I call this the Summer Dilemma—the frustrating, polar reactions this green-eyed, golden-haired goddess sparks in me.
Fuck yes and hell no.
Get naked with her. Run far, far away from her.
“Thanks, but I don’t like to dance.” I’m not lying.
Dancing’s the worst.
Besides, when it comes to Summer Di Laurentis, my flight instinct always wins out.
“You’re no fun, Fitzy.” She makes a tsking noise, drawing my gaze to her lips. Full, pink, and glossy, with a tiny mole above the left side of her mouth.
It’s an extremely hot mouth.
Hell, everything about Summer is hot. She’s hands down the best-looking girl in the bar, and every dude in our vicinity is either staring enviously or glowering at me for being with her.
Not that I’m with her. We’re not together. I’m just standing next to her, with two feet of space between us. Which Summer keeps trying to bridge by leaning closer to me.
In her defense, she practically has to scream in my ear for me to hear her over the electronic dance music blasting through the room. I hate EDM, and I don’t like these kinds of bars, the ones with a dance floor and deafening music. Why the subterfuge? Just call your establishment a nightclub, if that’s what you want it to be. The owner of Gunner’s Pub should’ve called this place Gunner’s Club. Then I could’ve turned right around when I saw the sign and spared myself the shattered eardrums.
Not for the first time tonight, I curse my friends for dragging me to Brooklyn for New Year’s Eve. I’d way rather be at home, drinking a beer or two and watching the ball drop on TV. I’m low-key like that.
“You know, they warned me you were a curmudgeon, but I didn’t believe it until now.”
“Who’s they?” I ask suspiciously. “And hey, wait. I’m not a curmudgeon.”
“Hmmm, you’re right—the term is kind of dated. Let’s go with Groucho.”
“No-Fun Police? Is that better?” Her expression is pure innocence. “Seriously, Fitz, what do you have against fun?”
An unwitting smile breaks free. “Got nothing against fun.”
“All right. Then what do you have against me?” she challenges. “Because every time I try talking to you, you run away.”
My smile fades. I shouldn’t be surprised that she’s calling me out in public. We’ve had a whopping total of two encounters, but that’s plenty of time for me to know she’s the type who thrives on drama.
I hate drama.
“Got nothing against you, either.” With a shrug, I ease away from the bar, prepared to do what she’s just accused me of—run.
A frustrated gleam fills her eyes. They’re big and green, the same shade as her older brother Dean’s eyes. And Dean’s the reason I force myself to stay put. He’s a good friend of mine. I can’t be a jackass to his sister, both out of respect for him, and for fear of my well-being. I’ve been on the ice when Dean’s gloves come off. He’s got a mean right hook.
“I mean it,” I say roughly. “I have nothing against you. We’re cool.”
“What? I didn’t hear the last part,” she says over the music.
I dip my mouth toward her ear, and I’m surprised that I barely have to bend my neck. She’s taller than the average chick, five-nine or ten, and since I’m six-two and used to towering over women, I find this refreshing.
“I said we’re cool,” I repeat, but I misjudged the distance between my lips and Summer’s ear. The two collide, and I feel a shiver run up her frame.
I shiver too, because my mouth is way too close to hers. She smells like heaven, some fascinating combo of flowers and jasmine and vanilla and—sandalwood, maybe? A man could get high on that fragrance. And don’t get me started on her dress. White, strapless, short. So short it barely grazes her lower thighs.
God fucking help me.
SOMEONE ELSE'S OCEAN
by Kate Stewart
Contemporary Stand Alone Romance Releases - July 31, 2018
“Fack!” It was another one of the hundreds of curses that erupted from the Kemp kitchen.
With wide eyes, I watched the wood fly across the porch and onto the sand and heard another loud crash as I stalked the house next door with my phone pressed to my ear.
“So how is my son?” His mother asked as I saw more of Rowan Kemp’s kitchen fly over the railing, off the porch, and into the sand. “Is he adjusting well?”
