Nina, Kai’s mom, invites Paisley to come home with them, and have dinner.
“Yeah. Bites, lemme tell ya. We all three hit major holidays. Cody’s New Year’s Day and Tempy’s on Valentine’s.”
“That totally bites,” she agreed.
“Got any sisters as hot as you?” Cody blurted out. “Preferably my age?”
Paisley smiled, shaking her head. “I’m a one and only. Not even got folks anymore. They died when I was a kid.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Kai said softly. “Must have been hard.”
“Granny raised me, until she got too sick. Then I lived with my crazy Uncle Frank.”
“Just a fun guy, or really wacko?” Cody asked.
“Wacko. They Baker Acted him when he danced naked in a fountain in downtown Knoxville.”
“Oh wow. Sorry I asked.”
“I was fifteen. They put me in foster care after that. Not a fun way to come up.”
“Kai was a one and only, until I came along,” Cody said rather too loudly. “Tempy and I were both surprises. Kai was a major oops though. Mom wasn’t married when she had him.”
Kai smacked his brother upside the head. “Thanks. Why don’t you go inside and bug your sister?” He pointedly raised an eyebrow.
Cody wanted to argue, but Kai could and would strong arm him to get his way. He shuffled in the house. Kai led Paisley to a glass topped table, pulling out a well padded chair for her. He flopped into one next to her, swigging his beer.
“Sorry about him. Cody doesn’t always know how to be polite. Unfortunately, that whole blurting out the unpleasant truth, is a problem the entire family has.”
“It’s okay. I think it upset you more than me.”
“Yeah, well…. That’s life.” He chugged his beer.
“You’ll be okay to drive, won’t you?”
“It’s the only one I’m having. I’ll be fine by the time dinner’s over. Don’t worry, I won’t drive you home drunk. I’m a one beer a night guy.”
Paisley sighed with relief, sipping her beer. Her green eyes swam with tears, but she fought them with everything she had. Her lower lip trembled as she gazed up at the moon.
“Jeez, Paisley. What’d that guy do to you?” He touched her cheek ever so gently.
She burst into tears. Kai took her beer, setting it on the table, and put his arms around her, letting her cry.
“It’s okay. I’m here. You’re safe now.” He smoothed her hair, whispering calmly as she wept.
Paisley sobbed and hiccuped several minutes, clinging to him like a life preserver. Kai’s shirt was soaked, but he didn’t care. She needed a broad shoulder and strong arms. He had both and was willing to share them with her. He’d have liked to share a lot more, but he knew she was too vulnerable for him to make a move on her. He was more likely to scare her away. He’d have to be content with letting her come to him.
“I’m sorry. I’m a complete train wreck. It’s just—you and your mom, you’re so sweet! You make me feel like I’m family. For once, I feel like I belong somewhere…. Oh, God—here I go again.” She sniffled, wiping her eyes on the back of her hands.
“Hey, it’s okay. It’s been a long time since I was someone’s towel.”
“Oh, you’re a mess!”
Kai’s shirt was spotted with her makeup. A long streak of mascara went from one shoulder to the other.
“I’m so embarrassed. I must look a sight!”
“Come with me. We’ll get you cleaned up.”
He led Paisley to small, half bathroom near the shower on the back of the house. He got her a washcloth and waited outside until she washed off the wreckage of her makeup. She came out, trying to smile, the tears lingering in the corners of her eyes.
Kai smiled, wiping the tears away. He wanted to kiss her badly. It took every ounce of willpower he had, not to. He felt energized around her, like her body had some kind of magnetic pull for his. He hoped she felt it too.
The door to the kitchen slid open and Tempest came out looking for them. “Kai, Mom says wash up.”
“Be right in.”
The magic was broken for the moment. He and Paisley washed in the half bath, and went into the house through the adjoining laundry room. Kai grabbed a clean shirt, tossing the dirty one in the washer. He could feel Paisley’s eyes on him as he pulled the clean one over his head. He was well aware the effect his physique had on women. He was lean muscled, broad shouldered and darkly bronzed by the sun.
“Help me carry things in,” his mother told him.
Paisley picked up another dish, following them to the dining room.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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