unpack.” She requested, causing Nalani to finally smile and pushed a box toward Kaci with clothes in it, taking another one.

 

“I kept most of my stuff in storage because I had the mansion cleaned out.” Nalani spoke quietly, knowing Mark had no idea who she really was and she never wanted him to find out. “Hopefully they’ll be able to sell it soon…”

 

“You honestly think so after what happened in there?” Kaci shivered involuntarily, setting a pair of jeans aside after hanging them up with the many hangers in another box.

 

“Hell I don’t know.” Nalani closed her eyes, trying to push the pain away, still having stabs of it every now and then when it came to her deceased family. “Nicole would’ve been eighteen on Friday…”

 

Kaci glanced over and could already feel the tears building in her eyes, having always considered Nicole a little sister. “I know…” She whispered, not trusting her voice at the moment and both women began crying, holding each other tightly.

 

At that moment, Mark and Randy walked in carrying a huge chest that was going up in their bedroom at the foot of their bed.  Mark had actually taken Nalani shopping to buy a new bed that would be theirs, not just his, and it was a beautiful four poster king sized with a new mattress, box spring, mattress cover, sheets, comforter and pillows.  It was black and brown, neutral colors, and Mark was thankful that Nalani had the same taste he did when it came to decoration.

 

Unbeknownst to Mark, Nalani used to love bright colors until the murders at Kensington mansion.

 

“You two alright?” Mark immediately set the chest down with Randy, each going to their woman, who immediately clung to them for dear life. “What’s goin’ on now?”

 

“K sweetheart, talk to me.” Randy hated seeing Kaci cry because it literally tore him apart, and feeling her tears against his chest didn’t help. “Shhh it’s okay, it’s going to be okay, baby, I promise.”

 

“I’m fine, I’m sorry.” Kaci whispered, wrapping her arms tightly around Randy’s neck, hoping he didn’t push her on the subject in front of Mark. “I’ll tell you about it later.”

 

Randy nodded, not needing to be warned twice, and pulled back to softly kiss her lips.

 

“I think we’re done, the truck is completely unloaded.” Mark said, running his fingers through Nalani’s hair as she continued crying against him, wondering what set her off.  It had to be hormones, maybe the woman was on her monthly…that thought made Mark physically cringe for a split second. “Nalani, are you alright darlin’?”

 

“Yeah, I’m fine.  Sorry about that, we were talking about the past and got choked up about it.” Nalani pulled back to wipe her tears away, glancing over at Kaci, both of them sharing a silent look of understanding. “You two can go on home if you want, Mark and I can handle the rest.”

 

“Really?” Kaci raised an eyebrow before looking up at Randy, the man simply shrugging. “We can stay if you want to help unpack…”

 

“Nope, the unpacking is almost done anyway.  I just need to get that stuff up in the attic.” Nalani smiled and stood up from the couch, grunting when Mark pulled her back in his lap, those tattooed arms wrapping around her waist to prevent her from moving.

 

“What do you mean the unpackin’s almost done?” Mark asked in her ear, causing Nalani to bite her bottom lip, squirming in his arms. “Woman, ya have all those boxes over there to go through…” He pointed to the stack of boxes Nalani started making to go up to the attic, which were mostly her collectibles and trinkets.

 

Nalani shook her head, wondering why this man had to be stubborn all the time. “That stuff doesn’t need to be unpacked, it’s meaningless.” She stated, folding her arms in front of her chest, scowling. “Don’t give me that look, Mark.”

 

Not saying anything at first, Mark looked over at Randy, telling the man silently it was time for them to leave. “Right well…we’ll see you guys later or something.” Randy got the message clearly and pulled his fiancée up from the couch, causing her to blink in surprise. “We need to go get Jenny anyway.”

 

“But Randy…”

 

“They want to be alone, beautiful.  Come on, I know our little one misses us.” He smiled, hoping Kaci didn’t fight him on this, and watched as she reluctantly nodded.

 

“I’ll talk to you later?” Kaci glanced at her best friend, who simply nodded, and walked out with Randy toward the car. “What’s going on?” She demanded as soon as they were out of earshot.

 

“Mark wants to talk to Nalani alone.” Was all Randy said as he slipped into the driver’s seat, Kaci following, though she was worried for her friend.

 

Nalani glanced out the window while Mark still held her in his arms, watching Randy’s car pulled out of the driveway and fly down the road, scowling. “Great, you scared them off.” She muttered, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

 

Mark chuckled softly, burying his face in her neck, inhaling the intoxicating scent. “Nah, they did have to go get Jen, Randy’s been feelin’ guilty lately not spendin’ enough time with her.” He said, though that wasn’t the reason why he wanted Randy and Kaci to leave. “Now what’s this shit about not wantin’ to unpack your stuff, darlin’?  This is your house too, it’s not just mine anymore.”

 

“So you say.” Nalani shot back, closing her eyes as his strong hand began running up and down her side, trying to soothe her. “I don’t feel the connection with this house, Mark.  Until I do, I don’t think it’s necessary to have all of my shit lying around.  It’s mostly trinkets and meaningless junk…”

 

Growling softly, Mark turned Nalani around so she straddled his lap, his arms instantly wrapping around her waist. “This IS your house now; get it through that thick beautiful skull of yers.  This is as much your house as it is mine and I don’t care how long it takes, that connection will come because you belong here with me.” He wasn’t backing down, showing his stubborn side, and kissed her before Nalani could open her mouth to retort.

 

Nalani pulled back when she could no longer breathe, pressing her forehead against Mark’s, trembling slightly with her hands resting on his bare shoulders. “I hope you’re right.” She whispered, her blue eyes staring into his emerald gems, feeling as though her heart might explode.

 

“I know I am because I love you, Nalani.”

 

She completely froze in his arms, her eyes widening to the point where they might’ve fell out of their sockets, staring at him in shock. “W-What?” Nalani stammered out, her mouth hanging open as tears filled her eyes. “Mark…”

 

“I said I love you.” Mark sighed, seeing what those words had done to her, and immediately knew it was too soon. “I’ll understand if ya don’t feel the same way, but I’m a man of action.  I don’t hold much back…”

 

Nalani pressed her finger to his lips, shaking her head and blinked as huge tears cascaded down her cheeks, the biggest smile spreading on her face. “Don’t say another word.” She ordered, cupping his face in her soft hands and kissed him fervently. 

 

Pressing her body against his, a new flood of desire coursed through every part of her.  She poured everything she felt in this one kiss, taking their breath away completely, though Nalani didn’t pull away even after she couldn’t breathe.  Mark finally pulled back out of the kiss, his eyes wide from how much passion and love was in it, staring at his gorgeous girlfriend with pure love in his eyes.  What Mark saw in her darkened smoky blue eyes made him believe even more that he’d done the right thing by asking her to move in with him.

 

“I…I love you too, Mark.” She finally said, breathing heavily, and suddenly that connection to the house overwhelmed her as they kissed again, this time with more hunger and passion. “Take me upstairs.” She pulled back long enough to remove her tank top, leaving her clad in a black lace bra with her skirt riding up her hips. “Take me to our bedroom…”

 

“Whatever you want, darlin…” Mark wasn’t about to deny Nalani anything and lifted her up with ease, groaning when her lips sealed to his neck, loving the feeling of the lace fabric of her bra brushing against his chest. “Damn it, Nalani, if ya don’t stop that we won’t make it…” He growled, pressing her against the wall halfway up the stairs, unsnapping her bra while she reached down to unfasten his jeans. “Sweet fuckin’ Jesus…” He grunted when her small hand reached inside to begin stroking him, stumbling up the stairs somehow without dropping her. 

 

“Take me, Mark, right here…” She nearly cried out from how much lust and ecstasy overtook her body, her back pressed against the bedroom door. “Oh fuck me right against this door…”

 

Eventually they would make it to the bedroom and in that king sized bed, but for right now, Mark simply gave Nalani what she craved.  Their fingers laced together against the door as Mark tore the panties from her body with ease and slid his throbbing shaft between her wet folds, filling her body completely.  Nalani cried out as their sounds of passion flowed throughout the house, Mark pounding her right against their bedroom door like she wanted.

 

Needless to say, no more unpacking was done that night.

 

Chapter 13

 

Neither could believe they were standing face to face, staring in each other’s eyes, after three long years of no contact. 

 

Nalani didn’t know what to think or even say to this man, tears springing to her eyes, not able to pull her gaze away from those emerald green orbs.  They were currently darkened with anger and something else she couldn’t quite pinpoint, but the anger was definitely crystal clear.  Perhaps it was a mixture of hurt and confusion, maybe even bewilderment.

 

She never thought she’d see him again and so many emotions rushed through her, both good and bad.  Though she couldn’t help letting fear overpower them all and it clearly shined in her terrified blue eyes.  All that stood between them was a thin screen door and Mark could easily overpower her if he chose to do so.  Her heart pounded vigorously against her chest, beating a furious tattoo, and Nalani was sure it would give out at any moment because she could hear it in her ears.

 

Mark simply stood there and watched all the emotions cross her face, knowing she was scared to death right now.  He wanted her to feel something because, for the past three years, Mark kept blaming himself for her leaving.  At the very least she did it to his face, but that wasn’t good enough for Mark.  Deep down inside, he knew she didn’t mean a word she said that night.  The heartache and pain that was in her eyes three years ago was there now, which made him believe further that she really didn’t want to leave.

 

There was no more running or hiding and Nalani knew it as she slowly pushed open the screen door, stepping out on the porch.  The twins were falling asleep, she could only pray they stayed in their rooms until Mark was gone, not needing him finding out about them.  Nalani gently closed the front door behind her and let the screen door close as well, the smell of him engulfing her instantly, making her heady.

 

“How did you find me?” She finally managed to ask, voice barely above a whisper.

 

Mark snorted, folding his arms in front of his massive chest, arching a slow eyebrow down at her. “Considerin’ my line of work, it wasn’t that hard gettin’ into the files at the hospital to find out, Nalani.” He answered bluntly, watching her eyes narrow.

 

“You had no right doing that, Mark.” Nalani tried containing the anger that suddenly flooded her body, but refrained for several reasons, two of them currently trying to fall asleep inside the house. “What do you want?”

 

“Closure.” Mark had to step away from her before he did something rational that both of them would probably regret, like kissing her senseless. “I know I shouldn’t be here, but…damn it Nalani, you ran away from me.”

 

“I didn’t run away from you.” Nalani argued, wrapping her arms around herself and had to take a few steps away from him to clear her mind. “I told you I didn’t love you anymore and I had to leave.  I told you face to face how I felt; I didn’t disappear on you or anything.  I didn’t run away from you, I simply left you, Mark.” She had to be cold toward him, no matter how much it ate away at her insides.

 

“You know that’s a load of bullshit, Nalani.” Mark growled, raking a hand through his hair, having pulled it out of the braid he had it in earlier. “There was somethin’ botherin’ you that night, I could see it in your damn eyes as clear as I see it now.  Why do you keep lyin’ to me and yourself?”

 

The tears were teetering on the edge of her lids and Nalani had to do something to make him leave, swallowing hard. “Why can’t you just accept the fact that I don’t want to be with you anymore and move on?” She shot back heartbrokenly, blinking as the tears spilled down her cheeks, not able to stop them.

 

“I’ll accept it when you actually convince me it’s the damn truth.” Mark shot back heatedly; scowling at Nalani’s back turned to him. “Look at me, woman.” He ordered in a lower, deadlier tone, stalking over when she simply shook her head.

 

“Let go of me!” She whimpered softly, not wanting the twins to overhear them, feeling Mark’s hand grip her arm and forcing her to turn around until their eyes met. “Mark, please…”

 

“Tell me you don’t love me.” He challenged, towering over her trembling five foot eight frame, not caring how much he scared her. “Look in my eyes and say it, Nalani.  You didn’t do it that night and you can’t do it now because it’s NOT true!”

 

Nalani cringed, swallowing past the lump in her throat, and managed somehow to yank her arm out of his grasp. “Keep your voice down!” She whispered harshly, more tears falling at the look of confusion crossing his face again. “You need to leave, Mark.”

 

“I’m not goin’ anywhere until we hash this out.” Mark stated, watching her glance back at the front door. “Who the hell is inside that you don’t want me to see?  A lover?  Maybe someone you’re slowly makin’ fall in love with ya just so you can break their heart too?” He didn’t care how cut throat he was being toward her, but the woman had smashed his heart into a million pieces.

 

“No!” She exclaimed, stepping in front of him when Mark went toward the front door, shaking her head. “There’s nobody inside, it’s just me!  Why are you being like this?!” Nalani began to panic, knowing if Mark saw the twins, he would instantly put two and two together.

 

“Then let me inside so we can talk about this more comfortably.” Mark had lowered the octave of his voice, making it even deeper and hypnotizing, those entrancing green eyes devouring her whole. “Come on darlin’, it’s cold out here and ya look chilled to the bone.  Just let me in.” He coaxed, watching her slowly take a step back only for him to take a step forward, until her back hit the screen door, trapping her before him.

 

“You’re not coming in here.” Nalani’s voice shook, but it was still firm, narrowing her eyes at him to slits. “I’m not chilled, it’s beautiful out here and I don’t want to go inside.”

 

An evil chuckle escaped his sensual lips as Mark’s head swept down, his hot breath right on her ear and neck, feeling her tremble more. “Then why are you shakin’?” He asked, placing a hand on her side and Nalani swore it seared her skin right through the thin fabric of her nightshirt.

 

“Mark…” Her tone filled with warning, but the feeling of his man so close to her, his body heat, smell and hot breath made her mind spin. “Please stop…” She wasn’t above pleading and pressed herself further against the screen door, but that didn’t stop Mark’s lips from capturing her soft flesh in his mouth.

 

“Mmm…” He rumbled huskily, having missed her more than he’d ever admit, a soft growl shortly following. “So soft, just as I remember.  Come on Nalani, let me in darlin’ so we can make up for lost time.” He tried coaxing again, smirking when she shook her head against him, trying to fight off the temptation as much as she could.

 

Nalani’s breathing became erratic, her chest rising and falling faster with each breath, but still held her ground.  It was shaking, her entire foundation was crumbling, but Nalani had to fight him tooth and nail.  If she didn’t… “No.” She murmured, shaking her head, trying to break the contact of his lips against her neck. “Mark, I said NO!”

 

She pressed her hands against his chest and, with as much strength as she could muster, pushed him away from her.  It wasn’t much, but it gave Nalani enough space to properly catch her breath, already opening the screen door.  Not wasting a second, Nalani ripped the screen door open, the tears falling even faster than before, but Mark stopped her before she could open the actual door to the house.

 

“Nalani, what are you afraid of?” He demanded somewhat petulantly, not believing how much resolve this woman had inside of her. 

 

Three years ago, it didn’t take much to make Nalani submit to Mark, but now she had a new fire and fight inside of her.  Something was driving her away from him, scaring her, and Mark wished she would just tell him so he could protect her.  Whatever it was, they could work through it, but he could clearly see the love shining in her eyes for him, even if her words said the opposite.

 

Before Nalani could answer him, the front door suddenly opened, causing both heads to snap in the direction. “Momma?” A very soft angelic voice resonated out on the porch, causing Nalani’s eyes to instantly close tightly shut.

 

“I thought I told you to stay in bed, Megan.” Nalani scolded just as softly, the little girl biting her bottom lip, lowering those unmistakable blue eyes to her pink slippers.

 

“I got scared…” Megan whimpered, slowly looking up through the screen at the large man who stared back at her in shock. “Momma, who dat?” She asked, the three year olds curiosity getting the better of her.

 

Nalani had to keep calm as she immediately lifted Megan in her arms, turning around to face Mark reluctantly. “This is my…friend Mark Calaway.  He came in from Houston for a visit and we saw each other at the hospital.  He was just leaving, sweetheart.” She explained, watching as the little girl instantly tucked her head beneath her mother’s chin, putting her finger in her mouth.

 

Mark couldn’t believe what he was seeing and blinked back at Nalani, wondering what the hell was going on.  The little girl had beautiful long auburn curls that framed her angelic face with Nalani’s blue eyes.  No other woman had a shade like that and Mark knew instantly Megan was her daughter.  He went to say something when the screen door pushed open, a young boy stepping out, this time a spitting image of Nalani with honey blonde hair and those same eyes.

 

“Momma, okay?” Matthew immediately went to her side, clinging to her leg while those blue eyes narrowed up at the giant before them.

 

“Yes Matthew, everything’s fine.  This is my friend Mark Calaway.  He was just leaving.” She reiterated to her son, who simply stared back at the man, not believing the little boy’s courage.

 

“Sleepy…” Megan yawned, snuggling into her mother’s shoulder while Matthew continued standing beside her, almost as if protecting his family.  For a three year old, the boy was incredibly bright and aware of his surroundings.

 

“Momma crying.” Matthew grunted, folding his little arms in front of his chest, lips pursed together tightly. “Momma hurt?”

 

“No sweetheart, momma’s just fine.” Nalani smiled down at her protective three year old, bending down to lift him up in her other arm, kissing his forehead. “You two should be in bed, it’s way past your bedtimes.”

 

Matthew sighed and nodded, understanding what his mother said. “Sorry momma.” He muttered, though his eyes still never looked away from the stranger before them.

 

“Sorry mommy.” Megan murmured quietly, already falling asleep against her shoulder, her entire body relaxing which made her heavier to Nalani.

 

Mark could see Nalani struggling and immediately stepped forward, breaking out of his shell shocked state. “Let me take her.” He rumbled, causing Nalani’s eyes to widen slightly. “I won’t hurt her; you can’t carry both of them, darlin’.”

 

Seeing the truth shining in his emerald eyes, Nalani knew Mark was right because Matthew was slowly nodding off himself. “Alright.” She whispered, allowing Mark to lift the little girl in his arms very carefully, tears shining in her eyes. “Come on angels, time to go back to bed.”

 

“M'kay…” Matthew mumbled, Megan already fast asleep against Mark and he blinked when the little girl actually snuggled against him, sighing deeply.

 

“Which room?” Mark whispered, causing Nalani to swallow hard before reluctantly pointing toward the purple painted door, going into the blue painted one that was Matthew’s room.

 

Mark walked inside the room and gently lowered the little girl to the purple comforter, glancing around with a small smile.  The little girl was in love with the color purple apparently, her TV was even purple.  He managed to pull the comforter back before laying her down, covering her up with it, just staring down at the beautiful angel before him.  A wisp of auburn hair fell over her forehead and Mark couldn’t help reaching down to gently move it away, so many emotions flowing through him.

 

How old were these kids and when did Nalani have twins?

 

“Good night, little darlin’.” He rumbled soothingly and slowly backed out of the room, closing the door silently shut.

