The Man I Want to Be (Under Covers)(9)

By: Christina Elle

Which would be the worst idea, since she hated him. They’d avoid each other this week, she’d said. It was for the best. But Christ was it going to be hard to stay away from her. After all this time, he still wanted her, even if it wasn’t the best thing long term. He still craved to be with her.

The sun had set hours ago, so the only light came from strategically placed tiki torches and the faint glow of the resort about a hundred yards away. Another one of Sam’s wonderful ideas—they were told to gather on the beach for a luau.

White tables and chairs filled the area. There was a pig roast, fresh fruits and vegetables, and, of course, his favorite: free drinks. Everyone was either seated at a table—Sam and Cass were nice enough to assign seats—or they stood, mingling with one another.

Tyke had gone back to the bar four times and still didn’t feel drunk enough to get through this. He’d finally given up on the extra steps from his assigned table to the bar and decided to stay back there.

He stood in the appetizer line, piling tortilla chips and taco dip onto a plate when a woman’s voice caught his attention. The sound traveled from behind him.

“I’m telling you, I wore it on the plane here. But I can’t find it.” The rushed, concerned sound in her tone made Tyke pause.

He glanced over his shoulder at a fifty-something couple seated with their side profiles to him. The wife, wearing a bright-pink sleeveless dress, looked at her husband with a distraught expression.

The husband, with salt-and-pepper hair styled like a weatherman, polo shirt and tan shorts, placed a reassuring hand on his wife’s shoulder. “We’ll search again when we get back to our room, Claire. I’m sure you just overlooked it.”

“It’s my mother’s watch, Richard. I don’t even know why I took it off. I should’ve left it on when we went to the beach earlier.”

“We’ll find it,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

Her eyes went glassy, and she blinked rapidly. “I hope so.”

Tyke turned back to the food, giving the couple the privacy they needed. Hopefully they found what she was looking for.

He approached the bar with plate in hand. Dropping a big tip, he asked the bartender to keep the refills coming.

He must have looked like a lonely, pathetic son of a bitch sipping his beer and eating his chips, because Ash, Luke, and Jason joined him.

He’d rather look lonely and pathetic over the company of these assholes.

“So.” Calder reached onto Tyke’s plate and popped a chip into his mouth. “You were engaged, huh?”

Tyke grunted.

Ash leaned across and picked up a chip of his own. He scooped a huge helping of taco dip and shoved it into his mouth. Through the mouthful, he said, “You actually put a ring on a woman’s finger.”

He had. Her late mother’s sapphire ring, to be exact. But he wasn’t going there. He’d be damned if he opened up to Luke and Ash about what happened. What he’d done. How he’d treated Kenna. Instead, Tyke handed the plate to Calder. He preferred beer for dinner anyway. He gulped the ice-cold liquid like it was his last dying breath.

Wasn’t doing much, though. He was going to need something stronger than beer. Maybe a few dozen shots.

“So what spooked you about Kenna?” Luke tossed another chip into his mouth, chewed, then swallowed. “Her hot-ass body? Sexy blue eyes? Killer smile?”

“Yeah,” Ash said, elbowing Luke in the ribs. “I can totally see why you’d run from that one. Total dog.” He shuddered.

Reese was the only one of the group not to comment, and that’s because his attention was hooked on the other side of the beach, where his cute blonde from earlier was standing. She sipped from a glass filled with pink liquid, occasionally sending coy come-hither looks Reese’s way.

“Think she’ll show?” Ash asked Luke, shielding a grin behind the top of his beer.

No need to guess who Ash meant. Kenna wasn’t at the luau. Not that Tyke had been looking for her. Just happened to spot her name on the seating chart, and happened to see the empty seat at table four where she should’ve been.

Luke set the empty plate on the bar behind them, then propped his elbows on the counter. “No way she’s coming tonight. Did you see how much force she put behind that punch? Pretty impressive for such a petite thing.”

She did put a lot of force into hitting him. Which was unexpected. He knew she’d be mad if she ever saw him again. Hell, he was mad. He’d be pissed for the rest of his life because of what he’d done to her. To them. But Kenna? He hadn’t expected just how mad she’d be after so many years. He’d hoped eventually she’d get over him. Move on. Find some other dope to marry and have a litter of babies. It’s why he hadn’t gone back to her. She deserved better than what he could give her.