Falling Helplessly

Falling helplessly episode 28

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🔥 FALLING
HELPLESSLY 👠

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( For his brother’s friend …. 😇 )
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Written by:- Williams Kendall____✍🏽
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🏈 CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

“I take it back, I don’t want to do this anymore,” I whined as I stared down the hill. From the bottom, it had seemed like a nice easy slope, nothing too crazy. But now that I was up here, my mom and Mrs. Johnson looked like little ants at the base.

“Baby,” Archer cooed in my ear, “you were the one who chose this! It’s going to be fun I promise.”

“She’s nineteen now Arch!” Oliver called from next to us. “If she’s not going to be a big girl on her own then I’ll just push her.” His evil grin told me he wasn’t joking. I gripped onto Archer’s forearm t¡ghtly at the thought of whipping down the hill unprepared.

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Archer laughed and rubb£d my back. I could barely feel it through my thick winter jacket but I still relaxed. “Screw off, man. You’re freaking her out.”

“And you aren’t allowed to be mean on my birthday,” I pouted. Ugh, I do sound like a freakin’ baby. With that thought, I straightened my spine and internally shook myself. I could do this. Planting my feet on either side of the rectangular sled, I dropped my bum into the groove.

“Okay, hop in. Let’s do this,” I said determinedly to Archer. He smirked as he sat behind me and shuffled forward to grab me around the wa-ist.

“Whoever loses has to carry both sleds back up the hill!” Oliver shouted.

I tucked my feet into the sled and held my breath as Archer used his hands and feet to crab-walk us to the edge. the sharp edge of the plastic sled dug into my f-ngers as I gripped it for dear life. I settled back against Archer’s chest as he locked his arms around me and kicked off with his feet.

A scre-m burst from my throat as the ice-cold air whipped my face. The trees and mountains that surrounded us blurred into abstract colours as we sh-ot down the hill like a bullet. Archer’s chest rumbled against my back and I knew he was laughing. I couldn’t hear him though over the whoosh of air in my ears and my own scre-ms.

As we got closer to the bottom everything became easier to see. I whacked Archer’s arm repeatedly in a panic as I realized we were heading straight for our families and behind them a thin fence made of orange chicken wire. Images of us taking out my dad at the knees then getting tangled in the fence elicited another scre-m.

Archer dropped his heels into the snow creating a wake of ice chips around us as he easily slowed us down. We came to an abrupt halt in from of our moms who were both laughing hysterically. I looked over to see Oliver stopped already a little farther ahead than us.

“Good lord Lotty,” My dad chuckled. “You sure have a set of lungs on you.”

Oliver stood from his sled triumphantly, “I won! c-ck it, Arch, you’re carrying my sled.”

Archer sighed as he popped up easily and offered me his hand. “We would have won if she hadn’t made me pump the breaks early.”

I laughed sheepishly at everyone. Now that we were safely at the bottom I was slightly embarrassed by how scared I had been. I had chos£n sledding as our activity today since it was my birthday but I hadn’t thought it would be like this. The brochures showed a bunch of laughing kids having fun. I should never have let Ollie and Archer pick which hill we came to because they obviously chose the craziest one.

“Okay,” I laughed. “I might have been a tiny bit overdramatic.”

We decided to go up again but this time Archer convinced Annie to go with him. She insisted that he carry her so he trekked up the hill with her on his back and a sled in each arm. I wanted to help him but Oliver dragged me ahead and told me to stop being soft on the enemy.

“Hey, sis?” Oliver pulled me aside for a moment at the top of the hill. “What do you think about me doing it tonight?”

“Tonight?” I gasped. “Are you sure you’re ready?” Oliver, Archer, and I had several conversations in the last couple of days about whether Ollie should come out. I was determined to convince him that he’d be so much happier with everything out in the open. Oliver had slowly come around to the idea but I didn’t think he’d decide this quickly.

“Well, everyone I’d want to tell is here, so it makes s£nse. But I don’t want to make your birthday dinner about me.”

I swatted his arm and shook my head. A large bright smile stretched across my face, making my cold cheeks hurt. “Are you kidding? This is the best gift ever!”

“Alright come on you two! Johnsons versus the Averys!” Archer called over. He was already on the sled with Annie tucked between his knees.

