“Shit, now he’s here,” Nan complained, which only made me smile.
Mase stepped into the kitchen and around Nan and August with a glance at them before he looked at me and Adam. “What’s up? Am I missing a family fight? I hate to miss those.”
“I’m taking this one upstairs to keep any swings from breaking out,” August told him.
Mase leaned against the counter in front of me before crossing his arms in front of his chest. “She can take swings if she wants, but she won’t touch Harlow. Not if she wants to keep her bones in working order,” he drawled as if he were bored.
August’s eyebrows shot up. “Dude, Harlow isn’t innocent here. She was mouthing off pretty good, too.”
Mase glanced back at me over his shoulder. “Did you talk back to her?” he asked.
I nodded. No use in lying. A grin broke out on his face. “Well, I’ll be damned. That’s my girl.” he turned back to August. “You can go on and take up with that one all you want. But when she’s stomped you under her spiky heels and crushed you, then you’ll see what a stupid idea this was.”
“Ugh, I hate both of you. Come on, August. Let’s go,” Nan grabbed his arm and they left the kitchen. We could hear Nan’s heels as she stormed up the stairs like a preschooler.
“That was . . . uh . . . interesting,” Adam said, then took a drink of his coffee.
“Ain’t it though. This place is a damn zoo,” Mase replied, and looked back at me. “Got any coffee left?”
I nodded and fixed him a cup then walked around the bar. It was awkward now. I wasn’t sure what to do with Adam after all that.
“I’m Harlow’s brother, Mase.”
He was introducing himself to Adam. I was a horrible hostess.
“Adam. Nice to meet you,” he replied.
“You two have a good night?” Mase asked.
“Yes,” we both said and I blushed.
Mase chuckled. “Well, I’ll head on up to bed. See you in the morning. Nice meeting you, Adam,” he said, kissing the top of my head, then heading for the stairs.
Once his heavy footsteps hit the stairs I looked over at Adam. “I’m sorry about all that. Maybe asking you in was a bad idea.”
“No. I, uh, get it now. Why you don’t like staying here. She’s mean as a damn snake. I am trying to figure out why August is messing around with her. I wonder if she even knows he has a little girl. Surely he isn’t letting her near his kid when he gets her on his weekends.”
Whoa . . . Nan was dating a man with a kid? I couldn’t imagine that.
“I hope he doesn’t. I’m afraid Nan would see a kid as competition for his attention. She’s that immature.”
Adam nodded and frowned. “I was thinking that, too.”
I drank some more of my coffee and considered inviting him into the living room or just saying good night. I was tired and after all that I wasn’t sure I wanted to make this last any longer. Especially if Nan started getting loud.
“I’m getting tired and my head is a little scattered.”
Adam nodded and gave me an understanding smile, then stood up.
“I get that. I would be, too.”
I set my cup down and led him back to the door.
“Thanks again for tonight, and I’m really sorry about all this.”
Adam didn’t respond right away. Instead, he stared down at me a moment as if he were deciding something important. Then he bent down slowly and in that brief moment I knew what was about to happen. It would be my first kiss since Grant. I had kissed Grant a lot during those two weeks. I didn’t want to compare him to Grant, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.
When his lips touched mine they weren’t as soft but they were warm. He moved over my mouth gently and it was pleasant. He didn’t try for anything more. When he pulled back and smiled at me I knew that nothing would ever be as good as Grant’s kisses but that I could live with this.
“They are as soft and plump as they look,” he said, then shook his head with a grin on his face. “Good night, Harlow.” He opened the door before I could say more and stepped outside, closing it behind him.
He wasn’t Grant but he was nice. He wanted me. And the smile on his face made me feel special. As if I had been something special for him. Grant Carter was made for women’s fantasies. Adam was more real. He wasn’t the kind I would need to worry about getting in too deep with. He was just someone to spend time with.
