tagNovels and Novellas2. Illawarra Flame Ch. 16-18

2. Illawarra Flame Ch. 16-18



'How do you feel about oil?"

Tyler smiled. Did she really want to know how he felt about oil? No, they were at work, she must be talking about something else.

'Crude oil," Maya clarified.

'I don't know. I can't say I've thought about it very much."

'Well, Medevice is running smoothly, I want to start looking for the next big thing. I think there is money to be made in the oil field services industry. I've been looking into the software that the big players use and I think there's room for improvement, I think we could make a tonne of money."


'I want to send you to some workshops. I want you to learn the software and figure out how you could improve it. They're all in Houston though, so you'd have to travel."

'Maya...' Shit. He'd been putting this conversation off for weeks, he knew she wasn't going to take this well.


'I'm going to resign. I don't want to work here anymore."

'What?" Her eyes went wide with shock. 'Why?"

'It's not healthy Maya. I can't keep this up, I don't want to spend half of my life pretending that I don't love you."

'Do you have a better offer? What is it? I can try to match it...'

'Maya, you're not listening to me. It's not about money, it's about us, I don't want to keep you and Nicholas a secret anymore. It's been months. I love you. I don't want to have to hide that."

'But I can't loose you Tyler, you're my best programmer."

Tyler shook his head, he couldn't believe she was prepared to keep on going like this. 'I'm sorry, I just can't do it anymore. This isn't sustainable in the long term, I can't be your equal at night and your subordinate during the day."

'Fuck." She looked like she'd just been punched in the stomach, she slumped in her chair and she had a lost look in her eyes.

'Jessica can probably do it, she'll be better than me in the long run you know," he tried to reassure her.

'Maybe in a few years, what am I supposed to do in the mean time? Send Graham?"

They both knew that was a joke but neither of them were laughing.

'I guess you'll have to hire someone new."

She looked up at him. 'Will you help me?"

His heart ached for her. Maya took her career so seriously, this was a big blow for her. 'Yeah, I'll help. I'll call around, see if anyone I know is interested."

She nodded. 'College friends, people you've met at conferences, I want to see anyone you've been impressed with. I can relocate them, I'll pay handsomely."


'You are supposed to give me two weeks. Will you stay for another two weeks?"

'Yeah, fine."

'Okay, I want you to drop everything to find me someone to replace you."

He nodded. She looked like she was back under control. She had a plan.

She nodded her dismissal and he got up to leave.


Tyler turned, surprised. She never called him that at work, using their pet names was against the rules.

'I don't mean to replace you, I mean to replace your work."

He smiled. 'Yeah I know, it's okay."

Tyler was relieved. Ever since San Diego he'd known that he'd have to leave his job and he had been dreading telling Maya, but that had actually gone much better than he had imagined it would.

He spent the rest of the day calling around people who knew what they were doing. He got a couple of referrals and ended up with a list of people who came recommended and had seemed interested. He forwarded their resumes to Maya and left for the gym.

That night, when they were getting ready for bed, he brought up their Christmas plans with her. 'Can we go to San Diego for Christmas?" He asked.

She hesitated. 'I was thinking of going back East."

'But we had thanksgiving with your family, I thought maybe we could have Christmas with mine."

'You want to have Christmas together?" She asked. She was measuring her words.

'Well yeah, it's kind of a big deal for a kid Nicholas' age. I think it's important that we're all together on Christmas, don't you?"

It took her a little while to answer. 'I think it is important that he's with his family."

Tyler examined her face, she was wearing her neutral expression, he didn't know what she meant and she wasn't giving anything away. Was she trying to say that he wasn't Nicholas' family?

'What do you mean?" He asked.

'Well, he doesn't get to see his grandparents very often. I was thinking of staying in Massachusetts for a few days then going down to New York for a few days, getting both sets in."

'But he hasn't even met my parents, you haven't even met my dad yet."

She pressed her lips together and nodded. She was acting like his manager, calculating what to say. It pissed him off. 'And I'm sure I will, in good time."

'What the fuck Maya? You don't think I want to see my parents too?"

'Well you should go and see them then, I'm not asking you to give that up."

He was fuming, she didn't think it was important for them to be together on Christmas. 'What about Nicholas? What about what's best for him?" He asked.

