“And because of that, they like games and they like toys and they like to get their kicks from places they shouldn’t.” His eyes found mine again, a warning in them. “Matt’s not intending to hurt you, but he’s not being considerate, either. He won’t see how he’s battered his toy until it’s destroyed. Then he’ll feel bad. Then he’ll stop and think on what he shouldn’t have done, but not till then. It’s been his way since he was a child.”
A heaviness came to my shoulders, pushing me down.
I thought about what he was saying, but I wasn’t worried about Matt. I really wasn’t. My brother didn’t have the capability to destroy me.
Kash, on the other hand …
“Matt’s nothing more than a spoiled little grown boy,” I said. “There’s good and bad in there, but he needs to learn to make the good more than the bad.” My tone was dry, because that wasn’t my job. It wouldn’t be my job. “I can handle him.”
Kash moved even closer.
“I asked you once if you were head of my father’s security.” I tipped my head back as Kash finally, finally closed in. One foot gone. Six inches melted away. He was there, right there in front of me, and his eyes were looking right into me. “You said you weren’t. Did you lie to me?” I remembered what else Matt had said. “Matt said his mother was dumb, but not yours.” I waited, seeing the wariness flare forward in his eyes. I kept on. “What about your father? Your mother? What was your family like?”
Kash didn’t answer. His gaze remained locked on mine, and I couldn’t see anything.
He locked me out, and after thirty seconds, I started to swing forward to the tent’s opening. I took one step before that same hand took my arm and pulled me back. His arm wrapped around my waist and he maneuvered us to the side, out of sight of anyone looking in. He pulled me against him, and his head dipped down.
“My father was a good man, but he was simple. And my mom…” He stopped, his jaw clenching. “The Francis family consider me family. I grew up with them. I slept in their home. But I am not one of them. I’m a whole other different animal.” He paused, rubbing a hand over his face.
Secrets were popping up. Anywhere I looked, it was a secret trap door to history I was being warned about.
Taking Kash’s hand, I squeezed it. “I can adapt to anything. Us Hayes women are known for that talent. Whatever comes, I can handle it.”
Yes. Matt had a mean streak. Everyone did in this world.
Yes. I was missing Chrissy and my old life something fierce.
Yes, there were reasons I wasn’t going anywhere. I had three siblings to love and to know.
But there was one thing none of them knew, either. Not fully. Not really. Not yet.
I was ready. Battle hat on. War paint applied. Figuratively.
I was prepped and ready to destroy anyone or anything coming at me—except water. I wasn’t prepared to be soaked by a water balloon the second I stepped out of Kash’s car.
“I got Bailey!” Giggles and shrieks were heard as, looking up, I had a one-second glimpse of a pale/red streak running back behind the gate that surrounded the pool. I could hear Cyclone yelling, laughing so hard he could barely get the words out. “I got her, you guys. Bailey’s soaked.” And then, “Banzai!”
A slap was heard all the way out here, before being drowned out by a massive amount of splashing. Chairs were shoved back. Feet were heard running. Kash and I looked at each other before we both took off sprinting, but when we got to the open gate, Cyclone’s head was above the water and he was laughing. The tips of his ears were red, matching his swimsuit. He pointed at all of us standing on the edge, looking at him. “I got you all good.”
“You just belly flopped hard.” Seraphina was glaring at him, her little hands in fists at her side.
He lifted his little shoulders up, floating to his back. “It’s all good. I can handle the pain.” He looked at Kash. “Right, Kash? What’s a little pain here and there?”
Everyone winced at the redness already showing on his tummy.
Kash drawled out, “Not stupid pain. A belly flop is stupid pain unless it was an accident.”
“It wasn’t an accident.” Marie was gritting her teeth. Her arms were crossed over her chest, her cheeks reddening to be almost as bright as Cyclone’s shorts. “You get in here, little boy. Enough running around for you. You hear me?”
He looked ready to argue, then began dog-paddling to the ladder. Just as he got there, another woosh sound was heard behind us as someone yelled out, “Cannonball!”
Quinn was standing on the opposite side of the pool, a couple standing with her. All three of them scrambled out of the way just as Matt came in, his clothes still on. He jumped high, tucked his knees to his chest, and splashed everyone.
Most of the water hit the couple next to Quinn.
The woman screamed, but she was laughing. “Matthew!”
The man schooled his features tight, disapproving. They were dressed in regular clothes, as was Quinn—not for a pool party. The woman was still laughing as she stepped away from the pool.
Quinn moved forward, her face sharpening. “Foresight, Matthew. The Bonhams and I are not dressed to get wet. Notice, next time, please.”
Wait. What? That was them?
He only smirked, holding the woman’s gaze a second longer before looking to Quinn. Kicking back, he said, “I did.” Then he tucked back into a somersault, his feet kicking up and splashing Cyclone.
Quinn’s mouth was pressed tight. She looked ready for battle. But Cyclone jumped from the ladder on top of Matt when his head came back up, and it was on after that. Matt was searching, and he lunged forward, grabbed Seraphina’s hand, and toppled her into the water. She screamed, making a mad grab for Marie, who reached for the person next to her, who was Theresa.
All three of them fell into the pool.
During this, Quinn and the couple moved inside. The woman glanced back, a look on her face that I couldn’t quite place as she watched them all in the pool.
“Okay. That’s enough. No more Mr. Nice Marie. You, Matthew, are going down,” Marie growled.