"Thanks. Need any help here?" Jason asked.
"Nah, I got it. Go get yourself a beer and relax. Soon enough you'll have a kid to chase around."
Jason grinned and turned to look at Jess. I had never pictured Jess with a preppy Harvard boy. But those two worked.
Bliss saw them arrive and jumped down from the slide in her new tutu swimsuit and ran for Jess. It was Bliss's big day, and she was going to soak it all up.
"Hey, beautiful," Jess said as Bliss got to her. "I love that swimsuit. I need one."
Bliss did a twirl for her and then curtsied. "Thank you. It's a birthday present from Amanda," she said.
Jess nodded as if that made complete sense. "Amanda would find the perfect gift."
"You can put my presents over on that table," Bliss informed her. "And if you want some snacks, we have dips and chips and Goldfish."
My little hostess. She was her momma's child. Most of the time.
Eva glanced up at Jess and Jason and waved. They headed over toward the crowd.
"Daddy," Bliss called out. She had stopped running back to her friends and was looking at me.
"I love you bunches and bunches. Thank you for making me ribs." Then she turned and ran back to the slide.
For that kind of thank-you, I'd make her anything she wanted.
Her mother called her a charmer and said she got that from me. Grinning, I figured maybe she did. It had taken some pretty d.a.m.n intense charm to land Eva. I watched her as she talked to Jess. The way her dark hair blew in the breeze and her pretty blue eyes sparkled-G.o.d, that woman was beautiful. She'd taken my breath away the first time I saw her.
Glancing over to the front porch, I remembered the day she had walked out onto it, looking down her nose at me. Those shorts on, showing off all those legs. Her sa.s.sy mouth had been a f.u.c.king turn-on. My summer job working on her father's farm had looked a h.e.l.l of a lot brighter after getting a look at her.
Once I had thought I couldn't be loved. Eva had proved to me I was, in fact, worthy of love. And anyone worthy of Eva's love is f.u.c.king amazing. So therefore, I'm pretty d.a.m.n special.
Eva's eyes met mine across the yard, and she gave me that smile that was just mine. This was our life. We'd made this. Our friends were all here, and soon every last one would be married. Kids would be born, and our families were growing. Hard to believe four years ago every one of us but Rock was living the bachelor life. Looking for something but not knowing what we needed.
Just like magic, each one of us had had that someone special walk into our lives and love us enough to fight for us. Life is funny that way. Fate happens, and it's better than what you had imagined in the first place.
Eva was so much better than anything I ever could have thought up for myself. She was more. So much more.
"Daddy, watch!" Bliss yelled, and I turned my attention to my little girl as she held on to Eli's hand and they slid down the slide, laughing together, until they hit the water pooled at the bottom.
When they stood up, everyone clapped. Bliss, of course, did another curtsy. Because my baby girl was a princess, and she f.u.c.king knew it.
She was Cage York's daughter.
Ten years later . . .
Bliss York As much as I loved the big, crazy family I was a part of, when we all got together at Dewayne and Sienna's beach house, things could be overwhelming. There was so much talking and kids were everywhere. It was like this bunch couldn't stop reproducing. Jeez. At some point they need to stop doing it.
I wasn't one of the oldest of the kids. Jimmy, Brent, and Daisy May Taylor were all in college now, and they didn't hang around with the "kids." They got to hang out with the adults. Micah Falco and Larissa Hardy were both driving now, and they were in their own little teenage world. So that left me and Eli to make sure Eli's sisters, Crimson and Cleo, didn't kill each other. There were only two years between them, and at ten and eight they seemed ready to start a war every time they were left alone together. It made me thankful I didn't have a sister. But I had brothers. Three of them. Cruz, Cord, and Clay were all under ten. It was a miracle they hadn't burned something down yet. Mother would just laugh at them and look at my daddy like these crazy males were wonderful. Only my daddy was wonderful. My brothers were out of control.
Then there was Hadley Stone. She was ten, and I'll admit she did act older than most kids her age, but she was like a celebrity because her dad was famous. She couldn't go out and play with the rest of the kids without a freaking bodyguard. It was weird. She had one sibling, Evangeline, who was only three.
You would think all those kids would be enough to drive a person batty. But noooo, there were more of them. Micah wasn't the only Falco kid. His younger brother, Jude Falco, was ten, and his sister, Mila, was five. Then there were the Drake boys. G.o.d help us all, they were quite possibly worse than my brothers. I'd feel sorry for this town when the York and Drake boys all had cars. Hendrix, River, and Keegan Drake were all the exact ages of my brothers. They were the terrible six. Or at least, that was how Eli and I referred to them.
The last group was ten-year-old James Stone. He was Jason and Jess Stone's son. They also had a daughter, who was eight, and, well . . . they were going to have their hands full with her. That was all I was saying. Juliette Stone was a rounder. She kept the terrible six on their toes, and that's saying something.
Saffron and Holland Corbin were the last two kids in this craziness of reproduction. They were identical twins, but they were complete opposites. Saffron did everything she could to get attention, while Holland was normally in a corner with a book. For ten-year-olds, I liked them well enough. I used to say their parents were the only sane ones in the lot. They had twins and stopped. But today the big news was that Krit and Blythe were expecting a baby by Christmas.
Now that I knew what s.e.x was, I was horrified every time another one of the adults told us they were pregnant. Did they just, like, have s.e.x a lot, or was this an accident? Did they plan it? Ugh! I didn't want to think about it. I was just glad my parents seemed to be done with their four. After having three boys in a row, I think my mom was too nervous to try again. She wasn't getting another one like me. I'd told her that, and she had laughed at me. Then she'd said I was more like my father than I thought I was. I didn't mind being like my dad. I looked just like my mom, or so my uncle Jeremy says every time he sees me: "Spitting image of you, I swear, Eva."