'I told you, I think he should be with his family."

She was saying that he wasn't Nicholas' family. He buried his face in his hands, trying to deal with the blow she had just dealt him.

'Who am I then Maya?" He asked, barely masking the pain in his voice.

'What do you mean?"

He looked her straight in the eye. 'If I'm not his father then who the fuck am I?" His pain was turning into outright anger. Who was she to tell him what his relationship with Nicholas was or was not?

She looked shocked. 'Tyler, we've been dating for five months...'

'Who puts him to bed at night? Who taught him the alphabet? Who knows all the staff at his daycare? Who takes care of him when he's sick? Who is here for him every single fucking day of the week?"

Now she looked mad too. 'I never asked you to do those things Tyler."

He felt disgusted with her. He didn't need to be asked to do those things, that was the point.

'You don't want a partner Maya, you want a nanny who'll fuck you." He spat the words out at her.

She looked livid. He could see the veins in her neck bulging underneath her skin. Her jaw was clenched and her hands were balled up in fists. 'Get out," she ordered.

'Oh, very mature," he said sarcastically. 'Let's not bother to talk about our problems, let's just break up." He couldn't believe he'd let those words slip out of his mouth. He didn't want to break up with Maya.

She closed her eyes. She was standing very still. 'Is that what you want?" She asked through clenched teeth.

He forced himself to swallow his pride. 'No. I want to talk about why you wont let me have any input in our life or how we raise Nicholas."

'Our life? Tyler, we're still individuals. There's still a you and there's still a me. There's no reason why you can't see your family over Christmas and I can't see mine."

Fuck. She really knew how to piss him off. 'So let me get this straight, we're not family?"

'Tyler...' She didn't seem to have an answer.

'Because for some reason I thought that what we were doing here was more than just fucking."

'Yes, of course...'

He cut her off. 'But you still don't think of me as family?" He was yelling at her, his anger taking control.

She just stared at him.

'What? Do you need a title? Do you need me to marry you?" He was being condescending, he wanted to hurt her as much as she'd hurt him.

She still didn't say anything, but her eyes narrowed, her jaw clenched.

'Fine. Maya, marry me," he said with hatred. 'Be... my... wife." He spat out the syllables. 'Is that what you wanted? Does that make us a family now?"

She glared at him in silence and he felt his blood boil.

'What? Not good enough? You need a ring?"

He walked over to the dresser and flung open his drawer. He got her ring out of its hiding place and threw it at her. 'There. Now do I get a say in our life? Or are we still just two individuals?"

The ring hit her in the chest and fell to the floor. She didn't move, she didn't even look at it, she just stood there with her arms folded, glaring at him.

'Fuck it." He left. He walked away from her. He couldn't deal with her anymore.


Thank god the next day was a Wednesday and he didn't have to go in to work. He didn't want to face her. Emma was still on maternity leave so Wednesdays were pretty chill, even though she didn't help much with the kids it was still nice to have another adult around. Emma said she was feeling a bit better. She went out for a jog with Cassie and was smiling when she got back.

'What are you smiling about?" He asked.

'I am so unfit. I just ran four miles and I feel like I raced a marathon."

'And that makes you smile?"

'Yeah. I was thinking that maybe I would run a marathon. It might be fun. Maybe I will take some extra time off work and train for one."

Oh thank god. Her medication was starting to kick in, either that or she was pulling out of this depressive episode, she was actually taking pleasure in something. 'Sounds good. Let me know if I can help." He tried to encourage her without being patronizing.

Tyler wanted to get out of the house. He took Nicholas to the children's museum in downtown Denver, he offered to take Grace with him but Emma wanted to stay home with her.

'There is an art studio session in twenty minutes, do you want to register for that?" The woman at the front desk asked.

'What is it?"

'Painting. It's pretty casual, we just require that you register because there are only 12 easels."

'What do you think Kolya? Do you want to do some painting?" He asked.

Nicholas nodded up at him, excitement in his big brown eyes.

They wandered around the museum until it was time for art studio. Nicholas held Tyler's hand. He was shy, he didn't like the groups of kids that were tearing around the exhibits, screaming and hollering while their mothers huddled together at the sidelines chatting.

