Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chapter 23 No Competition Part 2

Instead of standing next to Brandon, Alex stands next to me.

I try to ignore him, but he’s still very much shirtless and now with a light sheen of sweat over his shoulders and arms.

In front of us, Kyrene and Angel cautiously circle each other. Maria watches them intently as if picking up clues for her own fighting.

She glances at me and smiles. “These two are fun to watch.”

They both look formidable. Neither is smiling; they are both very serious.

Meanwhile Alex is too close to me. I glance up at him before looking back to the fight. It seems like nothing is happening for the longest time. And then Kyrene quickly lunges at Angel. In complete defiance of gravity, Angel leaps into the air over her.

My mouth drops. I had no idea it was even humanly possible for anyone to leap that high. Compared to Angel, Kyrene looks reserved. He lands behind her, and when she turns, clearly ready to do one of her quick dodges, he somehow manages to catch her with a tap to her heart.

Then she breaks into a smile. “You are such a cheater.”

Angel shrugs. “I can’t exactly turn mine off, you know.”

She rolls her eyes. “All right, this time I get to use my powers.”

A sound catches my attention from around the corner of the building. Instinctively, I turn my head towards the crunching of the dried grass, but all I see is Alex's back before I feel Maria’s hand on my arm gently pulling me back as she moves forward.

Everyone else has turned towards the two people walking up before I've even gotten a chance to see them. But I hear his voice and know who it is right away.

“Look what I found skulking around.”

Jimmy stops just past Alex with a tall blond man standing next to him. Maria and Alex suddenly seem a bit tenser. Just the fact that the man has shown up here with Jimmy makes my skin crawl.

Brandon is the first to greet him, walking to him and actually hugging him. The move is surprisingly warm. Brandon is very genuine about it.

As Kyrene and Angel step forward to greet him, Maria looks back at me. “That’s Aaron, Jimmy’s best friend,” she says in a low voice. “Stay away from him unless Brandon’s there. He loves Brandon like a brother. Jimmy too. People joke that he’s like a third brother.”

I bite my lip. There was no third brother in the story. If there had been, I would think the story would be a much shorter story.

The blond man’s eyes fall on me. I didn’t think there would be anyone creepier than Jimmy.

Brandon introduces us. “Aaron, this is my sister, Paula.”

I tuck myself a teensy tiny bit more behind Maria, glad to have her and Alex standing between him and me. I can see him eying me like he’s sizing me up and clearly not impressed.

“You have a sister?” He turns back to Brandon with a glance at Jimmy.

Kyrene glances at me, and I wonder if she can see how uncomfortable I am being the topic of conversation. She turns back to Aaron and invites him to join in the sparring. The subject is officially derailed though when Maria steps forward.

“I’ll spar with you.”

For the second time today, my mouth falls open. Everyone’s eyes fall on her, but the others are smiling like they’d expect something so unexpected from her. The only exception is Alex who appears as concerned as I probably do.

But with nothing more than a nod and a smile from Aaron, she steps out and faces him. She looks so tiny and young compared to him. Maria has a small little smile on her lips, respectable but confident, as she stands steadily before him.

Everyone rearranges themselves to watch. Angel stands next to Mitchell, and Alex moves over to stand next to me with a look like he’s thinking about grabbing me and running off. Kyrene stands next to Alex, her smile gone as she focuses on Maria and Aaron.

Standing a tiny bit off from us are Brandon and Jimmy who seem to be speaking to each other quietly as they watch.

It’s then I notice Aaron’s clothes. They’re strange compared to everyone else’s. Everyone else wears clothes that are like something you’d find at a second hand shop, all well used and all very casual. But he looks dressed up. He wears a button up shirt, untucked and a pair of grey trousers. He at once looks ridiculous going to spar in that get up and at the same time absolutely terrifying as if he’s just that confident in his abilities that he’s not even concerned with scuffing his very expensive shoes.

His eyes are sharp as he watches Maria. She has a similarly determined look on her face. I glance at the others, and everyone is watching them closely. Except Alex. He looks down at me and I turn away again, almost missing Maria’s lunge.

She moves quickly, using her small body to her advantage. But he’s quick. He taps the back of her neck before she even has a chance to turn around. He hasn’t even moved. Maria isn’t discouraged though. She has another go at it which seems to surprise him and put a smile on his face.

