Love Realized (The Real Love Series)
Author:Melanie Codina

chapter FOUR

Gillian couldn’t tell if everyone was just hanging out longer at the party for no apparent reason, or if this was the norm, and she was just so ready for this day to be over that it seemed to be dragging on. This thought made her feel bad, of course, because this was for her son, and he deserved to have all this attention. It was his birthday after all. That made her realize that she still needed to do the cake. No wonder everyone was still here. She really needed to pull her head out of her ass.

She had managed to keep her distance from the whore. Or was slut a better title? Hmmm, how about Slutty McWhore? That made her giggle a little, even though she was disappointed she couldn’t share the name with anyone else. Well, in any case, she noticed that the woman was also keeping to herself and staying close to her husband, who seemed to be enjoying her attentions. It was almost as if it wasn’t the norm for the two of them.

This made Gillian wonder if her clinging to her husband was unusual or if maybe Slutty McWhore was doing it to get Logan’s attention. That bitch! Whoa … hold on there, girl! You really need to get a hold of yourself. She was going to lose her mind with all this inner bickering. Funny part about the inner bickering was that it was keeping her distracted from what was going to happen after everyone left. Yes, she really didn’t want to entertain people, but she really didn’t want to have the conversation that she was going to have to have when the final person left. Maybe she could just sneak out the back while Logan was distracted. No it’s not running away, it’s called distancing myself to gain some perspective on the situation. Yeah, that’s a strong argument.

The truth of the matter was that whenever she looked up, Logan was looking at her. She was sure he knew what she was thinking, but she managed to avoid him most of the afternoon. It was a dance—he moved, she moved. Her escape plan was going to require an accomplice … but who? Then, almost as if the gods had answered her prayers, in walked her savior.

“Okay, bitches! The party can start now that I'm here!” Allie was here? Oh thank God, Allie is here! Gillian sighed in relief and felt her body sag a bit when she saw Allie walk through the door. She was so excited to see her that she didn’t know what to do. So she stood there quietly and watched as her best friend walked into the throes of family to greet her. Allie was Logan’s sister, and Gillian’s best friend, even though she didn’t live in San Diego anymore. This, of course, was something they all hoped would change sometime soon, but she knew that Allie had her reasons for moving away; she didn’t have to agree with them, she just had to support her.

This rationale was exactly why Allie was going to be the perfect accomplice to help her escape for the evening. She just needed some space and time to break down. She needed to cry and be away from Logan to develop a plan. She could just tell Allie what she needed, and like Jake, she wouldn’t ask questions now but would expect some answers later. Later she could handle, just not in front of everyone else.

Gillian was so grateful to see Allie, especially since they weren’t expecting her to make it down here this weekend. She watched as Allie stopped to greet her parents, stooped down to kiss Morgan on her pregnant belly and told her not to get up. She hugged Logan, Sean and Jason, too. Then Gillian’s breath hitched when Allie stopped and introduced herself to Adam and HER. She felt like growling when they shook hands. That is my best friend, not yours! You can’t have her! Okay, calm the fuck down.

Allie then continued her journey toward Gillian and greeted her with a smile. “Hey you!” she said to Gillian. But before she could respond, something in her face must have tipped Allie off because she immediately when on alert. “What’s wrong, Gilly?”

Gillian just shook her head and smiled back at her best friend as tears started to fill her eyes. “I'm so glad you’re here, Al. I really need you; I just didn’t realize how badly until I saw you … thanks for being here.” And with that, Allie stepped closer and threw her arms around Gillian. She hugged her … hard. As she pulled back, she looked to Allie and knew she would help her. “Allie, some stuff is going on, and I really don’t want to stay here tonight. Problem is, I’m sure that Logan will do what he can to prevent me from leaving. Can you help me get out of here without causing a scene? Or telling your brother?”

“Gilly, he may be my brother, but you know you’re my girl. Hoes before bros and all.” She said it with a slightly gansta-like slang and winked at her. “Tell me what you need.”

“All I know is that I need to get out of here. Maybe after the cake and presents are done, can you get your brother to pay attention to something other than me? Jason knows what’s going on, and I'm sure he can help.”

Allie nodded and looked toward where Jason stood near Logan. “Hmm, Gigantor knows the four-one-one? Must be juicy if he’s the one who knows and not Jake … Interesting.” Allie, of course, said this while raising one eyebrow in question and cupping her own chin and tapping it, like she was deep in thought. Gillian just rolled her eyes at the theatrical and jokester ways of her best friend. “You know I’ll tell you everything, but it’s just not something to do here and now,” she said, silently pleading for her friend to not dig yet. “In fact, the only people who have any idea that something is going on other than Logan and me are Jason and Jake. But Jason knows it all.”

