Chapter 8

Ben was lost in a daze at the Horton Center. He had mindlessly walked back after overhearing that conversation in the park. Thoughts plagued him as to what he should do. As Eric was giving him a run down as to what they did there, helping run after school programs for kids, counselling sessions, promoted some local charities, he was trying his best to pay attention. He'd start out behind the scenes, answering phones, making appointments, that sort of stuff and slowly integrate him back in to working with people face to face.

"Are you paying attention?" Eric asked Ben as he was waving his hand in front of Ben's face to see if he was focused. Eric could only wonder what was going on behind those eyes.

Ben shook out of his thoughts and back to Eric. "Yes. I'm sorry Mr. Brady. I'm concentrating. I promise. I'm sorry if I'm seeming distracted."

Eric was cautious in his approach. "Something on your mind?"

Ben took a second and thought before he answered. "I overheard something in the park earlier and it has me wondering what I should do." The conflicted tone in his voice gave Eric enough to pause. Eric rolled his chair over in front of Ben and sat down across from him. He didn't know if this was a game or if Ben was being sincere but the former Priest in him wouldn't let him walk away without at least listening to him. "Is it something you can tell me?"

Ben shook his head. He didn't want to just blurt this out. He knew from Ciara that Eric was dating Jennifer and this affected Abigail. If what he overheard was correct, Abigail was carrying Chad's child when she believed it to be Stefan's. He'd have to word this carefully.

He swallowed hard, finding the strength to put this knowledge into words. "I was chillin' in the park, waiting to start the day, and I overheard someone in the park confess something." He paused and took another breath. "This confession was to them self, but it will affect another person's life. This someone in the park is manipulating a situation to their advantage, I think, causing great pain in those around her and I don't know what I should do about it."

Eric took a moment and took a page right out of his mother's handbook and considered. "What do you think you should do about it?"

Ben immediately responded without a second's hesitation. "I want to tell the person the truth! But… I'm…"

Eric understood the situation. "Not exactly a reliable source."

"Exactly." Ben let out with a heavy defeatist sigh.

Eric sighed as well as he looked upon the broken man across from him. A man that on some levels reminded him of himself a few years prior. A lost soul trying to find a way to peace. He resolved in his advice. "Then you need to get some proof. You can't just go around announcing things like you did at Abigail and Chad's wedding without something to back your story."

"But I was right about that!" He tried to defend himself. He hadn't been on his meds for very long at the time of Abigail and Chad's double wedding with Sonny and Paul, but, he knew enough to try to rectify the situation with Will's family and loved ones.

"You were. Which helps your case. But, it's going to be an uphill battle before anyone takes you at your word Ben. If they ever will." Eric wasn't trying to be hurtful. Just honest. He wasn't even completely sure that Ben was being honest with him it that moment or if he was fabricating this story to gain sympathy. Eric's instincts told him that the latter was the correct answer, but he couldn't be sure.

Ben took a moment and let that sink in. He knew what Eric was saying was right. "But what if something happens before I can get it and this girl's life is further destroyed by this lie? She's already been through a lot." The last bit of that came out with a heavy-handedness. Ben had been a lot of what Abigail had been through.

Eric thought about it and replied, "Then I'd work fast if I were you."

Ben nodded his head in understanding. How in the hell he would get proof that Abigail's child was really Chad's was beyond his capability of thinking at the moment.

"Now, can we get back to what we were talking about?"

"Sure. Yeah."

Back at the apartment…..

"So… we were kinda having a moment yesterday." Tripp began by addressing the other elephant in the room.

Ciara sipped her coffee and agreed with a smile. "We were."

Tripp carefully swiveled in his chair and faced the girl across from him. She was stunningly gorgeous. Even with her hair all messy in a bun like it was and in her comfy clothes. She was taking his breath away. "There's no Ben. There's no Claire. There's no Hope busting in with her gun drawn. Just you and me." Tripp reached out and placed his hand on hers.

Ciara looked at him and wasn't quite sure what to think. They had had a moment yesterday. That was true. That was before she realized she was fully attracted to Ben Weston. What that meant she didn't know. Did she like him? Was it just physical? She knew she liked Tripp. She was attracted to Tripp. Tripp was everything she should have in a boyfriend. He was fun and flirty and they got along well. He made her laugh. But… so did Ben in the cabin.

Tripp slowly entwined his fingers to her sweatshirt and gently pulled her to him. He widened his legs and let she enveloped herself in his embrace. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and his arms curled around her waist naturally.

"I'm not going to play games with you Ciara. I like you. You know that I like you. A lot."

