I skipped posting on my blog on Monday, mainly because it was usually a "What are you reading" type thing and I wasn't reading anything new at the moment. I decided my poor car needed a bath instead. Mom would be proud if she had been up, seeing that I was outside during the summer and not chained to my laptop. Other than the occasional gardening stint, I was typically a shut-in.

The sky was clear and the air carried a light musky scent mingled with pine. Soon after I'd gotten started with cleaning the inside of my car, I was amazed at how many pens and hair ties I found. Seeing my book bag on the back seat caused me to cringe. In a couple of weeks I'd be starting a new school, and I knew Dee would be surrounded by friends - friends that Daemon probably approved of, which wasn't me, because he obviously thought I was a crack dealer.

Next, I got out a bucket and hose and soaped up most of the car, but when I reached over the top of the roof, all I ended up doing was soaking myself and dropping the sponge a dozen times.

No matter which side I tried to attack the roof from, it wasn't working Cursing, I started picking out pieces of gravel and grass from the sponge. I wanted to launch it into the nearby woods. Frustrated, I ended up tossing the sponge into the bucket.

"You look as if you could use some help." I jumped. Daemon stood a few feet away from me, hands in the front pockets of his faded jeans. His bright eyes sparkled in the sunlight.

His sudden appearance had startled me. I hadn't even heard him. How could someone move so damn quietly, especially as tall as he was? And hey, he had a shirt on. I wasn't sure if I should be grateful or disappointed. Mouth aside, he was drool-worthy. I snapped out of it, preparing myself for the inevitable verbal smackdown.

He wasn't smiling, but at least he didn't look like he wanted to kill me this time. If anything, his expression took on a mask of grudging acceptance, probably how I looked when I had to give a book I'd been excited about a less than stellar review.

"You looked as though you wanted to throw that again." He gestured to the bucket with his elbow and the sponge floating on top of the suds. "I figured I'd do my good deed for the day and intervene before any innocent sponges lose their lives." I brushed a few strands of damp hair out of my eyes, not sure what to say.

Daemon bent quickly and snatched up the sponge, squeezing out the excess water. "You look like you got more of a bath than the car. I never thought washing a car would be so hard, but after watching you for the last fifteen minutes, I'm convinced it should be an Olympic sport."

"You were watching me?" Kind of creepy.

Kind of hot. No! Not hot.


He shrugged. "You could always take the car to the car wash. It would be a lot easier."

"Car washes are a waste of money."

"True," he said slowly. He knelt down and began cleaning a spot I'd missed on the fender around the tire before tackling the roof of the car. "You need new tires. These are about bald and winter's crazy around here." I didn't care about my tires. I couldn't figure out why he was here, talking to me, when the last time we'd spoken, he'd acted like I was the antichrist and practically had me pinned to a tree, talking about ways to get dirty. And why hadn't I brushed my hair this morning?

"Anyway, I'm glad you were out here." He finished with the roof in record time and picked up the hose. He flashed a half grin at me and started spraying the car with water, the suds running down the sides like an overflowing cup.

"I think I'm supposed to apologize."

"You think you're supposed to?" Daemon faced me, eyes narrowed against the bright sun, and I barely dodged the spray of water as he tackled the opposite side of the car.

"Yeah, according to Dee I needed to get my ass over here and make nice. Something about me killing her chances of having a 'normal' friend."

"A normal friend? What kind of friends does she have?"

"Not normal," he replied.

He preferred "not normal" friends for his sister? "Well, apologizing and not meaning it kind of defeats the purpose of apologizing." He made an affirmative noise. "True." I stared at him. "Are you serious?"

"Yeah," he dragged the word out, working his way around the car as he continued to rinse off the soap suds. "Actually, I don't have a choice. I have to make nice."

"You don't seem like a person who does anything he doesn't want to do."

"Normally I'm not." He moved around to the back of the car. "But my sister took my car keys and until I play nice, I don't get them back.

It's too damn annoying to get replacements." I tried to stop it, but I laughed. "She took your keys?"

He scowled, returning to my side. "It's not funny."

"You're right." I laughed. "It's freaking hilarious."

Daemon shot me a dirty look.

I folded my arms. "I'm sorry, though. I'm not accepting your not-so-sincere apology."

"Not even when I'm cleaning your car?"

"Nope." I smiled at the way his eyes narrowed. "You may never see those keys again."

"Well, damn, there went my plan." A begrudging smile toyed with the corners of his mouth. "I figured that if I really don't feel bad, then at least I could make up for it." Part of me was annoyed, but there was another part of me that was amused - reluctantly amused. "Are you normally this warm and sparkly?"

He headed past me and turned the water off.

