Authors: Kay Layton Sisk
Tags: #contemporary romance
Kay Layton Sisk
onsider yourself kicked out of my wife’s house.”
Edward Charles Samuels slanted his gaze from the television to his twin brother. His feet dangled over the arm of the loveseat and the remote control rested on his chest. “Are you smirking as you say that?”
Edwin Thomas Samuels dropped the stuffed duffel bags, a piccolo showing from the top of one, then kicked at C’s bare foot. “Okay, then consider yourself
persona non grata
“Like, for the afternoon? Have you seen this video?” He pointed with the remote control. “It could have been made by you before you got religion.” He started zipping through the channels. “Need a little afternoon-er with wifey before the kid gets home, T?” He settled further into the cushions. “Hell, I can sit on the porch and keep what’s-his-face entertained while you two f—”
“That’s quite all right. Such a generous offer.” T grabbed for and claimed the remote control. “But I don’t think you’re getting the whole picture.” He clicked the set off. “Lyla says you are out of here. Permanently. She even packed your bags. Take ’em to the Blue Dream Inn.”
C sat upright. “Is it the bun in the oven that has her so wound up or is it you’re not getting any?”
T moved to the door, held it open. “You’ve got less than a minute, then your ass had better clear this door before she gets in here.”
“What set this off? Was it something I said?” C stood, hands on hips, long blond hair flowing over his shoulders. His cut-offs were indecently short and torn. The concert T-shirt was clean, but one sleeve was missing. “You get sober, get married, get whupped, and hell, I don’t know you any more! No wonder Fletch is in the Holy Land finding himself!”
“Maybe our illustrious leader should have taken you ’cause you’re pretty damn lost, too. You should have stayed in California, C. I told you. But if you like this part of Texas so much, go buy your own place.” T set his jaw, walked to the duffels, picked them up and tossed them onto the porch. They bounced and skidded the autumn leaves gathered there.
“Hey, watch the piccolo!” He stared at his brother. “Everybody takes time off to
themselves and I’m the only one that’s not lost. I did my work in California, which is more than I can say for you and the rest of them. Especially our Mr. Levi Fletcher. The going gets tough, the band manager gets going. I bet the only part of himself he’s finding is his—”
His tirade was met with a silent glare.
“Okay, okay. I’m between women right now. You know how I get when I’m not—” he adjusted himself in the too-tight cut-offs— “otherwise engaged.”
T pointed out the door. “Go! I’m not going to argue with you. Be gone!”
“Be gone?” C was incredulous. “
Damn, T, you reading Shakespeare at night? Prissy-missy won’t let you touch her—”
C jumped as T reached for him, thwarting the attempt to bodily remove him. “So tell me, T,” he started as he sorted the piccolo from the clothes, then picked up the duffels. “Is it all worth it? Someone telling you what to do, making you kick your own flesh and blood out of
house, setting limits where there didn’t use to be any?”
T snorted. “Where have you been, C? I’m free for the first time in my life and I have no limits.”
“Bull. You’re in a pus—” He focused to T’s right and changed his expression, popping his mouth into a false smile. “Lyla, how lovely you look. There’s just something about a gestating woman!”
T put his arm around his wife, pulled her close.
“C, how pleasant to see your backside as you leave our property.” She rubbed her head against T’s shoulder and involuntarily smoothed her hand over her bulging middle. Circling one arm around T’s waist, she moved it slowly up and down his side. “Do come visit us when the baby’s ready to graduate high school.” Her smile never flickered even though T started to chuckle.
“I’ve been a good houseguest!”
“All things are relative, C, and I’ve had too much of Sam’s. Relative, that is.” She pointed toward the county road a tenth of a mile away. “Don’t let the gate hit you in the rear.”
C narrowed his gaze at T, opened his mouth, then closed it on the ill-humored remark. He may have lost this battle, but the war wasn’t over and he’d see T back in the brother fold yet.
Jinks, Texas, afforded little in the way of big-city amusements, a fact that had drawn Levi Fletcher to it in the first place the year before. Being far away from any undue entertainments made it a perfect place for them to complete T’s rehab. As he’d explained to C, the backwoods cabin owned by widow Lyla Lee would give him the three weeks he needed to get T acclimated to polite society.
C smirked to himself. Little did they know then. They hadn’t a clue how much backwoods and backwards were capable of changing all their lives. Just because there were no movie theaters, and the DVD rentals were handled in the back halves of stores that did something else to keep the doors open, didn’t mean the denizens weren’t as savvy as they came. It had taken them a while to figure out that Sam Thomas was Eddie T Samuels, but by then, well, by then, the damage had been done.
C wasn’t interested in checking into the Blue Dream Inn. The motor court dated from the ’40s when the lake had been built. Little but an exterior paint job had been done to upgrade the establishment in the meantime. But he pulled under the porte-cochere anyway—an “any port in the storm” mentality already working for him—only to see the man at the desk hang up the phone and reach below the counter. The “no” appeared in front of the “vacancy” on the street sign as he came through the front door.
“Full up?” C made an exaggerated trip to the glass door and pushed it open, made sure the clerk saw him study the parking lot. “It’s after Labor Day, not a car here and there’s no vacancy?”
“Just had a big party call. Took every room.”
“Uh-huh.” He put his hands on his hips and surveyed the torn vinyl couch and the chipped linoleum. “Party name of Lyla Samuels?”
