Authors: A.J. Lape
“Talk to me,” a voice murmured. I finished the song then concluded the Lord probably didn’t want to hear me sing.
Someone said again, “It’s me, sweetheart. Talk to me.”
Shaking my head brusquely, my eyes blinked open as Dylan wiped my face with both his thumbs. “Lord?” I choked out.
“No,” he chuckled, “I
have some supernatural characteristics, but I’m not that high up the chain of command.”
“You wiped out and took a little trip to la-la land. You nearly scared me to death.”
I spit again, running my tongue across my upper teeth, ensuring they still clung snugly to the gums. My nasal cavity had swelled, but when I tried to sneeze it open, all that came out was a dribble of snot.
“Do I need stitches?” I snuffed.
Dylan caressed the bridge of my nose once more, tilting it back to peer inside, finally nodding in the negative. “I don’t think so.”
At fifteen, I had the joints of a professional football player with a mass of arthritic injuries: ulna, cheekbone, finger, wrist, and ankle—all breaks, no stitches … well, darn.
As I tread water, I cursed, “Holy crap it hurts.”
“Ah, Darc,” Dylan moaned sympathetically. “Come here, and let me love on you.” Dylan was the take-charge type. When I continued with the dead fish routine, he clutched me to his wet, muscled chest, and I briefly went bye-bye. I longed to hug him. Kiss him. Roll all over him. Not necessarily in that order. This must be a concussion speaking because these just weren’t my thoughts—although no woman with functioning estrogen could deny the pull.
What sounded like a moan hung in the air … my word, I think it was mine.
To my silent protest, he gingerly lifted me back in the tube as he and Zander climbed in afterward.
“Sorry,” Zander laughed, retying his hot pink trunks, lounging back against the black seat. “I tried to dodge but was in the middle of a scheduled enema. It was awesome.”
Yeah, enemas were the bomb.
I lay flat-backed on the tube, like road kill that had recently been splattered. After a few bleary moments and more Kumbaya, Colton docked at the wharf, pulling us by the rope to the side of the boat. His eyes focused on Zander and me only briefly, but spent most of the time shooting daggers straight through the heart of Dylan. Wearing red swimming trunks, they appeared vastly washed out compared to the hue of his angry face.
“Dylan!” he screamed, pointing at his jaw. “Don’t
dive off the side of the boat again when it’s moving! You could’ve gotten ripped apart by the propeller. For all I care, you could’ve been sliced in two, but if you make your mother cry, you’re a dead man.”
Dylan hoisted himself onto the wharf, extending his hand for me, too self-assured in his own abilities. He calmly said, “I cleared it, Dad.”
His father gently grabbed my opposite elbow, pulling my punch-drunk behind to a standing position. He muttered to himself, his voice a little more in control. “Quit being so cocky, son. One day, it’s going to come back and bite you.”
Dylan definitely shot off some cocky, but it’s just that he never really failed at anything.
Homes in Florida could be pink, peach, coral, or some other random rainbow color, and it remained acceptable. Outside of a few historic areas in downtown Cincinnati, if you painted a house pastel in the Midwest, people would swear you were having an LSD flashback.
The Taylors’ 15,000 square foot home away from home was located off Serendipity Club Drive. Dylan’s family called this “home” several weeks out of the year, including spontaneous weekends and major holidays. Plus, any other time they wanted to enjoy the Benjis, they probably used as toilet paper.
A French architect designed the mansion, and when Colton discovered it was named
Maison de Saule
Home of Willow
, he yanked it off the market quicker than a shark devouring chum. I gather he considered it a good omen that would keep his globetrotting sister home. Trouble was, half the time no one even knew where she parked her stilettos.
I called Willow the goddess of love because she played matchmaker to anyone she met. Oddly, she seemed to be the one that couldn’t find true love herself. She currently dated polo playing, Viscount Henry Ainsworth of the British Highlands. Sounded important and royal, but for all we knew, he could’ve bought the title off the Internet.
