Authors: A.J. Lape
The day Eddie Lopez wreaked havoc all over my high school, Dodge Charger man showed up, stuffed me in the trunk of his car, then informed me that he’d kept Eddie from killing me on a separate occasion. His advice was to stay close to another man named “Jaws,” but I hadn’t seen nor heard from either of them since the incident. And it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
“Child’s play,” Troy joked. “I did all of that when I was eight.”
“Throw me a bone,” I frowned.
“Here’s your bone … read the story.”
“Already did, nimrod.” He actually laughed.
“Read deeper, but the story is there, Ms. Ovaries. Sniff it out.” Then he hung up.
I cocked my head to one side, contemplating the methods I’d use to accomplish what no one else had been able to in six months. Not a clue, but I’d figure it out once my feet hit the Orlando soil. Securing the last of my toiletries, I opened the door and saw that Dylan had made my bed and was wheeling my luggage to the hall, packed and ready to go.
“Thanks,” I laughed in a throaty sound. I didn’t get around to packing, mostly because I was lazy. At least, my clothes were in piles, though. Thing was, two weeks of underwear sat right on top. Dylan now knew my bra size.
Shoving that thought down, I threw my toiletries into a tote bag as Dylan motioned to my chest of drawers that held a Starbucks cup of coffee and a Krispy Kreme doughnut. In my book, Krispy Kreme doughnuts were manna from Heaven dropped from the sky.
Shoveling the doughnut in my mouth, I snagged the coffee and walked out into the hallway when Murphy stumbled toward us with his wallet.
“Have a good time, kids. I’ll miss you both.” Murphy was shirtless, wearing black sweatpants and a ratty white ball cap, pulled down over his eyes. My theory was he liked to block out the world. He didn’t like many people; Dylan was on the short-list.
While he stuffed traveler’s checks and a wad of twenties in my hand, his bedroom door swung wide and out marched my little sister—wearing one of my bras and a pair of panties, safety-pinned at the waist.
I fought a laugh; sad thing was they fit her about as well as they fit me.
She ran forward and latched onto Dylan’s leg. He stiffened like he was moments from the death rattles settling in, sighed, opened his mouth, and then repeated the sequence again.
“You just lost your tan,” I munched, swallowing the rest of the doughnut. Dylan set the luggage down and reluctantly hugged her with stiff arms. “What’s that smell?” he asked wincing.
Oh, Lordy. You couldn’t deny the South American voodoo.
“Booby cream,” Marjorie smiled. She put her hands on her hips, turned, and gave him her best centerfold shot. “Do I look like I have boobies yet?”
Dylan tried to beam himself to Mars. “Not yet,” he whispered. “You’re killing me,” he said even lower.
“Sweet Jesus,” Murphy prayed. I likewise turned and struck my best pin-up pose. Arms over my head, butt, and boobs stuck out at awkward angles.
, D?” I giggled. “Do
Murphy went coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs, slamming both of his hands over my mouth, rattling my teeth. “Shut up, Darcy,” he warned. Seriously, it was only for the joke. I still wore a training bra. I trained and I trained; they rebelled and rebelled.
“Keep Darcy on a short leash, son,” Murphy groaned. “She’s due something bad, and don’t let her drag you down with her.”
Murphy was right. I usually choked on the chain or tripped the person controlling me. Dylan sucked in a bunch of air, his inner Boy Scout in danger of getting dirty. Standard SOP. I gave him an evil Cheshire grin …
3. GREEK GODS
AYLOR IS FIFTY PERCENT
Greek, so branding his family the Greek god immortals was like capitalizing on a joke the universe already teed up for you. Truth of the matter, they fit the part. Each possessed flawless skin, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they munched on ambrosia and nectar as they flitted from cloud to cloud. Honest to God, I probably ought to rethink this entire relationship. It wasn’t easy to hang with the beautiful people when you had the self-esteem of a festering boil.
True to his Greek nature, he’d named his business jet, Pegasus. Pegasus was kept at Lunken Airport near the Ohio River. Flights went in-and-out of Lunken 24 hours a day.
Dylan parked his black, fully loaded, large class BMW on the runway next to the airplane. Evidently, he’d been a good boy because his birthday gift was a car whose sticker price represented the average yearly income of people that live on my street.
If being good was a prerequisite, I’d be lucky to snag a cup of phlegm.