 

Meanwhile, Matthew wasn’t going down so easily. “Who dat, momma?” He kept asking, frowning when his mother simply smiled at him. “Momma…”

 

“Not tonight buddy, okay?  Momma will talk to you tomorrow about it.”

 

She hoped the little boy forgot, though he had a memory that nearly matched Mark’s, which made her believe that he was the father of the twins.  Nalani would never know though and she had to come up with some kind of story to tell Mark to make him believe these were not his children…without telling the truth.  The truth would ultimately kill him and Nalani didn’t want to relive the horrible ordeal she’d gone through.

 

It wasn’t that horrible because two beautiful angels were possibly born out of it, though it still haunted Nalani’s dreams, turning them into nightmares.

 

“Just go to sleep for mommy, okay?”

 

When Matthew nodded, his eyes already drifting shut, she smiled and kissed his forehead before walking out of the bedroom the same time Mark walked out of Megan’s.  Nalani immediately looked away from him and walked away from the doors, Mark following her in hot pursuit and she could feel it.  His feet were catching up with her as they entered the kitchen, Nalani needing to get some cleaning done without waking the twins.  They were heavy sleepers, which she was thankful for, even when they were infants.

 

“How old are they?” He demanded in a quiet low voice, not wanting to wake the kids up, folding his arms in front of his chest. “What the hell is going on, Nalani?”

 

Nalani could already feel the tears sliding down her cheeks, not able to stop them, and felt weak, which angered her to no avail. “That’s none of your damn business, Mark.” She finally growled, beginning to scrub a pan as hard and fast as she could, wiping her tears away angrily with her sleeve. “Don’t worry, they’re not yours.”

 

That just about cut Mark’s heart completely open, his eyes narrowing to slits and stood right behind her, his hot breath once again on her neck. “What?” He took the sponge from her hand, forcing her to turn around as their eyes locked again. “Woman, you better come clean to me right now before I force the damn truth outta you.”

 

As much as this killed Nalani to say, she had no alternative, remembering what was at stake. “Just what I said, Mark, they’re not yours because I cheated on you three years ago.” Nalani lied, trying to do it as smoothly and convincingly as possible. “That’s why I left you.  I cheated on you with someone else and they’re not yours.”

 

Chapter 14

 

“If you don’t do what I say, so help me god Nalani, I will kill him.”

 

Nalani trembled from head to toe, staring up at her attacker through wide terrified blue eyes, curled up in a tight fetal position.  Blood poured out of her mouth, her cheek completely on fire from being backhanded and she was pretty sure a few of her teeth had been jostled.  Her naked form was covered from head to toe in handprint bruises, cringing when her attacker bent down to brush strands of hair from her face.

 

“Three months, Nally.  Three months you have to leave him or I will come back and finish the job,” He paused briefly, his mouth lowering to hover just above her ear. “Just like I did with your precious slut sister.”

 

Nalani’s eyes shot open when she heard that and caused the tears to fall even harder, covering her face with her hands. “No…” She whispered, crying out when he planted his boot in her abdomen once more, forcing more blood to pour out of her mouth as she coughed violently.

 

“What was that?” He gripped her hair, wrapping the beautiful honey locks in his fingers, deadly blue eyes meeting hers. “I didn’t quite hear you, sugar.  Perhaps you need another reminder of what I’m capable of…” He suggested, already unfastening the belt on his jeans.

 

“NO!  No please don’t!!” She managed to cry out, the pain overflowing every part of her body. “I-I swear I’ll do it!!  I’ll leave him; I’ll never come back if that’s what you want!!  Just don’t kill him!!  D-Don’t hurt another person I love!!”

 

Sadistic laughter poured from his lips as he lowered her back to the floor, releasing her hair, forcing her to curl up once more. “Good girl, you know I still love you right?” When she didn’t react to those words, he growled and kicked her again. “RIGHT?”

 

“Y-Yes…” She stammered out, wishing he would leave already as more tears flowed from her eyes. “P-Please don’t hurt me anymore…”

 

He snorted, tempted to kick her in the head for good measure, but refrained. “Just do what I say and I won’t hurt you, Nally.” He promised, his voice returning to that soft soothing tone, running his finger lightly down her arm. “You were as tight as I remember, baby.  So tight and good, I guess Mark doesn’t have the right equipment to satisfy you, hmmm?”

 

Nalani closed her eyes tightly shut, wanting to tell him to go fuck himself, but honestly she couldn’t handle another blow to the stomach.  Mark fully satisfied her unlike this prick and knew he’d never measure up, no matter how many times he raped her.  His touch made her skin crawl and Nalani felt the chunks already rising in her throat, but she was too weak to move.  If only Mark had been home, he was out of town on business and wouldn’t be back for at least three days.

 

“Not a word to anyone about this, Nally.” Her attacker ordered, those cold blue eyes piercing down at her deadly. “If you do, I’ll find out about it and I’ll come back to finish both of you off.” He promised, already backing away out the door, having raped the woman in her own bed.

 

“I-I won’t t-tell anyone…” She stammered out in her own promise and hoped he was leaving now, her entire body sore from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. 

 

“Good girl, goodbye Nally, I love you.” Were the last words she heard, followed by the front door slamming shut and a car peeling out of the driveway.

 

Clumps of his auburn red hair were tangled in her fingers from fighting him off, but it was no use.  He was much stronger than her and Nalani had been defenseless, having fought him off as hard as she could.  She gave him a black eye and ended up getting one in return along with being raped repeatedly.  Nalani lost count how many positions he forced her into, how many times he forced her to release against him, even as she screamed no.

 

It was no use though; he’d gotten what he wanted.

 

Now he was threatening Mark’s life if she didn’t leave within three months.

 

Nalani didn’t know how long she was on the floor of the bedroom curled up, but eventually she’d passed out from pure exhaustion.  It was the middle of the night when Nalani’s eyes slowly fluttered open, every part of her body exploding with pain, fresh tears instantly sliding down her cheeks.  She could barely move, every limb stiff, and knew she’d missed her shift at the diner along with probably several phone calls from Mark. 

 

Groaning loudly, Nalani crawled on the carpet, using her elbows for leverage, her legs immobile at the moment.  It took her ten minutes to reach the bathroom and another ten before she started the bath water.  She smelled like her attacker and it made her physically sick, Nalani barely making it to the toilet before vomiting violently.  Her entire body shook from head to toe as hot tears poured from her eyes, Nalani staying there until absolutely nothing was left in her stomach, dry heaving a few times.

 

How the hell could she allow her ex-boyfriend to rape her in the bed her and Mark made love in?

 

“Mark…” Nalani sobbed, wishing he was there to stop the attack, and felt helpless as she managed to move to the tub, shutting the water off.

 

Somehow, someway, Nalani pulled herself into the tub, crying out in sheer agony at the pure hot water.  The throbbing between her legs wasn’t ceasing, but Nalani didn’t care.  All she wanted to do was scrub his fingerprints and touch off of her body, grabbing the loofah sponge and proceeded to scrub her skin as hard and fast as she could.  Nalani cried her heart out as she cleaned herself, knowing Mark wouldn’t be able to touch her for at least a month due to how thick and deep the bruises were. 

 

Some vessels were even broken, especially the one under her eye.  She would need to use a lot of makeup to cover them up and knew Mark had a special salve he used whenever he had deep bruises he had to get rid of.  She’d use some of that; most of them would be gone hopefully by the time he arrived home.  Nalani knew Mark would think something  was wrong, but honestly she didn’t care, knowing she had to break his heart and leave the man she loved or he would be dead just like her sister and father.

 

The same monster who raped her had been the same one to take both of their lives and raped Nicole.

 

“Why?” Nalani had kept screaming at him while her clothes had been ripped from her body, strewn all over the room. “WHY DID YOU KILL THEM?!”

 

“BECAUSE I CAN, THAT’S WHY!!” He roared back and backhanded her hard; the hunger in his eyes scaring Nalani more than anything, and that was the first of many backhands he had delivered.

 

Those words echoed in Nalani’s mind, forcing her to grab her head and rocked back and forth in the tub, trying to rid herself of the horrific memory, but it kept coming.

 

“Do you know why that precious Calaway wanted you, Nally, huh?” He growled in her ear while penetrating her body repeatedly, raping her from behind while his fingers buried in her honey locks. “It’s because he was in on it.  Oh yeah, oh fuck here it comes…He was in on the whole deal, Nally baby.  He wanted that money just as much as we did!  You see, we have a history and…oh fuck yeah, goddamn you’re so tight…he used to be a criminal, just like me.  He used to rape innocent women and took what he wanted; he was in the crew just like me!!”

 

“NO!!  YOU’RE LYING!!” Nalani screamed out, raking her nails on the bedding while trying to crawl away from him, but he kept pulling her back as the thrusting became harder and faster. “MARK WOULD NEVER DO THAT!!”

 

“YES HE DID, SHUT THE FUCK UP!” He slammed her head face first into the bedding while continuing to thrust in and out of her unwilling body, taking what he wanted. “Damn I never thought I’d feel this tight pussy around me again, goddamn you feel so good around me, Nally…”

 

“MARK!!” She screamed out, shaking her head as another orgasm rippled throughout her body, which killed her because her body had succumbed to this monster. “NO!!!”

 

“Oh yeah…YES!!” He growled out animalistically, not stopping as he continued riding out her orgasm, just wanting to feel her release repeatedly against him until he could go no longer. “He wanted your sister’s pussy and took it just like I did and the rest of the guys.  He was in on it, he was there that night.  He knows all about who you really are, even as you tried hiding it from him, baby.  And now he’s off trying to cover his tracks, trying to track me down after you told him what happened that night at the mansion.  He knows everything; he’s not stupid by any means, Nally.” The lies poured out of his mouth so smoothly that Nalani couldn’t help starting to believe him, sobbing violently through heavy breathing while being continuously raped.

 

“STOP IT, SCOTT!!”

 

Nalani snapped her head up and stared straight ahead at the wall, her entire body shaking as the memory of what her ex-boyfriend and attacker told her.  Mark knew all about the Kensington murder and knew it was her sister and father?  Was he really in on it?  Did he actually rape her sister like Scott said, getting a piece?  Nalani couldn’t take it anymore and screamed at the top of her lungs, the sound reverberating off of the bathroom walls.

 

The memory of Nalani’s confession flowed through her mind from the previous night and she couldn’t stop it, forcing her to relive the agony all over again…

 

~!~

 

“Mark, I need to talk to you about something.” Nalani said the previous evening, walking into the den as the fireplace crackled, knowing Mark was incredibly busy with work lately. “It’s important.”

 

Mark looked up from his paperwork and slowly trailed his eyes down her beautiful body clad in just a black nightgown.  He nodded, seeing the seriousness in his girlfriend’s eyes, and stood up from his chair to walk over to her. “Everythin’ alright, darlin’?” He asked, running a finger down her cheek, pure concern in his green eyes, the firelight reflecting off of them.

 

Tears formed in her eyes as Nalani shook her head, simply taking his hand lacing their fingers together. “Let’s go outside to talk, I need some air.”

 

Mark didn’t deny Nalani much and let her lead him out of the study toward the back porch, the sun having set on the horizon, painting the sky with different colors.  She released his hand and walked over, leaning over the ledge, staring straight ahead as tears began pouring down her face.  He could feel the pain radiating from her small body and walked over, wrapping his strong tattooed covered arms around her waist, pressing her back against his chest.

 

“Whatever it is, Nalani, we can work through it.” He assured her, resting his chin on top of her head, knowing whatever Nalani said wouldn’t change how he felt about her.

 

“It’s not about us.” Sniffling, Nalani leaned back against his chest as the comfort washed over her, her arms resting on top of his. “It’s about my past.” They’d been together for two years and Nalani knew it was finally time to come clean to him. “I can’t keep this hidden from you anymore, Mark.”

 

He didn’t say one single word, knowing Nalani had a past that she refused to talk about with him…until now.

 

“My name is Nalani Olivia Kensington-Martin.” She announced, feeling him tense behind her instantly, and slowly turned around to look up in those unreadable green eyes. “The murders that happened at the Kensington mansion three years ago were my family…”

 

The amount of guilt and sorrow in her eyes tore at Mark’s heart, though he still refused to say anything.

 

“My baby sister, Nicole, was brutally raped and murdered alongside our father, Michael Kensington.  The mansion was robbed and all the security guards had been killed.  There were too many of them…” Nalani covered her mouth with her hand, turning away from him as more tears fell. “I wasn’t there or I would’ve been killed too.  I actually got into a fight with my father the night before they were viciously attacked, I was staying with Kaci.  My father wanted me to…to marry my ex-boyfriend, Scott Mitchell.” She didn’t see the look in Mark’s eyes because her back was turned to him, wiping her tears away. “He was a volatile man, vicious and cruel.  I dated him for awhile and actually fell in love with him, but that all ended when I found video tapes in his apartment of him screwing other women.  The dates were on them and he had a whole library full of them, boxes upon boxes.  I watched maybe two and ended my relationship with him because I knew right then he knew exactly who I was and what he was after.  My family’s fortune.”

 

Mark couldn’t believe what he was hearing and walked over, wrapping his arms around her tighter than normal, knowing she needed it as she began crying harder. “It’s alright darlin’, I’m here and I’ll never hurt ya.” He promised, his mouth right by her ear, hoping she believed that.

 

“Even though you know who I really am?” She asked, slowly feeling her body being turned into their eyes locked together.

 

“I love you, Nalani, no matter where you come from.” He ran the pad of his thumb across her soft lips, smiling to show her he wasn’t walking away. “Darlin’, nothin’ you do or say will scare me away, you gotta believe that.”

 

“My father…disowned me that night because I refused Scott’s marriage proposal.  I left my family and went to stay with Kaci and, a few days later, I wake up only to find out my entire family was murdered.  My sister was only seventeen, Mark…seventeen…” Nalani dropped to her knees and sobbed, Mark lowering himself down with her, holding her as tight as he could without hurting her.

 

If Nalani only knew what Mark did, she would’ve run as far away from him as possible…

 

~!~

 

Breaking out of that memory, Nalani climbed out of the tub and winced because her entire body throbbed from the scalding hot bath.  Her skin was beat red from how much she scrubbed, the bruises looking like dark black polka dots against her skin.  Swallowing hard, Nalani wrapped herself in a towel and stumbled out of the bathroom, though she wouldn’t go near the bed.  Instead, Nalani made her way out of the bedroom door and down the hall to one of the spare bedrooms, trying not to knock anything down.  She was in so much pain and all Nalani wanted was rest.

 

As soon as she collapsed on the fresh clean bed, the darkness quickly overtook her once more.

 

Chapter 15

 

“You’re lyin’.”

 

Nalani’s eyes widened, expecting a much more enraged reaction from her ex. 

 

She just told him she cheated on him and he was standing there, his arms folded in front of his chest, looking completely calm, cool and collected!  Mark had officially lost his mind, there was no other explanation, and Nalani refused to get into this with him.  If he didn’t want to believe her, –it was a blatant lie, but Nalani had no choice- then that was his problem as she turned back around to continue doing the dishes.

 

“You can’t even look at me, Nalani, so what makes you think I’m gonna believe that shit ya just spewed at me?” Mark demanded, standing right behind her now, his arms on either side of hers. 

 

He could feel her trembling and frowned, wondering what the hell had driven her away from him three years ago.  It went deeper than the twins, deeper than her supposedly cheating on him…something happened and Mark was tired of being kept in the dark.  His hands gripped the sink and Mark closed his eyes, knowing he was only torturing himself by doing this, not able to help it.  Her scent drove him insane; all Mark wanted to do was spin her around, take her in his arms and kiss the breath right out of her.  He loved this woman with everything inside of him and she’d torn his heart out, put it in a blender and served it to him on the rocks.

 

“I want the truth.”

 

“I gave you the truth.” Her voice grew cold and distant, Nalani setting another dish in the strainer. “It’s not my fault if you can’t face it, Mark.”

 

Mark sighed heavily, his nose mere inches from her soft hair. “Why do ya insist on lyin’ to me, Nalani?” His voice had dropped an octave, a huskiness seeping through. “Somethin’ is making you do it and you’re gonna tell me what it is or I’m not leaving.”

 

Closing her eyes tightly shut, Nalani blocked the tears from filling her eyes, wondering what it was going to take to push Mark away.  How could she hurt the man she’d secretly longed to be with again for the past three years?  That she’d stayed up night after night apologizing for what she’d done to him, knowing he was in pain.  She didn’t know if he was the father of the twins and that nearly killed her, but Nalani also had to protect Mark.

 

If you don’t do what I say, I swear to god Nalani, I will kill him.

 

“You weren’t there for me.” Nalani had to create space between them and tried moving, but Mark had her literally pinned against the counter. “I went out one night, brought a guy back to the house, and had my wicked way with him in our bed.  I fucked him for hours on end and then sent him packing.  When I found out I was pregnant, that’s when I decided to leave because I didn’t want you finding out about my infidelity.” The whole time Nalani stared out the kitchen window while she spewed those lies and vicious words to him, tears threatening to spill from her eyes. “Now leave.”

 

Mark wasn’t buying any of that because one, Nalani had too big of a heart to ever cheat on him and two, he knew this woman better than she thought.  She trembled the entire time she talked about it instead of standing there stiff with no feeling.  He could feel the fear pouring from her, could hear the shakiness in her voice, and knew she was slowly crumbling under pressure.

 

“You’re lyin’ through your damn teeth, woman.” He growled, suddenly spinning her around to face her and lifted her up by her waist, setting her on the counter away from the sink.  His suspicions were confirmed at the tears he saw glistening in her eyes, his own green orbs narrowing slightly, boxing her in again. “You never were good at lyin’, Nalani, not even the night you left me.”

 

“W-What are you talking about?” She swallowed hard at the intense look in his eyes, trying to back away, but her cabinets prevented her from doing so. “Mark…”

 

Sighing, Mark fought with himself to just shut her up and force the truth out of her with his own wicked ways.  Nalani wasn’t wicked by any means; she did have a mean streak to her, but also a heart of pure gold.  He knew she was lying to him; Mark wasn’t a stupid man by any means, especially with opening his own security company.  He was highly intelligent and could only stare down at her with those fern green eyes, not saying a single word.

 

She closed her eyes to try to block out that stare, looking away from him, and a felt a few tears spill from her eyes.  He grabbed her chin, forcing her to look back at him as her eyes opened, all the love and pain shining through.  Nalani hitched in a breath when the pad of his thumb gently wiped them away before moving to her trembling bottom lip, that intense look increasing on Mark’s face.  If she didn’t do something soon, Nalani was going to end up spilling everything to him and that simply could not happen.

 

“Don’t touch me.” She whispered, pushing away from him, the distant once again seeping through. “I’ve told you the truth and it’s not my problem if you don’t believe me.”

