It was one of her fantasies, she told me. And it came true, but I saw how much shame gnawed on her after that. She shrunk into herself and waited for me to stare at her like she was gross and dirty. But I just wanted to hold her and tell her that she was worth so much more than whatever she was searching for.
But I was a selfish prick back then. I wasn’t willing to change our dynamic just yet. I thought if she overcame her addiction, then she’d make me overcome mine.
And now that’s all I want for us.
“I remember how you explained it,” Ryke says. “But f**k that, Lo. I didn’t know Lily before you two became a couple, but it doesn’t matter if she wanted it or not. No self-respecting man would offer something like that to a girl, especially one that’s drunk. You had every right to be upset and go after the a**hole.”
“Yeah…maybe.” But now Mason Nix could be the one terrorizing Lily.
Melissa bounds over in a steady jog, not winded in the least. She’s closer and closer to us, but Daisy doesn’t run beside her. My stomach knots, and I scan the beach quickly. I couldn’t have already lost Lily’s sister. It’s barely been an hour.
“Ryke…” I slap his arm and gesture to Melissa who’s alone.
Ryke searches the beach with a hard gaze, on alert. But we don’t show panic. We both look like we’re about ready to enter a UFC match, muscles flexing, spine straightening. Must be a Hale thing.
He taps my shoulder and points to a spot by the shore where the waves lap into the sand. I can barely make out the head of a tall blonde, chatting up two local guys who carry strings of jewelry looped on their arms.
Before I can even move a foot, Ryke has taken off. I follow close behind, hoping he doesn’t antagonize the locals. That image that I had of protecting Daisy—yeah, I thought the fight would be between drunk, stupid guys. But these two probably wouldn’t mind whipping out a knife if things turn heated. I don’t want to be thrown in jail in a foreign country without a f**king passport.
Luckily, Ryke slows once we reach them, his eyes dead-set on Daisy, not the guys.
I join them as Daisy holds up two chain necklaces with silver Mayan coins on the ends. “These are supposedly handmade. I can’t tell though.” She shrugs. “I think I’m going to take Pablo’s word for it.”
My gaze drifts to the two Mexican guys, standing passively back with their backpacks and strings of jewelry, skin dark and weathered from walking up and down the beach. They look harmless, and I have a suspicion that Daisy approached them first. She’s a little wilder than I remember. Crazy, even. I’ve missed so much since rehab—or maybe she’s always been like this and I was just too drunk to really notice.
“You can’t run off and talk to strangers,” I tell her. It sounds stupid and parental—nothing I would normally say. When did I become a person who lectures someone else on responsibility? Fuck—I’m turning into Rose.
“We’re not strangers,” Daisy says quickly. “That’s Pablo and…” She squints in thought. “Ernesto…I think.”
The bigger set guy nods at this and holds out a plastic bag to Daisy, filled with more pendants and stones. “Onyx. Rubies. Sapphires.”
I narrow my gaze. “Do you have a gold brick in their too?”
Ryke catches Daisy’s wrist and tugs her to his side. She shrugs off Ryke’s hold, and her eyes flicker behind her. “Melissa is glaring at you.”
Ryke doesn’t even check over his shoulder. “Don’t worry about her.” Melissa is about twenty feet away, arms crossed over her chest, waiting for Ryke to rejoin her. But he’s abandoned his girlfriend to help me with this situation. I won’t admit it out loud, but I’m pretty thankful.
“I’m just trying not to get you in trouble,” Daisy tells him.
“I can take care of myself.” His eyes bore into hers.
I cut in, “Daisy, let’s go.”
“Wait,” she says, raising her hand to show off the two necklaces. “Which one do you think Lily would like?” And now I feel like an ass. She just wanted to buy her sister jewelry.
Lily doesn’t wear necklaces often, and the fact that I know this over Daisy makes me feel kind of good. But an uneasiness spins my stomach—because it means that our isolation has strained her relationship with her sisters. And I have to remind myself that this trip is about rebuilding everything we’ve ignored.
I think Lil would like anything that came from Daisy. I inspect both necklaces, one with a black rope and the other with a chain.
Daisy brushes her finger along the rope necklace. “This pendant has a guy sticking out his tongue. I thought she’d get a kick out of it.”
“Definitely,” I say.
Daisy spins back to Ernesto and hands him the chain necklace. “Just this one.” She holds up the rope necklace to buy. “How much?”
“Two-hundred-and-sixty,” he says with a thick accent.
She gapes. “What?”
“Pesos. Pesos. Pesos,” he says quickly, afraid of losing a sale. “Twenty dollars. Two-sixty pesos.”
“Ohhh.” Daisy’s eyes light up. She laughs like she didn’t know any better, but she spent all morning helping Lily understand the peso-dollar conversion before she went shopping. Daisy said that she became an expert at currency calculations in Europe during shoots and Fashion Week.
“Daisy,” I warn. And here I thought Ryke was going to cause trouble.
