The warm, gentle breeze caressed our limbs as we lay in our private, beachfront cabana. On what resembled a raised canopy bed surrounded by white sand and pale, aqua-blue ocean, we lounged in privacy and decadence. Here in the South Pacific it was hard to believe it was December. Of course it was technically their summer, and boy did it feel like it with the full sun shining down and the lapping of the ocean waves.
Kara looked over and smiled at me. “I think everything went so well.”
“I know it did.” I took her hand in mine and stroked her palm with my thumb. Only a few days after the wedding, most brides would still be talking about the ceremony and reception. Not Kara, though. I knew how her mind worked. She was thinking about the holiday party she’d helped host a week ago for foster children.
“Do you think the remaining gifts have been delivered yet?”
I chuckled. So concerned about others, even as we lay there in paradise. “Yes, I’m sure my instructions have been followed. We have a great team.” She smiled and relaxed.
She’d helped give a huge holiday party for the Montana chapter of the charitable organization I funded. Kara had thrown herself into all of the details, planning the Santa visit, finding out every child’s wish list, coordinating all of the gift purchases and wrapping. She’d seen to it that every child had a stocking, too, stuffed with things I never would have considered. You wouldn’t think a slinky or a cheap paddle ball, the kind with the string attached, would make kids so happy, but I saw it happen all around me, the room exploding with whoops and hollers of glee. I’d seen an 11-year-old boy who looked as tough as nails sitting and building an elaborate helicopter out of Legos. In the middle of the chaotic party, he’d had the concentration of a surgeon. I’d have to remember his name and help him get an internship somewhere. That kid had drive.
“You brought them Christmas.” I took her hand to my mouth and kissed her.
“No, you did, Declan,” she insisted.
My wife. I couldn’t believe it. I’d only been able to use the term for three days now.
We’d had a simple ceremony back in Montana. Compared to the foster kids’ holiday party, it had been a small affair. I would have rented out Buckingham Palace, secured a guest list of thousands if she’d wanted a spectacle. I’m sure I could have gotten us press, had a couple of magazines do features on us.
But she didn’t want any of that. Like she’d told me back in the cabin in Bozeman, all she wanted was me. Seemed like she was missing out, but I certainly was happier that way. I didn’t go in for all that pomp and circumstance myself, just tolerated a certain amount that brought in business.
I would have done it for her, though, released the doves and all that, but she wanted simple and small so that’s what she got. She looked so lovely that day. I thought I’d been prepared for it. I was used to Kara taking my breath away, but she outdid herself. She looked like an angel nearly floating down the aisle as old Bill held her arm, wiping a tear from his eye. Bill still couldn’t get over it, the two of us. He was a good man, had helped Kara get through the rough times. I’d made sure he had enough help now on the ranch so he’d never have to work again a day in his life, even though I knew a tough old bird like him would probably want to anyway.
We didn’t have much family at the ceremony. I had a former foster mother on my side. She’d fallen ill and been unable to care for me for very long, but she’d stayed in touch and I knew she meant well. I had her in a nice house now, with a home health care attendant whom she said made all the difference. Angie, my PA, and her kids were there, looking uncomfortable in their starched Sunday best.
I never would have believed it, but Shelly came, too, the tiny girl I’d known for only a few, brief months during my last stay in a foster home. I’d looked out for her until I’d gotten hauled into juvie. The world had always seemed too much for Shelly, like it would eat her up and spit her out. She’d spent hours sitting in the corner with her Beauty and the Beast CD, playing it over and over and singing along.
I’d mentioned her to Kara and, Kara being Kara, she didn’t let it go. She’d gotten people involved, and they’d gotten other people involved, and before I knew it we were meeting Shelly for coffee at a shop downtown. Shelly was 19 now, and still way too skinny for her own good with shadows under her eyes. So, of course, Kara had set right to helping her out, involving her in all the planning for the Christmas party for the foster kids. She’d even seen to it that Shelly got hired on as staff, seeing to event planning. I more than loved Kara. I was in awe of her. She healed bones I’d long given up on ever setting right.
On Kara’s side, she had a few cousins and an aunt, the one she’d told me about visiting in Texas. And the entire town she’d grown up in showed up, including Dot from the diner and Mandy from high school and a bunch of other people whose faces I recognized as they insisted on pumping my hand and wishing us the best of luck.
The one puzzle piece not in place, at least according to Kara, was my father’s side of the family. A big puzzle piece. Three brothers-and-a-sister-sized puzzle piece. Plus a grandmother in there for good measure.
I’d thought about them a lot in the intervening months. I hadn’t gotten in touch with them, though. It was my father I really would have liked to have met. To think, he had been a real estate investor just like me. Crazy. Months ago when Kara had suggested that I had the instinct for it, and it might be that my father did the same thing, I’d been pissed off. But she’d been right.
There’d been a whole lot of things I’d been pissed off about that I now had to look at in a new light. It took a while. I’d been so used to thinking of my father as a low-down dog who abandoned his son. Now it turned out he hadn’t even known that I’d existed until after I’d been born. He’d sent my mother money every month, and tried to track me down and get in contact with me when I’d been a teenager. It was almost too much to wrap my head around. I’d been starving and stranded, barely a roof over my head and even when I had one, I couldn’t trust it would last. They never did. But my father had been a billionaire.