 

“I still love you, Nalani.” Mark stated, not afraid to admit that to the woman sitting before him, his other half. “I’m not givin’ you up, I lost you once because of my own stupidity, but I’ll be damned if it happens again.  I don’t care how long it takes; I’ll move to Dallas and follow you wherever you go until you finally tell me what the hell is goin’ on and why you keep runnin’ from me.”

 

“You’ll be waiting forever then.” Nalani was already planning on moving from Dallas, more tears falling because that meant her children would have to suffer for it. 

 

Why couldn’t Mark just stay away?  Why did it have to be HIS security company to install new equipment into the hospital?  Was it fate’s way of kicking her in the ass to tell her that she really did belong with Mark?  Maybe she should tell him the truth…

 

‘NO!  You can’t tell him, remember what Scott said!  He’ll kill Mark, is that what you want?  You’ll get the man you love more than anything killed if you don’t continue pushing him away, you selfish moron!!’ Her brain berated her, causing Nalani’s head to drop, no longer able to stare in those green eyes. “I don’t love you anymore, Mark.” Those words nearly crumbled her and, with as much strength as she had left, Nalani managed to push him away from her as she slid from the counter, shaking. “You need to leave now.  I’m done talking to you about this.”

 

Scowling, knowing she was going to be stubborn about this, Mark stalked after her. “Who is the father?” He demanded, causing her to freeze in her tracks. “How old are they Nalani?  How old are those kids that you claim aren’t mine?” His voice had changed to a dark timbre, watching her tense. “Who did you fuck in our bed while I was away?”

 

“It’s none of your business; I’m not answering any of those questions.” Nalani knew she was treading on thin ice and started cleaning up the living room, trying to will the tears to stop.

 

“Then prove to me you’re tellin’ me the truth.” He challenged, watching her freeze once more, a slow smirk full of sadness spreading on his lips. “If you say you cheated on me and those kids aren’t mine, then I want proof.”

 

Nalani’s stomach twisted violently, her eyes widening to the point where they might’ve fell out of her head. “W-What are you…what….?” She stumbled over her words, wondering if he was serious.

 

“What I’m sayin’ is that if you want me to truly believe that you cheated on me, fucked someone else in our bed, then you won’t mind having the twins take a DNA test.” Mark threw down the gauntlet and watched as all the color drained from Nalani’s face, wondering if she would actually pass out in front of him.

 

That was definitely not something Nalani expected to hear from Mark and blinked at him repeatedly, trying to gather her wits. “Y-You want a paternity test?” She whispered, not trusting her voice at the moment.

 

“Yes, I need to know one way or another if those kids are mine.” Mark wasn’t backing down, daring her to back down from his challenge. “Prove to me they’re not mine; prove to me you’re tellin’ me the truth.”

 

Nalani felt sick to her stomach, not knowing what to do because there was indeed a fifty perfect chance they were his.  Nalani honestly couldn’t tell because of their features.  Scott had red hair and blue eyes, while Mark had red hair and green eyes, though right now it was raven black.  Megan had the red auburn hair with blue eyes while Matthew looked the spitting image of Nalani.  She couldn’t tell if Mark was the father or not, which tore her apart because Nalani secretly wished he was.

 

“I won’t subject my children to that.” She finally said and walked into the living room to continue picking things up. “They’re not yours, there’s no reason for me to prove anything to you because I know and that’s all that matters.”

 

“Really?” Mark raised a slow eyebrow, following her every move. “That just proves to me you are lyin’ about what happened.  You never cheated on me, Nalani.  I would’ve known it because I’ve been fucked around on before.  You had fear in your eyes when you left that night, woman!  So stop lyin’ to me and lyin’ to yourself, those kids are mine!” Deep in his heart, he knew they were, especially when he tucked the beautiful auburn red headed angel in her bed.

 

“No they’re not.” She gritted out, tightening her jaw and suddenly needed a heavy drink. “You need to get it through that stubborn thick head of yours that I’m not as perfect as you think!” Nalani knew raising their voices would only wake the twins up and she didn’t want that to happen. “My kids are sleeping and you need to leave, I have work in the morning.”

 

Stalking over, Mark closed the distance between them and grabbed her upper arms, forcing her to struggle against him. “Stop fightin’ me!” He whispered harshly, his eyes locking with hers again. “You either agree to a paternity test willingly or I’ll force it…” He was dead serious, his eyes shining with hidden anger, though the pressure on her arms wasn’t enough to hurt her. “You love me, I can see it, but somethin’ is holdin’ you back and I want to know what it is.  I deserve at least that much after what you put me through for the past three years.”

 

No matter how much she wanted to fight him, Nalani knew Mark was right and felt the tears slide down her cheeks, all the guilt she’d been feeling for the past few years increasing tenfold. “I don’t love you.” She whispered painfully, swallowing down her sobs. ‘I CAN’T love you.’ Nalani added mentally and broke free of his grasp, her knees giving out when he simply pulled her back against him, holding her up with ease. “Mark, please, you have to let me go…”

 

“Why?” He demanded gruffly, lowering himself on the couch and pulled her into his lap, wrapping those strong tattooed sleeved arms around her trembling body. “Why do I have to let you go, Nalani?  Tell me what happened.” He groaned when she shifted on his lap, trying to get away from him. “Stop.” It was a mere whisper in her ear, his arms tightening even more around her.

 

“NO!” Nalani lashed out and struggled as hard as she possibly could, trying to get away from him. “No!  I’m not talking about this, I told you the truth now let me go!!” She was panicking and Mark could see it, but he still refused to let her go, clamping a hand over her mouth.

 

A flashback hit Nalani with Scott’s hand covering her mouth while slamming in and out of her body, trying to fight him of as much as she could. “This’ll feel good Nally baby, I promise.” He kept whispering in her ear, loving to hear her screams of protest against his hand.  All she kept screaming for was Mark and wished she hadn’t opened the door; wished Mark wouldn’t have left her so abruptly for business…

 

“Mark!!” She screamed against his palm, muffling them, her eyes squeezed tightly shut as the flashback overtook her completely, not seeing the look of shock cross Mark’s face.  Nalani slowly opened her eyes, those bewildered green eyes staring back at her becoming Nalani’s undoing. “Mark…” She sobbed violently against him, burying her face in her hands, every part of her body trembling so hard, her teeth chattered. “Y-You have to leave…”

 

“I’m not going anywhere.” Especially after that lash out, Mark flat out refused to leave her alone with the twins, knowing she was emotionally unstable.

 

“P-Please…” She stammered out through sobs, slumping against him as her head rested on his shoulder, her face completely tear streaked from crying so hard. “It’s for your-” His finger pressed against her lips, silencing her, and Nalani didn’t have any more fight left in her at that moment.

 

Mark had no idea what happened to Nalani, wishing she would confide in him with the truth…like she had in telling him she was really a Kensington.  He simply held her close, rubbing her back and ran his fingers through her hair, trying to soothe her as she continued crying against him.  Her tears broke his heart, but Mark was just glad she was alive and well, that he’d finally found her again.

 

He still couldn’t believe she lived in Dallas, wondering why the private investigator he hired couldn’t track her down.  Perhaps she hadn’t moved to Dallas right away or…hell he didn’t know.  He didn’t care.  She was back in his life again and Mark wasn’t letting her go this time, not without a fight.  She didn’t cheat on him; Nalani was in physical and emotional pain, the way she trembled against him dispensing pure fear.

 

“I love you.” He whispered in her ear, pressing a soft kiss to the side of her throat, the feeling of his goatee lightly scratching her skin causing Nalani to do a full body shiver against him. “And I know you love me too.  Whatever happened, we can work through it, but you have to be honest with me.  You have to tell me what’s going on, darlin’.”

 

“I…” Nalani began to say something and trailed off, her eyes suddenly closing as she slumped against him, passing out from exhaustion.

 

Mark sighed and kissed the top of her head, knowing they would talk more in the morning.  He stood up and carried her out of the living room toward what he knew was her bedroom, gently laying her down on it.  Mark stared at his beautiful ex-girlfriend and closed his eyes, her scent completely devouring him. 

 

He was ready to leave and walk out the door, but instead, Mark knew he couldn’t do it.  Instead, he peeled off his shirt and jeans, along with his boots, and slipped into the bed beside her, hearing her even breathing.  Pulling her into his strong massive arms, Mark buried his face in her neck, draping a huge thigh over her and smiled when she immediately turned to bury her face in his chest, snuggling.

 

What she said next would make him fight even harder for her.

 

“I love you, Mark, please forgive me.” She whispered in her sleep, like she did every night, the warmth enveloping her whole.

 

Closing his eyes, Mark tightened his hold on her, knowing when Nalani woke up in the morning, it was time to stop running and tell him the truth.

 

Chapter 16

 

Shortly after Nalani revealed her secret to him, Mark left for three days.

 

“I’m goin’ out of town for a few days, got some business to handle.” Mark had said, packing a bag with just a pair of jeans and a shirt, trying to push the anger away.

 

“I-Is everything alright?” Nalani had asked, walking over to touch his arm, her blue eyes pleading with him to tell her what was going on. “Mark…”

 

He pressed his finger to her lips and replaced it with his lips, softly kissing her. “I’ll be back in three days, I promise.” He rumbled, caressing her cheek with the back of his hand. “I love you, darlin’.”

 

“I love you too, please be careful.” She whispered, leaning into his touch, and pulled him down for another heart stopping kiss, not wanting to be alone. “Hurry back.”

 

“You can count on it.” He murmured, pecking her lips one final time before walking out of the bedroom with his bag in hand, knowing he had to do this.

 

Mark couldn’t believe Nalani’s family, the woman he wanted to be with for the rest of his life, had been the ones who were murdered at the hands of the crew.  He knew Steve, Kevin and Cena had nothing to do with it because they’d both been together that night the news reported about the Kensington murders.  He had to find Scott and put this to an end once and for all, wanting justice for Nalani’s family.

 

Nalani could only watch him out the window, not realizing a pair of ice cold blue eyes were watching her every move.

 

Neither did Mark.

 

Mark had gotten a hold of a close personal friend named Bill, who was a retired private investigator.  He owned a funeral home in downtown Houston, though Mark knew the man would help him out with this.  Before starting CSI, Mark had worked at Bill’s funeral home when he was much younger, back in his high school days, even before getting involved with the crew, having a fascination with death. 

 

Bill showed him the ropes, mildly surprised that a young man would want to actually dig graves and work with the dead, but Mark proved to be quite a helper.  He was a big guy so lifting heavy caskets and whatnot actually helped Bill out tremendously.  Mark worked for him for around five years before suddenly quitting out of the blue, saying he was pursuing something more challenging.  Bill was actually thinking of making Mark a bigger part of the business, but the man had walked away before he even had a chance to offer it.

 

Pulling up to Moody’s Funeral Services, Mark cut the ignition and dismounted the bike, looking up at the building through dark shades.  His long black leather trench coat flowed behind him as he headed up the stairs toward the front doors.  To strangers and onlookers, Mark was an intimidating presence, standing at six foot ten, clad in black skintight jeans and a sleeveless buttoned up black shirt.  His hair was pulled back in a tight braid, a bandana wrapped around his forehead and black fingerless leather gloves covered his huge hands.

 

Before his hand could even reach up to knock, the doors flung open and there stood Bill, Mark’s long time mentor. “I was wonderin’ when you’d show up.  C’mon in, Deadman.” He chuckled, having given Mark that nickname shortly after he started working at the funeral home.

 

Mark couldn’t help chuckling as well, stepping inside as the door closed behind him, following Bill toward his study. “How are you, Bill?” He asked as they walked, a lot of memories flowing over Mark from when he was younger.

 

“I’m fine, a little on the heavy side as always.” Bill joked wholeheartedly, having never been ashamed of his weight. “Want somethin’ to drink?”

 

“No thank you.” Mark rumbled, lowering himself on the couch, while Bill took his usual spot near the crackling fire in his huge leather recliner. “You know why I’m here.”

 

Sighing gently, Bill nodded as he reached over on his coffee table, procuring a manila folder. “I’ve found some information, but not a lot.” He admitted, hoping it was enough for his long time friend. “I found out where three out of the four men are that you’re searchin’ for, Deadman.”

 

Without preamble, Mark reached over and took the folder, immediately flipping through the contents.  Bill had found out where Brad, Nick and Jack were, but nothing about the one man he really wanted to find…Scott Mitchell.  That didn’t mean Mark was going to give up, he was a man on a mission and it clearly showed in his eyes.  Bill had done what he could and Mark was very grateful, smiling at his mentor.

 

“Whatever trouble you’re in, Mark…”

 

“I’m not in any trouble, Bill, I assure you.” Mark quickly stopped the old man, not wanting him to worry, frowning slightly because Bill was getting up there in age. “I just gotta track them down and get some information on Scott Mitchell.”

 

Bill sighed wearily, not liking the sound of that. “Mark,” He paused, wondering how to say this and stood up from the recliner. “Just be careful, son.”

 

He nodded, patting Bill’s shoulder gently. “I will, I’m not gonna hurt him or anythin’.  I just need to find some things out.” He lied smoothly, fully planning on killing Scott and burying his body six feet under for killing Nalani’s family.  Of course, Bill didn’t need to know that. “Take care of yourself, old timer.”

 

“You too Deadman, you too.” Bill watched as Mark walked out of the study, closing his eyes as the doors shut and stared into the fire.

 

Revving his motorcycle, Mark peeled out of there with the manila folder in his saddlebag, having the first address in mind.  Bradley Silverman wasn’t really a friend, though Mark knew he and Scott were incredibly close and he would find out what he needed to know.  Nick currently lived in San Antonio, which was a little over three hours away from Houston.  Mark was ready for a long ride, knowing Brad probably wouldn’t welcome him with open arms, but he honestly didn’t care.

 

He had to know what happened that night at the Kensington mansion and who ultimately was responsible for the rape and deaths of Nalani’s family.

 

~!~

 

Brad chuckled as he ran his hand up the length of his flavor of the week’s leg, groaning at how soft her skin was.  Mallory was her name, though Brad had no idea what her last name was, not caring.  She was here to satisfy him, to make him feel good and always did a fantastic job, which is why he paid her well. 

 

“Oh yeah…that’s it baby, fight it…”

 

While Brad’s rape fantasy was coming alive, the door suddenly swung open, having been kicked off its hinges, a real frightened scream emanating from Mallory. “WHAT THE FUCK?” Brad shouted, hopping off of her in seconds, though she knew better then to move from that spot. “Hey asshole, you wanna have your goddamn brains blown outta your head?”

 

“If you shoot me, Brad,” A deep dark voice sounded, the tall figure shrouded in darkness as the rain poured heavily outside, lightning streaking across the sky. “You better pray you don’t miss.”

 

Brad instantly lowered his gun he grabbed off of the coffee table, his eyes almost shooting out of their sockets. “Leave now.” He ordered, tossing a few hundred dollar bills at Mallory, who blinked up at him.

 

“Master?”

 

“NOW Mallory.” He ordered gravely, the woman scrambling off of the couch to pull her skirt on, if it could even be called that.

 

Mallory fluttered her long lashes as she sauntered past the dark figure, his smell causing her to sigh almost wistfully. “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?” She purred, suddenly reaching out to run a single nail down the man’s chest. “We could have a ménage à trios?” She suggested seductively, gasping when the dark figure wrapped his hand around her tiny wrist, bringing her to her knees.

 

“I suggest you don’t touch me unless you want your fingers broken one by one, slut.” He growled, causing her eyes to shoot open as fear consumed them, her body trembling slightly. “Now do what your…master…says and get the fuck out.” He then tossed her bodily out the door, slamming it shut with authority.

 

Anyone else who would’ve done that to his property would’ve had a bullet in their head, but this wasn’t an ordinary man. “Mark.” He walked over; naked as the day he was born and flipped the lamp light on, staring back at his friend from long ago.

 

He nodded once, folding his massive arms in front of his chest. “Put some damn clothes on, this isn’t a social visit, Brad.” He ordered, walking over to lower himself on a nearby chair, deciding to keep his leather trench coat on.

 

Brad did as he was told and pulled on a shirt and jeans, left unbuttoned, fully intending to call Mallory when Mark left. “It’s been a long time…” He trailed off, not knowing what else to say to this man.

 

“I know and I’m glad for it.” Mark stated, no remorse in his voice and leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees. “We need to talk about the last robbery you ever did.” He watched the color slowly begin draining from Brad’s face, his jaw tightening. “You enjoy raping women, possibly young girls, and using them to fulfill sick fantasies eh?”

 

“Look man, I don’t know what the fuck your deal is, but you need to get to the point.” Brad stated, no longer backing down from Mark, even though deep down he was deathly afraid of him and always had been. “What do you wanna know?”

 

Mark leaned back against the recliner, stroking his goatee thoughtfully. “The Kensington mansion.” He watched as Brad picked up his beer and took a long swig out of it, simply arching an eyebrow. “What happened that night?  I thought the crew just wanted money, not to murder innocent people.”

 

“It’s not like that, Mark.” Brad said in a quieter voice, lowering his eyes from his former friend. “I haven’t thought about that night in nearly three years…”

 

Snorting, Mark stood up from the recliner to grab a beer out of the fridge, daring Brad to stop him from doing so. “Time to open up that chapter, boy.  I want to know what happened and why a seventeen year old girl was raped and murdered along with her father.” He walked back over and settled in the recliner, cracking open the can.

 

Brad felt sick to his stomach, having vowed to never talk about what happened that night again, but Mark seemed adamant about it. “You’re not wearin’ a wire, right?” He suddenly asked, eyes narrowed and watched as Mark opened his trench coat to reveal absolutely nothing, his shirt fully unbuttoned. 

 

When Brad wasn’t satisfied, Mark proceeded to drop his pants, showing the insides of them along with his boots, everywhere that Brad could’ve possibly thought a wire was planted.  Mark went commando, so there was no boxers or briefs to look into, which Brad was thankful for.  It was bad enough he man was standing stark naked in front of him while Brad inspected the clothes, finally tossing them back to the ex-crew member.

 

“Satisfied?” When Brad nodded, Mark quickly redressed and sat back down for a third time, his beer once again in hand. “Now talk.”

 

“Scott was a madman that night, Mark.  I’ve never seen him so pissed off in my life.  He kept muttering how he was going to make that little bitch pay…” Brad swallowed hard, looking out the window and closed his eyes briefly as the memories of that night flowed over him. “I was dating Nicole Kensington at the time, the seventeen year old girl.  Scott had just broken up with her older sister, but I can’t remember her name.  I met her once, when Nicole brought me to the mansion to introduce me to her father, Michael.  That’s when I figured out the whole thing was a setup for Scott to exact revenge on his ex’s family.  I couldn’t do anything; Scott pulled me aside and threatened that he would end me if I said a word to anyone.  We were best friends and I didn’t think anything of it, I thought he was just going to rob them as part of his revenge scheme.  But I was very wrong…”

 

“Go on.” Mark ordered, his eyes narrowed, knowing exactly who that older sister was.