Ryke cocks his head at me, brows raised like I told you. Yeah, he told me she jumped off a cliff, I didn’t think that equated to conning a local on the beach.
Daisy waves me off. “One minute, sweetie.”
Ryke stiffens and I just frown. What the hell is going on?
“I only have…” She pulls out a wad of cash from her bikini top like it’s nothing, like Ernesto’s eyes haven’t just zoned in on her br**sts. She counts the bills one by one, really f**king slowly. “…Two-hundred pesos.” Her big green eyes rise innocently to Ernesto, but he’s still looking at her tits.
I step forward, irritated beyond belief. “Hey.” I snap my fingers at him. “Two-hundred pesos?”
Ernesto finally looks to me and begins to shake his head.
“Oh no,” Daisy says quickly. She wraps her arm around my waist and presses her head against my chest. I immobilize. “We’re on our honeymoon, you see, and I promised my sister I’d bring her back something. She’d just love this. I know it. Could you make an exception just this once, please?”
My eyes widen at Ryke, but he’s just glaring, and when I mean glaring, I mean he has the whole Frankenstein’s monster routine down. Hard set jaw, clenched fists, taut shoulders, and tight lips. He looks about ready for a fight. But I’m not sure who he wants to pummel.
“No. Two-sixty,” Ernesto repeats.
Daisy’s shoulders slacken and she turns to me, her hands on my chest. “Do you have any pesos on you, sweetie?”
“No, so maybe we should cut our losses, dear.”
“Give me your money,” Ryke says, holding out his hand to her.
Her face lights up and she thankfully steps away and returns to Ryke, out of earshot of the locals. I follow close behind. “Are you going to haggle in Spanish?” she asks him, sliding the bills into his palm.
“Sure,” he says. “First give me the rest of your cash.”
“It’s all in your hand.”
“It’s in your boobs.”
I scowl, not wanting him to say anything about her boobs. Ever. She’s Daisy Calloway.
Daisy looks down at her br**sts with a frown, and I turn my grimace to the sky. I’m blaming this situation on you, God. For allowing little sisters to have br**sts.
“I don’t see anything in there.”
“I would check myself, but I’m here with a girl,” Ryke says dryly.
Okay. No. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s speaking my f**king mind. “There are actually a million other f**king reasons you shouldn’t,” I say coldly, my blood turning to ice.
Daisy just ignores me and says, “Melissa left three minutes ago when you refused to go to her side. What’s your excuse now?”
She challenges him.
And he’s the type of guy willing to take it.
I stand between them before Ryke can answer her. I raise my eyebrows at Ryke in disbelief. I seriously thought I was dreaming what happened at the pool. It wasn’t f**king anything, I told myself. He was being nice, prodding her to eat a taco, even though he should have passed it to her rather than let her bite it from his hand. He shouldn’t have rubbed sauce off her chin. He shouldn’t have joked with her about f**king Melissa. There are so many things he should not do. But I let myself believe that he’s just an idiot. He doesn’t understand boundaries. That is Ryke’s biggest problem.
But now, how do I explain this.
“What?” Ryke growls in defense at me. “I’m trying to get us out of this f**king situation.” He locks eyes with Daisy again and steps forward to try to reach her. I put my hand on his chest to stop him, and then I quickly turn to Daisy.
“Give me the rest of your money.”
“Now.” I can’t even hear my own voice or how mean it sounds. All I hear is my half-brother offering to feel up my girlfriend’s little sister. I don’t even f**king care if it was a joke or sarcasm or f**king anything. I think I’m going to kill him later.
Daisy’s smile instantly vanishes and she reaches into her bikini top again. I look at the sand, the sky, anywhere but her br**sts until she places the money in my hand. I grab the rest of her cash from Ryke and start counting out two-hundred-and-sixty pesos.
“I was just trying to have fun,” she says softly, her voice layered with guilt. “I’m sorry.”
She’s apologized, and I know I should drop it. But I’m fuming. “There are other ways to have fun.” I hand Ernesto the money. Both guys nod in thanks and they walk off towards the resort near the string of straw huts and white cabanas. I look back to Daisy, and my nerves haven’t settled yet. “You’re the f**king daughter of a multi-billion dollar mogul. Bartering with a man that makes a thousand times less than you is the equivalent of stealing.”
Her eyes go big and round and a little glassy, and it hurts to know that I’m causing her distress. The pain in my chest only intensifies because I can’t stop speaking. I don’t know how. “Next time rent a f**king jet ski.”
“I just wanted to do something normal.”
“You’re not normal. None of us are.”
“Lo,” Ryke says, his tone warning. But his voice sends razorblades down my back.
“Don’t you even f**king speak to me,” I snap. I hate him right now. I hate me, most of all. I hate that I just bitched out Daisy, who didn’t really do anything wrong. At least, nothing that warranted my harsh words. The remorse tastes like acid, and I usually drown it with whiskey.