“Damnit! Oh, fack your motha,” Ian’s voice rang out in frustration. Giggling, I covered the mouthpiece of the phone as another cabinet door hit the sand. He’d been at it for a few hours. It started with an explosive phone call that I managed to avoid mostly due to my taking cover in the shower and ended with a bang.
“He... is. It looks like he’s remodeling the kitchen.”
In a flash, Ian stood on the porch only in shorts, his chest heaving, a bottle of the red in his hand. He studied the wood in the sand before he glanced at my house. I ducked out of his line of sight and answered her before more banging started. “He’s fine.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful news. Maybe you could put him on the phone?”
More growling ensued and then a clear, “Damn you! EISH!”
“Well, at the moment, I think it would be impossible, he’s in the midst of demolition.”
I cringed at the ripping sound and poked my head out of my screen door just as he hurled more wood over the railing.
“You know he’s always been so good at things like that. He built his father a beautiful bookshelf for his study.”
“That’s wonderful,” I said, as Ian unloaded an entire can of lighter fluid on the discarded wood. I raced around the bottom floor of my house and collected every fire extinguisher I had before I sat them next to my front door. Seconds later I heard the whoosh of the wood go up in flames. The rising inferno seemed to fuel him as he added more of his mother’s kitchen to it piece by piece.
Rowan went on, speaking of her pride and joy. “From boy scouts all the way through college, my boy excelled at everything he did. Honor student, swimming, tennis. I had to beat the women away with a stick.”
Ian chose that moment to snap another cabinet door in half over his knee and used his empty wine bottle to bat it into the burning pile.
“You don’t say.”
“Oh, yes, he was such a ladies’ man before he met Tara, his ex-wife.”
Only mildly prepared, I walked out onto my porch at the same time Ian returned to it. He had several photo books in his hand. Rowan whispered in my ear as if he could hear her. “I was never really that fond of her, she seemed a little cold compared to his warmth.”
Ian pulled pictures from the books and began to burn them one by one. Something in my chest split as he walked around Rowan Kemp’s burning kitchen cabinets, tossing away what I was sure were irreplaceable pictures.
He had lost his shit. It was, without a doubt, Ian’s doomsday.
“Don’t!” I screamed from where I stood.
Ian ignored me as he tossed an entire book into the fire before shaking another so that the pictures fed the flames.
“Koti? What is it?” Rowan said anxiously on the phone.
“Oh nothing, I was just...”
“Is everything okay?”
“Oh, fine,” I said, as I paced the porch watching her son destroy his mother’s memories. He must have found the pictures in the linen closet. The Kemp's had very few of their own things in the house.
“Rowan, I’m going to ask him if he needs any help.”
“Okay,” she said hesitantly. “But please ask him to ring me.”
“Will do.” I was already running toward the small bonfire just as Ian tossed another picture into it.
“What are you doing!?”
“Privacy,” he said through thick lips. “That’s all I asked for.”
“Kind of hard to ignore you, Ian. Since you’ve gone all Tom Hanks Castaway--me man, me make fire!” I reached for the picture in his hand as he tossed it in. I watched it burn. It was a shot of a woman in her wedding dress who I assumed was Tara. She looked beautiful as she smiled at her groom. I was only able to admire Ian in a well-fitted tux for seconds before the fire engulfed the photo.
Jesus, what could have happened?
“Ian, if you want to talk about it…”
He picked up another book and took a few pictures out shoving them into his pocket before he tossed it into the pile.
“Please stop. You don’t understand what you’re doing.”
Blazing eyes scoured me before he looked back at the fire. “I know exactly what the fuck I’m doing.”
Sweat pooled on his forehead. He was covered in splintered wood. Ian Kemp had cracked, and he wasn’t coming back until he was ready.
Way too far into his headspace, he ignored me standing next to him.
I walked back to my house and watched him dismantle years of memories as he stared at the fire until it went out.
And then the house next to mine went completely quiet.