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The flight was long, so incredibly long, but Lane used the time to catch up on her sleep. She used the entire flight for that. The evidence lay on Mr. Suit’s shoulder in the form of wet fabric where she drooled on him. When she sat up and wiped her mouth, she noticed. She was embarrassed, worse, mortified. Hopefully she didn’t snore, drooling was bad enough. Her face felt hot from her humiliation. It was hard for her to look Mr. Suit in the eyes.
After they exited the plane, they headed to pick up Lane’s luggage with the other three agents keeping their distance as to not draw attention. Mr. Suit stayed at her side and directed her to the door where an SUV was already waiting for them. They had landed in Miami, Florida and from what Lane understood, they were still a long way from Sunset Point Island. Mr. Donaldson had mentioned a ferry that ran twice a day. She suspected that was their next course for travel. How long that would take became another question that popped into her head. “I thought only one ferry arrived and departed the island each day. Surely the ferry ran earlier in the evening. What is it, eight o’clock already?”
“Actually, it’s after nine and you’re right, the ferry ran earlier from the mainland. The evening ferry from the island will depart later tonight.” Mr. Suit kept walking with his head darting from here to there.
“Are we taking a boat then?” she asked and tried to keep up with his fast pace. “How long will a boat take?”
“We’re not taking a boat.” Mr. Suit opened the door of the black SUV waiting and she slid in.
The other agents got into a car behind them, Lane noticed, and turned her attention back to Mr. Suit. “Well, unless there is one big-ass bridge to this place, I don’t understand how we’ll get there. It isn’t big enough for an airport. Is it?”
“The island has a small airport, but it isn’t big enough for commercial airliners.”
“So, we’re getting on another plane?” Lane scooted sideways in the seat so she could face him. Her body ached from sitting for hours.
“Yes, we are.”
She felt her stomach get queasy. Large commercial airliners were one thing, but small passenger planes, no, just no. “Do you know how many small aircraft crashes there are each year?” She buckled her seat belt. The drivers they had had so far scared the shit out of her enough.
“We’ll be just fine.” He nodded to the driver and they took off with enough velocity to toss her back in the seat.
“What is it with your drivers? I think I have whiplash.” She wasn’t a thrill-seeker in the sense she liked to put her life into the hands of others, especially up in the air.
Mr. Suit shook his head. “You have a large network of some of the worst criminals potentially searching for you, and yet you’re worried about an hour plane ride?”
“An hour! Geesh. I just got off a five hour flight.”
Mr. Suit chuckled. “There is never a boring day around you is there?”
* * * *
“Well, are you coming?” Liz Wyatt waited impatiently at the counter of the Sunset Point Police Department for her husband, the Chief of Police, Luther Wyatt.
“Hold on, hot stuff. I’ve got a call.” Luther rolled his eyes as he walked past Bannock Garrison. “Women, thank goodness I opted for one instead of two. They’d be the death of me. Where’s Jed? Oh yes, he’s off work and has been for hours. Why isn’t he here to take hot britches in there to the airport?”
Bannock laughed with amusement as he watched his Chief complain and shuffle around the office. The man doesn’t like to be rushed, never has. “Is she leaving somewhere?”
“No, hell no. Liz has no desire to leave the island.” Luther grumbled and stopped for a moment with a strange expression on his face as if lost deep in thought. “Liz is all excited about our niece coming to stay for a while.” He grinned and strolled in Bannock’s direction. “Say, I have a few matters to attend to. Would you mind taking the little lady to the airport to pick up our niece for me?”
Great. Bannock wanted to kick himself for engaging in conversation with the man. The Chief was notorious for passing off honey do’s to him.
“She’s awful pretty.” Luther used his best and sweetest schmoozing voice.
Bannock shook his head. Damn it, he knew better. All he wanted to do was go home, have a beer, and relax. “It’ll cost you, Chief.”
“It will, eh?” Luther scrubbed his jaw as if thinking of the possible repercussions.
“Yes, sir.” Bannock leaned back in his chair and smiled. He loved to aggravate his chief, as did much of the other officers.
Luther pointed at him with a sly smile. “I am your Chief, you know.”
“And I’m aware of that.” Bannock crossed his arms over his chest. In five minutes he’d be off the clock so this was more of a favor than a work related task.
“Fine.” Luther tossed his hands in the air, conceding the battle. “I’ll be at the poker game.”
“With cash this time?” Bannock raised a brow. “And?”
Luther grumbled under his breath. “Yeah, I’ll bring some money, and I’ll have Liz bake you a blackberry pie.”
Bannock pushed away from the desk, proud of himself as he did. “Thank you, sir. I haven’t had one of her pies in quite some time.”
“I hope you choke on it. You realize no one grows blackberries on this island? They have to be shipped here and cost a pretty penny at your mom and dad’s grocery store.”
Bannock nodded and tried not to be too smug about it. “And they appreciate your patronage, sir.”
“Get out of here before I change my mind.” Luther turned toward his office while mumbling.
Bannock grabbed his keys and met Liz at the front desk. “Evening, Liz.”
“The old bastard conned you into taking me again.” Liz put her hands on her slender hips and rolled her light green eyes. The woman was remarkable to look at even though she was old enough to be Bannock’s mother. Why Luther sloughed off honey do’s with her always surprised him. Outside of being a little hardheaded, Liz was sweet, and when she wasn’t trying to play match maker, she was witty and intelligent.
“I volunteered,” he lied.
Liz smacked him on the chest and grinned. “Good job, I’ll have that pie ready for you on Friday. By the way, Luther will be pleasuring himself for the next week.”
Bannock followed her to the entrance. “Ah, Miss Liz, don’t do that. He gets really cranky without sex.” If Liz followed through with her threat, Bannock and his fellow officers would have one hell of a week to look forward to.
“Yeah, I know.” She winked at him and walked out the front door.
How did Bannock wind up in this situation almost every week for one thing or another? He spent more time with Liz than Luther, the old fart. Although in thinking about it, he came out better this way and Miss Liz wasn’t too difficult to deal with. It didn’t hurt that she’s like family since his mother and her are best friends. Partners in crime, that’s what the old timers around the island say about the pair. Once upon a time, he’d heard they were once pretty wild. Now, Liz had become the mayor, operated the best damn cupcake shop in the world, and his parents owned the island grocery store. He was amazed every time he thought about his mother and Liz being young and irresponsible.
And just where is Jed anyway? The old shits leave me chauffeuring Liz around, he thought. He supposed he should, knowing his mother would have his ass if he didn’t. They got into Bannock’s patrol car and set out to the airport. “So, uh, I hear your niece is coming to stay for a while.”
“Yes, Reece is finally here.” Liz pointed at her phone and pushed back her light gray hair. “Just got a text.”
“I didn’t realize you had family off the island.” He immediately got the suspicion something wasn’t right. Liz, Luther, and Jed were born and raised on the island. They all attended school with Bannock’s parents. He had never heard mention of another sibling to Jed and Luther.
Liz offered a sarcastic laugh. “Oh yes, Jed and Luther have a brother that lives in Kansas of all the crazy places in the world to live.” She shook her shoulder length hair and seemed amused while thinking about it.
“I’ve never seen him. Does he come here often?”
Liz shoved her cell into her purse. “Goodness no. He hates the lifestyle of the island and always has. When he graduated a couple of years before me, he caught the first ferry off the island and vowed to never come back.”
“Wow, that is some serious hate.” No wonder he didn’t know about this other brother. He wasn’t much of a fan where the island residents’ lifestyles were concerned either, but that didn’t mean he wanted to leave it all behind as a result.
“Well, to each their own. He claims to be happy in Kansas, fighting the snow and ice in the winter, living on a farm with his wife. Of course, their kids are grown now and out on their own.”
“So, this niece, Reece, is she just visiting with you for a while?”
Liz turned to look at him. “Yes, for a while.”
“I’m really looking forward to that pie.” He chuckled as he drove up and parked in front of the tiny terminal.
“You always are.”
As they pulled up to park, a plane descended and touched down on the runway not far away. Bright blue and red lights flashed in the night while the plane began to slow and taxi. Bannock got out and tried to get to Liz’s door before she could open it.
Liz stepped out and adjusted her skirt.
“Why won’t you let me get your door, Miss Liz?”
“I’m quite capable of getting out of a car without assistance, Bannock. Do you think of me as so old and geriatric that I’m not able?” Liz pulled her purse strap over her shoulder with an amused expression.
Bannock ruffled his hair in defeat. “No, not at all, but my mother wouldn’t be pleased.”
“Your mother has always been a little old fashioned. We just won’t tell her.” Liz patted him on the arm and walked away, leaving him standing beside his car.
When Bannock finally caught up, Liz was already pushing though the double doors leading out to the tarmac. “And again with the door.”
“Come on, slow poke.” Liz turned and flashed him a smile.
A strong breeze had kicked up and Liz fussed with her hair. Springtime on the island was beautiful, but the weather was unpredictable at times. Bannock watched as the plane came to rest and a crew rushed out to chock the wheels. Inside the plane, Bannock could make out a couple of people shuffling around through the tiny side windows. He was only aware of one person arriving tonight and wondered who else was on the flight.
The island to Bannock was not only home, but a place he was charged with the safety of the residents. In years past, he and the police force had dealt with a few criminals seeking a hideout on the island. He was always on guard and leery about most tourists, especially some of the wealthy and well to do that visited.
With the island becoming a mecca for the rich and famous and more so since the Palace Resort and Spa was built, he wasn’t looking forward to the new addition the resort was building, at all. Bannock was simple and led a moderate lifestyle. He bought a small cottage with a large yard in an area just outside of downtown. There were no expensive luxury cars parked in his driveway and he definitely didn’t have an ocean view either. His parents on the other hand lived more extravagantly now. With the island growing as well as their business, Garrison’s Grocery, the three of them knew well how to enjoy the spoils of their thirty years of hard work. His grandparents, Dean and Jillian Wyatt, built the grocery nearly sixty years ago. It was a family business and one he was expected to take part in, but after working during his youth at the store, he wasn’t overly ambitious about taking it over one day. His parents weren’t particularly happy with his occupation and he often heard their annoyance concerning his decision. Bannock decided long ago that his younger brother, Luke, should do the honors, be the good son and take over the store.
The door of the plane finally opened. Two men on the ground waited as the stairs descended to the ground. A man inside exited while carrying a suitcase and a smaller bag. He stopped at the bottom and waited. Bannock eyed the man for a moment. He didn’t look like he could be an attendant dressed in a dark suit with a white button-up shirt underneath. He damn sure wasn’t the pilot. Bannock noted he was still in the cockpit with his log opened up, pen in hand. Did Liz’s niece come with a guest?
A woman came into view and began taking the steps cautiously. Her long hair whipped up in the current of gusting wind. Bannock couldn’t tell much about her in the dim light. She stopped at the bottom and accepted the luggage the suited man carried out. They talked for a moment and she hugged him before he reboarded the plane. Liz bounded out and rushed across the pad with her gray hair taking a beating. When she reached the woman, she pulled her into a tight hug.
Bannock realized he wasn’t being very gentlemanly and began walking toward them to fetch the bags. As he walked up, he noted the beautiful face of Liz’s niece. Her hair was flaming red, long and blowing in the wind about her face. “I’ll take your bags, ma’am.” He reached for her suitcase and motioned for her to give him her smaller bag as well.
She offered him a nervous smile. In the moonlight, he could see that her eyes were puffy and red, either from lack of sleep or crying. He motioned for them to follow and set out ahead of them. Behind him, Bannock could hear Liz chattering. Her excitement always seemed to put her mouth into overdrive. He smiled and opened the door for the terminal.