After a few hours of going up and down the hill my th-ighs were burning and my throat was raw from the cold air. We all caught a shuttle back to the villa to clean up and relax before dinner. I almost fell asleep nestled between Oliver and Archer as the van winded through the mountain roads.

The second we were inside I beelined it directly for my room. I was chilled down to my bones and I needed a bath desperately. Once I had closed the lock on my b£droom door I stripped off my layers and threw them into the laundry basket. I was just about to turn the taps on in the tub when someone knocked on my door.

I w-rapped a towel around myself quickly and peeked out. Archer leaned against my doorway with his arms folded casually across his chest as he smirked down at me.

“What are you doing here?” I asked suspiciously.

Archer stuck his t0ngue into the hollow of his cheek as he looked up and down the empty hallway. Then he pushed open the door and snuck inside. I was pulled against his chest instantly as he shut the door with his hip.

“Is Annie here?” He looked around the empty room and reached back to click the lock.

“No, she’s stayed with your mom every night since we got here.” I nuzzled against his warm chest. Heat radiated off of him through his thin tee shirt. I smiled as I breathed in his natural musk mixed with the cologne he must have sprayed this morning.

Archer reached under my towel and grabb£d my bare th-ighs, picking me up. When our faces met he gave me a devilish smirk. “Perfect.”

“I-I was about to take a bath,” I stuttered as heat flooded my stomach. Archer pressed a firm k-ss to my l-ips while he walked towards the bathroom. My f-ngers instantly went to the back of his head and twisted into his curls. He let out a growl of appreciation as I gave him a small m-ssage.

He gently placed me on the edge of the counter and brushed his hands lightly down my arms. He bent his neck to drop k-sses along my throat, making me crane upwards as a soft sigh sl-ipped from my l-ips.

“Everyone went to their own rooms to rest until dinner,” he mumbled between k-sses. His warm breath tingled my skin that the k-sses had left damp. I whimpered as he straightened his spine and pulled away. “I thought you wanted to take a bath?” He asked over his shoulder as he turned on the taps.

The heat that was building within me burned away the chill on my skin. My chest flushed as Archer pulled his shirt over his head in one smooth movement. I didn’t think I would ever get tired of staring at his h-rd muscles rippling under his tanned skin.

I reluctantly lifted my gaze as he stalked towards me and leaned against the counter. He held himself up by his fists on either side of my th-ighs as he dropped his face to mine. I was lost in his warm k-sses as our t0ngues tangled together. His calloused hands roamed around my body lazily until they found the edge of the towel.

Archer slowly pulled back the fabric, exposing my wh0le body to him. My breath caught in my throat as his dark eyes car-ssed my pink skin. His gaze left a trail of goosebumps as my skin prickled at his appreciation.

He smothered my body with w€t k-sses. From my collarbone to the curve of my bre-sts he c-cked and nipped at the skin. It was a fine line between pleasure and pain as he tormented my s£nsitive flesh, but his warm l-ips always tipped the scale to pleasure.

A mo-n sl-ipped from my throat as he c-cked a h-rd n-pple into his mouth. My head dropped back as I arched my chest towards him.

“You have to stay quiet baby,” Archer chuckled softly against my bre-sts. He looked up at me and c-cked an eyebrow as a glint brightened his dark eyes. “If you make any noises, I have to stop.” He spoke slowly and deliberately as his gravelly voice washed over me. I’d come to love how he sounded when he was turned on. It was deep and low yet playful.

He walked to the tub and shut off the tap before the water could overflow. Then he slowly dropped to his knees in front of me. My eyes fluttered closed while he leaned forward and continued his string of k-sses from my bre-sts down my stomach. My body weakened from the anticipation of euphoria that I knew was coming.

Archer reached around my back and pulled my bum to the edge of the counter, exposing my core to him as he lowered himself down. He k-ssed my knee then trailed tiny butterfly k-sses up my th-igh. I wiggled when he almost reached the s£nsitive area I craved for him to k-ss, but then he shifted to the other knee and repeated his torture.

I tugged his hair in an attempt to steer him towards what I needed. The throbbing between my legs was unbearable and he was my only solace. I whimpered when I could feel his warm breath wash over my core. He blew lightly as he used his f-ngers to expose me further to him.

