Prisoners of the Past (CC, A/U, Adult) Part 64 - 2/21/16

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ArchAngel1973
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Prisoners of the Past (CC, A/U, Adult) Part 64 - 2/21/16

Postby ArchAngel1973 » Sun Nov 13, 2011 11:15 am

Prisoners of the Past

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Banner by: Steffi

Title: Prisoners of the Past

Author: ArchAngel1973

Disclaimer: Characters and plot lines that appeared in the series, the books, and the concept of Roswell are not mine. Belong to Melinda Metz, UPN, etc, etc...

Pairings: All (Centers around Max’s storyline)

Rating: Adult

Summary: Sometimes your back is against the wall and your only choice is to take the dangerous path and survive. Survival of the fittest, some would say. Surviving from one day to the next may save your life at that moment but the repercussions are felt far into the future. The choice to take the dangerous path may or may not be yours, but someone is always left as a prisoner of the past. The question is whether or not you can survive your past and break free of that prison.

Author’s Note 1: Based on a challenge by dreamon.

Author's Note 2: Thanks to my good buddy Steffi for the title!


Prologue

The air in the courtroom is oppressive, thick and hot, making the wait even more unbearable. I look up from my study of the scarred table and see my waste of space public defender reach up to fuss with his collar. He’s nervous and it’s evident in the way he fidgets, the way his eyes dart around the room, and the way he’s sweating through the pale yellow shirt he’s wearing. If anybody should be sweating, it’s me.

I’m the one whose life hangs in the balance. But I’m not sweating and I’m not letting any of them see just how worried I am that the jury has come back with a guilty verdict. Why? I already know I’m headed for serious time over my latest arrest. I’ve got a rap sheet as long as my right arm and lucky me, this last one caught me just after my 18th birthday. Sayonara juvenile detention.

My biggest concern isn’t doing the time. Hell, I’ve been in and out of jail too many times to count. I don’t actually enjoy being behind bars but its three squares and a roof over my head and that’s better than what I’ve had most of my life. My main concern is being fresh meat in a cell block full of guys who haven’t gotten laid in a while. I don’t necessarily want to add murder to my list of crimes, but if some guy thinks he’s getting a piece of my ass he won’t live to see the next sunrise.

The heavy door at the back of the courtroom opens and the judge returns to his seat on the bench as the jury silently files in. It strikes me as ironic that these people are supposed to be my peers. They couldn’t be more different from me if they tried. The jury foreman walks like he’s got a stick up his ass and I’d bet anything he’s military. There’s an older guy, comes in every morning looking all put-together, so he’s probably a businessman or something. Or worse, a lawyer. The woman at the end, she’s been staring at me like I did something to her personally since this whole thing started. Her disapproving gaze told me right off that it didn’t matter what was said during the trial because she’d already made her mind up I was guilty.

Innocent until proven guilty, huh? Yeah, sell that lie somewhere else. I know better. If my shitty lawyer had been able to get me off on my current charges it would’ve been a miracle. I was caught red-handed but I still pled not guilty. Oh, I got offered a deal. The District Attorney offered a reduced sentence if I rolled over on Damon Knight. I just laughed in her face and asked if I’d be getting conjugal visits.

You don’t roll on a guy like Damon. That’s how you end up in a back alley wearing a Colombian necktie. No thanks. My gaze moves over the people in the jury box and finds the woman near the middle in the back watching me with that sympathetic look on her face again. I’ve seen that look before. She wants to know how a guy like me ended up in my current situation. I’m 18 years old and facing prison time for drug possession, intent to sell, and illegal possession of an unlicensed and unregistered handgun. Too bad none of the other jurors look like they care how I ended up here.

My story could be a fuckin’ Lifetime movie, I think with an internal roll of my eyes. Of course there was no way to go over my 18 years and skip to the bullshit happily ever after ending in two hours. I can’t really say I expect a happy ending anyway. My life has been filled with one bad decision after another and I’m honest enough to admit a lot of that’s on me. My eyes follow the bailiff as he takes the little square of paper from the jury foreman and I already know it contains one word and not two. His steps are heavy as he walks over to hand it off to the judge, almost as if the weight of that one word rests on his shoulders.

I remember my mother looking burdened that way when I was little. She never missed an opportunity to tell me how I ruined her life. I remember being five years old and popping off after being told that for what felt like the millionth time. I just yelled at her and asked why she didn’t just give me away to someone who wanted me. She slapped me hard enough to knock me off my feet and told me no one would ever want me.

I was born on a cold, rainy March day and she swore she should’ve seen it for the omen it was. My father took off before I could walk and she got rid of every picture she had of him. I have no memory of what he looks like. I could be standing next to him and I’d never know it. On the rare occasions when I dream I catch glimpses of a little girl. Blonde hair, brown eyes, and a smile that’s so open and trusting I just want to tell her to watch her back, people can’t be trusted. But she’s gone before I can get the warning out. I have no idea who she is even though I feel like I should.

I watch the judge lean forward and wonder how much that monumental move will exert his fat ass. He reminds me of one of the foster parents I had and for that I hated this judge on sight. Yeah, I said foster parents. Most kids get birthday presents and cake for their birthday. Me? Nope. I don’t want anyone’s pity, that’s just the way it was. Growing up I didn’t know any different so birthdays were just like any other day. That is until my sixth birthday. My mother woke me up to tell me to stay in the apartment while she went to pick up something special for my birthday. I didn’t understand what was so special about that one. Turns out, the gift was for her. The gift of freedom.

She never came back. No, she didn’t die in some freak accident or get hit and end up in a coma in the hospital as a Jane Doe. She just left and never came back. Yeah, it hurt for a while. Hell, I was only six. No one even knew I was on my own for nine days. And then only because the landlord came around looking for his money and found me instead. By the time he showed up it had been three days since I’d eaten. There was some food in the apartment but I couldn’t open the cans since I couldn’t find the can opener and I sure as hell couldn’t cook. I had been surviving on dry cereal and bologna and cheese sandwiches until that stuff ran out.

The landlord reported my situation and before long the filthy little apartment was crawling with cops and the lady from Social Services. I hated the pitying looks but she was nice to me. She made sure I was fed, bathed, dressed in clean clothes, and put in a comfortable bed. Unfortunately staying with her wasn’t an option and I felt like I was being abandoned again when she presented me with a pair of foster parents.

I was in and out of the foster care system multiple times over the next seven years and most of the families were good to me. But I wasn’t able to adjust and I fucked up every opportunity I had, trying to prove that what my mother had said wasn’t true. That one of the families would find some reason to love me and want to keep me around. It almost happened once, but my foster dad in that situation had a massive stroke and the couple couldn’t continue fostering troubled kids no one else wanted. I hated them for a long time, blamed everything on them because once again I felt like I’d been abandoned.

The next foster home hadn’t been one of the nice ones and I really wonder how they managed to get approved. Mr. and Mrs. Shumaker. I didn’t trust anyone by that point, and as soon as I was placed with them I knew I was in trouble. There were two other kids in the house, Ava and Trevor. Both were foster kids and both of them were scared of their own shadows. Just my luck it was summer, which meant I couldn’t even get out of the house for school.

Trevor was eight years old, four years younger than me, but we shared a room. The kid was a habitual bed-wetter and it pissed me off that I had gotten stuck with him. Guess what they say’s true though: It’s better to be pissed off than pissed on. I finally got wise to the program one night when old man Shumaker came into the room well after lights out. Trevor had figured out that if he pissed himself that old pervert wouldn’t touch him. In his shoes, I would’ve pissed myself too.

The guy obviously wasn’t into older boys because he left me alone. Until one night when he’d had too much to drink and he came after me. I’d taken to sleeping with an old knife I’d found in a tackle box when I was supposed to be cleaning out the garage one Saturday, and I cut the hell out of him. I got out of the house and ran for the nearest payphone and I called the cops. I would’ve kept running right then but I genuinely cared for quiet Ava and annoying Trevor. They were survivors, afraid to buck the system, and doing whatever they had to do to make it through another day.

Ava has never said if that motherfucker ever touched her but I suspect he tried if nothing else. Yeah, me and Ava, we still hang. We’re tight and we’ve got each other’s back. We were removed from the Shumaker’s home before they could inflict more damage and I’ll give my case worker credit. She really tried to place us as close together as possible but she just couldn’t work it out.

By 13 I was sick of being passed around. It was the eighth foster home I’d been stuck in and I just didn’t care anymore. The family was nice and normal but I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d be moved again so what was the point? Ava and I stayed in contact and we knew where each other was living so when I shoved my things in the backpack I’d been carrying around for the past couple of years and snuck out of the house late one night, I went straight to her.

The couple in the new foster home kept money in a cabinet in the office for emergencies and since running away was an emergency in my book, I took it and shoved it in my pockets before I left. I still feel bad for that one. I was tall for my age and I had enough street smarts to play it off when I got on the subway late that night. I made it over to the neighborhood where Social Services had dumped Ava and she was pissed when I told her I was taking off.

Ava is about five months younger than me and at 13 years old we already knew more about life than anyone that age should ever know. She shoved a few things in my pack and we took off. We didn’t talk about it. She just said she was going wherever I was going. And she did. She still does. She’s done time in juvenile detention, done time in jail, she’s experienced the uglier side of life, but she still holds onto the belief that somewhere out there a better life’s waiting for us. I know better, but hey, it gets her through the night so I leave it alone.

I glance over my shoulder and give her a cocky grin and she shakes her head at me. I can see the worry in her eyes and I wish she’d stayed away like I told her to. We lived on the streets of New York City for three years and it’s changed us. We’re harder, edgier than your average 18-year-olds. We wear most of our scars on the inside but there are a few that have marked our skin for life. Ava likes to say each one is a badge of honor, that they’re just further proof we’re survivors. I don’t give them that much thought.

At 16 years old I got my first real job and we could go into a store and actually buy food instead of lifting it. After three years on the streets we got pretty good at stealing and old habits are hard to break so there were plenty of times we took shit without paying for it. I’ve never really felt bad about it. I mean, you’ve gotta survive, right? Ava, it bothered her later when we actually had money and I’d lift things.

Once I started working for Damon I pushed her to come with me. It was the one time she hesitated to follow my lead. She didn’t want to sell her soul and I backed off for a while. She tried to find a job, but with no high school diploma, her age working against her, and no experience she wasn’t having much luck. Damon didn’t give a shit about a diploma or age. All he cared about was whether or not I could be trusted to run his drugs. I’m smart enough to know better than to cross a guy like Damon. I saw him put a guy down because he shaved a gram of coke on a run. I was 16 at the time and I puked all over my new shoes.

By 17 I had discovered cocaine as more than just a product I was moving for Damon. It wasn’t something I did all the time, but yeah, I started to do it on occasion. Ava recognized the changes and she begged me to get out, but for the first time we were making it on our own and I wasn’t willing to give that up. Later we had a huge blowout when she discovered I was carrying a gun. She hates guns. All hell broke loose the night she found it under my pillow and she refused to come to bed until I got rid of it. We ended up compromising because I wouldn’t give the gun up and she wouldn’t come to bed. Now it stays in the nightstand drawer when we’re in bed. Or at least it did until that damn narc busted me and screwed everything up.

No, we’re not a couple and we’re not in a relationship. We started sleeping next to each other for warmth when we hit the streets and it became a habit. We’ve had sex. Hell, we were hormonal and curious like any other teenagers. Neither of us trusts anyone but each other and at least with each other we know we’re safe. We don’t have any expectations where sex is concerned but sometimes you’ve just gotta scratch that itch. We never talk about it afterwards and it’s not something that happens very often; just once in a while when one of us needs it.

Sometimes she talks about finding a decent guy that’ll treat her right and I know that doesn’t have anything to do with us. She just wants a normal guy and a normal life. Most girls talk about getting their claws into some rich guy, but not Ava. She’s been kicked around by life and other than me there’s no one who cares about her. She wants that and she wouldn’t care if the guy was dirt poor. Hell, she’d probably prefer that because she’d know how to act.

Neither of us would have a clue how to act in a social situation. We grew up on the streets and neither of us has much of an education. We never went back to school after we ran away and employers don’t seem to be all that impressed when your education stops after you just barely started the seventh grade. We’re street smart but when it comes to anything else we’re not exactly the brightest crayons in the box. We know enough to get by and most days that’s good enough.

These days we’re doing okay. We’ve got a place to stay and food to eat on a regular basis. We’ve got a bed to sleep in and we don’t have to worry about being cold at night. We’re not loaded or anything but we do okay. Ava has made the occasional run for Damon and she hates it. I’ve argued that these people are gonna get their drugs one way or the other so it shouldn’t matter if they get them from us. She disagrees but running drugs puts food on the table and the other options weren’t much better.

Damon’s got his hand in a lot of stuff. He has night clubs, he runs drugs, he’s into prostitution and gambling, he’s a loan shark, and he doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as he makes a profit. I’ve been sent out to collect from people who owe him. They always have a reason for not having his money and I’ve watched them beg for just a few more days to get it together. I look down at my hands, my eyes tracing over the scars on my knuckles. They get their extension but it comes with added interest and a beating that leaves them barely conscious.

I’m not a saint but I’m not the devil either. Maybe I’ve made all the wrong choices, but I’ve survived. Ava has survived. We had to get off the streets and it’s hard to do when you’re 16 because if they find out you’re homeless your ass is gonna land right back where you started. A lot of kids on the streets sell themselves just to put food in their stomachs or to get in out of the cold for an hour or two. We made a pact that we’d never do that but there came a time when it looked like we were both out of ideas and options. And that’s when Damon Knight entered the picture.

There are guys in his organization who make a lot more than we do but I’m not complaining. We’re off the streets and that’s all I really care about. I look up when my lawyer pokes me and I realize the judge is waiting for me to stand. I get to my feet, not out of respect or because I give a fuck about his expectations, but because I don’t need him to charge me with contempt and tack more time onto my sentence. I already know from the way this guy’s been watching me that when I come back for sentencing he’s gonna hit me with the maximum sentence just because he doesn’t like me.

The court clerk reads out the guilty verdict and my lawyer adjusts his tie again, shooting a nervous glance at me. If the judge wasn’t watching me so closely I’d stomp my foot just to make this guy jump. He acts like I’m gonna do something to him and it makes me want to laugh. I have no reason to bust knuckles up against his head but he obviously doesn’t know that. I turn to look at Ava when one of the officers comes over to slap the cuffs on me. She’ll visit me as soon as I can have visitors and I mouth the words, ‘It’ll be okay’ to her as they haul me off to transport me back to county lockup.

*****

The judge finally gets around to having me brought back to the courthouse for my sentencing. It’s a waste of time in my opinion. I was already in jail, so why haul me all the way down here to tell me what I already know? Its ironic how they want you in court at a certain time but the judge always seems to be running behind schedule. Probably had to stop for a cupcake on the way, I think.

I glance over my right shoulder when a hand settles on my arm and I find myself staring into Ava’s blue eyes. She’s worried about how long they’re gonna lock me up even though she won’t say it out loud. She’s got this superstition about saying negative thoughts out loud, like it’ll make them come true or something.

“Hey, piece of cake. My lawyer says I’m not lookin’ at more than 36 months and maybe not even that.” What he actually said was I should consider myself very lucky that I hadn’t been carrying more weight when I got busted but she doesn’t need to know that.

“That’s a long time,” she says quietly.

I raise my handcuffed hands to cover hers. I’ve had time to think while sitting in my cell since the verdict came in and I’ve started to do a little worrying of my own. She’ll be alone while I’m locked up and there won’t be anyone to watch her back. “Take our stash and get outta here, Ava.” I recognize the stubborn look on her face. “I’m serious. You don’t know enough about the organization for Damon to fuck with you if you get out now.”

“I’ll just keep my head down and keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

“I can’t hear this,” my lawyer says, his nervous gaze flicking between us.

“Then stop listening,” I snap at him. I turn my attention back to Ava. We hide all of our money behind a loose brick in the bathroom wall and while it isn’t a phenomenal amount of money it is enough to get her out of the city.

“I’ve got your back.” She shakes her head, refusing to elaborate or give in to my demand that she leave the city.

“But I can’t have your back from prison.”

She covers my mouth with her hand and shakes her head again. “I’m tougher than I look.”

And she is. I know that. But Damon has little use for women outside of what they can do with his dick. I don’t know if it was my argument that convinced him that Ava would be useful as a runner or if he was simply humoring me while I was learning the ropes, but he’s never messed with her.

She’s watching me again and after a moment she gives me a smile. “I may not like guns but I know how to use a knife.”

I can’t stop the grin that surfaces at her confident statement. She damn well knows how to use a knife. You learn some interesting and useful things on the streets and if you’re gonna survive you have no choice but to learn to protect yourself.

We’re interrupted when the judge finally decides to haul his fat ass into the courtroom and the bailiff calls the court to order. I listen to the judge drone on about all the thought he’s put into his decision as I stand there waiting for him to spit my punishment out. I hear Ava gasp when he sentences me to a minimum of four years and a maximum of nearly seven years.

“You said I was lookin’ at three years at the most.” I look at my useless lawyer who’s already packing his shit up to make his escape. “There’s a big fuckin’ difference between three years and four to seven years!” I’m beyond pissed. I can’t leave Ava alone for four, maybe seven years. Three was bad enough, but four to seven? Who will we be in seven years? What if something happens to her because I’m not there to protect her?

“Can’t you object or somethin’?” Ava asks. She’s watching the officers coming over to escort me out of the courtroom.

“The judge has made his ruling.” He looks at me as he snaps his shiny black briefcase closed. “Use this time wisely. You’ve got an opportunity here. You can turn your life around and come out of this a better person.”

“You get that out of a fortune cookie? Why don’t you go find another client to screw over,” I snap at him.

The officers are almost on top of me and Ava leans in close to throw her arms around my neck. “I’ll come see you as soon as I can,” she promises thickly.

“Don’t waste the money,” I tell her. The prison I’ve been sentenced to is nearly a hundred miles away and the bus fare would be too much money. We don’t own a car and neither of us has ever learned to drive anyway. “If things work out I might be able to get transferred closer.”

She hugs me tighter when the officers grab my arms roughly. “I’ll see you soon.” She gives me that stubborn look that tells me it’d be a waste of time to argue with her and I grab her hand as they pull me away.

“Watch your back,” I tell her and she nods in response. There are tears in her blue eyes but she won’t let them fall. She won’t expose that vulnerability in front of anyone she doesn’t trust. I can count the number of times she’s cried in front of me and I wouldn’t even use all the fingers on one hand. I’m forced to let her go as the officers pull me away for transport to my new home and I wonder who I’ll be when I’m finally released.


*****

I stand outside of the prison walls, staring up at the intimidating structure as I draw in deep lungfuls of fresh air. Enjoying the smell of freedom. Five years, two months, one week, and five days. I got time off for good behavior so I didn’t have to serve the full sentence on the inside. Even with the immense relief at finally being on the outside there’s a feeling of sadness that overshadows it.

Ava isn’t here. She stopped coming to visit me two months ago and I haven’t had any contact with her since then. I knew something was going on but she couldn’t tell me what it was and I don’t know why. I wonder if she finally just had enough of Damon and his organization and she ran. That doesn’t sound like her but she might not have had much of a choice. She tried to get out a couple years back but by that point she was in too deep and walking away wasn’t an option.

Damon found out that she was planning to leave and he sent a couple of his lackeys to remind her that it wasn’t her choice to make. I saw the healing cuts and bruises when she came to visit and she finally told me what happened. Amidst the anger was this rush of relief that they hadn’t hurt her worse and forced themselves on her.

Before I got busted I always made sure she didn’t see the worst of what Damon was capable of and without me there she had no one to protect her. She’s not stupid and as much as she likes to see the good in everything around her she’s not naïve. I’ve watched her change, pull into herself for protection, and I wonder how differently our lives would’ve turned out if I hadn’t run away and taken her with me. I don’t regret the decision so much for myself, but what it’s done to her… I don’t know how much damage that decision did to her.

I start to walk to the waiting bus that will take me into the city, carrying everything I own in a brown paper sack. I’ve gotta check in with my parole officer and then I’ll be staying in a halfway house because I don’t have anywhere else to go. I saw what can happen to guys who get out and continue to live the way they were living before going to prison and most of them ended up behind bars again before long. I have no interest or intention of ending up back in prison. I didn’t enjoy it the first time around.

I swore when I got out I was going straight and that’s what I’m gonna do. I spent my time behind bars wisely for the most part. I got into some trouble at the beginning but then I started to wise up. I don’t wanna be a career criminal. I completed a substance abuse program that I only took at first to make points but during the course I realized that what I thought was just recreational use really was a problem. I got my GED and I even took a few courses to get me ready to take some college classes. I inhale deeply and mentally go over my plan as I board the bus and take a seat. I’ve spent my whole life doing what I had to do to survive.

My name is Max Evans and from now on I’m concentrating on living.
Last edited by ArchAngel1973 on Sun Feb 21, 2016 12:26 pm, edited 67 times in total.

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ArchAngel1973
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Joined: Sun Sep 24, 2006 7:02 pm

Prisoners of the Past (CC, A/U, Adult) Part 1 - 11/20/11

Postby ArchAngel1973 » Sun Nov 20, 2011 4:43 pm

begonia9508: Thanks!

Max is aware of why he ended up in prison and he does want to change. The challenge will be holding onto this opportunity and not going back to his old life.

Marsis: Howdy, Mi Compadre!

Fighting back from the past isn’t an easy thing and Max will have his share of challenges. More is coming… just not in the first person, lol.

mary mary: Thanks! He has a tough road ahead of him, but Max is determined to change his life for the better.

Alien_Friend: Surprise! The blonde girl… could be Isabel.

Max has difficulties to face but he’s leaving prison believing that he can avoid his past mistakes.

The other characters will slowly be introduced. Ava, we’ll have to wait and see.

I’ve written a few solo fics but if I remember correctly only one of them ever posted on RF.

Natalie36: Thanks!

keepsmiling7: While surviving the past is difficult, it’s the ability to move forward, to make a life, and to do your best not to fall back into what you’ve left behind.

dreamon: Thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

behrlyliz: I know what you mean. Thank you for the amazing compliments! I enjoy writing Max in this fic. He has an ugly past and he has his demons to deal with but he’s managed to survive. Up until this point survival is all that has mattered to him. Now he has the chance to experience life. If he can move beyond that past.

Eva: Hey, I’m glad you’re gonna give this a chance. While the story does center around Max all of the characters will be involved.

HypnotiqBlueEyes: Thank you! My good buddy Steffi actually gets the credit for the banner and the title. I’m very glad that you’re enjoying the story. I was glad that several of the readers were surprised to learn that Max is the person there at the end. He and Ava have had some very bad breaks. Max has paid for his actions and he’s on parole and looking to start a new life on the right side of the law. But will he be able to avoid falling back into his old life? The rest of the gang will slowly come into the story, with only little bits about them being revealed at first. No apologies necessary, lol. I’m a Candy. I hope you’ll enjoy the Dreamer storyline that unfolds.

Michelle17: Thanks!


Part 1

James Valenti Sr. looked up when the door to his office opened and he smiled at the woman standing there. She was dressed to the nines and stood out like a sore thumb in the dingy parole office. He had learned long ago that she was never going to fit in and she was most comfortable when she stood out from the crowd. “How are you today, Mrs. Parker?”

“I’m well, thank you.” She settled into the worn chair that sat in front of his desk and placed her purse on the floor next to her foot. Putting it on his desk would likely cause an avalanche of the mountain of paperwork haphazardly stacked there. She knew from past experience that despite appearances he was one of the most organized men she had ever known. God help anyone else who ever had to come into this office and find anything though, she thought with a smile.

He had been involved in law enforcement his whole adult life in one capacity or another. After a shooting that had limited his mobility he had been relegated to riding a desk and eventually he had moved to a new position. It had taken several years before he had decided to become a field parole officer, wanting to make a difference in the city and in the lives of the men and women that came through his office.

Over the years that he had been working as a parole officer he had developed a sense for reading the people who sat across from him. He could look into the eyes of the parolees, study their body language, listen to them talk, and he could tell with a fair amount of accuracy if they were going to be successful or if they were going to be back behind bars before long. The woman sitting across from him had been instrumental in helping him keep some of the more risky parolees from falling through the cracks.

Parolees who were at risk in the sense that when they were released they had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Some of them had no family and some of them had family who wanted nothing to do with them once they were released. Without ties to family or friends, without a reason to keep fighting to follow the right path, they would end up on the wrong side of the law again. They fell back into old habits, turned back to what they knew when every other door seemed to close in their faces. It was his job to help them as they reentered the community to help them find ways to deal with their problems, and if the situation warranted, apprehend and arrest them.

“I came by with the paperwork for Kaufman,” she said as she handed over a plain file folder. “I know you’ll need it for the report.”

He sighed and nodded. “I had a bad feelin’ about that one.”

She smiled encouragingly. He had warned her before they had placed the 21-year-old girl into the program that he didn’t think she was being straight with them. “We can’t save them all.” She shook her head. “Especially when their interest in changing is only for show.” She sat up straighter. “We also can’t let it deter us from helping those that do want to change.” She saw his gaze move over the papers before he leaned forward and pulled a file from the stack by his right elbow. “I knew you had someone in mind.”

Through her organization they had helped quite a few parolees find their way back into society by putting them into an honest job and providing guidance. Her husband owned a posh restaurant in Manhattan and he had put a few of them to work. They had even housed the occasional parolee who had nowhere else to go and no family or friends to turn to. Jeff had a big heart but he was also street smart; he’d had his share of trouble as a young man and someone had been there to give him a hand when he needed it most and it had given him the chance to turn his life around.

“Got a young fella should be checkin’ in today. Name’s Max Evans. He’s 23 years old, been in for a little over five years. He’s smart and he’s made good use of his time behind bars. I think this kid has a good chance of making the transition and going on to have a successful life but he needs to be in a stable environment.”

“No family?” she asked, certain the answer would be no.

“No ties whatsoever.” He rubbed the bridge of his nose. “There was a girl but she’s fallen off the map. Stopped coming to visit him a couple months back. There is some concern that he might attempt to locate her.”

“And that would put him in danger of falling back in with old habits and bad influences,” she guessed.

“Yeah.” He handed the folder over to her before leaning back and linking his fingers behind his head. He watched her as she opened it, her eyes scanning over the information before lifting up a piece of paper stapled to the inside cover so she could look at his picture. “He does look… rough.”

James chuckled and nodded. “He’s got an edge. The rug on his face makes him look older and that helps on the inside.”

“The guesthouse is empty and if he’s passed your inspection then I know Jeff will be alright with him staying with us.”

“I think he would benefit from that environment. I have his paperwork ready to go. I just need to talk to him about the program when he shows up to check in.” He glanced at the clock on the wall.

“Does he have any kitchen experience?”

He shook his head. “He doesn’t have any experience that would make him an asset to the restaurant business but he learns fast and he adapts to his surroundings.” He sat forward and drummed his fingers on his desktop. “Granted, it’s easier for someone like him to adapt to street life than it is to adapt to what you’re used to, but given time and encouragement I think he’ll adjust to it.”

“You’ll bring him by this evening?”

He nodded. “This kid’s used to things being simple…”

“No caviar in the guesthouse cupboards,” she said, her voice filled with humor. “We’ve been doing this long enough that we know how to stock the pantry for our guests, James.” She sobered after a moment as she read through the file. “He’s had a difficult life.”

“He doesn’t talk much about his past so you can imagine what he’s holding back given what’s in that report. I think given the opportunity to earn an honest living he’ll take it. Even when he was making a living committing criminal acts his existence was simplistic.”

“I’ll speak with Jeff when I leave here, but we can take care of the paperwork now.”

James nodded. He had been hoping she wouldn’t change her mind after reading a little further into the kid’s criminal background. He wouldn’t need to do an initial investigation if Evans was residing in the guesthouse. He made the occasional visit to make sure everything met the criteria for housing a parolee and they had a perfect record. He would make a surprise visit once the younger man was settled, take a look around and make sure he was following the rules.

*****

Elizabeth Parker was bored. She leaned back in her seat and watched the activity in the club around her, wondering why she had come here tonight. It was the same old scene, the same old people, and the same old music.

“Why do you have that look on your face?”