 

Brad sighed and held his hand up in a one moment gesture, walking over to grab a bottle of Jack Daniels, needing something harder. “He planned it all out to make it seem like he didn’t know the people in the mansion, but I knew better.  I swear to fuckin’ god I had no idea what he was planning that night…” He set the glass down and poured himself another shot, tears stinging his eyes. “He was pissed that you, Steve, Kev and John backed out of the deal, but that it was still gonna happen.  So we went to the mansion after I knew Nicole would be in bed.  I actually called her a few hours prior and talked to her, promising her everything would be alright…”

 

Mark could tell the man wanted to breakdown and simply sat there in silence, waiting for him to continue.

 

“We broke into the mansion after using the code Nicole gave me to the main gate and it was easy from there.  Michael had a very bad habit of leaving the mansion unlocked because the gates were tall enough to supposedly keep intruders out.” He actually snorted bitterly, slamming down another shot. “Scott killed the guards and butler, ordering Nick and Jack to take care of the maids quietly.  He didn’t want to wake Michael right away and started searching for the jewels and anything of value.  The place was huge so Michael didn’t hear anything that was going on, but when Scott killed those guards, I knew something instantly wasn’t right.  I followed him reluctantly upstairs and stopped him, demanding to know what was going on.  I NEVER thought he would actually want to…hurt Nicole…” He swallowed hard, her name sending stabs of pain through his heart. “Scott turned to me and said, ‘if you know what’s good for you, you’ll let that little whore get what’s comin’ to her.’  Mark, I wanted to kill him, I wanted to end him right then and there and almost did.  I pulled my gun out and was gonna shoot him right in the head to protect Nicole, but Nick and Jack were behind me.  They held me down and dragged me to the bedroom, where Nicole was just getting up out of bed…”

 

Mark never knew what a cold vindictive bastard his former friend could be, especially seeing the mental and emotional state Brad was in right now.

 

“They held me down while Scott took a knife out; threatening to kill her if she didn’t do exactly what he wanted.  I shouted at Scott, demanding to know what was going on and…” Brad turned around with tears in his eyes and lifted his shirt to expose a three inch scar across his abdomen, immediately pulling it back down. “He sliced me, man…he sliced me and forced me to watch what he did to her.  He raped and cut her repeatedly…and I couldn’t save her.  I couldn’t save her…” Brad dropped to his knees, burying his face in his hands as the sobs tore through his big body, not caring how weak he looked to Mark at the moment. “They forced me to watch Scott take her life and I’ll never forget the terrified look in her eyes as Scott slit her throat.  I screamed for her and tried breaking free, but I was losing a lot of blood from my wound…I fell unconscious and woke up in the hospital the next day here in San Antonio.  I guess Scott didn’t want Houston authority to catch up to him because he knew I’d talk, so he threatened my sister.”

 

“Lacey…Where is she now?” Mark asked in a mere whisper, not trusting his voice at the moment, his hands clasped tightly together.

 

“She’s safe in Los Angeles.  Scott is on the run from everyone, Mark.  He’s not even in Texas anymore I don’t think.” Or so Brad thought, though neither he nor Mark knew that while Brad poured his heart wrenching pain out, Nalani was currently being attacked. “If you’re looking for him and you do find him, put a bullet in his nether regions for me.”

 

“So what’s with the whole rape shit goin’ on with that whore?” Mark demanded somewhat angrily, standing up from the recliner and towering over his former friend with deadly green eyes. “After what happened to Nicole, I would think ya would stay far away from those sick fantasies.”

 

“I’m fucked up, man, seriously fucked up.  After Nicole died, I lost all sense of humanity and just did what I wanted.  I haven’t hurt anyone and Mallory doesn’t mind, she actually has the same fantasy.” Brad stood up to his feet shakily, wiping his tears away and downed another shot. “I’m not a good man, Mark, I never was.  I never should’ve gone that night, but Scott promised no harm would come to Nicole or Michael.  I made him promise and he broke it…all because he wanted revenge on the older sister.”

 

‘Nalani.’ Mark thought, closing his eyes, not believing Scott had actually dated the same woman he was in love with. “So Scott is the one who did it?” He wanted to clarify, causing Brad to nod. “Nick and Jack just held you down after killing the father I’m assuming?”

 

Brad nodded again; remembering the gunshot that rang throughout the mansion, which had been when Scott threatened Brad outside of Nicole’s bedroom.

 

“Where are Nick and Jack now?” Mark demanded, wanting to pay those two bastards a visit, cracking his knuckles as the sound emanated around the small trailer.

 

“Dead.” Brad’s eyes stormed over with hidden rage, gritting his teeth. “And buried.”

 

“When was the last time you heard from Scott?” Mark pressed, needing some kind of information, knowing Brad had ended both Nick and Jack’s lives, not blaming the man.

 

“Austin, Texas, but like I said he’s probably long gone from this state by now.”

 

Mark left Brad’s trailer and headed toward Austin, deciding it wouldn’t hurt to search the town, hoping to find the whereabouts of Scott Mitchell.

 

Chapter 17

 

Nalani stirred in bed the next morning, the warmth surrounding her very comforting.  She didn’t want to get up, knowing the twins would be awake soon wanting breakfast.  Sighing resignedly, Nalani’s eyes slowly fluttered open to blink blurrily at her clock, seeing it was just a little after six in the morning. 

 

She shifted a little and felt her eyes fly open when she felt something hard pressing against her rear.  Slowly looking down, Nalani’s jaw dropped at the long tattooed sleeved arm wrapped around her and felt the hot breath on her neck.  Her chest rose and fell rapidly, chancing a glance up at whoever was in her bed, and felt the tears instantly burn her eyes at the sight of Mark.

 

Mark was here?

 

It wasn’t a dream?

 

Not able to help herself, Nalani let out an ear piercing scream that jolted him fully awake, his arm releasing her as she immediately scrambled out of bed.  Mark groaned, his head pounding already and growled, causing Nalani’s heart to leap into her throat.  What the HELL was he doing in her bed?!  Nalani had no idea what was going on, thinking the previous night had all been a dream, too good to be true, and now she was absolutely terrified that it hadn’t been.

 

“GET OUT!!” She shouted, ignoring the pain in her toes because they weren’t fully healed yet. “What the HELL are you doing in my bed?!”

 

“Sleepin’ until yer loud mouth woke me up.” Mark gruffly retorted, running a hand through his loose black hair, which pooled over his shoulders and down his back in tangled waves.

 

“MOMMY!!” Both Megan and Matthew bolted inside the room, their big blue eyes wide in horror at the man sleeping in their mother’s bed.

 

“Shit…” Nalani had completely forgotten about the twins when she screamed and rushed over to them, wrapping one arm around each, trying to calm them down. “Mommy’s alright, mommy’s fine angels, see?”

 

Matthew looked at his mother skeptically and eyeballed the large man in his mother’s bed, who slowly rose to his feet, his eyes widening.  Nalani tried calming him down, running her fingers through his honey blonde hair along with Megan’s auburn curls, knowing they were scared from her screaming.  The little boy began trembling and Nalani knew Mark was scaring them with his size, Megan screaming out when he came closer to them.

 

“Stay away!!” Megan cried, burying her face in her mother’s shoulder and began crying, Matthew doing the same thing.

 

Mark frowned and let out a heaving sigh, knowing the twins weren’t used to seeing such a big person before them. “Darlin, I need to p-use the bathroom.” He caught himself, knowing cussing in front of little ones wasn’t smart, and watched as Nalani shakily pointed behind her toward her private bathroom. “Thanks.”

 

“Mommy, I scared…” Megan whimpered as soon as the bathroom door closed, feeling her being lifted up along with her brother.

 

“He’s not going to hurt us, you guys.” Nalani soothed, feeling their little hearts beating faster than jack rabbits, frowning. “Calm down, mommy just got scared, but I’m fine.  I didn’t mean to scare you.”

 

“Mommy hurt?” Matthew immediately asked as soon as he was set down at the kitchen table in his booster seat, Megan sitting beside him.

 

Nalani smiled at her protective son, running her thumb across his scrunched forehead lovingly. “No buddy, mommy’s fine, see?” She twirled around once and showed them her arms, wanting them to believe that she was perfectly fine.

 

Even though on the inside, Nalani was slowly breaking down.

 

“What do you want for breakfast?” She asked the twins, busy pulling pans out, knowing Mark was probably starving.

 

“Pancakes!!” The twins simultaneously shouted, causing her to chuckle, and nodded.

 

“Blueberry or chocolate chip?”

 

“Booberry!” Megan said, grinning from ear to ear.

 

“Nuh-uh, cwoclate cwip!” Matthew argued, folding his arms in front of his chest, looking stubborn.

 

Nalani sighed, used to them having different tastes by now. “I’ll make Megan blueberry and you chocolate chip, okay guys?” When they nodded excitedly, Nalani got to work on breakfast.

 

Mark couldn’t believe how well the twins spoke, having watched Nalani have a conversation with them, a soft smile on his face.  She hadn’t exactly kicked him out of her house, just her bed, and smirked at the thought of joining her there again.  He watched as Nalani busied herself cooking in the kitchen and decided to make is presence known, clearing his throat as all three pairs of blue eyes locked on him.

 

“Mornin’.” He greeted in a soft rumble, watching Nalani nod back at him once before turning to continue cooking.  Walking over, he stood right behind her and watched as she cracked a couple of eggs, putting them in a stirring bowl. “Darlin’…”

 

“What do you want for breakfast?”She softly asked, not turning to stare at him, his scent wavering in the air mixing with the breakfast she was making.

 

Closing his eyes, Mark wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her back to press against his chest, his nose burying in her hair. “You.” She could barely hear him when he said that and smirked, feeling her do a full body shiver, chuckling huskily. “Whatever you make, I’ll eat.”

 

Nalani nodded, knowing Mark wouldn’t mind eating pancakes with scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage patties and hash browns.  She figured that would be a good enough breakfast and cracked a few extra eggs, knowing Mark ate a lot.  This brought back fonder memories of her and Mark’s time together in Houston, she’d always cook for him on his days off, letting him sleep in. 

 

The smell of her cooking would wake him up and Mark would float to the kitchen, his nose leading, only to find a delectable creature in his midst.  Needless to say, Mark stopped the breakfast several times, simply wanting Nalani for his breakfast.  Nalani blushed as she thought about the last time she’d tried making Mark breakfast; how he’d guided her away from the stove and shoved everything off of the kitchen table, proceeding to bend her over the kitchen table to have his way with her.

 

Mark was thinking the same thing, knowing that couldn’t happen with two little ones here, but he wasn’t leaving.  He was surprised she hadn’t demanded him to leave after waking to find him holding her in her bed.  Relishing in her soft body against his, Mark hadn’t wanted to get up, but her screaming made it impossible to stay put.  He simply stared at her while she cooked, her body looking better than ever; though, he then pictured her with a pregnant stomach, looking blown up like a balloon doing the same thing, and suddenly felt the sadness take over him.

 

He’d missed out on three years of his children’s lives.

 

Nalani turned around and set the food on the table, serving her twins first as she cut their food up so they wouldn’t choke on it.  Matthew licked his lips hungrily while Megan stared back at the large man distrustfully and it wasn’t missed by her mother.  Kissing Megan’s cheek, Nalani set the blueberry pancakes in front of her daughter and grinned, watching as she began devouring the plate whole.

 

They definitely had strong appetites.

 

“When you’re finished eating, you need to leave.” Nalani demanded quietly, not wanting the twins to overhear as she set a plate of food in front of Mark.

 

“Not until you agree to prove it to me.” He shot back just as quietly, watching her cheeks flush angrily, and started eating his food with pure seriousness shining in his green eyes. “I’ve missed out on too much time with them already, Nalani…with you.”

 

“But they’re not yours!” She growled inaudibly, stabbing at her pancakes because of how much anger consumed her at his stubbornness. “I’m not putting them through that process and I don’t want to be with you.”

 

“Then I’m not leavin’ and you can quit lyin’.  I overheard what you said last night.” His mouth was right by her ear having leaned over, his hand reaching beneath the table to rub her upper thigh.

 

Nalani gasped softly, glaring furiously at him and was tempted to throw her food in his face, but refrained. “What exactly did I say?” She asked through gritted teeth, almost afraid to hear the answer and pushed his hand away from her thigh. “And keep your hands to yourself.”

 

“I love you, Mark, please forgive me.” He reiterated her words from last night while she slept in his arms, Nalani’s eyes shooting open. “You love me; you’re not gettin’ rid of me.”

 

Her mind raced along with her heart, but Nalani had to remain calm around her children, not wanting to scare them again. “I don’t remember saying anything like that; you’re probably making it up.” She managed to retort faintly, knowing Mark didn’t believe her for a second.  Nalani cursed herself because she was never a very good liar and never would be, no matter how hard she tried.

 

“Sure, whatever you say.” Mark snorted and stabbed at his own food, refusing to let her ruin his appetite. “You want to know just as much as I do if I’m the father or not, which I already know I am.”

 

“No you’re not.”

 

“Yes I am.”

 

Nalani dropped her fork in her place, burying her hands in her hair, the frustration seeping through. “What makes you so goddamn sure you are?” She demanded crossly, wondering why it was so hard for him to believe that she’d screwed around on him.

 

It wasn’t true and Mark could read her too well.

 

“Look in my eyes and tell me I’m not the father.” Mark challenged, suddenly sounding heated himself, though he kept his voice low while the twins obliviously ate their meal. “You can’t do it, so stop lyin’ to me, Nalani.”

 

“You’re not the father.” She stated, staring into his eyes, though the feeling and believability was out of her voice.

 

Mark smirked and actually chuckled, taking a long swig of his orange juice. “Nice try, but ya gotta look in both eyes, darlin’.” He simply stated, enjoying the way Nalani tormented herself trying to lie to him.  It was rather amusing.

 

“Fuck you.” Nalani finally spat, loud enough only for him to hear, and stood up abruptly from the table.

 

“Later.” Mark promised, his voice dropping an octave before turning back to his meal, groaning at the taste. “Simply delicious.”

 

Gritting her teeth, Nalani threw her food away and tossed the plate in the sink, thankful it was already filled with dishwater from the previous night.  Mark had to be the most arrogant, cocky, hard-headed, stubborn man she’d ever met in her life!  He wasn’t taking no for an answer and Nalani had a sinking feeling the only way to possibly shove him away for good was to do this paternity test.

 

‘Damn it, what if he is the father?  Scott will find out and come back…’ Nalani thought, suddenly trembling from head to toe, and excused herself.

 

Mark watched her quickly vacate the kitchen and stood up, wiping his mouth off with a napkin, having devoured his plate. “You two done?” He rumbled softly, watching both of their eyes instantly stare up at him suspiciously, a sigh escaping him. “I’m not gonna hurt ya little critters, I’m simply helpin’ your momma.”

 

Matthew glanced over at his sister, watching the big man lower himself to be eye level with her, scowling.  Megan on the other hand stared in the big man’s eyes, her big blue ones wide with wonder and a hint of fear, chewing her bottom lip.  Mark chuckled and gently reached up to brush an auburn curl from her forehead, not believing how beautiful this little girl was.  If these twins were his, Mark was going to do everything in his power to be in their lives, knowing he would have to bodily force Nalani back to Houston because he wasn’t letting her go.

 

If the kids weren’t his…Mark would cross that bridge when he came to it.

 

“Do you trust me, little darlin’?” He asked softly, extending his arms, letting Megan make up her own mind as she put her finger in her mouth.  His heart melted instantly and nearly exploded when the little girl reached her little arms up, Mark lifting her out of the booster seat with ease.

 

“Meggie…” Matthew groaned, not believing what his sister just did, and pouted. “Up.” He commanded to the big man, holding his arms out expectantly.

 

“Do you trust me, little man?” Mark asked, the little boy nodding and lifted him up from his booster seat, both twins relaxing instantly against him. ‘My kids…’ He thought, feeling the insurmountable feeling start at the top of his head and fly all the way down to his toes.  They were his, Mark wouldn’t feel this way if they weren’t and carried them into the living room so they could watch cartoons. “I’ll be right back.” He said, once he knew they’d be safe, and headed into the bedroom, frowning at the sight of Nalani crying on her bed. “Nalani…”

 

“Go away!” She cried, her hands muffling most of it, though Mark clearly heard what she said. “God please go away!  You can’t be here!  You have no idea what you’re doing!!”

 

Mark sighed and closed the distance between them, lifting Nalani in his arms, planting her struggling form on his lap. “Stop fightin’ me!” He ordered gruffly, locking her arms at her sides when she began hitting on him, and knew what he had to do. “Nalani…” He tried again, not wanting to force himself on her, but he would if that’s what it took to calm her little ass down.

 

“NO!” She shouted, hearing the television going in the living room because she watched heartbrokenly as Mark interacted with the twins. “YOU-”

 

She didn’t have a chance to shout anymore at him because Mark’s lips descended on hers, knowing that was the only way to shut her up.  He slid his hand up her back to cup her neck, burying his hand in her soft silky honey locks, his lips devouring hers with his own.  Nalani struggling against him, trying to push him away as the tears kept pouring from her eyes, but soon it was no use.  She loved and missed this man more than anything, knowing she was fighting a losing battle. 

 

Only when she stopped struggling did Mark’s hold on her loosen, groaning when she moved to straddle is lap, his thumbs massaging her sides in soothing circles.  Nalani moaned softly when she felt his tongue swipe against her lips, instantly opening them and allowed Mark to taste her again for the first time in three years, her entire body breaking out in goose bumps.  Her hands delved in his beautiful black tresses, her chest pressing against his as she kissed him with as much feeling and fire as she could muster up.  Their tongues entwined together in a dance of seduction that Nalani knew she would ultimately lose, but didn’t care at the moment.

 

Just feeling Mark’s lips on hers was enough to make her head spin, her heart thunder and her pulse race rapidly, not to mention light her entire body in a blazing inferno.

 

Mark slowly pulled back only when they both needed air to breathe, his chest rising and falling rapidly, those emerald green eyes of his darkened to a deep forest green clouded over with desire.  He ran the pad of his thumb across her swollen lips, a soft smile spreading on his lips, and blinked when a loud smack echoed throughout the room.  Mark felt Nalani slide off of his lap and held his cheek, not believing she just smacked him, and felt a sick smirk cross his face as he sat there, his burning cheek only fueling the fire that kiss created.

 

“Fine you win; we’ll have the fucking test.” She spat almost hatefully, shaking her blazing hand, and stalked out to check on the twins.

 

Chuckling wickedly, Mark rubbed his cheek and stood up to follow her out the door, hoping Nalani realized a simple slap to the face wasn’t going to stop him from claiming her completely again.