“Baby,” he chastised me sternly. “You have to stay quiet, remember?”

I rapidly nodded my head in agreement and relaxed as he finally placed his mouth on me. My blood pounded in my ears as he slowly ran circles around my cl!t with his t0ngue. I clamped my mouth shut t¡ghtly as my eyes closed in ecstasy. Archer held my hips still when my body naturally wanted to move in tandem with the waves of pleasure crashing through me.

The invisible coil in my abdomen began to t¡ghten as my orgasm built up. I had to hold my weight on one arm so could use the other hand to smother the mo-ns that wanted to escape my mouth. I tried to remain in control but it was impossible as my body lifted higher and higher towards the peak of euphoria.

My hips pushed forward against Archer’s face as my orgasm hit me. He gro-ned against my core as he held me t¡ghtly to him. The vibrations of his mouth me s£nt me into a frenzy as I mo-ned against my hand in utter ecstasy.

Archer rubb£d my th-ighs as I slowly came back down to earth. I looked down at him through my lashes and smiled coyly at the animalistic hunger in his face. He stood up quickly and stripped off his sweatp-nts. My eyes were glued to his groin as his h-rd er-ction popped free. He pulled my hand to get me to jump down and gently pushed me forward to the tub. Just as I was about to step into the steamy water his oversized hand swept down and slapped my bum. I jumped as a sting spread across my skin and turned around to glare at him.

“That’s for making a noise,” he smirked as he moved me forward into the tub. The h-ot water licked my calves as I allowed Archer to sink down first. He opened his arms once he was settled and I happily laid on his chest. His manhood was pressed between us and I couldn’t help but rub my stomach upwards against it.

Archer stretched his arm out of the tub and grabb£d his p-nts. Tugging them over he fished around in the pocket then pulled out a c-ndom. I sat back on my knees as he flexed himself out of the water and sl-ipped on the protection. He smiled then held my wa-ist and helped me position myself over him. I squ-eesed his hips with my th-ighs as I balanced my weight on his shoulders.

His eyes closed briefly as his er-ction pressed against my entrance. I slowly lowered my weight, gro-ning as I felt my walls being spread and stretched. An intense pressure filled my pelvis as I took Archer’s full length. It didn’t hurt anymore to have s-x but it did take a bit for my muscles to adjust to his size.

Archer relaxed his hips back down into the water and gently ran his hands down to the globes of my bum. I was unsure and a little awkward in this new position. Archer usually had full control of our movements but now I felt apprehensive of the power I held. s£nsing my insecurities, he used his grip on my bottom to move my hips forward.

He gro-ned and dropped his head against the tub as I slowly found a rhythm rocking back and forth. My nails dug into his shoulders as he thr-ust against me, pushing our groins h-rder together. I gasped every time I rocked my hips forward. His er-ction pressed against the s£nsitive area within me and drove me further into madness.

My eyes popped open when I felt his hand cover my mouth. I relaxed when he made sure that my nose was free between his thumb and pointer f-nger. I raised an eyebrow at him and he chuckled.

“You’re just so damn noisy baby.” He lifted his chest to bring our faces together, quieting me instead with his mouth. I clung to the back of his neck while the water sloshed back and forth. Archer began to move my hips faster as his f-ngers dug into my sides. I whimpered against his l-ips as every inch of my skin burned with heat.

“f-ck,” Archer mumbled as his eyes shut t¡ghtly. His forehead was deeply creased while he c-cked on my bottom l-ip. I tilted my head back as my walls began to t¡ghten around Archer’s manhood. My l-ip popped free from his hold as I mo-ned his name. That seemed to spur him on as he took full control of our movements, thr-usting himself up into me, hitting that mind-bending pleasure point over and over again.

Water spilled over the tub and onto the tile as I pressed my face into his neck. I c-cked against his skin, needing to mute the uncontrollable sounds flying from my mouth.

Once against I was s£nt crashing over the edge of ecstasy as my wh0le body sung with the pleasure of my orgasm. My hips convulsed against Archer as he held me t¡ghtly around the wa-ist and allowed himself to follow behind me.

I slumped against his chest, tired but thoroughly satisfied from our activities. I shuddered as his f-ngers traced my spine gently pulling the warm water up over my exposed back.

