I rolled over onto my back, keeping my eyes shut. My scars burned fiercely this morning and I wasn’t ready to wake up.
“I received a gift to you, from Max.” She said. The grin apparent in her voice.
“What time is it?”
“After 11:00. You were out late last night.”
No, that didn’t sound right; I remembered climbing into bed early. A throbbing pain shot through the scars on my side, a lot worse than usual. I opened my eyes a slit and peeked at Zoë.
“Cup ‘o’ latte, compliments of Max.”
“Is he here?”
“Oh no, he left the espresso machine on our doorstep. We found it this morning.”
Max had this thing for espresso machines. He bought me one for my house in the mountains too, right before he left.
Did that mean he was leaving already?
It would make my life simpler. I took a sip of my latte and sighed, almost as good as Max’s. Why was it my sister and Max could make them, but Chase and I couldn’t?
“He left a note. He’ll be back later.”
I groaned, no such luck.
“Did he say what time?”
Great! He’d probably show up any minute. Leave it to Max to be so vague.
“So tell me about him. I can’t believe you didn’t mention him before. Why aren’t you seeing him? I can tell he likes you, he didn’t take his eyes off you during lunch yesterday.”
Anything to get her to go away, I thought. The pain radiated through my side and started throbbing up my arm. Was it because Max was back? Maybe an unconscious reminder?
“He isn’t my favorite husband.” I teased. “I’m waiting for Shawn to see the light and come to his senses.”
Zoë laughed. “He’s one of a kind sis, and he’s mine.”
She was right. She’d found the perfect man.
I smiled; this continued to be an ongoing joke between us. I would never even consider trying to take Shawn away from her, but I was still envious.
“Max and I are complicated.” I told her. “Besides I’m still waiting for Shawn’s twin brother to magically appear.”
“He’s an only child. You know that. Stop giving me excuses and enjoy Max while he’s here. Shawn thinks you should too.”
“We’re incompatible.” Except for in bed, but that wasn’t any of her business.
I would love to just enjoy Max, but I had this whole emotional blocking I had to keep control of. Last winter Max almost made me spontaneous combust, because of the lust between us. I liked living and I didn’t need my life to flip into a crazy spiral again. I didn’t even know for sure if I could keep that boundary between us, maybe it was time to start looking for that ultra boring guy to share my life with.
Like I said it’s complicated.
“Consider it sis, you can’t stay single forever. You two would make the perfect couple.” She sighed. “Now the bad news, before I leave you to get dressed. Shawn, Charlie, and I have to take a flight out tonight for home.”
“Why?” My voice took on a low whine.
“The foreman’s having a problem getting an order in, and the owner of that mansion is being a royal jerk. I told Shawn not to take on this remodeling job. I never liked the guy, but you know Shawn, everybody deserves a chance.”
I grimaced and nodded.
Shawn started his own company with some of the lottery winnings. He works in construction, remodeling, and odd jobs. He loves it because he can still bring in money without taking too much on.
I frowned at the thought of them leaving. This was the second time this had happened when Max showed up. I was going to be alone with him again. I didn’t want to leave Florida, and Max was next to impossible to get rid of.
I waited until the door closed behind my sister before I tossed off my covers and removed my nightshirt. I examined my scars, they were inflamed and red. They hadn’t looked this bad since last winter.
I pulled the salve Doc gave me out of my dresser drawer, rubbed it over the scars, yanked my shirt back on, and stepped out on the balcony for a smoke. I needed to wait a few minutes for the salve to soak into my skin. Then I would shower, reapply, and get dressed.
If they didn’t start healing soon I’d have to ask Max to get in touch with the Doc; hopefully it wouldn’t come to that. If only the Doc had left me his real name and number I wouldn’t have to go through Max.
When I stepped out of the shower and in front of the mirror I noticed the necklace.
Had I been wearing it this whole time?
I fingered it, it didn’t belong to me. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it before now.
The pendant hung off a thin sturdy gold chain. I lifted it up to examine it better. A huge ruby sat in the center of the pendant and was surrounded by diamonds that almost seemed to float off the ruby. The ruby looked like it resembled the sun; the diamonds resembled the sun’s rays.
I cupped the weight of the pendant; it seemed way too heavy for the slender chain.
When I rubbed my fingers over the big jewel energy sizzled through the ruby, lighting it up, and spreading through the diamonds.
“Where the hell did this come from?” I mumbled out loud. My scars began to pulse and burn, almost in tune with the energy flow. Someone knocked on my door. I put on my black silk robe, quickly took off the necklace, and shoved it into a drawer just before the door opened. Max stood in the threshold.
Had he given me the necklace? I searched my mind. If he did I didn’t remember it.
He entered the room shutting the door behind him.
“Everyone’s downstairs gorging on pizza.”
I didn’t say anything. The first time we’d officially met I was also in my robe. I pushed the memory aside.
“I’ll be down in a couple of minutes.” I glanced at the door, hoping he’d get the hint. He just stood there.
I was about to tell him to leave when he stepped up to me and tugged the belt on my robe loose. I tried to step away, but he grabbed my arm and gently pulled my robe over my shoulder.
He wanted to look at my scars; he’d freak out if he saw them red and inflamed. I tried to yank free but he held me tight. I couldn’t blame him for wanting to see them, after all he was part of the reason I had them.
Max let the robe fall, exposing the left half of my body. His fingers gently caressed each scar, starting with my arm, before sliding down my ribs to the ones on my side.
“The Doc said you still had these. I hoped they’d healed better.” He croaked.
I wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, but held it in. The horrible irritation no longer reddened the scarring.
Now if I could get my body under control. Flames licked over my skin from his touch. He lifted his hand and grazed his finger down my chest, between my breasts, leaving a trail of electrical currents behind.
“At least these didn’t scar.”
Max was talking about the spikes from the creature that had torn up my chest and stomach.
Another knock at the door jarred me from the spell he wove over me, giving me the opportunity to slide out of his grasp. I tied my robe on tight, saying a small thank you under my breath. The interruption saved me from throwing myself at Max. He tempted me too much. I walked over to the door and opened it.
“Aunt Tana we’ve been waiting for you.” Charlie said, exasperated. “I can’t have ice cream until you have your pizza.”
She balled her hands into small fists, put them on her sides, and started tapping her foot. “Why aren’t you dressed yet?”
It took everything I had not to laugh at her impatience.
“Why don’t you take Max downstairs and have him help you with the ice cream. I’ll be down in a few minutes for pizza. Okay?”
“Okay. Come on Max.”
I could tell by the look on his face he didn’t want to leave me, but instead of saying anything he put on a big smile, threw Charlie over his shoulder, and left.
I shut the door behind him, hurriedly got dressed, applied a touch of makeup, and wondered fleetingly why my scars were misbehaving.
I arrived downstairs in just enough time to hear my sister grilling Max. I grinned as I veered off to the espresso machine. If I thought Max was being vague with me I was wrong. Somehow he managed to answer my sister’s questions without giving her any vital information at all. I kept my mouth shut and picked at the pizza.
When we finished lunch and we went down to the beach so Charlie could swim. Killer happily barked at her from the sidelines, staying dry. My dog was not fond of water, or snow for that matter.
Max stayed close to me until it was time for my family to pack and get ready to catch their plane.