She looked up and smiled when her best friend, Maria DeLuca, settled on the barstool beside her. “What look?”

“I don’t know. It’s kind of a cross between constipated and frustrated.”

“Gross, Maria.”

The vivacious blonde just stuck her tongue out at her friend and lifted her hand to wave at someone across the club. She flashed a smile at her long-time boyfriend Michael Guerin. He worked construction during the week and on alternating weekends he worked as a bouncer at the club, and they were just stopping in so he could pick up his check.

“I can’t believe the two of you are still together.” She and Michael tolerated each other for Maria’s sake but beyond that they never spoke or acknowledged each other’s existence.

“I just feel so warm and fuzzy when you say things like that.” She rolled her eyes and ordered a club soda. “You do realize it’s futile to wish him away, right? I’m gonna marry that man one of these days.”

Liz tossed the last of her drink back and motioned to the bartender for another before looking at Maria. “I’m sorry. He’s just so…” She sighed. “He’s rude.”

“To you, yes. And you’re rude to him, what’s your point?”

“You’re 24 years old, Maria, and you’re stuck with that jerk and a kid. You could do so much better than that guy.”

Maria accepted her drink with a smile of thanks and took a sip. She was familiar with the argument and could probably quote it in her sleep. “I don’t look at it like I’m stuck, Liz.”

“But you are. You used to be so fun and now… now you’re just…”

She smirked. “Now I’m not fun anymore?”

“No, I’m not saying that. You’re still fun but now you can’t be fun as often. Now most nights you’re at home before the real fun begins.”

“It’s called growing up, girl. You can’t party all night every night for the rest of your life.”

“I can try.” Liz rolled her eyes and took a drink from the glass the bartender placed in front of her. “There’s a great band coming on at 10pm.”

“We’ve gotta pick Hunter up after Michael gets his check. He’s not working late tonight so that gives us a little family time.”

Liz sighed and then shook her head. “I’m sorry. It’s just hard to get used to. A year ago you were partying with me and now you’re like Mom of the Year.”

Maria laughed at that. “Liz, I didn’t plan to be this settled at 24 and regardless of what you think Michael didn’t pressure me into this.”

“Uh-huh,” Liz said, her tone one of disbelief. “So, you’re telling me he doesn’t expect you to cook and clean?”

“Good grief, girl, you make it sound like he keeps me chained to the kitchen sink.” She laughed and shook her head. “Yes, I do cook and clean, but I do it because I don’t want to live in a pigsty, not because he expects it. In your world you pay someone to do those things and in our world the commoners clean their own houses and cook their own food.” She winked and grinned. “On a really good week we let the local pizza place cook for us on the occasional Friday night.”

Liz sighed. “I’m being a snob again, aren’t I? I’m sorry, Maria. Forgive me?”

“Only if you take that silver spoon out of your ass. Again.” She leaned over and hugged the brunette. “Yes, I forgive you. I know you don’t understand it, Liz, but I have the life I want. No, I wasn’t expecting to have a family this soon, but that’s the way it worked out and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

“Isn’t it weird though? I mean, raising someone else’s kid?”

Maria shook her head and smiled. “Hunter may not be ours by birth, but he’s ours just the same.”

“Hey, babe, you about ready to go?”

Maria smiled at the question growled in that sexy voice that belonged exclusively to her boyfriend. “Um-hmm, Liz and I were just catching up.”

His dark eyes leveled on the other girl. “Parker.”

“Guerin,” she muttered.

Maria had long ago given up trying to get the two of them to be civil each other, accepting that this was about as civil as they were going to get. Michael and Liz had just gotten off on the wrong foot when they had first met and they were content to allow things to stay that way. She saw no reason for them to force themselves to get along just to make her happy so she had finally stopped trying to find common ground between them.

“Anyway,” Michael said, “I called a couple of stores and I found one that has that water sprinkler toy you wanted to pick up for Hunter.”

Her eyes lit up with excitement as she scooted around to face him. “Really? Aww, Michael, he’s gonna love it,” she said as she threw her arms around his neck.

“Yeah, they said they’d hold it for an hour before they put it back on the shelf. If we head over to the bank now we can deposit my check and then make a stop at the store before heading to your mom’s house to pick him up.”

Liz listened to their conversation for several minutes before turning her attention to the people on the dance floor, her bored gaze seeking out anyone who might hold her interest for more than a matter of minutes.

“Well, girl, time for me to go. I’ll call you in the next couple of days, okay?” Maria leaned over to give her friend a hug.

“Fine, leave me here all alone,” she said, returning the hug. She flipped Michael off when he shot an annoyed look at her.

“I’d invite you over for burgers on the grill but I know that look so I won’t waste my breath.” She squeezed the other girl’s hand and met her gaze directly. “You deserve better than what you’re settling for.”

“And maybe not everyone’s cut out for happily ever after.” She shook her head when Maria started to object. “Old argument and I’m not interested in engaging today.” Her eyes wandered to a guy standing at the opposite end of the bar and she smiled when he held the bottle in his hand up, tipping it in her direction in greeting. He was exactly what she was looking for. She nodded at her friend and waved her off. “Okay, bye, Maria.”

Maria rolled her eyes and slid off of the barstool. “Have fun, Liz.”

“Oh, I will.”

*****

Max looked around at the residential area his parole officer turned into, certain the man must’ve made a wrong turn somewhere. Valenti had explained the way the program worked and told him what was expected of him, warned him about violating his parole, and he had listened to every word. He scratched the back of his neck. The only time he’d ever been to a house like the ones they were passing was the one time he had been taken to see Damon at his home. Of course, that place had made these look plain in comparison, he thought with a silent snort.

“Why would these people open their home up to an ex-con?” he asked finally.

“The guesthouse is separate living quarters so you won’t actually be living with the family. It gives you privacy and it gives them security. You completed the drug program in prison and you’ve shown that you want to move forward with your life. This is your chance to do that. The Parkers are involved because Mrs. Parker is on the board of an organization that helps parolees make the transition from life in prison to life on the outside. You’ve got a good start but you’re gonna have to work hard to hold onto the changes you’ve made.” He put his signal on and turned into a driveway lined with trees.

“And the husband’s just gonna let me work in their restaurant?”

“Jeff doesn’t just let anyone do anything. He’s a taskmaster and he demands perfection in his employees. He’ll demand more from you. He doesn’t give anything for free; you’ll be expected to earn your paycheck.”

Max shrugged. After some of the things he’d done in the past how hard could working in a restaurant be? He looked up at the couple who stepped out on the wide front porch when Officer Valenti parked by the steps. He waited for the older man to get out, waiting for the man to motion to the door and let him know he could exit the vehicle.

James made the introductions between Evans and the Parkers and watched Jeff when he singled the younger man out and indicated that Max should follow him. “Well, I’ll leave him in your capable hands.”

“Would you like to stay for dinner?”

He shook his head. “Thanks, but I have dinner plans. You have my number if there are any problems and he has the dates for his required check-ins.” He reached up to touch the brim of his hat as he turned to follow the uniformed housekeeper back to the front door.

Nancy moved to the bank of windows at the back of the house to watch her husband walk back to the guesthouse. She could see the unease in the younger man’s posture as he looked around and she knew from experience that his face would give nothing away. She had been working with James for quite a few years now and she knew how important the work they did together was. Most of the time it was easier for these men and women to fall back into the lives that had led them to prison in the first place because society didn’t want them back. They were damaged goods and the willingness to extend the offer of a second chance wasn’t always there for them.

Her organization worked with many types of offenders but there were certain ones who weren’t eligible for the program. She wasn’t naïve enough to believe that everyone who came out of prison wanted help or could be helped. It took dedication and hard work and there were plenty who weren’t interested or who gave up when they met resistance.

She would never understand things from their side. She had been born to privilege and she had never so much as gotten a traffic ticket. Her husband understood them though. Not all of them of course, but there were some that he could reach because he had been in a similar situation. Jeff had worked his way up from the bottom to become a successful restaurateur and he was proof that if they were willing to work hard and give it everything they had then they had an opportunity to make something of themselves. She smiled as she watched him pointing out everything on the grounds before finally motioning to the guesthouse that sat back behind a row of hedges planted to provide privacy.

*****

Jeff shoved his hands in his back pockets as he watched the younger man prowl around the guesthouse. He gave him space, careful to not crowd him as he tried to make sense of what was happening. When Nancy had gotten involved with the organization and asked what he thought about allowing a low-level offender coming up for parole to reside in their guesthouse he had given the question a lot of consideration.

Their daughter had been seven years old at the time and he had been cautious about his answer. He knew that if someone wanted something badly enough he or she would be willing to risk everything to get it. Security systems, guard dogs, neighborhood patrols… he knew it wasn’t guaranteed protection. He believed in rehabilitation but he didn’t believe it worked for sexual offenders. His wife’s organization worked closely with offenders who had the best chance of being rehabilitated but they didn’t work with any offender who had a sexually-related offense on their record. They were left to other organizations and he was fine with that.

They had talked about it for quite a while before he had agreed and the first thing he had done once the decision had been made was to have a contractor brought in to knock walls out and put more windows in. The guesthouse was a one-bedroom with an eat-in kitchen, living room, bathroom, and a sizeable back porch. Even though the house was small he knew from experience how intimidating that space could be after years of confinement. As much as he craved freedom it would take time for the kid to become accustomed to moving around freely.

“Why’re you doin’ this?” Max asked finally. It didn’t make sense. These people didn’t know him, they didn’t owe him anything.

“The world gives you nothin’ for free, Max, and comin’ outta prison you’re basically set up to fail. The people out there don’t want you. You’re damaged goods, you’re a threat to them, and they’d be just as happy to never have to look at you. Organizations like the one my wife works with gives parolees the opportunity to change their lives for the better, but it only works if you want it bad enough.”

“I’ve served my time and I’m never goin’ back there.”

He hid a smile when he heard the determination in the kid’s voice. “I’ve got your schedule on the counter in the kitchen. You can ride in with me in the mornin’. We’ll leave at four.”

“Four… a.m.?” Max asked.

Jeff chuckled. “The restaurant business starts early.”

“So you get off at like two or three in the afternoon?” Well, those hours wouldn’t be that bad.

“No, running a restaurant isn’t an eight-hour job. Most nights I’m not home until close to midnight. I’m startin’ you out at the bottom of the ladder but you won’t be expected to stay past two. I have no problem with it if you wanna put in extra hours. And if not, you’re familiar with the public transportation in the city. Since there were no special conditions to your parole you don’t have a curfew and you’re not required to check in with us so you’re free to come and go as you please.” He crossed his arms over his chest and looked around. “Nancy had the kitchen stocked so there’s plenty of food but you’re welcome to join us up at the house for dinner.”

“Nah, I’m good here.”

“Alright then, I’ll leave you to yourself.” He was reaching for the doorknob when the kid spoke up.

“Mr. Parker?”

He turned and lifted an eyebrow in question.

“Thanks.” He stood there in the silence after Mr. Parker left and he inhaled deeply, taking in the fresh, clean scent of the guesthouse. Not another human being in sight. No noise created by too many men talking, arguing, and fighting. Not a single sound that resembled cell doors opening and closing, batons being cracked against the bars, or spit-shined shoes striking the concrete floor. He could get lost in the silence, he thought as he moved across the room to run his right hand over the couch. He turned in a circle, trying to figure out what he should do first. His eyes settled on the kitchen and he wandered over to start opening the cabinets and refrigerator, looking over the variety of food and drinks available. He ran his fingertip over a package of fudge-striped cookies and it suddenly hit him.

He could eat whenever and whatever he wanted. He could sleep whenever he wanted. He looked back at the living room. He could sleep where he wanted. On the couch or in the king-sized bed in the bedroom, and he wouldn’t have to worry about having a cellmate sleeping in the bunk above or below him. There was no one there to regulate his day and watch his every move.

Max stood there in the middle of the kitchen, surrounded by the early evening light coming in through the windows that were everywhere. When he had walked into the office and been introduced to his parole officer he had expected to be shuffled off to a halfway house. He had never expected to land someplace like this or to have a job handed to him. He had a feeling the man was going to work him like a dog but he didn’t care. He had to get on his feet so he could find Ava and make sure she was safe. If he could do this right and find her they could both escape that life.

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ArchAngel1973
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Prisoners of the Past (CC, A/U, Adult) Part 2 - 11/27/11

Postby ArchAngel1973 » Sun Nov 27, 2011 6:39 pm

mary mary: You would be correct, lol. We’ll have to wait to find out what’s happened to Ava.

Alien_Friend: I’ll do my best to update weekly.  The Parkers are doing something very important with their involvement in this program. Max is going to do his best to turn his life around. He’s taken the first step. Liz is lost right now. She and Max both need something, they just don’t know what it is yet.

Michael and Maria are the steady couple here. No, there’s not much behind Liz and Michael’s story. They just struck each other wrong from the first moment they met. We’ll find out more about that later though.

Yeah, I’d say Jim’s a good guy, lol.

Cool, let me know if you need links.

keepsmiling7: Max does know. He knows that it isn’t often someone in his shoes ends up in this type of position. It’s also a lot more than he would have dared to hope for.

Ava’s definitely the girl.

Max… wants to take advantage of this opportunity. He genuinely wants to have a better life than the one he’s had so far.

begonia9508: Max will certainly try to make the best of this opportunity.

Thanks! I’m so glad you’re enjoying this story!


Part 2

Maria opened the front door to her mom’s house, calling out as she stepped inside. She could hear Hunter happily babbling about something and a moment later she heard a deeper voice talking to her little boy. She leaned against the doorframe in the living room and crossed her arms over her chest as she watched her stepbrother playing with Hunter. He was careful with the 15-month-old and had a gentleness that seemed at odds with his currently scruffy exterior. She made a face and shook her head when the man looked up at her and she got a look at him. “What is that crap on your face?” she asked.

Kyle Valenti rolled over and leaned back on his elbows as he grinned up at her. He reached up to run his right hand over his goatee and mustache. “Don’t like it?”

“You look like a drug dealer,” she said, wrinkling her nose at him. His hair was longer than normal, giving him a shaggy look.

“Kinda the point, Sis.” He watched her pick Hunter up and he smiled at them when they greeted each other as if they had been separated for weeks instead of just a couple of hours.

It had been several weeks since he had been anywhere near their family. It was a habit he had gotten into when he had started working undercover and she knew he did it for their safety as well as his but she hated it. “Since you’re here can I assume you’re finished with your latest undercover assignment?”

“Hey, look who came crawlin’ outta the gutter,” Michael said as he came into the room and shook hands with his girlfriend’s brother.

“Yeah, well, I can only spend so much time down there,” Kyle grinned but it was strained. “Mom insisted I stay for supper and I couldn’t turn down a chance to spend some time with my little nephew.” He reached out to tug on the little boy’s foot, making him laugh. “She said you two were comin’ by to pick him up.”

“You been entertaining your Uncle Kyle?” Michael took Hunter, tickling the little boy’s tummy and making him squirm around and laugh. “Yeah, we had to do a few things this afternoon and Grandma and Grandpa have been sayin’ they don’t get enough time with Hunter.”

“They’ll never get enough time.” Kyle smirked when he heard Dad come in through the back door and a moment later Mom was telling him to stop eating from the pots. “Mom sent him out to the store when I got here, said she needed more food.”

Maria rolled her eyes. “You know every time you come back from one of those assignments she’s so happy to have you back.” She met his gaze evenly when he got to his feet. “We all are,” she said quietly. She reached up to grasp his chin and turned his head to the side. “You need a haircut and a shave though.”

He rubbed his palm over his goatee. “What? The chicks like this look.”

“Land more of ‘em that way?” Michael asked with interest.

Maria smacked his stomach with the back of her hand. “You’ve landed your limit, Guerin.”

Before he could comment her mother and stepfather came into the room and the conversation was off and running. It was a lot like watching a tennis match. Since the first time Maria had brought him home in junior high he had been fascinated by the way her family interacted. Put the four of them together and it was chaos. Especially if they hadn’t been together in a while. He knew it wouldn’t be long before her mom was insisting they stay for dinner and with Kyle home after being away for nearly a month Maria would want to spend time with him.

He snatched up one of the little cloth storybooks and sat down in the recliner near the dormant fireplace. He settled Hunter in his lap and kicked the footrest out. “Between me an’ you I think it’s safer over here.”

Hunter tipped his head back to look up at him and he suddenly broke out in a wide grin for no reason at all.

Michael chuckled and shook his head when he caught sight of the two tiny bottom teeth finally beginning to emerge. “Drool monster alert,” he called and somehow Maria heard him over the din and came over with a rag to wipe the baby’s face and kiss his forehead.

“Don’t drool all over Daddy; he’s had a long day.” She crouched down next to the chair and linked her fingers through Michael’s. “How would you feel about stayin’ for dinner?” She smiled. “Mom made pot roast.”

“Only if she made the roasted potatoes to go with it.”

Maria leaned in closer when he tugged on her hand, giving him a kiss and staring into his eyes. As much as he enjoyed time with just their little family he had become a part of her family over the years that they had been together.

“Make some room over here, Maria,” Jim said, giving her a gentle nudge. He shook Michael’s hand before reaching for his grandson and lifting him up against his chest. “I think this fella right here needs some guy time, don’t you, Hunter? Um-hmm, spent the whole day bein’ fussed over by Grandma, haven’t you?”

Hunter scrunched his face up as he smiled.

“He loves spending time with his grandma,” Amy said as she smacked her husband’s backside.

Kyle grabbed the television remote and threw himself down on the couch, bending one arm behind his head as he propped it on the arm of the couch. “How’ve the boys been playin’?” he asked with a glance at Michael.

“Not too bad. Lost a few, but they’ve been playin’ better the last couple weeks.” He nodded when Kyle motioned to the baseball game on the screen.

“Kyle, now that you’re home, you should join us for the game this weekend,” Jim said as he tugged his badge out of Hunter’s hands and tossed it on top of the cabinet next to the living room doorway.

“I thought Mom’s been goin’ while I’ve been workin’?” he asked, trying to hide a yawn.

“I’ll be happy to let you have my seat,” Amy said as she came back into the room with three bottles of beer that she passed around to the men in the room. She retrieved Hunter’s bottle and put it in his hands when he tried to make a grab for Jim’s beer. “I have other things I can be doing and you boys can hang out together and go to the game.”

“What about Maria?”

“Maria has plans on Saturday afternoon,” Maria spoke up. “You guys go and have fun. You can take Grandpa in my place. Believe me, I’ll survive if I miss out on the game.” She watched them as the conversation quickly turned to the game and she smiled as they made plans to meet up and hang out before heading out to the ballpark. There had been a time when she had thought they were never going to get along. Michael’s relationship with her family, her included, had been put on the line in the past and it had taken a long time for them to move beyond the mistakes that had been made.

*****

Max stared up at the ceiling and shifted restlessly, listening to the soft sheets rustling against his legs. As much as he craved the silence it was so loud he couldn’t hear himself think. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed, rubbing his face and getting to his feet. He walked around the bed and grabbed the jeans he had been wearing earlier, pulling them on and moving into the living room. He now had the freedom to do whatever he wanted and he didn’t know how to act.

It pissed him off.

He turned the stereo on, keeping the volume at a respectable level, and scanned from station to station in search of something that sounded familiar. He sighed in frustration when everything he heard was different from what he was used to and he suddenly realized that while he had been in prison life had gone on without him. He had tried to watch television earlier but even when he and Ava had finally gotten a place he hadn’t had much interest in watching TV. He was too used to trying to survive, and sitting down to vegetate in front of some program hadn’t appealed to him.

He shifted his weight to look at the patio doors that opened to the back porch when he heard something tapping against the glass. He moved to them and unlocked the doors, pushing them open and freezing when the fresh scent of rain hit his nostrils. He stepped out onto the porch, turning his face upwards and letting the raindrops pelt his flesh. How long had it been since he had felt the rain on his skin? Too long, he decided. He stood there, not caring that he was getting soaked. The night was warm and the rain felt good. Thunder rolled and lightening danced across the sky, the brief flashes illuminating the grounds.

How did people get so wealthy? He understood how it happened when money and other things were obtained through illegal activities and transactions, but how did they do it legally? Could honest, hard work really pay off like that? He walked to one end of the porch and peered around the side of the house, looking back towards the Parkers’ home. His gaze was drawn to the pool that stretched out behind the house before shifting to settle on the little lights that illuminated the paved walkway that wrapped around both sides of the residence.

He wondered what he could expect his first day on the job. He had no idea what people who worked in restaurants did at four in the morning. It wasn’t a fast food restaurant, which meant they probably didn’t open until mid-morning at the earliest. If the place didn’t open until mid-morning, what would he be doing for five or six hours? He knew how to heat things up, but he didn’t really know anything about cooking. While serving his sentence he had worked in the prison library and he had discovered a love for books. He could read a good book and lose himself in its pages, let himself become part of the story. It had served as an escape at first but over time he had grown to genuinely appreciate it for the art it was.

Lightening streaked across the sky, the jagged light reaching down from the heavens to tease the branches of a nearby tree before seeming to retract and then disappear altogether. He swallowed hard as the sight took him back to another rainy night, but instead of warm air the night had been cold.

It had been November and they had gotten caught outside during a downpour. They were soaked to the bone and Ava had been coughing for the past few days. It was too late to get into the shelters, they had filled hours ago. Sneaking into the old abandoned warehouses was dangerous; the buildings were often falling apart and usually they were already inhabited by other people – the homeless, drug addicts, and human predators who existed to prey on the helpless and the weak.

They usually avoided the warehouses when they could but he didn’t like the sound of Ava’s cough and there would be no way to stay out of the elements if they stayed in the park. He narrowed his eyes as they passed an apartment building with several of the basement windows boarded up. “C’mon, let’s check it out.”

The thunder overhead was steady enough that he was able to pry one of the boards loose without drawing any attention to them. He had her wait in the shadows while he slipped inside to check it out. After looking around he had climbed up on a crate and motioned for her to climb in and he had helped her down to the floor.

“Laundry room,” he said as he pointed to the bank of washers and dryers around the room. The room wasn’t very warm but it was warmer than being outside. He started opening up the dryer doors, looking for anything that would keep her warm and swearing aloud when he found all of them empty. “I’m gonna run out and get us somethin’ to eat.”

She had been shaking from the cold and he dug around in his pockets for the change that was leftover from their bottle collecting the day before. Collecting bottles and cans had at least given them a little bit of money, but it wasn’t much. He fed a couple of coins into one of the dryers and sat her down next to it so she could absorb the warmth coming from the machine.

“Soon as I get back we’ll dry our clothes, okay?”

She started to answer but just nodded instead when she was hit with another coughing fit.

He squeezed back out through the opening and shoved the board back into place before taking off down the alley. He headed for the street, running until he reached a small corner store and hurrying inside. He scoured the three tight aisles, looking for the available cough medicines and finding the one he wanted before moving over another aisle and locating the Ramen noodles. He picked up two packages and then backtracked to the cough medicine, using the distraction of a new customer entering the shop to snatch the small box and shove it in his coat sleeve. He hit a shelf with his elbow and purposefully knocked a few things to the floor so he could slip a bar of cheap soap into the top of his boot. He shoved the other things back on the shelf and then made his way to the counter.

He paid for the noodles and the old guy behind the counter reluctantly let him have one of the Styrofoam cups by the fountain drinks. He snatched a couple of the white plastic spoons and then hurried back outside. The laundry room had given him an idea and instead of heading right back to Ava he had gone a couple of blocks out of his way to a coin-operated laundry. A couple of people looked up when he stepped inside but they quickly averted their gazes, either feeling threatened by his presence or uncomfortable at the sight of yet another homeless person. He didn’t care either way; all that mattered was that they leave him alone.

He checked the trash cans, knowing someone would’ve thrown away a trash bag. He finally found one and he pulled it out, opening it up and checking it out. There were a couple of holes where whatever had been in it had torn the plastic, but it would do. He checked the dryers along the back where the signs indicated the machines were reserved for customers who dropped their laundry off and he looked around when he found one with a blanket inside. He glanced over his shoulder, seeing that the other customers were all making an effort to avoid looking at him.

He snorted to himself and checked the office door, shaking his head when it remained closed. He gave the dryer door a jerk and the warm blanket spilled out into his arms. He quickly shoved it inside the trash bag and headed back to the front door. He was passing one of the folding tables, the items there temporarily abandoned by a woman busy chasing her unruly child around the facility. He quickly grabbed a couple of towels and added them to his collection, rolling the top of the bag closed and heading for the door.

Ava had been dozing fitfully when he had gotten back and he woke her up, telling her to get out of her wet clothes and wrap up in the blanket. He tossed her clothes in the dryer and added a couple more coins before leaning over one of the washers and turning the water off. He unscrewed the hot water hose and opened the top on the washer before turning it back on and filling the tub. He handed the towels over and then dug the bar of soap out of his boot so she could clean up. It had been a while since either of them had been able to clean up and while a washing machine tub wasn’t ideal, it would work well enough.

He moved down a couple of machines and went through the same process, using the hot water to mix the noodles and add the little flavor packet. It wouldn’t be as hot as it should be but at least once it had sat for a few minutes the noodles would soften up. Once Ava had finished washing up she wrapped up in the blanket and he handed her the cup of soup so he could take his turn bathing.

“This smells nice,” she said as she placed her nose at the rim of the cup.

“It’s not exactly chicken soup, but maybe it’ll help,” he said as he hung his head over the machine and lathered his hands up before scrubbing them through his hair.

“I like the blanket.” She started coughing again and he turned his head to look at her.

“I lifted some cough medicine.”

She nodded and went back to sipping the broth. “You brought enough soup for you too, right?”

“Yeah, got two packages.” It wasn’t nearly enough to fill their stomachs but it would take the edge off of their hunger.

“Good.” She finished eating in silence and then took the medicine at his urging before sighing tiredly and closing her eyes. “I wish we had a home to go to,” she whispered tiredly.


Max stared up at the sky and wondered again where she was. She was never far from his thoughts and he wished he knew what had happened to keep her from coming to see him. He knew it had to be serious because in all the time he had been in prison she had rarely missed coming to see him, and when she had he’d known ahead of time. It made him fear the worst.

He turned and went back inside, stripping out of his soaked jeans and carrying them into the bathroom to wring them out in the tub. He carried them back to the little room off the kitchen that housed the washer and dryer and he threw them in and started the machine. He leaned against it, soaking up its heat and thinking of Ava.

*****

It was the middle of the night and her restless prowling was doing nothing to draw the memories to the surface of her mind. Her bare feet made the slightest of sounds as she wandered from one room to the next in search of the elusive childhood phantoms. Up until a few months ago she had believed Max to be a figment of her imagination… an imagined playmate created to ease the boredom when she was a little girl.

She took an involuntary step back when lightning flashed across the sky, the jagged burst of light briefly illuminating the grounds beyond the window. Her fingers reached out, trembling as she followed the first fat raindrops that traveled down the pane of glass. How had she managed to relegate him to the furthest corners of her mind for so long? Until recently she hadn’t even thought about him in… years. She tried to conjure up an image of the little boy that had been her constant companion when she was five years old but the image was hazy at best. She was so deeply lost in her thoughts that she wasn’t aware of the quiet thumping sound coming from behind her.

Alex Whitman carefully maneuvered himself into the living room, thankful to be relying on strength, determination, and a pair of forearm crutches. Up until a couple of months ago he had been confined to a wheelchair and now that he had gotten out of it he refused to get back in it. He came up behind his fiancé, calling her name to announce his presence so as not to startle her.

“Isabel?”

She turned from the window and forced a smile when she saw Alex standing in the light cast from the hallway. “Alex, did I wake you?”

“The thunder woke me,” he said, nodding at the window.

Her gaze moved back to the darkness outside, her eyes following the occasional bolt of lightning that would momentarily light up the night sky. He hadn’t slept well during a storm since… since the night of the accident. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to force the memory of that night away but it was useless. The memories she wanted to surface remained hidden and the ones she wanted to bury rose up at the slightest suggestion.

It had been a night a lot like this one; overcast and raining heavily. She and Alex had been out with her father, celebrating their engagement. The evening had been cut short when their limo driver overshot an intersection and a truck had slammed into them. The limo had been pushed across the intersection and impacted from the opposite side as well, effectively pinning and trapping them inside.

