But - quite honestly - I'm not up to it.
If you've been following on FB and Twitter, you know Charlie has been very ill this week. He had emergency surgery Wednesday and (fingers crossed) is on the mend, but it's made for one hulluva long week.
So - because you've been such patient little darlings - I have something better for you:
The first chapter of Captive Potential, Phasms Volume II!
Enjoy! And if you haven't read Volume I, you can pick it up here: AMAZON
* * * *
We were not fighting. We weren’t even having a heated discussion. We weren’t doing anything. Including talking.
Fed up with Aiden’s refusal to discuss things, I stomped to the garage in search of my painting supplies. Boxes were piled everywhere, furniture shoved against the walls and covered in drop cloths. My easel was tucked up in the rafters over my head, where I couldn’t reach it. Naturally. I looked around, hands fisted on hips, the heat and frustration sending rivers of sweat down my face. I spied the ladder in the back corner, cleared a path to it, then moved more crap so I could open it beneath my intended target. Teetering on the top rung of the ladder, I tried to pull the easel loose with the tips of my fingers. I managed to drag it a little closer along the beams when it slipped out, throwing me off balance. Arms waving frantically, fingers scrambling for something to break my fall, I landed with a thud, crushed against Aiden’s chest.
There were worse places to land.
“Need help?” he asked, dark eyes looking down at me, the wayward easel in one hand.
“No.” I pushed away, brushed the dust and cobwebs from my hands, and proceeded to ignore him.
I huffed, leaned across several boxes to reach the one I wanted, and attempted to drag it towards me, threatening to send the entire stack of boxes crashing to the floor.
He huffed twice as loud, then reached past me and set the box on a piece of furniture from my old house, sending dust motes from the drop cloth dancing in the light that poured through the open garage door.
Crossing his arms, he dropped his chin, waiting for me to acknowledge the box as if it were a gift.
I scowled and turned my back to him. After pulling the lid off the box he had moved for me, I stretched up on my toes and poked through the contents. It wasn’t the box I needed and I shoved it back, turning to look at the mess surrounding me. Tears prickled under my lashes, and my hands opened and closed. I refused to look at Aiden.
Fingers curled around my elbow as he tried to turn me, and I pulled away with a shrug.
“Kelsi, please. I can’t stand to see you upset.”
“I’m not upset,” I hissed like a petulant child. Turning to face him, I crossed my arms over my chest and puffed out my lower lip. “I can’t stand this, Aiden. This place is a mess. I can’t find any of my things, my furniture’s getting ruined, and I have nowhere to paint. I can’t live like this.”
Of course, he was reading my mind. What lay hidden there was the truth behind my frustration. I couldn’t stand clutter or chaos, of any sort. I was overwhelmed by the changes the last few months had brought into my life, both moving in with him and becoming insta-mom to five-year-old Bryn. I was still having dreams I couldn’t understand, sleeping next to a man with a Phasm living inside him that I couldn’t understand, and experiencing weird moments of semi-lucid dream-travel that I couldn’t understand.
Other than that, and the fact we were arguing about why Bryn was having nightmares (or not arguing as the case was), I was fine. F.I.N.E. fine.
He dropped his head and raked a hand through his dark hair, giving it the tousled look that tugged at my heart every freakin’ time. Pausing with one hand on the back of his neck, he turned and looked at the boxes piled around us, as if seeing them for the first time. Eyes quickly scanning the label on each carton, he began moving them methodically from one side of the garage to the other, stacking them in a neat pile, as they’d been before I started rummaging around.
“I submitted the building permits last week,” he reminded me in a calm voice. “It takes about two weeks to get approval, and about two months for the construction.”
I looked down at the ground, the toe of my purple Chucks trying to dig a hole through the concrete floor. “I know,” I mumbled.
Aiden straightened and held out another box. It said paint stuff on the side in my writing and several brushes stuck out the top. I pointed to a piece of furniture beside me and he set the box down.
“I need the one with the canvases.”
He turned and walked to the far corner, returning with a stack of canvases wrapped in paper to keep them clean. Propping them next to the easel, he leaned a hip against my old couch, shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans, and watched. My hands found their way to my own pockets and I looked sideways, trying to judge how mad he was.
“This isn’t about the boxes, is it.” He made it a statement, his voice rough.
“No. I mean, sort of. But no.” I took a step toward him.
“It’s not about the studio, either.”
“No, but I need a place to paint.” I took another step.
“And it’s not about selling your house and moving here.” He reached with the fingers of one hand, snagged my belt loop, and pulled me close.
My hands flew up and landed on his chest, and I stared at how small they looked there. “No,” I whispered. Maybe he wasn’t as mad as I thought.
“It’s because I won’t argue with you. I won’t get into an argument when we disagree on things, and that makes you angry.” Snagging another belt loop, he pulled until I stood in the V of his legs, biting my lip and playing with the buttons on his shirt. “Because I won’t go into another discussion knowing we’ll disagree.”
I nodded, my fingers plucking again at the buttons and held my attention. Hiding my eyes. “It’s not normal. It’s impossible for us to agree all the time.” He made a low sound in the back of his throat and I looked up. Aiden’s eyes were hooded in the dim light, hiding what lay behind them. “People argue,” I pressed on. “They fight and they disagree, but it doesn’t stop them from talking about things.”
Dark brown eyes scanned my face, but his mind didn’t probe my own. I think he was afraid, honestly, to see my thoughts at that moment. So I put it into words. Which I usually sucked at.
“Didn’t you fight with your wife?” I asked as gently as possible. I had an inkling of his life with his late wife, none of it good. He never really spoke of their relationship. I assumed they fought at some point, over something. Nobody got along all the time. Jamie and I’d had several all-out fights in our six years together. We never got into name-calling or door slamming, but we weren’t afraid to mix it up. How else did you get to the make-up sex?
“No,” he said with a soft snort. “No, we didn’t fight. She couldn’t stand any sort of, uh, extremes of emotions.”
“Wow. That’s unreal. No fights, ever?”
“None. Waves of icy distance, but fighting? Raising your voice and arguing? Never.”
“That’s – sad. How did you work things out, resolve disagreements?”
Aiden shrugged, and it was that motion, that inconsequential and dismissive movement that made me realize we really didn’t know each other at all. We loved each other. We needed and wanted each other, and we lived for each other, yet we had no idea who we were. I tamped down on the chill that threatened to spill from my stomach and forced a smile on my face.
“We’re going to fight, Aiden. We may even yell. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong.”
“You’re wrong. We will disagree, and we will learn to compromise, but we won’t fight. Or yell. Or argue. I won’t fight. I won’t ruin what we have like that. It’s not healthy.”
Wow. Did he really just say that?
Denial was not healthy. Holding in, repressing emotions was not healthy. I would’ve thought he of all people would know that. He was the one who’d explained the Phasms to me, how they sought emotionally compromised people to feed off of, sucking lives away at the same time that they bled them of their feelings.
I opened my mouth to counter him, and stopped. He was so clearly not in a receptive mood, I’d just be throwing good words after bad. It would wait. It would have to. And we would argue.
The make-up sex would be epic.