Allie stared at Gillian, and her eyes softened. “Girl, he fucked up bad this time, didn’t he?” All she could do was nod once as she fought to keep her emotions in check. The constant battle of anger, shame, humiliation, and shock were beginning to take their toll. Allie leaned in and hugged her again. “Have no fear, SuperBitch is here, and I got your back. Just tell me, though, is this a Oh-no-he-didn’t-moment? Or is it a Bitch-hold-my-hoops-and-get-me-the-Vaseline-moment?”

Once again shaking her head, Gillian laughed at her friend’s finger snapping and head-rolling while she said that. “Maybe both,” she replied.

Allie understood that and said, “Go get the cake ready so we can get this show on the road.” She nodded and headed toward the house, feeling slightly relieved that she was going to be able to avoid the confrontation with Logan tonight. She really didn’t care if it made her a coward or not, she deserved some time and space.

Gillian made her way into the house to get what she needed for the cake and ice cream. Once inside, she overheard Jonathan telling his friends, “Go ahead guys, I’ll meet you there.” He turned to her as his friends were leaving. “Hey boys, heading out before the cake?”

“Sorry Mrs. B, we were gonna meet some friends at the movies,” they said as they waved and headed out toward the front of the house. Gillian turned to Jonathan. “You heading out, too?”

He stood there and stared at her for a few moments, and then he leaned in and hugged her. “I love you, Mom,” he said to her as he kissed her on the cheek and pulled away. “I love you too, kiddo. Are you okay?” He nodded a yes and gave her a weak smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Is it okay if I go to the movies and then stay over at Nick’s?”

“Of course, but you need to make sure you say goodbye to your brother. He will be upset if you don’t.”

“Okay, Mom,” he said as he hugged her one more time. As he let go and went to head out to say bye to Dylan, Gillian grabbed his arm and made him turn back toward her. “Baby, did something happen? Is there a girl causing you heartache or something.”

“I guess you could say that, Mom,” he said with another weak smile.

“Well, if you need to talk, you have plenty of people to choose from.” Motioning to the backyard that was full of plenty adults that would offer any support Jonathan needed, she added, “Don’t forget that.”

“I won’t.” And then he turned and walked out the back door. She watched him out the kitchen window as he told his little brother goodbye. They did that half-handshake one-arm hug thing that all guys do. That made her smile. Then she watched as Jonathan made his way out the side gate without acknowledging Logan’s call to him. Her poor boy was hurting over something. The desire to smack some teenage girl for doing that to her son gave her a temporary reprieve from her current issues. She made a mental note to mention this to Logan so he could try and talk to him, too.

Well, time to get this show on the road. Armed with her camera and a well-lit cake, she announced to the yard, “Time to sing to the birthday boy!” She could see Dylan’s face light up as soon as he saw the cake shaped like a Lego Guy. Yep! Perfect choice of cake! Gillian gave herself yet another mental pat on the back for that. Apparently she was starving for some kind of appreciation since she repeatedly had to mentally pat herself on the back today. Jeez!

Walking over to Dylan, Gillian saw Logan head her way. He gently eased the camera from her shoulder and got into position to take the best shots of him. They always worked together as a team. No communication was needed for them—they just knew. This thought brought her pain up to the forefront again, and the tightness in her chest intensified. They were so great together, why would he need anyone else? Well, at least she thought they were great together. Fortunately, the sight of her son’s smiling face, as she lowered herself in front of him with his cake, helped edge the pain back under control. They sang, Dylan made his wish and then blew out the candles.

“Mom! This cake is awesome!” Well her day just got a little better with that bit of appreciation. He jumped up from where he was sitting and moved around the cake toward her, throwing his arms around her neck. She fumbled to set the cake down so not to drop it. Someone took it from her, and she was able to wrap her arms around her youngest son. It gave her strength. Her kids always had that effect on her. She could battle any monster or demon as long as she had her kids.

“I'm so glad you like it, buddy. I couldn’t think of anything better than a Lego Guy cake for you.”

“Look this way you two,” Logan said from behind the camera.

Both of them looked to the camera and smiled for Logan. He peeked out from behind the camera to smile at both of them and said, “Perfect.” Their eyes locked, and she could see nothing but affection for them in his eyes. How could he have that look in his eyes for her when the proof of his indiscretions was somewhere around five feet in any given direction at this very moment?

“Your turn,” she said to Logan as she stood up and went to retrieve the camera from him.