Her father had died that night but before he had passed on he had told her something he had held inside for almost twenty years. She had a half-brother somewhere out there and she didn’t know anything about him beyond his name.

“We’ll find him,” Alex said quietly. He shifted his weight to his right side and watched her as she stared outside, her eyes locked on a night in the past.

“How? We’ve been looking for months and haven’t found anything.”

“We just don’t have a lot to go on, honey. We have your brother’s name and we have his mother’s name, but little else. We have to piece it together and that takes more time than if we had all the information.” He’d had his reservations about searching for her half-brother but she had been insistent about finding him so he had accepted her decision.

“You really believe we’ll find him, Alex?”

“When the doctors said my chances of walking again ranged somewhere between slim and none, did I ever waver in my belief that I’d walk again?”

Her eyes shone with tears as she turned and looked at him. He had never once faltered in his belief that he would walk again. They had postponed their wedding indefinitely because he wanted to be standing at the altar when they got married, wanted to be able to carry her over the threshold at the end of the evening. And also because somewhere deep inside she hoped that her brother would be willing to walk her down the aisle.

“C’mon, let’s go to bed.” He nodded for her to join him, wishing he could take her hand or rest his arm around her shoulders as they walked together.
Last edited by ArchAngel1973 on Mon Nov 28, 2011 1:08 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Prisoners of the Past (CC, A/U, Adult) Part 3 - 12/4/11

Postby ArchAngel1973 » Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:14 pm

keepsmiling7: The Valenti/DeLuca/Guerin family have worked long and hard to get to where they are now. Their past has taken time to work through but they’re stronger and closer now. Kyle has a lot of things he can’t talk about with his job and it does tend to create moments of distance.

Max found a mental escape in books and that’s something that’s helped him to maintain his focus. Ramen noodles suck, lol. Life on the streets is harsh and we’ll see more of their time there as the story unfolds.

dreamon: Thanks, I’m glad you’re enjoying the story! That meeting is coming very soon.

Alien_Friend: Isabel wants to find him but so far they aren’t coming up with much to go on. Most of what they’re finding until now has only led to dead-ends. Alex is a very optimistic guy and Isabel has his full support.

We will be finding out about Ava soon. Though their means were very limited on the streets they did their best to survive. We’ll get more about their life during those years as the story unfolds. Max is going to try his hardest to do the right thing.

After serving several years behind bars it takes time to relearn what most people take for granted.

The Valenti/DeLuca/Guerin family is all of that and more. They’ve had their hardships to get them to a place where they can leave the past behind them.

With a job like Kyle’s that is a possibility.

Thanks!

mary mary: The search for Max will continue as will Alex’s recovery. Max is taking advantage of the opportunity to change his life. Prison is one place he never wants to go again and it’s given him the added incentive to work hard for a better life.

begonia9508: Thanks! Life on the streets is harsh and there will be moments that are difficult to read as that part of their lives is revealed through memories and flashbacks.

Max only has vague memories of a little blond-haired girl, but no actual recall of who Isabel is.

That search will continue.

Eva: Thanks! All of these lives are going to intersect at some point.

angiebrenna: Thanks for reading!

MP: Thanks for reading!


Part 3

Jeff snapped the lights in the back of the restaurant on and pocketed his car keys as he motioned for his newest employee to follow him inside. He hadn’t been surprised when he had gone around to the guesthouse and Max had answered on the first knock. The younger man didn’t appear to have gotten much rest in spite of the tranquility of his new surroundings. But he knew it would take time for him to adjust to the differences.

Max looked around as he followed Jeff through the maze of counters, equipment, and appliances. “You use all this stuff?”

“Every bit of it. You just wait, give it a few hours and there’ll be so many people runnin’ around back here you’ll wonder how they don’t trip over each other.”

“Sounds kinda insane.”

“It’s organized chaos.”

He could hear the pride in the man’s voice. He shoved his hands in his pockets as Jeff moved to a thermostat on the wall between a pair of large stainless steel doors, lifting an eyebrow when the man made a sound of satisfaction before reaching up to tap the cover over the gauges. “Air conditioner?”

“Thermostats for the freezer and refrigerator units. Keeping the food at the right temperature is important.”

“What happens if one of ‘em breaks down?”

“I’ve got smaller backup units just in case.” He smiled. “Better to be safe than sorry.” He led the way through the kitchen, heading for the double doors that led to the dock where his supplies came in daily. “Know anything about food safety?”

“I know which restaurants throw out the best food at the end of the night.” Max shrugged. “I can tell you which ones to avoid.”

Jeff paused, studying the younger man for several long minutes. He’d known his share of hard times growing up but he’d never lived on the streets or survived by eating out of dumpsters. “I can only imagine you probably had a few bad experiences.”

“Yeah, well,” he looked around at the dock that was lit by two bright overhead lights, “you live an’ learn.” He turned in a small circle. “I’ve seen a lot of docks behind restaurants but none that were this clean. You could eat off the concrete.”

“It’s washed down and sanitized every morning after deliveries and every night after the last trip out to the dumpsters.”

“You throw a lot of food away?”

“No, very little in fact. I work with an organization that collects food and puts it to use at a nearby shelter. There’s no reason to waste it and while there are plenty of folks out there who get their meals from dumpsters every night,” he shrugged, “it’s risky. Food can spoil quickly and someone who’s that hungry may not even notice it’s bad. They could suffer from food poisoning or worse.”

Max knew enough about that but he was surprised that Jeff seemed to have an understanding of the issue. Before he could ask about it a truck pulled past them and slowed to a stop before backing up to the dock. Jeff greeted the driver when he joined them on the dock, introducing Max to him and standing back while he unlocked the door on the trailer and rolled it up. “First thing I’m gonna teach you, Max, is how to receive frozen foods.”

For the next couple of hours he worked side by side with Jeff, learning how to inspect incoming shipments of fresh and frozen food. In between shipments he was busy stocking the freezer, refrigerator, and dry goods. As the hours passed employees began to arrive, clocking in for work, and being introduced to their new coworker.

By the end of his shift he had met at least 20 other employees and he was amazed at how many people worked for Jeff. He hung around for a couple more hours, learning people’s names and what they did at the restaurant. Waiters, waitresses, servers, runners, bussers, dishwashers, the cashiers, prep cooks, pastry chef, line cooks, and a couple of chefs, and for the most part everyone had been friendly. It was a lot to keep track of. Jeff was in the middle of what he had called the organized chaos, monitoring the food preparation, overseeing the handling of the food, as well as going out into the dining area and checking on the customers. At almost 5pm he caught up with Jeff to let him know he was going to clock out and leave.

“You remember the address?” Jeff asked as he wiped his hands on a towel.

Max nodded. “Wrote it down this mornin’.”

“You did a good job today.” He filled a takeout plate with spaghetti and meatballs, running a towel over the edges before snapping a lid on it and holding it out to Max. He shook his head when he saw the hesitation on the younger man’s face. “Take it, you earned it. I’ll see you at 4am.”

He finally accepted the takeout and headed for the employees’ entrance, pausing by the time clock and pulling the little plastic card out of his pocket. He swiped it, smiling to himself when he heard the electronic beep. It was bright outside after being indoors all day. The front of the restaurant was well-lit with natural light but most of his day had been spent in the kitchen area. He squinted against the sunlight and headed for the subway, slowing down when he reached the turnstiles. How many times had he and Ava jumped them and spent the night riding the rails to stay out of the cold?

Ava. He backed away from the turnstiles and took the steps up to the street, standing there for a moment to get his bearings. Once he had taken some time to figure out what he should do he returned to the subway and ignored the little voice that said he could just jump the turnstiles. He pulled out the money he needed to purchase a ticket and moved to wait on the platform. He had left the majority of the money he had earned in prison folded over and taped to the back of a drawer in the kitchen.

Almost 45 minutes later he was standing in front of the old rundown apartment building he and Ava had lived in. He knew she had still been living there the last time she had visited him in prison. He took in a deep breath and walked inside, going up to the fourth floor and knocking on the door of their old apartment. He couldn’t hear anything coming from inside and as he turned to go down to the super’s office to see if he’d let him into the apartment he noticed the marks on the doorframe by the lock.

His fingers brushed against the marks, feeling the grooves made from whatever had been used to pry the door open at some point. He swallowed hard and looked around before turning the doorknob, knowing before he touched it that the door would open without protest. He walked inside and quietly pushed the door closed, taking in the mess and knowing that something bad had happened. The furniture was overturned, cushions sliced open and the stuffing ripped out. The few pictures that had decorated the walls had been thrown to the ground and torn apart. In the bedroom the mattress and boxsprings had fallen to the same fate as the other furniture. The drawers in the dresser had been pulled out and the clothing was strewn everywhere. The tiny cabinet over the sink had been emptied out, the contents scattered all over the bathroom floor.

Someone had been looking for something. He reached for the loose brick in the wall behind the door, wiggling it around and pulling it out before reaching inside and feeling around. He dropped his head against the wall and closed his eyes when his fingers wrapped around a roll of money. He pulled it out and straightened up to look down at it, brushing the mortar dust off of it and unfolding it, his eyes widening when he realized how much he was holding. Even in almost six years she couldn’t have saved this kind of money, not with covering the rent and other bills.

“Damn it, Ava, what’d you get into?” He put the money back and replaced the brick before backing out of the small room. He looked around at the destruction in the apartment before leaving it the same way he had found it.

He went down to the office that belonged to the building super, knocking on his door and waiting impatiently for him to answer. When it was finally opened the thin man peered around the edge of the door suspiciously.

“Help you?” the man muttered.

“I’m lookin’ for the tenant in apartment 4B.”

“Ain’t seen her.”

“She still livin’ here?”

“Assume so,” he answered carelessly. “Rent’s paid up for the next three months, no reason for me to bother with her.”

Max backed away when the man slammed the door in his face. He left the building and moved through the neighborhood, stopping in the places he and Ava had frequented before he had been arrested. It had been weeks since anyone had seen her and no one knew where she had gone. As darkness began to fall he headed back to the subway, his mind turning over the possibilities. He couldn’t figure out how the money fit into her disappearance other than it being in the apartment, the condition of the apartment, and her missing meant something had gone horribly wrong.

He couldn’t imagine her just taking off. Not without telling him she was leaving and not without a fight. The state of the apartment was more than enough evidence to suggest that her leaving hadn’t been voluntary. He couldn’t go to the cops because Ava still had ties to Damon and his parole could be revoked if they found out he had been anywhere near anything related to the man or his organization. How was he going to find her on his own?

*****

Damon Knight looked up from the ledger and waved when he saw the man standing in the doorway. “What is it?” he barked.

“One of the boys spotted someone in the bitch’s apartment.”

The man behind the desk slowly sat back, the fingers of his right hand drumming against the blotter as he nodded. “Evans.” He smiled slowly, his lips curling into a vicious smile. He had known it wouldn’t take long before the boy started looking for her and played right into his hands.

“You want us to go get him?”

“No, leave him be for now, Nicholas. When the time is right I’ll approach him myself. We’ll let him run in circles for a while, get himself good and worked up so that when he sees me he’ll do whatever I want in exchange for his precious Ava.”

Nicholas glanced at the silent man standing behind the boss’ right shoulder. Santini was Damon’s bodyguard and rarely left his side. “What makes you think he gives two shits about that bitch?”

“He’s been free less than 48 hours and he’s already jeopardizing his parole by looking for her. If there’s one person he’s loyal to, one person he would die for, it’s her.”

“He didn’t flip on you when he got busted.”

“Fear and loyalty are not the same thing, Nicholas. The street rat has that over you.”

Nicholas seethed at the insult. One day he was going to slit that street rat’s throat.

“I don’t want him approached, do you understand me? Follow him, watch him, but whatever you do, I do not want any of my people coming in contact with him.”

“I’ve got it.”

“One slipup and I’ll hold you personally responsible.” He returned to his ledger once Nicholas had vacated the room and his pen hovered over the page. “I have a feeling he’s going to become a liability,” he mused quietly.

The big man shifted soundlessly.

Damon nodded. “I’ll let you know when it’s time to take care of him.” He started scratching out information in the ledger, pushing the information from the meeting into the appropriate compartments to be dealt with later.

*****

Liz suffered through the expected round of twenty questions during dinner with her mother and sipped her wine, counting down the minutes until she would be free of the interrogation. She came by for dinner every Wednesday night and sat through the meal, wishing she was anywhere but there. She loved her parents dearly but she didn’t want to be a crusader for criminals. She just didn’t see the point. They were going to end up back in prison anyway. She had seen more than one of them take advantage of the opportunities given to them after being released on parole and then turn around and throw it away. She didn’t know why her parents continued to participate in the programs.

“Are you listening to anything I’m saying, Elizabeth?”

“Mom, can we talk about something else? I have no intention of getting married and giving you grandchildren anytime soon. Let’s just all accept that reality and move on.”

“I will never understand how you’ve become so cynical at your age.”

“It’s not that hard to figure out, Mom. This place is a revolving door for criminals. Half of them come through here, get their chance at having a real life, and before long they’re right back where you found them.”

“The program runs at an 83% success rate.”

“And I don’t care.” She took a drink of her wine.

“I wish I could make you understand why this’s so important.” Nancy shook her head when one of the servants came in and asked if they were ready for dessert. “No thank you, Emily.”

“Mom, you and Dad have a passion for working with these people and fine, I’ve accepted that, but I have no interest in following that path.”

“You judge people without taking the time to get to know them.”

“Yeah, let’s go over that again. They’re criminals, Mom! So what, they had a crummy childhood or whatever! Boo-hoo! That doesn’t mean they had no choice but to turn to a life of crime to survive. I pay taxes to support these people and how is that fair?”

“It’s easy to sit back and say things like that when you’ve had everything you’ve ever wanted given to you.”

Liz shook her head in annoyance. “This’s a pointless argument. Neither of us is gonna change our opinion.”

Nancy sighed and sipped her wine. She just didn’t understand how her daughter had grown up to have this opinion. Yes, she agreed that people made the choices that led them down whatever path they ended up on, but sometimes that choice was the better option of those available to them at the time.

“If we’re finished here I’d like to take a few laps in the pool.”

“The guesthouse is occupied.”

“Perfect. Some nonviolent offender who deserves a second chance, no doubt. I’ll take Diablo with me when I go out.” The dog lying by the fireplace lifted his head when he heard his name, his stubby tail wagging happily for a few moments until nothing else was said to him. She stood and picked up her wine glass, going for a refill before heading up to her room to change into a bikini and take a dip.

*****

Max was sitting on the porch when the pool lights came on, illuminating the water and throwing light over most of the backyard. He had been listening to the sounds of the night and wondering how he was going to find Ava when he heard a door open and moments later it closed again. He saw the dog first and he wondered why he hadn’t seen it the night before. The couple had to let the animal out several times a day, walk it in the mornings and evenings.

When the dog was joined by someone else he thought it was Mrs. Parker so he got up and started to go back inside. It was when she turned to place something on one of the poolside tables that he realized the woman was a brunette. He watched from the shadows as she peeled the fluffy white robe off and dropped it on a chaise lounge before tossing a towel on top of it. His mouth went dry when she turned and the light showed off her lithe body.

“I know you’re watching, perv,” she said as she walked around the pool to the deep end. “Look all you want but come anywhere near me and my dog will take your balls off.”

That pissed him off. He had been involved in plenty of questionable and illegal things over the years but he had never been a pervert. He walked down the three steps to the flagstone path and followed it around to the pool. “If you didn’t wanna be watched you wouldn’t parade around like that knowin’ someone was watching.”

“Diablo.”

Max wasn’t expecting it when the dog moved, launching itself at him and knocking him off of his feet. The breath was forced from his lungs when his back hit the ground and he froze when he felt the teeth pressed against his neck. The dog’s hot breath scorched his skin and he tried not to think of the drool he could feel creeping down his throat.

“Good boy, Diablo.” She patted the Doberman Pinscher’s side and crouched down next to them. “My parents may think that you’re worth saving but just so we’re on the same page, I think you’re just wasting their time because it’s only a matter of time before you’re back in prison. Do we understand each other?” She cocked her head to one side. “You can blink once for no and twice for yes.”

He wanted nothing more than to tell her exactly what he thought of her bitchy attitude but he could hardly breathe so he complied and blinked twice. As soon as she called the dog off he sat up, eying it warily when it moved back and sat down with its eyes trained on him. He reached up to rub his throat.

“I’ve heard that’s an interesting sensation,” Liz said conversationally. “Having a dog’s teeth pressed into your neck. Do you have any idea just how easily Diablo could’ve crushed your throat? I’d remember that,” she said loftily as she stood back up.

He couldn’t believe she was Jeff and Nancy Parker’s daughter! She was nothing like them. She hadn’t even bothered to speak to him before passing judgment. He was still pissed but since her parents were helping him he bit his tongue. And as soon as she turned her back on him he shoved her, sending her screeching into the water. He was smirking in satisfaction when he heard her shout for the dog and before his legs could catch up with his brain’s screaming Run! the dog rammed him from behind and he lost his balance.

In the water Liz smirked when his arms flailed as he lost his balance and he fell into the water. Her amusement was short-lived though because after just a few seconds she realized that he was panicking and drawing in gasping breaths of air as he fought to stay above the surface. She swam around him, careful to avoid his arms as he grasped for something to keep him afloat. She wrapped one arm around his chest and started to swim backwards, pulling him towards the edge of the pool so he could grab onto the concrete. “Hold on,” she muttered as she hauled herself up out of the water and helped him out. She motioned for the Doberman to stay back when he started growling. “No, Diablo, stay.”

Max was coughing and sputtering as he pushed himself to his feet, shoving her hands away and stumbling towards the guesthouse.

*****

“You did what?!”

Liz winced when Maria shouted in her ear and she held the phone away until the yelling began to slow down. “How was I supposed to know the guy couldn’t swim? Besides, he pushed me first!”

“What’re you, five? You called him a perv, Liz! If he’s staying in your parent’s guesthouse he’s a nonviolent offender and your dad wouldn’t let him stay if he was a perv.”

“Well, why would he push me in the pool if he wasn’t feeling defensive?”

“Maybe because you sent your attack dog after him? Having that animal crushing his windpipe probably put the guy on edge. You owe him an apology.”

“I’m not apologizing to some criminal.”

“You nearly drowned the man, Liz. And when you apologize to him, don’t have Cujo sitting at your feet. Now that he’s spent all of what, two or three minutes in your presence, he’s probably afraid of water and dogs.”

“Whatever.” She dragged her fingers through her hair and stared at the guesthouse. The lights were on and she could see him walking back and forth through the curtained windows.

“Tomorrow I’m going with you to your dad’s restaurant and you’re gonna apologize to him.”

“Why would I think he was anything but a perv when he was clearly watching me?”

“Elizabeth Parker, we both know you went out there intending to harass the guy because you were in a pissy mood after ducking your mom’s questions about where your life is going. And you do not go out for a nighttime swim wearing whatever you were wearing because you want to be ignored. The guy does not deserve to be treated like that simply because you’re pissy.” She sighed and shook her head when Michael motioned for her to give him the phone. She covered the mouthpiece and used her elbow to deflect his grab for the handset. “Stop it, Michael.”

“Why’re you bothering to give her advice? All she’s gonna do is ignore it.”

She made a face and ducked out of his reach when he advanced on her with his grease-covered hands. He had been out in the driveway working on one of the cars their neighbors and friends were always bringing by for repairs. He was filthy after crawling around under whatever he was working on and he had that look in his eye that told her she was going to be covered in greasy handprints before long. Her eyes flicked over him and she felt herself respond to the want in his dark eyes. “Liz, sweetie, I’m gonna have to let you go but we’ll talk about this tomorrow.”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” she insisted as she disconnected the call and dropped the phone on the nightstand. She got up and walked over to the window that looked down over the backyard, crossing her arms over her chest and frowning. She supposed Maria was right. At least about almost accidentally drowning the man, she mused as she threw herself down on the bed again.

She sighed and dropped her head back against the pillow as she stroked the dog stretched out beside her. She hated having to apologize to anyone but even more than that she despised being indebted to anyone. She dressed in a pair of designer jeans and a red tank top before brushing her hair and leaving her room with Diablo at her side. She may owe the guy an apology but she wasn’t stupid.

*****

Max was pacing back and forth in the living room when he heard a knock on the door. Somehow he knew who would be standing there and he jerked it open, barely sparing her a glance before his gaze dropped to look for her dog.

“I’m here alone,” Liz said, her hands raised in a non-threatening gesture.

“Pretty risky, me bein’ a perv and all,” he snarled and walked back into the house. “And since I’m gonna be goin’ back to prison pretty soon you never know what I might be capable of.”

“Good point.” She snapped her fingers and Diablo walked inside and sat at her feet. “Look, I just wanted to apologize. I didn’t know you couldn’t swim. I don’t even know anyone your age who doesn’t know how to swim.”

“Yeah, well, chances are good you don’t half of what you think you know.” He watched the dog warily. “You like to make snap judgments without bothering to get your facts straight.”

Liz found herself staring at him, her eyes tracing over his bare upper torso. She hadn’t paid much attention to him earlier, too busy letting him know that he was nobody important. Her gaze was drawn to an abdominal scar that was visible above his low-hanging jeans. His jeans were ill-fitting, his belt keeping them up and causing the material to bunch up at the waistband. She followed the line of the scar until it disappeared from sight and without intending to her eyes caught on the arrow of hair below his belly button.

Max shifted under her gaze and shoved his hands in his pockets, hoping she couldn’t tell he was clenching his fists. He forced his own gaze to remain steady when her eyes lifted and locked on his and he felt an attraction so intense it was physical. It wasn’t her. Hell, it’d been six years since he’d had sex. Any attractive woman would get that response out of him. Not that it mattered because she wasn’t the one who was gonna break that particular dry spell. The Parkers’ daughter was off limits for so many reasons.

She could see the desire in his eyes but she also recognized that steely resolve that kept him rooted to the spot. His eyes were the most interesting shade of amber and without her permission her feet carried her closer to him. There was something about him, something that drew her to him the way magnets were irresistibly drawn to each other. She reached up to brush her fingers over the goatee before letting her thumb glide over his lips. She could feel his heated breath brushing against her fingertips, could hear the increase in his breathing, and she could see the pulse point in his throat jumping as his heart beat faster. Any other man in his position would make a move but she could see the tension in him as his body became taut.

“You need to go,” Max rasped.

This attraction was insane, Liz thought. “I go when I want to,” she said stubbornly.

“Then you’d better want to go or I’m gonna toss you out on your ass.” He reached for her to help her to the door but his hand hovered above her arm when her dog growled in warning. “Dog or no dog, you need to go.”

She smirked and backed away. “I’ll go.” She snapped her fingers and Diablo walked with her to the front door. “But I’ll be back without the dog.”

He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Whatever you think’s gonna happen between us isn’t gonna happen.”

“Oh, it’s gonna happen. I get what I want.” She shut the door before he could utter a word of protest and smiled all the way back up to the house. It wasn’t until she was raiding the refrigerator for a snack that she realized she didn’t even know the guy’s name.

Max leaned back against the door and thumped his head against it. Great, that’s all he needed, some horny little rich girl who wanted him to bed her. Which wouldn’t be a problem if she wasn’t the Parker’s daughter. He looked down at the deadbolt on the door and gnawed on his bottom lip as he debated whether or not to lock it. The thought of locking it made him feel nauseous after years behind bars but he didn’t need trouble sneaking into bed with him in the middle of the night either. He had a feeling he was going to have his hands full with her. Bad choice of words, Evans, he thought when the words brought an image to mind that he tried uselessly to shove away.

With a sigh he turned the lock and just hoped she didn’t have access to the spare keys.

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Prisoners of the Past (CC, A/U, Adult) Part 4 - 12/11/11

Postby ArchAngel1973 » Sun Dec 11, 2011 9:39 pm

dreamon: The progression on that front should be entertaining.

MP: Thanks! I think it’s safe to say that Liz will be eating those words in time. The story behind the scar will come out. As for tattoos… if he has them he hasn’t shown them off yet. Guess we’ll have to wait and let Liz tell us. Lol, he wasn’t too happy about that swimming pool incident. If I could’ve had another part by the 7th I would’ve posted it. Happy belated birthday.

keepsmiling7: It is a tragic existence and unfortunately too many are surviving day to day in that manner.

Max and Ava are survivors and they’ve had to make do with whatever they had to keep going.

We will find out what Ava was involved in.

Like others in this fic, Liz has a back story.

Helen of Roswell: Hi! Three short little weeks ago.

Lol, yeah, this fic is only being posted here on RF.

The Candy couple are an important part of the story, but yep, it’s Max-centered.

I’m glad to hear you’ll be reading and hope you enjoy it.

Lol, both of those fics do have a lot of parts already posted and it would be hard to leave feedback unless you started with the most current parts.

That’s a good plan for feedbacking. There are some really great stories on these boards.

Alien_Friend: Liz does have some issues and like others in the fic, she has a back story. She’s not going to make life easy for Max, at least not at first. At the present time she is set in her beliefs but in her pursuit of Max she may just learn a thing or two.

In some ways Jeff knows where Max has been. If Max hadn’t been arrested and sentenced to prison his life quite likely would have gotten darker and he could’ve turned out much worse.

Max’s concern for Ava will cause him to take some risks that will put more than one of them in danger.

sptfire86: Glad you’re enjoying the fic! Oh, Liz has every intention of getting what she wants, but he’s going to try to fight it for a while. We’ll have to see how successful he is.

clueless: Hi, I’m glad you stepped out of the shadowed land of lurkers to leave this wonderful feedback! Thank you for the amazing compliments! If it helps with the monitoring, I’m doing my best to keep my updates on Sunday nights. :wink:

angiebrenna: Interesting would be the word for it, lol. Liz will pursue, Max will try to avoid… we’ll see how long they can keep that dance going. Ava’s story will unfold as we move forward. Good catch! Damon said nothing about actually having her… or about her being alive.


Part 4

Kyle dragged himself out of bed and over to the bathroom so he could answer the demand his bladder was making. He stared at himself in the mirror over the bathroom sink a few minutes later, turning his head from one side to the other and studying his reflection. After the game the night before he and Michael had gone to the bar with Dad and Grandpa, hanging out long after the older men had left them to go home. They had spent the rest of the night trying to drink each other under the table. He was trying to remember how he had gotten home when he heard a noise coming from somewhere in the apartment. He retrieved his weapon from the nightstand and crept down the hallway.

“I don’t think you’re in any shape to be pointing a gun at anybody, Valenti,” an amused voice spoke up.

He rubbed his throbbing temples and thumbed the safety before tucking his weapon into his waistband at the small of his back.

“You know one of these days you’re gonna shoot yourself in the ass doin’ that.”

“Sean, what the hell are you doin’ here?” he grumbled when he caught sight of the man in his kitchen.

Sean Deluca scowled at the meager contents in the refrigerator and shut the door before turning to look at Kyle. “I was hoping to find something to eat but your kitchen’s in worse shape than mine.”

Kyle hauled himself up on one of the barstools at the breakfast bar and watched the other man rummage through the cabinets. When his dad and Maria’s mom had gotten married he had inherited Cousin Sean. “Did you say why you’re here?”

“You called me at almost four this mornin’ because you and Guerin were too loaded to drive yourselves home. By the time I got him home and got you back here it was too late to go back to my place so I just crashed on your couch.”

He grunted in response.

“Yeah, and while I don’t mind bein’ the designated driver I also don’t mind actually bein’ invited to go out when the two of you plan to tear the town up.”

“All week you’ve been talkin’ about your big date with that DEA agent so I didn’t think you’d wanna cancel on her to hang out with us.”

“But it was okay to call me at 4am?”

“Well, if you were gonna do her you’d have done it by then.” He smirked. “And you stayed here instead of goin’ back home. That means she either wasn’t good in the sack or she didn’t give it up.”

Sean flipped his baseball cap around and started making a pot of coffee. “Date got cut short,” he muttered. He stuck a filter in the basket and dumped a scoop of coffee grounds into it. “I can’t decide if it’s better to date someone on the job or not. I mean, we don’t work in a profession with a great success rate where relationships and marriage are concerned. That was our third attempt at a date and we haven’t even made it through dinner once.”

