Authors: J.C. Isabella
© J.C. Isabella
Copyright 2013 by J.C. Isabella
This book is the personal property of J.C. Isabella. Its characters are fictional and any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental. This book is for your entertainment, not to be given freely or resold in any way.
Thank you for respecting her work.
Also by J.C. Isabella
The Unofficial Zack Warren Fan Club
The Unofficial Story of Kyle B. Johnston
The Council, A Witch’s Secret
The Council, A Werewolf’s Moon
A McCree’s Star Spangled 4
A McCree Christmas
Summers spent at my Great Aunt Louise’s house were quiet. She didn't have a TV, and the only radio went in and out with the weather. I looked forward to a rest from the city rush, and the sweet smell of the air and the saltiness of the ocean beckoned me outside.
I was five the first time I stayed with Aunt Lou for the summer. My parents had a vacation planned, and decided I should spend some time getting to know Lou. My older siblings got shipped to an away camp. I was still too young, and although I really wanted to go to away camp like the big kids, I was happy to stay with Lou.
My first day on the island was scary. Lou had a lot of rules, and she never liked to veer off her usual schedule. Not even for a little kid.
When my parents picked me up a few weeks later, they said I had changed. Normally I hid behind my mother, and behind a head of full brown hair. I was a very shy child.
But my time on the island had transformed me. My hair had been chopped short by Lou and her dull kitchen shears; the salty water and climate had made it impossible to care for.
A new adventurous side had emerged. I no longer cowered shyly behind anyone. I’d learned how to explore and get dirty on the island, like a real kid should.
And to everyone’s surprise, I had a great time.
Spending the summer with Aunt Lou was the best thing that ever happened to me. My mom and dad decided that I needed summers with Lou, and I’d spent every summer with her since. She had to be nearing her eighties now. No telling how much longer she could keep living on the edge of civilization. I wasn’t going to be able to spend summers with her forever.
In fact, this would be my last.
With my seventeenth birthday come and gone a few days ago, I didn’t need anyone to supervise me on my trip from North Carolina to Florida. I was a seasoned traveler, and took to the airplanes like a fish to water. When my plane landed, I grabbed my little blue suitcase. I only brought a small one, and two weeks ago I shipped a box of clothes and other necessities down. It was a lot easier.
The sun was shining and the steamy heat radiated off the pavement in waves. Tourists crowded together talking about what they wanted to do or see first. I made my way through them out to the front of the airport. Now all I had to do was find my ride. Aunt Lou wouldn’t be here to get me. She usually had her handyman pick me up. He lived in a small house out back on her property. She was grateful for his help. My parents were grateful they had someone around in case she needed assistance.
Help could be hard to find when a body of water kept you from civilization.
It was clear my ride wasn’t here. I found a bench under the meager shade of a couple palm trees and proceeded to use my evil cell phone to call Great Aunt Louise. She hated cell phones, and had a house phone on the wall in the kitchen that looked like it was straight out of an eighties movie. It was a faded yellow cordless model, with an antenna as long as my arm.
“Aunt Lou?” I said when she picked up. “It’s Summer. I’m at the airport.”
“Oh! Is today Sunday?” she asked in her raspy voice. It had gotten worse over the years, even though she quit smoking a long time ago.
“What day did you think it was?”
Island living was cut off, but not that cut off. “Well, surprise… It’s Sunday. Uh, could Andy give me a ride to the house?”
“I never told you. It’s the funniest story. Andy was in a fishing accident. He’s in the hospital.”
That didn’t sound funny to me. “That’s awful. Is he okay?”
“Oh, sure. He’ll live. But anyway, there is a young man named Damian. He lives in the house on the other side of the island. He was the one that got Andy to the hospital before he lost his leg. He’s a lifeguard. I thought he could just fix Andy right there on the dock, but he only knows CPR and first aid.”
“Oh good God,” I groaned. My aunt must really be getting old. Normally someone almost losing their leg was a big deal. I was going to have to thank Damian for saving Andy’s leg, and his life. “Are you all alone now?”
“No, Damian checks on me. He’s such a nice young man. So polite. His father put him up to it, but he is good enough to do it anyway. Why, he even left me his cell phone number. Fancy that.”
When I got back to my parents, I was going to seriously suggest having Aunt Lou put on the mainland. She was getting too old for island life, and maybe just a little too senile.
“That’s great, but how am I supposed to get to the island if I don’t have a boat?” I could always rent one, but then how’d I get it back? I wasn’t sure I wanted Aunt Lou at the helm.
“Oh, I’ll just call Damian. He can pick you up.”
“Lou, I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“Oh, fiddle. You stop worrying. Where are you?”
“I’m at the airport…” Where else would I be?
And with that farewell, Great Aunt Lou hung up.
I was screwed if she forgot to call this Damian guy. I might just have to book a flight home. No way was I going to swim to Half Mile Isle. It was at least a mile out, half a mile wide, and not so easy to get to. That’s the way Lou's husband, Ben, had liked to live though. Super private. No cars or anything too modern to interrupt their daily life.
With Uncle Ben’s passing a few years ago, the isolation seemed to be the worst thing for Aunt Lou, but she insisted she was fine.
I sat there under the palm tree, contemplating my fate for the next two months, before going back into the airport. I paced, went to the bathroom, and paced some more. I wondered what this Damian guy looked like, and if I should fashion a sign to draw his attention.
A while later I went back outside, having completely lost track of time. I was hungry, tired, and just wanted to fall face first into the squeaky double bed in the spare room with Aunt Lou’s Persian cat, Napoleon. He was a real trip. Spoiled rotten with a kink in his tail.