Morgan decided to speak up at that moment and say, “Both of you get in there with Dylan. Sean, go take a picture of the three of them. I would totally do it, but somebody went and knocked me up making it more of a challenge for me to get up right now.” A few people chuckled at her, and Sean made his way over to them. For a second she wanted to smack her sister-in-law for making it possible for Logan to touch her, but how the heck would Morgan know what was going on. Gillian had kept all of the skeletons in her closet under control and away from everyone in her life. It wasn’t Morgan’s fault. Her inner desire to inflict pain on her sister-in-law was interrupted by her brother.

“What the hell do you mean someone? We know darn well who did that!” Sean grumbled at his adorable wife while he got up and did as he was instructed. He continued to grumble under his breath, “Don’t make me give a damn demonstration as to who did that to you.”

Her brother was yet another one of those alpha males who she was always surrounded by and absolutely loved the relationship he had with his wife. It made her smile at their antics.

Logan assumed his position next to Gillian and flung his arm around her shoulders while Dylan stood in front of them. It was almost like he’d caught what he had been after all afternoon and wasn’t letting go. Logan’s grip was strong as he held onto her and he didn’t let go as soon as the picture was done being taken either. Once Dylan moved back toward the cake, Logan managed to pull Gillian into a full embrace and buried his face in her neck, holding her close. Of course, being surrounded by everyone, she couldn’t just push away from him. That was a great excuse to hug him back. But it was a natural reflex anyway because she loved to hold her husband. It wasn’t hard to do, by any means, even though he was a pain in the ass and was the source of her current heartache. He was one of her best friends.

She felt Logan’s warm breath on her neck as he held her and then he kissed her cheek. “I love you,” he said to her just as he leaned in and kissed her gently on the lips. “Thank you for giving me him,” he whispered in a hoarse voice that she recognized as one full of emotion as he motioned his head toward Dylan. Gillian pulled back to look at him and saw all of the emotion in his eyes. He looked scared and sad. To others it probably looked like he was choked up over sentiment, but Gillian knew better. She understood he needed some comfort from her, and being the sap that she was, she was going to give it to him. Reaching up, she placed her hand on his cheek. “It was my pleasure.” He visibly relaxed a bit, but didn’t let her go, and therein lies the problem. She needed to get the hell out of his grip, or she wouldn’t get her time and space to figure things out. He had terrible powers over her, and she always caved to him. It was irritating as hell.

“Who wants cake?” she announced and used it as a perfect reason to encourage him to let go, though he was obviously reluctant. Gillian moved to get the cake cut and her family moved in to help dish up the ice cream and serve the birthday desert to everyone. Now she just had to get through the presents, and she could get the fuck out of there. The mental reminder gave her a little more strength to continue.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Jake stood back and watched Gillian continue to put that fake smile on her face while watching her son open his presents. Even though there were some real smiles mixed in there while she enjoyed Dylan’s enthusiasm, they were mostly forced. He felt like a stalker or some kind of creep for watching her all night, but he couldn’t help it. It was almost as if she was a second away from completely falling to pieces over something. Or someone, that is. He glanced over at said ‘someone’ and saw that he, too, was watching Gillian, instead of his son. And Jason seemed to be hovering over Logan all night. He shook his head trying to piece together the mystery and figure out what the fuck was going on.

An arm coming up around his shoulders and a warm kiss on the cheek snapped him out of his musings. “Hey handsome, how goes it?”

He smiled and turned toward Allie while swinging his arm up and over her head to drape it across her shoulders. He pulled her into his side and hugged her back. “Hey yourself, I thought this weekend was a no go for you?”

“Yeah, I wasn’t supposed to make it down but something just told me I needed to be here.” She looked in Gillian’s direction and sighed. “I'm really glad I did.”

“I'm glad you did, too. She looked like a cat in room full of rocking chairs ‘til you showed up. Do you have any idea what the hell is going on with them? I mean, we can assume, but I'm hoping that it isn’t what I think it is.”

“No, but whatever the hell it is, it sounds major so I'm sure you aren’t too far off base. Your brother apparently knows it all though.”

“Yeah, so it appears,” he continued as they both looked over to where Jason was standing, which continued to be in close proximity of Logan. “I can’t figure it out, it’s almost like he’s Logan’s bodyguard.”

Allie snorted. “Well I don’t like it one little bit that your bro knows and we don’t. Clearly whatever the hell my brother did was bad. It looks as if Jason is trying to keep Logan away from Gillian, though.”

Jake conceded the point. “That makes sense. When I went into their bedroom I found Jason standing next to Gillian with his arm around her while Logan was kneeling in front of her. He was holding her hands, almost like he was begging her for something.”

