I watched as Harlow pulled her car up to the valet and climbed out in a short white tennis skirt that didn’t help my focus. Tennis skirts weren’t meant to be that damn sexy.
I walked over to open the door for her before one of the staff could. She lifted her eyes and stopped walking when she saw me standing there. I could see the questions in her eyes and I wanted to answer every damn one of them. She just needed to listen.
When she started walking again she kept her head down and attempted to go inside without acknowledging me. I gently wrapped my hand around her arm. “Your court time was postponed an hour today. I need to talk to you. If you will let me talk. I will leave you alone if that’s what you want. I just need you to listen to me first.”
Harlow’s spine was stiff as I spoke quietly in her ear. She didn’t move or respond right away. Finally, she simply nodded.
“Thank you,” I replied. “We need privacy. Will you come to my truck?”
Harlow let out a defeated sigh. “Yes, I guess I will.”
She wasn’t happy about it but she was doing it. I needed to celebrate the small victories.
We walked in silence to the parking lot and I unlocked my truck and opened her door then walked around and climbed in on my side.
“Talk. I’m listening,” she said without looking at me. Her eyes were fixed straight ahead.
“What we did . . . what happened meant something to me.”
Harlow didn’t even flinch.
“When I got the call about Jace I rushed back in a state of shock. Then . . . then I watched as Bethy completely crumbled. At the funeral, she was bent over in so much pain from her loss that it terrified me. She had planned forever with Jace. She had loved him with everything she had and he had been taken from her. She couldn’t get him back.”
Harlow was still staring straight ahead, although I could see the worried frown on her face.
“And all I could think was what if I loved someone that much and I lost them? How could I live? I glanced over at Rush and Blaire. He was holding her while she wept and I wondered how he would even be able to wake up every morning if he lost her. Or if he lost Nate.” I paused and took a deep breath. I was more open than I’d been with anyone about this. I hadn’t even explained it this way to Blaire and Rush. I had held myself back some. I was just laying it all out for Harlow.
“I decided I never wanted to be that vulnerable. I never wanted to love someone that much. I never wanted to face losing the one person that owns me. So, I got drunk. Because I also realized I could easily fall in love with you. In just two short weeks I had begun to care for you. I had feelings I hadn’t experienced before. Not like that, at least. It scared me. I knew you would be the one to own me if I let you. I ran from it. I drank too much whiskey and when Nan showed up I messed up. I should have stayed away from her. But in my head she was the one I thought I was in love with once. I hadn’t been. I realized that after only two weeks with you. I was in lust with Nan. I liked being needed by someone, and Nan needed me. That was all it ever was for us.”
Harlow finally dropped her gaze to her lap as she twisted her hands nervously.
“I never meant to hurt you. Hurting you is the last thing I ever wanted to do. What you gave me I didn’t deserve, but believe me when I tell you I’ll cherish it forever. It meant more to me than you know. But I shouldn’t have taken your innocence that night. I should have been a man and realized I didn’t deserve it and walked away. But you made me weak. It’s one of the things about you that scares me. No one has ever made me weak.”
Finally, Harlow turned her head to look at me. Her hazel eyes no longer looked hard. Instead, I saw understanding there. She simply nodded. “Okay. You’re forgiven.” Then she opened the door and climbed out without another word.
I sat there and tried to let all the emotions that were churning inside me calm down. I didn’t want her to take it so easily and walk away. But I couldn’t give her more. That was it for us. I had explained it and she forgave me. So, we were over now? The ache that came with that reality hurt. I reached up and rubbed my chest and laid my head back on the seat and closed my eyes.
“What did I just do?” I muttered.
A loud knock on my window caused me to jump as I opened my eyes and sat up to see Mase standing there.
I rolled down my window as he pushed his sunglasses up and onto the top of his head.
“What was that about?” he asked.
“I needed to explain some things to her. I had hurt her and I needed to make sure she knew the truth.”
“What was the truth?” Mase asked, his eyes narrowing as he studied me.
“That I wasn’t ready for any kind of commitment and she was the kind of girl you committed yourself to.”
Mase snarled. “Hell yeah, she is, and she’s too good for you. Harlow won’t ever settle for Nan’s seconds. And dude, you’re Nan’s seconds.” He moved his sunglasses back into place and sauntered off to that black truck of his that needed a damn car wash.
As pissed off as I was, he was right. I wasn’t good enough for Harlow. I knew that, dammit. I didn’t need reminding.
Tennis had been just what I needed to get my aggression out. I hadn’t wanted to talk; I had just wanted to hit that stupid little ball for an hour. And I had hit every one of them that Adam had sent my way. When Adam dropped his racquet and threw the ball into the air, caught it, and tucked it into his pocket I knew our hour was up.
“You were killing it today. I was expecting you to bust a ball before it was over,” Adam teased as I walked over to my water and towel. I wiped my face then took a long drink of water.
“Was that all about the love of the game, or were you picturing someone’s head on that ball?”
I forced a smile. “Just one of those days. I feel better now,” I told him.
“Good. Because I was wondering if you would like to have dinner with me tonight? Maybe a movie, too?”
I paused. Wait . . . was he asking me out on a date? I turned to look at him and the hopeful look in his eyes told me that was exactly what he was doing. Adam wanted to take me out.
My immediate reaction was no. I wasn’t ready to do this, but I stopped myself before I could say something. That Grant had hurt me didn’t mean everyone would. Besides, Grant had saved himself some trouble. He didn’t know it, but he had. Adam wasn’t in that danger. I wasn’t going to want him the way I did Grant. Besides, was it fair that I protect myself from everyone? Did I want to be alone my whole life? No. I didn’t. I didn’t want to be living with my dad until I died. I deserved to know what living was like. I wanted to know I was loved. How would I ever find that if I didn’t look for it or allow it to come to me?