“Guess now you know why your ex was always pissed at you.”

Sean flipped him off. “Lynn was pissed at me for a lot of reasons. The job was usually not at the top of the list.”

“Probably should’ve told you somethin’ right there,” Kyle said. “What woman’s gonna be fine with you getting called out at all hours?”

He shrugged. “I thought maybe datin’ someone on the job would be different because she’d understand the late night calls but I guess that’s not gonna work either.”

“You’ll find the right girl one of these days, man.” He dropped his head down to rest on his folded arms. “What’d Maria say when you dropped Michael off?”

Sean snorted. “She was just happy she didn’t have to go get you guys.” He leaned back against the counter and rubbed his right hand over his face. “Ten years ago I never would’ve thought the two of them would still be together this far down the road.”

“Together with a kid, so did not see that one comin’. Who knew the two of them would be stable and have their own family started while the two of us can’t even keep a girl around longer than a few dates?”

“Thanks, Valenti, now I think I’m officially depressed.”

“I work undercover, you work SWAT… we might’ve shot ourselves in the foot with our career choices.” Kyle groaned and sat up straight. “I’m gonna grab a shower and then we can head over to Angelo’s for breakfast.” He shuffled back to his room, putting his weapon away and stripping out of his clothes so he could jump in the shower. He knew relationships could work for people working in law enforcement. His dad and Amy were a great example of that. Their marriage wasn’t perfect but they worked hard at it and they trusted and loved each other.

He was 26 and as much as he had enjoyed casual relationships in the past he had reached a point where he was starting to look for something more. Casual had started to feel empty and no matter how much he threw himself into his work it wasn’t enough to fill that hole.

*****

Maria was greeted warmly at the restaurant and escorted to the table Jeff kept reserved for his daughter for the occasions when she stopped by. Gus, an older man who had worked for the Parkers for as long as she could remember, appeared at the table with a high chair and he held his hands out expectantly. She smiled and handed Hunter over, letting him get the little boy situated while she put her things on the comfortable bench seat and settled down.

“The little prince, he is good tonight, no?”

She chuckled. “The little prince is teething and he’s been fussy all day.” His gums seemed to bother him more during the day though and right now he was chattering happily and showing off just how cute he could be.

“Maria, you’re here,” Liz said as she slid into the booth across from her friend. She paused when she noticed the baby. “Oh, you brought Hunter.”

Maria didn’t bother taking offense. “Um-hmm, which I told you when you called me with this emergency. Michael was busy working on a neighbor’s car and he couldn’t watch Hunter.” She looked up and nodded when Gus motioned to a waiter passing by with a tray of drinks. “Just the usual for me, Gus, thank you.” When the man moved off with their drink orders she dug around in her bag for a bowl, prying the lid off and setting it on the tray in front of Hunter.

Liz watched as the baby made happy sounds and leaned forward to hold his hands out when Maria pulled a plastic bottle out and shook it before opening it. How could he be that excited about Cheerios? He picked them up one at a time, studying each one before putting it in his mouth and chewing on it.

“Alright, he’s occupied now,” Maria said once she was certain he was satisfied with picking at his Cheerios. “What’s the emergency?”

“You remember the guy I called you about the other night?”

“The one you tried to drown? Yes, I remember.” She frowned. “Have you done something else to him?”

“What? No. Okay, look, I went to talk to him and I apologized like you said I should.”

“Uh-huh,” Maria said slowly. “But…?”

“But he wasn’t very forgiving,” she finally forced out. “All he wanted was for me to leave.”

“Liz, you shoved a guy who can’t swim into a pool.”

“Well, I didn’t. And in my defense I had no way of knowing he couldn’t swim.”

There were very few people whose opinions mattered to Liz so the fact that this man’s behavior was bothering her so badly was interesting. “You like him,” she crowed after a few minutes.

“No, I don’t.” She looked around the restaurant before dropping her gaze to her hands. “Okay, I’ll admit I’m attracted to him but that’s all it is.”

“You know, it’s okay if you like him.”

“He’s a criminal, Maria, and you know my opinion on that subject. You should see this guy though.”

“Have you ever considered that a person shouldn’t be judged for their past?”

“No one forces them to make the decisions they make.” She jumped back when a Cheerio bounced across the table and landed on her blouse. She made a face at it when it stuck to the material and she quickly flicked it away. She looked at Hunter when he laughed and threw another Cheerio at her.

“Hunter, no,” Maria said as she reached over to stop him from launching his next attack.

Liz winced when he screeched in protest, the high-pitched sound piercing her eardrums and drawing the attention of everyone in the restaurant. Maria had become immune to the noise and the looks even though she knew for a fact the racket used to drive her crazy. She relaxed when he went back to playing with his food, munching on the occasional Cheerio and moving the rest around on the tray since he had upended his bowl.

They paused when Gus returned with their drinks, placing them on the table and asking if they needed anything else. When they declined he told them he would be close by if they changed their minds and he disappeared again.

“So where’s this guy at?” She rolled her eyes when Liz looked up at her in surprise. “That is why I’m here, right? To get a look at this piece of eye candy and tell you to go for it?”

Liz snorted. “I’ve already decided to go for it. He won’t be around long so I should get to him before all that potential goes to waste.” She turned around, shooting a quick look at the kitchen entry near the back of the restaurant. “Ex-cons make great lovers, right?”

Maria smirked. “I can only vouch for mine.” When Michael had been released after serving three years they had spent more time in bed than out of it for the first week. “You’ve never had any interest in – “

“I don’t have an interest in him beyond getting laid, Maria. Don’t romanticize it.” Her eyes momentarily widened and she nodded at the ex-con in question when he stepped out of the kitchen carrying a large gray tub. “That’s him. Don’t turn around! He’s heading for the tables near the front windows so you’ll see him in just a minute.” She watched him as he started to clear the table, her eyes tracing over his body. He was dressed like the other employees who serviced the front of the restaurant, black slacks and shoes, crisp white shirt, and a black tie. She made a face. It was a clip-on tie, but if he couldn’t swim it was unlikely he had any idea how to tie a Windsor knot.

Maria turned her head to follow her friend’s gaze and her eyebrows lifted in surprise when she saw the man. He appeared to be unassuming but there was an air about him that suggested he was fully aware of his surroundings. She had a feeling he knew he was being watched and it was confirmed when his movements slowed and he shifted slightly to scan the room. “You know what he was in for?” she asked as she took a drink of her soda. She used the glass to hide her smile when his gaze landed on Liz and she saw the look of surprise on his face. She glanced back at her friend and shook her head when Liz smiled at him and she could see that it only aggravated the poor guy.

“Like you said, Maria, if my dad’s letting him stay in the guesthouse he’s not a violent offender.”

“So you intend to use him for sex.”

“The guy has no future. My parents are giving him a break but let’s be honest, it’s only a matter of time before he screws up and ends up back in prison.”

“You know, I wish you’d talk to me.”

Liz traced the tip of her forefinger around the rim of the glass and looked up at Maria through her eyelashes. “I thought I was.”

“You talk at me, Liz. For the past couple of years that’s what you’ve done. And if I dare to cross the line and ask you what the hell happened, you shut me out. No, you’ve never been into what your parents are doing to help people coming outta prison but your whole attitude about it changed a couple of years ago. Back then you were different. You’ve always been spoiled and you’re used to getting what you want, but you weren’t as down on your parents’ work as you are now. You used to confide in me. Do you think I’m so dense that I can’t tell the difference?”

“Okay, we just went way off topic.” She set her glass down and fidgeted with the napkin. “I just wanted you to come here so we could hang out.” She smiled. “So you could have a look at him and wish me luck.”

Maria shook her head and forced a smile. She couldn’t make Liz confide in her and she didn’t know how to get her to open up to her again. She let the subject drop and turned to look at the man who was now carrying the filled tub to the kitchen. “What’s his name?”

“I don’t know.”

“You haven’t just asked your parents?”

“No.”

“Um-hmm, and how many nights have you stayed out at their house since you saw him?”

Liz shrugged. “A couple of nights,” she answered.

“And you haven’t run into him again?”

“No, he’s avoiding me.”

“That’s really grating on your nerves too, isn’t it?” She laughed at the look on the other woman’s face. “Next time you meet a guy maybe you could start by introducing yourself instead of unleashing hellhound on him.”

“Diablo is a very sweet dog.”

“Unless you happen to be the poor bastard with his fangs wrapped around your throat.” She shook her head. “Just introduce yourself to him.”

“Liz, honey, why didn’t you call and let me know you were dropping by?” Jeff asked as he sat down next to her.

“Hi, Dad,” she greeted as she hugged him. “I didn’t know until just a little while ago. Hey, I saw a new face bussing tables.”

“That’s Max. He’s stayin’ in the guesthouse.” He spoke with Maria for a few minutes before reaching over to catch the bowl Hunter flipped over. “I think this young man gets bigger every time I see him.” He smiled when the little boy took the bowl back and started to chew on it. “I’ll bet he’s startin’ to get into everything.”

Maria nodded. “Yeah, now that he’s mobile it’s hell keeping up with him.”

“Tell me about it.” He nudged his daughter’s shoulder. “When this one was his age we couldn’t keep her out of anything.”

“Dad,” Liz protested.

“I’m just teasing, honey. Settle down and give me some grandkids to spoil and I’ll stop tellin’ stories about you.”

She made a face. “Maybe you can just adopt Hunter.” Her expression settled in to one of boredom. “So, that guy Max, will he be staying in the guesthouse long?”

“That all depends on him, same as anyone else who’s ever stayed there. Reintegrating into society after serving time isn’t easy. Having a support system is important because it helps them to stay straight. You can’t just throw them out on the streets and expect them to survive without any help. That’s not to say they can’t make it, but a lot of folks out there won’t give them a chance. This program helps ease them back into society, puts them in an honest job, and gives them a place to stay so they gradually settle into life on the outside.”

“Well, I just hope you don’t get screwed over again.”

“Ah, Lizzie, there’re no guarantees in life. We have to make the best of the hand we’re dealt and for some of us we get to a place where we can really give back and help others. No, not every person we try to help will succeed but that’s no reason to stop trying.”

“Dad, I – “

“Mr. Parker?”

They looked up at the interruption and Maria’s gaze bounced back and forth between the man they had been talking about and Liz. Electric was the first word that came to mind.

“What’s up, Max?” Jeff asked. “Ready to cut outta here for the day?”

“Yeah, if that’s okay. I thought I’d head back to the house and look over some of the courses you recommended.”

He nodded. Max was still adjusting, most of the time informing him of what he was doing when he left the restaurant. He knew that would change over time but it would work better if Max eased into a routine that was comfortable for him. He had to get used to the reality that he wasn’t being watched over constantly and wasn’t expected to answer for his every move. “Max, let me introduce you to my daughter Liz, and her friend Maria.”

Max tried not to reveal his tension as he shook Liz’ hand. He relaxed slightly when he shook Maria’s hand and she smiled openly. He glanced at the baby banging his bowl on the tray and babbling happily to himself. “He must be yours,” he said with a slight smile.

“My son, Hunter.”

“He’s cute.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’d better get going. I’ll see you in the mornin’, Mr. Parker.”

“Um, Max?” Liz smiled at the trapped look on his face. “Yeah, I’ll be leaving shortly and I’ll be going right by my parents’ place. I could give you a ride if you’d like.”

Max didn’t miss the double meaning and he shook his head. “No, that’s okay. I’ve got enough time to catch the – “

“Nonsense, what’s the point of wasting the money when we’re both going the same way?” She smiled, sensing victory. “Meet you out front in 15?”

Jeff was watching the back and forth exchange with interest. He knew his daughter was far from being an innocent little girl and she had changed over the past few years. He didn’t always approve of the men she went after but in this situation it wasn’t so much who Max was as the fact that he was trying to get his life straightened out. He had a good feeling about Max; the man was determined and he worked hard, he was focused, and he was trying hard to change his life. He knew how easy it would be for him to lose sight of his goal this early in the program and he shook his head. “Max, why don’t you go ahead and go?”

Max nodded and with a quick ‘thanks’ he was gone.

“Liz, I want you to steer clear of him.”

“He’s a nonviolent offender, right? You want to reintegrate him into society but he’s not good enough for your daughter? What kind of message does that send?”

“Do not play around with that man. He does not need the distraction. You’re both consenting adults and I can’t tell you who you can and can’t see, but it’s important for him to – “

“I’ve got it, Dad.” She motioned to the kitchen. “I’m sure you have work to do, don’t let me keep you from it.”

Jeff sighed and got up. “Maria, try to talk some sense into her.” He leaned over to kiss his daughter’s head. “I love you, honey.”

“Your dad’s right, Liz,” Maria said when he left them alone. “He needs to stay focused right now.”

“It didn’t stop you from being with Michael when he got out.”

“Michael and I have been together since I was 15, Liz. You can’t compare the two things. I was part of the reason Michael worked as hard as he did and still does to stay straight. The only reason you’re interested in Max is because you’re attracted to him and you wanna get laid. Yes, if you keep after him you’ll eventually wear his defenses down and he’ll give in, but are you prepared to be part of the reason he fails if he slips up because of it?”

“People are responsible for the choices they make.”

“I know you well enough to know you’re gonna do whatever you wanna do regardless of the consequences but Liz, in this case you could be playing with this guy’s life. Think about that before you go after him. And give it some serious thought. I know what your opinion about parolees and offenders in general is, and somewhere behind that wall of judgment I think there’s a part of you that still believes people can change. Listen to that part of yourself, Liz, because you have an opportunity to do the right thing here.”

Liz was silent for a few minutes, watching Maria as she cleaned Hunter up and got him ready to leave. “He’s a grown man, Maria. He can make his own decision.”

“Yeah, he can.” Maria stood up and put a few bills on the table to cover her drink and a little extra for a tip. “But it’s pretty obvious he’s attracted to you and if you keep pushing he’s gonna give in.”

“That’s his choice.”

Maria nodded and gathered her purse and the diaper bag, hooking the straps over her shoulder and picking Hunter up. Liz was right. At least about the decision being his to make. “Keep me in the loop and call me if you need me.”

“I know you don’t agree with me.”

“I don’t have to always agree with you to be your friend, Liz.”

She gave her a hug. “Thanks, Maria.”

*****

Max unlocked the front door and walked inside, pushing the door shut and whirling around when he felt resistance. He frowned when he saw Liz standing there. “Why’re you bothering me?” he snapped as his eyes scanned over her parents’ house.

“Let me in and we can discuss it.”

He shook his head. “Huh-uh, I want you to stay on the other side of this door. I work for your dad and you’re a distraction I don’t need.”

Liz pushed and shoved until she was able to squeeze inside. “Your manners really need some work. I suppose in prison it’s customary to keep people out of your space but here in the free world we politely invite people into our homes.”

“There’s no point inviting you in because you won’t be stayin’,” he bit out. He jerked the door wide open and gestured to it.

“How long were you in prison?” she asked, ignoring his blatant suggestion.

“Long enough to know I don’t care to go back.” He grabbed her arm and tugged her over to the door. “You need to go now.”

“Couple years? More?” Her forefinger trailed down over the buttons on his shirt before retracing her path and reaching up to pull his tie off. “You’re so tense,” she said as she flicked her gaze over him. “Is it a safe bet that you haven’t been laid since before you went to prison?”

Max was having a difficult time remembering why she needed to go. “Not a lot of attractive options on that side of the bars.”

She nodded, making a sound of interest. “So you didn’t engage in any – “

“No, I didn’t. There was no sexual contact, voluntary or forced,” he growled. “I happen to prefer an attractive, curved,” his eyes dropped to her breasts, “feminine body.” His hands settled on her hips as he lifted his gaze to her lips. “You need to go.”

“You couldn’t be more wrong,” she whispered as she moved closer to him. “I need to come.” She glanced down at him. “I’d say you do too.”

“You don’t even know me,” he said, desperately running over the list of reasons why she needed to leave before anything could happen between them.

Liz let her hand slip down past his belt to cup him in her palm. “I know what I need to know,” she whispered against his lips.

Max suddenly jerked back, putting distance between them. He picked her up and ignored her breath brushing against his ear as he carried her outside and put her on the porch, taking advantage of her momentary shock to slam the door and slap the lock into place. He had his first meeting with his parole officer tomorrow and the last thing he needed was her distracting him. How was he going to get her to leave him alone? He didn’t want to involve her parents and the last thing he wanted to do was to mention it to his parole officer. The man went way back with the Parker family and he didn’t want to cause any problems. He sighed in relief when he heard her stomping across the porch and he headed for the shower, still trying to come up with a solution to his problem.

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Prisoners of the Past (CC, A/U, Adult) Part 5 - 12/18/11

Postby ArchAngel1973 » Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:41 pm

Alien_Friend: No, Liz isn’t happy if she isn’t getting her way. Excellent choice of words – she needs to be in control. Very important. ;)

Max just wants to make a decent life for himself now. He’s served his time and he doesn’t want to repeat his mistakes. Liz isn’t going to take any subtle hints and she’s just ignoring everyone’s advice.

Michael has served time. He’s been out for several years and he works hard to make an honest living. We’ll learn more about him later on. Hunter’s a sweet little guy.

Sean wanted to be included so how could I say no? So he gets to be a SWAT officer.

Glad this makes Sundays even more fun!

Eva: Liz isn’t very likable and you’re absolutely right – in spite of there being a story behind her behavior, it’s not right.

Maria’s had her share of problems but she’s approached and dealt with them differently than Liz has. Liz hassles Maria about her choices and Maria doesn’t defend her choices, she simply lets Liz get it out. She knows she doesn’t have to defend those choices to anyone.

angiebrenna: Lol, you’re not alone there. Liz has gotten in the habit of keeping people at a distance she’s comfortable with. Something that will be explained in time.

keepsmiling7: That problem… isn’t going to be revealed right away. I think in time, as Liz begins to change (and she will) you’ll start to like her.

AlysLuv: Lol, if Liz has anything to say about it she will.

mary mary: I hate it when I miss out on things too! Regardless of the reason, lol.

Oh, she is. We’ll eventually find out the reason behind her behavior.

dreamon: Thanks! I’m glad you’re liking Liz’s portrayal here. She is a bit different from her normal portrayal but this was an opportunity to stretch her character and I’m enjoying it.

begonia9508: Max is going to work hard to keep her at a distance.

Oh, Liz is highly intelligent but she wants nothing to do with helping people with a criminal background, no matter what they served time for.

There is a reason for Liz’s behavior – not that it excuses her, but there is a reason.

Liz will be coming after him again. But Max will do his best to keep her at a distance.

MP: Thanks, glad you enjoyed it!

HypnotiqBlueEyes: Lol, you may not like her behavior for a bit. There is a reason and over time she’ll adjust her behavior, but she has some things to work though first. I’ll do my best to be back every Sunday.


Author's Note: A couple of abbreviations in this part: P.O. = Parole Officer and LEOs = Law Enforcement Officers.



Part 5

Michael was slouched down in one of the chairs on the back porch when Maria arrived back home. He was lazily watching the grill that was ready and waiting for the steaks he had marinating in the fridge. He tipped his head back to look up at her when she pushed the screen door open and stepped out on the porch.

“Hey.”

Maria smiled at the gruff greeting, hearing half a dozen caring questions encased in that one word. She leaned over his shoulder to kiss him before putting Hunter down. She laughed when he ruffled the little boy's hair and motioned to a green ball lying on the porch.

“What’d she do this time?” he asked as he caught her hand and pulled her down in his lap. His eyes followed Hunter as he picked up the ball and threw it across the porch.

“Her parents have someone new staying in the guesthouse.”

“Uh-huh.” He raised an eyebrow as he took a drink of his beer. “You think she’s gonna cause trouble?”

She sighed and nodded. “He seems to get along with her dad and Jeff even warned her to leave the guy alone but she’s not gonna listen.” She snorted. “The attraction’s mutual but…” she bit her lip as she watched Hunter studying a butterfly that was sitting on the arm of the porch swing. “I talked to Jeff before I left and this guy doesn’t have anyone. He’s only been out for a couple weeks and he said Max – that’s the guy’s name – he gets along with the other employees but he’s not really connecting with anyone.”

“If he’s isolating himself and he doesn’t have any ties he’s at risk for reoffending.”

“I thought about inviting him over to my parents’ place for a barbeque or something but… well, my family is full of LEOs so I doubt he’d relax with them.”

“He might be safer there if Parker’s stalking his ass,” Michael muttered.

Maria elbowed him. “I thought you could invite him over and do, I don’t know, guy stuff.”

“Guy stuff?” he echoed.

“Fix a car, watch a game, whatever.”

“I can’t just go up to some guy I don’t even know and invite him over, babe.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’ll invite him over if you’re willing to hang out with him.”

“He’s gonna have to get permission from his P.O.”

“I know, but that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“And if Parker’s that into him she’ll just follow him over here.”

“Only if he tells her he’s coming over here. That’s completely up to him. I know Liz can be a pain in the ass and I don’t condone her behavior a lot of the time, but she’s my friend, Michael. And I know the two of you have never cared for each other but even you have to admit she’s changed. If anything happens between them maybe it’ll be good for her. He didn’t strike me as the kind of man who’s gonna put up with her shit for long. I’d be happy if she’d settle into a real relationship with someone who can handle her. Maybe then she’d open up about whatever’s going on with her because she sure as hell isn’t talking to me.”

Michael’s arm tightened around her. “Alright, ask the guy if he wants to come out for a barbecue and if his P.O. approves it we’ll see what happens. But if Parker shows up…” he trailed off but she understood what was left unsaid.

“If she can dish it she can take it.”

He shrugged. “Hell, I can use an extra pair of hands pullin’ the engine on that piece of crap Camry Mrs. Hill refuses to part with.”

Maria smiled and leaned her head against his shoulder while he griped about the old woman’s car. He complained about it but she knew how much work he put into keeping the vehicle running for their elderly neighbor, and the only thing he ever accepted as payment was the homemade pistachio ice cream she made.

He squeezed her thigh as he finally wound down. “I’d better toss those steaks on the grill.”

“I don’t suppose you made a salad to go with dinner,” she said as she got to her feet.

“I grabbed one of those salad kits when I ran to the store.”

“Really? I’m impressed.”

“Not the one with that purple crap in it and not the one with the shredded carrots.”

She rolled her eyes when he got to his feet and crossed the porch to scoop Hunter up, tickling him and blowing raspberries on his tummy.

*****

Alex carefully stood between the parallel bars, his hands gripping them tightly as he gritted his teeth against the pain.

“How bad?”

He looked at the man standing in front of him. Josh Barnett had been working with him for the past eight months and the man had learned to read him very well. “It’s bearable,” he grunted. He had only taken half a dozen steps before his legs had started to shake and he’d had to take hold of the bars to support his weight with his upper body. He shifted to wipe away the sweat creeping down along his cheek.

“You’re makin’ great progress, Alex, but you’ve come too far to start pushin’ your body beyond its limits. We’ve talked about this on numerous occasions. You’ve got to listen to what your body’s tellin’ you.”

He released a frustrated breath and nodded. “I know. I’d just like it to tell me what I want to hear. I’m fine as long as I’m on the crutches and I’m supporting the majority of my weight with my arms.”

“Your legs are getting stronger but if you push too hard you’re gonna have a setback and we both know you don’t wanna end up back in that wheelchair.”

“No, I don’t.” He turned his head to the side when the door opened after a quiet knock. The housekeeper peered around the edge of the door and he motioned for her to come inside. “You can come in, Elena. We’re about finished with the physical therapy for today.”

“Mr. McCallum just arrived and he would like to see you.”

He nodded. “Show him in please.”

“But your massage…”

He shook his head. “Josh can beat on my body while I talk to McCallum. I don’t want to keep him waiting.”

“I’ll send him in,” she said and left the room.

Devon McCallum wasn’t what Alex had expected when they had first met with him. Somehow he’d pictured a guy in a trench coat, sporting a three-day growth of stubble, and working out of an office that was in perpetual disarray. He blamed it on his grandfather’s penchant for old crime dramas. The office had been in order and the man always looked like he had just stepped off the cover of a men’s fashion magazine. As much as he prided himself on keeping a positive attitude he had to admit he’d felt apprehensive as he had sat there in his wheelchair and listened to Isabel explaining the situation.

She had called him on it the moment they were in the car after leaving a hefty retainer with the investigator. That had been an argument for the books, he thought with a smirk. He slid his arms into the forearm cuffs and wrapped his hands around the grips when Josh held the crutches for him. He maneuvered himself over to the massage table, allowing the therapist to remove his pants and help him up onto the table. Any inhibitions he’d had before the accident had long since fallen by the wayside. A few months ago he hadn’t been able to make it that far without the braces on his legs. The only time he didn’t wear the braces was when he was in bed, bathing, or doing his physical therapy.

He looked up when Elena announced the investigator and he thanked her as he waved the man over to join them. “How’s it going, Devon?”

“I can’t complain.” He winced internally at the web of scars that criss-crossed over his client’s left knee, and the long, ugly scar that curved and twisted over his right thigh. He had looked into the couple’s background before meeting with them so he knew about the accident that had claimed the life of Isabel’s father and crippled her fiancé.

“We didn’t have a meeting scheduled today,” Alex said as he got situated and Josh went to work on his legs. “Any chance you’ve got good news?”

“I’ve located Isabel’s mother.”

He propped himself up on his elbows and met the man’s gaze head-on when he heard the slight hesitation in his voice. “Alive?”

“She’s alive, and the woman’s a piece of work.” He rested his left hand on one of the parallel bars. “I didn’t initiate contact per your instructions, just observed.”

Alex nodded, grimacing when Josh started working out a knotted muscle in his calf. “You said she’s a piece of work…”

Devon rubbed his jaw. “I’m used to dealing with people from all walks of life, Alex. I think it would be best if you permitted me to make first contact with this woman. Your fiancé is a wealthy woman and her mother is going to see nothing but dollar signs.”

He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. We’ve dealt with our share of fortune hunters and she isn’t gonna guilt us into giving her money. Philip was a public figure so if she’d wanted to find him it wouldn’t have been difficult. I think whatever happened between them she knew better than to come after Isabel.”

“If she’d come after Mr. Evans I don’t think it would’ve been for her daughter. The woman has no interest in anything but scoring her next paycheck. She’s got a history of pursuing men of wealth. It would save Isabel the pain if you allowed me to handle the meeting.”

“She isn’t interested in the woman for any other reason than to discover where her brother is and to meet him. She had a wonderful woman for a mother for years. She isn’t looking to replace her.” He rested his chin on his crossed forearms. “She has no hold over Isabel.”

“Except for the brother.” He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He needed to make his client understand. “This woman will use information about him as leverage to extort money from you.”

“We’re willing to pay for the information.”

“Under no circumstances can you let her know that, Alex. When she knew Philip he was slowly making his way up the ladder, he was comfortable financially, but he wasn’t wealthy. She took everything he gave and she still wanted more.”

“What about Isabel’s brother?”

Devon sighed and shook his head. “I’ve hit a wall with him. I think we’re gonna need to get more information about him from the mother.”

Alex narrowed his eyes. “But you know more about him.”

“He went in the system when he was six years old. He was a juvenile so getting my hands on his records is going to be next to impossible.”

“But he’s not a juvenile now.”

“No, but I’ve run into a few problems. Apparently there were some discrepancies with his birth certificate so I can’t be sure I even have the right information. Add that to him going into the system at six and things start to get difficult. The smartest thing to do is to attempt to gather information from the mother before we pursue the investigation into the brother any further otherwise you’re just throwing money away. I’ve got a couple dozen leads on guys with what we think is his name but if we’re following the wrong trail it’s wasted time and money.”

“What do you recommend for the meeting?”

“Let me approach her, get it set up. If you’d like I can be there when you meet with her. If you’d rather handle it on your own I’ll provide you with some questions that will help guide the conversation in the right direction.”

Alex nodded. “I’ll talk to Isabel, see what she thinks, but I’m pretty sure we’ll take option number two.” He smiled faintly. He’d rather let the investigator handle meeting Isabel’s birth mother but he knew she would insist on handling it herself.

“And the investigation?”

“Table it for now. Like you said, there’s no point chasing down leads if you’re running in the wrong direction.”

“Works for me. Just call when you’re ready to set up the meet and I’ll take care of it.”

