Love Takes a Swim Part 10 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallKai takes Paisley to her apartment, after they have dinner with his family.

“Nice.” He nodded, carrying the groceries to her kitchenette.

He put up food as she fixed coffee. Once it was ready, they sat on her couch, sipping the hot, strong brew.

“Good coffee,” he commented by way of starting conversation.

“Thanks. My dad taught me when I was little.”

“You gonna be okay here? It’s not the greatest neighborhood….”

“I’m fine. The place I grew up, was worse.”

“You’ve got my number, call if you need anything.”

“I will. Don’t worry so much about me, Kai. I’ll be fine.”

“My protective nature kicking in….” He looked embarrassed.

“It’s okay. I appreciate it. It’s nice to have someone care.” She started to tear up again. “I’m so sorry. Seems like all I do is cry!”

“Come here,” he said quietly, holding out his arms. “I don’t mind. Got a clean shirt ready and waiting for you.” He patted his chest, grinning.

Paisley scooted close, setting her coffee on the table. Her arms snaked around him as she buried her face in his chest. Kai set his coffee down too. Holding her close, he inhaled the fresh scent of her hair. The urge to kiss her was even stronger now that they were alone. The fact that her embrace had changed somewhat made it even more difficult. He couldn’t describe exactly how, but she wasn’t holding him the same way. Her hands caressed as they clung to him. His body responded to her closeness. Two parts of him warred with one another. The gentleman, who would never take advantage of a woman in distress, fought with the caveman who wanted her despite circumstances. Somewhere in the middle of it all, he held her, rubbing her back as she cried.

A lifetime later, Paisley stopped crying, raising her tear streaked face to his. Her lips parted as they scooted even closer. Eyes closed, she waited for him to complete the movement. Continuing to fight his inner battle, he bent toward her, the caveman cheering loudly inside his head, as their lips met.

Paisley tasted like tears and vanilla. Kai licked her lips, then dove into her open mouth with his tongue, taking everything she gave him. She trembled in his arms, breathing deeply as he plundered her mouth.

Kai couldn’t control his hands. He held her close, fondling her in far too friendly a fashion. He might have stopped if she’d put the brakes on, but she didn’t. Pulling her legs onto his lap, his hand crept between her legs, working their way up her thigh. Paisley stiffened when he got about halfway, making him take notice of what he was doing. Shoving himself away, he pushed her off his lap.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I need to go.” He rose awkwardly, his body having forgotten how to coordinate its movements. “God, Paisley. What you must think!”

Kai ran for the door, like the Devil was after him, slamming it shut behind him. He leaned against it for a moment, until he heard her do up the bolts and put the chain on. Stumbling and clumsy, he walked to his Jeep, fumbling to get the door open. Slamming it shut, he leaned on the steering wheel trying to pull himself together.

“Idiot!” He yelled. “Stupid, f**king idiot! What were you doing? What were you thinking?” You were thinking she’s the tastiest piece of ass you’ve seen in years. You want up inside her so bad, you can taste her when you inhale. “Dammit!” He punched the roof, connecting with one of the roll bars.

Roaring with pain, he put the car in reverse, and took off, swearing at himself the entire way home. His cellphone rang as he pulled into his driveway. He didn’t recognize the number, but something told him it was Paisley.

“I apologize,” she whispered. “I could’ve stopped you—I should have. It’s my fault.”

“No, I let the caveman take over. You’re beautiful and vulnerable, that’s like a sex cocktail. Nothing says hump me like a lady in distress.”

The sound Paisley made was something between a giggle and a sob. “I sure fall into that category. All the way to the bottom of the well…. I don’t want you angry with me, but I don’t want you getting the wrong idea either.”

“Explain it to me,” Kai murmured. “I’ll try to understand.”

He shut off his car and went to sit on the front porch. Leaning back on the porch swing, he listened as she talked to him.

“You probably think I’m completely crazy. I’m acting loonier than Uncle Frank.”

“Well, if you dance naked in a fountain, I wanna watch. That’d be a sight to see.”

She laughed loudly. “Oh, you!”

“I’m a guy, so sue me! Seeing you naked would do me a world of good.”

“I promise, if I decide to do that, I’ll call you first.”

“Sweet.”

“My ex wasn’t a bit like you,” she said unexpectedly. “He would have said something like that, and made it sound nasty, not funny. He was mean, hurtful….”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 9 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallPaisley tells Kai more about her background, and why she ran away.