“I love you,” he whispered as he k-ssed my hair.

I lifted my face to smile down at him. “I love you too.”

After Archer disposed of the c-ndom we took turns washing each other gently. I loved this time together. We spoke in hushed tones as we asked each other random questions, trying to find new things we didn’t already know.

“Where do you want to be in five years?” He asked as he m-ssaged the shampoo into my hair.

“Hmmm,” I thought out loud, “well, hopefully, I’ll be done my degree and maybe teaching in my own classroom.”

“I can’t believe you are actively choosing to spend all day with kids.” My back was turned to Archer but I laughed at the genuine confusion in his voice.

“I love kids…” I smiled.

“I’ll love my own kids,” Archer said matter-of-factly. “But not other people’s.”

“Well, I’d love to be with my own kids all of the time but—” I stopped short of finishing my s£ntence as I realized the direction I was going.

“Mmmm?” He prompted as he tugged a strand of my hair.

“It doesn’t sound good,” I said bashfully. “I always loved having my mom at home with us growing up. I want my own career but a part of me really wants to be at home with my kids. Especially when they’re young. But I feel like I say that and all people hear is, ‘this girl has no ambition’.”

Archer was silent for a moment and I worried that I had turned him off. This was a lot of ‘future’ talk. I never said I’d stay home with our kids, but I couldn’t help picturing a bunch of boys running around with his soft waves and brown eyes. Maybe a little baby girl on my hip with dark curls pulled back in a bow.

“Besides,” he chuckled, “if I make it to the NFL you can stay home as long as you like.”

I released what I hoped was an airy laugh as my heart skipped a beat. I loved Archer and I knew he loved me. But it was an entirely different level of happiness to know that he thought about us in the long term. I spun around to my knees and gave him a quick k-ss before I leaned back to rinse my hair. Archer reached out and gently ran his f-ngers through my curls in the water, helping to shake off the shampoo.

A few minutes later I dropped towels all over the floor to sop up the water we had splashed. I laughed and shook my head as Archer mumbled under his breath and pulled his shirt on. He was grumpy because he hadn’t thought to bring clean clothes.

“It’s not funny I am going to have to shower again now,” he whined like a big baby.

“You’ll survive,” I giggled as I pushed him towards the door. I eyed his bum as it swayed under his grey sweats and decided to get even from earlier. I pulled my hand back and sprung it forward, landing a loud spank right on his cheek.

I instantly realized I had made a mistake. Archer straightened his spine and turned very slowly on his heels. Smiling down at me like a predator teasing his prey.

“Oh Sweetheart,” he grinned. “Game on.”

“No, no, no!” I stumbled back and held my hands out to stop him from stalking towards me. “That was payback Archer now it’s done!”

“Uh uh.” He wagged his f-nger at me. “I’ve been holding back on you, baby.”

“Good. Keep doing that.” I said quickly.

Archer laughed as he caught me and w-rapped his arms t¡ghtly around me. He k-ssed my hair as his hand went to my bottom. He gave it a small pat and laughed h-rder when I froze, expecting something harsher.

“See you at dinner, birthday girl,” he chuckled before he turned and left me alone.

A whistle caught my attention just as I reached the top of the staircase. I looked down the hallway that led to the other wing of b£drooms and raised my eyebrow at Archer as he strode towards me.

I let my hair dry naturally as I took my time doing my makeup. I needed to put some time between mine and Archer’s bath and seeing my family. Finally, when the smell of dinner wafted up to me, I knew I had to get dressed and go downstairs.

“I am not a dog that listens to a whistle,” I sassed as I put my fists on my hips.

“Huh funny, cause it looks like you stopped.” Archer swooped down to k-ss my cheek as my jaw dropped open. What a freaking butthead. Before I could whack him he pulled something out of his pocket and stepped behind me. He brushed my hair off my shoulder and placed a delicate chain around my neck.

I smiled down at the intricate silver loops that were intertwined together as I touched my f-ngers to the cold metal of a small oval pendant. When I turned around Archer was looking down at me nervously.

“I really wanted to give you something special, but uh—” he cleared his throat awkwardly. “Money’s a little t¡ght right now. My scholarship only covers so much.”