"Always. Do you usually stare at guys when you stop over, asking for directions?"

"Do you always answer the door half-naked?"

"Always. And you didn't answer my question. Do you always stare?" Heat infused my cheeks. "I was not staring."

"Really?" he asked. That half grin was there again, hinting at dimples. "Anyway, you woke me up. I'm not a morning person."

"It wasn't that early," I pointed out.

"I sleep in. It is summer, you know. Don't you sleep in?"

I pushed back a strand of hair that had escaped my ponytail. "No. I always get up early."

He groaned. "You sound just like my sister.

No wonder she loves you so much already."

"Dee has taste...unlike some," I said. His lips twitched. "And she's great. I really like her, so if you're over here to play big, bad brother, just forget it."

"That's not why I'm here." He gathered up the bucket and various sprays and cleansers. I probably should have helped him sort things out, but it was fascinating watching him take charge of my little cleaning project. Although he kept tossing me the odd half smile, I could tell this little exchange was awkward for him. Good.

"Then why are you here, other than delivering a crappy apology?" I couldn't stop staring at his mouth when he spoke. I bet he knew how to kiss. Perfect kisses too, ones that weren't wet and gross, but the kind that curled toes.

I needed to stop looking at him in general.

Daemon placed all the supplies on the porch steps and straightened. Stretching his arms over his head, his shirt rode up, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of muscles. His gaze lingered on my face, and warmth blossomed in my belly. "Maybe I'm just curious why she is so enamored. Dee doesn't take well to strangers.

None of us do."

"I had a dog once that didn't take well to strangers."

Daemon stared at me a moment, then laughed. It was a deep, rumbling sound. Nice.

Sexy. Oh God, I looked away. He was the kind of boy that broke hearts and left a long line of them shattered behind him. He was trouble.

Maybe the fun kind of trouble, but he was also a jerk. And I didn't do jerks. Not that I did anyone.

I cleared my throat. "Well, thanks for the car thing."

Suddenly, he was right in front of me again.

So close that his toes almost touched mine. I sucked in a sharp breath, wanting to back up. He needed to stop doing that. "How do you move so fast?" He ignored the question. "My little sis does seem to like you," he said, as if he couldn't figure out why.

I bristled and tilted my head back but focused my gaze over his shoulder. "Little?

You're twins."

"I was born a whole four minutes and thirty seconds before she was," he boasted, his eyes meeting mine. "Technically she is my little sister."

My throat felt dry. "She's the baby in the family?"

"Yep, therefore I'm the one starved for attention."

"I guess that explains your poor attitude then," I retorted.

"Maybe, but most people find me charming."

I started to respond, but made the mistake of looking into his eyes. I was immediately snared by the unnatural color, reminded of the purest, deepest parts of the Everglades. "I have...a hard time believing that." His lips curved slightly.

"You shouldn't, Kat." He picked up a loose section of hair that had escaped my clip, twirling the hair around his finger. "What kind of color is this? It's not brown or blonde." My cheeks itched with heat. I snatched my hair back. "It's called light brown."

"Hmm," he said, nodding. "You and I have plans to make."

"What?" I sidestepped his large body, dragging in a deep breath as I gained some distance. My heart was pounding. "We don't have any plans to make."

Daemon sat down on the steps, stretching out his long legs and leaning back on his elbows.

"Comfortable?" I snapped.

"Very." He squinted up at me. "About these plans..."

I stood a few feet from him. "What are you talking about?"

"You remember the whole 'getting my ass over here and playing nice' thing, right? That also involves my car keys?" He crossed his ankles as his gaze slid over to the trees. "Those plans involve me getting my car keys back."

"You need to give me a little more of an explanation than that."

"Of course," he sighed. "Dee hid my keys.

She's good at hiding stuff, too. I've already torn the house apart, and I can't find them."

"So, make her tell you where they are." Thank God I didn't have any siblings.

"Oh, I would, if she was here. But she's left town and won't be back until Sunday."

"What?" She'd never mentioned going out of town. Or family nearby. "I didn't know that."

"It was a last-minute thing." He uncrossed his ankles and one foot started to tap an unheard rhythm. "And the only way she'll tell me where the keys are hidden is by me earning bonus points. See, my sister has this thing about bonus points, ever since elementary school." I started to smile. "Okay...?"

"I have to earn bonus points to get my keys back," he explained. "The only way I can earn those points is by doing something nice for you."

I busted out laughing again. The look on his face was awesome. "I'm sorry, but this is kind of funny."

Daemon drew in a deep, disgusted breath.

"Yeah, it's real funny."

My laughter faded. "What do you have to do?"