“We usually eat in the kitchen,” Nina explained. “But it’s so nice to have company, I thought we’d eat out here. This is my husband, Brad. Honey, this is the girl I told you about, Paisley.”

“Hi, Paisley. Nice to finally meet you. Nina’s talked about little else since she took your class the other day. How was your first day?”

“It was good, thanks. Everyone’s made me feel so at home.” Paisley’s lip trembled. She looked like she was going to have another meltdown.

Kai pulled out a chair for her, helping her get settled at the table, before sliding into the one next to her. Cody, who usually sat in that place, looked miffed. Kai flashed him a look to keep his mouth shut. His brother sat across from them instead.

“This is cool, having another girl here, huh, Mom? Usually the guys outnumber us,” Tempest explained. “And you can cut the testosterone with a knife!”

Paisley giggled. “I bet that’s a problem sometimes.”

“Do you have brothers?”

“Sure don’t. Just only me. As brothers go, yours aren’t so bad.”

“That’s because you’re not their sister. Absolutely no boys want to talk to me at school, for fear Cody will pound them. And none of them will ask me out, for fear of Kai. I swear, I’m never gonna get married.”

“Maybe they’ll lighten up when you get older.”

“Yeah, that’ll happen,” she laughed, rolling her eyes.

“My sons have made a pact to protect their sister from the predatory males of the world,” Brad said, spooning out potatoes.

“Every man on the face of the earth, he means,” Cody explained. “I don’t care who he is, or how old he is, every guy is looking to sc…. Ouch!”

Kai had kicked his brother under the table.

“Twatwaffle, you didn’t have to kick me!” Cody rubbed the wounded shin tenderly.

“Cody Simon Beecher, you watch your language, young man! That earned you clean up duty!” His mother scolded. “Did you teach him that?” she accused Kai.

“No, ma’am. Don’t believe I’ve ever used that word in my life.” He tried to look innocent, knowing full well Cody had learned that word from him, and he’d said it only last week.

“Liar!” Cody threw his napkin across the table at his brother.

Kai caught it, tossing it back. “Behave like a human, please.”

“If you weren’t taking Paisley home, I’d make you help him,” their mother said.

“He could help, and you could take her home,” Tempest suggested.

“Thanks, Knee-Britches. Keep your suggestions to yourself,” Kai fussed.

Tempest stuck her tongue out at him. He made a grab for it, nearly snagging the tip.

“Keep that in your mouth, kid.”

“Or what?”

“Or… I’m not gonna say at the table. Behave, huh? What’s Paisley gonna think? You’re a couple barbarians?”

Paisley honestly didn’t know what to think. She’d never been around a family like this—ever. It was shocking, and refreshing all at once. She quite liked the verbal sparring and insults they hurled at one another. Obviously, though it didn’t exactly sound like it, they loved one another a great deal.

Once dinner was over, Kai helped clear the table, and rinsed dishes as Tempest put food away. Cody loaded the dishwasher. They wouldn’t let Paisley help, even though she offered.

“Next time,” Nina assured her. “Tonight you’re a guest. Next time, you’re family.”

Paisley’s lip trembled again, but she managed to keep from crying. Nina put her arm around the young woman’s slender shoulders, hugging gently.

“Oh, honey—what kind of life have you had that a simple thing like that…. You precious, tender spirit….”

Paisley burst into tears, this time clinging to Nina. The two women cried for a few minutes. Kai and Brad wanted to comfort them, but didn’t really know what to do. It was Tempest who took it in hand. She went to them, putting her arms around them both, hugging. She didn’t say a word, her presence was enough. They stopped crying soon after. Nina kissed Tempest on the head and Paisley hugged her.

It was after 9:00 when Kai took Paisley home. Her apartment was in a questionable part of town. It wasn’t quite disreputable, but a couple blocks further down, it was. Kai didn’t like the idea of leaving her there alone, but he wasn’t in a position to offer alternatives.

“Want coffee or something? Thanks to your mom, I’ve got some.”

“I’d love some.” Kai carried the groceries as Paisley unlocked the door.

The apartment was small and cramped, but cozy. She’d decorated with second hand cast offs, but somehow it all came together, looking like a real home.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Books and Entertainment – What’s Write for Me with Barbra, Katherine, Nicole & Robin

Books and Entertainment logo

Join us Wednesday, November 27 from 4-6 PM on Books & Entertainment Network – What’s Write for Me!

