Decisive Moments: Book Two of In Time Series

Life is made up of choices and decisions.

Every moment there are choices that are presented and decisions to be made. These sometimes are inconsequential and other times have far-reaching effects. The impact can be minimal and other times monumental. One never knows which should be carefully weighed and considered.

Aislinn Munroe has succeeded. She no longer feels like the average girl living an average, boring life. She has a great boyfriend that loves her as much as she does him and they can make it through anything as long as they stand together. She has been accepted to her first choice college, gotten a job, found a place to live... Everything is falling into place for her.

Until it's not anymore.

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4. Chapter 3

I stood outside the door to my boyfriend's house and considered just going back home. My nerves were shot, and I didn't know if I could handle what was likely to happen. The conversation wasn't one that I'd been looking forward to over the past few hours, but I knew that I couldn't keep what Ryan had been doing from Teagan. Mr. Grabby could cause a lot of problems-and that made the choice for me.

 

I took a deep breath and then proceeded to let myself inside. I had closed the front door and was putting my bags down on the floor when I was knocked off my feet and onto my back. I could only gasp for air frantically, helpless against the furry, slobbering kisses being bestowed upon me.

 

It appeared that Zver had missed me.

 

I laughed, trying to push the behemoth off, but his weight sank into me further, cutting off my air supply. Drawing a shallow breath, I gasped, "Zver! Sidet!"

 

That was a mistake. Damn the literal dog; when I told him to sit, he sat. On me. What little oxygen I had rushed out in a giant exhale. "Shit! Zver, off," I wheezed, walloping on his side. "Get. Off!"

 

Of course, it would be now that the asshole wouldn't listen to any English commands. Insult to injury, he began to thump his tail. The little twit was enjoying himself!

 

"Zver, Ot!" Teagan yelled.

 

The large dog dug his paws into my stomach as he scrambled to get up. All I could do was lay there reveling at how air felt in my lungs. I rolled to my side, panting.

 

Teagan slid his hands under my arms and helped me sit up. "I think you should call an ambulance," I muttered crankily.

 

Teagan, on the other hand, had the audacity to look amused. "You do realize he only had his head and leg on you, right?"

 

That pulled me up short. "What? No. I think he broke something."

 

He nodded, now stifling a chuckle and poorly at that. "You're not dying. You don't have any broken bones."

 

I glared at him. "I may have a punctured lung."

 

"I don't think so, baby."

 

I snorted and began struggling to get up. Teagan grabbed my hand and pulled me upright, and I dusted myself off in an attempt to regain a shred of dignity. It didn't help that my boyfriend was hard-pressed to keep a straight face. I shot him a halfhearted scowl and took my hand back, only for Teagan to grab it again when I fell over the furry mound that caused the whole damn mess.

Zver was looking up at me in adoration. When our eyes met, he chuffed and thumped his tail. I glared when the puppy dog eyes made their appearance.

 

"Oh no, you don't." I pointed at him. "I'm pretty sure we had the let's not kill Aislinn conversation already." He lowered his head. I almost felt bad until he peeked up at me. Working the guilt factor, as usual. "You and me?" I gestured between us. "We need to talk. No jumping on Aislinn, got it?"

 

Zver shyly wagged his tail. Still seated, he shuffled a little closer. I held up a hand. "Nyet!" I said in a stern voice, then pointed toward the utility room. "Krovat!"

 

Everything in the dog deflated, but I refused, refused to feel bad. Head down, ears drooped, tail sagging on the floor, he made his way in the direction I'd indicated. I had never seen a more pathetic sight in my life. Teagan smothered a laugh, and I frowned at him. "What?"

 

"I can't believe you just sent him to bed."

 

"Why not? He was being bad."

 

"Hmm..." He reached out and pulled me close to him. "Is that what I should do with you when you're being bad?" He asked, his voice going deeper.

 

I shivered, and goose bumps popped up over my arms. Trying to act cool, though my heart was going a mile a minute, I wrapped my arms around his neck and said, "I dunno." There was no denying the hitch in my voice, but I continued. "Will you be there with me?"

 

A wide grin stretched across Teagan's face. "Well now, that depends on how bad you've been."

 

The door opened, and Connor walked in. He paused when he saw us, then shook his head and closed the door behind him. He nodded at Teagan before centering his attention on me. "Hey. You just get here?"

 

I nodded. "Yeah. I came here from work." I stepped back and started to pick all the things I'd dropped up when Connor's words stopped me.

 

"Does your roommate even know what you look like, Ash?"