Alex thumped his forehead against his arms as the door closed behind Devon. He hadn’t expected this to be easy but he had hoped if they had to deal with Isabel’s birth mother the woman wouldn’t be a problem. He had a bad feeling the woman was going to be more than just a little problem.

*****

Max walked through the city, taking in the changes that had occurred over the past six years. Inside the prison walls time had crept by but everything around him was a reminder that not only had life gone on, but his absence hadn’t made an impact. It hardened his resolve to make something of his life. He wanted to make a difference. Maybe not to the world, but to someone.

He shoved his hands in his pockets as he took the necessary turns to take him into Central Park. For the next few hours he just walked with a destination in mind, following the paths that led through the park and breathing in the sweet scent of freedom. He and Ava had spent many nights in the park after running away but he hadn’t really seen the park in all that time. Of course, he’d had other things on his mind at the time. He had found a book about Central Park in the prison library and it had spiked an interest in the landmarks.

He slowed when his destination came into sight and he waited until a group of people standing around the statue moved away before he approached it. He stared up at the bronze statue of a dog, a hero, and he knew if a sled dog could leave a lasting legacy behind then he could do something to leave his own mark on the world. He crouched down to read the plaque below the statue and his fingertips traced over the three words at the bottom: Endurance. Fidelity. Intelligence.

They were important words. They were words that everyone should strive to live by, not just heroes. He got up and backed away when a couple with a little girl appeared next to the statue and he watched as the father picked her up and placed her on the back of the bronze sled dog. The mother stayed with the little girl, making sure she was safe while the father scrambled down to stand in front of them to snap off a picture.

There was something familiar about the scene, something that tugged at his memory but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Sometimes he had flashes of things that felt familiar but they were always so fleeting that he couldn’t be sure they were actual memories. He knew they weren’t memories of his father since the old man had cut out on him before he could walk but he had no idea who else it could be. His gaze rested on the statue once more, slipping down to linger on the plaque for a few moments before turning and heading back the way he came.

His meeting with his parole officer earlier in the week had gone well. He’d passed the piss test, not that he’d been worried about that, and Valenti was satisfied that he was fulfilling his obligations so far. The man had asked him if he was having any problems and he had almost told him about Liz and her pursuit of him but at the last second he had just denied having problems with anything or anyone.

Liz hadn’t given up. If anything she had become bolder. She had taken to popping up when he least expected it and she was driving him crazy. Just that morning she had turned up on the dock, doing her best to tempt him while he was scrubbing the concrete down. He didn’t know what her problem was but she had turned teasing him into her new favorite game.

By the time he reached the Parker residence it was early evening and there was a cool breeze that carried the scent of water from the sprinkler systems and freshly mown grass. Garden hose water smelled different than pool water or tap water inside the house and he didn’t know why. He could feel himself beginning to tense up as he walked up the driveway and his teeth started to grind when he heard a car pull in behind him.

“Hey, Max?”

He let out a breath he hadn’t even realized he was holding when he didn’t recognize the voice. He slowly turned around and his eyebrows lifted when he saw the girl Jeff had introduced him to a few days ago. He was scrambling to remember her name when she leaned out through the open window and provided it for him.

“I don’t know if you remember me or not, but we met the other day at the restaurant. Maria Deluca,” she reintroduced herself.

He nodded. “You’re here to pick Liz up?” he asked, hoping she couldn’t tell how relieved he would be if her answer was yes.

“Um, no. Liz doesn’t ride in my car. She’s afraid she might find an old French fry or something stuck in the seat,” she said with a grin. Her voice lowered to a conspiratorial whisper. “Truth is, she probably would.”

He chuckled, feeling more at ease. “So you’re here to see Mrs. Parker?”

“No, I’m here to see you.”

“Me?”

“Um-hmm. My boyfriend and I wanted to invite you out to our place on Saturday. I know you’ll have to get permission from your P.O. since we live across the river so I wanted to ask early. We’re gonna barbeque and watch the game and I can assure you Michael will drag you out to work on some car.”

“I don’t know anything about cars,” he said, shaking his head and trying to figure out why she would bother making such an offer.

“You will when he gets done with you.” She rolled her eyes. “I know stuff about cars and I really couldn’t care less.”

His eyes narrowed. “Is this a setup? You get me over to your place and Liz is waitin’ to – “

“No, Liz knows nothing about this. You’re welcome to invite her if you’d like,” she said, laughing when she saw the look on his face. “I saw the sparks flying back and forth between the two of you the other day and I also know she can be relentless when she puts her mind to something. In this case I think we both know that something would be you. I will tell you if you invite her out to our place she’ll be less likely to harass you. She and Michael don’t like each other so if you’re hanging out with him she won’t be bothering you.”

“But you’d be okay if I didn’t?” He frowned. “She’s your friend.”

“Yes, she is, and while we don’t agree on everything I still love her. But I also know how important it is for you to keep your eye on the ball.” She winced internally at the sports euphemism. Thanks, Michael. “Anyway, she could be interested in you and not be a hindrance but she could also cause problems, and as much as I’d like to say she wouldn’t do that, I can’t.”

“What’s her deal?”

“I wish I knew,” she said with a sad smile. “She’s not a bad person, Max, she’s just… gotten off-track somewhere along the way.” She shrugged one shoulder. “And no, I’m not excusing her behavior. There’s just more to her than she lets people see and I think she’s lost sight of that herself.”

He was quiet for a moment. “Is she as good a friend to you as you are to her?” he asked finally.

“She’s lost right now.”

He nodded. “I can appreciate your loyalty to your friend.”

She smiled at his easy acceptance of a situation she knew he didn’t understand. “So whaddaya say to Saturday?”

“You obviously know I’m on parole but do you know what I was in for?”

“I’m aware of the Parkers’ participation in the program and I know if you’re staying in the guesthouse you’re on parole, but no, I don’t know what you were in for. That’s really none of my business unless you want to share at some point.” She smiled and shook her head. “That’s not an expectation or a requirement to come to our house and have a steak.”

“Kinda hard to turn down a steak.”

“Then don’t. If your P.O. talks to Jeff he’ll vouch for us. He knows where we live, he has our contact information, and he’s known me and Michael for a long time. Oh, and he’ll want to know how you intend to get to our place and back, so you can let him know we’ll pick you up and bring you back.”

“You don’t have to do all that,” he insisted.

She waved him off. “We have to come over to pick up my brother’s car that morning since it needs a new fuel pump or something. And since we’re gonna be in the city my mom will expect us to stop in for a late breakfast and it’ll take us at least a couple of hours before we’ll be able to pry Hunter from his grandparents so we should be here around noon if that time works for you. If something later works better, believe me, my parents won’t object to spending more time with Hunter.”

“Your brother doesn’t work on his own car?”

“Normally he and Michael tear ‘em apart and put ‘em back together on the weekends when they’re both free but Kyle’s working out of town so Michael offered to fix it so it’d be running when he gets back.”

“Well, okay. I’ll put in a call to my P.O. and see if he’ll approve the visit.”

“Great, you can get our number from Jeff.” She glanced at the dashboard clock. “I’d better get going, Max, so I’ll talk to you soon.”

He nodded and watched her pull out of the driveway before heading around back to the guesthouse. He was lost in thought as he pulled his keys out of his pocket and unlocked the front door. He shut the door with his elbow and dropped the keys on the small table next to it, leaning back against the wall, inhaling deeply and frowning when he caught a familiar scent. He didn’t know the name of the fragrance but he associated it with Liz, which meant she was in his space.

He was growing tired of these little games she liked to play. He wasn’t going to engage her, he decided. He was just going to take a shower, grab a sandwich, and then read one of the books he had picked up from the used bookstore he had discovered a few days ago. He left the front door unlocked and dropped his wallet and pocket change on the table next to his keys before kicking his shoes off and heading for the bedroom.

He wasn’t surprised to find her lounging in his bed and it took every ounce of his resolve to ignore her when he glanced at her in the mirror and noticed she was wearing one of his shirts… and nothing else, he realized when he dropped his gaze and saw the pile of clothes folded up on the dresser. Kinda hard to miss the panties and bra stacked neatly on top, he thought when his gaze landed on the lacy scraps of material. Against his will he reached out and fingered the lace, frowning at it when it caught on the rough pads of his fingers.

Liz watched his expression in the mirror as he touched her underclothes as if he’d never seen anything like it before. His features settled into annoyance as he pulled clothes out the drawers and carried them into the bathroom. His movements were deliberate and she wondered how long he thought he could ignore her when he shut the door and started the shower. A few moments later he walked out wearing a towel around his hips, disappearing down the hall and returning with one of the chairs from the dining table. She made a face at his retreating back when he carried it into the bathroom and shut the door. She could hear him wedging it up under the doorknob and she smirked.

She was starting to doze by the time she heard the shower stop and she ran her hands over her face and through her hair in an effort to wake herself up. She lifted her right leg, bending it at the knee and reaching down to brush away a nonexistent piece of fuzz when he stepped out of the bathroom. He returned the chair to the other room before coming back to pick his things up off of the bathroom floor. Her eyes traced over him when he moved around his room, putting things in their place. His jeans hung low on his hips and he was bare from the waist up, his skin still damp from the shower. She had noticed his clothes were fitting better and his hair looked like it had been trimmed recently.

“You’re gonna have to talk to me eventually,” she said when he grabbed a shirt and pulled it on.

Without answering he picked up his book and left the room, dropping it on the counter in the kitchen and pulling the refrigerator door open. He grabbed a plate and toasted a couple pieces of bread before slathering mayonnaise on one side and piling ham, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes on top. He got a cold drink and carried everything into the living room, placing it on the table next to the chair and opening the window. He settled down and watched the curtains as they moved slightly with the cool breeze before grabbing his sandwich and biting into it while opening his book.

After he read the same paragraph for the twelfth time he set the book aside and finished his sandwich, washing it down with the glass of milk. His thoughts kept straying to the woman in his bed and he shifted restlessly. He could feel his resolve weakening and he knew he had to get rid of her. He thought about Maria’s offer again. If Liz was that intent on being around him maybe it would be safer to have the other couple there to act as a buffer because the last thing he wanted was to screw his life up again.

He got up and took his plate and glass to the kitchen, intending to go and physically remove Liz from his bed once he’d cleaned up. He felt the prickling feeling at the back of his neck seconds before he heard movement behind him and he slowly turned his head. “It’s time for you to go and don’t start giving me a play on words.”

She approached him, ignoring what he was saying, and slid her arms around his waist. She hooked her thumbs in his waistband above the snap on his jeans and rested her cheek against his shoulder. “Why are you resisting the inevitable?”

He lifted his head and breathed in through his nose. “I’m not a toy you get to take out and play with when you feel like it because you’re bored with your life. I’m sure you expect to be treated with respect and I’m no different.”

She withdrew her hands and moved away from him. “We’re nothing alike!”

“Call it what you want.” He wrung the excess water from the sponge and threw it on the back of the sink before turning and advancing on her until she was pinned between him and the refrigerator. “I’m goin’ out on Saturday. You wanna go with you can meet me here at noon.”

Her eyes narrowed at him when he turned the tables on her. “Why would I go out in public with you?”

He shrugged. “Did I say anything about going out in public?”

Her gaze flicked over him. “Where would we go if we aren’t gonna be out in public?”

“You can go or not.” He backed away from her. “It’s up to you.”

“I do what I want to do,” she said, shaking her head and moving to the doorway.

His left arm snaked around her waist and he pulled her up against his body. “You’ve got some serious control issues and I don’t know what that’s all about – “

“Let me go!” She braced her hands against his chest and shoved as hard as she could, feeling her anger spike when he didn’t release her. “I swear you’ll be in so much trouble for this!” His hold on her was tight, his heated breath sawing in and out and hitting her skin, and her senses were suddenly on overload.

“Stop it!” he barked, his tone harsh. His grip eased when she stopped fighting him. “I don’t know what you’re used to when it comes to guys, but I’m not gonna be put on a leash and paraded around when you’re in the mood. And I’m not a stud that’s gonna service you when you need to get laid. If you can’t treat me like a human being you can find someone new to bother.” He released her but wasn’t prepared for it when she brought her knee up with as much force as she could muster, impacting with his groin and leaving him in agonizing pain.

Liz stared at him when he doubled over, holding himself with one hand and gripping the wall with the other. She stood frozen to the spot as the blood roared through her ears, deafening her to every other sound. She blinked as she realized what she had just done and she backed away, running down the hall to grab her clothes and hurriedly pulling them on before making her escape.

“Son of a bitch,” Max snarled as he made his way into the living room and gingerly eased into his chair. He wasn’t positive but he thought he’d heard her whisper an apology before fleeing the kitchen and he dropped his head against the backrest as he wondered again what her problem was. Whatever her problem was, it was more serious than he had first suspected.
Last edited by ArchAngel1973 on Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Prisoners of the Past (CC, A/U, Adult) Part 6 - 12/26/11

Postby ArchAngel1973 » Tue Dec 27, 2011 1:59 am

keepsmiling7: It might take a while to like Liz but I think in time it’ll happen. She’s got some issues and she needs to deal with them before she can ever begin to get past them.

Max is going to try hard to stay on the right path. Lol, he’s determined to keep Liz at arms’ length right now. She’s the kind of trouble he doesn’t need.

Alien_Friend: The answer is somewhere in there and you’re right about that explanation. Her view is skewed but in time she’ll get it straightened out. Max is trying to keep her from knowing that she’s getting to him.

Maria had a great idea there.

Alex has a deep well of strength. You can expect the meeting with the mother to be unpleasant at best. They will find Max in time.

mary mary: Liz does have some issues and it’s going to take time to sort them out. Right now she’s focused on Max and she’s certain it’s only a matter of time before he ends up back where she thinks he belongs.

begonia9508: No, Max really didn’t deserve that!

Why is she fixated on Max? In the midst of her anger and her certainty that he’s headed back to prison, she’s also attracted to him.

Something is definitely wrong with Liz.

angiebrenna: Thanks!

Max and Isabel are half-brother/sister and they do have the same mother, but not the same father. His last name is Evans… how and why will be revealed in time.

Glad you’re loving Michael and Maria. She knows something isn’t right with Liz but she doesn’t know what it is. In helping Max she may just find a way to help Liz too.

There is a trauma in Liz’s past. Needing to be in control and using her sexuality the way she does is a result of that.

Helen of Roswell: Hey!

Lol, well, you can assure your sister that I do sleep… on occasion.

Uh-oh, no keeping information about new stories hostage!

Well, I won’t lie… I love all feedback so I’d love to have her input too!

I can assure you there will be Candy. ;) I’m so glad you enjoy my stories!

Lol, an all-day event, huh? Maybe it’ll help to know you’re not alone with your addiction! We’ve probably all gotten that look at one time or another.

I love your first impression!

Staying on the straight and narrow path after getting out of prison can be a challenge even for those who want to go straight so Max does have his work cut out for him. There are a few obstacles that will be thrown his way.

I’ll never understand how people can have children and then treat them that way either. One of the most interesting things is how the children in these situations survive.

The little girl in his dreams is Isabel.

Well, if you’re gonna hate on someone… she’s definitely one to hate on.

I agree, there is no excuse for what she did to her child. Although we will eventually learn more about her. Unfortunately it isn’t a rare occurrence and as far as we’ve come, as much progress as we’ve made, we have yet to find a way to really combat this problem.

It is sad that Max sees the social worker’s provision for his needs as someone being nice to him. He learned too young that he couldn’t rely on anyone for anything.

Unfortunately the foster care system and group homes are in need of a serious overhaul like so many other programs in this country. It’s no wonder so many of these kids end up in the criminal justice system. While I know there are good foster homes out there, there are also way too many bad ones.

We will learn more about Ava.

sptfire86: I wish I could’ve posted on Sunday. I had every intention of doing so but Christmas kinda decided to hijack me and I didn’t get the chance.

dreamon: Lol, I know all about the holidays getting in the way!

AlysLuv: Oh, Liz does have issues. Liz hasn’t opened up to Maria and it’s a big part of the problem between the two of them but it will come out in time.


Part 6

As Saturday morning rolled around Max began to relax. All week long he had been on edge, worried that Liz was going to report him for assaulting her. It wouldn’t matter that it was a lie or that she had been throwing herself at him since the first night she had seen him. It wouldn’t matter that his history didn’t include assault against women. All it would take would be her filing a complaint against him and his parole was going to be revoked. He had been pissed for a while because it was obvious she believed he was headed back to prison and she was willing to do whatever she could to help him on his way.

He wondered if her parents knew how psycho she was. It was pretty obvious that her best friend knew something was wrong with her. She just didn’t seem to know what the problem was. He had a feeling she didn’t know how deeply troubled her friend was. After he had started to calm down he had taken a more analytical approach to trying to figure out her behavior. He had known a girl who had acted similarly when he had been living on the streets and the stories he’d heard had been pretty bad. Of course, he also didn’t know how true they were, but usually the truth was mixed somewhere in the middle of all the stories.

Liz had been mysteriously absent since the night she had come onto him and then tried to send his nuts into orbit. He was okay with that but it also put him on edge because he had no idea what to expect next. He rolled over and checked the alarm clock before pushing himself up and stretching his arms over his head. It was only 8am and Maria wouldn’t be arriving until noon but he had a few things he wanted to do before he took off for the day. It was the first day he had slept so late since starting to work for Mr. Parker, having quickly become accustomed to getting up well before the sun rose.

He had almost expected his parole officer to deny his request to spend time with Maria’s family but after the man had made a call to Jeff and they had talked he had granted the request and told him to enjoy the day. He was supposed to be back by midnight and if anything prevented him from returning on time he had to let Officer Valenti know. He felt like that was a fair enough expectation and it allowed him to get away for a little while so he wasn’t complaining.

He showered and dressed before wandering into the kitchen and looking through the cabinets and refrigerator. He had taken to hanging out in the kitchen at the restaurant when his shift was over and when Jeff had noticed it he had started showing him the basics of cooking. On the streets he and Ava had eaten whatever they could get their hands on and later when they had gotten into their own place she had done most of the cooking. Never anything fancy, but she at least had a grasp of the basics. He could heat things up, boil water, and he was a master at putting a sandwich together, but anything more complex he had never really attempted.

He wanted an omelet but he wasn’t sure he was ready to tackle that just yet. He thought about just heading over to the Parker house since he was invited to join them for any meal but with his luck Liz would be there. He stared into the refrigerator and grabbed the carton of eggs off of the second shelf. He could at least give it a shot, right? Worst case scenario he’d end up with scrambled eggs with all the omelet ingredients mixed in.

*****

Liz woke up to the sound of someone pounding on the door and she opened one eye to glance at Diablo when he shot up but didn’t growl. That was a clear indicator that whoever was at the door was someone the dog was familiar with. She dragged herself out of bed and started to reach for her robe when the doorbell chimed followed by another round of knocking.

“Damn it, just hold on a minute!” she yelled.

Just for all of the aggravating noise she took her time getting dressed before going to the door. She checked the peephole and rolled her eyes when she saw the man standing there. He was tall, dark-haired with striking blue eyes, and his lanky frame was slouched in her doorway. She pulled the door open and glared at him. “What the hell do you want, DJ?”

Daniel Jefferson Callahan just smiled at her in that patented and infuriating way of his. “So many things on that list,” he said as he kissed her cheek before stepping inside and walking to the kitchen. “You’ve been avoiding me which means something’s going on.”

She thumped her forehead against the open door several times before sighing and closing the door. She turned to look at him, frowning when he remained unaffected by her annoyed stare. “I am not avoiding you. I haven’t broken any dates with you and I haven’t backed out of any prearranged plans.”

“Parker, Parker, Parker,” he muttered as he started rooting around in the refrigerator. “How long have we been friends?”

“Too long if you think you have any right to question me,” she snapped.

He pulled out a roll of sausage and then started looking for what he needed to make pancakes. “Defensive too,” he mused, knowing it would piss her off.

“Get the hell outta my house!”

He shrugged, unfazed by her words or her tone. “Technically, it’s an apartment.” He selected a knife and started to slice the sausage into thin patties, peeling the wrapper off and dropping it in the trash before tossing them into the frying pan one by one. “So, gonna tell me what’s got you so pissed off?”

“Besides you?” she asked without missing a beat. They had been friends since childhood, dated in high school and off and on during college, but they had eventually agreed to just be friends.

“You missed brunch on Wednesday and you’ve been ignoring my calls and emails… tell me again how nothing’s wrong.” He mixed the pancake batter and set the bowl aside before flipping the sausage over. He glanced at her over his shoulder, taking in her drawn features as she sat down at the table. “You seeing someone I don’t know about?” His right eyebrow quirked when she looked away and he shook his head. He waited and when she didn’t give him anything he went back to making breakfast.

DJ looked at Diablo. He sat next to him, his dark eyes watching every move as he waited patiently for something to be thrown his way. The dog would glance over at his owner on occasion, whining when she didn’t respond to his questions. He flipped the last pancake onto a waiting plate and added a couple of pieces of sausage before sliding it on the table in front of her.

“If you’re gonna ignore me you can at least eat something.”

Liz picked up her fork and poked at the food without an ounce of interest. “DJ, do I look like I’m in the mood for this?”

He filled glasses with milk and juice before sitting down across from her with his own plate. “No, you’ve got that grouchy I-haven’t-been-laid-in-too-long look on your face.” He chewed on a bite of pancake and sausage while he studied her. “But there’s something else there.”

Liz forced a smile, making an effort even though she knew he’d see right through it. “Nope, just need to get laid, that’s all.”

“Well, hell, if that’s all I’m at your service.”

She stared down at the plate of food as Max’s angry words echoed in her ears.

I’m not a stud that’s gonna service you when you need to get laid.

DJ gently kicked her under the table. “Okay, we both know that look has nothing to do with my comment so spill or I’m gonna snoop around until I can find your gal pal’s number and I’ll call her.”

“Maria won’t tell you anything.”

“Uh-huh, that just means you haven’t told her anything.” He narrowed his eyes as he stared at her. “Either that or you have told her and you think it’ll fool me and I won’t call her.” He tossed Diablo a piece of sausage and took another bite of his pancake, chewing it thoughtfully. “What’s his name?”

“Who?”

“The guy who’s got your panties tied up in a knot.” He shook his head when he saw the denial forming on her lips. “I know that look, Liz, so you might as well tell me what I wanna know. If Maria doesn’t know I’ll go ask your mom. And you know she loves me.” He grinned playfully. “She was so disappointed when we broke it off.” He polished off his breakfast and pushed the plate back.

Liz focused on her own plate. “He’s nobody and it’s not going anywhere. I’m telling you, once I get laid he’ll be outta my system.”

“He’s nobody, huh?” He leaned back and picked up his juice glass, slowly sipping the liquid as he mulled over her choice of words. “You’ve got your sights set on some poor guy without a trust fund, don’t you?” Like Liz he had been born to wealth and privilege and the fact that she wasn’t bragging about the mysterious guy spoke volumes.

“No trust fund and going nowhere in life.”

Her derisive tone caught his attention. “So what? Screw him and move on. Okay, we both know that’s bad advice.” He shifted to sit up straighter when he realized she was avoiding his gaze again. “Don’t tell me he’s one of the guys participating in your mom and dad’s program.”

“DJ, drop it.”

“Liz, you can’t go after one of those guys.” He set his glass down and leaned forward, reaching for her hand but not pushing it when she pulled away before he could touch her. “Let’s just forget your pathological tendencies where ex-cons are concerned. There are other – ”

“I do not have pathological tendencies,” she interrupted.

His voice softened. “Elizabeth, honey, ever since that night you’ve been determined to prove that ex-cons can’t successfully complete these programs and go on to live decent, productive lives.” He sighed. “You can’t judge all of them based on what one – “

“I don’t want to talk about this.” Her features suddenly changed, forcibly relaxing. “What were you saying about being at my service?”

“Us hooking up once in a while is fine, but I’m not gonna play these little power trip games. We both enjoy sex and we’ve had some great times in bed and out, but I’m not interested if it’s just gonna be about you being in control. Sex is about give and take and you’ve turned it into – “

“You can go now.” She hated that he knew her so well, hated that he knew what had happened that night because it allowed him to see and know things she didn’t want anyone else to know about.

DJ leaned back and rubbed his hands over his face. He had tried to get her to talk to someone, tried to get her to at the very least tell her parents or her best friend, but she had stubbornly refused to open up to anyone. If he hadn’t found her in her apartment that night he knew she wouldn’t have told him either. They had been attending college out of state at the time and it had given her time to heal physically and time to bury what had happened before facing anyone back home.

*****

Michael pulled up in front of the Parker’s home and shifted the gearshift into park. He glanced at the driveway as his thumb tapped against the steering wheel. He turned his head to check on Hunter, smiling when he saw his little boy peacefully sleeping. “You want me to go get him?” he asked when Maria opened her door but made no move to get out.

“No. We’re a few minutes early and I told him we’d be here at noon when I talked to him the other day.”

He nodded and slouched down behind the wheel, tugging the bill of his ball cap down over his eyes. He rested the side of his head against the doorframe and crossed his arms over his chest, easily dozing off. It had been a busy week at work and they’d been up since before dawn this morning.

Maria looked at her boyfriend, smiling softly and reaching over to rub his arm. Her boys were both out, giving her a few rare moments of peace and quiet. These moments never lasted long and she had quickly learned to enjoy them when they presented themselves. She dropped her head back against the headrest and let her eyes roam over the upscale neighborhood. She bit back a grin when she saw a couple of the Parker’s neighbors talking over the perfectly-trimmed hedge that separated their yards. It was clear from the looks they were leveling in her direction that they disapproved of their car and the trailer hitched to the back with another car loaded on it.

She laughed under her breath. She would be the first to admit the car they were driving was an eyesore. Michael had been working on it for months and the body was primer gray, not exactly the most attractive of colors. But it was a work in progress and the engine was sound. And as long as it got them from A to B and back again, what did it really matter what it looked like? The sound of footsteps drew her attention away from the nosy neighbors and she smiled when she saw Max coming down the driveway.

Michael cracked his eyes open to look around, grunting and pushing himself into a more upright position when he realized Maria had gotten out of the car. He threw his shoulder against the door when it didn’t open immediately. It was one of the things he still had to finish working on before he could get around to painting. He got out and rested his forearms on the roof of the car as his gaze locked on the man talking with Maria. He stretched his hand out over the car to shake the man’s hand when she introduced them but before he could say anything a small red car pulled into the driveway and the tires squealed against the pavement when the brakes were applied with too much force.

He could practically feel the tension in the other man when Liz stepped out of the car, holding the door open so Diablo could exit right behind her. His gaze bounced back and forth between them, remembering what Maria had said to him the night she had suggested inviting Max over. He wondered if the guy was more afraid of Parker or her damned guard dog. He didn’t know what her deal was but he knew if she had set her sights on the poor guy he had his work cut out for him.

“What’s going on?” Liz asked as she moved closer to them, her eyes bouncing over each of them. She had debated for a long time whether or not to meet him at noon and she had finally decided that if she didn’t show he would think he had the upper hand. She made a point of checking her watch before pinning Max with a stare. “You did say noon, didn’t you?”

Yeah, before you tried to dislodge my nuts. “I believe we were just about to leave.” He glanced at Maria for confirmation.

Michael made a face as he realized what was going on. Great, just how he wanted to spend his Saturday, he thought. She was Maria’s friend and he was fine with that but it didn’t mean he wanted to spend any time with her. He knew the girls had been a lot closer before Liz had gone off to college out of state but Maria was certain it wasn’t the miles or the time apart that had created the distance between them.

Liz frowned. “You’re hanging out with Maria?” She shifted to look at Maria. “You invited this… this criminal over to your house?”

“You wanna judge me that’s fine,” Max said before she could say more. “Don’t bring them into whatever you’ve got against me.”

“Okay, let’s just stop this before it turns into an argument,” Maria suggested. “Yes, I invited Max over to hang out and barbecue. I left it up to him as to whether or not he wanted to ask you to join us.”

“I’m here, aren’t I?”

Michael glanced over at Max. “You invited Parker?”

Max shrugged. “If that’s okay.”

He shrugged. “Nope, that’s fine.” His gaze shifted to Liz. “The dog doesn’t go.”