Thanksgiving is almost here and Black Friday looms on the horizon. Why go out, struggling in the bad traffic, worse weather and rude people? Instead, stay home in your favorite chair and do your shopping in the comfort of your own home! While you’re there, don’t forget that books make great gifts!

Our authors today not only have a wonderful anthology to share, but each of them has other work just waiting for you. Kick back, have a listen, and get your shopping done early – buy books!

katherine Thomlinson

First up is the lady behind the anthology, Katherine Tomlinson. A familiar voice here on What’s Write for Me, she’s not only the driving force behind this collection, but many others as well. She’s also the author of Picnic by the Lake of Time, Love Note, and Suicide Blonde. Welcome back to the show, Katherine!

Robin Claire Barns

We’re also happy to have former guest, Robin Claire Barnes back on the show. Also known as RC Barnes, she has published a variety of short stories. She has written several novels, among them Riverdogs, Pretty Little Gun from the Tattoo Teller Series, and her newest novel, Ink for the Beloved. Welcome back, Robin!

Our next two guests are new to the show, and we’re so delighted to have them with us.

Barbra Campbell

Barbra Campbell is so busy with home, children, pets, working on her PhD, playing the cello, and helping her husband,I’m shocked she has time to write! We’re happy she has time in her busy schedule to spend some of it with us. She is the author of several hot and fast contemporary romance/ erotic books, among them Dangerous Curves Ahead, Hot Enough and Thankfully Yours. Welcome, Barbra!

Nicole Morgan

And finally, we’re joined by a second new voice, Nicole Morgan, another author of hot, sexy romance. Nicole has written under the pen names of Taylor Brooks and Nicki Day, and is the founder of Romance Collections. She is the author of The Soldier of Fortune Series, The Sweet Awakenings Series and Incessant Passions Series, among many more. Welcome, Nicole!

Join us when she chat with these four amazing and talented ladies on What’s Write for Me!

Love Takes a Swim Part 8 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallNina, 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.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Paisley picked up another dish, following them to the dining room.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 7 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallAfter work, Kai offers to take Paisley home, so she won’t have to ride the bus.

“It’s okay. Thank you.”

“Come on in and wait. The bugs are getting nasty. They’ll eat you alive.”

She walked with him, back to the building. His mother was just coming out looking for him, when they walked up. Cody was behind her, grinning at his brother.

“There you are! I wondered where you’d wandered off to,” his mother said, as she locked the door.

“I saw Paisley at the bus stop, and offered her a ride. If you’ll take us to the house, I’ll see her home.”

“Sure.” His mother gave him a puzzled look.

“Shotgun,” Cody said, more from habit than anything.

“I don’t mind riding in the back,” Paisley said.

Kai opened the door to the red SUV, helping Paisley in. He hopped in after her, shutting the door. Cody pushed the seat all the way back, squishing his brother’s long legs.

“Hey! I don’t do that to you, douche!” Kai popped his brother on top of the head.

“Boys! Enough!” Their mother chided.

Cody pulled the seat up. “Just messin’ with ya, bro. Gotta give you some grief, or you’ll think I don’t love you no more.”

“I have to stop at the grocery store on the way. What did I need again?” she appealed to Cody. “He’s my memory,” she explained to Paisley.

“Eggs, milk, half & half, tampons and cheese. Weird list, Mom. Gotta tell ya.”

“Shall I add Saran Wrap and duct tape to that list too?”

“What’s that for?” Cody asked, puzzled.

“Crowd control.”

Silence is Golden. Duct tape is Silver,” Kai quoted his favorite T-shirt.

Paisley giggled quietly.

“Need anything while we’re here?” Nina Beecher asked as she pulled into the parking lot.

“Yeah, as a matter of fact I do. I ran out of coffee this morning.”

“I guess we’re all going in, Mom,” Kai said.

“Do you have to?” she sighed.

“I promise, I won’t ask for a thing. I’ll buy my own junk food and condoms.” Kai winked at her as she groaned.

“I swear, I don’t know where they get it from. I tried so hard to tame them, and make them socially acceptable.” She sighed again.

They got in the store and Kai took off with Cody while Nina and Paisley shopped together. The young men got fried chicken, mashed potatoes and salad for their contribution to dinner. Cody talked Kai into purchasing two half gallons of ice cream that were buy one get one free. With their purchases in hand, they waited for their mother.

Kai’s phone rang. “Yeah, Mom?”

“Where are you?”

“Checked out and waiting by the restrooms.”

“Thank God. I had visions of having to look for you, or have you paged.”