“You have got to be f**king kidding me,” Rush’s voice broke into my dreams and I slowly peeled open my eyes to see tits in my face. Confused, I looked down and saw two long pairs of legs draped over me.
Carly and Casey. I had forgotten. Damn, they were still here. I’d passed out. Shit. I would’ve preferred to send them home. Then I remembered Rush’s voice and jerked around to look at the door. Rush was glaring at me with disgust. He wasn’t looking at the two na**d women in my bed. Kudos to him, because they had nice asses. I knew that firsthand.
“Get rid of them and meet me on the balcony,” Rush said and walked off.
Why was he so pissed off? This is what I did.
I disentangled myself and stared down at the two girls I’d spent my night with. Several condom wrappers littered the room and bed. They’d been full of energy. “Time to get up, girls. It’s going-home time,” I said, jerking the covers back and slapping both their asses. They grumbled and I couldn’t remember who was who anymore. I was pretty sure at one time last night I was just calling them both Harlow. It was a low moment.
“I got company. Get dressed. I’ll have a cab waiting on you in five minutes outside. It was fun,” I told them and flipped the lights on to help.
“Ouch,” one said, covering her eyes.
I waited until both of them were up and looking for clothing before I left them to finish. I headed outside to see why Rush was here.
Opening the door, I stepped out into the sunshine.
Rush glanced back at me. “Two of them? Really? That’s f**ked up.”
I cocked an eyebrow. “Don’t preach at me about two at a time. You did it all the damn time back in the day.”
Rush shook his head. “I was stupid. You’re stupid.”
“Watch it. I happen to think it was pretty damn smart. They were nice and jiggly and helped me release some tension.”
Rush turned his head to look at me. “I thought you had a thing for Harlow,” he said.
I did . . . but I couldn’t. I had explained this to him.
“Wanting Harlow is one thing. Sure, I want her. Who the hell wouldn’t? But the thing is, I care enough about her not to mess with her. I’m not going to get serious. I can’t have what you have with Blaire. It isn’t me.”
“Bullshit,” Rush said, turning to look directly at me. “I had a drunk-off-his-ass idiot rambling on about how special she was and how he just wanted to talk to her and how much he missed her smile. That shit don’t go away.”
I hadn’t realized I’d said I missed her. I did. Even with her here, I missed her. She made me laugh and her smile always made everything else seem unimportant. “She went out with Adam last night.”
“The tennis pro?”
“Yeah,” I replied, feeling sick at my stomach. What if Adam kissed her? What if he touched her?
“So, you f**ked two strangers in your own damn bed.”
“Because she went out with Adam,” I replied. That was the truth. I wouldn’t have gone looking for distractions had she not been on a f**king date with f**king Adam.
Rush let out a sigh. “Harlow is the most sheltered person I know. She has been protected and guarded her entire life. She’s the only child of Kiro’s to make it into the news. So he hid her in North Carolina with her grandmother. He hated the way the news wanted to know everything about her. He used his money to keep the world out of her life. Once her grandmother died she was thrust into his world and did the only thing she knew to do. She hid away in her room. Now she’s here and she needs friends. She can’t stay home and hide. She has Nan there. So, sure. Someone asked her out. She went. Why the hell not? You haven’t asked her out. You haven’t done shit.”
“I’m scared of her.” There. I said it.
Rush frowned. “You’re scared of her? Harlow? Or are we talking about Nan?”
“I’m scared of Harlow. Of what I could feel for her.”
“You’re afraid you’ll fall in love with her,” he said, finally understanding.
I just nodded.
“Why? What’s so wrong with that? It’s a hell of a lot better than what I walked in on this morning.”
I gripped the railing in front of me. I hated that I was about to admit this. It made me sound so weak. “What if I lost her? Like Jace.”
“You could lose anyone. You could lose me, but you don’t keep me out.”
It was different. I looked at him. “What if you lost Blaire?” I asked. Surely he feared that.
