Eva had dosed off while we lay out under a large beach umbrella and watched the waves. I’d been worried about the parts of her that weren’t completely covered by the shade and I’d woken her up rubbing lotion on her feet.
Both those big blue eyes of hers watched me intently as I went from rubbing lotion on her feet to massaging them. “Mmmm, that’s nice. I hope you aren’t expecting a tip,” she said in a sleepy voice.
“I don’t work for free.”
“I’m afraid to ask what form of payment you accept.”
I could think of a few different things to say but I decided to be careful with my words. Eva had seen and heard enough stuff last night as far as I was concerned. I didn’t want her to think I was being serious.
“Are you getting hungry?” I’d decided to change the subject.
She sat up a little straighter and gave me a shy smile. “Yeah, kinda.”
I picked her foot up from its resting spot on my leg and laid it back down on the chair. “Let’s go eat,” I replied, holding a hand out to pull her up.
“Are we going back inside? Do I need to gather our things up?”
“No, we can leave it all right here. It won’t get touched. I know a guy,” I assured her.
A small frown puckered her lips. I decided what the hell. If she was going to do sexy shit like that with her lips, I was going to react the way I wanted.
I bent my head and pressed my lips firmly against hers before pulling that sweet bottom lip of hers into my mouth. Her hands grabbed me and she made a small surprised gasp. Smiling, I pulled back and winked at her before reaching down to take her hand.
“What was that for?” she asked a little breathlessly.
“You do sexy little frowns and pucker those lips of yours and I’m not gonna be able to ignore that.”
A slow smile spread over her face and she licked her lips. “Oh.”
I led us over toward the Beach Shack, which was a walk up seafood po’boy place. They also had some of the best homemade fries I’d ever eaten.
“Cage, my day just got a whole lot brighter.” Rock’s cousin Jess called out as she strutted toward us in an American flag string bikini. Jess was trouble. I’d made the mistake of messing around with her one night just to get her off Marcus Hardy because she was upsetting Low. Jess did not understand a no-strings attached fuck. Rock and I had come to blows over it. After a few solid punches from each of us we’d both felt better and decided to let it go. It wasn’t like Rock didn’t know Jess was an easy lay.
“Jess,” I replied, threading my fingers through Eva’s. You never could tell what Jess would pull.
“I heard you were shipped off to the country for being a bad boy.”
Jess walked up to me and leaned in to kiss my cheek.
I moved my head back away from her lips. “Yeah. I’m off on Sundays.”
Jess didn’t like being snubbed. She was a major brat when things didn’t go her way.
“You need to call me so we can catch up when you get back next Sunday. I miss you.” She dropped her voice to a whisper like she was sharing a secret between the two of us.
“That ain’t gonna happen, Jess. I don’t intend to get in another tie up with Rock over you.” Also, you’re a crazy bitch.
Jess reached up and ran her fingernail down my arm, “I promise not to tell him.”
I let go of Eva’s hand and slipped my arm around her waist. “Jess, this is Eva. Eva, this is Rock’s cousin Jess.”
Eva seemed tense and I hated it was my fault that she felt uncomfortable. Would I ever be able to take her anywhere and not have some chick I’d banged show up? This sucked.
I brushed my lips against her temple. She eased some in my arms and leaned into me. That was better.
“So, are you like, in a relationship? “ Jess asked incredulously.
How the hell did I answer this question? Eva wasn’t some random girl I’d picked up for today’s entertainment. But we weren’t in an actual relationship either.
“We’re dating,” Eva piped up.
Jess scowled, “Cage doesn’t date.”
I opened my mouth to say something to stop Jess from going on and on about my bad boy code of ethics.
“Maybe he doesn’t date you but he is definitely dating me,” Eva responded before I could say anything.
The heated annoyance of Jess’s gaze was directed my way. I could feel it but I couldn’t take my eyes off Eva. She’d handled the situation herself and the ridiculous grin on my face couldn’t be helped. Damn, she was sexy when she was saucy.