“Diablo – “

“I don’t care how well-behaved or well-trained he is I don’t want that animal around my kid.”

Maria took Liz’s arm and gave it an insistent tug to get her moving. “What’re you doing?” she asked when they had put sufficient distance between them and the guys.

Liz tossed her hair back over her shoulder. “You heard him. He invited me.” She looked at Maria. “Why didn’t you?”

“You realize you’re making a nuisance of yourself with him.”

“That’s not an answer, Maria.”

“I gave him the option of asking you over. I’m not gonna put him in a position for you to harass him just because you’re my friend.”

“I had no idea when he said to meet him today at noon he was planning to go to your house. If I’d known I wouldn’t have bothered because your boyfriend would like nothing better than to back over me with that deathtrap of a car.”

“Don’t get pissy with me because Michael doesn’t want Diablo around Hunter. Yes, the dog was trained by a professional and he’s never shown himself to be aggressive but I’m not comfortable with him around my son either. I think he’s a sweet dog but I also know what he’s capable of.”

“Maria, I would never do anything to put Hunter in danger.”

“Then respect our wishes. Leave the dog home, come over for a steak and a beer, and enjoy an afternoon watching the guys monkey around under the hood of a car.”

Michael took his hat off and scratched his head before putting it on again and tugging on the bill. “Maria says Parker’s after your ass. Kinda thought the point of you getting outta here for the day was to give you some space. Bringin’ her along isn’t gonna simplify your life any.”

Max shrugged one shoulder and turned his head to look at the girls. “Yeah, well, at the time it seemed like a good idea.”

He snorted. “Bet you’re wishin’ you could take that back.” He whistled to get his girlfriend’s attention. “Game starts at two, babe.” He just grinned when she waved impatiently at him.

“If me bein’ around’s gonna cause any problems…”

Michael shook his head. “Don’t worry about that. At least your ass’ll be safe while you’re at our place.”

“I don’t know,” he said doubtfully.

“Just stick with me. Parker doesn’t like me and the feeling’s mutual. Not to mention she won’t get anywhere close to anything that might get her dirty.” He drummed his fingertips against the roof of the car. “Babe, c’mon, the game!”

“Michael Guerin, if you wake Hunter up I swear…” She turned back to Liz. “Anyway, if you insist on doing this then release hellhound on your poor mom and let’s get going because if that man of mine misses a single second of the game I’ll never hear the end of it.”

Liz rolled her eyes. “Fine, I’ll take Diablo inside but I’ll drive myself out to your place.”

“You don’t know what you’re missing,” Maria said in a sing-song voice.

“And I’ll be happy to never know,” she answered back in the same tone.

*****

Kyle slouched down in the passengers’ seat and blinked against the sun that was already high in the sky. He yawned and winced when he reached up to scratch his chest, feeling his muscles protest at the sudden move. He groaned and rubbed the bruised area where he had taken a bullet three nights earlier during a bust. The Kevlar vest had stopped it from doing any serious damage but it had left sore muscles and one hell of a bruise.

“It’s always the worst after you’ve been sleepin’ for a while,” the man beside him said. “Sleep lets those muscles relax.”

He squinted against the sun and groaned as he pushed himself into a more upright position. “I’m grateful for the vest, but damn I’ll be glad when this shit stops hurtin’.” It was already better than it was a few days earlier but the captain wanted him off the grid for a few days so he was temporarily being sent out of the city, unofficially loaned to another agency. “I can’t believe this situation.”

Agent Patrick Lassiter glanced at him and laughed heartily. “Gotta love budget cuts, huh?”

“Yeah, no doubt. I think the captain’s bein’ an old woman about it, but I’ll lay low for a few days to be safe. I’m not gonna put my family at risk. Especially not when my reflexes are a little slow.” He pushed his sunglasses up higher and reached for the folder on the dashboard, opening it up and flipping through the information.

Their destination was a small town a couple hours north of New York City with a population of less than 5,000. He studied the information in the file, memorizing it even though it wasn’t his case. He glanced up when the agent took an exit and he looked around the surrounding area as they took multiple turns to reach a house on the outskirts of the town.

The place wasn’t anything to write home about. It was white with pale blue shutters, the paint peeling everywhere. The wrought iron rail on one side of the porch leaned brokenly and the wooden steps were uneven and appeared rotted. He had a feeling the front porch was probably in much the same condition. The yard was overgrown, the flowerbeds filled with weeds growing wild and choking out the flowers. The mailbox listed to one side, leaning drunkenly against the sagging fencepost and the door hanging open.

“Your witness must love this dump,” he snorted.

Agent Lassiter shrugged one shoulder, not really concerned with anything other than keeping the witness alive. He pulled into the shabby garage and got out to pull the door down, pulling his weapon as he approached the door that opened into the house. He knocked once and within seconds received an answering knock and he nodded at the detective waiting in the car.

Kyle eased out of the car, grabbing his bag and following the agent into the house. He was introduced to the agent on duty and he quickly decided he didn’t care for the woman. It was easy to see Agent Janice McKenzie wasn’t thrilled with his presence and while he didn’t care one way or the other about her opinion he didn’t want it to cause the witness any unnecessary stress.

“You’re not here in an official capacity, Detective Valenti. Don’t forget it,” she warned him and turned back to making a sandwich.

“No problem, Agent McKenzie,” he said, refusing to let her get to him. “That for your witness?”

“If the witness is hungry she knows where the kitchen is. I’m not a babysitter or a caterer.” She picked up her plate and drink before looking at Agent Lassiter. “Pat, I just checked the perimeter and we’re clear. I’m gonna take 15.”

Patrick nodded and waited until she left the room. “She’s a bitch but if you come under fire you’d want her at your back.”

Kyle snorted. “I wouldn’t want her at my back. You won’t see an FBI insignia on the back of my jacket and she’s made her feelings on outside LEOs clear.” He motioned to the doorway that led out into the rest of the house. “Wanna introduce me to your witness? I’d hate to scare her half to death by just walkin’ up on her.”

“Sure. She seems to prefer stickin’ to herself. Doesn’t really seem to trust anyone so don’t expect much.”

“Have you guys tried to talk to her?” he asked, surprised at the lack of concern after what he had read in the file. Abuse, neglect, abandonment, and the list had gone on and on, going from bad to worse.

“The D.A. comes out here to go over her testimony.” He shrugged and shoved a chip in his mouth. “She wants to be left alone and that’s what we’re doin’.” He led the way down the hall and Kyle looked down at the floor when he realized it slanted to one side. Patrick knocked on the doorframe before entering the room and cleared his throat to get the woman’s attention. “We’ve got a new officer gonna be hangin’ around for a bit. Detective Valenti, meet witness for the prosecution, Ava Johnson.”

Kyle lifted an eyebrow when she shifted away without looking at him, further hunching over the dining room table and pushing around the pieces of the puzzle she was working on. He turned to look at the agent when he shrugged and left the room. He reached out and placed one hand on the back of one of the chairs, pulling it out an inch or so. “Mind if I join you?”

“Suit yourself,” she mumbled.

“My sister loves to do puzzles. I never really got into ‘em myself,” he said as he eased into the chair and sighed.

“Hooray for your sister.”

He had read her file several times over the past few days and sometimes it amazed him what people could endure and survive. He had been fortunate growing up and he tried to always remember that there were a lot of people who hadn’t had it so good. They hadn’t had a lot of money but his family had been warm and loving, there had always been food on the table, and they had never had to worry about being alone. He didn’t condone a lot of things that people did, but he had a unique perspective. It wasn’t a popular way of thinking for people in his line of work but he wasn’t trying to make people accept his beliefs.

They sat there in silence for half an hour and he watched in amazement as she would study the puzzle pieces before picking one up and snapping it into place. Over and over she repeated the same process, never once picking out the wrong piece or attempting to fit it into the wrong place. Watching Maria put a puzzle together was like watching water boil, but this was actually interesting. “How do you do that?”

“Put a puzzle together? The same way anyone does it.”

Kyle shook his head but before he could say anything she pushed back from the table and gripped the edge with both hands to push herself up. He was looking up to get a look at her face when she turned to the side, carefully avoiding his eyes and shuffling towards the kitchen. His gaze locked on her stomach and his eyebrows shot up in shock. There had been nothing in the report about this, he thought, wondering why there had been no mention of it.

“You’re pregnant,” he blurted out.

Ava looked down at her distended belly. “And here I just thought I’d gotten fat really fast,” she bit out and went into the kitchen.

His eyes dropped to the puzzle that was half-finished and he rubbed the bruised area of his chest absentmindedly. He wondered if this was how she normally acted around people or if it was reserved for anyone involved with law enforcement. He leaned back and sighed tiredly. Not that it mattered right now. He had time to figure it out.
Last edited by ArchAngel1973 on Thu Feb 02, 2012 11:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Prisoners of the Past (CC, A/U, Adult) Part 7 - 1/2/12

Postby ArchAngel1973 » Mon Jan 02, 2012 8:43 pm

Alien_Friend: Updates over the holidays may be a day or two behind but I’m trying to keep up, lol.

Kyle and Ava will be interacting more over coming chapters. The reason for her being in protective custody will be revealed before long. No, the baby isn’t Max’s.

Agent McKenzie hasn’t endeared herself to anyone.

You’re right about that. If/when he meets Max he wouldn’t be able to tell him that Ava’s safe. Although you can count on those two meeting at some point.

DJ’s a good guy and a great friend. Liz’s association with her assailant is an important piece of the puzzle. Liz has to reach a point where she’s willing to want that help because like you mentioned, they can’t help her until she wants to be helped.

Michael has some familiarity with Max’s situation and he has the advantage of surviving his past and making a life for himself with the help of Maria and her family. He and Max will get along great.

We’ll be checking in on Ava fairly regularly now.

begonia9508: Thanks! Lol, it’ll be interesting to see if the story reveals your theories as it unfolds.

Oh, Liz is far from stupid, but she is blinded by her anger and fear.

No, Max isn’t the father of Ava’s baby. Ava is his best friend and they have had a sexual relationship in the past, but rest assured the baby isn’t his.

keepsmiling7: Max has definitely had that thought, lol. DJ knows what happened, but Liz hasn’t reached a point where she wants help or is willing to accept it.

Liz won’t destroy Max. She is an obstacle but she isn’t the thing that could destroy the life he’s trying to create for himself.

Ava… well, we’re gonna get back to her in this part. Her story will begin to come out in future chapters with a little help from one Detective Kyle Valenti.

dreamon: The reason behind Liz’s behavior begins to become just a tad clearer. You’re absolutely correct – Ava’s baby is definitely not Max’s. He’s pretty hopeful that the dry spell end soon too, lol.

angiebrenna: Excellent, I was hoping that wouldn’t be expected. I’m very glad you’re enjoying the story! Kyle will be instrumental in getting Ava’s story out.

Eva: Liz hasn’t learned yet that revenge is only hurting her, and in some cases, the people who care most about her. But, she is going to get a lesson in that very soon.

Michael is an ex-con, yes.

Michael and Max are on their way to becoming good friends.

We’ll be learning more about Ava in coming chapters.

Thanks! I hope you have a great 2012 too!


Part 7

Max was staring out through the window as Michael drove, leaving the part of the city he was familiar with behind them. He glanced over his shoulder at the red car following them and he wondered why Liz had decided to go. She was all over the map and he had a hard time keeping up with her. At first he had thought she was just a spoiled rich girl who was used to getting what she wanted. Then he had decided she had to be at least partially crazy because her behavior was just too erratic. But after more thought he had come to the conclusion that there was something more than either of those things at work. He just didn’t know what it was.

She was spoiled. There was no getting around that. She was used to getting what she wanted and more often than not he had a feeling that people catered to her, furthering her belief that she was entitled. The more he thought about it the more certain he was that something traumatic had happened to her. Her actions earlier in the week had solidified that theory once he’d taken time to really think about it. She was a complex woman and one he wasn’t sure he had enough experience to handle. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to attempt it. He had his hands full trying to get his life together.

He tipped his head slightly to get a better look at the bridge they were approaching. “Wow,” he muttered under his breath.

Maria glanced back over her shoulder when she heard him and she smiled at the look of awe on his face. “You’ve never crossed the GW?” she asked.

Max shook his head. Crossed it? He had never even seen the George Washington Bridge up close. He shot a quick look at the baby sleeping in the car seat next to him before he answered. “It’s an amazing structure.”

She chuckled at his hushed voice. “You don’t have to whisper. Hunter’s not a light sleeper.” She nodded outside. “Just wait until we come back tonight when the bridge is all lit up.”

“Aww, c’mon, not today!” Michael bit out when traffic on the bridge suddenly slowed. He stopped the car and his thumb started tapping impatiently against the steering wheel. His gaze followed the lanes of traffic to his left, grumbling under his breath when they continued moving at a slow pace. Four lanes of traffic and his was the only one not moving.

“Michael, what’re you doing?” she asked when he started rolling the window down.

“Tryin’ to see how far up the backup starts.”

She rolled her eyes when he twisted his body around and hauled himself up to sit on the window frame. “He gets incredibly impatient where sports are concerned.” She nodded at him when Michael hollered at a sightseer on the South sidewalk. The two carried on a conversation that lasted a couple of minutes and she forced an interested expression when he slid back inside and dropped into his seat. “Are you satisfied now?”

“He said there’s an old guy broke down up ahead, maybe a dozen cars up or so. Probably already got a tow on the way.”

“Um-hmm.” She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. He was so going to miss the beginning of the game. It took nearly twenty minutes to get back out into traffic from their stalled lane and she glanced over at the car that was holding everything up as they came up on it. As she had expected, just as soon as the trailer cleared the old man’s car Michael eased over in front of it and got out.

He flipped off several people who honked their horns impatiently as they passed, smirking when he recognized the second one as Liz. He heard a car door slam and knew she had pulled over too, probably on her way to grill Maria about why they were stopping on the side of the road.

He came up beside the car and knocked on the driver’s side window. “Got any idea what’s wrong?” he asked when the old guy rolled it down a crack.

“No,” he answered, his voice trembling slightly.

“Wanna pop the hood? Lemme take a look at it?” He let his hands hang loose at his sides, knowing that he could be intimidating to people who didn’t know him.

“Are you a mechanic?”

“No,” he answered honestly, “but I do know my way around under the hood.” He waited patiently for the old man to make up his mind and after several long minutes he finally leaned forward and pulled the lever under the dashboard. He crouched down in front of the car, his fingers between the hood and the grill as he tried to reach the latch to release it.

“Anything I can do to help?”

He turned from the waist and glanced up at Max, one eyebrow raised in question. “Parker already makin’ a nuisance of herself?” He didn’t wait for an answer as he located the latch, pulled it, and pushed the hood up. He released it and leaned over, fiddling around with the battery cables and nodding to himself.

“Can you fix it?” Max asked.

“Yeah, it’s an easy fix.” He lifted the negative cable up with ease and then twisted the positive cable back and forth until it popped off of the post. “There’s a toolbox strapped down at the front of the trailer. Grab it for me.”

Max went to grab the toolbox, ignoring the honking horns and the irritated curses being flung out through open windows. Plenty of the cars passed by without comment, happy just to be moving again. He carried the box back to Michael, sitting it on the ground and opening it up.

“There’re a couple new terminals at the bottom, dig ‘em out and hand ‘em over.” He held up one of the cables with the terminal still attached to the end when he saw the confused look on the guy’s face. “Looks like this.”

Max nodded and pulled the top tray out, reaching inside and pulling out two terminals, still in their factory packaging. He leaned against the grill and watched Michael as he removed the terminal that was cracked and then started to remove the other one that as far as he could tell was okay. “How’d you learn to do stuff like this?”

“My old man was a mechanic,” Michael answered absentmindedly. He talked his way through the process, explaining what he was doing and why as he replaced the terminals. “Okay,” he finished tightening the bolts, “ask him to start ‘er up, let’s see if she’ll turn over.”

He walked over to the window and asked the old man to try starting the engine. He stayed close to the car and waited while the guy leaned over the steering wheel to grab hold of his keys and insert one into the ignition, turning it and smiling when the engine immediately cranked up.

He moved back a couple of steps and listened as Michael explained what he had done to fix the problem. He moved to follow him after he turned down the old man’s offer to pay him, simply shaking his hand and telling him to have a good day.

Michael tossed the old terminals in the toolbox and closed it up, slapping the lock into place and carrying it back to the trailer.

“He was gonna pay you,” Max said.

“Nah, that’s not necessary. Besides, the guy probably lives on a fixed income.” He grinned and leaned over to strap the toolbox down. “C’mon, let’s get goin’. If we get lucky we’ll get to the house before the first inning’s over.”

*****

Isabel dropped her keys on the hall table with her purse before checking her reflection in the mirror. She ran her fingers through her hair and then turned to walk through the house. She paused at the patio doors to look outside, her sharp gaze searching for the source of the splashing sound. She squinted against the early afternoon sunlight that was reflecting off of the water in the pool.

She walked around to the side when she finally located Alex. He loved being in the pool because the water was buoyant and allowed him to walk while keeping the weight off of his knees. It was just a bonus that the exercises were so therapeutic. “Where’s Josh?” she asked as she crouched down close to the edge.

Alex rolled his eyes as he stopped swimming. “You know I don’t do PT on the weekends. I keep the guy busy enough during the week.”

“Um-hmm.”

He smiled when her features tightened fractionally, an indicator that she was doing everything she could to keep from verbalizing what she was thinking. He knew how hard she tried to keep her fears from becoming roadblocks for him. “Elena’s had Preston keeping an eye on me from the den.”

Isabel glanced up and smiled when she saw the housekeeper’s 7-year-old standing at the window.

Alex chuckled when she waved and the little boy ducked his head to hide his bashful smile. “Heartbreaker,” he teased and pushed away from the side of the pool. “Let me take a couple more laps and I’ll get ready.” He ran his right hand over his hair and splashed water at her with his left. “I asked Elena to set lunch out so we could eat before we go.”

“I don’t know how good an idea that is,” she said, sidestepping the water that splashed on the pavement.

“Nervous about meeting your birth mother?”

“No.” She had been curious about her birth mother of course, but Diane Evans had been the best mother she could’ve ever asked for. She had been eight years old when her dad had met and married Diane. The woman had loved and raised her as if Isabel had been hers by birth. She had never questioned Diane’s love for her. They’d only had 14 years together before an aneurysm had suddenly taken the only mother she’d ever known from her. “From what Devon’s told us I can’t imagine it’ll be a pleasant meeting.”

Alex wasn’t expecting a pleasant afternoon. “It’s not too late to call Devon. He can handle the meeting for us.”

She shook her head. “No, I really think I need to face her.”

“Alright. I told Elena we would just need something light for lunch. No need to do this on an empty stomach.” He knew she had mixed emotions about meeting her birth mother. She had long ago accepted that the woman was out of the picture and she’d had a strong relationship with Diane that had given her the confidence to let that unknown piece of her history go. Her parents had helped her to accept that there was nothing she could have done to make her birth mother stay.

“Finish your laps, Alex. I’m gonna run inside and get ready.”

“Keep it casual, gorgeous,” he said with a wink.

Isabel smiled and nodded, watching him as he moved through the water. After several minutes she turned and went into the house to prepare for their afternoon appointment. She hadn’t lied to him; she didn’t feel nervous about facing her birth mother. She was curious about the woman but she supposed that was only natural. Devon hadn’t painted a very flattering picture of her though so she was preparing herself for the worst.

*****

Kyle was dozing in the armchair next to the dormant fireplace when he became aware of the sensation of being watched. He hissed in pain when he shifted without thinking and the muscles in his chest protested the movement. There just wasn’t a good position to fall asleep although he supposed sitting up was the better option. Lying down hurt like hell because getting up when he was so stiff seemed to take forever. At least sitting up he had more leverage, but damn it still hurt like hell.

“Good thing we’re not relying on you for backup.”

He gritted his teeth and shifted himself into a more upright position, glaring at Agent McKenzie. She was sitting on the arm of the couch, staring at him. “Well, as you said earlier, I’m not here in an official capacity am I?”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “No, you’re not.”

“Look, don’t you have a perimeter to secure or a weapon to clean or somethin’?” He eased his body forward and curled his left hand around the arm of the chair while wrapping his right hand around his ribs as he stood up.

“You look like you need a nursemaid.”

He ignored her derisive remark and slowly shuffled towards the doorway. He could come back at her but with his luck she’d find a way to turn it around on him and have him slapped with a sexual harassment charge. No thanks. He found the room he had been assigned and he dug around for his meds. He shook out a couple of the pills, recapped the bottle, and tossed it back in his bag. Before putting his bag in his room earlier he had tossed his cold compress in the freezer and he went to retrieve it, knowing he was off schedule with applying it.

Ava looked up when the cop came into the kitchen and she watched him as he pulled the compress out of the freezer and closed the door. He leaned his forehead against it and pressed the compress against his ribs, groaning quietly in response. She paused with the can opener resting on top of the can of soup sitting on the counter. The scene struck a chord of familiarity within her and her eyes watered as the door on the old memory opened.

She had been sitting in the dark, waiting for Max to come home. He should’ve been home hours ago. They had been in their apartment for a few months but after years of constantly being in each other’s presence she had trouble sleeping when he wasn’t there. She knew he was collecting for Damon and she hated it. Some days she wanted to tell him they should just go back to living on the streets but it wasn’t a better existence. It was different. It was dehumanizing. It took a piece of your soul every day, just in a different way.

He had started making simple drops, running drugs for Damon, and that had been bad enough. But now he was involved in collecting and when people didn’t pay up they paid for it with a beating. Max hadn’t intended to get involved in that part of the business but he had agreed when Damon had pressured him. He wouldn’t tell her what had been said during that conversation but she could imagine. The man they were working for was cold-blooded, ruthless, and she was certain he didn’t have a conscience.

She looked up when she heard the footsteps on the stairs but after a moment she settled back against the wall. They were all wrong. He always took the stairs two and three at a time, too impatient to take his time. After several years on the streets he was never outside longer than he had to be. They had only gotten the apartment because Damon had made a call. No one was going to rent to a couple of 16-year-old kids but he had taken care of it and at first they hadn’t cared what it had taken to get off the streets. They had escaped the streets without ever selling their bodies. But in exchange for food in their stomachs and a roof over their heads she was afraid they had sold their souls.

She tensed up when the weary footsteps stopped outside their door and her heart pounded at the shadow she could see moving back and forth in the strip of light that shone on the floor. Her fingers clenched around the knife she held, calming slightly at the feel of the steel warmed from her grip. Something scraped against the lock a couple of times and she stood, flicking her wrist and releasing the blade as she neared the door. She made a face at the heavy breathing coming from the other side. She was just about to jerk it open and run the guy off when he knocked on the door and called her name.

She flung the door open, staring wide-eyed at him. “Max?!”

He was leaning heavily against the doorframe and in the dim light from the hall she could see blood on his torn shirt. She flicked her wrist again, retracting the blade and pocketing the knife. She reached for him but froze when he made a pained sound and shook his head. She looked up into his face, wincing at the black eye that was nearly swollen shut and his bottom lip that was split open.

“What happened?” She locked the door as soon as he was inside and she shadowed his moves as he slowly moved through the living area and into the kitchen.

“Collection went bad,” he muttered, wincing against the dim light when she switched one of the lamps on. He leaned against the refrigerator wearily and she could see the shaking in his tall frame.

“Max, look at me.” She had ignored the trembling in her own voice as she demanded he turn around and she inhaled sharply when he shuffled around to face her. His shirt was torn open, the left side covered with blood so fresh she could smell it. She moved closer to him and pushed his shirt aside, feeling the sickening weight of the blood-soaked material. A large white bandage covered his left side and she lifted her gaze to his. “Did you go to the hospital?”

“Bastard cut me an’ I was bleedin’ all over the damn place. I didn’t give ‘em my name or address. They put me down as a John Doe an’ stitched me up. Soon as they left me alone I checked the clipboard, got the prescription the doctor put down, an’ lifted the stuff before getting outta there.”

“You need to be in bed.” She took his arm and led him to the bedroom, stripping the shirt off of him and throwing it away before helping him to lie down. She had dug the bottles of pills out of his pocket, setting them on the nightstand after looking at them. One was an antibiotic and the other was a painkiller. “Max, I’m gonna need to go out and get bandages and tape.” Her fingertips ghosted over the edges of the bandage. “And probably some kinda antiseptic for the wound too.”

“Huh-uh, got that too. It’s in my back pocket.”

She had left him alone just long enough to run to a pharmacy that was several blocks away, buying what they needed and hurrying back home. He had been sleeping fitfully when she returned and she had carefully changed the bandage, swallowing hard and fighting back tears at the sight of the long cut that had been stitched closed. She had sat next to him the entire night, afraid to close her eyes for fear that he would stop breathing if she wasn’t watching him.

It was days later before she had discovered that Nicholas had set him up, giving him the wrong information and intentionally sending him after the wrong person. The incident had been an eye-opener and they had been careful to watch their backs from that point on with Nicholas.


She shook herself out of her thoughts and cleared her throat when the cop finally moved. He retrieved a bottle of water from the refrigerator and sat down at the small kitchen table, holding the bottle between his knees and twisting the cap off.

“You get shot or something?”

“Yes and no. I was wearin’ a vest so it took the worst of it but the impact of the bullets bruised my ribs and chest pretty good.”

“What’re you taking?” she asked as she emptied the contents of the can into a pot and set it on the burner.

Kyle glanced up at her and forced a tight smile. “They’ve got me on Naproxen.”

“You should probably eat something then.” She shrugged. “Puking your guts out when you’re all bruised up isn’t a good time, trust me.”

He wasn’t sure he wanted to know if she was speaking from her own experience but after reading her file he wouldn’t be surprised. “Maybe I could get that sweetheart in the other room to make me somethin’ to eat.” He smiled when it made her laugh. “Don’t think so?”

“I think I’d like to see you suggest it,” she said with a soft snort. “I’m making soup.” She held up two bowls. “There’s enough for two.”

“I’d like that.” He shifted and pressed the compress higher on his chest. “You’re eatin’ more than soup, right? I mean, you’re getting three squares a day.”

“I get whatever’s here and whatever I feel like making.”

That wasn’t an answer. “When’s Junior due?”

Ava rested her right hand over her belly and smiled softly. “She’s due in about nine weeks.” Her eyes filled with tears and she looked away.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

She shook her head and concentrated on stirring the soup. “Nothing, I’m fine.”

“Are you upset because her father isn’t here?”

“No,” she said shortly. “I’d rather not talk anymore if it’s all the same to you.” She filled two bowls and set one in front of him before taking hers and heading to the dining room to eat alone.

Kyle wondered what he had said to upset her. Women were incredibly complex creatures, he thought as he started eating. Was she upset because something had happened to the baby’s father? Or maybe she was relieved that the guy wasn’t in the picture. Maybe he had really just stuck his foot in it and asked the one question she didn’t want to hear.

*****

Liz frowned when Hunter reached over and placed his sticky hand on her arm. He smiled up at her before sticking his applesauce-covered fingers in his mouth again and banging his sippy cup on his highchair tray.

“Alright, as much as I’m enjoying this, you’re makin’ too much racket,” Michael said as he leaned over to kiss the little boy’s head and still his hand at the same time.

“It’s nice that you’re so easily amused,” Liz growled.

“Yeah, saves us a helluva lotta money on entertainment expenses,” he shot back before going back over to the living room and dropping down in his recliner. He leaned over and handed Max a bottle of soda and then settled back with his beer.

Max nodded and unscrewed the cap before taking a long drink. The game was in the 8th inning and the Yankees were winning as Michael had predicted. He had yelled at the television, had one-sided arguments with the umpire, and jumped up and down when the plays went well. Hunter was happy to chime in whenever his daddy had anything to say and Maria tolerated the noise with patience.

At first he had felt pretty stupid because he hadn’t understood anything that was going on. He had never sat down and watched a baseball game and he had never played on a team so he didn’t know much of anything about the sport. The couple was quick to put him at ease though and before long he hadn’t thought twice about asking questions. He had offered to help with dinner but Michael had waved him off, assuring him that he could hang with him while he threw the steaks on the grill.

Maria had kept Liz busy in the kitchen for a while, preparing whatever was going with the steaks and he had been happy to not have to fend her off. He jumped when Michael suddenly shot to his feet and fisted the air.