Rush frowned. “It would be the hardest thing I’d ever have to face. Losing her would take my soul. But I can’t not love her for fear of losing her. What kind of life is that? I wouldn’t know how amazing it feels to wake up with her in my arms. I wouldn’t get to enjoy watching her laugh and play with Nate. It’s worth it. Letting something like that stop you is letting fear control you. Don’t do that to yourself. Every moment I get with Blaire and Nate makes a life without them seem shallow and lonely.”
I could see it on his face. He didn’t fear losing her. It didn’t haunt him. He loved his life now. Focusing on what could happen wasn’t holding him back. Was that what life was about? Taking chances?
“If you think she could be the one then it’s time you take a chance. If I lost all that I have tomorrow, I wouldn’t regret one single minute. Ever. They’re what makes my life worth it.”
“My dad thought he was in love twice. Both times he was burned, and I paid the price. And I look at his life and where he is now, and it’s sad. I don’t want that.”
Rush shook his head at me as if he didn’t understand me at all. “The two women your dad loved were nothing like Harlow. Your dad didn’t choose well. Harlow is a good choice. The man who owns her heart will be lucky. She is honest and kind. I’ve never seen her be anything but both of those things. So, if she’s the one you allow yourself to fall in love with then I’d be more than happy for you.”
He was right.
A heavy weight that had been sitting on my chest slowly lifted. What he was saying made sense. And I didn’t have to hurt myself to protect myself.
“I may have pushed her too far away,” I said, letting reality sink in.
Rush shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe you never stood a chance to begin with. But is she worth trying?”
I nodded. “Yeah, she’s worth begging,” I replied.
Rush sat down and propped his feet up on the railing. “Then I guess you need to stop having threesomes in your bed with strangers and work on getting Harlow to give you another chance.”
That sounded easier said than done. I had told her I didn’t want to have anything more than a friendship with her. She’d agreed and left it at that. Now what? I should just tell her I changed my mind?
“I don’t think she’s going to let me in that easy. And then there’s that brother of hers who doesn’t approve of me.”
Rush chuckled. “Mase? Yeah, he’ll be hard to win over. Good thing is you won’t have to kiss him and beg for forgiveness. Just focus on Harlow.”
For the first time in months I had hope. The idea of being near Harlow again and spending time with her was more exciting than anything else I could think of . . . except getting her na**d.
Afar-off ringing interrupted my dreams. Forcing my eyes open, I realized the sound was my phone. I rolled over and saw Dean Finlay’s number on my screen. This could only be about my dad. Rush’s father only called when something was up with Kiro. I sat up and quickly answered.
“Hey. What’s wrong?” I asked, then glanced at the time. It was a little after three in the morning.
“He’s missing again,” Dean replied.
This was not the first time my father had gone missing. Unfortunately, Daddy would get so high he would do stupid things like go off with women he didn’t know and sober up in their bed, oftentimes cities away from where he was supposed to be.
I stood up and went to my closet for some clothes. “How long?” I asked.
“After the concert last night he was partying with some groupies. I left him to go to the limo and rest. That was the last time I saw him. Trac was still in there with him and so was Wayne. Wayne was too trashed to remember anything. Trac said he left with two women. One had red hair, the other had long, curly brown hair. He didn’t think anything of it.”
Trac Trace was the bass guitar player and Wayne Rolls was the lead guitarist. I shoved my legs into a pair of jeans. “Where was Hail?” I asked. Hail Holloway played the keyboard. He was also the most responsible.
“Hail had already left for the night. He knows nothing.”
“I’m getting dressed. Where are y’all right now?” I knew Dean had called because getting me there was the only way to find Daddy. He went off the deep end sometimes and I seemed to be the only one who could bring him back. Dean said once it was because I looked just like my momma.
“I hate for you to come out here all alone. Isn’t safe,” he said with a worried tone. “I’d send for Rush but he ain’t gonna wanna leave Nate and Blaire.”