“Thank you, Bannock.” Liz smiled with her arm wrapped around the waist of her niece and entered.
When the door closed behind them, the noise and the rushing wind quit, leaving both women’s hair a mess. Liz smoothed hers back. “You’re finally here.” She pulled Reece into another hug.
Bannock stood and waited for all the hugging to end. He noticed Reece’s expression seemed surprised and noted how she hesitated when returning the gesture. She looked unsure and timid, as if she didn’t know Liz very well. It was then that he realized he hadn’t ever heard the red-headed beauty speak a word, not one. With the light inside, Bannock could see her face better, and although the woman was quite striking to look at, he realized without a doubt Reece had been crying excessively for a long period of time. Her bright green eyes lifted and welled up with more tears when she looked at him. He averted his gaze, not being one who enjoyed emotional scenes or crying females.
Liz let go of Reece and held her out at arm’s length. “My, my, what a gorgeous woman you grew up to be.”
Bannock turned his attention back to the women to see what Liz was commenting about. Reece offered a small smile and her cheeks lightly blushed as she looked at the ground. The woman was indeed gorgeous. She was tall, lean, and fit. Her jeans molded around her ample hips and snuggly hugged her long, slender legs.
As Liz appraised her niece, Bannock continued to take her in. More than anything, he was watching her body language. She was uncomfortable and nervous, avoiding eye contact and shifting her gaze. Something wasn’t quite right, but Bannock tried to convince himself that first impressions weren’t always correct. Whatever was going on in this young woman’s life, it weighed heavily on her mind. He suspected maybe she had a bad relationship and she was here in order to heal her broken heart.
“Oh, where are my manners?” Liz turned around with Reece’s hands in hers. “Reece, darling, this is Officer Garrison. He works at the station with Luther.”
“Nice to meet you.” Reece extended her slender hand and shook his. Her voice was light, almost a whisper.
“Same here.” Bannock let go and adjusted her bag on his shoulder. “Come on and I’ll take you ladies home.”
At his car, Bannock opened the back door for Reece. Before he could get to Liz’s door, she had already opened it. He walked around and got in and chastised Liz. “Now Miss Liz, we talked about the door. If my mother catches wind of this, I’ll receive a talking-to over it.”
“And I told you, your mother is too old fashioned. I should talk to her.” Liz grinned.
“That won’t be necessary. Just allow me to get your door next time.” He winked at her and she laughed.
As Bannock backed out, he tried not to look in the rearview mirror at Reece, even though his mind pushed him to do so. Bright green engaging eyes stared back at him for a moment before turning to look at Liz who had turned in her seat to talk to her. The woman was still nervous. He couldn’t put a finger on it and began to shuffle around the facts in his mind and wondered who the man in the suit was that got back on the plane?
“Where to, Miss Liz?” Bannock asked as he exited and turned onto the main road leading back to town.
“Home. Luther and Jed better have dinner for us when we get there. Those men, I tell you, I wouldn’t trade ‘em, but today, they are testing my patience. They can also go and retrieve my car as well.”
The Wyatts’ place wasn’t far, and in minutes, Bannock pulled up in front of the house that sat on the top of a sloping hill. He got out and carried Reece’s luggage up for her. She thanked him and avoided eye contact, looking down at the ground while waiting for Liz to direct her inside as if nervous to do so without say so.
“Thank you again, Bannock. You sweet boy.” Liz smiled and kissed his cheek. “I’ll send an extra pie over Friday for your trouble.”
“Thank you, Miss Liz. Nice to meet you Reece.” He nodded curtly and turned to head back down the stairs. Dane, his roommate, had more than likely made it home by now and would be wondering where he was. The two had become close friends over the last ten years since Dane moved to the island. They had plans to grill steaks and he thought maybe he should have called to let him know he’d be running late. If the situation wasn’t so impromptu, he would have, but with Liz, they always were. That was fine by him as long as he got those pies.
Bannock pulled into his driveway and noticed Dane was already home. The smell of charcoal burning filled the air with its aroma as he got out of his car. His stomach growled and he remembered he missed lunch. “Dane?” he called out as he entered and hung his hat and gun belt on the hook by the front door.
Dane came out of the kitchen with a beer. “Hey, thanks for the call.” He smarted off and walked back into the kitchen.
Bannock followed. The smell of food made his stomach grumble. Dane was a great cook. Being from Texas, he came from a southern style with southern cooking. Bannock personally had never been to Texas, but could appreciate and enjoy the style of the food. “Mmm, I smell fried okra.”
“Yeah, good stuff.”
“Sorry I’m late.” Bannock opened the refrigerator and pulled out a beer for himself. “Luther caught me on my way out.”
“Another honey do?” Dane chuckled and turned the okra in the skillet.
The bottle hissed when Bannock twisted the cap off. “Yeah. Liz said he’d have to pleasure himself the rest of the week.”
“Blackberry pie?” Dane grinned, knowing the going rate for favors.
“Oh, yeah.” Bannock leaned over and picked up a handful of okra, tossing them one at a time into his mouth. “Damn, these are good.”
Dane continued his task, turning the frying okra in the pan. “So what was the honey do this time?”
“Oh, funny thing. I had to take Liz to the airport to pick up her niece.”
“Niece?” Dane turned with a questioning brow. “I didn’t realize she had a niece.”
Bannock swallowed a large drink of his beer and cleared his throat. “I didn’t either.”
“And?” Dane’s curiosity began to rise. The pool of eligible females on the island wasn’t large. In fact, it was small, not counting vacationers. Dane sampled them a lot in order to keep his libido in check, but what the man desired was a wife.
“And what? I couldn’t tell much about her by meeting her once. She doesn’t say much.”
“Seriously?” Dane pulled the rest of the okra out and drained it on paper towels. “A new woman steps onto the island and you aren’t even a little excited?”
Actually, Bannock held no excitement at all. Any thoughts about women at all conjured the memories he had suppressed to rush forward. Two years ago while he was stationed in Afghanistan, he received a Dear John letter from his fiancée. As it would seem, she couldn’t wait for his return, broke off their engagement, and promptly married some rich tycoon that had been vacationing on the island. Where she landed after she left was anyone’s guess.
They had dated in high school and broke off their relationship when Bannock joined the Army. He and his buddy Jackson Stone enlisted at the same time to see what else besides their small island existed. They also felt they owed their service and time.
On leave a few years later, Bannock and Jenny hooked up for two weeks. He remembered it was the hottest adventure he’d ever been on. After being in the desert for the better part of a year beforehand, any sex, he decided now, would have been eventful. He asked her to marry him before he left. She vowed to wait for him, but letters and an occasional visit home weren’t enough for her. She couldn’t wait for him, her love not strong enough to weather the storm.
One damn year, he shook his head thinking about it. One year and before he was finished, she sent him a letter, the dreaded Dear John letter that any soldier hates to receive when so very far from home. Jenny had been his only beacon of hope that kept him going. He looked forward to every letter, every care package. Then it came, that damn letter.
Jenny admitted she could wait no longer and had taken up with some businessman she met at the resort on the island where she worked. She had apologized, stating that the man was her true love. Bannock felt she could have been more honest and just leveled with him. Jenny craved money, lots of money. It was no secret and why he ever fell for her charm still bothered him. He really believed they would have had a happily ever after. He also dreamt of the day his discharge paperwork would be issued so he could get home and marry her. He dreamt of a monogamous relationship, not like the ones on the island, just one man and one woman. Growing up with two fathers and one mother had its perks, but for him, he couldn’t really see sharing a woman with anyone. He tended to lean on the selfish side.
When the dust settled and Bannock was discharged, he returned to Sunset Point. Outside of the island, he had little family and friends. It just seemed logical to stay where his roots were planted. At the time, the island police force was in need of new officers. That was another plus to return.
Coming back had been difficult and not without pain and the reminder of what he had lost. After a couple months back home, he had ventured out very little until his buddy Jackson suggested he get off his dead ass and forget about it all. They got together and had one too many beers. Bannock ended up running into Dane again and got his very first tattoo. The two had met years earlier before Bannock enlisted. Dane was an easygoing kind of guy and a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with. Since that night, he and Dane hit it off, becoming fast friends and eventually roommates.
The last year had been tough, but Dane’s friendship was Bannock’s savior. Although he had other friends, he and Dane just clicked.
* * * *
Lane couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Liz had not one, but two husbands. What was wilder was the fact the men were brothers and shared her. Lane watched them, unable to concentrate on her meal. Her appetite for food waned nearly thirty-six hours ago. As she scooted around a couple of spears of asparagus, she wondered how she could possibly eat the offensive vegetable. Hate didn’t cover how she felt for asparagus, but felt obligated, since the Wyatts were nice enough to take her in.
“So, Reece, I was thinking I’d take you on a tour of the island tomorrow and show you around. Do you think you’ll be up for it?”
“Yeah, sure. Thank you,” she replied before poking a section of the veggie in her mouth. It’s carrots. I love carrots. She thought while she chewed. Either the trick worked, or she couldn’t really think of the taste because she was so caught up with the unconventional marriage before her. Jed and Luther seemed to get along well, which was interesting since she and her own siblings tended to argue when in the same room for more than an hour together.
The resemblance between them was subtle. Lane already learned that Luther is the Chief of Police and Liz is the Mayor, but was curious about Jed. He seemed more refined than Luther with his suit and tie, more a white collar than blue. She wanted to know so much about these people, but couldn’t make her tongue work or find a way to lead into conversation with them. Normally Lane was a chatterbox and couldn’t seem to shut up at times, but now, she couldn’t decide whether she was shell-shocked or completely stunned.
“Reece, your mouth is hanging open, dear. Is there something you want to know?” Liz smiled and speared a chunk of meat and popped it in her mouth.
The woman was breathtaking for her age. Lane dared not guess, but the silver hair was a dead giveaway. She wore it well. Her bright green eyes sparkled with a hint of mischief. She took care of herself by looking at her figure. Lane could only wish to look as fabulous when she achieved Liz’s age. “Um, I think I’m a little speechless right now.” She found her voice and made an admission.
“I understand.” Liz’s eyes lit up with a broad smile curving her lips upward. “It’s very simple really.”
“It, it is?” Lane glanced back at Liz, then to Luther and Jed.
“Mmm, yes. You see, we are only one of many couples on the island. Our philosophy is different here, as we don’t subscribe to the common notion one person can only love one person. This island was built generations ago by those who wanted to love freely, not subjecting their hearts to the hate of the outside world.”
“So, lots of people on the island are married to more than one person?” Lane’s eyes darted from Jed, to Luther, then back to Liz. “Isn’t that polygamy?”
Jed belted out a laugh. “That term doesn’t exist here, sweetie. I know it does in the States where you’re from, but here, we celebrate life and love, no matter how many partners are involved.”
“I don’t know about all that celebrating life and love bullshit,” Luther piped in “You two are a pain in my ass.”
Jed laughed again and Liz began to giggle. Lane nervously laughed, unable to keep from joining in.
Liz patted Luther’s hand. “You love us and you know it, Luther. You cranky old codger.”
“Well, I will say it’s never boring. Never, never boring.” Luther picked up his glass of wine and proposed a toast. “To Reece. May her stay be enlightening, eye opening, and a happy one.”
“Here, here.” Liz grinned and lifted her glass.
Jed picked up his glass. “Just keep an open mind.”
Lane couldn’t keep the goofy grin off her face. She never had a father really, so seeing one woman adored by two men began to warm her heart. “Thank you. Thank you so much.” She lifted her glass and wiped a small tear as emotion took over.
“Aww, honey. Why are you crying?” Liz leaned over and rubbed her arm.