“Did you see that?” Michael yelled.

His gaze moved back to the television screen and he watched the replay.

“A homerun with bases loaded! That is why they’ll go to the World Series this year!”

“There’s another inning, right?”

Michael snorted. “Formality. With the lead the Yankees have there’s no way they’ll get anywhere near a win.” Nearly twenty minutes later he stood up and stretched. “What’d I tell you? Maria, we’re gonna work on your brother’s car for a while and then toss those steaks on the grill, okay?”

“Okay!” she shouted from the kitchen. “Oh, wait, I’ve gotta run to the store. Can you keep an eye on Hunter or should I take him with me?”

“You takin’ Parker?” he hollered back. Liz was nowhere in sight so either she was in the kitchen with Maria or she was creeping along the back of the couch stalking Max.

“Yes, she said she wanted to go.”

“Yeah, I’ll just bet she did.”

“What’s that?”

“Nothin’, just said I’ll keep him.”

“Uh-huh. We’ll be back in half an hour.”

Michael could almost hear the eye roll when she answered. He retrieved Hunter and walked outside with Max following him. “Okay, we’re gonna work on pullin’ a fuel pump on Uncle Kyle’s car today.” He glanced at his guest. “How are you with kids?”

“I don’t uh… I don’t really know.”

“Well, he doesn’t bite.” He held Hunter out to Max. “Go on, take him.” He smirked when the guy held his hands out stiffly. “Relax or he’ll start screamin’ an’ cryin’.” He slapped Max on the back once Hunter was settled in his arms and he pulled his cell phone out, flipping it open and lining the two of them up in the frame. They were staring at each other uncertainly, each of them trying to determine what the other was going to do. He snapped the shot and shoved the phone back in his pocket. “Okay, first things first…”

“Why’d you stop for that old guy earlier?” Max asked after a few minutes. He guessed the little boy in his arms had decided he was okay because Hunter was holding onto him and leaning as far forward as he could to see what his daddy was doing.

“There was a time I wouldn’t have,” Michael admitted as he leaned in and started working. “But now that I’ve got him in my life…” he nodded at Hunter. “You know how parents tell you to do what they tell you to do and not what you see ‘em do?”

Max shrugged. “No.”

“Well, a lotta parents tell their kids that. And I get it but I don’t completely agree with it. I mean, you want your kid to do better than you’ve done but kids learn by watching. They’re little sponges and they wanna be like you.” He turned his head to look at Max. “I catch him doin’ stuff all the time, mimicking somethin’ me or Maria does and it just blows me away. It’s a huge responsibility, raisin’ one of these little guys. Me an’ Maria, we’re far from perfect, but we try hard to be the best we can be for each other and for him.”

“You guys seem pretty solid.” He shifted Hunter and leaned one hip against the side of the car. “How do you make it work?”

“Patience and understanding that we’re both gonna screw it up now and then.” He shrugged. “It’s a fact of life. None of us is perfect and you’ve gotta take the bad with the good.”

“Yeah, I guess.” He reached up to scratch his jaw. “You and Liz, you don’t get along.”

“Nope, can’t stand each other.”

“Can I ask why?”

Michael paused and looked up at Max. “We met in junior high, through Maria. Liz was a private school kid and we went to public school. When Maria introduced us I was goin’ through a pretty rough patch and Liz took one look at me and just put it out there that I wasn’t good enough for her. Kinda set the tone.”

“She is opinionated.”

He snorted. “Ya think? I was older than the kids in my classes ‘cause I’d failed out a couple times and she had a field day with that.” He changed sockets and leaned back in under the hood. “For a while Maria tried to find ways for us to get along but she finally accepted that we just don’t like each other. Parker’s a little snot and she isn’t happy unless things are goin’ her way.”

“How do you handle a woman like that? Well, I mean, maybe that’s the wrong way to phrase it.”

“If you’re thinkin’ of getting involved with Parker that’s the right word. You’d better watch your back though. She’s never liked me ‘cause I was into a lotta sh…” he caught himself as he remembered Hunter was right there, “stuff back in high school and it could’ve adversely affected Maria. I didn’t see it at the time but that much was true. But somewhere along the way she took a distinct disliking to anyone with a criminal history and it doesn’t matter what it is.”

“You think it’s a bad idea.”

Michael shrugged. “I think you’re tryin’ to go straight and she could screw you over.”

“She’s been comin’ onto me like crazy.” He glanced down at Hunter when he realized the little boy was staring at him. “Um, is it okay to talk about this with him here?”

“Yeah, if he repeats anything I’ll just tell Maria it’s your fault.” He laughed and slapped Max on the back when he saw the guy’s expression. “Kiddin’, man. You’re fine, go on.”

“She runs hot an’ cold an’ I have no idea how to deal with that.”

“That girl needs someone to beat her ass.”

“I think it’s more than just the spoiled rich girl thing. One minute she’s all over me an’ the next she’s acting like I’ve just assaulted her.”

Michael paused, his forearms braced on the frame as he turned his head to look up at Max. “I don’t know what her deal is. And it’s pretty easy to see that you’re into her whether you wanna be or not. I’ll be in hot water with Maria if you ever let it out that I told you this, but she says Parker likes you. She seems to think that your opinion matters to Parker. She doesn’t know why and if Maria doesn’t know why chances are good that Parker’s completely clueless.” He shrugged one shoulder. “Maybe that’s why she’s runnin’ hot an’ cold on you.”

“But you think it’d be a mistake to… get involved.”

“I think that’s somethin’ only you can decide. She’s not a big fan of her parents’ involvement in the program and she likes to make sure people are aware of her opinion that rehabilitation is a waste of time.”

Max stared at Hunter. “What do you think? I mean, do you think rehabilitation works?”

Michael straightened up and held his arms out at his sides. “I’m proof that it works, Max. Don’t listen to what anyone says about how you’ll only end up back in prison. If you want it bad enough, you can make a good life and earn an honest living.” He shook his head. “Don’t ever listen to anyone who tells you that you’re gonna fail. Yeah, it’s easier to take that other path and doin’ it the right way doesn’t put very many of us in the money, but there’s somethin’ to be said for it.”

Max looked around, taking in the house, yard, and the neighborhood beyond before his gaze settled on Michael once more. “Wait… you?”

“Yeah. It’s not always easy but at the end of the day it’s worth it.”

Max turned his head to stare at Hunter when he started squirming around and fussing. The little boy was drooling and it was all over the shoulder of his shirt. “Um…”

Michael chuckled and set the socket wrench down so he could reach over to take Hunter. “He’s teething and he’ll get irritable before long.” He patted his little boy’s back. “C’mon, let’s go get your medicine and your froggy.” In the kitchen he handed the baby back to Max so he could scrub his hands. He dried them off and pulled a tube of gel out of the refrigerator, leaving the door open while he applied the gel to Hunter’s gums.

“Michael, what’ve I told you about leavin’ the fridge door open?” Maria asked as she came inside carrying a couple of grocery sacks.

“Same thing I tell you about leavin’ the front door open when the air conditioner’s on?” he shot back.

She rolled her eyes as she relieved Max of the crying baby and checked his gums. She rubbed his back when Hunter burrowed his face in the crook of her neck and she reached up to stroke his arm. She accepted the frog shaped teething ring from Michael, shaking it to get Hunter’s attention. She let one of the frog’s cold rubber feet brush against his hand that was fisted in her shirt and after a few moments he latched onto it and brought it to his mouth, gnawing on it contentedly.

“You’re right about that cucumber gel,” Michael said as he put it back on the shelf. “It does work faster.”

“I love it when you say I’m right with that not-so-subtle hint of surprise in your voice,” she said and stuck her tongue out at him.

He reached out and pinched her tongue before she could retract it. “Don’t make offers like that in front of our guest,” he said with a teasing grin and leaned in for a kiss.

“I know you probably can’t count that high, but you have two guests, Guerin,” Liz said as she walked past him to put a grocery sack on the counter.

“I’m pretending you’re not here, Parker” he tossed back. “It makes my world a little more tolerable.” He grabbed the steaks out of the refrigerator. “Gonna throw these on the grill, babe.”

“Okay.” He and Max disappeared through the back door and she turned to look at Liz. “The potato salad has to be finished so you can roll up your sleeves and pitch in or you can hold Hunter.”

“I can take him, Maria,” Max offered as he stepped back inside. “I’ve already been drooled on and he seems to be okay with me.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, Michael told me to take it easy and you kinda seem pretty busy so… I’ll take him.” He took Hunter from her. “Oh, I’m supposed to get the bowl of sliced peppers from the fridge.”

Maria picked around the refrigerator looking for the plate of sliced red, yellow, and green peppers mixed with sliced jalapeno and red chili peppers. “Oh, if you don’t like your food hot tell him to take it easy on the chili peppers, Max,” she said as she held it out to him. “Turn him loose with this mix and you’ll be sweating before you’re more than a few bites into dinner.”

Liz stood at the island in the center of the kitchen a while later, watching Max through the window. He smiled in response to the baby’s wide grin and dodged the teething toy when Hunter tried to shove it in his mouth. She was surprised at the tight feeling in her chest. It had to be heartburn, she decided. “Maria, do you have anything for heartburn?” she asked.

Maria turned her head to follow the direction of Liz’s gaze and she smiled. “You can admit that seeing him with a baby increases the sexy factor.”

“Ungh, Maria, you are so far off base.”

She leaned back against the counter and watched Michael going on about grilling, sports, cars, and somewhere in there she knew hot girls would enter the conversation. They always did, she thought with an internal eye roll. “No, I’m not,” she mused. “You may not want to admit it, but I’m right.” She turned back to the potato salad she was making and glanced at Liz. “Wanna tell me what made you decide to come over here today?”

Liz shrugged. “I’m not giving him the upper hand,” she said finally.

Maria shook her head and tasted the potato salad. She sprinkled a little bit of salt over it and started mixing it again. “And what’d you do that you think gave him the upper hand?”

“Nothing, but if I hadn’t shown up today he would’ve thought he had one over on me.”

“What do you expect from him, Liz?”

“I don’t expect anything from him,” she denied. She studied her nails for a moment before her gaze lifted against her will to the man standing on the other side of the window.

“He’s a nice guy and if you let him in he could maybe be more than just a one night stand.”

“And if I was interested in a relationship with an ex-con I’d seek out your advice, Maria,” she snapped without thinking. Her eyes widened and she hurried to apologize. “Oh my God, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say that.”

“Yes, you did.” Maria threw the spoon in the sink and she gripped the edge of it until her hands hurt from holding it so tightly. “I’ve excused your behavior for years, Liz. I’ve tried to gloss it over and act like it didn’t hurt when you made snotty comments about my relationship with Michael because I really believe that whatever happened to you made your opinion about him even harsher than it already was. But that’s it. I’m finished. He’s been more than accommodating. He has every right to ask me not to invite you into our home but he’s never done that. It’s no secret he’d be happy if you never stepped foot in his space but because you’re my friend he’s never asked that of me.” She could feel the angry tears burning in her eyes and she blinked furiously, trying to get rid of them but only succeeded in making them spill over.

Liz was scared. She and Maria had fought before and there had been the occasional argument over Michael or their relationship, but not once had Maria ever said she was finished with her. “Maria, I didn’t – “

“I want you to leave, Liz.”

“Babe, we’ll be ready to eat in ten,” Michael said, his voice trailing off as he suddenly sensed the tension in the room. “What the hell did you say to her?” he snapped when he saw how upset his girlfriend was.

“I…” For the first time in a long time Liz was at a loss for words. She had pushed too far this time and she knew it. Without waiting to be told to leave again she gathered her things up and fled from the house.

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Prisoners of the Past (CC, A/U, Adult) Part 8 - 1/8/12

Postby ArchAngel1973 » Mon Jan 09, 2012 1:55 am

keepsmiling7: Max does know that, lol.

Isabel has an interesting outlook where her birth mother is concerned.

Max did get himself into some trouble working for his old boss.

Liz needed to hear that because she had pushed too far.

AlysLuv: Liz’s story will come out. Ava hasn’t revealed that information yet.

Alien_Friend: Thanks!

This is going to make Liz think. Maria has tried to be understanding but that last comment Liz made was just too much. Max might go after her…

Ava is scared, but she does want her baby. Kyle’s going to be good for Ava and he’ll keep trying to get her out of her shell.

Their birth mother… well, she’s a piece of work.

Max will benefit from hanging around with Michael and Maria. They have a good solid relationship and have experienced enough of life to know what they want from it.

He’s picking up bits and pieces and trying to figure out what makes Liz tick. He’ll continue searching for answers.

Happy New Year!

begonia9508: My muse and I thank you! Happy New Year to you too!

Liz strikes out without thinking. She’s so certain that she can deal with things without any help that she’s shut everyone out.

Maria asking her to leave will be an important wakeup call for her.

Kyle will be in contact with Ava for a while.

dreamon: Thanks, you too!

Maria telling Liz to leave will be an important moment. We’ll see more scenes with Max and Hunter.

mary mary: Lol, blame RL… I do! It’ll take time, but they’ll all get there. We’ll have to wait a bit to find out who the father of Ava’s baby is. She did have a tough time after Max was incarcerated. Isabel does hold the key to part of it.


Part 8

Kathy Richards stood on the front porch of the rundown house, a burning cigarette dangling from her nicotine-stained fingers. Every once in a while she would stretch up on her toes and lean forward to peer down the street. She lived in an older Brooklyn neighborhood, the house all she had left to show from her last meal ticket. Well, it had actually been purchased over the course of several different relationships, but who was counting?

She had been surprised when she had received a visit from a private investigator and at first she had been concerned that she was in some kind of trouble. She knew Philip Evans had passed away because she had run across the article in the newspaper and she had considered reaching out to the girl but she was well aware of the lengths he would have gone to in order to protect her inheritance. He would have made certain that the girl was protected as well but it was the money she was interested in.

She had mistakenly gotten pregnant twice and it had taken a while before she had figured out that it wasn’t her fault. Of course it wasn’t her fault. Both times she had gone against her better judgment and suffered through the unpleasantness of pregnancy, childbirth, and then the headache of motherhood. She had been so sure that the fathers would stick around and she would be compensated for providing them with the ungrateful little bastards. They cried all the time, made messes, broke things, and generally made a nuisance out of themselves. She didn’t understand why anyone would willingly put themselves through such a headache. And what it did to a woman’s body!

She felt excitement rush through her veins when she spotted the sleek black Mercedes-Benz turning onto her block. It was a car that screamed money and definitely not the kind of car that cruised through her neighborhood on any kind of a regular basis. She knew without a doubt that it was her daughter. Her daughter. The two words felt foreign to her and she quickly discounted the sensation. Her sinfully wealthy daughter. Yes, she decided, that felt better. Philip had gotten away from her but she had seen him in the news on occasion so she knew he had done well for himself.

Since her brief visit with that nosy investigator she had been trying to figure out how she could turn this to her advantage. Philip had never been easy to manipulate but there had been a time when he had loved her. She had known he was a man who was going places and all of those places reeked of wealth. He had wanted to marry her and she had been so close to finally landing a big one. But she had lost her hold over him when the boy had gotten sick and ruined everything.

The private investigator hadn’t really laid things out very well because she wasn’t sure why the girl was suddenly seeking her out. She could play the maternal card when it suited her though, and if that was what she had to do to work her way into some money, hell, she could do that. The car rolled to a stop at the curb and the purring engine fell silent. She ran her hands over her hair nervously and forced her nerves to settle as she watched the driver’s side door open.

The young woman who stepped out of the car was striking and she could see the resemblance to herself though it wasn’t as prominent as it would have been at one time. She watched as Isabel rounded the hood of the car just as the passengers’ side door opened and she worked to control her expression when the sunlight glinted off of a pair of crutches. Who was the cripple? It couldn’t be the boy. Even although she had no doubt that Philip would’ve taken him and raised him as his own if he had been given the opportunity she was certain it wasn’t him.

No, she decided after studying him for a few moments, his features were all wrong. The ungrateful little bastard had looked just like his father and she knew no matter how much time passed she would recognize him the moment she set eyes on him. She followed their progress as they made their way up the walk and it didn’t escape her notice that the crutches didn’t seem to hinder them. Isabel didn’t walk ahead of him, she didn’t walk behind him; she gave the crutches the necessary space while walking beside him. Her hand stayed on his arm, but not as a guide or out of caution. It was as if the contact was somehow necessary to them.

She dropped her cigarette to the porch and mashed it beneath the toe of her shoe, leaving a black mark and a trail of tobacco on the old gray boards. She decided to let the younger woman lead the conversation since she had no idea how much Philip had told her before his death. She had to be careful to not reveal too much because she didn’t know why they had wanted to meet with her. She knew he had married and that the woman had passed a couple of years back and from the photos and articles in the society section it was apparent Isabel had been close to her stepmother.

Alex glanced at his fiancé, smiling reassuringly when he felt her hand on his arm tense up. “We can keep this short,” he said. He had a feeling it wasn’t going to take long before her mother showed her true colors. Devon had warned them that the woman could be charming and she would do her best to make them believe she was sincere but he had been adamant that it would be nothing more than part of her game. “Just keep the upper hand.”

She squeezed his arm in thanks and drew in a deep breath as they reached the porch steps. “Ms. Richards? I’m Isabel Evans and this is my fiancé Alex Whitman.”

Kathy smiled and nodded, shaking their hands. “Isabel Evans, I’d know you anywhere,” she said. “Do you remember me?”

“No, I’m sorry, I don’t.”

“Well, no matter, it’s been a long time. Won’t you come inside?” She opened the door and led the way into the living room, motioning to the couch. “Have a seat. Can I get you something to drink?”

“No, thank you.” Surprisingly the house was in perfect order and no one on the outside would suspect that she had such nice things inside. Unfortunately the air was stale and reeked of cigarette smoke.

Alex sat down and tried not to breathe too deeply. This was going to be hell on his allergies.

“I was very sorry to hear about your father,” Kathy spoke up after a moment. “He was a very kind man and he always treated me well.”

“Do you mind if I ask why the two of you didn’t stay together?” Isabel asked.

She didn’t know, Kathy realized. “Oh, we just wanted different things out of life. When Philip started to climb that ladder of success he was just ready to move on. I never held it against him,” she said quickly.

Isabel didn’t know the whole story but that didn’t sound like her dad. “So he took me and left? Did you ever try to see me?”

“Philip was very clear when he left and he didn’t believe I would fit into his new life. He only wanted what was best for you and he was in a much better position to provide for you than I was.”

“And my brother?” she asked. “I do have a brother, don’t I?”

Kathy reached up to rub her neck nervously. “You… you know about Max?”

“I have vague memories of a little boy and I need to know more about him.”

“Can I ask why?”

Isabel squeezed Alex’s hand when he gave her a warning nudge, reminding her not to give too much away. “I just need to settle some of my father’s affairs.”

Had Max been named in Philip’s will? “Oh, I’m afraid I’ve lost touch with Max. After Philip left us he had no father figure in his life and he got into a lot of trouble.” She motioned around her. “He ran off years ago and I haven’t heard from him since. The boy had problems, Isabel, and you’d be better off not involving yourself in looking for him. I spent a small fortune trying to keep him out of jail when he was a teenager.”

The little boy Isabel remembered had been quiet and sweet. He had been curious about everything and he had followed her everywhere. He had been perfectly content to do whatever she wanted to do, happy just to have someone to spend time with. Sure, people changed, but there had to be a catalyst for the kind of change Kathy was describing. “I’d still like to locate him.”

“Isabel, I can see that you mean well, but, Max is a lost cause. Because of that boy I had to break an engagement with a very nice man.”

“Because of Max?” Alex asked.

“Yes, he stole a large amount of money and it took me a very long time to repay that debt.”

“Well, regardless of all that I’d still like to find him.” The woman was telling one lie after the other, she was sure of it. “He’s my brother. My father spoke of him before his…” She nodded when Alex squeezed her hand. “I’m alright. Anyway, it’s very important that I find him. I may not know the whole story, but my father felt I needed to know about him.”

“Perhaps Philip was trying to warn you about him, Isabel,” Kathy suggested.

“I’ll know when I find him.” She met her mother’s gaze. “I’d like to have his last name. Our investigator hasn’t been able to find him and apparently there’s a discrepancy with his birth certificate.”

“A discrepancy?” the woman echoed, sounding surprised. After a moment her eyes widened. “Oh, I can explain that. Your father and I went through a hard time when you were very young and we broke up for a while. We got back together and Max was born the following year.”

Isabel narrowed her eyes. “It was my understanding that Max and I do not share the same father.”

“I was with someone else while we were separated and Philip wasn’t convinced that Max was his. We had quite a few fights about that and when Max was born I put the other man’s name on the paperwork because I was angry and hurt. A few weeks later I went back and had your father’s name put on it. But then, when your father left I had my maiden name – “

“How does he even know who he is?” Isabel asked before her mother could finish speaking.

“Don’t take that tone with me,” Kathy snapped. “Philip turned his back on us. He walked away from us and left Max without a father.”

Isabel shook her head. “My father wouldn’t have done that.”

Alex rubbed Isabel’s arm in an effort to calm her down. “Hey, take it easy.”

“You knew my dad, Alex. He wouldn’t have turned his back on my brother like that.”

He knew that. He looked at Kathy. “Would you be willing to provide us with the first name that went on his birth certificate?”

Her gaze bounced between them, realizing that there was no point in letting this play out any longer. “I suppose that depends on what you’re willing to pay.”

Alex could see the warring emotions running across his fiancé’s face and he reached for his crutches to get her attention. Devon had warned them not to agree to pay the woman for any information she might have.

Isabel stood and forced a smile. “Well, I appreciate you agreeing to meet with us. We’ll just continue looking into the matter ourselves.”

Beside her Alex got to his feet and slid his arms through the cuffs to grasp the grips. “We’ll see ourselves out, thank you.”

They made their way outside and he carefully navigated the steps. He paused on the sidewalk and shook his head as he looked at the car. “Well, at least they didn’t take the wheels,” he said with a shake of his head. He chuckled when he saw the look on her face as she followed his gaze and saw that the hubcaps had been removed from the car.

In the car he pulled the seatbelt across his body and waited for the inevitable explosion. Hubcaps could be replaced without much fuss but the meeting with her mother was a different story. He was silent as she made a quick call to the man who had been handling her father’s vehicles for years and he listened as she placed an order for new hubcaps.

“Well, there’s no point calling the police,” she muttered derisively and threw the phone in the console. “How can that woman be my mother? What could my father have seen in her?”

“Honey, it was a long time ago…” he winced at the scathing look she shot in his direction. “I so did not mean it like that and you know it. Look, if Philip cared about her at one time then at least back then there must’ve been something worth caring about.” He reached for her hand. “Hey, he got you outta the deal so whatever it was I’m glad it was there even if it only lasted a short while.”

“I need to know the truth about my brother, Alex.”

“I know and you will. She may not have intended to give us anything, but we know more now than we did before that visit. I’ll call Devon when we get home, see if we can meet with him tomorrow.” He stroked the back of her hand and reached up to rub his eyes.

“Your allergies?” she asked sympathetically.

“Yeah.”

“I need to be fumigated after being in that house.” She wrinkled her nose. “At the very least I need a long soak in a hot bath.”

“The bath has my vote.” He grinned and kissed the back of her hand. “Then dinner on the terrace and after that let’s just veg out in the den and watch a movie.”

“The same movie we’ve been saying we were gonna watch for the past few weeks?” she asked with a knowing smile.

He shrugged with a quiet chuckle. “Not my fault if you fall for my distracting techniques.” He could tell that she didn’t want to talk about her mother and he knew the best thing was to let her bring it up when she was ready. She wasn’t the type of woman who avoided unpleasant things but she did have a preference for getting them straight in her head before putting them up for discussion.

“Distracting me might be a challenge tonight, Mr. Whitman.”

Alex just settled back in the comfortable seat and smiled as he closed his eyes. “Honey, you’ve been a challenge since the day we met. That’s never stopped me before and you know better than to think it’ll stop me now.”

She just smiled and navigated through the heavy traffic of early evening, the truth in his words settling that agitated feeling inside of her. She knew between them they would figure this situation out so she allowed herself to relax and decided to set it aside and focus on Alex for the rest of the night.

*****

Max was crouched down in the backyard, watching Hunter as he chased after the ball he had just rolled to him. He looked back over his shoulder when he heard the raised voices and within less than a minute the screen door at the front of the house slammed shut and he saw Liz running to her car. Michael hadn’t come back outside so he picked Hunter up and followed her.

“Where’re you goin’?” he asked, stopping beside her while she tried to pick her car key out of the half dozen or so keys on the ring she held clenched in her left hand.

“I’ve been asked to leave so just go back and hang out with your new friends.”

He could hear the tears in her voice and he reached out to still her hands. “What happened?”

“Does it matter?” she snapped.

He stared at her for a few moments before answering. He had come to the conclusion that responding to her baiting wasn’t getting them anywhere. “It does to me.”

She pulled her hands free of his and went back to looking for her car key. “I just threw away the best friend I’ve ever had,” she choked out as she unlocked the door and jerked it open. She slid in behind the wheel and tried to close the door but he had grabbed hold of it, preventing her from leaving.

“You’ve got some serious issues, Liz, but I can’t imagine that Maria’s washed her hands of you.”

“And what do you know about it?”

“Unless you give me somethin’ to work with, nothin’ I guess.”

“What makes you think I want your input?”

Hunter turned his head when he heard Daddy call his name and he smiled widely before he started pushing against Max’s chest.

“You should go. I’m not in the mood to deal with him right now,” she said when she saw Michael advancing on them.

Max leaned over and set Hunter down in the grass, keeping an eye on him until he had safely joined his father. “Are you okay to drive?”

“I’m fine, Max.” She pulled on the door again. “Just let me go.”

“If you change your mind and wanna talk I’ll be home by midnight.” He stepped back and released the door.

Liz shook her head and started the car, throwing it into gear and backing out of the driveway.

Max sighed and went around back, shoving his hands in his pockets as he crossed the yard. He paused at the porch steps, watching Hunter babble happily as he put Michael’s baseball hat on and then took it off again. “Is everything okay with Maria?” he asked.

“She’ll be okay,” he answered gruffly. He waved a hand dismissively when Max opened his mouth again. “It’s not your fault. This’s somethin’ that’s been comin’ for a long time.” He tugged the hat down over his little boy’s face, smiling faintly when Hunter squealed and pulled it off again.

“Would it be okay if I go talk to her?”

“Go for it.” Michael took a drink of his beer and set the bottle down on the table next to him, his eyes following Max as he walked into the house. Maria had let her best friend get away with a lot in the time he had known her but he knew this had been building. He picked Hunter up when the boy grabbed handfuls of his shirt to pull himself up and he supported him as he stood balanced on his thigh. “Think it’s time for dinner ‘cause it’s almost somebody’s bedtime.” He smiled when Hunter just grinned at him and started gnawing on the bill of his baseball hat.

*****

Maria was pulling down the package of paper plates when the screen door snapped shut and she smiled at Max. “Please don’t think this was your fault,” she said as she untied the package and counted out three plates.

“I’m the one who invited her.”

She shook her head. “Liz is a big girl, Max. She’s had an opinion about Michael and our relationship from the beginning and it’s just worsened over time.”

“Was she supportive at all when you were pregnant?”

“Pregnant?” Her eyes widened for a moment before realization set in. “Oh,” she laughed, “no, I didn’t give birth to Hunter. Michael’s best friend and his wife were Hunter’s biological parents and they wanted us to be his guardians if anything ever happened to them. He was just a couple months old when they died.”

“Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility.” He helped her as she put food in serving dishes. “Did she support your decision to raise him?”

“She didn’t and still doesn’t understand it. Liz thinks I’ve just settled for this life, that I have this life because it’s what Michael wants.”

Max shook his head. “You guys fit. Anyone could see that.”

“People only see what they want to see, girlfriend.” She laughed at his expression and patted his arm. “Sorry, you’re just really easy to talk to.”

“I think it’s a great thing you guys did, taking him in and raising him. A lot of kids don’t get that and the alternative can be ugly.” He leaned back against the counter. “Can I ask you about Liz? Or would you rather not talk about her right now?”

“No, go ahead.”

