Trucks with mud on the tires were what I was used to seeing parked outside a house party. Expensive foreign cars weren't. This place had at least twenty of them covering up the long driveway. I pulled my mom's fifteen- year-old Ford truck over onto the sandy grass so that I wouldn't be blocking anyone in. Dad hadn't told me that he was having a party tonight. He hadn't told me much of anything.
He also hadn't shown up for my mother's funeral. If I didn't need somewhere to live, I wouldn't be here. I'd had to sell the small house that my grandmother had left us to pay off the last of mom's medical bills. All I had left was my clothes and the truck. Calling my father, after he had failed to come even once during the three years my mother had fought cancer, had been hard. It had been necessary though; he was the only family I had left.
I stared at the massive three-story house that sat directly on the white sand in Rosemary Beach, Florida. This was my dad's new home. His new family. I wasn't going to fit in here.
My truck door was suddenly jerked open. On instinct, I reached under the seat and grabbed my nine-millimeter. I swung it up and directly at the intruder, holding it with both hands ready to pull back on the trigger.
"Whoa... I was gonna tell you that you were lost but I'll tell you whatever the hell you want me to as long as you put that thing away." A guy with brown shaggy hair tucked behind his ears stood on the other side of my gun with both his hands in the air and eyes wide.
I cocked an eyebrow and held my gun steady. I still didn't know who this guy was. Jerking someone's truck door open wasn't a normal greeting for a stranger. "No, I don't think I'm lost. Is this Abraham Wynn's house?"
The guy swallowed nervously, "Uh, I can't think with that pointed in my face. You're making me very nervous, sweetheart. Could you put it down before you have an accident?"
Accident? Really? This guy was beginning to piss me off. "I don't know you. It's dark outside and I'm in a strange place, alone. So, forgive me if I don't feel very safe at the moment. You can trust me when I tell you that there won't be an accident. I can handle a gun. Very well."
The guy didn't appear to believe me and now that I was looking at him he didn't appear to be real threatening. Nevertheless, I wasn't ready to lower my gun just yet.
"Abraham?" he repeated slowly and started to shake his head then stopped, "Wait, Abe is Rush's new stepdad. I met him before he and Georgiana left for Paris."
Paris? Rush? What? I waited for more of an explanation but the guy continued to stare at the gun and hold his breath. Keeping my eyes on him, I lowered my protection and made sure to put the safety back on before tucking it under my seat. Maybe with the gun put away the guy could focus and explain.
"Do you even have a license for that thing?" he asked incredulously.
I wasn't in the mood to talk about my right to bear arms. I needed answers."Abraham is in Paris?" I asked needing confirmation. He knew I was coming today. We'd just talked last week after I'd sold the house.
The guy nodded slowly and his stance relaxed. "You know him?"
Not really. I had seen him all of two times since he'd walked out on my mom and me five years ago. I remembered the Dad who'd come to my soccer games and grilled burgers outside for the neighborhood block parties. The Dad I'd had until the day my twin sister Valerie was killed in a car accident. My father had been driving. He'd changed that day. The man that didn't call me and make sure I was okay while I took care of my sick mother, I didn't know him. Not at all.
"I'm his daughter, Blaire."
The guy's eyes went wide and he threw back his head and laughed. Why was this funny? I waited for him to explain when he held out his hand. "Come on Blaire, I have someone you need to meet. He's gonna love this."
I stared down at his hand and reached for my purse.
"Are you packing in your purse too? Should I warn everyone not to piss you off?" The teasing lilt to his voice kept me from saying something rude.
"You opened my door without knocking. I was scared."
"Your instant reaction to being scared is to pull out a gun on someone? Damn girl, where are you from? Most girls I know squeal or some shit like that."
Most girls he knew hadn't been forced to protect themselves for the past three years. I'd had my mother to take care of but no one to take care of me. "I'm from Alabama," I replied ignoring his hand and stepping out of the truck myself.
The sea breeze hit my face and the salty smell of the beach was unmistakable. I'd never seen the beach before. At least not in person. I'd seen pictures and movies. But the smell, it was exactly like I expected it to be.
"So it's true what they say about girls from Bama," he replied and I turned my attention to him.