 

Chapter 18

 

After Scott’s attack is when Nalani’s life changed forever.

 

Trembling hands stared down at the little stick, which had a small pink plus sign in the even smaller window, Nalani blinking as huge tears slid down her cheeks.  This could not be happening, it wasn’t possible!!  It had to be some sick nightmare that she was having, though Nalani hadn’t slept much after Scott’s attack.  Wiping the tears away, which kept falling, Nalani pushed herself up from sitting on the toilet, the stick clutched tightly between her fingers.

 

“Maybe it’s a false alarm…” She whispered, that small glimmer of hope completely dashed when she checked the seven other tests strewn all over the bathroom counter, every single one of them telling her the same thing. “No…”

 

She was pregnant.

 

To make matters worse, Nalani had no idea who the father was.

 

She’d slept with Mark the night before Scott’s attack, the rape being the last time she’d had any sexual contact.  Mark had tried arousing her, but Nalani was steadfast, simply telling him she hadn’t been feeling good lately.  Not feeling good was an understatement, though Nalani couldn’t tell him about Scott’s attack, remembering his threat.

 

If Nalani didn’t leave within three months time, Scott would come back and kill Mark.  Nalani had already started stashing money away from the diner, any little bit she made was put in a secret checking account.  What choice did she honestly have?  She knew Scott and the man would follow through on his threat if she didn’t do what he wanted. 

 

It broke Nalani’s heart and she spent countless nights crying either in the bathroom or downstairs, not wanting to disturb Mark’s rest.  The man worked incredibly hard and it wasn’t fair for him to constantly be disturbed because of Nalani’s emotional down spiral.  As if her being forced to leave the love of her life wasn’t bad enough, Nalani couldn’t tell Mark about her pregnancy, which broke her even further.

 

This left Nalani with several options, which she knew she had, thankful Mark was gone at work for the day.  It was one of her few days off and Nalani knew she had to call Kaci, needing some kind of support system.  She couldn’t tell Kaci she was leaving Mark, but the pregnancy was something Nalani couldn’t hide.  Kaci would be discreet and not say anything, one of the many reasons they were such great friends.  Shakily pulling her cell phone out, Nalani walked out into the bedroom and sat on the bed, running a trembling hand through her hair, waiting for Kaci to answer.

 

“What’s up Nala?” Kaci greeted, sitting on the couch watching a movie, frowning when Nalani began crying. “What’s wrong?”

 

“C-Can you come over here?” Nalani whispered, not trusting her voice, feeling sick to her stomach as it clenched and twisted violently. “Oh god hold on!” She threw the phone down on the bed and rushed into the bathroom, vomiting, which had been happening for several weeks now.

 

Kaci was already slipping her shoes on and grabbed her keys, rushing out the door to go see what was wrong with her best friend.  She still stayed on the phone and sighed with relief when Nalani groaned in the phone, glad nothing serious was wrong.  At least that’s what she thought, but Kaci had no idea just what emotional turmoil Nalani currently felt.

 

“Sweetie, what’s going on?” Kaci demanded, slipping into her red Toyota RAV 4, peeling out of the driveway. “Did you just get sick again?”

 

“Yeah…” Nalani groaned, laying back on the bed as she covered her eyes with her arm, trying to breathe. “And I know why I’ve been sick lately.”

 

“Why is that?”

 

“Just…get over here and I’ll tell you then.” Nalani hung up the phone and set it aside, knowing Mark would probably be calling shortly to check on her. “God what am I going to do?” She whispered, the tears instantly flowing from the corners of her eyes down her cheeks, curling up in a tight ball on the bed.

 

Ten minutes later, Kaci pulled up to the two story white house and cut the ignition, walking up to the front door.  She had her own key, which Mark knew about it and the man was fine with it, especially since Nalani was alone a lot.  She unlocked the door and walked inside, looking around with a frown, wondering where Nalani was.  Then she heard faint crying coming from upstairs and took two at a time, pushing the bedroom door open, her heart breaking at the sight.

 

“Nala…” She sat on the bed and touched Nalani’s shoulder, sighing when the woman flinched involuntarily away from her. “What happened?”

 

Not saying a single word, Nalani simply set the little stick on the bed where Kaci could see it, crying even harder.  Kaci blinked and stared at it for five straight minutes in shock, her violet eyes wide with astonishment.  Judging by the way Nalani was acting, this wasn’t a good thing and Kaci didn’t understand.  Granted, Mark and Nalani never discussed having children, but surely Mark was happy about this, wasn’t he?

 

“Honey, why are you crying?” Kaci sounded confused and set the pregnancy test aside, watching as Nalani slowly lifted herself up to sit in an upright position. “This is a great thing…”

 

“No it’s not.” Her voice sounded dead and distant, like it had the past two months and Nalani couldn’t bring herself to look up at her best friend, closing her eyes. “Kace, there’s something I need to tell you.” As much as this was going to kill Nalani to do, there was no way she could tell the truth because nobody could ever know.

 

Kaci didn’t like where this was going and raised a slow eyebrow, placing a hand on Nalani’s and felt it trembling, frowning deeper. “What is it?  Talk to me Nala, please.” She pleaded, wanting to know what had ate away at Nalani for the past two months.

 

Locking her blue eyes with violet, Nalani pulled her hand out of Kaci’s and could already feel her stomach churning again. “I cheated on Mark.” She said, having to use her real voice and slid from the bed, wrapping her arms around herself. “This is definitely not a good thing.”

 

Kaci’s eyes shot open, immediately standing up from the bed as well, staring at Nalani with her mouth ajar. “You WHAT?” She exclaimed, covering her mouth with her hand when Nalani nodded penitently. “Nalani…”

 

“I’m leaving Mark in one month, Kace.” Nalani had to turn away from her now, keeping her voice calm and callous. “I ran into an ex of mine when Mark went away for CSI two months ago and brought him back here.  There was large amounts of alcohol involved, I was sad and missed Mark.  I wasn’t thinking clearly.  When I woke up and realized what happened, I knew it was over between us…” This killed her to say, to actually lie to her best friend, but Nalani had no alternative.

 

“I-I don’t even know what to say…” Kaci was at a complete loss for words and actually had to sit down on the bed because she lost feelings in her legs. “This is why you’ve been distant and distracted lately.”

 

Nalani nodded, wiping away tears from her eyes. “You have no idea how much I regret cheating on Mark, Kace.  If I could take it all back, turn back time, I wouldn’t have done it.” She whispered, meaning every word that came out of her mouth.

 

That was the absolute truth of this whole situation and Nalani knew she couldn’t change what happened, that she’d have to find some way to cope with it alone.  Nalani would’ve never opened the door and Scott would’ve never raped her.  Then again, Scott had ways of getting into houses, even though Mark had a state of the art security system.  Nalani just wished she could’ve done something, anything, to stop Scott from taking what was no longer his.

 

“Why did you do it?” Kaci couldn’t help asking and didn’t see the absolutely turmoil in her friend’s eyes. “You love Mark…”

 

“Yes I do.” Her voice cracked, but Nalani had to stay strong no matter what. “I love him more than anything in the world, more than my own life, but I can’t stay with him anymore.  He deserves better than someone who would cheat on him, Kace.  He doesn’t deserve second best and that’s exactly what I changed into when I let another man fuck me.”

 

No matter how hard Kaci tried, she couldn’t stop the tears from sliding down her cheeks, feeling terrible for both her best friend and Mark. “He’s a good man, Nala.  You realize what you’re throwing away right?” She stood up, wiping her tears away. “He loves you so damn much, you have no idea…”

 

“I know he does, but that doesn’t change the fact I cheated on him.  I have to end this and I’m leaving in one month.  I already found a place in Dallas and I’ve already put a down payment on it with the money I’ve been getting from the diner.” Nalani explained, finally feeling like she could turn around to face Kaci, seeing the disgust and heartbreak in her violet eyes. “I’m sorry, Kace.”

 

“Dallas?” Kaci whispered, eyebrows furrowing together and more tears fell. “You’re leaving Houston?  You’re running away like a coward, like a thief in the night?” Her anger suddenly rose to new heights and Kaci closed the distance between them, her body trembling. “MARK DESERVES BETTER THAN THAT, NALANI OLIVIA KENSINGTON-MARTIN!!”

 

“I know…”

 

“You know?  YOU KNOW?  Then you need to tell him what happened and what you did before you even THINK about leaving this house!” Kaci shouted, watching as Nalani’s friend simply lowered in shame, still not believing what she did. “And what about you being pregnant?  You can’t…”

 

Nalani suddenly felt her own anger rising, clenching her fists at her sides. “He’s not going to find out about my pregnancy or about what I did to him.” She stated emphatically, watching Kaci’s eyes widen to the point where they might pop out of her head. “I’m leaving him and simply saying it’s not working out between us anymore.  He’s felt the distance between us for two months so this won’t come as a huge shock to him.”

 

“How can you be so cruel, Nala?” Kaci whispered, all the anger draining out of her, her heart breaking for what was about to happen with Mark. “This isn’t you…”

 

“It is me, Kaci.  I made a mistake and I will atone for it for the rest of my life by not having Mark.  He’ll get over it and move on, he’s a man after all.” She practically spat that last part out, having packed some of her things away already and put them in a secret storage unit on the outskirts of Houston.

 

“So you’re seriously going to leave him without giving him an explanation?” Kaci demanded, watching as Nalani shook her head and gritted her teeth. “Fine, then I’LL tell him…”

 

“No you won’t!” Nalani suddenly felt the panic rising within her, gripping Kaci’s shoulders, shaking her head frantically. “You CAN’T tell him anything, Kaci, do you understand me?  If you do, I swear to god you will be out of my life forever.  You will never see me again.  You’re MY best friend, not his, and you’re supposed to support me no matter what I’ve done in my life!  I made a mistake and now I’m setting Mark free, isn’t that enough punishment?  Not to mention I will have to carry a baby and I have no idea who the damn father is!!” She immediately regretted saying that and closed her eyes from how much anger poured from Kaci.

 

“That baby might be his and you’re not going to tell him about it?  You expect me to just sit back and let you break his heart because of your poor judgment?” Kaci watched Nalani nod her head and felt sick to her stomach, not believing what this woman was asking of her. “Nala…”

 

“If you want me in your life, Kace, then you will keep your mouth shut and pretend this moment never happened.” Nalani gave her an ultimatum, knowing it couldn’t get much worse, but she would push everyone out of her life if that’s what it took to make Scott go away forever. “You’re like a sister to me and I love you, Kace…”

 

“You love me, yet you’re giving me an ultimatum…” Kaci shook her head, feeling sick to her stomach and was sorely tempted to tell Mark just to see if Nalani would push her out of her life. “You’re not being fair…”

 

“Oh and you are by wanting to tell Mark that I’m pregnant and I cheated on him?” Nalani shot back, placing her hands on her hips and pushed away the sudden wave of nausea. “What if the roles were reversed, Kaci?”

 

Kaci looked appalled, violet eyes narrowed to slits, scowling. “I would NEVER cheat on Randy!!” She couldn’t believe Nalani was trying to justify her infidelity to Mark, wanting to slap the hell out of her.

 

“I didn’t say you would, but I’m asking you what if the roles were reversed.  What if you fucked an ex and had to deal with it?  Then ended up pregnant and not knowing who the father of your baby is.  What would you do?” Nalani shot back, deciding to use reverse psychology and knew Kaci wouldn’t appreciate it, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

 

“I don’t know…” Kaci finally whispered, plopping down on the bed and raked a hand through her black hair, closing her eyes. “I can’t even fathom what you’re going through, but I also can’t support what you did to Mark, Nalani.”

 

“I’m not asking you to support the cheating part.” Nalani sat beside her, both of them staring down at their laps. “But I would NEVER go to Randy or whoever you were with and tell them what you did.  I would never break my trust with you and that’s exactly what you will do to me if you do go to Mark.  So I’m asking you not to say anything, Kaci.  I’m begging you to let me handle this in my own way, just let me walk away from him and mend the broken pieces of my life…”

 

Nalani had lost so much in such a short time and Kaci couldn’t help letting her heart bleed for the woman.  First the murders of her father and sister, her baby sister being raped as well, and now she was losing the only man who loved her unconditionally because of one mistake.  Not to mention the pregnancy, which Kaci hoped and prayed Nalani didn’t terminate because at least it would be some form of happiness in her life.  Kaci decided she would keep her mouth shut, but she had a condition of her own.

 

“I’ll take this to the grave with me…on one condition.” She finally said, looking over at Nalani, both of their eyes locked.

 

“What is it?”

 

Taking both of her hands, Kaci took a deep breath and knew this was the only thing she wouldn’t let Nalani do, not if she didn’t want Mark knowing the truth. “You keep this baby and raise it with as much love and affection as you possibly can.” She stated, blinking as huge tears slid down her face and Nalani couldn’t help crying as well.

 

“I promise I’ll keep the baby.” Nalani and Kaci embraced, each clinging to the other as tightly as they could, Kaci more so than Nalani for obvious reasons. “Thank you, Kace, thank you.”

 

Kaci left the house feeling lower than ever, but she knew deep down she was doing the right thing and hoped Nalani changed her mind about telling Mark everything.

 

Chapter 19

 

Nalani was a ball of nerves as she sat in the kitchen with a cup of coffee in hand, the twins still sleeping.  She couldn’t stop her knee from bouncing, already dressed for the day and she didn’t have to work.  This was her one day to sleep in and instead she was up, feeling sick to her stomach while inhaling caffeine.  She hadn’t gotten much sleep ever since Mark found her again, having refused to leave Dallas until he found out if the twins were his. 

 

Right after Nalani reluctantly agreed to the paternity test, Mark immediately drove her and the twins to Dallas Memorial to get the procedure done.  Thankfully, all they did was a cotton swap of the mouth because she honestly didn’t want her children poked and prodded with needles.  Hell it killed her every time they had to get shots, but Nalani knew it was for their own good, wanting them to stay healthy.

 

Feeling guilty for leaving Mark high and dry like she did, Nalani offered Mark to stay with them until they found out the test results.  She absolutely refused to let him sleep in her bedroom though and Mark agreed, knowing it wouldn’t be wise to start anything sexual with someone who broke his heart.  Nalani cleaned out her last spare bedroom of the house, which was cluttered with her and the twins’ things they didn’t have a use for, making Mark put most of it in the attic. 

 

He didn’t mind helping out and Nalani was thankful, especially having the twins begging her to pay attention to them or answer their questions.  They were growing up too fast and Nalani felt sad, knowing in just a few short years they would be able to tie their own shoes and talk clearly without lisping or stuttering.  It hurt her even more because if Mark was the father of Matthew and Megan, he’d missed three years of their life that would never be reclaimed.

 

While Mark stayed with them, the twins slowly warmed up to him and Nalani didn’t like it.  If he wasn’t the father, she knew Mark was going to leave and never come back again.  Nalani knew the truth about her being raped instead of cheating on him could never be revealed because Scott would return if he came back into her life fully.  Hell, if Mark was the father he wasn’t going anywhere anyway and Nalani wracked her brain night after night, trying to figure out how to push him away again.

 

Just like she was doing now.

 

The cheating didn’t exactly come across the way she wanted because Mark didn’t believe her.  Nalani did her best to try convincing him of it, but Mark was steadfast and stubborn, not able to fathom her screwing another man in their bed.  Why was that so hard to believe?  Nalani wasn’t exactly a saint by any means and wondered when Mark put her on such a high pedestal.

 

Hell it was her fault her father and baby sister were brutally murdered and raped by her ex-boyfriend, the same man who raped and warned her that if she didn’t leave Mark, he was going to come back to kill both of them.  The revelation from Scott made that guilt burn away at her and Nalani knew sooner or later she would crack because of it, staying strong only because of her babies.  If Scott was the father of the twins, it wouldn’t make a difference because Nalani loved Matthew and Megan more than her own life. 

 

They were her life.

 

“Mornin’.”

 

Nalani jolted out of her thoughts when she heard that deep sleep gruff voice behind her, fighting back a shiver. “Morning.” She quietly greeted, sipping her coffee, hearing his shuffling from behind followed by pouring the pouring of his own coffee. 

 

Mark couldn’t function regularly without at least one cup of java and Nalani knew that better than anyone, having had his coffee ready for him on a daily basis when they were together.  Nalani would also have breakfast ready for him, even if it was just a simple bagel with cream cheese, which Mark did like on occasion.  Mostly though, it was a BLT or a quick omelet and he always made sure to eat before leaving the house for work.  He needed the strength and not to mention Nalani was a hell of a cook, her omelets like a little slice of heaven in his mouth.

 

“What’re you doin’ up so early?” Mark asked in a heavy drawl, taking a long sip of his straight black coffee. “Can’t sleep?”

 

“I’m always up this early.” She defended, standing up from the table to start making breakfast since the twins would be up soon. “You could’ve slept in longer.”

 

“Couldn’t sleep.”

 

“Right.”

 

Nalani busied herself around the kitchen, being as quiet as possible because the twins needed their rest.  They always got up at the same time like clockwork, though lately Mark had been keeping them up later than normal to spend time with them.  She wondered if he would ever go back to Houston, sighing inwardly at the thought of Mark sticking around Dallas.  Knowing the twins would want pancakes, Nalani pulled some eggs out of the fridge along with bacon, hash browns, sausage links and the rest of the ingredients she would need to make breakfast.

 

Part of her hoped the paternity results said that Scott was the father just so Mark would believe her cheating story and leave her alone.  The other part wanted Mark to be the father because it would shatter what was left of her heart if her rapist ended up being the one who gave her two beautiful angels instead of the man she secretly loved.  This was going to be hard to deal with either way and Nalani wasn’t sure if she was ready for it, knowing in just a few short hours they would all go to Dallas Memorial and find out the results.

 

Glancing over at her, Mark smirked as he turned around fully to watch her bustle around the kitchen, the smell of cooking making his stomach rumble.  He couldn’t help walking over while she hovered over the stove, starting the honey flavored sausage and bacon while making scrambled eggs.  This reminded him of when Nalani used to make breakfast for him and some things never changed.  She still cooked the same way, which Mark loved and she hummed softly under her breath while she did it.

 

This woman was truly going to be the death of him, especially wearing skinny blue jeans that hugged her beautiful legs and ass perfectly.  She had on a blue jersey shirt that was sleeveless and had a black buckle around the middle for style, the shirt showing off her curvy figure.  If anything having kids made her even more beautiful and her curves more profound, not to mention her breasts were much bigger than the last time he saw them. 

 

Mark fought the urge to just reach out and grab a handful of her ass, begging to feel it through the thin material of those skinny jeans.  Her honey blonde locks were currently pulled up in a messy bun on top of her head, a few tendrils framing her makeup free face.  Nalani had no idea how much Mark missed her and he planned on doing everything in his power to get her back, refusing to believe she was capable of cheating on him.