“Life, everything, I guess. You all are taking me in when I had nowhere to go.”
“Don’t get all sentimental on us,” Luther started. “We’re just good people with crazy ideas and one big-ass bed.”
Lane sipped her wine with a chuckle and took the scene in. The trio smiled and laughed, content to be together. They each played their own part, but not one above another, she noticed. It was a partnership built on love and trust. However crazy it seemed when she first arrived, all of a sudden it didn’t seem so odd anymore.
“Sweetie, you look very tired. Let’s get you into a hot shower and off to bed. A girl needs her beauty sleep.” Liz stood and offered a hand.
“What about the dishes? I should help.”
“Oh, no you won’t. The boys can handle them.” She turned and looked at Luther and Jed. “Can’t you, boys?”
Luther stood with Jed right behind. “Yes ma’am.” They both sounded off simultaneously.
Lane wasn’t sure how long she was in the shower, perhaps a half hour. In that time, she allowed the spray to wash away the filth she perceived to cover her skin. The stress melted away and washed down the drain. Like it or not, she was stuck there indefinitely and knew that all the crying in the world wouldn’t change the fact. That is, unless she was crazy enough to go back home and try to resume her life. Ingrid’s expression as she lay dead on the floor reminded her that for now, she was in the best place she could be.
She emerged from the shower and even though she slept the entire flight earlier in the day, she was exhausted mentally. Liz had shown her the room she’d stay in and she was quite pleased. A nice, large bed sat center of the far wall, draped with a beautiful coverlet in a cheery teal color. Big fluffy pillows lined the head of the bed and welcomed her. A set of French doors opened out to a veranda, overlooking the ocean from the hilltop the house was perched on. She stepped out and breathed in the warm night air. Tall palms lightly swayed in the breeze. The sound of the ocean with waves crashing in against the shoreline soothed her broken soul. Up in the sky, stars shone brightly. Being from L.A., Lane hadn’t seen the stars much, not like this anyway. They winked at her from above and warmed her heart.
The lull of the waves became music to her ears and she began to feel her body letting go. Traipsing back into the room, she pulled the soft bedding down and climbed in. Last but not least, she turned off the lamp, leaving the door cracked so she could hear the calming sounds of the ocean.
Lane awoke to the sound of birds cawing outside. Liz had said she wouldn’t wake her and encouraged her to sleep in, but she found that she was kind of excited to see the island. Even though her heart was heavy with everything she’d been through, she worked to find the determination to overcome it.
As she stepped out on the balcony to take in the beautiful landscape and the bright blue waters, the warm salty air soothed her. White-crested waves crashed in over the white sandy beach, shells left behind on purpose for her to find. She yearned to go to them and pick them up, never before seeing a more majestic or beautiful place.
Exotic palms and plants were abundant everywhere she looked. Brilliant red and yellow flowers happily sprang up from bountiful plants in the backyard. The salty sea air filled her lungs and she felt fantastic for the first time in days. The warmth of the sun shined down on her and warmed her face. As she inhaled one last deep breath, she tried to control the newfound enthusiasm building in her stomach. Determined to make the best of her stay for now, she decided to pretend she was only on an extended vacation.
Lane turned and walked back into the bedroom. She searched for her luggage they carried up the night before, but it was nowhere in sight. She became confused. It was there last night. When she opened a drawer on the whitewashed dresser, she smiled. Liz had neatly put up the meager belongings she’d brought with her. After she pulled out an outfit and tossed the clothes to the bed, she shucked off the tank top she’d slept in. When she picked up her shirt, she saw something run. Her lungs burst with the loudest and most bloodcurdling scream her lungs were capable of. Backing away from the bed, she clutched her shirt to her chest. What in the hell was that? And is it poisonous?
The sounds of thundering footsteps came down the hall. Jed stormed in with a pair of slacks on and his shirt only partially buttoned. “Reece, are you okay?”
“There!” she screamed. “Something is on my bed! I was getting dressed—”
“What is it? I heard a scream?” Liz came running in with an alarmed expression and searched the room for the culprit.
A thud outside the door jolted Lane, and Luther bounded in, wearing nothing but a pair of boxers, and had a gun in his hand. “What in the hell is going on?”
“Jesus Christ, Luther. Go put on some pants!” Jed shook his head. “And for crying out loud, put that gun away, both of them.”
Lane blushed and turned her gaze away from Luther. Giggles erupted and she couldn’t help it.
“Oh, geesh, Luther.” Liz complained.
Lane peeked from behind her fingers that she’d covered her face with. Luther looked down and chuckled. “Sorry, I didn’t realize my little soldier was awake.”
“Go cover that thing up!” Jed pointed at the door. “Reece doesn’t want to see your pecker.”
Luther stopped and turned around at the threshold. “But what was the scream about?” He still had his gun in his hand.
“Oh,” Lane averted her eyes. “There’s something in my bed. I don’t know what it is, but it’s really fast.”
Liz flipped the blankets on one side of the bed while Jed inspected the other side. Lane held her shirt over her chest and knew she should be embarrassed about the fact she was standing in her underwear, but had modeled in much less, so she really didn’t feel too odd.
“Here he is,” Jed smiled and pulled out a little green lizard. “He’s harmless and kind of cute. Huh, same size as Luther’s—”
“Hey, hey,” Liz interrupted. “You, put the lizard outside.” She pointed at Jed and turned to Luther. “And you…go get some damn clothes on!”
Lane began to laugh so hard she couldn’t even speak. “Thank, thank you,” she stuttered while Jed tossed the lizard back outside and shut the door. Liz grabbed his arm and ushered him out.
“We’ll see you downstairs for breakfast.” Liz acted embarrassed but giggled as she shut the door.
After Lane contained her laughter, she finally managed to get dressed and put on a little makeup. Her eyes were almost void of puffiness and she couldn’t be more grateful. Likely, she cried during the night, emptying a store of tears. She had dreams about Ingrid and began to think of her again. Her eyes threatened to burst, but she refused to let them. Crying won’t bring her back.
Her stomach growled and she realized it was the first time in two days she’d felt that sensation. She could hardly wait for breakfast and the idea of seeing the island pushed her out the door and down the stairs.
When she entered the kitchen, she stopped abruptly. Uh, oh. I just walked in on a moment. Liz was kissing Jed while Luther stood behind her, kissing her neck. Lane felt extremely awkward and turned to walk away, but ran into a potted plant and fell over it, making a loud ruckus in the process.
“You can come in, Reece. We promise we won’t engage in sexual acts in front of you.” Luther called and Lane peeked around the corner from her position on the floor.
“Luther, leave her alone. This is odd enough for her without you yammering about stuff like that.” Liz pointed at him and led Lane into the kitchen when she finally stood back up.
“I’m actually okay with it. I’m just relieved he put on a pair of pants.” Lane found her sense of humor. These three were a riot.
Jed and Liz laughed while Luther grumbled. “Back in my day, I was quite a catch.”
“Come on, let’s have breakfast and get you two off to work. Reece and I have plans.”
* * * *
After breakfast, Lane grabbed her purse and sunglasses. She and Liz set out for the day, Lane bounding down the long, rustic stairs. “This place is gorgeous, Liz.”
Liz put on her shades and smiled. She looked so regal, dressed in her linen pants and crisp white top. Her nails were painted in a bright pink along with her toes. Island life suited her. She seemed content, happy. They got into a little convertible and set out down the winding road toward town.
Lane took in all the sights surrounding her. Large fancy homes down to the cozy smaller ones dotted the hillside and not a one was a dump like back in LA. There was no graffiti to be seen. No bumper-to-bumper traffic. Just clean, fresh air and beauty everywhere the eye could see.
The warm air blew over her skin as the sun shone down on her, caressing her with its warmth. The view was breathtaking. In minutes, they entered a commercial area. Small shops lined the main street, all inviting with gorgeous plants and décor. They toured the town, Liz turning down one street then another. She pointed out the courthouse, the park, the grocery store, and even a place called Designs by Lark. She smiled when she mentioned it and said they had the most beautiful lingerie a woman could want.
While exiting the town, Liz explained that tourism kept them fed and able to live the way they wanted. On the far end of the island was a marina. As it grew closer, sailboats and yachts lined the coast with long decks leading out into the clear blue waters to each of them.
At the other side of the island, Liz explained a new resort had been built and catered to a great deal of rich and famous that visited. Now Lane felt she was way off when she imagined Gilligan’s island. Now she felt like such a dunce.
“Whatever your passion, you’ll probably find it here.” Liz interrupted her thoughts. “My sons Will and Jameson take people out on scuba diving tours. If parasailing is your thing, they do that too.”
“I’ve had enough adventure to last a lifetime. I think I’m the type to beach comb for shells,” Lane admitted.
“We can do that, too.” Liz took a road that led toward the shoreline and parked.
As they walked down the beach, Lane stopped to pick up interesting shells. She shared with Liz her story about what happened that caused her to be in the predicament she was in. Lane got a little misty eyed when she told her about Ingrid and the fact she couldn’t get her image out of her head. Liz hugged her and assured her that in time, all wounds would heal, but for now, to take it one day at a time.
Further down the beach, Liz enlightened Lane on her life and lifestyle. Lane became even more intrigued by her. The woman was smart, successful, and with two husbands who adored her. All Lane managed to find was a murderer that trafficked women from around the world.
Liz wrapped her arm around Lane’s shoulder. “Don’t give up on men, not because of one. We are all destined to find our soul mate or mates.”
“I’m not worried about men or finding one. I’d do better to steer clear of them. I’m more worried about my career. I don’t know how long I will be here and if I’ll even have a career when I return.”
“You really enjoyed modeling, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did. I worked toward it for years, starving every step of the way. One year ago, the break I had waited for came. And now, now it’s gone.”
Liz nodded and a look of understanding crossed her face. “Life and karma have a way of meddling and making a mess of all we build. Sometimes it’s for the better, sometimes not. But I’d like to believe that everything that happens to us, happens for a reason. You may not see it now, but in time, you will.”
“Do you really think so? I mean, I feel like I barely got started on the best chapter of my life and now I’m stuck between walk and don’t walk here. Don’t get me wrong, this place is gorgeous and all, but what do I do while I’m here? I can’t just pick up shells every day.”
A smile lit Liz’s sunny face. “How are you at baking?”
Lane offered a confused look and drew her eyebrows together, questioning her. “I suck, why?”
“Great, just the answer I needed.” Liz tugged her along and headed back to the car.
“It is? Why?”
Ten minutes later, Liz pulled up to a cupcake shop, Naughty Sprinkles. The logo was cute with a female cupcake in dominatrix gear, a whip cracking the ass of the male cupcake beside her. The awning was black-and-white striped, shading two large front windows and the entrance. On either side of the door, small trees happily sprung up from tall pots with bright pink flowers encircling their small trunks. “Very nice.” Lane pointed at the sign as she entered.
Liz glanced at her business logo for a moment. “Thank you. I think she has a little of me in her.”
Images popped into Lane’s head, images she was not sure she wanted to see. Her face heated up. Already today she’d seen Liz’s husband Luther in nothing but his boxer shorts, sporting morning wood. She’d also seen the three of them enjoying a moment together in the kitchen. The woman was more than old enough to be her mother. Wow, those thoughts didn’t help. That meant she had to accept the fact her mother was getting jiggy with it, too.
Liz held open the door for her to enter. “Welcome to Naughty Sprinkles. The only thing naughtier is your own imagination.”
“Great catch phrase.” Lane laughed as she entered.
“It wasn’t a catch phrase. I was talking about you, dear.”
“Oh.” Lane felt her face heat up again.
