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She swirled her fingers in the dark water. The pier was mysterious and romantic at sunset. She looked up and smiled, as he laughed and tucked her wayward curl behind her ear. It had never been this easy, this natural to be with someone. She playfully flicked water toward his direction, but he caught her before she could run. She giggled helplessly, as he tickled her. In a flicker, his expression changed and his lips were on hers. Her fingers raced through his dirty blond hair, while the excited shiver ran through her. The sound of his heart thumped thickly in her head, as he pulled her closer and closer and closer. She felt wanted, cherished. Safe.
But then, his fingers bit into her sides, his stubble scratched her cheeks, and his teeth cut into her lip. Her mind screamed in shock. Her hands, which had a moment before pressed him to deepen the kiss, jammed into his chest to push him away. She pulled back to see his face blurred and unrecognizable. Fear had her striking out and rising to flee. She was too afraid to look back. She begged her lethargic legs to move faster through the growing dark to escape again pain and betrayal. Somewhere in the distance, Philip's voice called to her, begging her to come back.
Chloe woke with start. She'd reared out of bed, frantically looking about for danger. She was in her room of lavenders and opera posters. Her mother and Craig were sleeping down the hall. For now, she was safe. Her eyes closed. Her body trembled in relief, as her heartbeat finally steadied. She hugged herself to fight the sudden chill, then ran her hands over her face to find her eyes still damp.
It had seemed so real.
She rose from bed, pulled her robe tightly to herself, as she tiptoed to the bathroom. She didn't bother with the light and splashed water on her face. The clean, soft scent of the towel comforted her, just as she peered at her shadowed reflection. Little did she know how young and vulnerable she looked without her makeup and dark glasses. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes as she exhaled.
I'm okay. It was just a dream. A bad dream. Must have been her first steak at dinner tonight. Philip had coaxed her through a jovial dare to join the world of carnivores. She'd only stomached two or three bites before returning to her vegetable pasta. She admitted blushing and feeling pleased not only to try something new, but also to make Philip happy.
She turned from the bathroom mirror, fastidiously folded away the towel, and went back to her room. The soft glow of her bedside lamp soothed her.
But it had seemed so real.
Her hand was on the phone before she could think. Frowning, she pulled back her hand. How could he help? What would she say? Philip, I had a nightmare. Chase the monsters away? How could he? When he was the monster. Or was it because he was beginning to mean so much to her that she was frightened? She was beginning to depend on him.
No, she thought, glancing at her bedside clock. It was 4:30AM and she wouldn't call him. What would he think, if he knew how afraid of him - of everything - she was? Jan and Mimi were right. She was a freak.
Saddened, she stretched out by her bay window and blankly looked out into the night.
Nancy found her there, sleeping but frowning against the morning sunlight. After lowering the shades, she pulled a light blanket from the bed and gently tucked it around her daughter. How beautiful her child was, Nancy thought, as she smoothed Chloe's hair from her forehead. And how troubled. For now, she marveled how essential Chloe had become to the Wesley home, despite the tumultuous relationship between mother and daughter. It still hurt her that Craig could have so easy a relationship with Chloe - so much easier than Nancy had with her. But nine months of desperate bonding attempts had been met with fierce rejections. Patience, she had learned, was the key. With teenagers, one needed patience - and proper timing.
Indulging in a mother's sigh, she kissed Chloe's forehead and quietly left the room to do the morning chores.
With youth's limitless energy, Philip slid down the railing to the marble-decked foyer, barely reached a two-foot landing before bounding toward the dining room. Even Nicole's usual pitying look to his brother, Lucas, could not dull his spirits. Henderson dutifully carried this morning's breakfast on a silver tray upon his shoulder.
Philip circled about him, "Morning, Henderson! Great day, huh?"
Expertly avoiding a collision, the servant set down the tray on a nearby table. "Master Philip, we're in happy spirits this morning. I take it your evening with Miss Chloe went well."
Instantly, his eyes gleamed. "Better than well. It went… perfect. See, we went to Tuscany and then you won't believe it, she actually ate-"
Nicole laughed. "Be careful, Kate. You may not be the only woman of Philip's heart anymore."
Philip turned to see his mother walk elegantly into the room.
Kate shot Nicole a cold stare, before greeting her son. "Good morning, baby. You sound very excited today."
His Cheshire grin broke her heart a little, realizing that Nicole's careless remark held some truth. But immediately, her heart warmed, when she saw how carefree and happy he was.
She gave his cheek a kiss. "So, what's all the excitement? As I came in, I distinctly heard Chloe's name and Tuscany. Whatever could it mean?"