 

I looked at him in confusion. "What?"

 

"Your roommate. Annie, isn't it?" He asked. I nodded, and he continued. "Has she ever actually seen you?"

 

"Yes...why?"

 

"I mean," he replied, setting his stuff down and kicking off his shoes, "that you're always here. You're going to go home someday and she's going to call the cops because she doesn't even know who you are."

 

"Does that mean you don't want me here?" Admittedly, that hurt.

 

Teagan delivered a glare to my brother, but neither of them said a word. I grabbed my stuff and headed for the door. "I guess that answers my question."

 

"Ash, hold up. It's not like that!" Connor snapped. "I just don't get why you even worry about paying rent when you're always here. It doesn't make sense."

 

Right there, with my hand on the doorknob, I realized how much I'd overreacted. One question and I'd blown things way out of proportion. How could I expect to have my brother treat me like an adult, when I was constantly going overboard emotionally?

 

This was just not a good day for me.

 

"Connor?" I bit my lip after I called out to him.

 

"Hm?" He looked at me, eyebrows raised.

 

"I..." I paused, swallowed, and tried again. "I..."

 

Connor and Teagan were both watching me.

 

I swallowed again, sucked in another deep breath, and forced the words out. "I'm sorry, Connor."

 

Dead silence met my announcement. Connor stared at me, bemused. Teagan quickly hid a smile behind a serious mask, the big jerk. The heat spread across my face at their silent observation. Finally, I snapped, "What?"

 

"Nothing," Connor said, still smirking. "It's just, I've never seen anyone in physical pain over giving an apology." A gleam appeared in his eyes. "Heh. You're sorry?"

 

I nodded.

 

"What for?"

 

As if he didn't know! I shrugged, not meeting his eyes.

 

"Ash?"

 

Teagan was suddenly fascinated by the tile floor. His shoulders shook as he tried to hold in his amusement. Nope, he'd be no help at all.

 

"Ash?" Connor insisted. "What was the apology for?"

 

"Um, it was just a general one?" I suggested. If I actually admitted to it, I'd never live it down. "It just seemed like a good time for one, you know?"

 

Connor eyed me for a moment before he shook his head with a wicked grin. "Yeah, no. I'm not buying it. What's it really for?"

 

I planted my hands on my hips and gave him a level look. "You can't just accept it and move on?"

 

He gave me a cheeky grin. "Nope."

 

"Fine!" I exclaimed, throwing up my hands in defeat. "I'm sorry for overreacting, OK? I didn't mean to act like that."

 

Connor's grin widened.

 

"What?" I demanded.

 

"That hurt, didn't it?"

 

"Shut up."

 

"I think we need to hear it again."

 

"Good luck on that one," I said with a snort.

 

Connor pulled me into a hug before I could escape. "It's alright, sis. I get it; I kinda did it on purpose. I'm sorry, too." He stepped away and grinned. "But I'm gonna remember this for a long time."

 

I pulled a face and pointed at him. "Don't push it, jerkface," I warned him.

 

Still laughing, he waved goodnight and made his way upstairs. Then I turned to look at Teagan. My breath caught at the warm look in his eyes. I arched my eyebrows in question.

 

"I'm proud of you, sweetheart," he said as he motioned for me to come closer to him. When I was close enough, he pulled me tight to his chest.

 

The feel of his hard, muscled chest under my hands took my breath away, and his nearness, his scent, enveloped me. I ran my hands up his chest to clutch his shoulders before tilting my head back to look at him. My breath caught at the soft look in his eyes.

 

"Thank you," I whispered.

 

We stood there for several minutes before I remembered the main reason I was there, and nearly groaned. I leaned back with a sigh and met his gaze, hesitant. "I need to talk to you." I cleared my throat. "There's something I need to tell you."

 

He studied me for a moment, his gray eyes searching mine before he spoke. "Is this about Caldwell?"

 

I nodded. "Yeah. He just...he's relentless. He keeps showing up everywhere, following me around." I took a deep breath and plunged ahead. "The rumors are already flying, Teagan. I don't want you to think the wrong thing." Tears welled up a bit, and I added, "I'm not doing anything, I swear!"

 

The silence that met my statement was unnerving. When I forced myself to look back at him, he was regarding me with a dark look. I tried to step back, but his arms tightened, almost to the point of being painful. "Where do you think you're going?" He demanded.

 

"You're upset with me," I whispered, hiding against his chest.

 

"You bet your ass I'm upset with you."