I w-rapped my arms around his stomach and pushed my face into his chest. “Archer you don’t ever have to spend money on me.”

“Well, I didn’t,” he laughed. “This is mine. Was mine, it’s yours now. My grandma gave this to me before my first football game. See,” he said as he tapped the pendant, “it’s Saint Christopher. She wanted it to protect me while I was on the field.”

“Are you sure you want me to have it?” I whispered with watery eyes.

Archer laughed and k-ssed my nose. “Yeah, I had to stop wearing it after I hit ₱vberty. But lucky you—you have the neck of a 12-year-old boy.”

I whacked his arm but I couldn’t help laughing as I swiped away a loose tear. “I love it.” I tugged on his shirt so he’d lean down then I gave him a quick k-ss.

We entered the kitchen hand-in-hand as our families all called out cheers of ‘Happy Birthday’. I thanked them as I eyed the mouth-watering food that was all out on the counter. My dad p-oured everyone a glass of champagne as Oliver flanked my other side and pulled me away from Archer for a hug.

As we pulled away, I raised my eyebrows at him in silent question. He responded by giving me a tiny smile and nod. Excitement burst through me making me wiggle in his arms.

“Okay,” my dad cleared his throat once everyone had a glass. “Time for a toast!”

Oliver gave me one last look, to which I smiled proudly, then he stepped forward. “Actually, Dad…can I do it this year?”

“Okay,” Oliver stepped forward and nervously cleared his throat. “Lotty, you have always been an inspiration to me. You are kind, loving, and generous.” He turned towards me and raised his glass. “Cheers to you baby sis! You are by far the best of us all. Happy birthday!”

I raised my glass as everyone sang Happy Birthday to me. The bronze lights of the kitchen glowed over their faces, as they laughed at their own off-key rendition of the song. Happiness blossomed in my heart when I looked around at my loved ones. I was missing a few, but this was by far the best birthday I’d ever had.

As the song wobbled to a close I stepped up next to Oliver and w-rapped my arm around his wa-ist, offering my silent support. His clammy hand rested on my shoulder as his f-ngers dug into my skin. I leaned in and dropped a quick k-ss on his shoulder, hopefully letting him know that I was here for him—always.

“I have one more thing to say.” Oliver c-cked in a large breath as he collected himself. “Mom, Dad… I know you guys have been worried about me for a while. I have really struggled to find my place in this world, and I think I’ve found the root of my problems.”

Oliver smiled down at me and squ-eesed my shoulder. “Actually, Lotty helped me figure it out. I have been struggling for a really long time…” Oliver dropped his head down for a moment, and when he lifted it there were tears in his eyes. I blinked back my own tears as I rubb£d his back. A pres£nce behind us caught my attention, and I smiled briefly at Archer who had his hand on Ollie’s shoulder.

The second he said it I turned to my parents. There was a moment of silence then my mom burst into tears. She rushed forward and almost knocked me over as she threw herself at Ollie.

“Oh baby,” she wept on his chest. “I am so sorry you felt like you couldn’t tell us! I love you so much.”

I laughed through happy tears at Oliver’s bemused face. He let me go so he could properly hug Mom. I grabb£d my heart when I could see his shoulder’s shaking. She reached up to pat his head as she whispered in his ear.

When she pulled back, they both had h-uge grins. Mrs. Johnson bustled forward and grabb£d both of Oliver’s cheeks, pulling his face down so she could drop a big k-ss on his cheek. “You know I love you like a second son, that will never change,” she said as she held his face close, making sure he looked her in the eye.

I wiped away tears as I looked around the kitchen, but my brows furrowed when I saw my dad hanging back. He leaned up against the counter, watching us with his arms folded. My mom and Oliver seemed to notice his abs£nce at the same time as they both looked around.

“Tim,” my mom said pointedly, “isn’t there something you want to say to your son?”

Dad cleared his throat and rubb£d his palm over his forehead. “You know I love you Ollie, and I’m not prejudiced. I don’t judge how anyone chooses to live their lives. But are you sure? I mean… this is a big decision. I don’t want your life to get… h-rder.”