His grin only widened. "We had a good time last night. I mean, the limo and suit was a hit and I actually got her to try-"
"Good morning, sir," announced Henderson.
"Good morning, Henderson," said Victor, as he stepped into the room in his daily suit and tie. "Good morning, son. I gather I don't have to ask how your time with Chloe fared."
"No, everyone and their mother already has, so let the kid talk," Nicole sassily speared a strawberry, while Victor and Kate both shot her cold glares.
"You were saying, son," encouraged his father, as he filled his plate and sat down to the dining table. The maid brought him black coffee and this morning's stock summaries.
"I picked her up and she looked awesome. Like… awesome. Then, we had dinner and she actually tried steak." When his audience offered only blank stares, he added, "Chloe's a vegetarian." Pronounced "ah's" filled the room.
His happy banter continued on, as the Kiriakis home finished their gourmet French toast and eggs.
Saturday. The only day of the week untainted by responsibility. What else could a man do but hedonistically bask in it? After a ceremonial pat on his satisfied belly, Philip saluted his family farewell to pursue a blissful way to spend blessed Saturday. He passed the basketball courts to find Jason and the guys playing a fiercesome half-court game.
Deciding explosive testosterone did not suit the day, he continued on to find Shawn, Belle, and Mimi in the park. Philip nearly choked from laughter. The three were sitting under a willow tree by the man-made pond. From the looks of it, Mimi was instructing hapless Shawn on how to braid Belle's hair. Shawn's focused expression reminded him more of a guy dissecting a nuclear bomb rather than styling hair. Belle was covering her face, in shame or in hilarious fits of giggles. Nope, too much gooey estrogen and no camera for blackmail photos. Philip made a mental note to make endless fun of Shawn later.
When he found himself under Chloe's bedroom window, he found he could laugh at himself. Who was he kidding? The girl's got him hooked. Smiling with memories of another magical night before Chloe's window, Philip threw a pebble. When there was no response, he threw three more, until he resigned himself to the more conventional approach. Just as he stepped toward the front door, her window opened. Out came a very sleepy Chloe.
"Sleeping in, Juliet?" said Philip, flashing his dimples at full force.
She rubbed her eyes against the light. "What? Philip?"
He felt his smile soften. What was sexier than a girl sleepily murmuring his name? "Hey, beautiful. I hope, you were dreaming about me."
Her brows drew together, when something clicked in the back of her mind. Shrugging it off, she drummed up a smile. "What are you doing here so early in the morning?"
"Early? It's like 10:30 and I distinctly recall getting you back at a respectable hour. That cow meat must have done a number on you," Philip concluded, grinning ear to ear. "Well, it's a beautiful Saturday morning. We're too old for cartoons, so I figured we could hang out in the park today. I saw the old gang there by the pond. What do you say, Chloe? Come out and play."
She gave a laugh. "I guess I could. Could I meet you there? I'm not exactly decent."
"What? Chloe Lane, be a trendsetter. Outdoor PJs could be in this season," Philip said, wiggling his eyebrows. When she only cocked a brow, he relented, "Ok, be a slave to convention. I'll be by the big willow tree by the lake. Belle, Shawn and Mimi will probably still be there." At the mention of Mimi's name, Chloe rolled her eyes. "She's giving Shawn beauty lessons, using Belle as their guinea pig."
"Hurry it up or you'll miss out. See you soon, beautiful!" With a wink, he strolled out of her yard toward Salem Park.
Sighing as his blond streaks disappeared from view, Chloe pulled herself back into her room to get ready. Vaguely, she remembered she'd awoken from a bad dream in the middle of the night. Details were fuzzy now, but she knew it had something to do with Philip. She wondered what it was about and what it meant. Maybe she could talk to him about it. Shaking away those thoughts, she quickly showered and dressed to meet her friends.
"Bye, Nancy, Craig! I'm going to hang out with Belle and the others!" Chloe was halfway down the porch steps, before Nancy hurriedly reached the door, calling for her.
"Chloe, honey, what about breakfast?"
"I'll grab something on the way. I'll be back later." With that, she rushed off toward the park.
Shaking her head, Nancy gave another motherly sigh and closed the front door.
"Ow! Shawn, are you trying to pluck me bald?!"
"Hey, this wasn't my idea, remember? Besides, I'm almost done. So, chill, Broomhilda."
"Mimi, what is this boy doing to my hair?"
"Um… he's doing alright for a first-timer… I bet New Yorkers would think it's glam."
