Kai Marcelo works for his mother as a lifeguard at her pool, but he’s training to become an EMT. One day, his mother introduces a new instructor, Paisley Saunders. Kai is immediately taken with the pretty young woman with the mysterious and dangerous ex-boyfriend – a man she left far behind her. They hit it off and start dating. One evening , some of his old buddies stop by for a visit. They’re an unusual bunch whom Paisley comes to greatly admire after only a short time. Kai tells them about her crazy ex & all of them agree that real men don’t beat women.
They sat in silence a few minutes, none of the men making eye contact with one another. Paisley knew she had to do something or somebody was going to start crying, and she suspected it was her. Her heart went out to these men. All of them were trying to get their lives on track, running away from whatever demons haunted them, just like she was.
“Anyone want a beer?” She asked brightly, standing so fast,she lost her balance.
Kai’s hands steadied her. It took him a moment to realize he was grabbing her crotch and ass. Blushing, he dropped his hands.
“Beer?” She asked again.
TM cleared his throat. “Yeah. I’d like one. Let me give you a hand.” He stood up, adjusting his jeans.
The other men agreed to a beer, so they went in the kitchen and got them out of the case Nina had bought for her. Paisley insisted on washing and drying the tops before taking them out.
“You don’t know what’s been on them,” she said with a shudder. “I wash every can I open.”
“Works for me,” TM said. “We all have our OCD moments. Me, it’s car keys. I’ll check my pocket six times before I leave the house to make sure I got ’em. I keep ’em in the front pocket, so folks mostly think I’m checking my balls.” His hand dropped unconsciously to his pocket as he spoke.
Paisley giggled. “If they think that, they’re dumb. Your balls are a little farther to the left.”
“Thanks for noticing,” he said with a deep chuckle.
“No problem,” she said, flashing him a grin.
He watched her almost hungrily as she walked into the living room ahead of him, three beers in her hands. He brought the other three, distributing them before sitting down.
“So how did you meet?” Billy asked, sipping his beer.
Kai told them how he and Paisley met at the pool.
“What brings you to Florida?” It was an innocent enough question. Chi had no idea what monsters chased her.
Paisley paled, leaning against Kai.
“She’s got a lunatic ex. Guy was abusive, possessive, wacko.”
“So, you’re on the run?” This from Billy.
She nodded, shivering.
“We got your back, chica,” he replied. “You ever need to disappear, we’re the guys who can do it. You need new ID, place to stay, anything, we got it covered. We got mad skills and all at your disposal.”
“Plus, I got a cousin down the way’s a bonafide criminal,” TM told her. “He’s got more fire power at his disposal than a seven nation army. That aside, he’s a good guy. Misdirected, but a good guy.”
“I’d kinda rather he didn’t know Paisley lived here on her own,” Kai said. “I like Brill. But some of his homeboys scare the shit outta me and I don’t scare easy.”
“Nobody but Brill needs to know. He can order some of the guys to keep an eye on the complex. Someone shows up they don’t know, they call in. Simple. Little peace of mind. You can’t be here 24/7, dude.”
Kai conceded that he couldn’t. “Baby, whatcha think?”
Paisley shrugged. Talking about her ex always made her quiet. “I’d like to know there were a few armed men between me and Ralph. That’s his name,” she said softly. “Ralph Winston Embree, IV.”
“There been three others saddled with that name? And I thought Tyrone Marseilles was bad. Dude, no wonder he’s an asshole. Name like that….”
“He tried to kill me,” Paisley blurted out. “The night I left. He beat me up and choked me. I couldn’t go to the cops, his dad owns them. So I packed a few things and ran.” She shook, spilling her beer.
Kai dragged her into the circle of his arms, giving what comfort he could.
“Man like that needs to die,” TM growled. “Needs to meet with an accident.”
“Needs to fall down stairs for a month,” Billy said. “With me at the bottom, kicking his ass back up.”
“What’s wrong with a guy like that? You said he was rich, he’s got more money than God, why’s he gotta be like that with you?” Toby asked, his handsome face full of concern.
“Know his social?” Chi asked. “Anything personal you know about him, tell me. You want his money? I’ll get it for you, completely untraceable. You want to be someone else? I can do that too. I can disappear you fast as lightening. He’ll never find you again.”
“You can do that?” TM was stunned. “I don’t even wanna know how.”
“I couldn’t explain it to you anyway. But yeah, I can do that. Guy like that deserves to suffer. To lose it all till he’s lower than chicken shit. Then he needs to die.”
“I don’t know his social,” Paisley said, sniffling.
“Don’t matter. Name like that, he’ll be easy to find. Guys, I’m heading home. Suddenly, the need to find female companionship pales.”
“Dude, you do what you say you can, I’ll personally set you up with one of my cousins,” Toby said. “And you know how hot they are.”
Chi grinned, nodding. “Yeah, you’re related to the prettiest women in the state. Bites for you, man. Anytime Toby meets a new woman, he’s gotta go through his family tree to make sure they aren’t kin.”
“I met one girl once, damn, she was fine! Tight ass, great tits, pretty, redheaded, willing…. So, we’re nearly naked and it occurs to me that I don’t know her last name. Thank God I asked! She’s a distant cousin from North Carolina. Very disappointing.”
“How distant? You know, anything past second cousin is okay to date or even marry,” Paisley said.
“Not in my family,” Toby replied glumly. “It might just be shared potato salad, but we don’t date and we sure don’t wed anything less than six generations separate. My uncle became a family outcast for marrying his fourth cousin. There was so much family pressure, he divorced her a year later.”
“That’s the McTeague way.” He shrugged.
“You’re really related to that many people?”
“My family breeds like Borg. I’m fifth of eight. My aunt has ten kids. Another has twelve. My cousin Drake’s from the smallest family, his mom has only two.”
“Patrick’s his cousin,” Kai told her. “There’s only three boys in that family.”
“I got more aunts, uncles and cousins than I can remember. Family reunions are crazy wild. But try to find a woman! I practically gotta go out of state.”
“Toby and I are what, third cousins once removed?” Kai asked him.
“Our mothers know. Kai’s related on Mom’s side. They aren’t as prolific.”
“My dad’s McMurtry kin,” Kai told Paisley.
“You know who he is?” She was shocked. He never spoke of his father.
“Yeah. He’s a good guy. He and Mom didn’t think marrying at sixteen was the way to go, so they went their own ways. But he’s always been around.”
“Why don’t you use his name?”
“Because then it would take a lot of explaining. He’s kind of an important man now. It’s mine if I want it and he’s acknowledged me….”
“His dad’s in state government,” Toby explained. “Kai didn’t want to embarrass his old man. If anyone wanted to dig up dirt on him, they’d find Kai. His dad’s name is on the birth certificate. But why call attention?”
She nodded, understanding completely. “How do we manage to find the subjects most likely to cause embarrassment?” She asked, forcing a smile.
“Too much baggage,” Toby offered.
“I was gonna say ‘the elephants in the room,” Billy offered. “Man, I feel like I’m in a zoo, we got so many. But hey, we’re working on shrinking ’em down. Pretty soon, no more elephants.”
Chi had finished his beer and looked ready to leave. “Kai, it’s been great, but I want to get on this.”
“You can use my computer,” Paisley offered.
He grinned, winking. “Sweet cheeks, no offense but your laptop is tinker toys and bubble gum compared to what I’ve got.”
“Most guys measure their potency based on the size of their package,” TM said. “Sushi measures his by RAM.”
Paisley laughed so hard, she almost fell off Kai’s lap. “Okay! On that note, maybe we ought to say goodnight.”