 

“Need some help?” Mark asked, his mouth right by her ear, and smirked when she dropped the spatula she’d been holding to move the eggs around.

 

Nalani had to learn how to breathe, forgetting briefly how quiet Mark could be, his hot breath on her ear sending shivers down her back. “No I’m fine.” She stated, trying to sound harsh, but it came out in a soft voice.  Nalani walked away from him to go to the fridge, pulling the milk out and turned around, only to run right into Mark’s bare chest. “Damn it!”

 

Mark blinked, not expecting her to turn around so quickly, and instinctively grabbed her arms to steady herself.  The milk thankfully hadn’t fallen to the floor, probably because Nalani held onto it like a lifeline.  Emerald green locked on guarded blue, Nalani quickly stepping away to walk around him, breaking the contact on her arms.  She didn’t want Mark touching her because every time he did she couldn’t think clearly, though he didn’t know that.

 

“Why don’t you go in the living room and watch TV?” She suggested somewhat irritably, cracking open the milk to pour into the pancake mix. “I’ll let you know when breakfast is ready.”

 

“Sure…” Mark couldn’t help smirking at her reaction and simply leaned against the counter, arms folded in front of his chest. “But I’d rather watch you, darlin’.”

 

“Stop it.” Nalani whispered, stirring the mix with the beater faster than normal, shaking her head. “I told you there’s nothing left between us.”

 

Mark snorted, rolling his eyes. “And I told you I don’t believe that.” He retorted swiftly, losing count at how many times they had this discussion over the past month. 

 

The hospital was taking their sweet time getting the paternity results back and Mark honestly didn’t mind because he knew slowly but surely he was breaking Nalani’s walls down.  It was almost as if fate was giving him this time to try winning her back, to warm her up and Mark knew he was doing it.  Just the little reactions he got from her gave him enough not to give up, to keep pushing.  Eventually she would explode and hopefully spill the truth to him, which is why Mark kept pressing, refusing to back off.

 

“I don’t understand why that is so hard for you to believe and understand.”

 

Nalani was growing frustrated and finally stopped stirring the pancake batter, pouring it on her special platter she made them with.  It was a straight long griddle that made the pancakes perfect, small enough for the twins to consume.  She then grabbed the spatula, keeping her back to her ex-boyfriend, knowing the twins would be getting up any minute because the smell of their mother’s cooking.  Nalani actually cracked a small smile, knowing how much her kids loved her cooking and that made her feel like an accomplished mother.

 

“It’s a load of bullshit and ya know it, Nalani.” Mark stated, standing right behind her again, his hands resting on her hips very gently.  It felt like his hands were scorching her sides through the thin material of her clothing, but Nalani refused to give in. “You know you still love me and you didn’t leave me because you fucked someone else.  I woulda known it darlin’…”

 

“Stop calling me that.” Nalani growled, pulling away from him and shook her head, finally turning to face him as tears began building in her eyes. “Do you think this is easy for me, Mark?  Do you think this is easy admitting something like this to you?  I…” Her words died off when a small footsteps padded down the hallway, immediately stopping the argument. “We’ll discuss this later.”

 

Mark knew better than to argue with Nalani in front of the twins and nodded stiffly, smiling as soon as they walked in the kitchen. “Mornin’ guys.” He greeted, Megan instantly walking over to him in her Little Mermaid nightgown, rubbing her eyes tiredly while Matthew just got up in the booster seat by himself.

 

“Morning daddy.” Megan sweet voice whispered, yawning loudly as the big guy who’d been staying with them for the past month lifted her up in his arms, leaning her head on his shoulder.

 

Mark’s heart melted when the little girl called him that and heard the spatula clatter to the kitchen floor, Nalani having whipped around to stare at them with wide blue eyes. “Mark, can I speak to you in the other room for a minute?” She asked in a kind tone, but it didn’t reach those ice cold eyes, stalking into the living room after flipping the pancakes with a new spatula.

 

Sighing, Mark set Megan in her booster seat and kissed her forehead, following Nalani into her bedroom as requested. “I know what yer gonna say…” He began and was instantly cut off by a pissed off Nalani.

 

“HAVE YOU LOST YOUR DAMN MIND?!” She exploded, shoving him as hard as she could, having shut the door so the twins didn’t hear her. “MY KIDS DON’T NEED TO BE CALLING YOU DADDY YET, YOU IMBECILE!!”

 

“Why not?” Mark demanded, already knowing in his heart those were his children, especially Matthew because of the boy’s appetite and little quirks he did. “Those kids are mine…”

 

“NO THEY’RE NOT!” Nalani shouted, her entire face going red and threw the spatula down on the bed, blinking as tears streamed down her face. “YOU DON’T KNOW THAT AND UNTIL YOU DO, YOU NEED TO KEEP YOUR GODDAMN MOUTH SHUT AROUND THEM ABOUT BEING THEIR FATHER!!”

 

In her heart, Nalani truly believed he wasn’t the father, even though she honestly didn’t have a clue.  The doctor said the conception date was the same day she both slept with Mark around three o’clock in the morning before he left and was raped later that night by Scott.  When Nalani found out, she was stunned because that meant she literally couldn’t pinpoint who the father was, having silently prayed and hoped it was Mark for the past three years, but deep down, she had a sinking feeling they were Scott’s. 

 

As heartbreaking as it was, Nalani hoped they were Scott’s because that meant Mark would be out of her life and safe from harm forever.  If those kids ended up being his, Nalani knew he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon and she would probably either have to accept it or run again.  The man was stubborn to a fault and she both hated and loved him for it, wanting more than anything to jump into his arms.  In the back of her mind was Scott’s threatening words and Nalani was doing everything in her power to persuade Mark she’d cheated on him, failing miserably.

 

“Those kids are mine and we’re going to prove it today.” Mark walked out of the bedroom, refusing to apologize for telling the twins he as their father because it was the truth. “Fuckin’ woman…”

 

After a rather tense breakfast that was filled with Matthew and Megan’s endless chatter, Nalani took them to get bathed and dressed, knowing Mark was antsy about getting to the hospital.  She called Denise, the woman who took the DNA samples from the kids and Mark, letting her know the results were in.  All they had to do was come to the hospital because she refused to give them over the phone, hospital policy and all.

 

With the kids dressed, Nalani walked out of the door with Mark carrying Megan while she had Matthew, strapping them both in their car seats.  She was sorely tempted to tell Mark to follow her in his Chevy Silverado but refrained, the guilt once again eating away at her.  Pulling out of the driveway, Nalani drove to the hospital in virtual silence, the twins being surprisingly quiet for a change.  She wondered what was going on and glanced over at Mark, immediately looking away as soon as his eyes went to her, knowing this was all about to come to a head.

 

The moment of truth.

 

Was Mark the father of Matthew and Megan or was it Scott Mitchell?

 

Pulling into the parking lot of Dallas Memorial, Nalani stepped out and immediately got the kids out, Mark taking Matthew this time while she took Megan.  They walked inside the hospital, Nalani paling with each step they took, knowing there was no turning back.  She could run in the opposite direction, but that wouldn’t stop Denise from giving the results, tears forming in her eyes.  When Megan asked her if she was okay, Nalani simply smiled and kissed her cheek, letting her know everything was fine.

 

Nalani hoped anyway.

 

Sitting in Denise’s office waiting was maddening to Nalani and she caught herself chewing her fingernails from how nervous she was.  Mark was calm as a cucumber, holding both twins on each lap, keeping them preoccupied.  She should’ve been doing that, but Nalani was too nervous and felt too sick to do it, ready to toss her cookies if Denise didn’t hurry up and say the results.  Her head snapped up when the door opened and Denise walked inside, smiling softly at them, sitting behind her desk with the manila envelope in front of her.

 

“Good afternoon, Nalani.” She greeted softly, causing the woman to nod in return, her eyes turning to Mark. “And you too Mark, I know this past month hasn’t been easy for either of you.”

 

“What’re the results?” Mark was tired of waiting, wrapping each arm around the twins protectively, his eyes locked on the only woman who held the answer he wanted most of all.

 

“Mr. Calaway, the DNA test results reveal that…”

 

Nalani listened and felt her eyes widen in shock as Denise read the results out loud, feeling her heart nearly stop.

 

Chapter 20

 

What the hell was going on with Nalani lately?

 

Mark had no idea and didn’t even want to try figuring it out, feeling a headache coming on just thinking about it.  Something was wrong with her and Mark contemplated several things it could be, one of them actually exciting him.  He wondered if she was pregnant, they hadn’t really talked about having kids and he knew how skittish Nalani could be when it came to serious topics like that.  If she was indeed pregnant, Mark was going to be the happiest man on the planet because he wanted nothing more than to have Nalani be the mother of his children.

 

So if she was pregnant, why was she keeping it from him?  Did she think he would be angry about it or something?  Hell, Mark tried convincing her for the past two years that all he wanted to do was take care of her, be with her, for the rest of his life.  He wanted to marry her and actually began proposing a few months ago, but Nalani stopped him.

 

“Not right now.” She said, having stopped him from digging into his pocket, the tears in her eyes breaking his heart. “Please, it’s too soon, Mark.”

 

As much as he hated admitting it, Mark knew she was right because they’d only been together for a few years.  With everything Nalani had been through, he could understand why she was hesitant about the very thought of marriage.  She had to watch as her father fell apart with drinking after losing the love of his life, Charlotte, during giving birth to her deceased baby sister Nicole. 

 

Nalani had told him everything and ever since that night she spilled her feelings to him, she’d grown distant from Mark.  He didn’t like it and wanted to do something, but what could he honestly do to prove to her he loved her unconditionally?  It had to be Nalani’s choice to come to him, which she had about her past secrets and Mark tried rectifying it by tracking his fellow ex-crew members down, not able to find them anywhere.

 

“Damn it.” Mark growled, slamming a shot down as the whiskey burned down his throat, head lowered. “What am I supposed to do?”

 

“Get shitfaced and deal with yer problems tomorrow.” Steve said from beside him, having joined Mark at the bar. “Unless ya wanna talk to me ‘bout it.”

 

“Go fuck off, Austin.” Mark wasn’t in the mood to be teased, downing another shot, and waved his hand to Eric to keep them coming. “I’m definitely gettin’ shitfaced tonight, no doubt ‘bout that.”

 

Steve knew Mark and Nalani had been on the rocks the past two months and wondered what was going on, having kept his mouth shut.  Mark was a complete bear at work and Steve was deeply tempted to go over to his house while Nalani was home alone, kick the door in and demand to know why she was hurting his best friend like this.  He knew Mark would probably kill him and bury his body six feet under in his backyard.  Steve liked his head where it was at and decided to just casually ask Mark about it, having demanded the man go out with him to a bar to knock back a few.

 

“No I’m not gonna fuck off cause I’m sick and tired of yer ass bein’ all grumpy and shit at work.  Enough is enough, the guys are gettin’ pissed when ya snap at’em for no goddamn reason!” Steve snapped, blue fire lighting his eyes while Eric slid him another longneck on the bar. “Now what the fuck has gotten ya so damn riled up, Calaway?” He was going to beat the truth out of his boss if Mark didn’t start talking.

 

Groaning, Mark knew he wasn’t getting out of this without spilling what was going on between him and Nalani lately. “Nalani.” He grunted, downing a third shot, wanting to get completely obliterated tonight so he could just go home and pass out. “Eric, switch to Jack Daniels.” He needed something stronger for this conversation.

 

“What ‘bout Nalani?” Steve demanded, having a feeling that’s what had Mark in a funk recently. “What did the bitch do now?”

 

“Do ya want that beer bottle cracked upside yer skull, Austin?” Mark growled angrily, clenching his fists tightly and had to let go of the shot glass before he shattered it. “She’s not a bitch, don’t call her that ever.”

 

“Then what the hell is goin’ on?” Steve decided to stick with beer, having a feeling he would be dragging Mark’s heavy ass out of the bar by the time the night was through. “Talk to me, I’m all ears.”

 

Mark sighed heavily and shrugged his shoulders, finally tossing his hands up in the air. “I don’t know and that’s the fuckin’ truth.  I don’t fuckin’ know what’s wrong with her.”

 

He was hesitant to tell Steve about the connection Nalani had with the Kensington mansion, deciding he couldn’t keep it to himself anymore and Steve was discreet.  He wouldn’t go running his mouth to everyone, knowing both of them hated talking about what they were nearly apart of all those years ago with the crew.  That was part of their pasts neither man liked delving into, regretting a lot of things they did, but knew there was nothing to do except atone for them with CSI.  That’s the main reason why Mark decided handing jobs over to Steve, John and Kevin.  They were his closest friends, the ones who got out of the crew before their lives were completely destroyed and helped him open CSI. 

 

So in all honesty, the company was split into quarters, each man owning twenty five percent of it, though Mark was deemed as the main boss.  He honestly didn’t mind and they all voted on it fairly, all the guys having the same thought that since it was Mark’s original idea he should at least be the main boss with them quietly in the background.  Mark tried denying that title, but as time progressed it just seemed natural and pretty soon he was main boss everyone contacted for jobs, giving them to his men whenever they came in.

 

“We need to go talk somewhere else.”

 

Mark was already on his feet, grabbing the entire bottle of Jack Daniels Eric forked over along with his shot glass and longneck chaser, heading to a booth in the back away from prying ears.  Steve followed, knowing whatever Mark was about to tell him wasn’t going to be pretty, sighing heavily.  They both sat down and Mark poured another shot, pinching the bridge of his nose before downing another shot, needing the burn in his esophagus to get through this explanation.

 

“Nalani…” Mark swallowed hard, closing his eyes as he lowered his head, the guilt overwhelming him. “The Kensington mansion…”

 

Steve’s eyes widened slightly because Mark hadn’t mentioned that part of their past in quite awhile, wondering what Nalani had to do with the murders, seeing how broken Mark was about it. “What happened?” He asked quietly, his stomach tightening as a sick feeling overtook him, suddenly needing a shot of Jack Daniels.

 

Mark was silent for at least ten minutes, his head remaining lowered, allowing the liquor to flow through his body, not sure how to go about explaining this. “Steve, it was her family.” He finally admitted, not able to look at his best friend. “Nalani’s family are the ones that Scott and those assholes murdered…”

 

His blue eyes shot open as far as they could go, Steve’s jaw dropping almost to the floor. “WHAT?” When Mark growled at him to shut his mouth, Steve immediately closed it, blinking. “S-She’s a KENSINGTON?” He whispered in disbelief, gaping when Mark nodded and suddenly needed another shot. “Jesus fuckin’ Christ…”

 

“Her baby sister, her name was Nicole…” Mark couldn’t go on, knowing exactly what happened to that poor seventeen year old girl who he now knew as Nalani’s deceased younger sister…her ONLY sister. “They…”

 

“Don’t.” Steve couldn’t handle much more right now, holding his hand up, remembering how long it took him to actually get a good night’s sleep after hearing about the brutality of that little girl’s death. “I can’t…”

 

“And you think I can?” Mark growled, slamming his fist down on the table angrily. “How do ya think it felt havin’ my girlfriend cry and sob her heart out to me about her family being murdered, her sister raped?  Ya think that was a great time for me too, Austin?  I had to sit there and listen to everythin’, hear the pain in her voice and keep my mouth shut so she doesn’t know ‘bout my involvement in the crew.”

 

“Fuck…” Steve cursed, closing his eyes tightly shut because the images of the past began resurfacing. “Does she know you…?”

 

“No and she never will.” Mark vowed in a deceptively calm voice, his eyes pure acid by now. “After she told me, I left for three days to try to track those son of a bitches down and managed to find one…”

 

Narrowing his eyes, Steve grabbed the shot glass before Mark could, needing a few after what he just heard. “Who?” He demanded after taking one, passing the glass over so Mark could down one, wondering who Mark managed to find from the crew that wasn’t apart of CSI.

 

“Before I get to that, I went to Bill first.”

 

“Moody?” Steve blinked, wondering why the hell Mark would go to his mentor, the man who showed him everything there was to know about running a funeral home. “How the hell did that go and how is the old bastard?”

 

Mark chuckled ruefully, no humor in his tone, knowing Steve and Bill went way back as well because he used to dig the graves for Bill.  That’s how Mark and Steve met, becoming instant friends. “He’s hangin’ in there and no worse for wear.  He used to be a PI and I asked him to track down some of the mother fuckers.  He managed to find Bradley.” Steve and Bradley did not get along so when Steve growled at the mention of the man’s name, Mark smirked, getting the tiniest bit of enjoyment from his discomfort. “He gave me what I needed and I managed to find the bastard, caught him in a session actually…” Mark smirked wickedly at the memory, remembering the look of aghast on Bradley’s face. “Needless to say, he was stunned to see me.”

 

“Goddamn it why didn’t ya bring me with?  I’da paid good fuckin’ money to see the look on that jackass’s face!” Steve growled, keeping his voice low because they didn’t want others overhearing the conversation. “So what happened?”

 

Mark shrugged, leaning back against the booth, remembering what Bradley told him as sadness suddenly entered his eyes. “I was gonna kill him.” His voice had dropped an octave, dead serious. “I was gonna kill him, Steve.”

 

Swallowing hard, Steve leaned back as well and was almost hesitant to ask his next question, but did it anyway. “Did you?”

 

“No.” Mark sighed, lowering his eyes again because the look in Bradley’s eyes would forever haunt him until the day he died. “I couldn’t, not after what he told me…”

 

Steve sat there in silence while Mark went through the whole story Bradley told him about how he’d been forced by Scott and the others to watch as his seventeen year old girlfriend was raped by all of them.  One by one they would take turns and take her in every position known, stabbing her repeatedly with each of their blades.  They all had blood on them except Bradley, who was forced to watch the decimation of Nicole Kensington.  When Mark finished, he wasn’t surprised at the murderous look in Steve’s eyes, nodding wordlessly to let him know he wasn’t alone.

 

“What a sick mother fucker.” Steve finally said, once he could speak, that story making him sick to his stomach as he stared at the liquor, suddenly needing a glass of it. “What the hell is wrong with him to…to do somethin’ like that?”

 

“I have no idea and don’t really wanna know.” Mark admitted, running a hand through his long black hair, downing another shot because that story made him ill. “You should’ve seen the look on Brad’s face while he told me the story, man.  I know ya hated him and I did too, but he was completely broken and even admitted he’s not a good man, that his involvement shouldn’t of happened.”

 

“I hope all those bastards die for what they did to those people.” Steve whispered, clenching his fists in tightly, actually blinking tears away from how intense that part of his past struck him.

 

A sick smirk crossed Mark’s face, followed by an evil chuckle that resonated around the table, watching Steve’s blonde eyebrow slow raise. “Well I know for a fact two of those pricks are dead.” He stated, downing another shot, feeling a nice little buzz coming on and took another shot to intensify it.