Inside, the warm and inviting décor continued with two black-and-white striped walls. The two adjacent walls were a solid hot pink. Bright white crown molding made the walls pop. Cute round tables with café style chairs sat haphazardly around, adorned with bright green foliage and more of the same hot pink flowers. Splashes of the lime green continued throughout, making the feel of the shop cheery and inviting. A menu of cakes hung at the far end of the shop, behind the counter. The font was a beautiful cursive, giving elegance to the already fabulous space.
At the counter, lit glass cases showcased the cupcakes. Color abounded with the fabulously decorated confections begging to be seen and eaten. A gorgeous blonde stood behind the counter. She looked close to Lane’s age, maybe a little younger. “Good morning, Liz.”
“Good morning, Sami, my favorite daughter-in-law.” Liz greeted her with a chipper and affectionate voice.
Sami let out an infectious laugh. “I’m your only daughter in law.”
“Sami, this is Reece. She is my niece from Kansas. She will be staying with us for a while on an extended vacation. How would you like some help in here?”
Sami beamed and clapped her hands together. “Help, really? I’d love it.”
Liz turned to Lane. “Reece, sweetie. How would you like a job here at Naughty Sprinkles?”
Lane shrugged. She really knew little about baking and even managed to screw up a boxed cake mix once. “Well, I could use a job, but I told you I sucked at baking.” She looked at all the tiny cakes with intricate decorations. It was a little intimidating.
Liz tsked. “And I remember saying that was great.”
“Why is that great?”
“Because I don’t have to break any bad habits and Sami can teach you everything you need to know.”
“I love the cupcakes. They are so cute and wow, naughty.” Lane noticed a group of cupcakes with penises on them.
“Hence the name.” Liz pointed at the sign. “If they’re not naughty in look, they are definitely naughty with ingredients. We carry a wide variety of cupcakes with unique flavors, exotic fruits, and decadent fillings. Don’t think those cuties are innocent. They will all go to your hips.”
The bell on the door chimed and the most stunning-looking man waltzed in. In distressed blue jeans and a simple white tee, he looked like the all-American boy next door. His dark blonde tousled hair hinted of a carefree attitude as well as the way he carried himself. He smiled as he approached the counter. Ice-blue eyes sparkled when he smiled. A dimple punctuated his cheek, softening his hard-edged look. Lane watched, taken by him. He was cool, confident. She could see the hint of ink on his arm, tattoos. Only certain men could wear them well, and that’s only if they were hot and not cartoony. She really hated to see tats of animated characters on a man’s arm.
“Hello, Miss Liz, Sami.” He spoke with a southern accent.
Sami grinned at him. “Hello, Dane. What will it be today?”
“Mmm, those chocolate mocha cupcakes are very enticing. But today, lemon sounds great.”
“Shall I put one in the box for Bannock, too?” Sami pulled out a cupcake and waited for his answer.
“Nah, he hates lemon. How about the Blondes Have More Fun for him. He loves caramel.”
Sami packaged his cakes and took his payment. “Thanks, Dane. Oh, and the guys really like the tattoo you gave me last week.”
Dane smiled as Sami handed him the box of the sweet confections. “I thought they would.”
Even as Dane talked to Sami, he glanced in Lane’s direction numerous times. She became a little confused, because she remembered hearing the name, Bannock, before. Wasn’t that the cop that picked me up last night? While her brain continued to process, Dane turned to her and Liz.
“Liz, nice to see you today. You’re new position is keeping you from your shop. I miss seeing you every day.”
“I know it is, but I have a remedy for my absence. My niece Reece here will be taking my place here at the shop.” Liz wrapped her arm around Lane’s shoulder and squeezed.
“Reece, nice to meet you. I’m Dane Hutchinson from The Branding Iron next door.”
Lane shook his hand and felt her fingertips tingle. The man could stop traffic with his bright white smile and handsome face. “Nice to meet you, Dane.”
“So, what brings you to Sunset Point?”
Her heart picked up rhythm and she was suddenly at a loss for words.
“She is considering moving to the island. Kansas is such a ho-hum place to live and with all the snow and ice they get in the winter, she wants to get away and be somewhere tropical. And what better place could my niece be than here?” Liz saved her ass and created a believable lie.
“I can’t think of any place, Miss Liz.” Dane cocked his head to the side and studied Lane for a moment. His grin was intriguing, as if he were trying to figure her out. She felt hot under his gaze. “I wasn’t aware you had a niece though. My, my, Kansas is no place for beauty like you.” A predatory expression came over his face. When he bit his bottom lip, his eyes sparkled with interest. Lane thought her heart stopped.
Liz hugged her. “No, Kansas is no place for Reece. I think she’ll fit right in here.”
* * * *
It was almost lunchtime and Dane hoped Bannock would make it for lunch today. Liz’s niece was just the woman to pull Bannock out of his funk. She already caused Dane’s guts to tangle up. It had been a while since he’d laid eyes on such beauty and come to think of it, a long time since he’d bedded a woman. Up until now, no woman had given him that euphoric rush upon introduction. Sure, he played, finding salvation for his greedy one-eyed monster, but not with someone who captivated him as much.
Today, wow, he thought, he felt like some wild 80’s love song should have played when their eyes met. He’d been hoping to find a woman, a woman he could share with Bannock. He mentioned his idea a few months ago and Bannock gave him the cold shoulder for a couple of days afterwards. No doubt he felt odd, Dane could understand, but personally, the thought turned him on so much he stroked himself frequently thinking about it.
With their friendship so close they were almost like brothers, Dane felt sharing a woman would be a way to stay close together. The idea of marrying and getting caught up in a separate life bothered him. Since he came here to the island, Bannock accepted him, and his parents did as well. Bannock also had become the brother Dane never had, but always wanted. Somehow he had to make this work. This is serenfuckingdipity.
The cowbell on the front door clanked and Dane turned around, hoping to see Bannock. No such luck. “Hello, ladies. What can I do for you today?” He laid on his southern charm, because women eat that shit up and he knew it. These women were tourists. He’d been there ten years, so he knew right away.
“Well, hello, gorgeous.” The blonde smiled. She was a princess, more than likely the daughter of one of the business tycoons that stayed on the island in a fancy vacation home, Dane guessed. They probably owned one of those big yachts, too. “I want to get a tattoo. I’ve tried talking my friend here into one, but she’s too chicken.”
Dane leaned back, propping his foot against the wall and crossed his arms. “Do you have something in mind? I have a portfolio you can look through if you’d like.”
“Oh, no need. I want a tattoo here.” She pulled her shorts down a little and pointed to the small of her back.
Dane nodded and wanted to refer to it by its common name, tramp stamp, but refrained. “So, what kind of a tat would you like there?” He continued and tried to be professional.
“I have my heart set on this princess logo, minus the sea part. Just princess.” She handed him a picture of guess what, a yacht. “My daddy named his boat after me. I had that logo made for it.” She giggled and her feet clicked her heels on the wooded floor.
Dane studied the simplistic design. Princess was written in a cursive font with a large, sweeping P. Simple enough he thought and led her to a chair. The pair giggled and sat down their Gucci and Prada purses. He was already getting a headache. As he tilted the chair back so that she could lie on her stomach, he began to give instructions. “You’ll have to pull your shorts down a few inches lower than where the tat will be.” His statement earned another round of giggling.
Dane sterilized the area and felt confident in his ability to freehand the design. Actually, it was very simple. He didn’t know how he could possibly screw it up. To be on the safe side though, he used a tracing pen to be sure he was on target. Bingo. Damn, I’m good at what I do.
“So, have you ever had a tattoo before?” he asked before getting started. Some people can’t tolerate the pain. He just wanted her aware of what would be involved before he started.
Malibu Barbie looked at him with a blissfully naïve appearance. “No, does it hurt as bad as people say?”
He grinned. “Uh, depends on the person.”
“Bree, are you sure you want to do this? Tattoos are so permanent.” Her friend popped her gum while talking.
“She’s right, they are permanent.” Dane looked up at the clock and although he hated to lose a sale, Bannock may be there any minute for lunch. Plus, he didn’t like Barbies in his shop.
“Like, as in forever?” the blonde asked and he wanted to thump her for being so ignorant.
“Yes, sweetie, as in forever.” What in the hell was she thinking? Temporary? She can get that out of a gumball machine.
Barbie shivered and rolled over. She had a look of terror on her face. “Um, I think I’ve changed my mind.” She slid off the chair and pulled her shorts up. Apparently the booze was wearing off. “I’m sorry.”
“Not a problem. You two have a fun and safe time on the island.” Dane turned and exhaled a deep breath, glad to see them go. He doubted she could have handled the pain anyway. No money on her credit card would be painful enough, he supposed.
Bannock came in immediately after with a sack from the Kraken’s Cave. “Hey, Barbie and her friend came in for a tattoo.” He teased, knowing Dane hated those types.
Dane tossed his rubber gloves into the trash. “I lucked out. She was too scared.”
“Business has been a little slow hasn’t it?”
“Eh, not too bad, but not great.” The business had slumped a little over the last few weeks. People don’t just get tattoos weekly.
“Bout time for you to get another.” Bannock began unpacking lunch.
“Yeah, because there are oodles of tattoo artists on the island. I only trust my skin to one man and he is probably retired by now.”
“Maybe we should go to Texas and look him up. I have a tattoo in mind for you.”
“Oh, yeah? And what would that be?”
Bannock pointed to the box from Naughty Sprinkles. “Pillsbury Dough Boy if you don’t stop eating those cupcakes every day!”
Dane leaned against the wood frame of the large front window and stared. “I’ll be having a lot more of them since Liz’s niece will be working next door.”
Bannock shook his head. “Chase away my friend.” He sat down at the desk and pulled his lunch toward him. “There is something suspicious about her.”
“You could find something wrong with any woman.” Dane continued to look out at the bright sunny sky.
“No, I just know their nature. Liz’s niece, huh, she arrived at the island last night with an escort. At first I thought the guy was working with the pilot, maybe a friend or something.” He forked up a bite of food and put it in his mouth.
Dane waited and turned his attention to him. “And?”
Bannock swallowed and took a drink of his soda. “Well, the guy was wearing a black suit for starters. Secondly, he got back into the plane and sat in the back, not the front. If he was a friend or helping out, why wouldn’t he take the copilot seat?”
“Maybe he didn’t want to.” Dane chuckled and sat down. He began to rummage through the sack for his meal.
“Nah, the dude was escorting her here and the pilot was returning him to wherever they came from.”
Dane rolled his eyes and chuckled. “Only you could read so much into a suit and seating preference.”
* * * *
“Damn it,” Lane cursed as she looked up. She had been learning how to ice a cupcake with a decorator’s bag when she noticed Bannock walk by the shop, carrying a sack. The man looked so hot in his uniform. The sight of him caught her by surprise, her eyes honed in on his round ass and the way the fabric molded over it. She lost her faculties and continued to squeeze frosting, getting lost in the moment.
“Girl, what are you doing?” Sami asked and stood with her arms crossed watching her with an amused expression.
Lane looked down and noticed she had squeezed every ounce of frosting from the bag on top of the cupcake, coating it with ribbons of frosting. It was now hidden under a canopy of pink. “Um, I, I, don’t know. I got distracted. I’m sorry. What a mess. I told Liz I sucked at anything having to do with baking.”
Sami laughed and looked outside, noticing the police car. “Mmm, really. By chance were you watching Bannock Garrison walk by?”
Lane played stupid and made an indignant noise. “Pfft, no. What? No.”
Sami raised an eyebrow and snickered. “Yeah, whatever. Say what you will.”
Busted. “Well, just for a moment.”
