A jealous Ben removes Ryan from Cameron's attentions and takes him out to breakfast. Alone at last! What will they do with this opportunity? Find out in this week's chapter of In Pieces. Don't forget to visit the other Briefers and see what's up with them! Their links follow my tale! Enjoy!
In Pieces #27 (7.7)
Breakfast was every bit as delicious as Ben had promised it would be. The Cajun Hollandaise sauce was creamy and spicy, and had just the right amount of heat without being overbearing. Ryan thought he could get used to eating like this all the time. He loved Missouri, but there was something relaxing about Louisiana, and at the same time invigorating. Some people might consider Missouri to be a Southern state, but this was the true Deep South.
Of course, a lot of his feeling of contentment had to do with Ben’s presence. There was no denying that. Just being back with Ben after all those years felt like coming home, as though a great weight had been lifted from his mind… and heart.
After they ate, Ben tried to take Ryan to a high end men’s clothing store, but Ryan balked at that idea. He put his foot down adamantly, despite Ben’s protestations that he could afford it. They ended up compromising by going to a boutique on Girod Street, which resembled a home more than a business. The staff was wonderfully friendly, and Ryan allowed Ben to buy him a suit and some casual clothes, but he insisted Ben get something for himself, which he did. Ryan hadn’t realized before how much fun shopping could be.
As they threw their bags into the back of Cameron’s car, Ben announced, “There’s this beautiful spot I want to show you. It’s on the lake, but it’s on this side, so no worries about the bridge. You’ll just love it, I know.”
“If you love it, I know I will too,” Ryan said, feeling unexpectedly giddy. How could he even begin to doubt that Ben cared about him? “Let’s go.”
They headed toward the lake, stopping just long enough to stop by the Café du Monde to get two cups of chicory coffee and fresh beignets. Fontainebleau State Park was close to the long bridge across the lake, but not too close for comfort. Ben paid the small admission fee at the gate as they drove in. They parked near the Visitor Center, but didn’t go inside.
“When we come back to the car,” Ben promised. “They have some cool exhibits. Let’s drink our coffee while it’s hot.”
They followed a long tree-lined sidewalk until they arrived at the beach. Ryan noticed it wasn’t too crowded, especially for August. A few families cavorted on the white sand, the children running in and out of the water, screaming joyfully. A few couples were stretched out on large colorful beach towels, hip to hip, soaking up rays. Too bad they hadn’t brought anything like that. But then they were here on an impulse, nothing planned.
Ben must have been a mind reader. “We’ll have to make a day of it sometime,” he said. “What do you think? Bring towels, an umbrella, sun tan lotion. Something to eat, something drink… the whole nine yards.”
“I think that sounds wonderful, Ben. This place is beautiful, absolutely beautiful.”
“Glad you like it.” Ben smiled almost shyly.
Holding hands was out of the question, not with what they carried, so Ryan had to content himself with following Ben a little ways down the beach, to a more isolated spot. They made themselves comfortable on the warm sand and gazed out at the lake.
Nearby a long pier jutted out across the water. “Do people fish from there?” Ryan asked.
Ben shaded his eyes and squinted toward the pier. “Not there, I don’t think,” he said. “I think they have areas set aside just for fishing. Crabbing too.”
“Crabs. I forgot Louisiana has crabs.” He polished off the delicious beignet and licked power sugar from his fingers. “The closest I usually get to crab in St. Louis is when I order Crab Rangoon from a Chinese restaurant. Or when Cassie took me to the casino once. They had all-you-can-eat crab legs on the buffet.” He took another, longer sip of the chicory. He thought it would be more bitter, but it wasn’t. He liked it. Glancing toward Ben, he noticed a frown marring his forehead.
“My stepmother. Dad’s third wife.”
“Oh.” Ben visibly relaxed with a visible sigh. “Did she make him happy?”
“Yeah, she did. They were really good together. She’s a good person. I think you’d like her.” He deliberately didn’t mention her age. Ben seemed upset enough about her without adding fuel to the fire.
“I’m glad. D-dad was a good man,” Ben said softly. “He deserved to find some happiness after…” He left the sentence dangling, but Ryan knew what he meant. He also heard the slight hesitation over the word dad, as if he was unsure whether he was allowed to call him that after all that time. And considering the divorce.
“Yeah, I know what you mean. That reminds me, I owe her a postcard. I promised I’d keep in touch. She’ll be thrilled when I tell her about you.” Damn, he hadn’t meant to blurt that out, but somehow he had anyway. He found it hard to dissemble around Ben.
But when Ben smiled at him like that, a warmth formed in the pit of his stomach, and suddenly his faux pas didn’t seem quite so bad any more.
“She knows about me?” He didn’t say about us, but he might just as well have.
“Yeah. She’s been listening to me whine about you for years.” Ryan laughed, a little awkwardly. He hadn’t even had to explain to her how he felt about Ben. Cassie was intuitive, and very caring. “She helped me through some… rough patches. I didn’t think I could talk to Dad. Well, because… I mean, you know.” Damn, had he put his foot in his mouth? Should he at least ask about Eliza, or would that be hypocritical on his part?
“Don’t ask… please…” and stilled any possible questions with a kiss.
to be continued
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