Chapter 13

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I know that I usually put these at the end, but I just wanted to express my thanks beforehand. This story has reached over one THOUSAND reads and nearly 100 votes. I am in awe at how wonderful all of you have been.

Thank you,

Mason

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Chapter 13
    Daniel kissed my cheek lightly. “Wake up, Tyler,” he whispered gently into my ear. “I’ve let you sleep in, but if you’re coming with me to the home office, we have to leave in thirty.”
    I groaned loudly; I was not a morning person, but I rolled over as my eyes popped open, adjusting to the early morning light pouring into Daniel’s bedroom. He was sitting on the edge of the bed beside me in his boring work clothes. I decided to go with Daniel to get clothes for the funeral and keep him company. The real deciding factor of me going back home came because he reassured me a hundred times over that my father wouldn’t be there.
    “I hate waking up,” I nearly wined in a scratchy morning voice.
    Daniel gave me a nice smile as I yawned. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, you look pretty dang cute when you’re waking up.”
    A blush began to creep over my cheeks. “Stop that,” I said with another loud yawn.
    “Nope,” Daniel said firmly. “Now get your cute butt out of bed. If I don’t log onto the system on time, your father will have mine on a platter.”
    “Ok. Ok.” I crawled out of his sheets and stretched on the tips of my toes. My back popped several times. Rolling my neck around, it also let out a few loud pops into the morning air. “That’s better.” I grinned at Daniel; he was staring at me as if I were some alien from Neptune or something.
    “That is so gross,” he said as he wrinkled his nose in playful disgust.
    I rolled my eyes at him. “Can I,” I gestured at his closet, “change into something fresh?”
    Daniel nodded as he stood. “You don’t need to ask, Tyler. I’ll be waiting in the living room when you’re changed.” He flashed me his brilliant lopsided smile as he left the room, pulling the door closed behind me.
    Rubbing my eyes and yawning loudly once more, I quickly grabbed a clean shirt from the dozens in his closet. It was a bright red long-sleeved shirt that probably clung to Daniel’s fit frame; however, on me, it hung loosely like a potato sack. I rummaged through his dresser for a pair of sweats.
    I tossed the clothes I had been wearing into the clothes hamper on my way out. Just as he said, I found Daniel standing in the middle of the living room, fiddling with his phone. The morning light shone through the window and wrapped around his body like a golden veil. As I neared, he looked up and a smile tugged on his lips. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to you wearing my clothes.”
    Frowning, I looked myself over. I knew that I looked rather frumpy in his clothes, but I liked the feel of them, the smell. I felt safe in Daniel’s clothes.
    “It’s not a bad thing,” he began obviously seeing my frown. “There is something oddly sexy about you wearing my clothes.”
    I blushed farther and found it impossible to stifle the smile that grew on my lips. Daniel found me sexy; I thought it was impossible for anyone to find me even remotely attractive, let alone sexy. “Well, I like wearing them,” I admitted with a small smile.
    Daniel ran his eyes up me once more. “You ready?”
    I ran to the front door and stepped into my shoes. “I am now.” I shot Daniel a childish grin. He rolled his eyes, placed a tender kiss on my cheek, and pulled the door open. I followed closely behind.
    The car ride to my house was a silent one. Daniel slid his hand over mine, and I instantly intertwined my fingers with his. The feeling of being content mixed with my inability to function in the morning made for a nice nap. Before I knew it, Daniel was shaking my shoulder gently to wake me.
    I yawned widely and gave him a sleepy smile. “Wow, I dozed off.”
    “You snored too,” Daniel said with a chuckle.
    “I do not snore,” I said defensively.
    Daniel raised his eyebrow. “Don’t worry; it was cute.”
    A blush flushed my cheeks and made the tips of my ears burn. How many times did I snore around him? I felt incredibly embarrassed.
    “You have got to stop being so cute, Tyler.” Those words only made my blush deepen.