“Come on, we aren’t that bad. Where are you?”

“Finishing up now. Meet us at lane eight.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

They scuttled over to help their mother carry the groceries to the car.

“Lots more than was on your list, Ma,” Cody teased.

“Some of that’s mine,” Paisley said. “Your mom was kind enough to buy me some groceries, since pay day’s not until Friday.”

“It’s a house warming gift,” Nina assured her. “I don’t want you to pay me back.”

“Thanks. That’s so sweet….” She blinked hard and Kai knew she was trying not to cry.

They unloaded the car, putting the groceries away in record time. Nina invited Paisley to eat dinner, which she graciously accepted.

“Now, all of you scoot! Cody, get your sister to help me.”

“I’ll help, Nina….”

“Nonsense, you worked all day. Tempest can help.”

A tall, adolescent girl, who looked remarkably like Kai, followed Cody to the kitchen. Tempest smiled at Paisley, speaking quietly when she was introduced. She joined her mother in the kitchen, as the others went onto the deck out back. Kai popped open a couple beers, handing one to Paisley. She accepted graciously.

“I suppose I should ask if you’re old enough,” he teased her by pulling it away.

“I’m old enough, I promise. I turned twenty-one July first.”

“Kai was twenty-two on the Fourth of July,” Cody told her.

“No kidding? An Independence Day baby, huh?”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 6 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallKai finds out a little more about Paisley, mostly that she left Tennessee because of an abusive boyfriend.

“I wish I had you for a brother.”

“No you don’t. I scare every guy away, who even looks at Tempy funny. She’s told me a million times I’m killing her love life.”

“How old is she?”

“Fourteen. I think her love life needs some killin’. She’s too young to think about shit like that.”

“I still wish I had a brother like you. Then he’d have left me alone.”

“I can’t be your brother, Paisley, but I’ll sure be your friend. You don’t have to worry. We’re like family here. We take care of our own.”

Pasiley sniffled again, wiping tears, but a grateful smile flickered at the corners of her mouth. “I feel like I just came home,” she whispered. “I better get back inside.” She wiped her eyes on the hem of her shirt and scrambled off the table.

“Paisley,” Kai stopped her with his voice. “If you need anything, ever, you let me know. I’ll give you my number before we go today. I’m serious. Anything at all, you tell me.”

“Thanks, Kai. Just knowing that—it means a lot.”

He watched her jog back to the main facility and wondered what she was doing inside. It was pretty obvious his mother had hired her full time. Most instructors came in to teach their classes and left. Paisley was still there, so she must be doing more than just teach water exercise.

Kai headed back to the pool, relieving Cody on the slide tower. His brother looked pretty rough. Even with the umbrella, the sun was brutal up there. Kai decided to close the slide for the day. He let the last of the kids up and roped off the entrance. Cody looked relieved as he headed down.

“Wish you’d done that an hour ago,” he said.

“Should have told me, bro. I’m not always the most observant.”

“Been lookin’ at Miss Paisley’s fine ass,” Cody said with a sassy smirk.

Kai smacked his arm in reprimand. “What are you doin’ lookin’?”

“I knew you were checking her out. Hurt much?”

“Don’t know what you mean,” Kai tried to sound innocent.

“You heard me. I’m not a baby, I know how things work.”

“Just so you aren’t exercising your knowledge yet, kid….”

“Oh, lighten up, Kai. I’m almost seventeen. Lots of guys my age are already active. I’m some kind of freak, to still be a virgin.”

“Take your time, kid. Trust me. There’s plenty of tail out there….”

“Sorry, man. I wasn’t thinking.”

“Hey, shit happens. Go to the office. Cool down some, and get a drink. You look terrible.”

“I’m good.”

“Do it. Don’t make me bench you.”

“Asshole. I swear, I liked you better before you knew anything.”

Kai grinned, swatting his brother again. “Do it. I can still kick your bony ass.”

Cody didn’t argue. He did exactly what Kai told him. He just wanted it plain that it was his idea, not because his big brother, the paramedic, told him to.

The day finally drew to an end. They closed the pool, cleaned up and headed inside. The main facility stayed open until 9:00, but the pool closed at 6:00. Kai flopped in a chair to wait for his mother. She’d given him a ride that morning. They car pooled as much as possible.

Paisley sat at the bus stop outside. Kai went out to talk to her.

“Hey there. Need a ride home?”

“I’m good. I’m taking the bus.”