“I’d like that,” I said without thinking about it further.
The grin on Adam’s face was immediate, and I had to smile myself. I was going on a date. A real one. Dad would be proud of me.
“Whew, I’d been preparing myself all day for you to turn me down, and I had to pump myself up to ask.”
He had put himself out there. That made me feel special. More special than Grant had ever made me feel.
“I’m glad you asked,” I told him honestly.
“Me, too,” he replied, and threw his towel over his shoulder. “You leaving now?” he asked.
“Let me walk you to your car. My next appointment can wait a few minutes,” he said, and opened the gate for me. I liked that, too.
He fell into step beside me. “I can pick you up at your place if that’s okay,” he said.
“Oh, yes, that would be good. I live at 43 Rosemary Beach Estates,” I told him.
“Seven too early? Late?”
“Seven is perfect,” I replied.
We walked around the building instead of through it but Adam didn’t seem to be in a hurry.
“Things with Nan going okay?” he asked.
I shrugged. Not really. She hated Mase and she hated me more for being there, but I didn’t care. “Tolerable,” I replied.
We stepped into the parking lot and I remembered I’d valet parked.
“Harlow,” Mase called from his truck. I glanced over at him then back at Adam.
“That’s Mase, my brother. He’s here visiting.” I explained.
Adam’s eyes widened slightly. “I’d heard that Kiro had a son, but I thought it was a rumor.”
A nervous knot formed in my stomach. The mention of my dad threw me off. He had “heard” about Mase? Only diehard fans had heard of Mase. He stayed out of the news. I wasn’t sure what to think.
Adam turned his grin back to me. “I’ll see you tonight,” he said.
I nodded and he turned to walk back the way we came before Mase got too close to us.
“Get in. I want lunch and I don’t want it here. I need real food,” he said as he stopped in front of me. I climbed into his truck.
“Tennis instructor?” he asked
I nodded, still thinking about Adam’s comment about Mase.
“You like him? He’s sure got the hots for you. The dude’s tongue was almost hanging out.”
“Where are we eating?” I asked, hoping to change the subject.
“Hooters. Now answer me, do you like the guy?”
I let out a frustrated sigh. Mase was like a dog with a bone. “He asked me out.”
“That don’t answer my question,” he replied.
“Fine. I think I like him.”
I growled and shot Mase a frustrated glare. “I don’t know. He seems nice and sincere but I’ve been down this road before. Guys like me because of Dad. It gets old, and I’ve let myself get hurt this way before. I’m older and smarter and more careful now.”
Mase frowned. He didn’t understand this problem. He had women throw themselves at him because of him, not Dad. He was beautiful and no one really knew he was Kiro’s son.
“You think that dude is interested in who your daddy is?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Did you say yes?”
“Well you must think there’s something to him then.”
I did. Until he knew about Mase.
“He knew about you. When I said you were my brother, he already knew Kiro had a son. Only diehards know about you.”
Understanding lit Mase’s eyes as he turned onto the main road and headed out of town. “I see. Yeah, that’s odd. But maybe he isn’t really a fan; maybe he’s just heard the Rosemary gossip. This town knows more about Slacker Demon than anywhere else since Dean’s son grew up here. They feel like they have some sort of inside scoop. He’s probably just heard rumors since he lives here.”
I hadn’t thought of that. He probably saw many of the band members as clients all the time. He could’ve heard something through the country club grapevine. Rosemary did have a close relationship with Slacker Demon. I let out a relieved sigh and leaned back against the seat. That made sense.
“Feel better now?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied.
“Good. But if I’m wrong, you just say the word and I’ll rearrange his face for you.”
I just smiled. Not because I didn’t believe him. Because I did. Mase was rough. He was Texas tough, and I’d learned a long time ago that was a whole other kind of tough. It was how a little boy grew up with an absent father. His stepdad was a Texan. He owned a ranch and wore boots and a hat all the time. He was big and tall and loud and I loved him. Even when I was a shy little girl, he always made sure I felt like family when I went to visit.
Out of the three of us, Mase had been the lucky one. He had a mom who adored him. A stepdad who treated him like his own. Maybe that was why he was the best of us. At least I wasn’t the worst. Nan held that title. But then she’d been given the worst life, from what I could tell.
A small part of me felt sorry for her. But only a very small part.
Iwalked into Rush’s after only knocking once. I wasn’t in the mood to wait. Blaire came walking down the stairs with Nate on her hip and a handful of her hair in his mouth.
“Grant?” she said, looking concerned. I hadn’t barged in as if I owned the place since Blaire and Rush got married. It was no longer my brother’s bachelor pad but their house.
“She let me talk and then she said okay and forgave me and left. Nothing else. No questions. Nothing. Then . . . then f**king Adam said he was taking her out tonight. I stopped by the café to get a bottle of water and he was talking to someone else and I overheard him. Adam! He’s . . . he’s . . . just . . .”
“He’s a nice guy,” Blaire finished for me as she tugged her hair from Nate’s fists. Then she handed him to me. “Take him. But don’t curse. I need to fix myself something to eat and you can talk while I do that.”
Nate grinned up at me and I noticed one small tooth peeking through his bottom gums. “Look at you. You got a tooth, little man.”
Nate continued smiling as he reached for my hair. The kid had a good grip and I had too much damn hair. “Whoa, dude. That needs to stay on my head.” I reached into my pocket and grabbed my keys and handed them to him to distract him.
Blaire turned at the sound of him jingling them and reached to take them from him. “Those have germs. He puts everything in his mouth. He’s teething.” She walked into the kitchen and opened the freezer and took out some blue frozen-looking toy and handed it to him.
“It’s gonna freeze his hands,” I said, wondering what the heck she was doing.