It was silent for a moment as everyone processed my dad’s response. I whipped my head towards Oliver and my heart broke as disappointment sank into his features. For a wh0le two seconds, he had been happy and relieved. Then our dad had ruined it. I waited for a moment to see what was going to happen but a shadow passed over Oliver’s face and I could tell he was retreating back into his shell.

“How dare you,” I turned towards my dad and straightened my shoulders. I stepped in front of Oliver as though I could physically protect him from my dad’s idiocy.

“Lotty…” Dad held his hand out. “I am just checking I’m not trying to hurt anyone.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter because you are,” I snapped. “First of all, this isn’t a choice. This is who Ollie is. He can’t change it or decide differently and even if he could I wouldn’t want him to. Because I love him no matter what. Isn’t that what you preached to us our wh0le lives? Family above all else? No matter what we support and love each other? Does that not apply to you anymore, Dad?”

My dad’s eyes went wide as I glared at him. I knew my behaviour was probably a shock to everyone in the room, but I didn’t care. Right now, he was not my father, he was the person hurting my brother and I wouldn’t stand for it.

“You can say you aren’t prejudiced all you want,” I continued, “but you obviously need to reevaluate that. What? It’s okay for other people to love whoever they want but it’s not okay for your own son? That is bullshit, Dad.”

The room was once again silent. My dad stood in shock as he opened and closed his mouth without any sound coming out. I spun back around to the rest of my family and saw my mom and Mrs. Johnson both glaring at my dad. My gaze connected with Archer’s and he raised an eyebrow at me with a small proud smile.

Oliver finally moved forward and pulled me into a t¡ght hug. “Thanks for trying,” he whispered in my ear. I tried to prolong the hug so I could make him feel loved but he pulled away. Without looking at anyone else he pushed by and walked out the back door.

“I’m sorry…” My dad croaked from behind us.

I whipped around and glared at him. He was slumped over defeatedly as he rubb£d his face. “Make this better, or I will never forgive you,” I growled.

My mom stepped up next to me and placed her hand on my shoulder. “Agreed. Tim, I expected better from you.”

My dad looked at each of us with w€t eyes. A small knot in my stomach felt some form of pity for him. He was human and he didn’t react well. The softer part of me wanted to help him because I knew he loved us, and he loved Ollie. But he would get there eventually on his own. It was up to Oliver to forgive him, not me. Dad gulped back a sob and nodded before following Oliver outside.

“Are you two okay?” Mrs. Johnson came up to Mom and me and pulled us into a hug. The three of us held each other as we let out frustrated tears. “Come on baby,” she added as she beckoned Archer over with her arm.

“Oh uh, thanks Ma. I’m okay.” Archer said awkwardly as he hung back.

“Archer Johnson,” she sighed, “we have all had an emotional night and you need a hug too. C’mon.”

My mom and I let out teary giggles as Archer mumbled under his breath and walked over to us. His long arms could almost encompass all three of us as we included him in the group hug.

“It’s all gonna work out okay,” Mrs. Johnson assured us as we pulled away. “Those two men are gonna talk it out just fine, you’ll see.”

My mom nodded and patted her cheeks as she looked around the kitchen for something to busy herself with. Both women weaved around each other as they set out plates and stirred dishes. I wished I could take my mind off everything by keeping busy, but all I could think about was the two men outside.

Archer came up bent his neck to k-ss the top of my head. “Are you okay?” he whispered as he rubb£d my shoulders.

“Mhmm,” I smiled up at him. I knew it didn’t reach my eyes when he sighed and tugged me towards the living room. He dropped onto a couch and pulled me down next to him. I sank into his warmth as he w-rapped an arm around my shoulders. He stared out the window for a minute as though he could see Oliver and my dad in the pitch black, then turned back.

“It really is going to be fine. Your dad just needs time to adjust.”

“I know,” I sighed, “I just wanted everything to go perfectly for Ollie.”

“Everything won’t ever be perfect though. Your dad was right in a way, things might be h-rder for Ollie sometimes. But it will never be as h-rd as it was when he had to hide all of the time.” Archer rubb£d my shoulder abs£ntmindedly as he spoke.

I smiled up at him. “When did you get so smart?”

Archer playfully glared down at me then a smirk grew on his l-ips. “When did you start swearing?”