    “I’ll do my best, Daniel,” I said with a shy smile while running a hand through my hair.
    I followed Daniel up the drive to the front door. He reached into his pockets, pulled out his ring of keys, and unlocked the front door. I found it funny that my father’s assistant had a key to my house, and I didn’t even have one.
    To be fair, I never really left the house. That made having a house key rather pointless.
    “I’m going to take a shower,” I said as I shut the door behind us. The house was dark and felt unused. It was almost as if something were missing. Without my mother slaving away in the kitchen and me existing in my bedroom, the house seemed to fall dormant.
    My stomach began doing little back flips as I stood and simply stared through the darkness. All the lights were off, and the entire atmosphere changed. My mother, despite her faults, managed to make this house into a home for all of us. Now, she was gone, and my home was just an empty shell of its former self.
    “Are you ok?” Daniel placed a hand on my shoulder gently.
    I looked up at him and shrugged. It felt so different to be home, and I didn’t like it; I didn’t like it one bit. “It’s just weird being here,” I admitted.
    He leaned down and placed a kiss on my forehead. “Everything will get back to normal soon.”
    “Promise?”
    Daniel gave me one of his confident lopsided smiles. “I promise.”
    I stood on the tips of my toes and touched my lips to his. He instantly wrapped his arms around me protectively. “You should get to work, slacker,” I said playfully into his chest.
    “Yes, sir.” Daniel placed one last kiss on my lips before he pulled away and started upstairs to the office.
    Smiling, I followed behind him, turning into my own bedroom. Everything was just as messy as I left it. For some unbeknownst reason, I found some comfort in the messiness of my room. I spent so much of my life cooped up within these walls with only my imagination to keep me company.
    A small pain tugged at my heartstrings. There was still a very small part of me that very much missed Jerry. I mean, there was no denying the fact that Jerry was everything I could never be; Jerry was everything I could ever want to be.
    I sighed as I plopped on the edge of the bed. “Stop thinking like that, Tyler,” I whispered to myself. “Get through these next days, and you have a chance to have a good life.” I deserved to be happy.
    Slowly stripping out of Daniel’s clothes, I padded into the bathroom. Flipping the light on as I entered, I immediately stepped into the shower. The water that crashed against my body was painfully frigid, not only stealing the heat from my flesh, but also the air in my lungs. Gradually, the water began to warm, becoming a steaming waterfall.
    After scrubbing myself clean, I pulled a towel from a nearby shelf and began drying off. Wrapping the towel around my waist, I stood in front of my large bathroom mirror. Its surface looked opaque, covered in a thick film of condensation. With my palm, I wiped it away, meeting the eyes of my reflection.
    Instantly, a smile tugged at my lips; I looked so incredibly different. The reflection that stared back at me was the same face I saw every time when I looked into a mirror, but at the same time, it was like seeing myself for the first time. My eyes changed from their usual dark, flat brown to an almost warm honey. My face and lips looked a bit fuller instead of looking so gaunt. I ran a hand down my own chest and found that I wasn’t all skin and bones anymore. Somehow, I actually managed to put on a little weight.
    In just a few days, my body changed not only on the outside, but on the inside as well. Life danced behind my eyes, making me look alive.
    In just a few days with Daniel, I began changing for the better.
    Unable to contain the smile that blossomed on my lips like a flower first bursting into life, I ran out of my bathroom, down the hall and turned into my father’s office. Daniel was sitting quietly at the large redwood desk. When he heard me storm in, he lifted his eyes and let his jaw drop open.
    Not waiting for him to speak, I ran over to him, throwing my wet body around his. His body tensed nervously as his arms automatically wrapped around my sopping shoulders. “What’s wrong, Tyler?” The panic in his voice shone truly. “What happened?” He was holding me so tightly as if at any minute, I would walk away and never look back.
    “Thank you,” I breathed into his chest. I lifted my eyes as Daniel brushed the hair that stuck to my damp face. Meeting his emerald eyes, I closed the distance in between out lips, kissing him with every ounce of passion I possessed.