As he retrieved my baggage from the trunk, I stepped out of the car and bounded up the stairs. The Cincinnati air resembled a roasted marshmallow. Hot, wrinkly, and full of black gunk. When you had vacation on your mind, you could care less if you were tarred beyond all recognition.
“Excited?” I heard him chuckle from behind. I gave him a dismissive wave as I scaled up the first six steps, leaping over the last two like a kangaroo. Sounded easy enough, but my flip-flop decided to flip while I was flopping, and I crashed down on one knee landing chin first—and butt last—into the cabin. It was a teeth-jarring thud, and I momentarily wondered if a wheel had fallen off. I army-crawled toward the sounds of happy campers and the smell of fresh fruit, pastries, summer sausage … and, big sigh, Dakota
Cody always smelled
. A confirmed bachelor, he piloted Pegasus and just might be the first crush I’d ever had. He had thick brown hair, and at 6 feet tall was pure muscle, raging testosterone with a scar down the right side of his face that made him the scary kind of hot. To top it all off, he had Hershey bar eyes.
Add “war hero” to his resume … and he was one big “yum.”
Dylan’s father read an interview after Cody retired from active Army service where he said he didn’t want to fly commercial, but he wanted to find a family. Whatever Colton Taylor wanted, Colton Taylor usually got. So he tracked him down and offered him the deal of a lifetime.
My hormones stopped when I made it to Cody’s black leather shoes. “Hey Cody,” I grinned, looking up.
“Welcome aboard, Darcy,” he laughed, squatting down, tipping my chin upwards. “You really know how to make an entrance.”
One way to term stupidity.
Pulling me up, Cody greeted me with a warm smile, dressed in black slacks, white shirt, with a gray winged horse monogrammed on the bottom of his black tie.
“Pratfall is sort of my specialty,” I shrugged. No kidding. A 36-inch inseam left you to your own klutzy devices.
After I attempted to straighten my clothes, I extended my hand to shake his, but he tugged me into an embrace. “You’re family,” he chuckled. “I only get to see you once a year, and you’ve grown. Plus, you’ve had your braces removed. Colton said you were lovely, and I must say, the man never lies.”
Cody sweet-talked like his tongue was coated in sugar. Let’s be honest, anything was an upgrade. I not only had to work through a gawky body but some goddawful teeth. My canines looked vampiric, my molars were impacted, and my front teeth framed a crossbite so severe the doctor needed graph paper to line them up properly. Now, that braces were dunzo, I’m not sure what I had. I honestly tried not to dwell.
I pulled back, sniffing his breath. “Have you had your head in a beer bong?”
Cody crossed his arms over his chest, “Darcy, there’s nothing you won’t say.”
Oh, yeah, there is. I’d like to ask what was underneath his clothes but opted against it. I glanced back as Dylan boarded the plane, his smile branching wide and unusually delicious.
“Are you flirting with Cody,” he chuckled. “I prefer when you flirt with
I frowned, followed by a loud snort. I didn’t flirt; flirting was his department. Darcy Walker’s a self-assured verb that had no time for men. “I refuse to flirt with you,” I said with little conviction.
Dylan wrapped his arms around my waist, his voice rumbling low in my ear. “Is that right? Your body insinuated something differently this morning.”
My tongue was suddenly mute.
Most people had a fraction of pride, and my miniscule amount demanded this was the time to issue a denial. Thing was, I liked the way his arms felt, and the ravenous feelings he’d given me lately tempted me to go to badgirlville and never return. But Lord, was it confusing. One minute I wanted to spit on his food; the next I wanted to dance in a red corset and black stockings. So the truth was, my mouth said one thing; my body said another.
Schizophrenia at its finest.
Dylan knuckled Cody’s hand. “Good morning, Cody.”
“Good morning,” Cody grinned. “I was just telling Darcy how she’s quite the catch.”
Dylan groaned as though someone gutted him but surprisingly remained wordless. Cody’s eyes clicked on mine with a wink.
“Cody’s had his head in a beer bong, D. You might need to fly the plane.”
Dylan’s mouth still didn’t work.
“I’ve got Bullet,” Cody laughed.