“Clearly I’ve been hanging around you for too long,” I laughed. I relaxed back against his arm, relishing in the release of some of my anxiety.

He angled himself down towards me so he could grab my hip with his other arm. A blush warmed my neck as I wasn’t prepared for the heat in his eyes. “Well it was pretty f-cking s-xy,” he said lowly.

“Good lord… Keep it in your freaking p-nts, Johnson.” I whacked him in the arm to get him to lean back. We were sandwiched between our mothers in the kitchen and my father and brother outside. I did not need someone noticing us all h-ot and bothered.

Archer chuckled and relaxed back on the couch. We stayed quiet after that, each of us occasionally looking over to the back windows. My mom had peeked out of the kitchen a few times herself, nervously giving us a sympathetic smile then disappearing.

Finally, the back door creaked open and Oliver walked through. I jumped up front the couch at the same time that Mom and Mrs. Johnson came rushing out of the kitchen. We all stopped and stared as Dad followed Oliver inside.

Both men stood silent for a moment. It was clear they’d been through the wringer outside. Residual tears still clung to their puffy eyes while their cheeks were bright red.

Dad cleared his throat and stepped forward, making all of our heads snap to him. He shifted on his feet while he looked at each of us. When our gazes connected I kept my face firm and tried to stay devoid of emotion as I waited. His eyes softened and desperation filled his face. I could tell he was silently imploring me to forgive, but I just waited.

“I want you all to know,” Dad began in a defeated tone, “I am truly ashamed in myself. I reacted selfishly at the moment. I was thinking about a lot of unimportant things, rather than focusing on what Oliver needed from me.” His voice broke when he spoke his son’s name and tears silently rolled down my cheeks. Oliver patted Dad on the shoulder and they silently exchanged nods.

“I love him, and I love you all.” Dad looked me directly in the eye as he continued. “All I have ever wanted is for my children to be happy, and I’m sorry if I lost sight of that.”

We all stayed quiet for a moment until Oliver stepped forward. “I know this was a lot for us all. But when I decided to tell you guys, it’s because you are all the most important people in my life. I wanted us all to be together, with nothing stopping us from being happy. So please, don’t drag this out. Dad and I are good and I really want us to enjoy Lotty’s birthday.”

That was all of the permission Mom and I needed to rush forward and envelope both men in teary hugs. I couldn’t stop weeping as I entangled myself between the three people who had always been there for me. I s£nt out a silent plea that this was truly a new leaf for all of us.

“Okay, time for dinner!” My mom laughed through tears as we all pulled away. Everyone moved towards the dining room but a hand on my arm held me back.

“Lotty I really am so sorry,” Dad sighed. He looked down at me warily until I moved forward and hugged his stomach.

“It’s okay. I’m sorry I yelled at you,” I said as my cheek pushed against the buttons of his shirt.

Dad patted my back and pulled away. “Yeah… that boy really is a bad influence on you.” His words made me snap my eyes up to his face, but I relaxed when I saw the gentle smile tugging at his l-ips.

The rest of my birthday was a breeze after that. Everyone made a concerted effort to leave the drama in the past as we laughed and ate long into the night. There was levity in the air while we all interacted that hadn’t been there before. It gave me a glimpse into how our future could be and warmed my heart. I even noticed my dad treating Archer as he used to before he became the guy who corrupted his daughter. Archer didn’t show much emotion of course, but I knew it meant a lot to him.

Our Whistler trip came to a close and it was nothing that I expected it to be but everything that I needed. Some things that had been in the shadows for a long time were suddenly snapped into clarity. While other issues that I thought had been in clear water, were thrown back into the murky mud.

Oliver had promised to come to visit us soon, and we were going to work together for him to win James back. My mind had already thought up a million romantic scenarios but Archer had deemed each of them lame. Not that his contributions were any good. I didn’t think James would respond well to a case of beer and being told to buck up.

I slept on Archer the wh0le way back to USC, exhausted by everything good and bad that had aris£n over the week. As our plane touched down at LAX I smelt the familiar musk of the LA smog. I was anxious to get back to the normalcy of school and my routine.

As we grabb£d our luggage and hailed a cab, I mused about where the next couple of months would take us. I could only hope things continued to get easier.

**********************************************************************************************************************

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