“Honey, you may fool other people, but you’re not fooling me.” She giggled with her high pitched voice and grinned. “If those two men didn’t catch your attention, I don’t know who could.”
“I’m not, I’m not—” Lane stuttered.
“Save it. Most all single women on the island would love a piece of either of them.”
“I’m sorry for the mess.”
“What?” Sami stopped and snorted. “Don’t worry about that. This is the best entertainment I’ve had all week.”
A while later, Lane watched as Bannock left. She tried hard not to notice. A man put her in the position she was currently in. Why in the hell would she want to look at another? Who was she kidding? Sami was correct, they were both gorgeous.
Sami periodically chuckled when she caught her staring out the window. Lane smiled in return, noting they seemed to be hitting it off pretty well. She could use a girlfriend or a friend at all. She had spent years trying to achieve her goals. Even visits home to see her mother and brothers had been nil recently. She wished she could rewind time and have a do-over, wishing she had another opportunity to do things differently. If she did, she would have never stepped foot inside The Sinful Seven that very first time. Instead, she would have used her down time to spend with the few people in her life that meant the world to her. She’d been selfish, chasing her dreams and ignoring those that loved her.
A melancholy mood settled in her stomach. The urge to give them a call made her fingers tingle, but she knew she couldn’t. A move like that could jeopardize her safety or theirs. She just hoped Mr. Donaldson was telling the truth when he said they would be contacted. Lane couldn’t bear to think of them worrying over her, but knew they were accustomed to not hearing from her for a week or more at a time. It dawned on her that she really hadn’t been a good person. After leaving home, she became a shitty daughter and a terrible sister. Her brother and his wife had their first child two weeks ago and she couldn’t make it to the hospital to see the new baby. I’ve been too wrapped up in me.
By five, Lane was beginning to get the hang of frosting and decorating the simple cakes for the shop. She fought with emotions and thoughts every step of the way. Would she have a second chance to make things right? She hoped so.
“Well, it’s about time to close. We need to clean up and call it a day.” Sami called out while she retrieved the broom.
Lane took the supplies to the sink and began to wash them. Sami had already cleaned the bulk of the kitchen area while Lane had been decorating, or trying to. They had a friendly chat along the way and Lane learned a lot, so the day wasn’t a total waste, she thought. The only part she hated was the revelations that crept into her mind.
The bell chimed and Liz entered with a smile. “Good evening, ladies. Reece, how did it go today?”
Sami snickered in the background and Liz drew a questioning brow.
Lane came out of the kitchen area with a towel while drying her hands. “Good, well, except for my frosting accident.”
“It was so funny, Liz. Reece was frosting a cupcake and got caught up watching Bannock. Frosting was everywhere!”
“Oh, my.” Liz grinned. “I’ve done that a time or two.”
Lane couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Really?”
“Oh, honey yes.” Liz hugged her around the shoulders. “I’ve done it many, many times. I may be old, but I’m far from dead.”
Lane smiled. Liz was so wonderful to be around with her open and honest personality. She was witty, fun, and exactly the type of aunt she’d love to have. Sadly, her only aunt was a person she hadn’t seen since she was a young girl. Her mother and her aunt had a falling out after their parents passed away. Her aunt moved away and didn’t bother to say where she was going. Lane’s mother hadn’t tried to find her either. Even with Lane’s world crashing down around her, she felt there was light, and her name was Liz Wyatt.
“Are you up for a little fun tonight?” Liz pitched in to help clean up.
“I’m up for anything.” Really, she wasn’t. The mental anguish that warred inside her head all day had her wiped out, but she wanted to keep her mind distracted and off all the things she couldn’t change at the moment.
“Sami, are you and my sons going to the barbecue?”
“Yes, for a while. Will and Jameson wouldn’t miss it.”
After they finished up, Liz tugged Lane out the door. For a woman her age, Liz was as giddy and excitable as any teen Lane had ever seen. From their tour earlier, Lane knew the island wasn’t overly large, but what it contained blew her mind. She still couldn’t get over all the beauty surrounding her. Already she had fallen in love with the bright sunny sky, the warm air, and the smell of the ocean.
Liz drove to a park and offered a smile. Lane knew what she was up to and loved her for it. The woman seemed to know her needs. She also thought Liz knew she was able to self destruct with worry, so Liz was filling her dance card so to speak, with plenty to keep her and her mind occupied.
“Did you and Sami have lunch?” Liz parked as she asked the question.
Lane thought a moment. Did I eat anything? They had got busy for a spell and she had worked really hard to learn. “Umm, we shared some cheese and crackers and a little fruit.”
“I’m so sorry. I bet you’re starving.”
“I wasn’t until you mentioned food.” Her stomach growled, making them both laugh.
“Come on. We’ll eat first and then I’ll introduce you to some of the residents.”
Lane couldn’t be sure, but believed she ate like a wild woman who had never been civilized. Her appetite returned with a vengeance. Liz said she felt terrible for not checking in on her throughout the remainder of the day, but was wrapped up with the planning of the annual town barbecue. From what Lane understood, this was a time for residents only to get together. Tourists were not allowed. They were a close group, a group that enjoyed each other’s company. They used the time to connect, talk about business and future plans for the island. Liz had also told her the council was made up of residents only. They met monthly to discuss potential residents that have applied and possibilities of new business to accommodate the rising tourism.
Above it all, the council wanted to keep the atmosphere quaint with a hometown feel and not lose their heritage by becoming over-commercialized. Lane hadn’t noticed until now, but all the chain restaurants and stores she was accustomed to seeing in the States didn’t exist on the island. There were no tacky billboards hogging the scenery from the eye or power lines that obstructed the view. Come to think of it, she hadn’t noticed a single one. Everything was mainly underground cable. Liz said they never wanted to distract from nature and the magnificence that surrounded them, but at the same time, have the comfort electricity supplies.
Luther and Jed walked over to the table, both stopping to kiss Liz. Lane could see the love in their eyes when they looked at her. Their relationship was anything but normal, but they’d made it work and she couldn’t imagine seeing one without the other already. Luther and Jed were not only brothers, but best friends as well. They were as different as night and day personality wise, but seemed to complement one another anyway.
Everywhere Lane looked the more she noticed others just like Liz and her husbands. A couple of times she noticed three men and one woman, and even two women and one man. She was awed by the mechanics of such relationships. A new world she never would have believed existed did. Back in the states, laws had been passed keeping such relationships from flourishing. Lane knew it happened, it must, but knew only one man could actually marry one woman. Here, from what she understood, a marriage included all involved in the relationship and was treated as sacred as a marriage between a man and woman like back home.
Jed and Luther left for a while but came back with dessert and a bottle of champagne. They sat on either side of Liz and poured them all a glass.
“What’s the celebration about?” Lane asked.
Luther smiled. “Life, love, you name it.”
Jed coughed. “He just wants to get in our wife’s pants.”
Liz covered her face with a beaming smile she tried to hide.
“Am not.” Luther handed Lane a glass.
“Are, too.” Jed snapped back. “By the way,” he looked at the label on the bottle. “Nice choice.”
Lane began to giggle so hard her stomach ached and her jaw hurt from the smile she couldn’t wipe away. Luther and Jed were just too cute.
“To life, love and getting in Liz’s pants, Luther.” Jed grinned and the edges of their glasses clinked together.
“Here, here!” Luther clanked his glass with Lane’s and Liz shook her head.
“And to you, Reece. May you find the love you deserve and all the happiness in the world.”
Liz got a little teary eyed and Lane did as well. Liz kissed Jed on the cheek and turned and gave Luther a kiss as well. “They can really be a pain in my ass, but I love em’, I truly love them.”
Lane sipped her champagne and enjoyed the happiness and love that surrounded her. Jed urged her to try the dessert he brought, promising it was the best cherry pie she could ever hope to find. Lane figured out Liz made the pie, and it seemed Jed was hoping to get into his wife’s pants as well. Where Liz found time to be the mayor, run a business, keep both her men in check and bake a pie boggled Lane’s mind. She herself wasn’t much of a multitasker.
* * * *
“Look at her, Bannock.” Dane turned to Bannock and pointed toward Reece. “Isn’t she the most gorgeous creature you’ve ever laid eyes on?”
“She’s nice looking,” Bannock responded and glanced away.
Dane smacked Bannock’s arm. “Nice looking? Are you fucking kidding me?”
“What do you want me to say, Dane?”
Dane pointed in Reece’s direction. “I want you to acknowledge how hot she is.”
Bannock shrugged. “So she’s hot. So what?” Why in the hell did it matter what he thought anyway?
A faraway look glazed over Dane’s eyes. “I’ve dreamed of her before. I’ve seen her in my dreams a couple of times.”
“What? You’re nuts.”
“No, I’m not. We’ve talked about this before and you shut me down.” Dane leveled his eyes directly at him.
Bannock shook his head. He hoped to never have this conversation again. “Dane, you know how I feel. I’ve never desired a polygamous relationship.”
Dane seemed hurt. “Bannock, I’ve dated lots of women and they all seem to interfere with our friendship. You’re like a brother to me, and I don’t want to lose you or have to choose.”
“A woman will come between us either way, Dane.” Bannock turned to walk away.
“Bannock, please. Please, if you respect our friendship, consider my feelings.” Dane stopped him dead in his tracks. “Look at her. See how she smiles? That is the smile of an angel. I’ve been around a lot of women in my life and I can tell you, a smile reveals the true nature of a woman. Her smile is carefree and loving—”
“Women are fantastic actresses, Dane.”
Dane bowed up to Bannock and thumped his chest with his finger. “Your problem is that you’re barn sour.”
Bannock gave a sarcastic chuckle. “Barn sour, huh?”
“Yeah, one woman hurt you and you take it as the nature of all women.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“I am your barn, Bannock. You go out occasionally for a quick, no strings attached night with some random tourist and are left unfulfilled the next day. We rely on each other’s friendship and companionship. Sooner or later, a woman is bound to divide us, so why not put one between us?”
Bannock wasn’t having this conversation, not here. Why? Why in the hell did Dane want to complicate their lives? To Bannock, they had it all. There was no woman to nag them about taking out the trash. No woman bitching about poker night. No woman with PMS fucking up their day with a shitty disposition. They ate when they wanted, and put their feet on the damn coffee table if they wanted. They didn’t have to worry about putting the seat down or worry about considering a woman’s feelings for a change. Best yet, Bannock soothed his demon with women he’d never see again. There would never be another Dear John letter, because he wouldn’t allow anyone of them close enough to hurt him again. Period.
Bannock left and drove the short drive home and parked out front like he always did. Dane and he had become close. He relied on Dane for the companionship he had lost and chose not to replace. Their bachelor lifestyle suited him fine. Dane on the other hand, had grown tired of it.
Six months previous, Dane had gotten heavily involved with a woman. She came between them and insisted Dane move out because she claimed Bannock was a bad influence. To Bannock, it was a ruse. Rachel wanted Dane all to herself and worked damn hard to cut off their friendship. The stunts she pulled created a lot of tension and arguments. Dane was stuck in the middle between two opposing forces and had to choose girlfriend or friendship.
Since then, Dane had dropped hints here and there about them finding a woman they could both love. He felt that was the only answer to their problem. As far as Bannock was concerned, he didn’t have a problem. Life suited him damn fine just as it was.
He sat for hours in the dark on the back porch and drank a few beers. He lost count three beers ago or was it four? He didn’t know and didn’t care either. Dane had his sights set on Liz’s niece, determined to have her, and Bannock would end up alone again.