Kai wrinkled his nose. “No offense, but there’s some weird folks ride the bus.”

Paisley giggled, tossing her dark hair. “I know. But I sold my car, and used my cash to set up my apartment, so not getting a new one anytime soon.”

“You can catch a ride with us. Mom can take us to our house. I’ll grab my car and take you home.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want to be any trouble.”

“No trouble, Paisley. Nobody should have to ride the bus.”

“You’re a hard guy to figure out, Kai.”

“Me? I’m simplicity itself.”

He stretched his long legs, folding his arms behind his head. His shirt inched up, revealing a masterfully sculpted abdomen. Paisley eyed him cautiously, as if she were afraid to look at him. Kai let his arms down.

“Is that a yes?”

“Sure. I’d like a ride. The bus driver ogles me whenever I get on. Kinda uncomfortable.”

“Not surprised. If I were him, I’d ogle you too. You’re damn pretty,” he said without thinking. “Sorry. Me and my blurting problem.”

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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Love Takes a Swim Part 5 by Dellani Oakes

Love Takes a Swim cover smallLater that afternoon, Kai has another chance to talk to Paisely.

“I’m in a band. The guys convinced me to keep it long, but I’m over it. It’s too damn hot.”

“What do you play?”

“Guitar mostly. Drums, bass. I’m front man and play rhythm. Cody’s lead.” He pointed to his brother. “Some of our friends make up the rest.”

“You guys any good?”

He chuckled. “You want the truth or a pipe dream?”

“That bad?” She looked shocked.

“No. We’re pretty good. I won’t say we’re ever gonna be famous, but we have fun, make a little cash on the side. Enjoy the benefits….” He stopped himself before he said something crude.

“Groupies?”

Kai chuckled, putting the cool can to his forehead. “Most of us have steady girlfriends. We don’t encourage the groupies, or the ladies get mad.”

“And you. Do you have a girlfriend?”

“Not at the moment.”

“Groupies?” She cut her eyes at him, making him blush.

“No groupies. Front man should see a lot of action, right?” He shrugged. “Not interested in boffing a bunch of women I don’t hardly know, and won’t see again. My last girlfriend, though—Whew.”

“What happened?” She turned so she was facing him, not the pool.

Kai had to force his eyes to focus on hers instead of the tasty breasts, and other things, that weren’t very well covered by her skimpy outfit.

“She took a liking to somebody else,” he said casually.

The tightness of his shoulders told Paisley there was more to it than that, but she didn’t pry.

“How about you? Boyfriend, fiance, husband?”

“Nope. I moved down here to leave all that behind me.”

“Down from where?”

“Tennessee.”

“Leave all what?”

“Boyfriend-fiance—husband hopeful. He was getting kinda persistent. I got tired of telling him no, and getting my tires slashed, so I left. Didn’t tell a soul where I was going, and went on till it felt right.”

“Felt right?”

“I had the better part of three states between us. I made a big deal of saying I was heading to Maine, left town by the north road, then sold my car in Virginia and took the train south. Paid cash for my ticket, using a fake name. It won’t stop him, but it’ll get him off my track for a bit.”

“So, is Paisley your real name?”

“Yeah. Can’t hire on without a social. Didn’t much feel like lying to Mrs. Beecher. She seems like a nice lady.”

“Love her like a mother,” he said with a smirk.

“Huh?”

“She’s my mom. Marcelo was her maiden name. Then she married Bradly Beecher and had Cody and Tempest. Tempest is my kid sister. I imagine you’ll see her around. She and her friends hang out here most days.”

“She here today?”

“Gone to the springs with our aunt and uncle.”

“You here every day?”

“Part time right now. I’m studying to be a paramedic, so I put in time with the EVAC.”

“Really? I was studying to be an RN, until I left.”

“What the hell did he do to you?” The question burst from him before could stop it.

Paisley shifted slightly, biting her lip as the tears came. “What didn’t he do? He was awful to me in so many ways….”

“Abusive prick,” Kai growled. “Men like that ought to be shot and killed—twice.”

She giggled a little, smiling through her tears. “Twice?”

“Kill ’em, resuscitate and kill the f**kers again,” he said with finality. “Real men don’t abuse women, just so you know. If Tempest ever hooks up with a guy like that, there’s gonna be some mighty happy gators.” He finished off his Coke, smashing the can with his fist.

Paisley jumped as his hand thumped against the table. Her green eyes still held tears, but she smiled.

© 2019 Dellani Oakes

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