"I'm supposed to take you swimming tomorrow. If I do that, then she'll tell me where my keys are hidden - and I have to be nice." He had to be kidding, but the longer I stared at him, I realized he was being serious. My mouth dropped open. "So the only way you get your keys back is by taking me swimming and

by being nice to me?"

"Wow. You're a quick one."

I did laugh again. "Yeah, well, you can kiss your keys good-bye."

Surprise shone on his face. "Why?"

"Because I'm not going anywhere with you," I told him.

"We don't have a choice."

"No. You don't have a choice, but I do." I glanced at the closed door behind him, wondering if Mom was somewhere trying to listen in. "I'm not the one with missing keys." Daemon watched me for a moment, and then he grinned. "You don't want to hang out with me?"

"Uh, no."

"Why not?"

I rolled my eyes. "For starters, you're a jerk."

He nodded. "I can be."

"And I'm not spending time with a guy who's being forced to do it by his sister. I'm not desperate."

"You're not?"

Anger whipped through me, and I took a step forward. "Get off my porch." He seemed to consider it. "No."

"What?" I sputtered. "What do you mean no?"

"I'm not leaving until you agree to go swimming with me."

Steam should be coming out of my ears.

"Fine. You can sit there, because I'd rather eat glass than spend time with you." He laughed. "That sounds drastic."

"Not nearly," I shot back, heading up the stairs.

Daemon twisted around, catching my ankle.

His grip was loose, his hand incredibly warm. I looked down at him, and he smiled at me, as innocent as an angel. "I'll sit here all day and night. I'll camp out on your porch. And I won't leave. We have all week, Kitten. Either get it over with tomorrow and be done with me, or I'll be right here until you do agree. You won't be able to leave the house." I gaped at him. "You can't be serious."

"Oh, I am."

"Just tell her we went and that I had a great time." I tried to pull my foot free, but he held on.


"She'll know if I'm lying. We're twins. We know these things." He paused. "Or are you too shy to go swimming with me? Does the idea of getting almost naked around me make you uncomfortable?"

I grabbed the railing and yanked on my foot.

The b utthead was only lightly holding me, but my foot wouldn't budge. "I'm from Florida, idiot. I've spent half my life in a bathing suit."

"What's the big deal?"

"I don't like you." I stopped pulling and stood there. His hand seemed to hum around my skin. It was the weirdest feeling ever. "Let go of my ankle."

Very slowly, he lifted each finger while holding my stare. "I'm not leaving, Kitten.

You're going to do this."

My mouth opened as did the door behind us.

Stomach dropping, I turned to see Mom standing there in all her fuzzy-bunny pajama glory. Oh, for the love of God.

Her eyes went from me to Daemon, completely misinterpreting everything. The glee in her eyes made me want to vomit on Daemon's head. "You live next door?"

Daemon twisted around and smiled. He had perfect white, straight teeth. "My name is Daemon Black."

Mom smiled. "Kellie Swartz. Nice to meet you." She glanced at me. "You two can come inside if you want. You don't have to sit outside in the heat."

"That's really nice of you." He stood and elbowed me, and not very gently. "Maybe we should go inside and finish talking about our plans."

"No," I said, glaring at him. "That won't be necessary."

"What plans?" Mom asked, smiling. "I support plans."

"I'm trying to get your lovely daughter to go swimming with me tomorrow, but I think she's worried you wouldn't like the idea." He chucked me on the arm and I almost fell into the railing.

"And I think she's shy."

"What?" Mom shook her head. "I have no problem with her going swimming with you. I think it's a great idea. I've been telling her she needs to get out. Hanging out with your sister is great, but - "

"Mom." I narrowed my eyes at her. "That's not really - "

"I was just telling Katy here the same thing." Daemon dropped his arm over my shoulders. "My sister is out of town for the next week. I thought I'd hang with Katy." My mom smiled, pleased. "That is so sweet of you."

I wrapped my arm around his narrow waist, digging my fingers into his side. "Yeah, that's sweet of you, Daemon."

He sucked in a sharp breath and let it out slowly. "You know what they say about boys next door...."

"Well, I know Katy doesn't have plans tomorrow." She glanced at me, and I could practically see her envisioning Daemon and my future children. My mom was not normal.

"She's free to go swimming." I dropped my arm and wiggled out from underneath Daemon's.


"It's okay, honey." She started back inside, giving Daemon a wink. "It was nice to finally meet you."

Daemon smiled. "You, too."

The moment my mom shut the door behind her, I whirled around and pushed Daemon, but he was like a brick wall. "You jerk." Grinning, he backed down the steps. "I'll see you at noon, Kitten,"

"I hate you," I hissed.

"The feeling's mutual." He glanced over his shoulder. "Twenty bucks says you wear a one-piece swimsuit."

He was insufferable.

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