Authors: Dara Girard
By Dara Girard
This playboy made his first appearance in my first published novel,
Table for Two
. Some of you already know that. But did you know that in my original version, he was Cassie's love interest? Unfortunately, they had so much fun together, that the story went nowhere.
Enter Drake Henson and everything changed.
But I still thought about Kevin. He was a fun character and I wanted to give him his own story.
That's when Dominique Cartwright came on the scene and his story came alive.
Hope you enjoy.
up to the sight of rage. A quiet, simmering rage, reflected in the amber gaze of the last man Kevin Jackson ever wanted to see.
“I'm doing my best not to kill you,” Drake Henson said, his island lilt coating his words.
“Steady mate,” another voice said. Kevin looked to the side and saw Henson's brother-in-law, Clay Jarrett. He was a large, grim man, dressed in a brown leather bomber jacket and faded jeans. The sight of him chilled Kevin even more. Jarrett was never one to smile much, but his expression looked grimmer than usual. Henson, on the other hand, looked furious. As if Jarret's steady warning was the only thing keeping him from wrapping his hands around Kevin's neck.
Kevin swallowed, frantically looking around the room. A room that was clearly not his own. A room with cream colored walls, stark white tile floors, a bed with coarse sheets and a large window that didn't offer him the splendid view of trees and the lake that complemented his Maryland estate, but instead offered him the sight of another large building and a parking lot.
Where the hell was he? What was going on? And why were Henson and Jarrett looking at him like that? What were they doing there anyway? He had to be trapped in some sort of nightmare.
The last thing he remembered was taking Cassie and Marcus for a driveâ¦
He sat up quickly, then winced as pain shot through his head, up his left side and down his right leg. He gritted his teeth and swallowed hard as his stomach roiled. He gripped his bedsheets in a fist, determined not to be sick. Slowly, the pain released him from its vise and he took a deep breath before feeling strong enough to meet Henson's gaze. “What happened?” he asked, surprised by how hoarse his voice sounded. It didn't feel sore, but the force of his voice was nearly gone, leaving it a husky whisper. “Where's Cassie? Marcus? What are you doing here?”
The angry amber gaze narrowed a fraction, clear against his brown skin. “You don't remember?”
“You son of aâ”
Jarrett rested a hand on Henson's shoulder. “It's expected.”
Kevin shifted his gaze to him. “What's expected?”
Henson hung his head in defeat and swore. “I don't believe this.”
Kevin looked at the two men with growing alarm and frustration. “What's going on?”
Henson lifted his gaze and pinned him with a look of disgust. “That's what I plan to find out.” He headed for the door.
“Wait! Whatâ¦Where are you going?” Kevin pushed his sheets back. It was just like the bastard to leave without explaining anything. He swung his legs over the side of the bed. “Henson! Where's Cassie? Marcus?” He surged to his feet just as Henson walked out of the room, but his right leg gave way. He would have crashed to the floor if Jarrett hadn't moved fast and caught him.
“You need to stay still and keep calm,” he said in a low voice.
“Keep calm and carry on? Is that what you Brits say?” Kevin said, trying to cover his embarrassment as Jarrett helped him back in bed.
Jarrett wisely ignored the barb, keeping his gaze lowered.
Kevin looked down at his leg and saw some bandages, but nothing serious. He looked at Jarrett. “How can I stay still and be calm when I don't know what's going on? What's wrong with my leg and where are Cassie and Marcus?”
Jarrett folded his arms and lifted his gaze, careful to keep his expression neutral. “The police are investigating the accident. You were involved in a single car collision.”
“What?” he said, his voice barely a squeak. An accident? He didn't remember any accident. Police? The police had gotten involved? Why? His mind started to spin as he looked at the grim look on Jarrett's face and remembered the rage he'd seen in Henson's eyes. Fear knotted inside him. “Cassie and Marcusâ¦” he said, then stopped. He took a deep breath, his heart racing. “Tell me they're all right. Tell me they're notâ¦” He let the word fall away. He wouldn't say it because it couldn't be true. They couldn't be dead.
Jarrett let his hands fall to his hips and released a heavy sigh. “If they'd died, do you think I'd be talking to you like this?”
“How are they?”
“Not good. Marcus has a broken arm, major bruises and won't speak, but he'll recover.”
Kevin swallowed, his chest hurting in anticipation of the response to his next question. “And Cassie?”
Jarrett glanced out the window, as if looking at Kevin had become too hard. “We don't know.”
“What do you mean, âwe don't know?'”