Art studio was more sedate. It was basically just a bunch of kids painting pictures at easels with a 'teacher' wandering around to encourage them.

Nicholas was having a good time, Tyler could tell. He looked like he was concentrating so hard on painting, the focus in his eyes was absolutely adorable. He painted the things that little kids paint; his house, his family, his dog.

Nicholas got it. Even if Maya wasn't able to come to terms with it, Nicholas understood. Tyler was in almost every painting. Of course you couldn't tell from looking at them, but when he asked, Nicholas pointed at the figures and told him, 'That's mummy and that's you and that's me and that's Cassie and that's our house."

He signed each painting with a 'N' in the bottom corner, he was the only kid in the class who did that.

Maya was dreading seeing Tyler. Thank god it was a Wednesday and he hadn't come to the office. She really hadn't wanted to go over to Sam and Emma's place tonight, but she had made a commitment to help with the children while Matthew was still young so she did it anyway.

Emma actually stayed up while she was there. Previously she had always gone to bed after Maya arrived, but today she seemed to want to hang out. She was sitting at the kitchen island feeding Matthew while Maya got the dinner out of the fridge to heat it.

'He's so placid. I guess he must take after Sam," she said.

Maya turned to watch Emma with her baby, she was staring at him contentedly, the way that mothers do.

'Is it very different when the child is genetically yours?" Maya asked.

'Um... Honestly yes, I think it is, but everyone has their own experience, Sam might not agree with me."

'How is it different for you?"

'Well, I think that with a child who is your offspring you might take for granted the fact that when he looks at you he sees his mother. With an adopted child you find yourself hoping and praying that when they look at you they see their mother. It is scarier. You still do all of the things that a parent does, you still pour yourself into the child, but there isn't the feeling of assurance that you're going to develop the bond. But then when it happens it is so rewarding, I can honestly say that the first time Grace called me mommy was the best moment of my life." She looked up at Maya and smiled. 'And I've had a pretty good life."

Maya continued to prepare the dinner. She wondered how Tyler felt about Nicholas. She hadn't really worried about it before last night. Of course there was that period when he'd had said that he didn't want to be Nicholas' father but once he had told her that he was over that she had put it away in the back of her mind.

Tyler was a good father figure to Nicholas, and that is how she had viewed the situation, father figure. But last night he had been so upset, 'If I'm not his father, then who am I?" He had asked.

What was the difference between a father figure and a father? And which one did she want Tyler to be? He'd made it clear that he wanted to be the latter, but what did that really mean?

She guessed if she was going to marry him that was something that they should figure out. That is, if those were his intentions, she wasn't sure after last night's fight. She wasn't quite sure of anything.

She had thought that he was just being mean to her when he had said those words. There was such venom in his voice, such hatred, and he was glaring at her as if she were the devil herself, but then he'd produced a ring and she didn't know what to think. Obviously he wasn't serious when he'd proposed last night, but he had a ring, which showed some intent, didn't it? She could have explained it away if they had been at his house, then it could have been a family heirloom, or something left over from his previous relationship, but it was at her house. He had been hiding a ring in his drawer at her house.

It was beautiful. After he left she had picked it up and put it back in the box in his drawer, but when it became obvious that he wasn't coming back she took it back out and examined it. It was an oval cut blue sapphire with small white diamonds descending a thin white gold band. It was decorative but it wasn't gaudy, it sparkled softly, it was beautiful without being flashy. She loved it. She wished that she had found out about it under better circumstances.

She hadn't realized that he was that serious about their relationship. He had told her that he had dated his last girlfriend for five years before asking her to marry him. She had figured that it would take him a long time to make his mind up, but here they were after just a few months and he had a ring.

Honestly, it delighted the shit out of her. Even the sensible part of her brain, the part that usually told her to slow down, was happy with the idea of marrying Tyler. The question was, was Tyler still happy with the idea of marrying her?

It was almost seven thirty, they would be home soon, she was starting to get nervous. She didn't know how she should act. They'd gotten into the routine of eating with Sam and Emma on weeknights, it was going to be weird to sit through dinner with them having all of this unfinished business between them.

'Are you okay?" Emma asked. 'You seem quiet."