"On the runway or on Broadway?"
"Um… more like Greenwich Village."
Belle let out an exasperated growl. Mimi's suggestion to show Shawn the complexities of hairstyling was turning horrid. Admittedly, she had always fantasized about his fingers running through her hair. Who knew it could be this painful?
"Voila! Mademoiselle, your fur, I mean, hair is - how do you say? - magnifique!"
"Ok, Frenchy, what have you done to me?" she asked, as she pulled out her compact mirror. One blink at her reflection and she let out a bloodcurdling scream. "Shawn Douglas Brady!"
Like any smart man, he bolted up the willow tree and hoped, despite adrenaline, she wouldn't follow.
"I'm going to get you, Shawn, if it's the last thing I do!"
"Come on, Belle," coaxed the treed Shawn, "It's not that bad. I'm a healthy heterosexual guy and I'm telling you, it ain't that bad."
She only bared her teeth up at him.
"Belle, you know-"
"Hey, what's going on?"
Belle shot Philip a warning glare.
He bit down on his tongue to keep from laughing. "So, um… what's up?"
"I am! How's it hanging, Phil?"
Phil looked up at his cornered friend and smothered his chuckle with a cough. "I'm doing alright. You know, my family's been thinking about getting a poodle-"
"Very funny, Philip!" hissed Belle. "Oh, Mimi, help me un-Shawn my hair."
"What's going on?" asked Chloe moments later, finding Mimi bent over a squatting and bizarre-looking Belle. She saw Philip's eyes tearing from suppressed laughter. When the tree shook from above, she saw Shawn nearly tumble from the branches. She quickly put two and two together.
Suppressing her own grin, Chloe settled beside Mimi to help Belle unlace her hair.
"Good thing she forgave Shawn right after, or else he would have had to sleep in that tree," chuckled Philip.
"She's a better woman than I am. If it were my hair, he'd be building a nest right about now."
"Oh, I don't know…" he said, twirling a tress between his fingers.
"Philip…" Her eyes narrowed behind the dark rims of her glasses.
He broke into laughter. "You would have climbed up after me, skirt, heels, and all. I wouldn't put anything passed you."
She gave him a playful shove, before his arm circled her waist and they settled into a quiet stroll.
They had wandered off, after Mimi ran over to check out the half-court, half-naked basketball game, and Shawn and Belle began another flirty argument. Carrying bags of an impromptu takeout lunch, the couple finally found a secluded embankment beside the water. Low tide revealed a sandy little beach with rocks, which provided a lopsided table and seats. Munching on burgers - veggie burger for Chloe - and fries, they admired the water in comfortable silence, laughing when a bold pigeon swooped down and stole a fry.
Later, he pulled her close and told her a funny story about his brother Austin.
"So, he swears that he was Adam and Greta was Eve. And according to him, leaves chafe."
"You're putting me on. Were they high?"
"No," chuckled Philip.
He laughed, "He swears it was real. My mom made an appointment with Belle's mom for him."
"Poor Austin. You should really be worried, though."
His expression turned serious. "Why?"
"Because this might be genetic," joked Chloe.
"Oh, yeah?" he dared with a devilish grin.
He caught her before she could run. She giggled helplessly, as he tickled her, until her glasses slipped to the ground, eyes tearing from the onslaught. Wiping her eyes, she leveled a defiant smirk and raised her proud chin.
In a flicker, his expression changed and his lips lowered upon hers. Her fingers traveled up his arms, his neck, his cheeks and through his hair, while excited shivers ran through her. The sound of her heart thumped thickly in her head, as the water slapped gently against the shore. He pulled her closer and closer and closer. She was wanted, cherished. Safe.
Suddenly, fear lanced through her and she pulled frantically away.
"Baby, what's wrong? Chloe?"
Tears streamed down her cheeks, but she found her muscles frozen in place. She was still in his lap, but refused to look at him.
"Chloe? I'm so sorry. I was going too fast. Chloe, please look at me." Gently, he caught chin to turn her face toward him. She squeezed her eyes shut. Please, please, please, her mind pleaded.
"Chloe, look at me. Please, beautiful, look at me."
Gradually, her tear-streaked eyes cracked open. He felt her shudder in relief. Cautiously, she guided her fingers over his face. Completely confused now, Philip asked, "What's wrong?"
Her eyes filled again and his heart quaked. She laid her head on his shoulder and a hand over his heart. "Just hold me for a while, please Philip." Her voice shook as she spoke, so he silently held her, as the sun descended in the afternoon sky.
Stories by Shade
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