Jarrett shot him an ugly, dark glance. “Just what I said. She's in a coma. The way the car hit the tree, she received most of the impact. We don't know if she'll make it or not. The doctors haven't made any promises because they're afraid to. So she might leave this hospital with us orâ¦” He ran a hand down his face. “Are you sure you don't remember anything?”
A coma? Cassie was in a coma and she might not survive? Because of him? How could that be? He was a great driver.
“Well?” Jarrett urged him.
Kevin searched his mind, wishing he had something to say. Something helpful to tell him, but his mind was blank. This was worse than a nightmare. “No, I don't.”
Jarrett nodded, resigned. “Fine.”
“I want to.”
“I know.” Jarrett turned towards the door.
“I have to see her.”
Jarrett shook his head. “You know Drake will never let that happen.”
“Please.” He wasn't a man to beg, but he felt himself growing desperate. “Just once. I need to see her.”
Jarrett sighed. “There's nothing to see except tubes and hospital monitors andâ”
“I don't care.”
He shook his head. “It's not a good idea.”
Kevin bit his lip. “How much do you want?”
“You know it's not about money.”
“I don't know what happened.”
Jarrett hesitated, then shook his head again. “No.”
Kevin sensed the reason for his hesitation and felt his anger grow. Henson stood in the way. “She's your sister.”
“She's his wife.”
“Just five minutes.”
Kevin sighed, admitting defeat. He knew it was too soon to ask for favors. When he was stronger, maybe they'd let him. And maybe not. He noticed how Jarrett avoided his gaze and he felt his heart drop. He kept his feelings more guarded than Henson but Kevin knew the two men felt the same. They blamed him.
“Oh good. He said you were awake,” a nurse said in an overly cheery voice, like a kindergarten teacher addressing a group of five-year-olds. Kevin didn't mind the voice, sensing it was for her benefit as much as his. She looked as if she'd worked a long shift, her scrubs were wrinkled and she had dark circles under her eyes. She had ruddy skin and hair that had been dyed too dark, which made her look older than what he guessed to be her forty-some years. He knew women, loved women of all shapes and sizes and, although he knew his day had been bad, she looked as if her day had been worse and that one wrong look would make her collapse. So he smiled at her.
It did the trick. She smiled back, her shoulders straightened a little and the heaviness of her face seemed to lift.
“I'll see you later,” Jarrett said.
Kevin watched him walk out the door, a part of him wanting to call him back, to give him answers to questions he couldn't put into words. His mind was a collection of images and thoughts that didn't make sense. It didn't offer him anything about how the accident happened or explained why Cassie was in a coma or why Marcus wouldn't speak.
Kevin leaned his head back on his pillow, fighting against tears as he kept his smile in place while the nurse checked his vitals and asked him questions. His heart was beating so hard it hurt. If Cassie didn't make itâ¦ no, he wouldn't even think about it. She was his heart, and if anything happened to her, Henson wouldn't have to worry about killing him.
evin Jackson looked
at his menu with careful consideration. He had a choice between vanilla or chocolate. He let his gaze do a slow inventory of the cool peaches and cream in ice pick high heels and a shimmering blue dress, and the ruby-lipped mocha delight wearing a leopard print dress, pressed up against him. They really made the choice difficult. Tonight's party had been a hit just as the one two weeks ago had been. Around him he heard the low hum of voices, rock music and the clinking of glasses. Since the party was a success, his only concern tonight was which one of his visual delights he would sleep with first.
“You have a guest at the door,” his assistant, Adrian Ferguson, said. He was a fastidious man with a waxed mustache, slicked back brown hair and dark framed glasses.
Kevin made an absent gesture with his hand as he watched the rise and fall of the blonde's chest; her body made her blue dress resemble waves. He wasn't a breast manâhe liked a woman's entire package, not just parts of herâbut she could turn him into one. “Then let them in.”
“She won't come in. It's Mrs. Henson.”
Kevin felt his heart leap then twist with an odd pain. He scowled. “How many times have I told you not to call her that? Her name's Cassie.”
“I know her name is Cassie,” his assistant said without apology. “I also know it's Mrs. Henson. Just a friendly reminder.”
“That she's married.”
Kevin shot Ferguson a glance, then headed for the door with an eagerness he'd never admit to. He opened the door surprised by the cool breeze of the spring evening, and how beautiful Cassie looked as she stood on his doorstep. A yellow cotton dress complemented her chestnut skin, caressing the curves of her full figure. She wore her hair swept back in a bun and her brown eyes shone bright behind her glasses. She reminded him of spring--fresh, lush and inviting. “Hello,” he said, careful to hide the extent of his joy at seeing her.