    When our lips parted, we were both breathless. “For what?” Daniel asked finally. His eyes seemed hazed over.
    I smiled, kissing the tip of his nose. “It’s hard to explain, Daniel, but just thank you.”
    He lifted a brow questioningly. When I began to pull away, he held me tightly. “You don’t get to slip away like that without some sort of explanation for tackling me while you’re basically naked in your father’s office.” The beginnings of a wicked smile gathered in a corner of his lips.
    I took a deep breath and smiled. “Thank you for loving me.”
    Daniel ran his fingers through my dripping hair. “You don’t have to thank me, Tyler. You’ve made it really easy.” He kissed me gently on the lips. “I love you.”
    Warmth spread through my entire being. “I love you too.”
    Pulling away from Daniel, I stood in front of him and laughed loudly at the damaged I caused to his work outfit. He was nearly as drenched as I was. “Remember this day, Tyler,” he began patting his damp clothes. “I’m going to get you back.”
    I grinned while double-checking to make sure my towel was firmly in place. The last thing I wanted was to ruin the moment by flashing him my ass. “I’ll be looking forward to it.” With that, I darted off to my room to change into something more presentable. I also decided that I should probably clean up all the wet footprints as well.
    I chose an actual t-shirt and a pair of jeans. I noticed that the jeans, though still very loose, clung to my hips better. Walking back into my father’s office, I found Daniel quietly tapping away on the computer. Deciding not to disturb him, I sat on the large chair in front of the desk and watched him work.
    He acknowledged me with a small smile then jumped back into his work. It was fascinating watching Daniel work. He handled everything so efficiently and when he spoke on the phone, his confidence took over, changing him into something much more than an assistant.
    The only time he faltered was when my father called.
    “Hello, Mr. Greer,” Daniel began in a cheery voice, though his eyes shone more annoyance than cheer. He frowned suddenly. “I’m swamped over here, Sir. There are documents piled up that still need to be edited and faxed over.” Daniel rubbed the bridge of his nose as he sat quietly listening to my father speak. “Yes, I understand that this is a stressful time.” Daniel furrowed his brow. “I’m working as efficiently as human possible, Sir.”
    The two shared a few more words, and Daniel grew increasingly annoyed and upset, but he kept his voice calm and clear. When Daniel finally hung the phone up, he ran a hand through his hair, resting his face in the palm of his hand.
    “Are you ok?” I asked carefully.
    Daniel laughed dryly. “I think your father is trying to kill me.” He peeked through his fingers to meet my eyes. “Each week it seems like he gets worse. I’ve never seen him so angry with me for doing exactly what he says. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” He blew out a breath. “I work from his home office then he gripes that I’m not in the firm, but when I’m in the firm, he gripes that there is work to do at the home office.”
    I bit my bottom lip. I felt for Daniel; it looked like I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t please my father. “Don’t take it personally. He’s been like that with me basically my whole life.”
    Daniel sighed loudly. “I’m starting to understand why you two have such a strained relationship.” His words were dry, but his head instantly shot up, showing eyes that screamed I’m sorry.
    I wrinkled my nose at his harshness; it was so unlike him.
    “Jesus. Tyler, I’m sorry,” he began while standing up. “When I get flustered, I tend to say what’s on my mind. I didn’t mean anything offensive by it.”   
    Offering him a small smile, I shrugged. “We do have a strained relationship. It’s not like you’re telling me anything I didn’t already know.” A part of me would always long to have a relationship with my father, but it seemed that with each year that went by, I wanted less to do with him.
    Daniel stood, walked to where I was sitting, and knelt in front of me. “Are you staying with me tonight?”
    I smiled gently, meeting the stunning greens of his eyes. “Do you want me to?”
    The smile that pulled at the corners of his lips was brilliantly genuine. “Of course.”
