HOLDING ON TO HOPE

 
 

By Carol Sandford

 
 

Chapter 14

 
 

Antony Carstair took long slow strides towards the club house. He had been shocked to say the least at receiving Deanna’s call in the dead of night to come and get his fiancee from this one-horse town, but he could not refuse the desperate and desolate plea in her voice.

So here he was, with dawn only just breaking, and the night’s dewdrops giving every surface a crystalline glisten. In another time and another place, he might have thought it beautiful. But not today. Not this morning. Even though Deanna had needed him, he had an eerie feeling that she wouldn’t be going home with him.

Antony couldn’t fail to miss the town’s sole waking occupant propped against the railing outside the club. Despite his casual posture; the legs crossed at the ankle, the arms folded, and the hat on his head pulled low, half obscuring his eyes, Antony could see he was as highly strung as a coiled spring. The man purely oozed tension.

Was this the guy that Deanna insisted she needed to talk to, and was this the guy that she’d had an intense fling with when she was nothing but a kid? Was this the father of her lost child?

Antony’s head was telling him no, it couldn’t possibly be. But his heart was telling him different. Even though he was dressed in the normal way for this kind of place, he still didn’t quite fit the bill. He clearly wasn’t a native, his skin wasn’t dark enough. But there was a power surrounding him, and it was this power that Carstair’s drew him towards the man.

Will watched Carstair’s approach somewhat cautiously. He’d deliberately pulled his hat low, wanting to get him as close as possible before revealing his identity to him. He took the moment to study him, really study him.

He wasn’t a bad looking man, but he smacked wealth and oozed spoilt brat. He was clearly used to getting his own way, only he got it with money. Will had the advantage. Everything he’d wanted in his life, he’d earned it, with blood, sweat, tears and persistence.

When Carstair’s had gotten close enough, Will lifted his hand and shoved the brim of his hat back, revealing his eyes. He was gratified to see Carstair’s immediately grind to a halt, recognition and suspicion flaring in his features.

"Riker!"

Will pushed himself slowly to a stand, acknowledging his rival with a curt nod of his own, "Carstair."

There was a heavy silence as Antony stood and briefly pondered the many reasons why Will would be where he was. Which ever it was, it was obviously to do with Deanna. Shoving his hands deep into his pockets, Carstair’s briefly nodded his head towards the club’s entrance, "Is Deanna in there?"

Will only nodded, his own eyes glancing at the door too, hoping that she wouldn’t make her grand exit just yet. He had things to say. Things he didn’t want her to witness. He took a few steps towards Antony, his own footsteps crunching on the ground. He too pushed his hands into his pockets, trying his hardest to appear relaxed, but inside, he was trembling with anxiety.

Here goes. "Has Deanna ever told you about me, Carstair?"

Antony nodded, shifting his feet, ready for the obvious confrontation, "She’s told me, although I never knew your name. Why?"

Will’s eyes hardened, "Did she tell you about the bond we have between us?"

Carstair’s grinned, "She told me you two were close, but I guess when you’re in a relationship, it's the natural way to become. I consider that Deanna and I have a special bond. After all, she is going to be my wife."

Will was growing to hate that word, and it showed. Pushing himself to his full height, Will advanced closer to the man, gratified that he had to look up at him, but even so, Will had to give him credit that he still stood his ground. But then Carstair’s didn’t really have an inkling what was happening, or about to happen.

"If I prove to you that Deanna is in love with me, always has been, and always will be, will you give her her freedom?"

It took all of Will’s might to not react when Carstair’s laughed up into his face, "You have got to be kidding me, Riker! I have absolutely no doubts that Deanna loves me, and she will marry me this coming Saturday."

Will pinned the man with a look that needed no argument, "If I prove to you that she loves me, will you let her go."

Will had to refrain form punching him when once more he laughed up into his face, his cocky confidence grating on Will’s already frayed nerves, "Hell, yes! But I know my girl and I know that she’ll stick with me. Y’see Riker, I know about you, and I know what harm you did to her, she would ’never’ go back to you and she does not love you."

The two men stood face to face, the air electric with tension between them. One brash and sure, the other filled with hope, and love. God help him if Deanna chose Carstair.

As quick as the stand-off started, Will ended it when he suddenly moved towards the club entrance, his eyes never leaving Carstair’s face, daring him to move. Carstair's could do nothing but wait as Will disappeared inside, returning barely a moment lately, pulling Deanna out by her hand.

The instant he hit the street again, Will let Deanna go. He wasn’t surprised when she made her way to Carstair’s side and they clung to one another, waiting. But her little show of bravado didn’t bother Will in the slightest, or the amount of fear that poured from her. He had to do this, even though it was going to kill him to watch.

Will came back to stand before the clearly confused couple who both stood silent and scared, waiting for what ever Will was going to do to them. Will faintly acknowledged movement and noise behind him and knew that Juanita, Gary and the rest of the club’s patron’s were watching and waiting with interest from the sidelines.

It was now or never. His voice low and threatening, Will took a deep breath and growled out his demand,

"Kiss her."

Will watched as they both stared at each other, confusion and indignation was written all over Carstair’s face. Deanna’s was a different story. She knew what Will was up to now and it scared the hell out of her. If there was one thing that was going to give away her true feelings for Will, it was this.

Once the shock wore off, Carstair's began to splutter, "I will not! Just who do you think you are, Mr. Riker?! I’ll have you know that I will not put up with your crap, or your insults."

"I SAID, KISS HER, GODDAMMIT!!!!"

The command burst from Will’s lungs with all the force of a man that had all but lost his patience and his sanity. Its ferocity was so fierce, everything and everyone came to a shocked standstill.

The man before him could only stare at the blazing blue eyes, trying their hardest to determine whether to put up a fight or give in. It was only Deanna’s violent tugging at his jacket that broke the spell and Carstair turned his bewildered eyes to her.

As her own eyes looked into his, Antony could only see the woman he loved. The woman he was going to marry. The woman who he’d only ever shared a chaste kiss with before, and he wondered if he could deliver a kiss that would shut Riker up for good.

Antony felt his loins tighten with the thought even though they had an audience. He had never done anything like this in public, or so intimate with Deanna before, and it was only now he dimly wondered why not. All they had ever shared was a good night kiss. Deanna had never invited him to stay over, or to even to go further than a kiss. But being a gentleman, he hadn’t wanted to push her, knowing that she had her own ghosts to deal with.

But the biggest one was standing barely a meter away, watching, and waiting.

 
     
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