'Yeah, I'm just not looking forward to seeing Tyler. We had a fight last night."

'Oh, that's what his problem was today."

Maya shook her head. 'I don't know how you do it Emma."

'Do what?"

'You and Sam. You're the prefect couple. How do you do it?"

Emma looked at her for a few long seconds. 'Sam is the most important person in the world to me. He always comes first."

That didn't seem realistic to Maya. 'But what about the children?"

'Of course the children have needs and I will always see to them, but Sam is more important than them."

'But what about you, what about what you want out of life? Your career?"

She shook her head, 'Sam is more important than that."

'Emma, I'm sorry but that sounds like a recipe for disaster. When you put your life in somebody else's hands like that you are just asking to be used."

'You think he uses me?" It was just a question, there wasn't any offense in her tone.


'That's because I am the most important person in Sam's world. Could I use Sam? Yes. Would I ever even consider doing it? No. I don't think you really love somebody until you give them that power over you."

Maya felt uncomfortable. What Emma had said came dangerously close to what Tyler whispered to her when they were snuggling together. 'You are my sun," he had told her, 'you are the most important person in the world." Did she have that power over Tyler? Had he already given that to her?

She thought about all of the things that he did for her. He looked after Nicholas, he followed her stupid rules of how to behave at work, he was resigning from his job so that they could be together. He wanted to spend Christmas with her and Nicholas. He had bought her a ring.

It all fell into place in her brain. Tyler had given himself over to her, and she hadn't reciprocated. She didn't treat him like he was the most important. She had slept over with Julia instead of going home to him. She had told him that she'd prefer to spend the holidays with her family instead of him. She had told him that he wasn't her family.

Fuck. What had she done?

She felt the panic rising in her chest. What if Tyler wouldn't forgive her? What if he decided to pull the plug?

'Maya? Are you okay?" Emma asked. 'You look like you just saw a ghost."

'Um... yeah, I'm okay." She heard the front door creak open and Cassie trotted through the kitchen to greet Tyler and Sam. Maya's heart was in her throat. How could she make this right?

Sam walked into the kitchen.

'Hi," he said to Maya. He was grinning. He went to Emma and put his arms around her and kissed her. 'Gray told me that you went for a run today."

'Yeah, it just about killed me," Emma replied.

Sam looked overjoyed. 'Are you my fat wife?" He teased her as he grabbed at her thighs in a playful way.

Emma laughed. 'As opposed to who? Your skinny wife? I didn't know you had one of those."

'No, you're right. I only have one wife, a perfect wife." He kissed her again, but this time it wasn't a hello kiss, it was clearly something more.

Maya tried to ignore them by busying herself with setting the table. Where was Tyler? It was killing her. All sorts of unpleasant thought were running through her head, was he purposefully avoiding her? What if he never wanted to see her again?

'Where's Gray?" Emma asked.

'He went to the pool. He wanted to get some extra miles in."

Maya's heart sank. He was avoiding her.

Grace and Nicholas came into the kitchen, they had been playing in the adjoining room.

'Daddy, daddy, daddy...' Grace badgered Sam until he picked her up.

Nicholas looked around. 'Mommy where's Tyler?" He asked suspiciously.

'He's at the swimming pool."

Nicholas looked upset, his brow furrowed and he stuck his bottom lip out. 'But why?" He complained.

'I don't know baby, I guess he wanted to go for a swim."

Nicholas looked dangerously close to throwing a tantrum, he crossed his arms over his chest and narrowed his eyes. 'But why?" His voice rose in pitch as if he was about to let his anger loose.

'Nicholas, stop. Tyler's not here, that's just the way it is."

Nicholas squeezed his eyes shut and stomped his foot. 'I want Tyler!' He screamed.

Yeah, he wasn't the only one. 'Nicholas...' She said it like a warning.

Nicholas started stomping his feet in earnest. His hands were balled up in fists and his eyes were squeezed shut. 'I want Tyler!' He screamed again. 'I want Tyler, I want Tyler, I... want... Tyler!'

Matthew started crying, the racket of Nicholas' screaming unsettling him.

Shit, not again, he hadn't thrown a tantrum in ages. She walked over to him and picked him up, his legs kicked at her and his fist swung wildly.

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