Chapter 6 Ethan

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Berkley woke to the sound of her favorite band as she did every morning.  But this morning was different.  She woke much earlier and in much need of sleep.  Dane had kept Ethan so wound up that she finally passed out shortly after midnight.  It was exhausting just trying to watch him play.  None the less, she had left Dane to deal with Ethan's sugar rush alone.  It wasn't that Dane didn't deserve it but being the practical minded person that she was it just felt wrong when he was paying her to care for Ethan. 

She threw the covers back and walked over to the mirror.  Before slipping back into her yoga pants she slid her tank top up to assess the bruises on her body in hopes that yesterday's sun and a little more time would make them less apparent.  There was an improvement but not enough to make her comfortable about going out today.  The swelling in her face was gone but she still had a terrible bruise along her jaw line.  She hoped that there wouldn't be any visitors but as a precaution, she smeared a heavy layer of makeup from her chin over towards her ear.  Last night, she had scurried into the kitchen during the middle of dinner, fearful of what Mrs. Knight would think of her battered appearance.  She played it off and Dane seemed to think she was just putting away her dishes.  He knew the truth behind the bruises and he hadn't bothered to correct Alana regarding the accident on the freeway.  She didn't want to explain them to 'Mama Knight'.

She stepped out into the hallway and treaded quietly to Ethan's room.  He was sound asleep with his head at the foot of the bed and one arm wrapped tightly around his favorite dinosaur.  She closed the door quietly back.  Dane stepped out of his room into the hall dressed in black suit, a white shirt still not buttoned completely and his tie hanging loosely around his neck.  He rolled his shoulder as his jacket fell into place over his broad shoulders.  He was truly a handsome man leaving Berkley to wonder about Ethan's mother.

"I'm running a little late.  Is he up?"  Dane asked quietly.

"No.  I think he will be out for a while longer."

"Good, I mean, I hate not to see him before work but I don't have time for one of his fits today.  We have a pretty crazy schedule.  You'll see soon enough."  He said walking down the hall towards the stairs.  He stepped over the child safe gate.  He reached for Berkley's hand to help her.

"This thing may keep Ethan safe but it's going to be the death of me."  He smile was subdued this morning but there was a twinkle in his eye. 

Once in the kitchen Berkley was surprised to see Grace.  Dane walked straight up to her and lifted his chin.  She automatically straightened his collar and buttoned it tight to his neck and then proceeded to loop his tie around until it was snug.  Dane grumbled and she gave him a warning look then cinched it tighter to hush him up.  She handed him a travel mug and he kissed her on the cheek.  "Thanks Grace.  I don't know what I would do without you."  He snatched his briefcase from the counter top and walked towards the garage.  He turned back to Berkley.  "I put all of my numbers in your phone.  If you have any problems with Ethan today don't hesitate to call me.  I would rather you stay here at least for today.  Do you mind staying in?"

"No that's fine."   She smiled and tilted her chin to remind him of her bruises.  "The less people that see this, the better off I am."

Dane frowned but gave her a nod of understanding.  His heart ached for this stranger now living under his roof.  He wanted to reach out and stroke her cheek.  Not in a sensual way but one of reassurance.  She was young and beautiful and trying to hide it.  As if it was a bad thing and despite her best efforts no amount of bruises, frumpy clothes or contacts lenses could cover it up.  Dane kept his hands to himself then walked away calling over his shoulder. "Ladies have a nice day."

...

Grace offered Berkley a cup coffee which she gratefully accepted.  Ethan would be waking soon and she would be thankful for the caffeine.  Grace gave Berkley a knowing look then popped the question.

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