The man had the grace to smile slightly. “C, we don’t want no trouble.”
“And I’m trouble?”
The man shrugged. “What do you think?”
What he thought obviously didn’t count any more C decided as he drove down what generously passed for the drag in Jinks. Seven motels, seven empty parking lots, seven ‘no vacancy’ signs that clicked on like magic as he passed them. That must have been T’s touch: he always did have an uncanny sense of rhythm.
Rhythm. C eased off the gas pedal. T had rhythm. He had rhythm. Together they’d rocked and rhythmed
themselves into being household names. Through Bone Cold—Alive—their band, their livelihood, their essence—they’d redefined the rock music genre, expanded it, made it their own. They were a team, a duo—twins, bound together first and last and always.
He stopped at the red light. At least they were until T had sobered up and kicked a habit of drugs and booze that had pushed their music to every edge it touched. It had also pushed T, and to his shame, C had stood by and let it, taking all the good aftereffects and not lifting a finger to keep the bad at bay. It had almost destroyed their team. But then T had found religion and Lyla, and not necessarily in that order. C curled and uncurled his fingers around the leather steering wheel. T had left him. And C had nowhere to go.
The truth hurt and it sliced through C as the traffic started moving again.
And who had T left him for? With that life behind him, with its detrimental effects quashed by an inner resolve the twins shared, T had left C. Not consciously probably, but Lyla had stepped in and given T a home, a love that in a normal life would have been a decade old by now, not newly-found and shared.
That woman! C and his sister-in-law had grated on each other from day one and now she seemed to live for revenge. And for what? Some slip of his tongue he could forget, but she didn’t seem able to. It wasn’t like he didn’t try to make up for it when he visited. Hadn’t he picked up gourmet ice cream in Dallas for the little mother? He’d even dragged his dirty clothes, sheets and towels and all, out to the washing machine the day before. When he offered to take her kid Harrison to the big amusement park in Dallas, you’d have thought he said he was going to fire him to the moon! And his brother married this woman, said he loved her? Some warped sense of love was all C could determine as he slammed on the brakes in the parking lot of the first real estate office he came to. Lake Country Realty, JT Lovelace, Realtor.
Lovelace. Loveless. Good. He’d about had it with all that love bull anyhow. He was going to find himself a damn house and stay! He needed a place to belong again. Lyla Lee Samuels and her spouse be damned!
“Jemma, you are not going to believe this!” Carolyn Cartwright bustled her large frame through the door of the inner office at the realty and leaned over her boss’s desk. “Guess who just pulled in?”
Jemma Lovelace didn’t take her eyes from her laptop. “Santa Claus,” she said absentmindedly.
“No, no, no.” Carolyn patted the desk with each syllable. “Look at me!” She waved her hand in Jemma’s line of sight and got the response she desired. “Eddie C.”
“Eddie C—” Jemma held the letter out, “oh,
Eddie C. He must be lost. Give him directions.”
“I bet he wants to buy something.”
“Go for it.” She realized she was whispering as the hinges creaked and the bell on the front door jangled. They both looked toward the door then Carolyn whirled and went to greet him.
“Close the door behind you.” It clicked shut just as the question “You the owner?” echoed back to her.
How typical. He would want the owner. Well, he wasn’t here, she was proud to say. Let Carolyn handle that one!
“Mr. Samuels, I believe?”
C stared at the portly woman in front of him, her hands clasped together over her ample breasts, her eyes lighted like a Christmas tree. Sheesh, he could almost picture himself on the menu!
“Yes.” It was unnecessarily curt, but he did have a reputation to maintain, and as he didn’t know exactly where he was going to rest his head come nighttime, he wasn’t in the mood for politeness. He played his agitation out as he tapped the piccolo against his thigh. “You JT Lovelace?”
“No.” She scurried behind her desk and reached for the coffeepot that sat in front of the window. “Coffee?”
“I’d like to see JT Lovelace.” And he certainly didn’t need any coffee.
“Well, Mr. Lovelace doesn’t come in any more.” Indecision crossed her face as she set the pot back down. “But I can help you.” She thrust out her hand. “Carolyn Cartwright, licensed real estate agent.”
“Who’s in the office back there?” He ignored her hand and rocked back on his heels. Closed doors fascinated him. Closed doors were meant to be opened. Especially doors that closed as he came in.
“That’s Jemma Lovelace.”
“Boss’s wife? Daughter? Sister?”
Carolyn couldn’t take in all the choices. She stammered. “J-Jemma’s Mr. JT’s daughter, but—”
“She a licensed real estate agent, too?”
“Well, yes, but—”
“Lady, you got way too much butt,” and he was through the door to Jemma Lovelace before an open-mouthed Carolyn could stop him.
It wasn’t that Jemma wasn’t curious about Eddie C. Hell, everyone in town was curious, but most of them had had their curiosity more than satisfied. When the media stormed Jinks on the opening day of dove season last year, chaos had ensued. C’s helicopter circling overhead had been the beacon needed by the press to run roughshod over Jinks. Later, the town had proceeded to close ranks around Lyla and Harrison and protect them from the outside attention. Then when she’d eloped with Sam—well, Jemma didn’t know about everyone else, but somewhere deep in her lonely soul, she’d felt a little spark. At least other people could find happiness even if she couldn’t.