 

I swallowed hard. Teagan growled and stepped back, grabbing my wrist, and all but dragged me up the stairs and into his room. Once there, he walked me to his bed and sat me on the mattress. Then he stalked over and leaned against his dresser, crossed his arms over his chest and proceeded to glower at me.

 

I fidgeted under his regard. What should I do with my hands? I tried clasping them in my lap, but that felt too passive. Clutched the bedspread at either side was too exposing. Finally, I snapped, "What?"

 

"You're worried I think you're off doing something you shouldn't be, Aislinn. That is my problem." He ran a hand through his hair, clenching it between his fingers. "I trust you!" I started to speak, but he cut me off. "I know Caldwell, baby. You're right; he's relentless, and he's going to be a problem. I'm going to have to talk to him." He dropped his hand to his side. "Caldwell's a prick, Aislinn; he's dangerous. He'll blindside you."

 

I stared at floor, murmuring, "He made it sound like you two were a lot alike before." I took a deep breath and met his gaze. "It's only a little into the semester, but I've heard the whispers. No one can believe you're actually in a relationship, especially with a freshman." I paused before I finally just asked what had been on my mind for a while now. "Teagan, exactly how bad were you?"

 

I felt my heart stop momentarily, then start back up, beating double-time when he paused before answering.

 

"Well, you already know about high school and when I first started college," he started, rubbing the back of his neck and shifting nervously against the dresser. "I cleaned up my act a lot when I moved out to here. But, yeah..." he trailed off and grimaced, "I was no saint. I partied, I slept around...I was single, baby. But I drew some lines that I didn't cross," he stated firmly.

 

"What were they?"

 

"I didn't mess around with anyone that I knew was in a relationship, whether they came to me or not," he said as he held up a finger. "I didn't mess around with anyone that had too much to drink." He held up a second finger and then gave me a tight smile before he held up a third. "I didn't sleep with anyone who wasn't legal."

 

A weight settled onto my chest. A lump began to form in my throat, and I fought to keep it from choking me. Could that be it? Was that why Teagan wouldn't take this further with me? Did my age play a factor in us after all?

 

I blurted, "Is that why you won't be with me? Because of how old I am?"

 

Horrified that I'd actually said it aloud, I slapped my hands over my mouth and stood up. Teagan was staring at me, his brow furrowed and head tilted. The moment he realized what I meant, a sudden, clear understanding burned in his eyes, and his jaw tightened. My face heated up and I took another step away from him.

 

He straightened from where he'd leaned against the dresser and pointed to the bed. I shook my head; there was no way I was staying in his room at that point. Teagan scowled and pointed again. "Sit down."

 

"No way." I shook my head again. "I'd just like to go now, please."

 

"Not gonna happen." He took a step toward me and gestured to the bed again. "Sit your ass down, Aislinn. Now."

 

My breathing picked up to race in time with my heartbeat. I dropped my hands and clasped them in front of me. I forced myself to focus on a spot on the wall in an attempt to gain control of myself once again.

 

"Sweetheart, sit down," he said softly. Something about the way he said it, along with the gentle look in his eyes as he held a hand out to me, had me reach for him. He took my hand in his and pulled me to the bed and gently pushed me to sit down on it before he hunkered down before me. It wasn't lost on me that our last major relationship discussion had taken place exactly like this.

 

Teagan must have realized the similarity as well, because he reached out and took my hands in his with a dry smile. "At least I didn't have to drive three hours this time, huh?"

 

I gave him a wan smile, to which he squeezed my hands. "Now, back to your question..."

 

I flinched. "Look," I said, trying to pull my hands from his grip, "it's OK. It doesn't matter." The more I tugged my hands away, the firmer his hold got. Looking up, I saw his gray eyes darken with determination, and then narrowed in response. "Really, I'm over it. We can move on."

He smirked. "You can't lie for shit, honey." That brought me up short. He raised his eyebrows at me. "What? It's true!"

 

I snorted and looked away.

 

"But back to the topic at hand, no, your age has nothing to do with it. Well," he paused for a moment, and despite myself, my gaze came back to his. "At the very beginning, it was part of the reason."

 

I smiled and made a noise. I was both smug and upset. I hated being right, but at least I knew why.

 

Teagan shook his head. "No, I said it had been part of the reason. You were seventeen. But your age has nothing to do with this now."

 

"Then what is it, Teagan?" I cried. "We've been together almost six months now. Am I not pretty enough? Not what you want in bed?" I blinked against the tears trying to build. "I don't understand!"

 

He looked at me wide-eyed. His arms snaked out and jerked me off the bed, both of us dropping to the floor, me landing on his lap. Before I could wriggle away, his arms tightened around me.