The outside of
Maison de Saule
looked like your typical Florida home with palm trees, magnolias, and white stucco. The inside was white and airy with a contemporary Grecian flare. Large columns, reminiscent of the Parthenon, supported the structure that included a den, media room, living room, nine baths, library, and office. The kitchen came equipped with stainless steel Sub-Zero refrigeration, black marble countertops, top-of-the-line Wolf gadgets, and a bar area that seated eight.
Outside, a four-car garage and unattached guesthouse sat to the left of the property. An infinity pool adorned the backyard with a lanai overhead, hot tub, and beautiful view of the golf course winding around the lake. Perhaps what I liked best, though, were the seven bedrooms. The majority had french doors that opened to a marble lakefront terrace, perfect to watch the sunset framed by willow trees.
Since boating stopped before it truly got going, the four of us finished out the afternoon poolside. Lying on a black padded chaise, Sydney had sashayed out fifteen minutes ago wearing a white string bikini that qualified as little more than dental floss. Colton asked her to change. Currently, she hadn’t moved a muscle, and odds were she wasn’t going to. My black halter top bikini clung more to the concept of “covering your flaws.”
Colton still acted somewhat skittish, and it wasn’t just the plane or boat ride. He’d also pulled his father’s fist out of the ‘offensive line’s’ mouth. “Are you sure you’re okay, dear?” he asked.
My brain stutter-stepped for the last hour, and I didn’t know if it was: (A), I’d finished off a jar of olives; (B), I’d tampered with the Cisco Medina case; or (C), I couldn’t stop wondering who lived on borrowed time in LA. Not to mention (D), whose freaking head fell off? That was too many variables to juggle to nail down only one.
A light rap rattled the outside entrance, and Kyd Knoblecker moseyed in before I could answer. Kyd and his family were the next-door neighbors. Kyd thought he was long lost family. If it were up to Dylan, however, he’d be lost in a meat grinder.
Kyd paraded over to the bottom of my chair, sitting at my feet—looking at me as if he’d eat me alive. “I heard my girlfriend was here,” he murmured. “I’ve missed you, Darcy.”
Annnnnnnnd prove to the world you’re an absolute moron.
Since my tongue took a time-out, I gave him a mindless wave.
Kyd graduated in May, and in what appeared to be a fit of insanity, he’d developed a crush on me. Throughout the year, he’d phone, email, send naughty texts at holidays, and pledge his eternal devotion and desire to impregnate me with a dozen kids. I’d rather be impregnated by a five-headed gargoyle, but he didn’t seem to tire of the begging.
Dylan stretched over, mumbling in his father’s direction, “Can this day get any worse?”
“I heard that, Taylor,” Kyd laughed.
Dylan jerked his head around, firing off a lethal stare. “Good. Consider me a bullet in a loaded gun.”
I understood Dylan’s concern. Kyd had a playboy look about him. A little taller than me, he sported designer everything with a pick-up line tattooed to his tongue. He also wore a smile that said,
It’s a matter of time before you succumb to the wile.
Reputation claimed a lot of girls had buckled under the pressure. With blue-green eyes and sandy blond hair, Kyd definitely was model-handsome. Even in an untucked t-shirt, his chest rippled and bulged in all the appropriate places. And the lower half of his body wasn’t bad to look at, either. His legs were lined with long, lanky muscle. Not too big, not too small.
As Goldilocks would say,
Kyd’s eyes dipped to my stomach, lingered for a while, then up to my eyes with a lusty growl. “Did you miss me?” he drawled.
“Yeah,” I grinned, finally locating my voice. “I thought about you right around the time the nausea hit mid-flight.”
(giggle-snort) My God, I loved myself…
“I’ve been known to produce butterflies,” Kyd smiled broadly. “Nice pedicure.”
Kyd was a moron. Marjorie painted my toenails, alternating between red, white, and neon blue. It was dreadfully unskilled, but I didn’t want to discourage her Picasso aspirations.
“Patriotic,” I shrugged.
“I love patriots,” he flirted.