    “So, you’re still going with me to the funeral tomorrow?”
    Daniel’s smile faltered. “I’m going to be there for you, Tyler.”
    I closed my eyes and sat back against the chair. “Daniel, I don’t want you to get fired.”
    He laughed gently, brushing his fingers against my cheek. “I’m the best assistant your father will ever have. If he fires me over something so miniscule, it’s his loss. Sure, it’ll suck not having a job, but I have quite a bit of experience in what I do. Finding a new job should be a cake walk.”
    Something inside told me that Daniel didn’t wholeheartedly believe what he was saying. He was adamant that he needed this job just a few days ago. What changed? When I opened my eyes, Daniel was smiling at me. I smiled back. “Thank you so much, Daniel.”
    He waved me away with a grin. “You can repay me by accompanying me on my break.” Daniel pulled me to my feet and wrapped his arms around me in a warm hug. I breathed in his chest as I rested my head on his chest. He always smelt so dang good.
    The rest of the day was uneventful, and after seeing the effect my father had on Daniel, I decided to surprise him with a little gift. I hoped that it would make him feel better.
    While Daniel was upstairs working away the night, I slipped away downstairs and stepped into my mother’s kitchen. This place was her pride and joy; she spent most of the day here baking to her heart’s content.
    I rummaged through the cabinets and fridge for something to prepare. I didn’t possess the same talents that my mother possessed when it came to cooking, but a little bit of her talent rubbed off onto me.
    The groceries were low, but there was plenty to work with. I grabbed some fresh zucchini and yellow squash from the fridge, sitting them in the sink to wash. I pulled out a wok from its place and a few other pots and pans.
    Filling up one pan with water, I turned the eye to boil while going to the sink to wash the vegetables. Once the vegetables were washed and cut into small cubes, I emptied a box of whole-wheat spiral pasta shells into the boiling water. Drizzling a little olive oil in the wok, I tossed the vegetables in and turned the setting to a low medium.   
    A smile formed on my lips as I cooked. Before things turned for the worst in our lives, my mother would sit me in the kitchen and walk me through her every recipe. The one I worked on never held a name, but it always rang true as my favorite.
    In a way, making this dinner was homage to my mother; it was part of my final goodbye.
    I diced a raw onion, sniffing as my eyes began to burn. Squinting and trying not to somehow chop off one of my appendages, I dropped the onion in the sizzling pan of veggies. We didn’t have any fresh herbs in the house, so I settled for a dash of the dried stuff.
    Once the noodles were al dente, I drained them, rinsed them, and tossed them into the wok with the rest of the mixture. I drizzled more olive oil and cranked the heat higher, sautéing the vegetables and noodles together, which allowed all the flavors to meld together. To finish it off, I added a dash of salt, and my mother’s secret ingredient: a single tablespoon of real butter, not that margarine crap.
    Satisfied over my work, I tasted a spoonful and felt pleasantly surprised that it tasted almost exactly like my mother’s original dish. Of course, it would never hold the same oomph my mother’s held. She always put her heart and soul into her cooking.
    I felt tears welling in my eyes. The kitchen smelled like her cooking, and I found myself thinking of the fond moments we shared on the rare occasion. Wiping my eyes, I smiled down at the food. “I love you, Mom,” I whispered into the air.
    Daniel poked his head around the corner curiously a few minutes later. I stood in the kitchen and gave him a small smile. “I thought you might be hungry.” My words were shy.
    “You can cook?” He actually sounded surprised.
    I folded my arms across my chest. “I’m not the greatest, but I know a little bit.”
    He grinned at me as he stepped closer, placing his hand on my hip. “I may have to put you to work if you’re any good.” He kissed me gently. “You’ve tasted my cooking; it’s horrendous.”
    This time I grinned. “Actually, I just ate your salad, and if I may say so myself, that was one mighty fine salad.”
    “Oh, shush it.” Daniel’s lips met mine, clearly shutting me up.