Eva tilted her head back to look up at me and I bent down and kissed the pleased smirk on her face.
“Unbelievable,” Jess replied in disbelief.
“Yeah, she is,” I replied, winking at Eva.
“Y’all have fun with that,” Jess said sarcastically before finally stalking off.
Packing up and heading back to the farm where she would be away from me most of the day wasn’t appealing. I wanted to keep her here with me. Last night might have started out bad but it had taken a major turn for f**king amazing.
I threw our bags in the Jeep and headed back upstairs to help Eva who was determined to clean up before we left.
The strumming of guitar strings met my ears when I opened the door to the apartment. A soft voice joined the unknown song. Eva could play the guitar? I closed the door quietly behind me. It wasn’t a song I was familiar with but I knew enough about playing the guitar to know that what she was playing wasn’t easy. I could play a few songs but my talent ended there. The acoustic guitar she’d obviously found in the corner of my room was one I’d won in a bet. Krit had been pissed when he’d had to give it up. But I’d wanted a guitar so I wasn’t about to let his sorry ass out of the bet.
The smooth sound of her voice had a country feel to it but not entirely. Eva was musically talented. There was no doubt about it. If Krit heard her he’d have a damn orgasm. I didn’t want her to see me and stop but I couldn’t keep myself from getting as close to the bedroom door as possible. I wanted to see her like this.
Her head was bent and the curtain of her hair kept me from seeing her face. The emotion in her voice spoke to me more than any visual. Leaning against the doorframe I crossed my arms and watched her hands fly over the strings. There was no mistake. She simply didn’t miss a chord. Her voice was so low I couldn’t make out the words but the ones I did hear tore at my soul.
Once the song came to an end she lifted her head and let out a long heavy sigh. “That’s only the second time I’ve picked up a guitar since Josh’s death,” she said aloud then turned her head to look at me. The smile on her face wasn’t sad which was what I’d been expecting. She was happy. She had recovered something else Josh’s death had taken from her.
“How long have you played?” I asked
“Since I was five. The guitar has always fascinated me. Most musical instruments do but the only one I’ve ever learned to play is the guitar. I’ve always wanted to play the piano but my momma played the piano and seeing one just upsets Daddy. So, I never asked for one or expressed interest in it.”
I was getting a piano. It would be here the next time she came home with me. “You are amazing,” I said and walked over to sit beside her.
“Will you play another one? I want to hear your voice this time.”
She ducked her head and blushed. “I can’t. I knew you were back there but I couldn’t see you. If you are where I can see you I won’t be able to play. You’ll make me nervous.”
“Hmmm,” I slid my hand inside the warmth of her thighs. “What if I bribed you?”
She giggled and shook her head. “No amount of kisses can get me to sing with you looking at me. I can’t. Maybe one day but I just can’t right now.”
“Are you sure about that?” I asked as I leaned in and pressed a kiss to the corner of her mouth.
“Yes,” she said in breathless voice.
“Mmmm… I don’t mind trying anyway,” I replied, kissing the other corner of her mouth.
I took the guitar out of her lap and laid it on the bed beside her before pulling her into my lap. Burying my hands in her hair, I devoured her lips.
Cage: What are you wearing?
I laughed as I read the text Cage had just sent me. He’d made sure to get my cell phone number before we got home Sunday night.
Smiling, I waited for him to respond.
Cage: Fuck. The lake, now.
I covered my mouth to keep from laughing out loud. Daddy was in the house somewhere. I hadn’t seen him since dinner.
Me: You know I can’t. Daddy’s still awake.
Cage: the barn then?
I walked over to the window and stared out into the dark to see the single light on in the back of the barn.
Me: bad idea too.
Cage: I disagree.
Me: You would. Good night
Cage: It could be better.