When Kyd wound his hand around my foot, Dylan shot up growling, straddling his chair. “It’s going to be the color of your face in about five minutes. Drop her foot before I shove
Oh boy, Dylan said the donkey word.
“Does anyone else think this situation is as transparent as I do?” Sydney said huskily.
“Stop, Syd,” Dylan demanded, “
“Whatever, little brother,” she purred. “Just keep paddling along that river called DE-NIAL, and see if you get anywhere.”
Colton sucked in a breath then sighed in interruption, trying as always to be Mr. Manners-and-Dignified. “How are you, Kyd?” he murmured, rising up to swipe his hand.
Kyd stood up, returning the gesture. “I’m well, Mr. Taylor. Thank you for asking.”
“Don’t you have someplace to be?” Dylan bit out. And there you have it, folks. Dylan’s mouth started running on steroids. He wanted what he wanted, and everyone else needed to step out of his way.
Kyd slowly shook his head, almost in a purposeful taunt. “Actually, I don’t.”
Dylan warned, “Trust me, you do.”
“No,” Kyd refuted doggedly, “I’ve found what I was looking for … blonde, leggy, tanned, great teeth. That spells at least one date. Frankly, it might spell a trip to Cincinnati.” That was the biggest load of bull-to-the-crap I’d ever heard. “How about it, Legs?” he grinned.
“I considered trying a speedball once but then thought,
, not worth the risk,” I joked.
Sydney burst out laughing; Colton muttered, “Good Lord, I need an aspirin.”
“Your mouth,” Kyd fake pouted, “another reason why I want to date you.”
Kyd continued the rakish grin, vacillating back and forth between Dylan’s rising anger and my apparent reaction to it. Frankly, I was uncomfortable for two reasons. I didn’t like to be the object of discussion, and I didn’t want Dylan to go
Texas Chainsaw Massacre
on him. Kyd either liked inflicting his Casanovaish tendencies on girls or was an out-and-out idiot who didn’t care if he lost his teeth. Maybe both.
“You’re jealous,” he smirked to Dylan. Dylan didn’t confirm nor deny, but the statement definitely left him irritated. “Regardless,” Kyd shrugged, “it’s my understanding that Darcy is single.”
“I am,” I mumbled in my head.
Dylan gave him one of those stares that said you might technically be right, but there’s a whole file of information you’re not operating under. Kyd threw his head back, his laugh a little heavy on the theatrics. “Oh, my,” he said, “I do believe you are green with envy.”
I gasped, “Crap.”
Sydney purred, “Suicide.”
But Dylan’s father surprisingly remained quiet. It dawned on me, in that moment, that he was more concerned with how his son handled poaching in his territory. What didn’t I understand about the rules of man-land? Granted, most of my friends were males, but I’d never understand why some guys barely said, “Hello,” then immediately attacked what they thought was yours.
“You know who you remind me of, Kyd?” Dylan spat.
Kyd lifted a shoulder, indifferent. “Not in the slightest.”
“You remind me of Darcy’s grandfather’s goats.”
I choked on the Coke I’d been sipping, suddenly wanting to nosedive into the nearest volcano. Those goats were the stupidest creatures ever created, and in my opinion just sucked up green space best reserved for the cows.
Kyd folded his arms across his chest, looking confused. “I’m sorry,” Dylan said to him. “Let me clarify the comparison … Winston’s asinine goats. They eat garbage and whatever else is in their path. And you know what? Their young are called
. What I’m
,” he stressed, “is called a little bit of housekeeping, baby goat. Every once in a while, you need to take out the trash.”
Dylan’s father laughed loudly but quickly cleared his throat. Then, he chuckled again and tried to swallow it down with iced tea. Vintage Dylan. No one did smart-mouth better than him.
!” I screeched. Surprise, surprise, he ignored me. “You’re being a hypocrite,” I huffed. “Girls flirt with you all the time.”
“That’s different,” he snorted.
“How’s that different?”
“It just is,” Sydney whispered for him.
“I’m going,” I told him.
Dylan rolled his eyes, giving me a dream-on look. “Are you sure about that?” he murmured.