A bit of movement from Kyrene catches my eye. She glances at Alex, her eyes quickly flicking to the other side of the building before she notices me looking up at her. She mouths one single word at both of us. “Go.”

It doesn’t take more than that. Alex grabs my wrist and starts off in the direction Kyrene pointed us in passing by Mitchell and Angel who both glance at me-- Angel with a tight smile and a nod as if in complete agreement that I should go.

I glance back just before we round the corner and see Maria apparently standing triumphantly. For a second I pause, but Alex tugs me along, clearly wanting to get as far away as possible from the tall blond man.

Next Chapter -->


Just for fun, I've put up a little blog post with the "outtakes" from these last couple of chapters over here.


  1. Interesting! Somehow I didn't peg Brandon as a fan of Aaron, let alone treating him like a third brother - or the whole "ghost" thing is really working on me because this is the second time I've forgotten about Aaron and how he fits into things *lol*

    On my first read through I was trying to work out why they didn't want Paula watching the sparring match. As independent and "wild" as they all like to pretend they are, I really don't see them letting one of their inner circle come to harm for fun.

    Now, however, I'm wondering if Alex whisked her away during the sparring match while Aaron was distracted so that she wouldn't be there for him to focus on when the match was finished? I can see Aaron having an interest in her for his own reasons, even if Paula thinks he is looking down his nose at her.

  2. WOW. What a chapter.

    Like Illandrya, I didn't think Brandon would be a big fan of Aaron. That was pretty surprising. Now that I see him, I think of Mary and it saddens me. :(

    Maria is growing on me quickly. She's very feisty and daring, lol. I like that. And Angel. Just wow. Is that leaping move part of the martial arts in WA? I'm impressed.

    I'm sure you already know how I feel about Alex and Paula, haha. I cackled quite a bit when I got to the second sentence. <3

  3. It's interesting that they'd feel she was in danger still, even though Aaron is friends with both Jimmy and Brandon. You'd really think that as soon as Aaron figured out that Paula was the daughter of Henri, he'd leave her alone no problem...

    It's especially puzzling given Aaron's reaction to her. He didn't seem all that interested.

    I love Maria. She's so protective of Paula--they all seem to be. Even Kyrene gets in on the protective business. When Alex kept looking down at Paula, was he trying to get her to look in his eyes so he could control her movements and get her to leave without it looking like they were whisking her away?

    Wonderful chapter, and so much to think about!

  4. Illandrya, lol! Aaron is surprisingly under the radar for one who does manage to stand out. So I guess the Ghost thing is working!

    You bring up a very good question actually. Paula probably won't get an answer herself, but she's more thinking along the lines of, "Whoa that was uncomfortable. Get me outta there."

    Ning in a comment last chapter brought up that she noticed the hierarchy of the higher ups here, and I'd say that this is along those lines. We didn't see Brandon being very concerned, but the others-- Maria, Kyrene, and most of all Alex-- were. And Angel agreed, but he didn't take Mitchell away.

    Also, I included this picture as a clue as to Kyrene's feelings about seeing Aaron again. She suddenly looks very young in that picture to me. There's a story in that picture, I think.

    Nicole, surprising about Brandon and Aaron, huh? That is one relationship that's always going to make a head tilt I think, but it's very genuine. Brandon's known Aaron for as long as he's been alive, so he really does count him as one of his brothers.

    Isn't Maria awesome? lol! I love her, feisty and daring with a touch of impulsiveness.

    The leaping move is one of the martial arts moves in WA.

    Also, lol. Hope Brandon didn't pick up that thought! Now that would be embarrassing.

    Rachel, *nods* I sort of feel bad because I realize from an outsider's experience this whole scene is probably confusing. I wonder if it's one of those times where I'm taking something for granted that I haven't said, but I think the implication is there. There's a hierarchy even within the higher ranks, and Aaron is one that happens to be at the top. (Likewise, there's someone who appears to be at the bottom, or at least feels that way, and he's just left.)

    Haha, Maria is very protective of her now. I think Alex was only nervous and very much contemplating how to get her out of there until Kyrene told him to just go. I'm thinking this is something we'll get back to.

    Thank you. :)

  5. Whoa, what was with that leap?! That's amazing! Angel is unbelievable!

    Maria is great. She must be fun to write. She's very bold. I loved how quick she was to volunteer to spar with Aaron (and she won!)