"What do you mean?"
His eyes scanned down my body and back up to my face. A grin stretched slowly across his face. "Tight jeans, tank tops, and a gun. Damn, I've been living in the wrong fu**ing state."
Rolling my eyes, I reached into the back of the truck. I had a suitcase and then several boxes that I needed to drop off at the Goodwill.
"Here, let me get it." He stepped around me then reached into the truck bed for the large piece of luggage my mom had kept tucked away in her closet for that "road trip" we never got to take. She always talked about how we'd drive across the country and then up the west coast one day. Then she'd gotten sick.
Shaking off the memories, I focused on the present. "Thank you, uh... I don't think I got your name."
The guy pulled the suitcase out then turned back to me.
"What? You forgot to ask when you had the nine-millimeter pointed at my face?" he replied.
I sighed. Okay, maybe I'd gone a little overboard with the gun but he'd scared me.
"I'm Grant, a, uh, friend of Rush's."
"Rush?" There was that name again. Who was Rush?
Grant's grin grew big once again. "You don't know who Rush is?" He was extremely amused. "I'm so fu**ing glad I came tonight."
He nodded his head toward the house, "Come on. I'll introduce you."
I walked beside him as he led me to the house. The music inside got louder as we got closer. If my dad wasn't here, then who was? I knew Georgiana was his new wife but that was all I knew. Was this a party her kids were having? How old were they? She did have kids, didn't she? I couldn't remember. Dad had been vague. He'd said I'd like my new family but he hadn't said who that family was exactly.
"So, does Rush live here?" I asked.
"Yeah, he does, at least in the summer. He moves to his other houses according to the season."
"His other houses?"
Grant chuckled, "You don't know anything about this family your dad has married into, do you, Blaire?"
He had no idea. I shook my head.
"Quick mini lesson then before we walk inside the madness," he replied stopping at the top of the stairs leading to the front door and looked at me. "Rush Finlay is your stepbrother. He's the only child of the famous drummer for Slacker Demon, Dean Finlay. His parents never married. His mother, Georgianna, was a groupie back in the day. This is his house. His mother gets to live here because he allows it." He stopped and looked back at the door, as it swung open. "These are all his friends."
A tall, willowy, strawberry blonde wearing a short royal blue dress and a pair of heels that I'd break my neck in if I tried to wear them stood there staring at me. I didn't miss the distaste in her scowl. I didn't know much about people like this but I did know that my department store clothing wasn't something she approved of. Either that or I had a bug crawling on me.
"Well, hello Nannette," Grant replied in an annoyed tone.
"Who is she?" the girl asked, shifting her gaze to Grant.
"A friend. Wipe the snarl off your face Nan it isn't an attractive look for you," he replied, reaching over to grab my hand and pull me into the house behind him.
The room wasn't as full as I'd assumed. As we walked past the large open foyer an arched doorway led into what I assumed was a living room. Even so, it was bigger than my entire house or what had been my house. Two glass doors were standing open with a breathtaking view of the ocean. I wanted to see that up close.
"This way," Grant instructed as he made his way over to a... bar? Really? There was a bar in the house?
I glanced over the people we passed by. They all paused for a moment and gave me a quick once over. I stood out big time.
"Rush, meet Blaire, I believe she might belong to you. I found her outside looking a little lost," Grant said and I swung my gaze from the curious people to see who this Rush was.
"Is that so?" Rush replied in a lazy drawl and leaned forward from his relaxed position on the white sofa with a beer in his hand. "She's cute but she's young. Can't say she's mine."
"Oh, she's yours alright. Seeing as her daddy has run off to Paris with your momma for the next few weeks. I'd say this one now belongs to you. I'd gladly offer her a room at my place if you want. That is if she promises to leave her deadly weapon in the truck."
Rush narrowed his eyes and studied me closely. They were an odd color. Stunningly unusual. They weren't brown. They weren't hazel. They were a warm color with some silver laced through them. I'd never seen anything like them. Could they be contacts?
"That doesn't make her mine," he finally replied and leaned back on the sofa where he'd been reclining when we walked up.
Grant cleared his throat. "You're kidding, right?"