 

“You mean…”

 

Mark nodded grimly. “Nick and Jack are dead and buried, his words.” Mark clarified, not blaming the man one bit for killing the two men who forced him to watch as Scott killed a seventeen year old girl.

 

“I knew he was fuckin’ around with a young gal back then, but damn it was Nalani’s sister?” When Mark nodded, Steve couldn’t help shaking his head in pure disbelief, frowning. “That poor woman’s been through hell.  So what the hell are ya gonna do?  Why do ya think she’s distant from ya?”

 

“I don’t know and I wish I knew.  I wanna help her through whatever’s goin’ on and she shuttin’ me out.  It’s drivin’ me crazy, I wanna just grab her and shake the shit outta her and demand to know what the hell she’s thinkin’…” Mark’s southern accent was very strong because of much liquor he consumed, taking one shot after another, the buzz quickly turning into obliteration.

 

Steve wasn’t too far behind, both of them passing the glass back and forth between each other. “Do ya think it has anythin’ to do with the murders?  Do ya think she knows ya were nearly part of it?” He slurred, hiccupping a little bit, knowing this was not a suitable conversation to have while being piss poor drunk.

 

“Don’t know, but I’m gonna find out even if it kills me.” Mark vowed in a growl, the bottle of Jack Daniels nearly gone, both of men stumbling on their feet from the booth. “I-I need to get home…” Mark slurred, trying to blink as he stumbled a little, Steve holding onto him and Mark used him for leverage.

 

Eric realized what was happening between the men and called them respective cabs, glad they didn’t fight him when the yellow cars arrived.  Mark somewhat fell out and was jolted awake when the cab came to a halt outside of his house, tossing him a few bills.  He stumbled out of the car and tried clearing his blurred vision, not believing how drunk he was. 

 

Hell, he had to talk to Nalani tonight, drunk or not.  After spending nearly twenty minutes unlocking the front door, Mark finally stumbled inside and tossed his keys somewhere unknown, heading for the stairs.  He barely made it up two before passing out, the darkness overtaking his entire body.

 

“Nalani…” He whispered just before going cataleptic, his big body heaving on the stairs.

 

Chapter 21

 

To say Nalani was stunned into silence would’ve been the understatement of the century.

 

Her mind had replayed that moment repeatedly in her head while Mark drove them back to the house and all Nalani could do was stare straight ahead, tears rushing down her face like two raging rivers.  No matter how hard she tried, they wouldn’t stop and Nalani honestly didn’t even try doing so.  She was in too much shock to do so, acting as if she was in another world completely, everything else fading into darkness around her.  Though she’d been coherent enough to hear Denise announce the results of the DNA test.

 

All Nalani could do was sit there and let the tears flow, so many emotions coursing through her small frame.  She didn’t even want to fathom how Mark felt hearing the results and couldn’t look at him, knowing things were about to get very interesting.  There was nothing she could do to change the results and half of her wished she could while the other was absolutely ecstatic.  Again, she had no idea what Mark thought about them, wondering what was going through his mind and knew he was probably going to leave as soon as they arrived back at the house.

 

Once again, the man surprised her.

 

“Come on guys, let’s get you inside to watch some cartoons.” Nalani coaxed, knowing this had been an extremely emotional day for the twins, getting each of them out one by one.

 

“No.” Matthew suddenly spoke for the first time, backing away from his mother, shaking his head. “No!”

 

They were so young and it broke Mark’s heart, but knew there was nothing he could do for them.  Three year olds understanding something this important in their lives wasn’t easy by any means and it made half of Mark angry at Nalani for putting them through this.  He knew he pushed to have the paternity test because he wanted to prove to her that she was full of lies and deceit.  The other half of him needed to know if the twins were truly his or if she really had cheated on him with another man.

 

Now that he knew, Mark only had one option.

 

Megan began crying and buried her face in her little hands, Nalani instantly going to her while Matthew began crying.  The twins were overwhelmed and Nalani didn’t blame them one bit, feeling the exact same way.  All he wanted to do was walk inside the house, settle them down and lock herself in her room to cry for several days straight, not wanting to see anyone or anything.  She knew she couldn’t though because she had two little humans relying on her every single moment of their lives and she loved them unconditionally.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.  Mommy is so sorry.” Nalani whispered, getting Megan out of her car seat, holding both of them as close to her as possible. “Mommy loves you both, you know that right?”

 

The twins could only nod, too busy crying their little hearts out and breaking Nalani’s completely in half, lifting each in one arm. “Come on.” She whispered, carting them up the steps to the wraparound porch and unlocked the front door, knowing Mark was probably getting in his truck right now. 

 

Instead, when the screen door went to slam shut behind her, a huge hand grabbed it, stopping from nailing her heels.  The kids would’ve went flying out of her arms if that would’ve happened and Nalani carried them both inside to the living room.  Setting them up with cartoons, Nalani sat with each twin curled up to her side, trying hard not to cry herself as she kissed each of their heads repeatedly, trying to calm them down.  Mark simply sat in the nearby chair, not saying a word and stared over at them with unreadable green eyes, Nalani too busy comforting the twins to notice.

 

It took the twins a good hour before they calmed down enough to just sniffle, the tears still falling while watching cartoons.  For once, they didn’t bicker about what was on the television, both honestly not caring and Nalani knew it.  She kept her eyes focused on the television and swallowed hard when a huge body suddenly came into her vision, those green eyes meeting hers as Mark bent down to be eye level with her. 

 

What the hell was Nalani supposed to say to him?

 

“They’re asleep.” He rumbled in a quiet voice, not wanting to wake the twins and extended his hand, silently ordering her to take it. “We need to talk now.”

 

Swallowing hard, Nalani was tempted to stay with her twins and decline his request, but knew she owed him this much.  Kissing each of their temples softly, Nalani carefully extracted herself from the twins, her heart squeezing with pain when they immediately curled up against each other, laying a blanket over each of their bodies.  She wiped a tear away from her cheek and turned around, taking Mark’s still extended hand as he guided her toward her bedroom.  He wouldn’t hurt her, Nalani knew that, but she definitely owed him an explanation and knew he demanded one.

 

Once inside the room, Nalani visibly cringed when the door shut softly but firmly, knowing there was no escape from this.  The truth was out and nothing could change it, no matter how much she wanted to.  Nalani stood there while Mark walked over to sit on the bed, elbows resting on his knees, again remaining silent while she stood before him looking like a deer caught in the headlights.

 

“Mark…”

 

“Why?”

 

Nalani cringed again, looking away from him as tears filled her eyes, wrapping her arms around herself. “I don’t know…” She whispered, feeling like the lowest person in the world right now, which she was. “I’m sorry…”

 

“All this time…” Mark’s gruff voice echoed around the room, gritting his teeth, so many emotions rushing through him all at once. “How could you do somethin’ like this to me?”

 

Blinking, huge tears slid down her cheeks and Nalani felt her knees weaken, suddenly hitting them to the carpet, hardly able to speak. “I-I didn’t…k-know…how to tell y-you…” She stammered out through sobs, burying her face in her hands, every part of her body shuddering from head to toe.

 

Mark stared down at her and waited, watching as Nalani completely fell apart before him, knowing this was a lot for her to take in.  She had no idea who the father of the twins were and now she did, now she had to deal with it.  As far as he was concerned, Mark only had one thing on his mind and one thing only, having already called Steve to confirm plans as far as CSI was concerned.

 

“You lied to me.” He stated, arching an eyebrow when her head snapped up, the tears continuing to fall. “You lied to me and made actually start to believe…”

 

“No I didn’t.” Nalani knew this was very wrong, but she had to make one last attempt, not moving from being on her knees before him. “I didn’t lie to you, Mark…”

 

Green eyes narrowed down at her, wondering if she was really that stupid or just desperate. “You heard Denise at the hospital, Nalani, or is yer hearin’ goin’ out?” He demanded angrily, watching her body tremble again, snorting. “I know ya heard it or ya wouldn’t be reactin’ the way you are.  Now I wanna know why ya lied to me.  I wanna know why ya left three years ago without a fuckin’ explanation.  I WANT THE TRUTH!”

 

As much as Nalani was dying to tell him the truth, she knew she couldn’t, slowly regaining her footing on shaky ground. “I am telling you the truth.” Her voice was low and soft, staring at him through blurred vision and bloodshot tear-filled blue eyes. “Even after hearing those results, it doesn’t change the fact what I did to you, Mark.  It doesn’t change the fact that I…slept with another man and…”

 

“BULLSHIT!” Mark exploded, suddenly standing up from the bed and towering over her, his eyes turning to acid within seconds. “Stop lyin’ to me, Nalani!” He ordered angrily, slowly backing her up, knowing he was scaring her and honestly didn’t care. “You didn’t cheat on me, I would’ve known it!”

 

“Oh really?” Nalani had to fight back, no matter how shaky her voice was, glaring. “You were gone for THREE days, Mark.  THREE days you were away from me and I fucked another man in your bed.  I fucked him in every room of that house actually and cleaned up after myself.  It was three days of nothing but fucking my ex in every way possible.  I made sure to wash everything and scrubbed every inch of the house before you came back.  So yes, there was no way of you finding out, but didn’t you notice after you got back that I became considerably distant?” When the heartbreak showed in his eyes, Nalani knew she had him right where she wanted him and kept going as much as it hurt her. “I didn’t love you anymore and that’s why I fucked him, that’s why I cheated on you and I couldn’t deal with the guilt afterwards.  So I started saving money from the diner and left you.  I meant what I said, I do love you, but I can’t be with you anymore.” When Mark just stood there staring holes down at her, Nalani knew she had to go in for the kill. “And that’s the truth whether you want to believe it or not.  Sometimes the truth hurts, Mark.”

 

Mark felt sick to his stomach at the way Nalani talked to him about screwing another man in his house, wanting to suddenly burn it to the ground.  His eyes flashed and Mark never wanted to hit a woman as badly as he did Nalani at that moment, but refrained.  It wouldn’t do any good or change the fact that she cheated on him with another man while he went away to defend her family’s honor…her honor. 

 

He left to track down Scott so he could kill the man who destroyed her life and Mark had to mend her by piecing her back together.  He slowly backed away toward the door, suddenly needing to get as far away from her as possible, no longer able to look at her the same as he once did.  Just like the night she left, his heart was in shambles and there was no way to fix it this time, Mark would have to learn to move on with what was left of his heart this bitch didn’t destroy.

 

“I’m not gonna stay outta my kids’ lives just ‘cause their momma is a cheatin’ whore.” Mark informed her coldly, gritting his teeth when all Nalani could do was nod, feeling disgusted that he’d wasted the past three years of his life pining for a woman who never gave a damn about him. “So we’re gonna have to make this work somehow and I’m not leavin’ Dallas until that happens.  I can’t even look at you right now though, so I’m leavin’ to stay in a hotel.  I hope yer happy with what you’ve done, Martin.” With that said, Mark stalked out of the bedroom and slammed the door so hard, the walls shook violently.

 

Nalani dropped on the bed and buried her face in her hands, finally allowing all the emotions to pour forth, curling up on her bed. “I’m sorry, Mark.  I had no choice, please forgive me.  I love you…” She whispered, just like she had for the past three years, feeling her heart shattering all over again.

 

~!~

 

Two months passed since the results of the paternity test came about, which Nalani still couldn’t believe even after all that time.  She remembered how nervous she was to sit in that waiting room, pondering who the father of Matthew and Megan was.  Mark had actually grabbed her hand and Nalani hadn’t fought him off, both of them needing the strength to hear the results together, no matter what.  It was do or die, there was no more running or hiding and Nalani had nearly lost her breakfast.

 

After finally convincing Mark that Nalani cheated on him, he kept his distance and only came to see the kids, not speaking more than a few sentences to her.  He would take the kids for the day three times a week, making sure they didn’t miss daycare because Nalani explained to him how much they loved it.  Mark reluctantly agreed, after doing a background check on the place and forced Nalani to draw up new birth certificates with him being named as their father.  He wasn’t being screwed out of being a father, not after Nalani screwed him over by having sex with another man.

 

Mark moved to Dallas from Houston, selling the house after serious contemplation of burning it down.  He honestly couldn’t live in a house that reminded him of the past, knowing he had to move forward.  So Mark lived in a hotel room for two months and had a new house built by contractors who knew how to get the job done fast at the right price.  It was a two story house that had a wraparound porch along with a full swing set for Matthew and Megan to play with whenever they were at his place. 

 

He kept them every other weekend while still running CSI, having moved his entire headquarters to Houston, after making sure it was alright with Steve, Kevin and John, his partners.  They all understood why Mark had to leave Houston, especially after finding out the shocking news that Mark was the father of Nalani’s twins.  All three wanted to beat the hell out of her though for breaking their friend’s heart, but Mark assured them that she was atoning for her mistakes and would continuing doing so for the rest of her life.

 

Just like he was.

 

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon and Nalani was off work, spending time with her twins, blinking when red Toyota RAV 4 pulled up into the driveway.  Nalani recognized that car immediately and sat her book down on the porch swing, the twins inside taking their naps, swallowing hard as the figure came stalking toward her angrily.  She had a feeling this was coming because Mark had told everyone that he was a father and the twins were his children, acting like a proud father that Nalani knew he always would be.

 

“You have a lot of explaining to do Nalani Olivia Kensington-Martin.”

 

She cringed at the full name and watched as Kaci stalked up the stairs, looking madder than a bull. “I don’t know what…”

 

“Don’t you even THINK about pulling that shit on me!!” Kaci snapped, shoving her friend down on the porch swing, her once pregnant stomach flat once again. 

 

She’d had her baby two months ago prematurely, which was a beautiful little girl named Giselle Tyne Orton with gorgeous blue eyes like her father and her mother’s raven hair.  Kaci had worked hard to gain her body back and was nearly there, having just a little bit more baby fat to get rid of before she was a smoking hot mother again.  Right now though, she looked like she wanted to rip Nalani’s head clean off of her shoulders and roll it down the steps.

 

“Enough lying, I want the truth and I want it NOW.”

 

Sighing resignedly, Nalani stood up from the porch swing and held her hands up, knowing this was not going to be easy for Kaci to hear. “You’d better sit down then if you want to hear the whole truth.” When Kaci did, Nalani took a deep breath and placed her hands in Kaci’s, proceeding to finally tell her everything that really happened.

 

Chapter 22

 

Distancing herself from Mark was the only way for Nalani to cope with what happened.

 

It was selfish on her part and Nalani knew she should’ve told Mark everything, but knew how dangerous Scott was.  She had somewhat of an idea what the man was capable of and it was absolutely anything.  So Nalani did what she had to do to protect Mark, even if it meant pushing him away for the rest of her life.  She loved Mark with everything inside of her and wished she could accept his proposal, but deep down Nalani knew it would never last.  Somehow, someway everything good in her life had to come to an end at some point and Nalani wasn’t sure how much more loss she could take.

 

Countless days were spent either at the diner or at home, Nalani always making excuses to leave the house whenever Mark was there.  She just wanted to put as much distance between them as possible, knowing it would make things easier when she had to leave within the next month or so.  Scott told her three months and Nalani knew she had to abide by that or there would be serious hell to pay.

 

It was a typical Friday night and Nalani was busying herself getting ready to go out, finishing applying her eyeliner, jumping when a throat cleared behind her.  Nalani screamed and dropped the eyeliner, her heart lunging in her throat, jumping about a foot in the air as startled blue eyes locked with indecipherable green.  Nalani swallowed hard and shakily picked her eyeliner up, trying to slow her racing heart.

 

“What are you doing home?” She asked quietly, slowly going back to applying her makeup, not even look at him through the mirror.

 

“I live here, remember?” Mark grunted, folding his arms in front of his chest, wearing a simple black sleeveless jean vest with skintight black jeans, his eyes narrowed watching her. “Where are ya goin’ all dolled up?” He asked in a deceptive voice, raising an eyebrow when she simply shrugged.

 

“On the town with a few friends.” Nalani answered casually, wearing a black skirt that went one and a half inch above the knee with a long sleeved dark red top that had a V shaped neckline and hugged her curves, leaving plenty to the imagination though. “I’ll be out late.”

 

“Right.” Mark couldn’t believe she was actually leaving the house again and wanted to demand why, but also didn’t want to sound like an overbearing jerk. “I was hopin’ me and you could spend time together tonight since I got off early…” Truth be told, Mark had actually threatened Steve bodily harm if couldn’t get home early, wanting to stop Nalani from going out again.

 

“Oh.” Nalani bit her bottom lip, suddenly growing really nervous and waved it off dismissively, continuing what she was doing while fluffing her hair out over her shoulders. “Well I promised my friends I’d go with them tonight, I can’t let them down.”

 

Mark snorted and shook his head, stepping inside the bathroom, kicking the door shut with authority. “Well yer gonna because we gotta talk.” He demanded, refusing to let her walk away from him again, watching the amount of fear that entered her eyes. “Nalani…”

 

“I-I just wanna go out with my friends…” She stammered, trying to collect herself because this was Mark, a man she loved more than anything and would never hurt her. “Mark…”

 

“No damn it, not tonight!” He growled, suddenly gripping her upper arms, forcing her blue eyes to meet his.  Sucking in a sharp breath upon seeing all that pain and anguish swirling through those blue orbs, Mark just wanted to take it all away. “I love you, darlin’ and I’ve missed ya so much…”

 

This was killing Nalani, but she had to stay strong and tried extracting herself from his arms. “Mark, I can’t…” She whispered, trembling against him from both fear and desire mixed, more fear than anything because Scott suddenly entered her mind. “No.”

 

“Nalani, talk to me.” Mark pleaded, running his nose against her hair, inhaling the scent as a groan escaped him. “Talk to me, darlin’, tell me what’s goin’ on…”

 

“N-Nothing…I’m just not in the mood for sex.” She stated calmly, even though panic rose in her voice and caused Mark to pull back, once again staring down into her black rimmed eyes. “I need to finish getting ready…”

 

“No.” Mark suddenly lifted her up over his shoulder, causing Nalani to squeal out and began pounding her tiny fists against his back, crying out when he slapped her ass.

 

“Mark, stop it!!” She yelled, knowing he wasn’t listening to her and felt the bedroom door being kicked open and shut all in one fluid motion, her back suddenly hitting the bed. “W-What are you doing?”

 

“I’m not lettin’ ya outta this house until ya tell me what the fuck is goin’ on.  I don’t care how long it takes or how much persuadin’ I have to do.” Mark stated, already removing his sleeveless shirt, Nalani trying hard not to notice how chiseled his body was.

 

She immediately backed up on the bed, biting her bottom lip, trembling from head to toe while he slowly stalked her. “Mark, please don’t…” She whispered, gasping in fright when he grabbed her ankle, yanking her down the bed with his huge body hovering over her.

