2 weeks earlier

Long Beach, WA

April 18th, 2020

“I’m serious,” Aiden said, waving at Richard as the little boy came around on the Ferris wheel again, laughing brightly as one little hand waved and the other held on to the pole that ran through his frozen mount. “I want you two to come live with me.”

Mariah sighed, knowing that he was right in wanting her and Richard to come with him finally, to be a part of his life just as he’d been part of hers for so long now. But there was still a reason to be reserved, and it was a reason that Aiden knew about. He didn’t care though, he’d said as much before. He was also a good man, a genuinely good person that cared deeply about her and Richard. What was more, he honestly didn’t give a damn that she’d been married to a Marine in the recent past.

She knew enough about Aiden to understand that he was tough, gentle, kind, and in some situations rather scary since he was too warm of a person to hurt anyone on accident, but he could become nasty if he had to. After all, he’d promised her ex that if he came around them again he’d twist a certain part of his anatomy around like a chicken’s neck until it popped off. And to Mariah this hadn’t sounded like an idle boast.

“It’d be better than living with your folks,” he said, an argument that he’d made more than once, “I know your mother,” he waved again as Richard and his grandparents waved back, the elderly couple smiling at the two of them in what was no doubt their continued approval, “loves having him around, but I also know they like having their space from time to time.”

“I know you’re right,” Mariah said, brushing a lock of dark, ebony-colored hair behind her ear, “But he’s still a threat. Until I know he’s gone we’re all still in some danger. He won’t cross my parents, but you…”

“I challenged him” Aiden replied, “I know how this alpha male shit works. My own friends have tried it on me for years. But I’m serious Mariah. I want you two in my life, and I want to be in yours.”

She smiled as she looked over at him, taking his slightly tanned hand in her darker one as she leaned close. “You already are in ours, but I know how he works. The moment he thinks we’ve moved in together, he’s going to start up again.”

Aiden sighed, “Is there anything I can say, or do, that will change your mind?”

Mariah looked back just in time to see her son and his grandparents come around again, but this time her father was not smiling. His darker skin tone usually made his moods quite apparent, though as she saw his concerned scowl she simply knew something was wrong. It wasn’t until he pointed behind him, using one thumb directed over his shoulder, that she gasped as she looked beyond the ride. Her jaw clenched as she saw the figure standing just outside the small fairgrounds that had been plunked right in the middle of town so long ago, leaning on the waist-height chain link fence that surrounded the perimeter.

He didn’t see her, but from the leering grin he had on his face it was obvious that he’d seen her parents and Richard. Pressing her lips into a thin line she grabbed hold of Aiden unconsciously, seeking the only safe port in the sudden storm of emotion that was threatening to overcome her in that moment. For his own part Aiden didn’t need to be told what was wrong, he’d seen her react in this way before, and could easily follow her gaze across the fairgrounds.

“Son of a bitch….” he growled, making as to move forward. Mariah tried to grab him but was unsuccessful as he moved too quickly, making straight for the former Marine that had once upon a time been her husband.

“Aiden!” she shouted, moving to intercept him. He was too fast however, and by the time she’d gotten around the Ferris wheel she could already see that Aiden and her ex had gone nose to nose. Hurrying a little faster she felt her heartbeat quicken, the flats she was wearing skidding on the gravel of the fairgrounds. In that instant she felt sure that something was going to happen.

(to be continued)

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