Rush didn't reply. Instead he took a drink from the longneck bottle in his hands. His gaze had shifted to Grant's and I could see the warning there. I was going to be asked to leave. This wasn't good. I had exactly twenty dollars in my purse and I was almost out of gas. I'd already sold anything of value that I possessed. When I'd called my father I had explained that I just needed somewhere to stay until I could get a job and make enough money to go find a place of my own. He had quickly agreed and given me this address telling me he would love for me to come stay with him.
Rush's attention was back on me. He was waiting on me to make a move. What did he expect me to say? A smirk touched his lips and he winked at me.
"I got a house full of guests tonight and my bed's already full." He shifted his eyes to Grant. "I think it's best if we let her go find a hotel until I can get in touch with her daddy."
The disgust on his tongue as he said the words "daddy" hadn't gone unnoticed. He didn't like my father. I couldn't blame him really. This wasn't his fault. My dad had sent me here. I'd wasted most of my money on gas and food driving here. Why had I trusted that man?
I reached over and grabbed the handle on the suitcase that Grant was still holding. "He's right. I should go. This was a very bad idea," I explained without looking at him. I tugged hard on the suitcase and he let go somewhat reluctantly. Tears stung my eyes as the realization that I was about to be homeless sunk in. I couldn't look at either of them.
Turning, I headed for the door, keeping my eyes downcast. I heard Grant arguing with Rush but I blocked it out. I didn't want to hear what that beautiful man said about me. He didn't like me. That much was obvious. My dad was not a welcome member of the family apparently.
"Leaving so soon?" a voice that reminded me of smooth syrup asked. I glanced up to see the delighted smile on the girl who had opened the door earlier. She hadn't wanted me here either. Was I that revolting to these people? I quickly dropped my eyes back to the floor and opened the door. I had too much pride for that mean bitch to see me cry.
Once I was safely outside I let out a sob and headed to my truck. If I hadn't been carrying my suitcase I'd have run. I needed the safety of it. I belonged inside my truck, not in this ridiculous house with these uppity people. I missed home. I missed my mom. Another sob broke free and I closed the door to my truck locking it behind me.
I wiped my eyes and forced myself to take a deep breath. I couldn't fall apart now. I hadn't fallen apart when I'd sat holding my mother's hand as she took her last breath. I hadn't fallen apart as they lowered her into the cold ground. And I hadn't fallen apart when I'd sold the only place I had to live. I would not fall apart now. I would get through this.
I didn't have enough for a hotel room but I had my truck. I could live in my truck. Finding a safe place to park it at night would be my only problem. This town seemed safe enough but I was pretty sure this old truck parked anywhere overnight would draw attention. I'd have the cops knocking on my window before I could even fall asleep. I would have to use my last twenty dollars on fuel. Then I could drive into a larger city where my truck would go unnoticed in a parking lot.
Maybe I could park behind a restaurant and get a job there too. I wouldn't need gas to get to and from work. My stomach growled reminding me that I hadn't eaten since this morning. I would need to spend a couple dollars on some food. Then pray I would find a job in the morning.
I would be okay. I turned my head to check behind me before I cranked the truck and backed out. Silver eyes stared back at me.
A small scream escaped me before I realized that it was Rush. What was he doing standing outside my truck? Had he come to make sure I left his property? I really didn't want to talk to him anymore. I started to turn my eyes away and focus on getting out of there when he cocked an eyebrow at me. What did that mean?
You know what? I really didn't care. Even if he looked ridiculously sexy doing it. I started to crank the truck but instead of the roar of the engine, I was met with a click and some silence. Oh no. Not now. Please not now.
I jiggled the key and prayed I was wrong. I knew the gas gauge was broken but I'd been watching the mileage. I shouldn't be out of gas. I had a few more miles. I know I did.
I slammed my palm against the steering wheel and called the truck a few choice names but nothing happened. I was stuck. Would Rush call the police? He wanted me off his property so badly he'd come out here to make sure I left. Now that I couldn't leave would he have me arrested? Or worse, call a tow truck. I did not have the money to get my truck back if he did that. At least in jail I'd have a bed and food.
Swallowing the lump lodged firmly in my throat I opened the truck door and hoped for the best.