 

Not listening, Mark flicked his tongue out to lick away her tears lovingly, the salty flavor causing him to grow hard in his jeans, which currently pressed against her thigh. “Why not?” He whispered, moving his mouth to hover over her ear, beginning to play with it as another groan escaped him. “Goddamn I’ve missed ya...”

 

Nalani squirmed beneath him, trying to push her off of him, but it was like moving a semi truck. “Please...” She couldn’t say anything else, more tears sliding down her cheeks while he continued teasing her ear with his tongue and lips, sending shivers throughout her betraying body. “No…”

 

“Yes, yer gonna talk to me.” Mark said in a husky voice, ignoring her squirming because he knew she didn’t want to tell him what was wrong. 

 

When Nalani tried getting away from him while Mark reached down to unsnap the button of his jeans, he immediately pulled her back down, wrapping her legs forcefully around his waist as the skirt bunched up around her hips instantly.  He loved her in this position, holding both of her wrists in one strong hand and captured her lips before she could scream out.  Mark began grinding against her, coaxing her to begin kissing him back, his mouth methodic and persuasive on its own, which definitely worked in his favor.

 

She was going to talk to him or Mark was going to screw the truth out of her.

 

Nalani couldn’t help returning his addicting kiss, knowing she shouldn’t be surprised by any of this because Mark loved being the dominant one in the bedroom.  She had absolutely no problem with it, but after being raped, Nalani couldn’t go through with it.  With as much strength as she could muster up, Nalani ripped her lips from his, breathing heavily. 

 

Mark growled at the vision and slid his hand up her shirt, his lips instantly attaching to the nape of her throat.  Nalani squirmed even more and ended up arching her neck into his lips and tongue, more tears falling because she didn’t want this going any further.  Scared to death, Nalani shook her head, trying to pull away from him and gasped when Mark’s hand suddenly slid up her thigh beneath the skirt, his finger brushing against her panty covered sex.

 

“No…NO!!” She began to panic and shoved his hand away from her lower area, shaking her head because all Nalani could see was Scott’s face in her mind, Mark’s head snapping up. “P-Please…Please no!!”

 

Even through the passion haze, Mark could clearly tell Nalani wasn’t playing hard to get, she was legitimately scared. “Nalani, darlin’, what’s wrong?” He asked gruffly, trying to clear his throat because the huskiness was still there, trying to reach out for her.

 

“NO!” She suddenly bounded off of the bed, breathing heavily, her eyes wide and honestly Nalani looked like a crazy person. “DON’T TOUCH ME!”

 

Mark blinked when she began screaming at him when he took even a step toward her, tilting his head slightly. “What the hell is your deal woman?” He demanded somewhat irritably, just wanting to pull her into his arms to calm her down. “Damn it, Nalani, talk to me…”

 

“NO!  Stay away from me!!” She shouted, her eyes never leaving his as her entire body quavered from head to toe, wrapping her arms around herself, crying harder. “I-I don’t want this…”

 

Holding his hands up and backing away, Mark wondered what the hell had gotten into his girlfriend. “Okay, alright we don’t have to do anythin’ ya don’t wanna do.” He couldn’t believe how she was acting, seriously wondering if she’d lost her mind. “I’m backin’ up slowly, alright?  Just calm down, calm down darlin’…”

 

Swallowing hard, Nalani took ragged deep breaths, trying to slow her pounding heart and racing pulse, the tears never stopping. “Oh god…” When she finally realized what happened, Nalani slid down the wall, covering her face with her hands, knowing she’d probably just sent all kind of alarms toward Mark reacting the way she had.

 

Mark could tell Nalani realized what just happened and knew it was safe to go toward her, worry clearly in his green eyes. “Darlin’…” He whispered, bending down right beside her, watching her bury her face in her knees, which were drawn up to her chest tightly. “Jesus, what did I do?  God I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare ya like that…” Mark knew his frustration had gotten the better of him and wanted to pull her into his arms, but knew Nalani would probably freak out again.

 

Nalani couldn’t even speak and began sobbing her heart out, not pushing Mark away when he pulled her into his arms, burying her face in his chest, clinging to him for dear life.  She couldn’t help it, she had to feel his warmth and comfort one last time, knowing her time was ticking down until she had to leave him behind for good.  It shattered her heart every time she thought about leaving this man, knowing he just wanted to make her happy, but Nalani was more concerned with Mark being alive.

 

“I-I’m sorry…” She stammered out through sobs, her voice muffled though Mark could understand what she said, tears soaking his bare chest.

 

“No, don’t ya apologize.  It’s my fault, darlin’.” Mark said in a soothing baritone, running his hand up and down her back while rocking her, trying everything he could to calm her down. “I love ya, goddamn I’m sorry I scared ya like that…I’m such a fuckin’ prick…”

 

“No!” She suddenly snapped her head up, staring into those green eyes and moved to straddle his lap, shaking her head frantically. “No you’re not!  Don’t ever say that!  You’re the greatest man in the world and you better realize that and believe it!” Nalani grabbed his face in her small hands, forcing his eyes to lock with hers as more tears fell, sniffling. “Please, don’t ever think that because you’re far from it, Mark Calaway.”

 

What the hell had gotten into her? 

 

This made Mark believe even further she was pregnant, though he wasn’t going to say anything.  Nalani would come out with the truth eventually, Mark believed that she wouldn’t keep something that important from him.  All thoughts vanished when her lips suddenly descended on his, blinking in shock and couldn’t help kissing her back.  Mark growled when she melted against him completely and lifted both from the floor, but Nalani pushed him back down as she wrapped her arms around his neck, refusing to have sex on the same bed Scott raped her on.

 

“We don’t have to, darlin’…” He grunted, running his hands up and down her sides, dying to just tear her clothes off of her beautiful body so he could see every inch of her.

 

“Yes we do.” Nalani whispered breathlessly, knowing this was probably going to be the last time they had sex and she wasn’t about to walk away without at least one final session with the man she loved.

 

Scott took a lot from her, but one thing he wouldn’t take away was her feelings for Mark.  Pulling back slightly, Nalani removed her shirt before unclasping her bra, her hands trembling from head to toe.  Mark didn’t miss it and grabbed her hands, pressing them against his strong chest, a frown marring his face.

 

“Nalani, what’s wrong?” He asked for the umpteenth time, groaning when she simply kissed him again, knowing she was trying to distract him. “Darlin’…” He groaned when her lips and tongue began running her sweet tongue over his neck and Adam’s apple, nibbling gently. “Fuckin’ Christ, yer killin’ me woman…”

 

“Are you going to just sit here and try talking me out of this or get those jeans off so you can fuck me senseless?” Nalani demanded, pressing her bare chest against his, knowing the skin on skin contact was nearly his undoing as well as hers. “Mark please, no more talking…” She began grinding against him, losing herself and pushing Scott out of her mind, the tears having subsided. “God fuck me harder than you ever have before…”

 

Growling, Mark couldn’t deny his beautiful girlfriend anything and lifted her off of him to pull his jeans off, sitting right back down.  Nalani had shed her skirt and panties, standing before him with her dripping wet sex in his vision, licking his lips.  He had a feeling she wasn’t into foreplay on this night and respected it, pulling her down to straddle his lap as he captured her lips with his, burying his fingers in her hair.  Everything about her Mark had been looking for in a woman and he planned on making her his forever, not realizing what she was about to do.

 

As Nalani lowered herself on Mark, feeling his throbbing shaft fill her to capacity, all she could do was lose herself in the moment.  She tried memorizing every single thing about it, the way his hands felt against her heated skin, how rough and calloused yet gentle and loving they caressed her.  Her moans and his groans echoed throughout the room, making a beautiful symphony with their mixed passion.  Every thought flew out of Mark’s head except making this beautiful woman release harder than she ever had in her life, moving her to where she was on her hands and knees, her beautiful ass in his vision, taking her every way he could with her consent.

 

Afterwards, Nalani and Mark laid on the floor of the bedroom, both of them staring up at the ceiling, Mark’s fingers lazily running up and down her back. “I love ya.  Ya know that right darlin’?” He said out of nowhere, Nalani looking up at him from resting her head on his shoulder, nodding her head.

 

“I know, I love you too.” Nalani whispered and kissed him soundly, not wanting him to think about anything else except making love to her for the remainder of the night.

 

Only Mark didn’t know that this was the beginning of the end, the second session between them commencing.

 

Chapter 23

 

Thanksgiving had arrived.

 

Nalani hadn’t expected much for the holiday season, just wanting to spend a quiet evening at home, but Kaci had other plans in mind.  After Nalani finally told her the truth about what really happened, about the rape and her reasoning for leaving Mark, the woman refused to leave her alone.  Kaci made a very impetuous decision and moved to Dallas with Randy, Jen, Anthony and Giselle, not really giving her fiancé a choice in the matter.  Randy would follow her anywhere, simply saying whatever made Kaci happy and he knew that was being close to her best friend. 

 

Mark was nice enough to offer helping them move, just like Randy had helped Nalani move in with him all those years ago.  Nalani did as well, the kids immediately interacting with each other even though Jen recently turned six years old.  Anthony was now three and Giselle was only a few months, radiant as ever.  Surprisingly enough, the move wasn’t that hard to do and, when it was finished, Nalani couldn’t have been happier to have Kaci living in the same town as her.

 

Then again, they were next door neighbors now.

 

After Kaci found out that her best friend had been raped by her ex-boyfriend, she wasn’t taking any more chances, having cried her heart out.  Nalani had been completely alone because Mark had lived on the outskirts of Houston and Kaci felt guilty for not being able to stop the rape from happening.  She actually vomited right on the porch when Nalani told her Scott had also been the one who raped and murdered Nicole, the past always coming back to bite them.  Kaci realized life was too short and living far away from Nalani, who lived in Dallas all by herself, simply wasn’t acceptable.

 

“I’m moving to Dallas.” Kaci had stated hours later while they both nursed a glass of wine, both of them needing it. “Don’t you dare try talking me out of it, Nalani Olivia.  I wasn’t there for you like I should’ve been.  If I would’ve lived closer to you, if you lived closer to people, that mother fucker would’ve…”

 

“He still would’ve tried.” Nalani had assured her solemnly, staring down at her glass of wine, silent tears sliding down her face. “As morose as this may sound, I don’t regret the rape happening.”

 

Kaci had nearly dropped her glass of wine, violet eyes wide in abhorrer, wondering if Nalani lost her mind. “W-What do you mean?” She stammered out, which was definitely something Kaci normally didn’t do, but she was stunned at the moment.

 

Closing her eyes, Nalani had stood up and leaned over the ledge of her wraparound porch, more tears falling. “Because I got to experience what Nicole did and now she doesn’t have to be alone in it.  I know it doesn’t make any sense, but it’s my fault she’s gone, that Dad is gone.  It’s my fault because I’m the one who brought Scott into my life and house, I trusted him with everything I had until I found those video tapes.  I just…” Nalani couldn’t go on and felt Kaci come up behind her, holding her close, wrapping her in a tight embrace.

 

“It’s not your fault, don’t say another word.” Nalani’s words broke her heart and Kaci realized right at that moment just how much lethal pain her best friend had gone through. “It’s alright now, Nala.  Everything is going to be alright now, I promise.”

 

A month later after that breakdown, Kaci moved to Dallas with her family, having purchased the vacant house that was right next door to Nalani.  The girls were thrilled when the older couple had announced the day after Kaci’s visit that they were moving to Hawaii on a permanent vacation.  When Kaci made an offer, Nalani’s jaw dropped and the older couple instantly agreed, wanting to leave Dallas as soon as possible.  Kaci called Randy, basically telling him she was moving to Dallas and he could come if he wanted to, but the kids definitely were.

 

“Nala needs me, Randy.  I love you, but she’s my sister and she needs us in Dallas.” That was all she had to say and Randy jumped onboard, both of them honestly wanting to get out of Houston for awhile now.

 

Jolting out of her thoughts, Nalani walked inside the kitchen to check on her twenty pound turkey, wearing a simple dark blue dress that was simple and sophisticated.  It was long sleeved, clung to her body and went down her knees, a simple hoop neckline that didn’t show anything.  It brought out her eyes though, which were rimmed in very light black eyeliner, her hair pulled up in a high bun to keep out of her face while she cooked.  The twins were currently with Mark and Nalani still couldn’t believe he accepted her invitation to Thanksgiving dinner, after Kaci’s constant persisting.

 

“Sure darlin’, I’ll be here.” Mark simply said, the malice gone from his voice, one of the many things Nalani was thankful for. 

 

Even though she knew Mark was keeping things between them civil for the sake of the twins, their children.

 

Knocking sounded at the door followed by it opening, little footsteps heading toward the kitchen.  Nalani’s face lit up at the sight of her children, bending down as they both flew into her arms, laughing as both of them began chattering away.  She made faces that showed them she was fully paying attention, getting excited as they were, nodding when they both demanded food.  She couldn’t help chuckling, Matthew and Megan definitely inherited their father’s appetite, kissing their foreheads.

 

“Happy Wanksgivin’, momma.” They both announced in unison, handing over what they made for her, causing tears to instantly fill here yes. 

 

It was a picture of each of them in a turkey frame with her and Mark, Nalani remembering when Mark had taken these.  It was on Halloween with Megan being a purple princess and Matthew opted for a ninja costume he saw, but he’d taken his mask off long enough to snap the picture.  Each of their faces were squeezed together, the kids in the center, eyes sparkling with happiness.  The turkey frames had been made and they were honestly the best frames Nalani ever saw in her life simply because her angels made them for her.

 

“Thank you, my angels.” She whispered, kissing each of them once again and stood up to blink her tears away, clearing her throat. “Why don’t you go in the living room while momma continues cooking?”

 

“Carwoons!!” They both took off running, causing her to laugh softly and set the pictures on the counter, trying to regain her composure.

 

“That was very sweet of you to help them, Mark.” She said softly, beginning to chop some celery for her homemade stuffing.

 

“Not a problem, Nalani.” Mark replied, knowing that meant a lot to her, wondering what was going through her mind. “You alright?”

 

Honestly, Nalani didn’t know what to think about Mark being in her life again, still not believing he’d tracked her down after three years and finding out the twins were indeed his.  That was another thing Nalani was thankful for…Mark being the father of Matthew and Megan, more tears filling her eyes.  It meant those angels weren’t created out of hatred, but instead love. 

 

She knew that there was always a chance Scott could come back to finish the job like he promised, but honestly Nalani didn’t care what happened to her.  Mark could take care of himself and she had to accept the fact she couldn’t save everyone, that the death of her family wasn’t her fault.  It took her a very long time to accept that, but after her breakdown with Kaci, it finally sunk in that Scott had manipulated and scared her for years. 

 

There was no way she could ever keep Mark away from his children, not after taking the first three years away from him.  Nalani also knew she would always love Mark until the day she died.  Nothing would ever change that and there would never be another man who could replace him in her mind and heart.  He was her soul mate and Nalani had hurt him more than words could say, thankful he hadn’t walked away from the twins.

 

He was honestly the greatest man alive.

 

“Yeah, I’m fine.” She answered, shaking herself mentally and turned back around to continue chopping the ingredients up for her stuffing, knowing Kaci and Keela would be here any second. 

 

Keela had recently found out her and Glen were having their own little bundle of joy and was currently four months pregnant, the stomach pouching out slightly.  They were thrilled and Keela couldn’t stop gushing about being a mother, definitely having that mommy gene that Nalani thought she didn’t have.  Everything about pregnancy agreed with Keela, even the morning sickness, though that didn’t stop the woman from watching her two favorite little people.

 

“Kee-Kee!!” Megan yelled as soon as the front door opened, running to her nanny as the woman scooped her up in her arms.

 

“Hey Meg!  How’s my favorite little girl doin’ huh?” Keela greeted, both of them rubbing their noses together with huge smiles on their faces, Glen following inside holding a rhubarb pie. “Where’s your momma pumpkin?”

 

Megan pointed and Keela nodded, setting her down on the couch with Matthew, who simply waved at her while his eyes were glued to cartoons on the television. “Some things never change.” Keela grunted wholeheartedly and stood right in front of the little man she’d practically helped raise, folding her arms in front of her chest. “Where’s my hug?”

 

Matthew chuckled and reached his arms out, hugging Keela around the neck tightly, groaning when she kissed the top of his head. “Ewww!!” Keela laughed and waved her hand to Glen, wearing a pair of stretch black dress pants with a lavender top that accented her pregnant body nicely.

 

“Hello Mark, thank you once again for giving my fiancé here a job.” Keela said that every time she saw Mark, truly thankful for the man’s generosity, sighing when he simply kissed the top of her head. “I mean it, you saved us.”

 

“He’s a hell of a worker.” Mark stated, smiling and shaking Glen’s hand, having grown closer to the man, becoming fast friends. “What’s that?”

 

“Rhubarb pie and if you touch it before dessert, I’ll castrate you.” Keela smiled sweetly, heading inside the kitchen with a big grin on her face, brown eyes sparkling.

 

Mark blinked, glancing back at Glen and chuckled ruefully. “Good luck with that, man.”

 

He couldn’t imagine what Nalani had been like during her nine months of pregnancy, cringing at the thought, though still sad he hadn’t been there to watch her body change.  To feel her stomach while the babies kicked against his palm, the ultrasounds he’d missed to hear their heartbeats and see them grow with each passing month…Mark had read up extensively on childcare after finding out the twins were his.  Glen was going to be able to experience everything, which saddened Mark more, immediately forcing those thoughts out of his mind just as the door opened again. 

 

Kaci and Randy walked inside, Randy holding Giselle while Jen and Tony walked ahead of them, all three looking adorable.  Megan immediately went to Jen while Tony joined Matthew on the couch, practically best friends already.  It warmed all four parents’ hearts to watch them interact, even with Jen being two years older than Megan and Matthew being a year older than Tony.

 

“Where’s my sister?” Kaci demanded, after hugging Mark, kissing the man’s cheek and winked over her shoulder at Randy when he growled playfully. “Knock it off and settle the kids down, Giselle’s seat is in the car.”

 

“Yes my mistress.” Randy bowed mockingly with humor filled blue eyes, immediately going to do Kaci’s bidding, the woman having him wrapped around her finger.

 

Mark was about to ask if the man needed any help finding his balls when the door opened again, his eyes widening at who stepped inside. “What in the hell are ya doin’ here?” He demanded, immediately crossing the room, staring in the light blue eyes of his best friend.

 

“Now ya didn’t honestly think ya’d be movin’ to Dallas without yer best man, did ya?” Steve grinned from ear to ear, both men hugging each other in a brotherly embrace, not having seen each other since Mark left Houston months ago.

 

“It’s damn good to see ya, cue ba