“Got a light?”
I glanced up from my seat on the bench at a beer gut, then up further to a ruddy face. “Do I look like I’m old enough to smoke?”
“No, I’m sorry, I don’t have a light.” I crossed my arms and went back to surveying the parking lot, no one remotely looking like their name could be Damian had arrived.
Beer gut sat on the bench next to me and rested his hands on his rounded tummy. “It’s hot out here.”
“Yeah,” and it reeked now that he was sitting next to me.
“You waiting for a ride?”
I grabbed my suitcase and stood, “Yep, and it looks like they’re here.”
He didn’t say anything as I quickly walked back near the entrance of the airport and ducked behind a few bushes. Jeez, couldn’t I just enjoy my bench without having a creepy beer gut interested in what I was doing?
My ears perked at the sound of my name. The chances of Damian calling out for me, were pretty good. It wasn’t like I had a common name. I popped out from behind the bushes, sweeping my gaze around the parking lot.
There was beer gut guy, a lady and her husband, and then I met eyes with a guy wearing a pair of aviators. He had rock hard abs, no shirt, flip-flops, and frayed jeans sat low on his hips.
This could not be Damian.
Holy mother of God.
Great Aunt Louise sent
to pick me up and take me back to the house? What did I do to deserve this? Did I remember to put on deodorant? Shave my legs? Brush my teeth? I bet if there was such a thing as airplane breath, I had it. At least I bothered to drag a brush through my hair in the bathroom on my last visit.
“Yeah, that’s me,” I said, wheeling my pathetic suitcase with cat stickers behind me.
Okay, so I was like, thirteen and still an awkward band geek when I did that. Cats used to be cool. Now I wanted to chuck my suitcase into the nearest dumpster.
“Hey, I’m Damian Cortez. I’m here to take you to Lou.” He was hot. I mean, beefcake, bounce quarters off his ass, California stud hot. His tan was golden brown, and his hair was the most perfect color of chocolate brown. And he was a lifeguard. He probably saved girls all the time and gave them CPR just because he had amazing lips that were full, and well, amazing.
I loved my Aunt Lou, but right now I hated her.
Why did Andy have to almost lose his leg and get saved by this amazing specimen? I mean, Damian fit him. It was a great name to go with him winning the genetic lotto.
Was he even real?
He started off for a small sports car and I watched, fascinated.
Okay, so he wasn’t
hot. I was exaggerating a little bit. I mean, he wasn’t terribly tall. Not too short. And…I’m sure I could find something else wrong with him.
It was so obvious that while this guy was gorgeous, he was probably missing a few brain cells from too much partying, or playing sports and ignoring his studying. Let’s face it. With his looks, he would either end up in a magazine, or on a football team with a million dollar contract.
That’s just how the world works.
“My brother Celso is waiting with the boat to take you to Half Mile.”
And that was the end of that. He didn’t say anything else, merely got in the car and waited for me to haul my suitcase in. So much for chivalry.
He flew down the street, and in a couple minutes, screeched to a halt outside a small house that backed up to a canal. “You can get to the boat through the gate.”
I eyed where he pointed, hoping his brother was nicer.
It was going to be on uncomfortable boat ride if Celso was anything like Damian.
“Uh, thanks.” I was barely out of the car with the door shut, and he was off, tires squealing over the pavement.
So that left me wandering to the back of a house I didn’t know, searching for a guy named Celso, who I also didn’t know.
If I wound up dead in a ditch I was going to haunt Aunt Lou.
I got to the back of the house and walked down the dock to a small speedboat. It was sleek and looked, well, speedy. Lady Luck was written on the side, and there was a guy on the back of the boat tinkering with the outboard motor.
“Celso?” I asked before climbing in.
I mean, that would be rude.
“Yup, that’s me,” he turned around, and I wanted to thank whoever was upstairs looking out for me. He was normal…ish. He had the same perfect brown hair and a really nice set of abs, but he seemed a lot more approachable than his brother. “You must be Summer.”
I nodded, hoping he didn’t look at my suitcase. “Thanks for the ride. I really appreciate it.”
He shrugged, “It’s either this, or repaint the porch.”
“Great,” I sighed, hopping from the dock to the boat. Celso was kind enough to grab my suitcase for me. So chivalry wasn’t totally dead. Of course, he saw my pathetic stickers and snorted under his breath.
He started up the engine and untied us from the dock, and then we were motoring down the canal. I put on my sunglasses and took the seat next to him, thinking it was better if I kept my mouth shut. He didn’t seem like he was in the mood to talk.
“You look different than I thought you would.” He pulled a small photo out of his pocket and handed it to me. “Older too.”
I stared down at my picture. Yikes. I thought I'd destroyed all copies of that picture. Knowing Lou, she probably had spares stashed somewhere.
Eighth grade, braces, chopped short hair, a zit in the middle of my forehead. I wanted to jump overboard and swim for the dock.
But instead of freaking out, I took a deep breath, counted to five in my head, and smiled.
“Did Lou tell you anything about me?”
“No, she handed Damian the picture and told him you’d be at the airport.”
“Yeah, uh, that photo was taken a long time ago." I adjusted uncomfortably in my seat. Time for a subject change. "Why did it take both of you to get me from the airport, though?"
“I didn’t want to leave the boat at that house. We don’t get along with the owners,” he said, increasing the speed as we got closer to open water. “But they are out of town for the next week, and it was the closest dock to the airport.”