Dane entered the front door. Bannock left the back sliding door open and sat with his beer, hating the distance he felt between them. The refrigerator opened and he heard the clank of a beer bottle. A twist of a lid and the sound of the cap being thrown at the trash can alerted his ears. A lot was weighing on Dane’s mind, too. Any other night, Dane would have greeted him first. Dane’s steps began to grow closer and closer until he was standing behind him. Bannock didn’t look back and he offered no words.
Finally after what seemed like an eternity, Dane took the chair next to him and sat down. They both peered up at the stars, both lost in their own thoughts.
“Nice night,” Dane offered and took a pull from his beer.
Bannock was speechless. He didn’t know what to say to him at this point. The easy relationship they had seemed uncomfortable all of a sudden. “Mmm, hmm.”
The silence stretched and Bannock wanted to let out his frustrations, but kept his mouth shut. He didn’t want to drive Dane away, and especially not into the arms of a woman he was already leery of. Bannock just wanted their life back the way it was before the redhead stepped foot on the island. Even though he truly didn’t know her, he secretly wondered if he didn’t hate her. It was childish and out of jealousy, but couldn’t help it.
“Listen, Bannock,” Dane started and then paused. “I don’t want to lose our friendship, but I’m not getting any younger—”
Bannock chuckled, the alcohol had already began pulsing through his veins and feeding his anger. “But?”
“But I can’t ignore my heart.”
Bannock pointed the top of his bottle at him. “You mean your dick.”
“Reece excites me more than any woman I’ve ever met and that was from a first introduction.” Dane got a faraway look in his eyes. “I can feel it in my gut, she is meant to complete us.”
“You’re fucking nuts.”
Lane had been in Sunset Point nearly two weeks now. She had really caught on to decorating cupcakes and baking them. So far, she was on a first-name basis with many in this small community. She loved that residents accepted her. The pain had become easier to deal with every day, her nightmares down to maybe one every couple of days. She hadn’t heard anything about the investigation or when she could return home, but pushed those thoughts out. Waiting for the news tore her up inside. On one side of the coin, she enjoyed her new life. On the other, she longed to get back to modeling.
The rush had always been fantastic. Walking down a runway, captivating an audience, and photographers had a way of boosting anyone’s confidence, especially hers. She could still envision the flashes from cameras directed at her, the pop of light and the long beeps following as the flashes recharged amazed her. There was something about the spotlight directed at her, if only for a moment. She became center stage for once, all eyes were on her. All the stress, the worry, meager meals, and doing without all those years had been worth it. The last big gig she had was a high fashion spread in a premier woman’s magazine. She modeled jeans, topless. The advertising spread was due out this month, and she could hardly wait to see the cover.
Lane smiled when she noticed Dane coming in the front door. Every day, he comes. Some days, he is in a chocolate mood, other times, he has a fruity craving. She wondered what he’d be in the mood for today. The man is gorgeous, looking more like a GQ model than a tattoo artist. He wore his jeans a little on the baggy side, but not so baggy she couldn’t see the definition of his gluteus. His tee-shirts stretched across his solid chest, his arms thick enough to make the cotton hem beg for mercy. Then, there was his smile. So cute and boyish, but with enough sex appeal to set a woman on fire with one flash. Damn, his stroll was so confident and cool as he walked toward her.
“Afternoon, ladies.” He greeted them daily with that phrase and his heart-stopping smile.
Sami gave Lane a coy glance and retreated to the kitchen. She had told Lane countless times that Dane had the hots for her, but Lane laughed it off. From what she witnessed, neither Dane nor Bannock had been with a woman at all since she arrived. Her guess was they were gay. They both stuck together like glue. Sami disagreed and told her otherwise, but the facts spoke for themselves, or so she thought. Hell, if Bannock was hers, she wouldn’t look at another breathing male again either.
Lane didn’t know if the water was to blame or the people, but something had crept into her. The overwhelming urge to mate caused her to touch herself recently, in fact a lot. The only problem was the inspiration she used. Two men she thought were gay. Huh, she thought, I’m not very bright.
“Oh, what? Sorry, oh, you’re here. Wow, when did you come in?” Lane sputtered and had to remind herself to breathe. She’d become obsessed. Out of all the idiotic stunts she’d pulled, yearning for two gay men topped them all.
“Reece, are you feeling all right?” Dane grinned like he was hip to the thoughts racing through her naughty mind.
“Great, never better.” She regained some semblance of normalcy. “What will it be today?”
“Mmm, what do you suggest?” The sound of his purr heightened her senses and the vibration tickled her pussy. How did he do that?
She cleared her throat for fear her voice would squeak when she replied. She felt like she had ingested a bunch of aphrodisiacs when Dane was around. Lust fogged her mind and coherent thoughts. Idiotic shit came out in return. She stuttered, became horribly clumsy, and basically made a fool of herself when he was in the same room with her. “Umm, well…” She slowly walked behind the glass showcase and thought about his options. “Well, we have a new cupcake.”
“Yeah?” He cocked his head to the side with his cute dimple appearing when he smiled.
“Yeah, I mean, yes. It’s, it’s tropical. Sa–Sa–Sex On The Beach.” She stumbled, the word sex having a hard time crossing her lips.
Dane’s eyes lit up with mischief. “Sex on the beach? Mmm, sounds….fun.”
Lane blushed as images of their naked bodies entangled together on a beach popped into her head. Her mind worked to complete the tattoos she had only caught a partial glimpse of. “The cupcake is fun.” She worked to regain her composure and fight the tremble working its way to her fingertips. “The cake is vanilla made with fresh vanilla beans and pineapple. Inside, the filling is a coconut custard. Umm, the frosting is a light butter cream with toasted coconut and aged rum.”
A sinful smile curved at Dane’s lips as his tongue slipped out to wet them. “Sounds heavenly.” He winked and she felt her legs buckle. When that man winked at her, all her muscles turned to mush.
“Would you like one? Or–or two?” Damn the stuttering has got to stop. I sound like a moron.
“Two.” He paused and smiled. “Bannock adores sex on the beach.”
Images marched through her mind as if an invading force, a cavalry on a mission, determined to make an ass out of her. Last night’s fantasy began to play inside her head. The sun was bright and Lane left her footprints in the sand as she walked along the beach. Waves crashed in, leaving colorful shells. Seagulls cawed, their noise blended with the rush of water, creating a pleasant sound for her ears to enjoy. As far as she could see, the beautiful landscape was uninhabited, a scene meant only for her. Lane returned to her towel she had spread out and lay down, allowing the sun to kiss her skin.
“My, my, what do we have here?” A seductive voice she knew well spoke. She opened her eyes. His form blocked the bright rays. Water droplets clung to Dane’s wet skin. The black tribal tattoos that marked his flesh were now on show, just for her.
Dane knelt down and skimmed his hand over her bare thigh. Drops of water cooled her hot skin. When he reached her hip, he played with the tie that held her bikini together. “Mmm.” He pulled his bottom lip with his teeth and tugged one string. When the bow popped open, he smiled. “Ooops.” His bright blue eyes twinkled with mischief as he leaned forward and kissed her belly, flicking his tongue over her belly button. Water from his hair dripped onto her stomach, tickling as it snaked over the sides of her waist.
He moved up slowly, placing wet kisses over her ribs. When he reached the small scraps of fabric that covered her breasts, he chuckled and lightly bit her nipple. As he pulled back, he let go of her nub, but held the black material and uncovered her breast. “Mmm, beautiful,” he said and moved to her other breast.
Lane sucked in a shaky breath and grasped the wet locks of his hair. Just having him near and able to touch him had her excitement growing. Dane covered her breast with his mouth, giving a stern pull then swirling his tongue around her hard nipple. She gasped and pulled him closer, seeking more. He paid equal attention to her breast, lovingly sucking and nipping. His eyes were bright, sparkling even, outlined with thick black lashes that promised to take her to the moon and back.
“I’ve been dreaming of you,” Dane said with a sultry purr against her lips. He untied the other side of her bikini bottoms and trailed his finger over her hip bone. “I can’t wait to have these long legs wrapped around my waist.”
“Yesss.” Lane fell under his sensual spell and wiggled beneath him. Just looking at Dane made her wet and crave to be impaled on his thick pole.
“I bet you need to feel me here,” Dane teased and thrust his finger into her sopping wet hole.
“Yes, please.” Lane stared at his gorgeous face.
Dane wiggled his finger and kissed her at once, thrusting his tongue into her mouth with a sweet pull of his lips. She hummed as her tongue glided over his, finding a steady rhythm that matched the unbelievable motion of his hand that worked her pussy and made her writhe with pleasure. She reached for what he concealed beneath his shorts. He was thick and swollen. All she wanted was to feel his enormous cock inside her, fucking her.
“Patience is a virtue,” Dane said as he nipped her lip and stared at her with his incredibly seductive eyes.
“And a virtue is grace. I have neither right now,” she breathlessly spoke, grasping his length and urging him on.
“I love when a woman goes after what she wants.” Dane smiled and sat back on his knees. He winked as he pushed his shorts down, revealing his taut abs and the dark hair that led south to his thick cock that made her gasp with delight.
“I need you inside me, now.”
Dane pushed her legs apart, dipping down to flick his tongue over her sensitive clit. “Mmm, like sweet nectar.”
Lane pushed her hips up, seeking more, needing more. Only when a large figure blocked the sun from her face did she realize they weren’t alone. Towering about them was Bannock. His eyes were concealed behind his sunglasses, his lip curled up with displeasure.
Dane grinned, but continued his task, pulling soft cries from Lane.
“Miss, can you read?” Bannock crossed his arms over his chest and pointed toward a sign.
Lane tried to speak, but moaned instead. She shook her head and tried to pull out of Dane’s hold, but the feel of his mouth was so breathtaking and enjoyable, she couldn’t summon the energy.
Bannock cleared his throat and Dane relented with a pout perched on his lips. “The sign clearly states, no nudity.”
“Ah, come on. It’s just us.” Dane speared her cunt with two fingers and Lane squealed.
“No, she broke the law. I have to place her under arrest.” Bannock pulled his handcuffs from his belt.
“No!” Lane pleaded and wiggled while Dane continued to take her breath away. “Please, I don’t want to go to jail.”
“I bet she would do anything, Bannock.” Dane sat her hips down on the beach towel and pulled her up on her knees in front of him. “Won’t you, baby.”
“Yes, I will, please,” Lane pleaded with Bannock.
Bannock chewed his lip as if pondering it over. Dane forced her to turn around and face him. He pulled her back to his chest and with one hand teased her nipples while the other dropped between her legs and began to rub her swollen clit.
Fear and exhilaration pulsed in her blood. When Bannock’s large hands began to unbuckle his belt that held his gun and supplies of his occupation, Lane licked her lips. Bannock stepped closer, working at the fly of his slacks.
“Oh, yeah. I bet if you suck his cock well enough he’ll let you go with a warning,” Dane teased and nipped her neck, “I’m going to fuck you while you suck his big cock, darling.”
Lane moaned loudly when Dane entered her. Their skin slapped together as the rush of waves joined in. Dane was large, deliciously stretching her and taking her breath away. Bannock pushed his pants down and wiggled his enormous pole in front of her face.
“Do a good job, honey. I’d hate to have to arrest you.”
His gruff tone sent a new wave of slick wetness trickling from her cunt as Dane pumped his cock stroke after amazing stroke inside her.
Sweet precum touched her tongue as she took Bannock into her mouth. She sucked the tip, swirling her tongue around the hood, and used her salvia to lubricate the length of him with generous strokes.
Bannock hissed and grabbed handfuls of her hair. “Dane is fucking your tight pussy and I get to fuck your mouth. How do like having two cocks in you?”
Lane moaned and pulled back, giving Bannock a stern suck. “I love it,” she whispered before taking him in again.