The grin on my face seemed to be permanently there lately. Daddy even noticed it earlier during dinner. I wanted to tell him all about Cage but I’d never be able to do that. He would never accept Cage and he’d probably fire him. I didn’t want to be the cause of Cage losing his scholarship. Besides, he’d be leaving in a little over a month. The summer would end and our time together would just be a memory. I was having to remind myself of that more and more. Getting attached to Cage was bad. He had been the key to my healing. He’d forced me to get over things. No one had pushed me before him. I’d always cherish him for that.
Flopping down on the bed the happiness I’d felt had suddenly vanished. I didn’t like facing the facts about Cage. And as sweet as Low was I hated that she would never have to lose him. He’d always be there when she needed him. I envied that.
A knock on my door broke into my melancholy thoughts. “Eva girl, you awake?” Daddy called out.
“Yeah, come on in,” I replied.
He eased the door open and stepped inside. He always looked so out of place in my room. He rarely stepped foot in it.
“I wanted to talk to you about something,” he said, crossing his arms over his wide chest.
“Okay.” I hated it when he started our talks like this. It normally meant I wasn’t going to like what would follow.
“Jeremy will be leaving soon for school. Before he gets gone I want to have him and his parents over for dinner. He’s helped you every step of the way get through everything and they’re like family, even though things turned out like they did…”
I hadn’t thought of that but Daddy was right. We needed to have them over for dinner. They’d had us over so many times over the years.
“Good idea. I’ll call in the morning and set things up.”
Daddy nodded, “Alright then, well, goodnight.”
The invisible fairy was no more. I made sure Cage was nearby when I took him lemonade, an ice towel and a snack. I also took these things out every chance I got instead of just a couple times a day.
Once I knew Daddy was gone into town, I took a big slice of the chocolate cake I’d made for dinner with the Beasley’s tonight, out of the fridge and grabbed the other things I knew Cage needed. Watching his back as he picked up hay bales and threw them over the fence was mouth-watering. I sat down on the tailgate and decided to enjoy the show for a few minutes. He’d see me soon enough.
The sweat glistened on his back as the sun beat down on him. His work jeans fit on his lower h*ps giving me a perfect view of his back dimples and the very top of his boxer briefs. He bent over to grab a hay bale and stopped. He stood up and glanced back over his shoulder. When his eyes locked with mine, a wicked grin touched his lips.
“You see somethin’ ya want, baby?”
“Maybe. I’m checking things out. Seeing if I’m interested,” I shot back with my own evil grin.
Both of his dark eyebrows shot up and he turned completely around giving me a view of his sweaty chest. Oh my. That never got old.
“I see something I want,” he drawled as he came toward me. My heartbeat started that silly fluttery thing it did when he got near me.
“You do?” I asked as he stopped in front of me and leaned in.
“Hell yeah, I do,” he murmured. “I love chocolate.”
What? My excitement turned to confusion. His arm reached out beside me and took the piece of chocolate cake I’d brought him.
“You’re a tease,” I pouted. He moved to take a seat beside me.
“Me? You’re the one who comes strutting out here in a pair of tiny shorts and screwing up my work by ogling me with your eyes. Hell, girl. You think a man can work when he knows you’re looking at him like you want a taste?”
Warm pleasure from his words spread through me. He took a bite of the cake then closed his eyes and made a low groan in his throat. Oh my.
“Damn baby, that’s good.”
Yeah, it was good. The way his jaw muscles flexed as he chewed and his throat moved as he swallowed. It was real good.
“Eva,” Cage said jerking my attention off his very nice, thick, muscular neck.
“Hmmm?” I replied
“If I’m gonna eat this cake then you need to talk and stop looking at me like that. You keep that shit up and I’m gonna be eating you and to hell with who catches us.”
I couldn’t help it. I giggled.
“Don’t laugh. That wasn’t a joke,” he scolded, cocking an eyebrow at me before taking another bite of cake.
I forced my eyes away from him all together. It had been two days since we’d been able to do any kind of touching. I was getting worked up very easily.
“You got company,” Cage said, standing up and moving away from me.
Company? Who? I jumped down and turned to look up at the driveway. My stomach dropped. I knew that car. Had she seen us? I had to get away from Cage.