“Forgiveness would be my guess.” As they stood there musing over what they thought could be the problem, people started to get up to say good night. One by one the partygoers started to collect their kids and thank their hosts for inviting them. Gillian, of course, had pasted on her sweet, and totally fake, smile again. It wasn’t as if she looked that way to others—Jake just happened to know what that fake one looked like. You really need to knock off the creepy dissection of her smiles man … It’s cause to revoke your man card!

“Hey who is that over there?” Allie asked, pulling him out of his creepy smile dissection, and nodded her head in the direction of a family that got there at the same time he did.

“I think their names are Jody and Adam, but I'm not sure. I do know the guy works with Gillian.”

“Well why does the chick seem to be ogling my brother? She has barely taken her eyes off of him since I got here.”

Interesting observation, he thought as he shrugged his shoulders. He hadn’t noticed. But of course that was because he was watching Gillian.

“Well anyway, I need your help.” And with that statement, Allie had his full attention.

“Shoot.”

“Gillian says that she needs to get out of here tonight, that she doesn’t want to stay, but that she doesn’t think Logan will make it easy for her.” Jake nodded and she continued, “I'm supposed to help her do just that. She made it sound like she was going to try and leave on her own, but that is soooo not happening. I'm going to take her to a hotel since she is clearly trying to avoid Logan. I’ve already got a room reserved, cause I got an app for that.” She smiled and winked at Jake, making him laugh and shake his head at her. She was such a character, so much fun to be around. He was suddenly so glad that she was here for their friend. Gillian had his support, but he knew that Allie was the key to getting her to smile. Allie continued, “I need to go get her some necessities from the house … got any ideas on how to get Logan’s eyes off of his wife??”

Jake shook his head at Allie as he looked toward Gillian. “Think on it. I'm gonna go get her an overnight bag.”

“Why can’t she just go in to use the bathroom and not come back out?”

“If he screwed up as big I am assuming he did, then I'm sure he will follow her.” Allie pushed off the wall they were standing against and made her way into the house. As Jake watched Allie disappear into the house, he realized that there were really only a few things that Logan could have done to hurt Gillian like that—the most common being that he cheated on her. Just thinking that he would do something like that to Gillian brought a sour taste to his mouth. He knew exactly what it felt like to be on the receiving end of that action. His need to seek out Gillian to offer comfort became overwhelming. But just then, he spied his son and Dylan making their way toward him, talking back and forth to each other as if they were working on a plan. Clearly, they wanted something. It amused him to watch them intensely plotting like it was something serious when all they probably wanted was to spend the night somewhere. He watched as they walked closer to him and then looked up at him in unison. “All right guys, out with it, what do you want?”

“How do you know we want something, Dad?” Ryan asked, trying to sound like he was insulted that his father assumed he wanted something. Jake just laughed.

“Because you do. I know you two and can tell you were devising some plan to get something out of me.”

Dylan chimed in. “Can Ryan stay the night at my grandparents’ house and then go to Sea World with me tomorrow? Pleeeaassseee, Uncle Jake?” He gave Ryan a look as if to say told you that you wanted something, then asked, “Have your grandparents agreed to this already?”

“Yes, they said they assumed that Ryan was coming, too, because we’re always together,” Dylan said with a big smile on his face. Well that was true, it was a good assumption. “That’s fine with me but Ryan you need an overnight bag, and I will have to get some money for a ticket.”

Dylan started shaking his head. “He doesn’t need a ticket, Uncle Jake. My mom bought him an annual pass when we got ours. And I think he has some clothes here. My mom keeps his stuff in a basket in the laundry room after she cleans it.”

Jake smiled at him and his proud stance for solving what he thought was going to be a problem. “Of course she does.” He turned toward his son. “You know you can speak for yourself sometimes. Dylan doesn’t have to be the only one to talk.”

“I know Dad, but we figured that since it was his birthday you wouldn’t say no to him.”

“Hmm, good plan,” he said as he laughed at the two boys. “You, young man, need to thank your Aunt Gillian for doing everything she does for you. Dude, you have a basket of laundry here, and she got you a pass to Sea World; she didn’t have to do that.”

Ryan nodded his head vigorously as if his assent was all that his dad required in order to let him go with Dylan. “All right, go ahead and get some stuff together.” And with that, they both turned and ran toward the house as Allie was coming back out.

Allie put her hands up to both boys in a universal request for a high-five. Both boys of course obliged and simultaneously smacked hands and continued into the house. Jake just smiled and shook his head; it was certainly a move they had perfected with their Aunt Allie over the years. Even though she wasn’t around as much as they would all like, he loved how close the kids still were with her. He hoped that she would be coming home to stay sometime soon, but in the interim, the kids saw their aunt via Facetime. She was a great aunt and would regularly call just to chat with them, which was something he absolutely loved about her.