They moved together, pushing and pulling. Sounds of their moans carried on the ocean breeze. Dane’s hands were on her back, fingertips dragging from her shoulders down, stopping to grip her hips and deliver a rough thrust, making them both wail from pleasure. Bannock gently directed her mouth, giving her approving groans with his slacks bunching around his ankles.
“Mercy, this pussy is so tight, so fucking perfect!” Dane said with a growl and leaned forward, wrapping his arm around her chest, his hips bucking, still moving them. “I’m in heaven, baby,” he whispered and cupped her breast with his hand. He flicked her hard peak and then rolled it between his fingertips. “Come for me.”
Dane’s raspy voice at her ear sent a quiver racing down her spine and his tempo increased. Bannock grunted and jerked free from her mouth.
Bannock brushed her hair back. “That’s it, baby, let go.”
Dane rubbed her clit and growled. Lane burst with a squeal and began to shake. Her head down to her toes tingled with joy. Dane moaned and jerked out. Hot splatters hit her back as his release exploded from his body.
Bannock palmed his cock as he walked behind her. “My turn.” He rolled her to her back and lifted her legs. He was still wearing half of his uniform, and a gold star sat prominently above his left pocket. Dane began placing soft kisses to her mouth, moving lower to her neck when Bannock entered her, burying himself completely inside her.
“Ohhhhh, god!” Lane grabbed Dane’s forearm and held tight. Bannock was wider, thicker, so unbelievably thick, and it felt fantastic.
“Yeah, take his big cock inside you,” Dane gave an approving smile and began sucking her nipples.
A shudder of awareness set Lane’s skin on fire. They were out in the open, on the beach, where anyone could walk by and see them. It was wild and reckless. The fear did nothing more than to further excite her. Two gorgeous men were attending to her needs, sucking and fucking her into a euphoric state.
The steady pumping of Bannock’s hips drove him deep inside her. She moaned as she felt each ripple of his shaft tickle the inside of her. Dane sat back on his heels and grinned. He rubbed her clit, adding to the amazing pleasure Bannock was giving her. Bannock was in control, his expression was determined and fierce.
“Look at Bannock’s big cock stretch your tight little cunt,” Dane lifted her head so she could see. He continued to rub her clit. The intensity was growing until a delightful buzz began to spread through her entire pussy. “Fuck her harder, Bannock. She loves it.”
“Ohhhhh!” Lane arched her back when Bannock began moving harder and faster. “Yessss!”
“That’s it, baby, come all over Bannock’s cock,” Dane said and latched his mouth tightly around her nipple.
Lane wailed and dug her nails into Dane’s arm. “Oh. My. God!”
“Yeah, baby, ride that wave.” Dane kissed her lips softly and continued to keep her body convulsing with the extreme bliss that had overcome her.
Bannock roared and pulled out. He gripped his cock and pumped twice before cum spurt from the end, landing in warm milky jets on her stomach. He looked so gorgeous with his hand traveling from base to tip of his gorgeous cock. Lane giggled as her body tickled and trembled all over.
Lane tried to push the images out as she opened the cooler door. So disoriented from the dream, she bumped her head while reaching in for the cakes. She saw stars and felt light headed. Where she hit her head was above her right eyebrow. She scrunched her eyes shut before rising up and hoped he didn’t notice. Dirty images of the three of them kissing each other, sucking, and fucking made her hands shake.
On most nights recently, Lane’s fantasies were much the same and each night she janed off to the escapade her mind created. Yes, she dialed the pink telephone, tickled the beaver, and all those other sayings equated with masturbating. The island must have some sort of sexual pheromone floating in on the ocean breeze, beckoning her to think wayward thoughts. How else could she explain it?
Lane carried the cakes to the counter and packaged them in a pink box, tying it off with black and white striped ribbon. She avoided eye contact and the reason was partially because she was still squinting from the pain from the blow to her head. Besides, one look into his baby blues and all manner of explosive hormones began to rage with need. “Anything else?” she asked as she typed in the price and totaled the register.
Dane handed her the money, but when she grabbed it and pulled, he held it tight where she couldn’t pry the bills loose from his hand. She was forced to look at him. A moment took place, the kind where their eyes communicated and no words were spoken. Her pulse rose and she could hear her heart thunder in her ears. Boom, boom. Boom, boom. He took her hand in his and pulled it slowly to his mouth, his eyes never leaving hers. He kissed the backside of her hand softly and stroked it with the pad of his thumb. Slowly, he turned her hand over where he placed another kiss to her wrist. She felt his plump lips caress and drag over her skin. It was tender and soft. Another kiss moved to the palm of her hand. His eyes were wide. She told herself to pull away, but had been caught under his spell. He placed another kiss, this time though, his tongue swept out, gliding over her palm. Her panties got wet on cue and she wondered if that was his plan. One last chaste kiss was placed before he released her. The room spun and she wanted nothing more than to climb over the counter and into his strong arms.
She was rendered speechless, her tongue unable to form words. She fumbled with the bills and made his change, dropping half of it before she could give it to him. “Thank you.” She managed not to stutter and felt semi-victorious.
Dane picked up the box and offered one more of his heated glances, the kind that burned her from the inside out. This time though, there was a tone of seriousness, as if he wasn’t playing around. She creamed her panties at that very moment and helplessly watched as he turned and strolled in his easy gait toward the door. The bell chimed as he exited. The bell somehow woke her from her lust-induced coma. Behind her, she heard Sami squeal.
The unsettled heat between her legs did nothing more than make Lane’s day long and uncomfortable. Dane offered an invitation without words, speaking to her over-ambitious pussy that throbbed with want. She wiggled, at times catching the hem of her pants just right so that it would rub against her sensitive clit. Her nipples were stiff peaks and out of all the things she was grateful for today, it was her padded bra.
Outside of her racing libido, Lane’s mind was a wasteland created by the warzone of memories that still hung and reminded her daily that she could be next. She still wondered if Joe would really kill her. They had been involved emotionally and sexually. Those thoughts did nothing more than disturb her even more. In reality, she felt she couldn’t pick a decent guy if given the challenge. Dane pushed her flesh buttons, but underneath his sexual bravado and sinfully hot body, was he a good man? She thought Joe was a good man. She snorted while thinking of him again. Maybe she’d do well just to steer clear of men period.
“Five minutes to go. Five minutes to go.” Sami chanted and danced around. Of course she was deliriously happy about closing time. She had two men who adored her waiting at home.
Lane had met Sami’s husbands, Jameson and Will Wyatt. As she suspected, the pair was as goofy in love with their bride as Jed and Luther were with Liz. Karma had been delivering some tough blows over the years, starting with Lane’s modeling career. It would seem, she thought, that forces out of her control were keeping her from any kind of happiness. She couldn’t even pick a nice man to date.
Business seemed to wane near closing time so Lane walked to the front door to lock up. With one minute to go, who would notice anyway? She reached for the sign about the time a couple pushed through the front door. She immediately recognized the man as Jackson Stone. She only knew him from a distance. Liz had pointed him out from a crowd during one of their recent outings.
“Oh, umm…hi Lieutenant Stone.”
“Reece, this is Trinity.” Jackson nodded in the woman’s direction.
Lane felt unsettled around the pair, Jackson’s body seemed rigid and he acted overall uncomfortable. Liz told her a lot about different residents of the island, especially the officers from the station. From what she understood, Jackson really didn’t date. She wondered if maybe they shared the same thoughts about the opposite sex.
“I’m sorry we barged in on you last minute. I know you were about to close, but I have an emergency. Must have chocolate or all men within ten feet of me might be in grave peril,” Trinity spoke with a bright smile crossing her beautiful face.
Lane laughed. “Well, we can’t have that now can we? Let’s see what we can do about your emergency. I was just about to put everything away, so you caught me just in time.” She went about closing up, turning the sign in the window to closed.
“Bless you.” Trinity beamed and followed her to the counter. She looked over the remaining few cupcakes in the display case, mulling her decision. Behind her, Jackson stood with his rigid posture as if he were in pain.
Since the incident and ultimate death of a beautiful young woman at the club what seemed like yesterday, Lane kept her guard up and her mouth shut as much as humanly possible. She spent more time listening and learning to read body language in lieu of trying to get to know people through conversation. People lie, and people kill. They say and act one way, only to turn into a monster later.
Once upon a time, Lane took people at face value, a few nice words and she was sold. Those times were gone, and what was left was a suspicious person, and one that was afraid to let anyone in for fear of being hurt again. Since her arrival, she had formed a unique bond with Liz and Sami, but still kept her shields up around them.
“That one. The Sex On the Beach.” Trinity pointed and turned to Jackson, catching him staring at her ass. She looked back up at Lane and winked. “And one of the Whips and Chains Excite Me.”
Ah, yes, Lane thought, sexual frustration. Jackson had it bad. His eyes seemed to smolder with desire he worked to keep in check. Trinity was quite a woman to gaze upon, she’d give him that. Her personality was genuine with a little spunk. Trinity smiled as if she knew the thoughts that were churning in Jackson’s mind. The woman was having a lot of fun at his expense.
“Two?” Jackson seemed conflicted yet stared at Trinity with his heated gaze.
“Yeah, one for me, one for you.” Trinity smiled at him like it was obvious why she’d order two.
“I don’t want a cupcake,” Jackson replied in a no nonsense tone.
“Sure, you do. Everyone wants a cupcake. And this way, I can try both without feeling like a total pig.”
Lane just watched the show unfold. Jackson wasn’t happy about being there at all. Even though he seemed irritable and obstinate, he continued to allow his gaze to take Trinity in. Trinity on the other hand seemed indifferent, bubbling with enthusiasm and enjoying the hell out of irritating him.
After Lane pulled the cupcakes out and placed them on plates for the interesting pair, she handed them forks. “You guys can hang out in here if you want. I’m just going to be cleaning up.” She couldn’t handle the building storm raging between the two of them and couldn’t wait to get away. The sexual tension buzzed through the shop, as if she didn’t have enough built up inside herself to power a small city for days as it was.
Before Lane could resume her evening chores, the door chimed again. She wanted to announce her frustration until she noticed it was Liz. Jackson greeted her and they spoke for a moment before he introduced her to the woman he was with. Lane worked to ignore it all and busied herself with cleaning instead of eavesdropping.
“Who is Jackson with?” Sami whispered when she came out of the kitchen.
“Her name is Trinity. That’s all I know.”
Sami whistled low. “Pretty girl. Do you know that’s the first time I’ve seen him with a woman in a long time?”
“Really?” Lane looked back at Jackson.
“Yeah. I always thought it would take one hell of a woman to break his outer shell and there she is.”
Lane averted her gaze and continued to clean. She wasn’t one to get involved with gossip or talk about people, but she realized instances like this were the times she learned the most about people. She overheard Liz talking about her men being out bowling and the fact she was there to take her to dinner. Lane froze. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to go to dinner or enjoy spending time with Liz, but the building pressure between her legs was becoming excruciating the more she replayed the scene earlier with Dane.
“Oh, well I was just—” Lane started to speak and Liz cut her off.
“Now Reece, you know I won’t take no for an answer. It will be easier if you just give in.”
Liz lifted her hands as if appraising Lane. “A pretty girl like you should socialize more. We need to find you a nice boy, or two, to spend time with. Now, you finish up here and meet me over at Mama Lupe’s. I’m in the mood for a margarita.”
Lane was in the mood for something, and it wasn’t a margarita. About that time she heard Liz extend the invitation to Jackson and Trinity. Great, she thought, that’s just what I need. Those two were so hot for each other she could barely stand to be near them for fear of combusting herself. When they declined, stating they had already eaten, Lane sighed with relief.