“Does she make it a habit of goin’ after the guys her parents work with in the program?” He made a face. “I hope that doesn’t sound as bad to you as it does to me. I’m not tryin’ to make her sound like a slut or anything.”

“I’ve never known her to pursue a guy in the program the way she has with you. She’s harassed a few of them but never anything to this extent.”

He gnawed on his bottom lip for a minute before he posed the question that had been on his mind for a while. “Has she ever been… assaulted?”

“What? No.” Maria put the forks and spoons down on top of the plates and looked at him. “Why would you ask that?”

“Earlier this week I got home and she was in my bed when I got there.”

Her eyes widened. “In your bed?” Liz had never gone that far to her knowledge.

He nodded. “I ignored her, walked away, but that didn’t stop her. She came after me and started comin’ onto me. I grabbed her arm and pulled her towards me, held her against me to keep her from doin’ anything else, and when I wouldn’t let her go she went ballistic and kneed me as hard as she could.”

Maria winced. “Maybe your reaction just scared her?”

“I think bein’ held when she clearly wanted to be turned loose terrified her. She was fine as long as she was comin’ onto me an’ she was in control but when the tables were turned she couldn’t handle it. It’s just… I knew this girl once and she reacted badly when she was touched unexpectedly. I heard she’d been… well, it was an ugly story.”

“To my knowledge she’s never been assaulted, Max.” Although it would make sense. She had changed while she was away at college and if something bad had happened to her she’d had plenty of time to bury it.

He watched her, studying her features. “You’re thinkin’ it could be a possibility,” he guessed.

“I’m thinking it would explain a lot.” She reached for the plates and utensils and handed them to him. “Thanks, Max.”

“For what?”

“For this talk.” She smiled at his clueless expression. “C’mon, let’s get dinner on the table.” She was still mad at Liz, still hurt by what had been said, but he had just given her something to consider. She wondered if DJ was around or if he was out of town. She made a mental note to call him the next day and see if he could give her any insight into Liz’s behavior.

*****

Kyle sat at the dining table, once again watching Ava as she assembled the puzzle. She had ignored him most of the day. McKenzie had ignored him most of the day. The only person really talking to him was Patrick and that wasn’t saying much. He was drawn to their witness for some reason he didn’t understand and he found himself finding reasons to spend time with her. She snapped a piece into place and reached for another one.

“Do you like pancakes?” he asked curiously.

She paused to look up at him. “What?”

“Pancakes, do you like them?”

That’s what she thought he had asked. She shrugged. “Yeah, why?”

“I can make pancakes.”

She dropped her gaze back to the puzzle. She didn’t know why he was being nice but she didn’t trust him. “Good for you.”

“I could make some for dinner.”

“There’s no pancake mix.”

“I can make ‘em from scratch. My mom’s recipe.”

“Your mom,” she said slowly.

“Um-hmm, she makes these great pancakes… thick and fluffy… covered in melted butter an’ hot maple syrup.” He grinned when he heard her stomach grumble. “Bet Junior would like ‘em.”

“She’s a girl.”

“Got a name picked out for her?”

Ava sighed and put the puzzle piece down. “Are they paying you to sit here and pretend to be my new best friend?”

“Do people normally have to be paid to be your friend?”

“I have one friend and I don’t even know if he’s safe or not because these people won’t tell me anything!” she yelled. “He’s the only person I can trust and…” Her voice trailed off when she realized what she had just revealed.

Kyle reached out to wrap his hand around one of her wrists when she started to get up. “Hey,” he said softly, “you can talk to me. I don’t bite.” He released her when she eased back into her chair. “Who’s your friend?”

“You’re a cop, you’re not gonna care about him.”

“But clearly you do,” he countered.

“He was up for parole and I don’t know if he got out or not. If he did they won’t tell me and they won’t do anything to make sure he’s safe.”

“You need to focus on your testimony and keepin’ yourself safe,” McKenzie said as she passed through the room. “If your old buddy falls back in with Knight – “

“Why don’t you leave us alone,” Kyle suggested with a glare at the agent. He turned back to Ava as soon as they had been left alone. “I can’t promise anything, but maybe I can find out about your friend.”

“He’ll be worried when he gets out and he can’t find me anywhere.”

He winced. “I’m sure they’ve told you that he can’t be told about where you are or what’s going on with you.”

“You think you can find out if he’s gotten out and if he’s safe?”

“I can try.” He picked up a piece of the puzzle and held it out to her. “Now, how ‘bout them pancakes?” he asked with a smile. It was a small step but he had a feeling she wasn’t going to just suddenly accept that he didn’t want something from her. If he could get her to open up about one thing and show her he could be trusted then there was a chance she might be willing to open up about something else.

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ArchAngel1973
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Prisoners of the Past (CC, A/U, Adult) Part 9 - 1/15/12

Postby ArchAngel1973 » Mon Jan 16, 2012 2:07 am

mary mary: Max and Ava had each other and that made a big difference.

begonia9508: Kathy is something else.

You could be right about those pregnancies. Alex and Isabel knew before very long that they wouldn’t be getting anywhere with her.

Kyle’s a great guy and he’ll be featured more in upcoming chapters. Max is interested in Liz and he knows he’ll have his hands full with her.

Alien_Friend: Yeah, she was special, wasn’t she? Kathy is one of those people who shouldn’t be parents. Alex and Isabel did at least get a little bit of information that they’ll be able to use.

No, Hunter is not Michael and Maria’s by birth. We’ll learn more about their past as the story moves forward. They’ve been through a lot and it’s made them grow up and mature.

Max will be there if Liz decides she’d like to talk.

Kyle will eventually put the pieces together but we’ll have to wait to see if and when Max gets any information about Ava.

keepsmiling7: Isabel and Alex will continue their search.

Max had a rough childhood but it’s helped to turn him into the man he is today.

As for Liz, we will be getting her back story before too long.

clueless: Hi!

Thanks and I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying the story!

Helen of Roswell: Howdy!

Lol, glad to see you again!

The holidays are pure insanity and as enjoyable as they are I’m usually glad to see the return of regular routine.

You’ll learn before too long why Ava’s visits stopped so suddenly.

Lol, yeah, you’re still at the beginning but it isn’t long before the other characters begin to introduce themselves.

Max and Ava have had a difficult time but they’ve persevered even though some of the choices they’ve made may not always seem to be the best.

Experiences mold us into the people we become and what they’ve been through growing up is largely responsible for the way they think and act.

No, you’re right, Ava is not naïve. Holding onto her dream has made her life tolerable and it’s allowed her to hold out for something more, something better.

Max has a difficult time seeing this from her perspective and part of that is because he’s more deeply involved in this world they’ve become a part of. He’s had more contact with Damon and more involvement in working with the man.

Max is doing what is necessary for him and Ava to survive. It’s so easy to sit back and judge others for making bad decisions but when your choices range from bad to worse, what to you is the lesser of two evils is something entirely different for someone in a better place in life.

I understand what you’re saying about Damon’s character. If not for Damon there’s a very good chance that things would’ve gotten worse for them. Damon is a necessary evil in their story.

That separation when Max was sentenced was difficult for both of them. We will, in time, catch sight of Ava’s time while he was inside. Like Max, Ava is a survivor. She’s a fighter, but they’re used to being there for each other and this will be a test for both of them.

Ava does have that quiet inner strength you spoke of and it will be necessary for her survival.

Thanks, I felt like that was an important detail. Most of us take so many things for granted, not realizing that something like learning to drive is a luxury for others.

Max is going to give it his best shot. He’s worked hard to get himself into a position where he’s ready to go out and make a good life for himself. Reality can be harsh, that’s true, but he’ll be getting a hand and he’ll discover a support system that he never expected along the way.

Going straight is good in theory, but putting it into action after release is a different story. People can be heartless and cruel and all they need to know is that a person served time to label them and deem them unworthy of a second chance.

There will be flashbacks… I just love flashbacks, don’t you?

Lol, I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts once you’ve caught up then.

No worries… as I was writing I caught myself writing Tess instead of Ava a few times and always have to double check before I post, lol!


Part 9

DJ pulled up into the circular driveway in front of the Parker residence and climbed out, pocketing the keys to the Porsche and bypassing the house as he headed around back. He’d had years to familiarize himself with her behavior patterns so he knew he would find Liz by the pool. He had heard the pain in her shaking voice when she had called him as she fled Maria’s house. He didn’t know the whole story yet. She had only been able to give him enough to let him know she had been told to leave so he could imagine that whatever had happened between them was bad.

In all the years he had known them that had never happened. They would get pissed off at each other and they’d argue but before long it would blow over and everything would be fine again. When she had called him he’d had a feeling this time was different. Whatever had gone down between them wasn’t going to be fixed with an apology and a hug. He opened the gate and closed it behind him as he stepped into the backyard. He heard the metallic jingle of Diablo’s tags as the dog’s head shifted sharply to look up at the sound.

“Easy, buddy, it’s just me.”

Diablo relaxed and wagged his stubby tail, his whine calling attention to his mistress. She was huddled up on the chaise lounge, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. She was shaking as she fought to keep her emotions from breaking loose. He rested his head on her thigh and his dark eyes stared at the man coming towards them.

“What’s going on, Parker?” he asked as he crouched down beside her.

She shook her head and looked away before he could get a glimpse of her face.

“Okay.” He took her hand and got to his feet, tugging her upright and settling down behind her. He pulled her back against his chest and wrapped his arms around her. He knew it was bad when she turned and curled up in a little ball, the fingers of her left hand clenching spasmodically in the material of his shirtsleeve. He knew how much she hated to show any weakness and this kind of behavior would be at the top of her list.

He rested his chin on her head and rubbed her arm, repetitively brushing his hand up and down in a soothing motion. “Maria pretty pissed?” he asked after a while.

She nodded and stared at the pool, the water moving slightly with the light breeze and distorting the underwater lights. Maria had been pissed but worse than that, she had been hurt.

“What happened?”

“She was offering advice and I said something I shouldn’t have said.”

“About Michael no doubt.” He really had nothing in common with the other man but he liked and respected Maria so he had accepted the man and made an effort to get along with him on the rare occasion they were all together. He jostled her gently. “You wanna tell me what you said to upset her?”

“It was stupid,” she muttered.

“Uh-huh, I have no doubt about that.” He patted her arm and chuckled. “You have a tendency of shooting off at the mouth without paying any attention to the feelings of the person you’re talking to.”

“It’s not funny, DJ.”

“No, it’s not, and for the record, I wasn’t laughing at the situation. Honey, you’ve lost all ability to be objective about anyone with a criminal record and you know Maria’s been a lot more patient with you than you probably deserved.”

“I can’t help the way I feel.”

“Liz, do you remember when she first started seeing Michael? You remember what you told me that night?”

She shrugged and stared at the water. She could remember that meeting without a problem but she had little recall of what she had said during her rant to DJ later that night.

They had been 15 years old at the time and when she and Maria had met up after school she hadn’t been expecting her best friend’s news. Maria had been her usual exuberant self as she had hurried down the steps and across the quad.

“Liz, Liz, I want you to meet someone!”

She had frowned at her friend when she saw the scowling guy being pulled along behind her. She been away for a week on a school trip and she had returned to a message from Maria letting her know she had a surprise.

“Liz, this’s my boyfriend Michael Guerin.” She looked up at the guy. “Michael, this’s my best friend Liz Parker.” Maria had leaned against the guy’s side, her arms wrapped around his waist as she waited for Liz to speak.

Her boyfriend? Maybe part of it was resentment or jealousy because her parents hadn’t allowed her to date yet. Although part of her dislike of him did stem from his reputation. They didn’t attend the same school but she had spent enough time hanging out with Maria around her school that she was familiar with the name if not the face. He was trouble with a capitol T. Her manners had won out and she had shaken his hand.

Maria turned her head when someone called her name. “Oh, that’s Megan, I’ll be right back. I need her notes from one of our classes this morning.”

The mask of politeness slipped once Maria was out of earshot. “Aren’t you a little old for her?” His stare had been unnerving but she had refused to let him see that it bothered her. “You’re like 17, right?”

He had simply shrugged and continued to stare at her with that intimidating gaze.

“There’re rules about this kind of thing you know.” Her tone had been superior and just short of snotty as she flicked an annoyed glance at him. “I know it’s a big word, but have you ever heard of statutory rape?”

He hadn’t even blinked, just continued to stare at her.


“I was right about him, DJ, he was trouble.”

He shrugged one shoulder. “He was when he was younger but I think it’s safe to say he’s learned his lesson. He served two years, finished out his parole, and they’re still together. The two of them have been through the fire, Parker, and they’re still going strong. Even when he went to prison she stuck by him. You know what happened and you know how rocky things got with them, with her family, and today they’re incredibly stable for people their ages. That’s gotta mean something, even for someone with your jaded opinions.”

“I never thought they’d still be together after everything he’s put her through.”

DJ snorted and then started laughing. “You need to stop, Liz. You act like Maria’s some sort of victim and Michael’s the big bad ex-con who’s forcing her to live a trapped existence. The guy doesn’t have her chained to the basement wall.”

She rolled her eyes because his answer was similar to the one Maria had given her recently.

“You’re still feeling left out because now that she and Michael have Hunter in their lives she doesn’t have as much time for you.” He waited a few minutes before he prodded her again. “So tell me what you said to her.”

“I told her if I ever needed advice on having a relationship with an ex-con I’d go to her.” She winced. That really did sound bad.

“Uh-huh, and it’d be safe to say that you said it in that tone you get when you feel like you’ve been backed into a corner? Because…” he thought a moment, “she was asking about the guy you’re chasing after?”

“You know why you’re still single? Because you’re a know-it-all.”

He snorted. “I’m single because I have a fortune to protect and I have to be very cautious about who I get into a relationship with. There are too many women out there who would like nothing more than to claim a chunk out of my inheritance.”

“You’re also conceited.”

“To some extent,” he said agreeably. “But I’ve been told that the right woman will work right through that. And just for the record I know what you’re doing. You can deflect my questions all night long but I’m not gonna drop the subject. Now you can either answer my question or you can tell me about this guy that’s gotten under your skin.”

Liz sighed. She didn’t really want to talk about either of those things but she knew DJ would never shut up about it or leave until he had at least tried to solve one of her problems. “I don’t remember what I said that night.”

“I was working on homework when you came over, remember? You had barely made it in the door before you started going off about her dating someone with criminal tendencies. You said you needed to get her alone so you could talk to her, convince her that she was only gonna get herself into trouble because the guy was dangerous.”

“Was I wrong?” she countered. “He did serve time in prison.”

“Not because of anything he ever did to her.”

“She still got hurt. And if she had just listened to me when I tried to tell her…”

“She doesn’t need you to approve of her relationship with Michael, Elizabeth,” he murmured against her hair. “What she needs is for you to simply support her and accept the choices she’s made. Oh, I have no doubt she’d like it if you’d find a way to approve but she doesn’t need that from you.” He rubbed her arm and inhaled deeply. “Do you think she approves of some of the things you do?”

“No,” she said in a small voice. Maria disapproved of plenty of things that she did.

“She might tell you when she thinks you’re wrong, she might vocally disapprove of your behavior sometimes, but she still supports you.”

“How do I make it right with Maria?”

“I think that’s gonna require you to do something you hate to do. I’d suggest starting off with an apology.” He cupped her chin and gently applied pressure to bring her gaze to his. “And then I think you should be honest with her about what happened to you that night.”

She pushed away from him and sat up, wiping her hands over her cheeks as she shook her head. “No.”

“Honey, burying it like that isn’t accomplishing anything. It’s eating you alive from the inside out and it’s affecting everything in your life but you don’t see it.” He sighed when he placed a hand on her back and she pulled away from his touch. “What happened to you isn’t anything you should be ashamed of. It wasn’t your fault.”

“I’m tired, DJ,” she said abruptly. “It’s been a long day and I’d like to get some sleep.”

He shook her head at her dismissal. “You’re too wound up to sleep. If you want me to leave just say it to my face.”

“Would it make you leave?”

He shrugged one shoulder carelessly. “No.” He was familiar with this mood and she was likely to go out and do something stupid if he left her like this.

She sighed and got up to start pacing back and forth alongside the pool. She froze when she heard a car door slam and a moment later she heard the engine revving up as it pulled back out onto the street.

DJ sat up straighter when he saw her eyes lock on the gate and noticed the tension that settled over her. He rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “Guess this must be the new boyfriend?” he asked, his voice teasing.

“He’s not…” she huffed in aggravation, knowing it would be useless to correct him.

His eyebrows lifted in interest when the gate opened and a tall figure slipped into the backyard. Beside him Diablo rolled to an upright position to watch the man’s progress and he reached down to pat the dog’s side. He knew the moment the man realized he was being watched because he turned his head and his steps slowed.

DJ got up and started walking towards him.

“DJ,” Liz hissed, “what’re you doing?!”

“Hey,” he called, wondering at the intelligence of approaching a guy fresh out of prison. He didn’t have anything against the people the Parkers helped out and personally he felt that the program was an important contribution to society.

Max tensed when he recognized Liz and he felt his anxiety notch up when he saw Diablo keeping pace with the man coming towards him. He forced his hands to stay relaxed, not wanting to do anything that might set the dog off again. The memory of the dog’s sharp teeth biting into his throat was fresh in his mind and it wasn’t anything he cared to experience again.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you,” DJ apologized and held his hand out. “DJ Callahan, I’m a friend of Parker’s.”

The guy looked like some kind of fashion model and he was here, in the Parker’s backyard at almost midnight. With Liz. He shook the man’s hand and tamped down his jealousy. “Max Evans. I was on my way inside so…”

DJ grinned when he saw the way the guy’s eyes continuously flicked between him and Liz. “You wouldn’t happen to have any coffee would you? I’ll be heading back home here pretty soon and I’d appreciate a shot of caffeine before climbing in my car.”

“Uh, yeah, okay.” He nodded at the dog. “I’d rather not have the dog inside if it’s all the same to you.”

“What if I promise he’ll be on his best behavior?” He smiled when he noticed the guy’s nervous glance and realized he and Diablo had already met through Liz. “Maybe he can join us another day. I’m sure he won’t mind waiting out on the porch.”

“Fine.”

“C’mon, Parker, have a cup of coffee with us so I can hit the road.” He turned his attention back to Max as he followed him to the guesthouse. “Are you working at the restaurant with Jeff?”

Max unlocked the front door and pushed it open, reaching inside to flip the living room light on. “Yeah.”

“Cool, so you’re off tomorrow. You know anything about the sport of kings, Max?” he asked as he reached behind him to grab Liz’s hand and pull her inside behind him.

Max made a pot of coffee while wishing he wasn’t so aware that his space had been invaded. “Kings have a sport?”

DJ studied him for a moment before deciding the guy was screwing with him. “I’m not the kind of person who needs people to act like they know less than they do to make me feel better.”

He shrugged one shoulder when the guy caught on to what he was doing. Although it wasn’t for the reason he thought he was doing it. People tended to slip up and reveal more if they thought the person they were talking to wasn’t as smart as they were. “I only know what I’ve read about horse racing but I don’t care for it.”

“Horse racing has been called the sport of kings,” DJ mused, “but it’s a bit barbaric for my tastes. I was actually referring to the great sport of polo.”

“That’s where you smack a ball around while riding a horse, right?”

Liz actually laughed at that, quickly slapping her hand over her mouth to silence the nervous sound. This day was only going from bad to worse. Now DJ was acting like he was about to make Max his new friend.

DJ cleared his throat. “Well, to an outsider I suppose that’s probably what it looks like but it’s a very intense sport and it requires agility and strength.”

“Uh-huh.” Max pulled a mug down and stared at the coffee pot, making a futile wish for it to fill faster. The day had been good with the exception of the incident between Liz and Maria and he had been looking forward to having a shower and crawling into bed. He hadn’t been expecting to have company.

“Season starts in a couple weeks. Maybe you’ll wanna come out and check it out with Parker one weekend.”

“DJ, if you could not be so helpful I’d appreciate it,” Liz growled as she sat down on the couch.

“You can ignore her, Max,” he said dismissively. “Here’s the thing. See, she’s all worked up over you.” He grinned at her indignant gasp and waved at her for silence. “Knowing how subtle she is I’m sure you’ve already figured that out. You’ve probably also figured out that she’s got a few issues but she’s worth working through them to get to the real Liz Parker.” He shook his head. “Trust me on this; you don’t know the real woman yet.”

Max filled the mug and held it out to his unexpected guest, frowning when DJ accepted it with a grin and turned to hand it to Liz.

“Well, I’d better head out.” He leaned over to kiss the top of her head. “You can thank me later, honey,” he murmured quietly. “Max, it was good to meet you.” He shook the guy’s hand again and bit back a laugh at the stunned look on his face. “I was serious about you coming out and checking out a match if you get a chance.”

God, he was insufferable! Liz was ready to commit serious bodily harm against her meddling friend. She sat there, fuming, as the door clicked shut behind him. The silence in the house was deafening and she finally leaned forward to place the mug on a coaster on the coffee table. She stood and brushed her hands over her jeans as she forced herself to meet Max’s gaze.

He waited, certain she wanted to ask about Maria and disappointed when she moved to the door without saying a word. He crossed the room and his palm landed against it, slamming it shut the moment she opened it. “How can you call yourself her friend?” he rasped quietly.

She stared at the door. “You don’t know anything about my relationship with Maria.”

“I know you don’t treat a friend like you treated her.”

“You have no idea what happened between us.” Her eyes narrowed as she looked at him. “Did Michael spend the whole day telling you what a terrible person I am?”

“No.” He watched at her. “Tell me what happened today.” He could see her pulse begin to pound, could see her breathing become more rapid as she stared at the door he was holding closed. She reminded him of a trapped animal. “Liz, look at me.”

“Let me out,” she insisted.

He could hear the panic edging into her voice as her fingers clenched reflexively on the doorknob. “Liz.” He was careful not to touch her as he shifted imperceptibly closer. “I’m not gonna hurt you. Look at me.” He crouched down in front of her, putting himself in a vulnerable position, but prepared if she went on the attack. “You’ve been naked in my bed and that didn’t scare you but this… me blocking your way out terrifies you.”

Her gaze was skittish as she stared at him. “I’m not afraid of you,” she insisted, hating it when her voice trembled.

“No, but considering the fact that you don’t know me you should be a hell of a lot more worried about messing around with me. Even though you know I’m not a sexual predator you know nothing about me. You don’t just get naked and climb into the bed of a guy you know nothing about. That’s not normal behavior.”

“You wanna talk about abnormal behavior? What kind of guy gets out of prison and turns down a naked woman in his bed? I was ready to have sex with you and you just turned around and walked out of the room to shower and read a book?”

She had no idea what it had taken for him to walk away that night. “Did you ever stop to think that I could be infected with any of a dozen different sexually transmitted diseases? Not to mention I could be really smart and capable of hiding sexually deviant behavior? Neither of those things is applicable in my situation but my point is you don’t know me.” He met her gaze and shook his head. “And yeah, I may be fresh off the prison bus and getting laid is pretty high on my list of things to do, but I didn’t work so hard to get a second chance at life just so I could throw it away. And if your behavior was normal then for all I knew you’d done the same thing with any number of guys and I’m not looking to catch anything either. I didn’t make it outta prison with a clean bill of health to catch an STD or worse my first week out.” He took in a deep breath. “Your parents took a risk on me, they gave me a job and a place to stay, and you’re their daughter.”

“I’m a grown woman.”

“A grown woman who’s tried to drown me, threatened me with an attack dog, talked to me like I’m not good enough to breathe the same air, got naked in my bed, and then tried to bust my balls.”

“I sound like some kinda psychotic bitch.”

“Yeah,” he said with a quiet chuckle. “But there’s usually a reason for that kinda behavior.” He rested his forearm on his left knee as he looked up at her. Her pulse had slowed and her breathing had evened out as they talked.

Liz leaned back against the door and looked at his hands, wondering where the scars had come from. Without realizing it she had started to calm down and she didn’t even know when he had taken his hand off of the door. “Is Maria okay?” she asked after several minutes of silence.

“She was hurt and upset,” he answered honestly. “But I think if you go see her, talk to her and explain whatever happened, I have a feeling she’ll listen.” He chewed on his bottom lip for a moment. “And if you’d ease up on Michael and Hunter that’d go a long way to helpin’ things. Even if you don’t approve or whatever, you should at the very least respect that they’re together and they’ve chosen to raise that little boy as their own.”

“He’s not theirs though. And she’s only 24! She should be out having fun and going to clubs, not having to raise someone else’s kid.”

“Liz, have you ever just sat down with her and really listened to her talk about Michael and Hunter? What they’ve done, taking that little boy in and giving him a home and parents that obviously love and care about him… you don’t know how important that is. You can’t imagine what his life could’ve been without them being there and being willing to take on that much responsibility.”

“That’s why foster care exists.”

He sighed. “Spoken like someone who’s never been in the system,” he muttered. “The foster system was created with good intentions and there are a lot of kids who get somethin’ good out of it. But there are also a lot of kids who go into the system and end up in situations that no child should ever suffer through. They end up with people who are physically, emotionally, or sexually abusive, they run away and end up on the streets, they end up addicted to drugs or alcohol, and the percentage of foster kids who end up in prison is insane!”

“If they end up in prison it’s because they’ve committed some sort of criminal act.” She was positive that she was right. “Well, you know, you were in prison.”

He chewed on his thumbnail as he bit back the automatic response. “You’re one of those,” he said with a nod. It wasn’t a surprise, he was already aware of her opinion on the subject.

“One of those?” she repeated.

“You assume that all criminals are created equal.”

“Well, they made the choice that landed them in prison, so basically, yes.” She leaned back against the door. “Obviously you won’t share that opinion because you’re one of them.” She frowned at his sharp bark of laughter.

“Yeah, Liz, I made my decisions and I’ve paid the price for my mistakes. But sometimes the choices aren’t as easy as you seem to think they are. Sometimes you escape from a bad situation and you get to a place where your choice is to go back to it or to move forward into something that doesn’t seem so bad at the time. You know it’s not the right thing but you also know it’s the difference between surviving or not. I don’t expect you to understand it because you’ve never had to make those choices. But what would you do if you had to choose between selling your body or running drugs? Stealing food or going hungry? Breaking into an empty apartment or sleeping on the streets in the dead of winter?”

“There are programs, shelters. No one has to live on the streets if they don’t want to.”

“What if you had been in a foster home and you found out one of the parents was sexually abusing one of the other kids?”

“I’d report it,” she answered confidently.

He nodded. “Yeah, and then you’d be bounced to the next home, probably one in a long line because most foster kids bounce around a lot. You could luck out, the next one could be one of the good homes, or you could end up in another nightmare. What do you do after you’ve been in four or five and you’ve experienced or witnessed all kinds of abuse, and they bounce you to the next one? Do you risk staying and possibly being hurt again or do you run? Take it to your social worker and you’re gonna end up in another situation.”

“Well, you just…” she threw her hands up. “There have to be more options than that.”

“Say there aren’t. You’re 12 or 13 years old and all you know is that the system has failed you again and no one wants you. What do you do?”

“I don’t know! That’s ridiculous. What kind of choice is that for a child?”

“It’s not,” he said quietly. “But it’s somethin’ Hunter will never have to face because Maria and Michael put his needs first. He’ll grow up knowin’ he belongs somewhere, that he belongs to a family, and that they love him. Sure, he’ll make mistakes along the way and he’ll get himself in trouble from time to time, but he’s got parents that’ll love him and give him guidance, and that makes a world of difference.”

Liz lifted her head when the clock over the television chimed the hour and she realized it was one o’clock in the morning. “I should go.”

He nodded and motioned to the door as he stood up. “I thought I’d take a walk in Central Park tomorrow.” He opened the door and leaned against it. “If you’re not busy I wouldn’t mind the company.”

“Are you asking me out on a date?”

He shrugged. “I guess.” He had never been out on a date.

“It’s customary to suggest a time.”

“You sleep in on Sundays?”

“I don’t have to.”

He chuckled. “How’s noon sound?”

“I’ll see you then,” she said and backed out onto the porch, nearly tripping over Diablo. She didn’t know why but some of the things he had said made sense and she had to think about that. “Goodnight, Max.”

His lips lifted up in a smile. “G’night, Liz.”


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