“I can't stay.”
He felt his mood dim then glanced at the dark BMW parked several yards behind her. “Is your husband in the car?”
He couldn't help a grin. “Good.” He pulled her forward, dipped her as if they'd just finished a dance then kissed her fully on the mouth. Kevin straightened and waved at her husband. Henson didn't wave back.
“You are a devil,” Cassie said with a laugh.
“I try,” he said, his grin widening at the sound of her laughter. “I kind of like it. Want to try it again?”
She held him back. “No.”
“Kevin, behave yourself.”
“I don't want to behave myself.” He winked. “Then again, if I'm bad you can punish me andâ”
“How about I punish you?” Henson said in a soft challenge.
Kevin looked up at him, hiding his surprise. He hadn't heard him approach. Drake Henson was a tall man with more gray than black in his hair and had all the sophisticated polish of a rusty car. Although he was a successful restaurateur of The Blue Mango and The Red Hut, known for Caribbean and American dishes, he had no flair or style. Yet, he'd been able to steal Cassie away from him. After so many years, Kevin had been forced to admit defeat, but he still liked to remind Henson that he'd once been in the running and that he'd known Cassie a lot longer. “I see your sense of humor hasn't improved.”
“Fortunately, my sense of timing has.”
“I've always found that people are extra protective of things they're afraid to lose.”
Henson's eyes narrowed. “And some people overestimate their ability to take what isn't theirs.”
“And yet I still make you nervous.”
Henson shook his head. “I'm not nervous. Everyone knows that real women play with boys, but they marry men.”
Kevin smiled even though they both knew Henson had won that round.
“It's so nice to see that you two play so well together,” Cassie said in a dry tone. “Drake, I'll be right there.” She looped her arm through Kevin's and started to walk inside.
“Where are you going?” Henson asked.
“I need to talk to him alone.”
His eyebrows shot up. “Inside?”
“You have five minutes.”
Kevin flashed a sly grin. “That will be enough time.”
Henson made a move towards him, but Cassie grabbed his arm. “Stop it.”
“Let him go,” Kevin said. “I like seeing him nervous.”
When Henson's gaze darkened, Cassie took his hand and led him back to the car. She whispered something into his ear that made Henson send Kevin a quick look before his mouth softened into a triumphant smile. Kevin didn't need any words to know what the casual, intimate scene meant. Cassie belonged to Henson and nothing was going to change that. Henson had won and he'd lost.
Kevin turned away. He didn't care. He could get any woman he wanted. He had two waiting for him. He just didn't like being second best. He tapped the tip of his shoe into the ground, knowing he'd get it re-polished later, and listened to the croaking of a frog somewhere off in the distant trees. Moments later, Cassie's scent drifted towards him and he felt the light touch of her fingers on his arm. He shouldn't let her touch him, not when he was like this, but he couldn't help himself. She would probably playfully scold him or treat him like a kid brother. He didn't mind. At times he was
. Real women play with boys, but they marry men.
Damn, Henson had hit a soft spot, but he didn't want to think about it. Right now he had Cassie and that was all that mattered.
But she surprised him when she said, “We can't be friends anymore, can we?”
He turned to her, shocked. “What do you mean?”
“I mean.” She looked away. “You and Drake have never liked each other, but it seems to have gotten worse. I always feel as though there's something else going on.”
“It's nothing,” he said quickly, perhaps too quickly. But he didn't want to lose her friendship. She didn't know how much it meant to him. “Hey, it's my fault,” he said placing a hand on his chest, ready to take blame. “I won't provoke him anymore.”
She looked at him in a way that made him uneasy, as though she could read him, then she smiled. “Good, because Marcus wants you at his birthday party.”
Why would a five-year-old want him at his party?
“There will be four other boys and his cousin and you only have to make an appearance.”
“I'll just send him something. Tell me what he wants and I'llâ”
“He wants you to come.” She opened her handbag. “He made you this,” she said, then slipped a colored macaroni bracelet onto his wrist. Kevin looked down at the childish art project, oddly touched. “Why?”
“I don't know. For some reason he seems to like you.” She winked at him. “He has his mother's good taste. He also drew this for you.” She handed him a picture of a car. “It's his new passion.”
Kevin grinned. “That's my boy.” His grin widened as a thought came to him. “I know a way to make this birthday one he'll never forgetâ¦”