My mother, well, I’d always known she was a fuck up. No mystery there. But the lying? The selfishness? That was next-level. She’d lied about my name to keep my whereabouts a mystery. Moved frequently not just to keep out of trouble but to keep off the radar. She used the money she got from her baby daddy not for healthy food and a nice home, but for her drugs.
But there was no point in wallowing in bitterness, no reason to burn with anger. My mother had led a hard life, losing custody of her only child and serving prison time. Ultimately, she’d died a lonely addict’s death. She’d been punished enough for her crimes. And nothing came from bitterness but more bitterness.
But my father. And my sense of self. Those deserved some consideration. I wasn’t a cast off. He had wanted me. I’d learned in the intervening months that he’d wanted to send me off to some fancy boarding school. Imagine that? Foster homes and juvie vs. a $50,000/year school for the upper crust of society. I’d probably have gotten kicked out for fighting on the first day. But, still, he’d written me into his will. And he’d talked to me at that gala at the Met. We’d actually shook hands, had a few minutes talking together. I remembered the urgency in the way he spoke to me, the intensity of his blue eyes, how he’d wanted to learn more about my past. He’d looked sick, too sick to be out that night and I’d been right about that. He’d been wracked with cancer, only another month to live. But he’d gone out that night in the hopes of meeting me and seeing for himself, his long-lost son.
Over the past few months, their family attorney had mostly left me alone. He’d gotten in touch once or twice, letting me know that Grandmother Kavanaugh would like an RSVP. The holiday party was in mid-December, just after our honeymoon. There was nothing preventing us from going to it. Just my stubbornness.
Kara wanted to go, I knew that. She was a family person, she’d explained to me. She wanted a boatload of kids. For some reason that thrilled me. Maybe some fos
ter ones, too. So, to her, it made sense to reach out to my family, meet them all and establish contact.
More and more, I could see the sense in her words. Each day with Kara, I could feel the anger that had engulfed me my whole life slowly ebb and fade. I could still scowl and stomp around with the best of them, but Kara would catch me at it and I’d forget what I’d even been upset about. I still worked out at the gym like the hounds of hell were nipping at my heels, but that was more out of habit than necessity. I slept better, too.
Maybe, I’d told her. Not before the wedding, but maybe. It was the best I could do. She knew me well enough to understand even that was a big step for me. So, she’d let it drop. But I knew she’d bring it up again at some point, and I figured I’d probably give in. I couldn’t say no to Kara, not for long. Especially since what she asked for always seemed to be for other people.
I’d realized saving her family’s ranch hadn’t even been about what she wanted, not really. She’d felt obligated to her father’s memory. Even though Harlan was the one who’d honestly driven the ranch into the ground, she felt bound and determined to rescue it. That’s what she did, she rescued. She sure as hell had rescued me.
Good thing she wasn’t all saint. I looked over at my wife, lying next to me in an impossibly tiny string bikini. I’d insisted she wear it today out to the beach and she’d agreed but only after she’d found a big cover-up and I’d reminded her we’d have a private cabana, complete with white cloth curtains we could draw to shut out the world whenever we wanted.
It was our honeymoon, after all. It couldn’t be all holding hands and gazing at the stars, though we’d done a fair amount of that as well. She really brought out the romantic in me. But I was still a dirty dawg.
“I have something for you.” My voice had a husky undertone and Kara turned to me, expectant. Excited.
“You do?” She smiled, the angel in a sinner’s body. Her curves looked unreal, barely contained in the ice blue string bikini. She could be a Bond girl, only I wouldn’t want that many eyes on her. She was mine, all mine.
“First, I need to rub some lotion on you. The sun is very strong here. It’s dangerous.”
“That’s not the only thing around here that’s strong and dangerous.” Her gaze traveled to my arms, powerful and corded thick with muscle. I loved seeing her heat up for me, desire blooming within her. The devil in me wanted to play.
“Lie on your back. For now,” I instructed. She lay down, settling her head back on one of the low pillows and looking up at me, ready to do what I asked.
I took some warm cocoa butter lotion and worked it between my fingers, then started at her feet, spending a long time before I even traveled up her legs. I loved watching her there, lying before me, her pale, creamy skin so exposed, her lips parted, her hips starting to wriggle every now and then as I lit the fire in her. We had nothing to do today, nothing at all. I’d make this last.
By the time she was lying on her stomach, her breathing had quickened and she was starting to get wet. I knew because I’d tease her every now and then, grazing my finger along her pussy. She’d gasp and start to arch toward my touch, and I’d take it away. I was a bastard when it came to these kinds of games, especially since I’d learned how much she ultimately loved them.
I’d lowered the curtains on three sides, but kept the fourth open, the one facing the ocean. It was enough to signal to the staff that we wanted privacy. But Kara still needed to keep quiet. I wanted her to have to suffer a little. That made it more fun.