"Aislinn, you couldn't be more wrong if you tried," he said. "You wanna know why we haven't done anything? You only lose your virginity once, baby. I want it to be perfect for you; I want to be perfect for you." He paused and cleared his throat as he smoothed his hands up and down my back. "I'm not going to have your first time, our first time, be a rushed fifteen minutes of worrying about Connor showing up!"

 

I was dumbfounded. At my reaction, he gave me one of those beautiful Teagan smiles that rushed through my veins. He leaned down and ran his nose alongside mine, and then he trailed his lip along my cheek until he reached my ear. "Don't think I don't want you, baby," he murmured in my ear. He tugged me closer. "Because I do."

 

Before I could say anything, he knotted my hair in a fist, pulled my head back and gently covered my mouth with his. Immediately, I moved myself closer, wrapping my arms around him and opening my mouth. When his tongue swept in to tangle with mine, the word claiming came to mind. When he kissed me, Teagan claimed me. I also realized, if the tension through his body was any indication, there would be a lot more claiming going on.

 

With a groan, Teagan pulled away and sucked in a breath. Both of us were panting heavily, and I could feel his heart racing in his chest. I knew that mine was beating just as quickly. He raised a hand and swept a few loose strands of hair from my face before tracing my jaw and down along my neck. I closed my eyes, shuddering at the sensation, and tilted my head for better access. I couldn't contain the soft moan that escaped when his warm, wet mouth started to trace the same path his fingers had mapped.

 

I ran my hands across his shoulders then clutched at his shirt to pull it off. He paused long enough to snatch his shirt up and over his head. It was tossed somewhere out of sight and he returned to his previous onslaught as I clung to his bare muscles and warm, smooth skin.

Teagan pushed me over onto my back and looked down, hovering over me. His eyes were the shade of darkened storm clouds, bright with desire. He studied me for a long second then dove to capture my lips once again.

 

His fingers skimmed my sides as he slipped my shirt off, and after a long moment of his appreciative gaze, he whispered, "You are beautiful, Aislinn."

 

A frantic scratching sounded at the door. We both froze, then I giggled and Teagan groaned. His head dropped to the valley between my breasts, and I raised a hand to run my fingers through his hair. "Unbelievable," Teagan muttered. He levered himself onto his hands and knees, straddling me, and he paused reluctantly. The scratching sounded again, more frantic than before and he sighed. "I love you," he said, and he gave me a quick kiss. "I'm sorry asshole interrupted us."

 

The dog whined through the door, and I laughed. "It's OK. Go take care of Zver."

 

We sat up and put on our shirts again. As he helped me stand, he whispered to me, "I liked that bra. Make sure you wear it again." He then pulled back, winked as I blushed, and left to walk the damn dog.

 

I was going to turn permanently red because of that man.

 

 

~*~*~*~*~

 

 

The knocking on the front door took both Teagan and I by surprise the next morning. We had just finished getting everything ready to go to St. Augustine Beach, and we'd been cleaning up breakfast when the banging sounded. "Was someone supposed to come over?" I asked Teagan.

He shook his head. "No...and it couldn't be for Connor."

 

I nodded; Connor had an early morning shift at work, and had left before we got up. The knocking sounded again. "You better go check it out, baby."

 

"Stay here. I'll be back," he said as he left the kitchen.

 

I could hear the murmur of voices at the front door as I finished cleaning up our mess, but I couldn't make out individual words. I heard the front door close, and waited for Teagan to return, curious. Long seconds ticked by, and he didn't come. When I couldn't even hear him walking around, I went to look for him.

 

He stood next to the couch in the living room, his back to me. A cold stillness wormed its way into my stomach, and Teagan's stance did nothing to dispel the worry. "Teagan?"

 

He didn't answer. He didn't even turn to look at me.

 

"What is it? What's wrong?" This, at least, made him move. He ran his fingers through his hair, letting out a shuddering breath. Finally, he turned around and met my gaze. His eyes were blank-cold. He still didn't say anything.

 

"Please, Teagan!" I cried. "You're scaring me!"

 

He shook his head slowly, as if awaking from a daze. "I don't even know how to tell you this one, Aislinn." His fingers riffled through his hair again, then lifted his other hand to stare at the stack of yellow, pink, and white papers it held.

 

"What are those?" The cold worm of dread sat heavily in my stomach.

 

"These?" He held the papers up. "Nothing much." He gave a bitter, humorless laugh. "Just summons for a child support hearing."

 

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