    It turned out that Daniel absolutely loved my dish. “I’m glad you like it,” I said with a huge smile.
    “Seriously, this is great.” He shoveled another spoonful into his mouth, which felt so un-Daniel-like that it made me laugh.
    I actually cleared my plate that night, and honestly, eating regularly became quite the habit when I spent time with Daniel. There simply wasn’t a reason to withhold food. “I’m going to clean up,” I said after we were both finished eating, “and I need to go pack some clothes for tomorrow.”
    Daniel stood up. “You go get your things put together, I’ll clean up. After all, it’s the least I can do.”
    “Aren’t you just the epitome of a gentleman?”
    “I do try.”
    Kissing him once on the cheek, I made my way to my room and did my best to put together an outfit that I felt would be appropriate for my mother’s funeral. There wasn’t going to be a visitation, just a small ceremony outside at the plot that would become her final resting place.
    It took me a whole minute to become completely and utterly frustrated at my wardrobe. What exactly constituted as appropriate attire for a funeral? Giving up, I plopped on the end of my bed and fell on my back. “I have nothing to wear,” I grumbled to myself.
    “I’m sure you have something,” Daniel said from the doorway, startling me to a sitting position.
    I grabbed my chest and blew out a breath. “You scared the crap outta me.”
    Daniel grinned; he obviously enjoyed scaring me. “Would you like some help?”
    Nodding, I stood back up as Daniel began rummaging through my closet. He pulled out a long sleeved, solid black shirt in the first five seconds of his little venture. “This will do, and I have a tie you can wear with it. What about pants?” He asked from over his shoulder.
    I gestured over to my large dresser. He began rummaging through that as well, and pulled out a dark pair of skinny jeans. “I wouldn’t usually go for skinny jeans for a funeral, but you don’t own a single pair of khakis. Who doesn’t at least own one pair?”
    I laughed and raised my hand proudly. “I think they’re the ugliest pants in the world.”
    Daniel feigned offense. “You take that back.” He wore khakis nearly every day for work.
    I shook my head and stuck out my tongue. “Make me.”
    In a flash, Daniel wrapped his hands around my waist, pulling me against his body. Before I could pretend to object, his lips were on mine. I opened my mouth, allowing his masterful tongue entrance. I nearly groaned at the taste of Daniel; I absolutely loved the way he tasted. It drove me insane. “Do you take it back,” Daniel breathed roughly against my lips.
    I blinked several times and let out a nervous laugh. “You’re very persuasive, Daniel.” I paused to rake in a deep calming breath, but it did little to stifle the heat that built around the close proximity of our bodies. “What if I refused to take it back?” I asked boldly.
    A wicked grin gathered in the corner of Daniel’s oh-so-kissable lips. “If you continued to refuse to take it back, I guess I would be inclined to kiss you until your entire body aches.”
    My body responded immediately. My knees felt weak, and my skin flushed. I licked my suddenly dry lips. “You can’t say things like that, Daniel.”
    “Why’s that?” He asked, hovering his lips a fraction of an inch away from mine. It was like torture. My body was screaming to close the distance between us.
    “We’ll never leave my room,” I said truthfully.
    Daniel swallowed hard. “In that case, we better get back to my place.” His face reddened instantly at his own words. “I didn’t mean it like that,” he said too quickly. “I’m just saying that tomorrow is going to be a long day, and we don’t need to be camped out all night in a bedroom.” He blew out a frustrated breath. “Oh, I give up!”
    I laughed at his frustration and stood on the tips of my toes, placing a kiss on his lips to shush him. “Take a deep breath, Daniel.” Then, I said words that I never through I would utter in my entire life, “Everything is going to be fine.”

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Thank you all for being so patient. This chapter is a little uneventful, but it serves its purpose. The next is going to be filled to the brim with delicious drama. Promsie (:

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I would also like to say hello to the newest 'fans.' Hello new fans! My name is Mason(:

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