“Bullet’s not breathing,” I said. Bullet Wallace copiloted Pegasus. He wasn’t a man of few words; he was a man of no words. Also an Army veteran (rumored Delta Force), he led the unit that rescued Cody from a desert grave when his fighter jet crashed. His light brown hair lay graying at the temples with an unknown eye color hidden behind his shades. As big as a dinosaur, he weighed about 250 pounds of I’m-hotter-than-shiz. I’d only seen him stand once, but estimated him to be taller than average and like Cody, mid-30s.
Bullet swiveled in his seat and gave me a two-fingered salute. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. I stared; he stared, the whole dang plane wondered why we were staring.
These teenage hormones … I was all over the place and positive I’d just flirted with three males.
Thankfully, Cody clapped both his hands together as if he’d remembered something. Bullet bent down retrieving a white bag, tossing it over. “Bullet and I bought you something,” Cody murmured.
He pulled a black ball cap out of the bag for Dylan and a silver-wrapped box, bowed in red for me.
Please be chocolate
, I prayed.
I promise I’ll be a good girl
I heard a laugh and didn’t know if that was Heaven or me.
“You didn’t,” Dylan whispered. He ran his hand through his jet-black hair then looked at him with sincerity. “Is this legit?”
,” Cody laughed, in a Southern drawl. My guess was he originated from Georgia, but the further south you went, they all sounded like fried chicken and black-eyed peas anyway.
Dylan admired his cap that said “Ranger” monogrammed in yellow gold on the front, turning it end-over-end like a rare artifact he was inspecting. Finally, he gently shoved it on his head then touched his heart. Dylan had two characteristics that were a window to his soul. He’d stroke his heart if something moved him deeply, or he’d run his hand through his hair or rearrange his hat. Right now, he was doing both.
“Open yours, beauty,” Cody winked to me. Carefully removing the bow, I passed it to Dylan and unwrapped a book entitled
Atlas of the Stars
Crap … cue the water works.
Since childhood, I’d been a stargazer. I’d been flying with Cody since age nine, and apparently, he’d remembered our conversations.
“You’re welcome,” Cody smiled, hugging me once more. “You remind me of someone I care about very much.” Cody breathed deep, his chest catching some strong emotion that nearly floored him. When it clearly became overwhelming, he gave a quick jerk of his head, gasping twice.
Well, well, well
, I thought. Cody had an unrequited love in his life. Star-crossed lovers? Destiny dictated you crossed paths, but Fate said the love was short-lived?
Dylan and Bullet talked about the weather just to ease the moment.
After another round of “thank yous,” I snagged a cup of coffee, two danishes, a spoonful of eggs, and a link sausage for breakfast number two. I skipped over the fruit and whole grain options—unfortunately, that fairy skipped over my bassinet.
Traveling to the middle of the plane, I got a sleepy wave from Dylan’s 12-year-old brother, Zander, as he pulled a navy blanket out from an overhead bin. “I call dibs,” he grinned, glancing at my legs.
“Hey, Hot Stuff,” I munched, a sausage hanging out of my mouth like a cigarette.
Zander, I’d nicknamed “Hot Stuff” because he was a boiling over hormone in the throes of puberty. Zander loved girls, and right now, he loved
. Around 5’3”, he was built like a scarecrow and still wearing Super Hero pajamas. He was his mother’s mirror image, but God love him, his toes curled like a pigeon’s, and his knees knocked together when he walked. Evidently, everyone couldn’t be a Greek god even if it lay buried in your DNA. We should probably talk about the Super Hero pjs, regardless. He should’ve chucked those around age eight.
“I’m going back to sleep, Darcy, but I had to say hello to the woman of my dreams.”
He tiptoed up, kissing me on the cheek. “Pleasant dreams,” I said not able to stop my patented you’re-stupid stare.
Zander navigated past Dylan’s doppelganger typing away on his open laptop. Dylan and his father had the same star quality: knockout face, deep-set dimples, and sexy-as-sin mole in the corner of their left eye. The only notable difference lay in the color of the iris. His father’s shone as black as the mystery of night.
At 6’3” and cut like a body-builder,
Colton Taylor had been well on his way to becoming a professional basketball player after college at UCLA. When that dream blew up along with his knee senior year, his backup plan was to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an LA police detective. Problem was, his father was legendary for eating more lead than anyone on the force and somehow surviving. When his mother discovered he’d signed up for a life of dodging bullets, she got all Greek, went into seclusion, and he bailed after one year to find a job in the business world. To say he was successful was an understatement. Colton Taylor could sell paper to a tree.