Before Liz left, she told Lane not to keep her waiting. Lane nodded and continued to clean with Sami nudging her when she entered the kitchen.
“Ooo, girl. Liz is on a mission to set you up with someone.”
“I don’t need to be set up with anyone.” Lane went about her duties and cringed at the thought. If she had her pick, she knew who it would be, but since her life was such a mess as it was, she knew she should just steer clear of emotional entanglements for a while or longer.
“Good luck. Liz is also known as quite the matchmaker on the island. How do you think I met her sons?” Sami laughed and finished sterilizing the counter top.
“Seriously, I don’t need a man.”
Sami leaned back against the sink and chuckled. “Everyone needs someone.”
“Not me.” Lane pulled up the garbage sack from the can and tied it. This day wouldn’t go away. All she really needed was some alone time and a nice vibrator with fresh batteries. “I’m going to take out the trash.”
Words couldn’t describe the shock Lane felt when she opened the backdoor to the alley. She stopped, stood stunned, and was powerless to move. Light flooded outside, brightening the dimly lit area and there was Trinity, her back pushed against the brick façade, one leg clad with her jeans, the other bare. Both of Trinity’s legs were wrapped around Jackson’s waist. His pants bunched around his thighs, the illumination highlighting a patch of bare skin on his ass.
A shudder rippled down her spine and sent a jolt of electricity pulsing to her pussy. She felt the sexual tension between the pair when they came in. She had watched their eyes, how they shifted and took on a lust-covered glaze with their building desire. The chemistry between them must have built to a breaking point, pushing them into a dark alley and seeking pleasures of the flesh.
The pain of embarrassment locked Lane’s knees and made every muscle in her body freeze when they noticed her standing there. She heard Jackson curse and it brought her out of her paralyzed state. “Oh shit! Sorry...I, umm, I’ll just...later.” She spun around and slammed the door behind her, still holding the bag of garbage.
Lane closed her eyes and felt what seemed like a thousand emotions racing through her body. She was embarrassed and shocked. The sight had mesmerized her and held her hostage for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was no more than a couple of seconds. The pounding of her heart and the rushing of adrenaline made her hands shake uncontrollably.
“I thought you were taking out the trash?” Sami turned off the light in the kitchen and stood watching her with a confused expression. “Why are you standing there holding the trash?”
“Um, I—” Lane looked down at the bag clutched tightly between her fingers. “A dog, there was a big dog out there and it scared me.”
“Really?” Sami walked her direction. “It must have been one big-ass dog then. You look like you saw a ghost.”
Lane trembled and fidgeted when she stood upright. Sweat between the palm of her hand and the plastic of the bag made a slippery surface. The heavy weight of the refuse slid from her grip and plopped to the concrete floor.
“I’m not scared of a dog. I’ll take the trash out.” Sami grabbed the bag.
“No!” Lane blocked the door. Jackson and Trinity didn’t need any more eyes ogling them. Likely, they were as embarrassed as she was.
“What’s with you? The dog is probably long gone by now.” Sami pushed around Lane and opened the door.
Lane cringed and waited for Sami to hightail it back inside.
Sami re-entered. “Like I said, the dog is gone.”
“So, you didn’t see anything out there?”
“Yeah, I saw the trash can. Pfft. Go have dinner with Liz and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
* * * *
For the last two weeks, Bannock had watched Reece. Somehow she had managed to fool everyone, except him, he thought. From the outside, everyone saw the buxom beauty with her brilliant red hair and bright green eyes. He’d heard she was friendly and spunky with a smile that could melt ice caps. Bannock saw a different side. The image of how she looked the night she arrived with tear-stained eyes, delivered by a man in a suit was still as fresh as if it happened yesterday. She had been escorted to the island and he was still determined to find out why.
Bannock had also ran her name in the PNC, the Police National Computer database. He wasn’t surprised to see a clean record, but it’s what he didn’t see that bothered him. He researched further, even asking his mother about Jed and Luther’s brother. Indeed, they had a brother residing in Kansas all right, with two sons and two sons only. There was also no birth certificate on file for a Reece Wyatt.
Until today, Bannock had let it go. He had known the Wyatts his entire life and doubted they would harbor just anyone. But why were they harboring Reece? What did she do? And what was she involved in? He needed to find answers before Dane got sucked in by her charm any more than he already was.
“What can I bring to poker night?” Jackson reminded Bannock of their monthly game.
“That’s tomorrow?” Bannock couldn’t seem to summon the energy he normally got for game night. Generally, he stopped by his parents’ grocery store and picked up his standing order of Cuban cigars.
“Yeah, second Saturday of the month.” Jackson sat down and leisurely plopped his booted feet up on Bannock’s desk. “So, what’s the story?”
Bannock glanced up, tread from Jackson’s boots greeting him in return. “Lots of paperwork.”
“Don’t give me that shit, Bannock. Out with it.”
“It’s nothing.” Bannock waved a hand of dismissal.
“You may fool others, but I know something’s up.”
Bannock glared. “I said it’s nothing.”
“Yeah, I’m not buying it. Also, your intimidation techniques could use some work.”
Thoughts of Dane getting involved with Reece and the facts surrounding her bothered him. What was worse was Dane’s desire to put her between them. Dane was his best friend and rock, someone he grew accustomed to seeing and talking to everyday. Dane had been there when Bannock’s life was on rocky ground, urging him to get up and keep going. If it were not for Dane’s close friendship or Jackson’s, he may well be a secluded recluse peeping through the blinds by now.
“What the fuck, man? We’ve been best friends our entire life, went to boot camp together, served in Afghanistan, and you can’t level with me?” Jackson sounded irritated with him.
Jackson was right, dead right. No matter the problem or situation, the man had been there for him through thick and thin, if not more than Dane. Jackson was there when Bannock received the Dear John letter. Out in that hot, desolate desert, Bannock wasn’t sure he could have coped without him. “Reece Wyatt, something isn’t right about her.”
“I know what you mean. I sensed it, too, when I went into Naughty Sprinkles.” Jackson put his feet on the floor, leaned over Bannock’s desk and rested his arms on it. “It’s like she is hiding something or scared someone will find out something about her. But why does that have you all wound up?”
“Dane. He is determined to have her.”
“So? He’s a man with a dick. Of course he wants to nail her. She is nice looking.”
“That’s not all.”
“Okay.” Jackson gave him a questioning look and motioned for him to continue.
“He wants to put her between us, as in have a ménage relationship.”
“Oh.” Jackson leaned back. “I know me and you share the same thoughts concerning that. What’s the rub, though? If you don’t want to, don’t do it.”
Bannock scrubbed his jaw.
“Oh, I see.” Jackson snickered. “You’re attracted to her. Don’t deny it.”
“What? No.” Bannock got defensive. He wasn’t attracted to her, or was he?
“I’m not.” Bannock tossed his pencil to the desk.
Jackson studied him for a moment and started to speak but stopped.
“What? What are you thinking?”
“Nothing, it’s just—”
Jackson peered around the office to see if anyone was eavesdropping before speaking. “You’re not, um, like jealous? People have been talking, and some think you and Dane are gay.”
“Oh, fuck this.” Bannock started to stand up.
“Sit down, Bannock.” Jackson pointed to the chair.
“Really? Are you fucking kidding me?” Bannock whispered.
Jackson raised his hands. “Hey, I didn’t say it. I’m just telling you what I’ve heard. So, are you?”
“Hell, no.” Bannock growled.
“I mean, it’s okay if you are.”
“Jackson, you’re an asshole.”
Jackson chuckled. “Don’t kill the messenger.”
“I can’t believe this shit.” Bannock leaned back in his chair. “You know what I’ve been through.”
“Yeah, and Jenny isn’t worth your time or the free rent space you allow her in your head. Now this situation is a little different. You don’t want Reece, not that I believe you, but you don’t want Dane to have her either.”
“I told you there is something suspicious about her. When I picked her up, an escort in a suit delivered her.”
“Is she a felon?”
Bannock shook his head. “I’m not for sure about that. I am damn sure she isn’t the Wyatts’ niece.”
“Oh, come on, Bannock. Of course she’s their niece.”
“No, she isn’t.” Bannock argued.
“Tread carefully, Bannock. You don’t know all the facts.”
“I can’t find anything on her, not even a speeding ticket.”
“I’ll do some checking, too.” Jackson stood up. “In the meantime, chill out.”
“Dane goes to get cupcakes from her, every day.”
Jackson laughed. “He was doing that before she came to the island. What’s new? The guy loves his cupcakes.”
“I need to figure out what Reece is hiding soon. Dane is falling hard for her, fast.”
“So, you’re trying to protect Dane? That’s the story?”
“Go back to work, asshole.” Bannock couldn’t help but smile.
The rest of the day, Bannock simmered over the nagging thoughts that bombarded his thinking. He liked women once upon a time. He could still admire and appreciate their beauty, their soft, smooth skin, and curves. To him they were such mysterious creatures he had fought to understand for the better part of his life. Since his first crush on Suzy Mackinaw in the third grade, he’d been fascinated, and at times infatuated. When Suzy punched him in the nose for trying to kiss her, he has since worked to learn more. In twenty-seven years, the only thing he seemed to learn was not to trust them with his heart.
After clocking out, Bannock drove around the island before going home. He wasn’t attracted to Reece, no, Jackson was wrong. He also wasn’t gay and the thought that people believed as much pissed him off. In reality, it shouldn’t surprise him. He and Dane were together constantly. Fuck. I take him lunch to The Branding Iron a few times a week. He pounded the steering wheel. No wonder people would think they were gay. Since his breakup, he had a couple of one-night stands, but that was it. There were no dates or dinners with the opposite sex. When the urge to fuck got to be too much to control, Bannock trolled around the resort looking for companionship. No strings sex. Women on vacation looked for it, and for Bannock, it wasn’t hard to coax his way between their legs.
Tomorrow was poker night, a night to hang with friends, girlfriend- and wife-free. He worked to get his frustrations out of his system as he thought about what he had to do to prepare for the game. Poker night was the one event every month he looked forward to. Being with the close group of men brought back the fond memories of the men he served with. During his long stretch in the desert, the camaraderie was what kept him sane. The same emotional force was at work on poker night.
After stopping to pick up the cigars and snacks for tomorrow’s game, he had no other choice but to go home. Since Dane confessed his desire to share Reece, Bannock felt awkward around him. Curiosity about such an event made him feel odd. He had never been a part of a threesome and while it intrigued him, it also reminded him of his parents and the extra work involved in that type of relationship. For those on the outside looking in, one would believe a ménage is not only easy, but hot as hell. The truth of the matter is that type of relationship requires even more hard work than a regular one. Bannock supposed the third wheel scenario often popped up, creating tension at times as well as misunderstandings. He had seen it firsthand growing up, and instead of two people fighting, there were three.
Another thought into the mechanics made Bannock think of seeing another man, his best friend, naked, and that Dane would see him as well. For Bannock, the idea of being involved sexually, seeing, touching, and sharing scared the hell out of him. Maybe it was a man thing and maybe it was a performance thing. Bannock couldn’t decide. All he knew was when it came to a woman, he was quite a selfish person. If he ever found a woman he could love again, he wasn’t so sure he could watch, even his best friend, touch, kiss, or engage sexually with her.
Bannock pulled into the driveway of his small bungalow and cut the engine. He didn’t know whether to own up to his feelings just yet and investigate further or tell Dane to have a happy life with Reece if he could manage to win her affection. But between his feelings and the facts he’d uncovered, he knew he should at least warn Dane. He continued to sit for a moment. Jackson’s words were haunting him, “Tread carefully, Bannock. You don’t know all the facts.”