    I think I've become confused somewhere along the line though. Is this the first time Paula has come across Aaron? I thought they'd met before?

    The whole group's protectiveness of Paula is interesting. Makes me really excited for the next chapter!

  6. I love Angel. He's just a naturally good fighter (you know, with his powers). Kyrene is too, and I think I can see them being a little competitive. But they're also very good friends.

    Maria is very bold, lol. She's definitely taking her place with the big guys here. I see some interesting friendships she's made in my head, including with Jimmy. And now she's wowing Aaron. (And yes, she did get a tag in!)

    Nope, unless I've slipped somewhere. Paula's never met Aaron. He's usually away from home. Maybe you're thinking of Mary? Aaron slipped in there thanks to my gut. This was his original intended first appearance. (And only appearance if I remember right, because I think I remember wondering why he was walking through a chapter like this, lol.)

    Yeah, they are all getting a bit involved with her now! This chapter won't end. I've got another half chapter that suddenly decided it would pop in and needs to go next.

  7. D'oh, yes, I was thinking of Mary! Thanks for the clarification, it makes more sense to me now!

  8. Very interesting turn of events at the end here - both that he felt inclined to take her away from the scene AND that Kyrene helped him do it. One moment, and it has so many fascinating possible implications! Especially considering I wouldn't expect Aaron to try to harm her (or really even hit on her) in the presence of both Brandon and Jimmy, so I can't wait to find out what this was about!

    I love that Maria stepped up, lol! She totally would!

    I agree there's a story in the way Kyrene hugged Aaron - you really don't see much hugging around here, so it makes an impact.

  9. Very unsettling. It was interesting that Angel didn't feel he had the authority to remove Paula from the scene, not without permission or at least agreement from Kyrene.

    Aaron's reaction to Paula, brief as it was, seemed to focus on the fact that Brandon had not told him he had a sister rather than that a sister existed.

    And I'm with everyone else. I ADORE Maria!!

  10. Gahh, I'd totally forgotten about Aaron (I blame the fact that someone worse came along)

    They are certainly protective of Paula, I wonder if it's a natural thing, the fact that she's Henri's daughter, or possibly both...

    Another great chapter mate :)

  11. Laura, and we definitely will find out because I think Alex's reaction is what most affected Paula here.

    Maria's too fun. I'm sure her future among these guys is bright.

    SB, I wouldn't say that Alex didn't feel he had the authority. More like he was teetering on the edge, fidgeting (by constantly looking at Paula), and so Kyrene finally just gave him the push he needed to go. Maybe I should change her line to "Just go?"

    I'm glad you all are liking Maria, though she's hard not to like once she gets rolling, lol.

    Poida, lol! It's okay, Aaron is sneaky that way. He wants you to forget about him.

    Oh, that's a good question. I don't think that's going to be flat out answered, so you all can make your own conclusions.

    Thank you, poida!

  12. The fight between Kyrene and Alex was interesting. I couldn't help but think there was some very strong sexual tension in their movements against each other.

    Am curious about Aaron. Everyone seems, the word isn't afraid but more cautious of him which makes me wonder if he's a 'bad man'. The speed and consent of the others that Alex take Paula away has me intrigued.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what his story is and I have to say, I still can't think of Jimmy as bad after knowing what he suffered.

  13. Oh I'm sure there was! I don't believe it was fully intentional on Kyrene's part. I think she likes to think she's above jealousy, but sometimes I wonder if she really is.

    "Cautious" is a perfect word. There is one here who is frightened of him, but the others are definitely cautious. I have to admit I often wonder the same thing about Aaron. Technically he's on the "good guys" side, but at the same time I realize that doesn't mean he's good himself.

    Thank you, and also, lol. I think everyone is thinking the same about Jimmy. At least everyone does understand him better now.

  14. I'm wondering just what Aaron would have done to Paula with all those other people there. Although I suppose if he wanted to get to her, being a ghost, he could have at any time. Still, she is Henri's daughter so wouldn't that afford her some level of "off limits"?

  15. It is murky here, but I think it takes another angle to see clearly. Namely, what's Alex's angle here? Why did he race her off? She had to be fine with Brandon there, Maria even said so (though Maria wasn't much more comfortable).

  16. Wow, Brandon continues to surprise me, embracing this Aaron? All the relationships in this are fraught with secrets, tension, sexual and otherwise, makes for some interesting and fab dynamics!