"I do know that. I like you too." Her honesty was like music to Tripp's ears. He sighed and gently nuzzled his nose to hers. They both smiled and Ciara happily accepted a kiss he was offering.

"We don't have to rush things. I know you've got a lot going on. I never want you to feel like I'm pressuring you."

His reassurance that they could go slow and her not doing something she'd regret was something she desperately needed to hear. Her soul felt a tad lighter in the moment and she needed to feel free again. Chase and what he did to her, was always going to be there. To be apart of her. But she couldn't let it continue to define her. It wouldn't define her.

She gazed into Tripp's eyes and slowly leaned down. She could see that Tripp was serious about not rushing as he was the one that looked uncertain in her movement. She nodded her head that she was okay and to silently let him know that she wanted this. His hands slide from around her waist to her face as he pulled her in and embraced her mouth with his. They stood there, letting their mouths take turns of being in charge, the moment never getting too overcharged as Tripp kept his hormones in check.

Ciara was the one to break the kiss first. With a heavy breath, she sighed into his shoulder with a huge grin on her face.

"You hungry?" He asked as he gently kissed the side of her neck.

She nodded and replied, "Let me go get changed and we can grab a bite to eat."

Prancing back into her room, she turned and gave Tripp a quick wink before she shut her door. Tripp spun in his chair as he laughed to himself. How he was ever lucky enough to get a girl like Ciara Brady, he'd never understand.

When she came out a few minutes later in a fiery red top that accentuated her dark curls and her bright eyes, Tripp felt his knees literally weaken at how beautiful she was standing before him. She reached out her hand and with a small smile simply asked, "Ready to go?"

Tripp nodded his head eagerly, capturing his hand with hers and followed her out the door. In the hallway, Tripp requested, "Anywhere but the café."

Ciara laughed in understanding. "The pub?" She offered with a hopeful grin. It had been a while since she'd been in and seen her Uncle Roman. She needed to remember to ask him how her Grandma Caroline was doing. She missed their kitchen talks.

"Sounds great." Tripp happily agreed. Anywhere was fine with him but the place he felt like was his home away from home.

They made small talk as they walked the few blocks to the Brady Pub from their apartment. Tripp wondered she might want to do now that the Face of Bella contest was over and she had passed the crown on to Claire.

"I'm not sure. I'm might check out some classes at Salem U. I don't know what I'd want to study though." She really wasn't sure. She knew she had a trust fund waiting for her from Grandpa Victor but, she was a Brady. Brady's never easily took handouts. They always worked for what they wanted and earned what they got. She would be no different.

Tripp pondered himself. "Yeah, I was thinking of taking a course or two this semester. I don't want to wait tables my whole life."

"Maybe your Dad could hook you up with something. He's got connections all over town." Ciara reminded Tripp, trying to help.

"Yeah. And it's not like I could reapply at the hospital. Ever." Tripp said aloud as he let the weight of what he had done last year to Kayla hang out in the open air. It was something he'd always be ashamed of. How easily he had allowed himself to be manipulated and let his anger and rage control his life and his emotions. He had been so certain that Kayla had been responsible for his mother's death. But in retrospect, he knew Kayla could and would never hurt a fly. How ignorant he had been. He was just grateful every day that Kayla had forgiven him and that they were in a good place.

He didn't know how to make it up to her, the help that she had offered him in trying to rectify the situation.

"Right." Ciara agreed as they came upon the door to the pub. She smiled softly as they walked in together. Ciara spotted a table near the front and pointed to it. "Let's sit there."

"Okay." Tripp agreed and pulled out her chair for her, once they reached the two-seater.

Almost instantaneously Roman came running over. "Hey Ciara!" He greeted her with a enveloping hug.

"Hey Uncle Roman!" She greeted back, as happy as she could be returning his embrace.

"What are you two kids up to?" Roman inquired as he let Ciara go.

Ciara sat back down across from her date and answered, "Just getting some lunch. Do you need a menu, Tripp?"

"No, thanks I'm good." He shook his head. He'd been to the pub countless times since moving to Salem. He was pretty sure he knew the menu already.

"Well, you kids know what you want then?" Roman asked as he eyed Tripp.

"I'll have my usual Uncle Roman." Ciara sweetly answered.

"Cheeseburger, hold the tomato." He answered with a knowing grin.

"Sounds great." Ciara smirked.

"I'll have the same." Tripp shared the same grin which, quickly turned into a frown as he eyes followed someone behind him.

"What is it?" Ciara asked concerned as he noticed the abrupt change of Tripp's demeanor. She turned around and saw him. Ben. Standing there in the pub. With a stunned look on his face as his eyes were transfixed on the two of them.