That makes me smile because my mother is beautiful.
"Hey," a deep voice says, and I jerk my gaze off the waves crashing on the sh.o.r.e and look up into the sun. There is definitely a male there, but I don't recognize him. Shading my eyes, I see he is not only a guy, but he is rather remarkably gorgeous. He looks a little older than me. Maybe fifteen or sixteen.
"Uh, hey," I reply, not sure what to do about this. I know everyone in Sea Breeze around my age. I feel like I'm related to most of them.
The guy sat down beside me, but instead of doing it in an awkward way like most people, he made it look cool. He was also wearing jeans on the beach. Granted, it was fall and the breeze was cool, but still. I didn't look long at his black combat boots, which were super awesome.
"You live around here?" he asked, leaning back on one arm and turning toward me. He appeared so casual and sure of himself. He had to be a lot older than me. Eli could never pull that off and appear that bada.s.s.
"Yeah, my whole life. Well, not all of it. I lived the first years on a farm about thirty miles from here. But Dad got the baseball coaching job at the college, and we moved here to be closer. Plus, most of my family is here." I was just sharing my life with this guy. He had asked if I lived here, not for my life story. My face felt hot, and I looked away from him, praying he'd just leave. But he didn't laugh at my silliness.
"I'm visiting. My grandpop lives here now. Moved here about six years ago and opened up a restaurant."
I turned back to look at him, and the color of his silver eyes was rattling. A girl could only handle so much. Eyes like that needed a warning with them: Be careful of insanely hot eyes.
A smirk tugged up the corner of his lips, and I realized those lips were just as impressive as his eyes. "Reason why you're out here mumbling to yourself?" he asked.
Once again my face flamed red and I looked away from him. This time he did chuckle. I wanted to bury my head in the sand and wait for him to leave the crazy girl on the beach alone.
"Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to laugh. You're just really cute. With the blushing stuff."
Oh G.o.d, he called me cute. This gorgeous boy who was way too old for me thought I was cute. Breathe, Bliss. Breathe. You will pa.s.s out if you don't breathe.
"You got a name?" he asked me.
I straightened my shoulders and tried not to look like the idiot I had been acting like so far. "Bliss York," I informed him like I was filling out some form. All businesslike.
His smirk turned into a grin. The way his eyes sparkled that silver color when he was amused made that breathing thing I was trying to do hard.
"How old are you?" he asked, studying me closely.
He probably thought I was one of the silly ten-year-olds. I was positive even Holland could have handled this better than me, and she rarely talked to anyone.
"Thirteen," I said, waiting for him not to believe me.
He nodded as if that was what he had thought.
"How old are you?" I asked.
"Fourteen," he replied.
My mouth fell open. This guy with all his coolness was just fourteen?
He acted so much older. Eli was thirteen, like me, and he was so not this mature. He was also easier to be around because, although Eli had really nice blond hair and pretty green eyes, he was just Eli.
"You look surprised," he said with a smile. "Do I not look fourteen to you?"
I swallowed and tried to breathe again. When this guy's eyes were on you, then you forgot how to talk or do pretty much anything. "I, uh, yes, I mean no, I mean . . . You just look older than that. And you act older. I didn't think . . . I thought . . . Never mind." I stopped my ramblings and once again thought of burying my head in the sand.
I really needed to give myself a break. There were not any guys around here who looked like him. Any girl faced with this kind of . . . of . . . perfection would also freak out. His dark hair was cut short, but there was a messy thing he had going with the top that seemed to be a little longer.
He laughed again and I dropped my eyes to the sand.
"Ah, come on, Bliss York. Look at me again. I didn't mean to laugh, but you make me. I can't help it."
"Well, you make me nervous," I blurted out.
"I do? Why?"
I was not telling this beautiful boy that he was beautiful. So I just shrugged.
"Bliss!" Eli's voice called out, and I turned to look toward the Falcos' to see Eli waving at me to come back. I stood up quickly and glanced back at the guy, who also stood up, but he did it smoothly, without the clumsiness of my attempt to scramble up. The last thing I needed was Eli telling my dad I was talking to a boy.
Daddy would lose his mind.
"That your boyfriend?" the guy asked, and I laughed this time.
"Eli? Uh, no. He's like my brother. . . . No, my brothers drive me nuts. He's more like my cousin. Or best friend. Our parents are close."
The guy's mouth curled into a pleased smile that made my knees weak. I had to walk back to the Falcos' and Eli. I didn't know how I was going to do that if Mr. Gorgeous kept smiling at me.
"I gotta go," I told him.
"If you're sure," he replied.
I was positive. This guy was the epitome of cool, but he had not met Cage York yet. And he didn't want to. "I, uh, yeah. My parents are probably looking for me."
He smirked. "Okay. Maybe I'll see you again, Bliss York."
It hit me then that I had no idea what his name was. He'd had me in such a scrambled mess with that face of his that I'd never asked.
"Yeah, maybe. You never told me your name."
That s.e.xy grin was back, and he glanced out at the waves, then back at me. He tilted his head in that way guys in the movies do and you swoon. He had it nailed, and I was so about to seriously swoon.
About the Author.
Abbi Glines is the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Sea Breeze, Vincent Boys, Existence, and Rosemary Beach series. A devoted booklover, Abbi lives with her family in Alabama. She maintains a Twitter addiction at @AbbiGlines and can also be found at facebook.com/AbbiGlinesAuthor and AbbiGlines.com.
Also by Abbi Glines.
The Vincent Boys.
The Vincent Brothers.
Other Sea Breeze Novels.
Because of Low.
While it Lasts Just for Now.
Sometimes it Lasts.
Misbehaving Bad For You.