“I gotta go,” I said without looking back at him. I didn’t want him to see the worry in my eyes. If I explained it to him he’d never understand. I wasn’t sure I could explain it. I just didn’t want Elaine Beasley catching me with someone like Cage. She’d be so disappointed.
Rushing back up the small hill toward the house I silently prayed that she hadn’t been looking out toward the cow pasture when she drove up.
Elaine had already gotten out of her Lincoln Towncar and was headed my way. The kind smile on her face reminded me of so much. She’d been the only mom I could remember. I was so young when I’d lost my mom. Elaine had been the stand-in while I was growing up. When I needed a mom, Josh always took me to his.
“Hello Eva,” she said, holding her arms out for a hug. I went willingly. It always felt safe when Elaine hugged me. She smelled like springtime and cookies.
“Mrs. Elaine, it’s so good to see you,” I replied, hugging her before stepping back.
“Only because you haven’t been over to visit in a couple weeks. Just because Jeremy is moving off doesn’t mean you can’t come visit me.”
Guilt settled in my gut. I hadn’t been to see her since the day I’d started lusting over Cage York. Being in Josh’s house made the fun I was having with Cage seem tainted and wrong. I didn’t want to feel that way. So, I stayed away.
She reached down and picked up my bare left hand. “Jeremy told me you finally took it off. I want you to know I’m glad. I loved him too Eva, but sweetie, it was time to put the ring away.” Her voice was gentle and motherly. It was her son I’d been letting go when I’d taken the ring off but she was happy about it. How?
“There are still days I want to go grab it and put it back on,” I admitted.
“I know. There are days when I want to go clean his room and pull back his bed like he’s coming home to get in it.” The emotion in her voice tore at me. God, the pain was still there.
She shifted her gaze over my shoulder toward the barn. I saw the small concerned pinch in her expression. “Eva, is that the boy who your uncle sent here to work off some trouble he’d gotten into?”
She’d seen us.
“Yes ma’am,” I choked out. I didn’t want to admit this to her but what else could I do? She’d seen me sitting on that tailgate all smiles when she’d pulled up. What was she thinking? Did she think I was completely disrespecting Josh by spending time with someone who wasn’t as good and moral as he had been?
“You know I love you like a daughter. You are just as much mine as Josh and Jeremy. I’ve always worried over you and prayed over you just like I did my boys. I still do. Josh loved you so much. You were his world from the time he was just a boy. He wanted you to have the wonderful life the two of you had planned out. But sweetie, I can tell you that Josh would never have wanted you spending time with that boy.” she nodded her head in the direction of the barn. “He isn’t worthy of you. Josh would want you to find someone who was good and stable. Someone who could take care of you and stand by you through all life’s twists and turns.” Her cold hand reached out and took mine in hers with a gentle squeeze. “You deserve much better than being some little fling for a guy like that one. Don’t let your sorrow and pain send you off on a road that you can’t get back from.”
My chest felt so heavy. Guilt. Pain. Sorrow. Loss. It all swirled together making it hard for me to take deep breaths. Was she right? Was I throwing Josh’s memory away because Cage York had an amazing body and a sexy smile? Had I become that shallow? Oh, God. Tears stung my eyes and Elaine pulled me back into a hug. “I didn’t mean to upset you, sweetie. Sometimes a momma needs to help us find the right path when we veer off. That’s all.” She smoothed down my hair as she reassured me.
“Now, let’s talk about other things. More positive things. Like what your plans are now that you’ve decided to drive that nice little Jeep again and start living your life. I want to hear all about it. You are going back to college, aren’t you? I mean you can’t stay here and keep going to the community college. You’re too smart for this place Eva. Oh, and the guitar. Your daddy told me he came home to you playing the other day. I’m so proud of you.” I followed Elaine into the house but I didn’t feel like talking about any of those things. I wanted to go hide in my room and cry. If wanting to be with Cage was so bad, why did it hurt to be told it was wrong? He was the reason I was moving on. Didn’t that count for something?