“It looks so much better,” I inform her. “They say it’ll be done on Wednesday.”
And then I’ll have to leave him.
“Wow.” I’m suddenly wrapped in one of Jill’s superstrength hugs and I feel the air leave me in a whoosh.
“Can’t breathe,” I squeak.
“I’m so happy that you’re safe.” She loosens her grasp and rests her forehead on my cheek. “What would I do without you? What if you’d been seriously hurt?”
“I’m fine, Jill.”
“I wanna kick that tree’s ass.”
“We really need to discuss these violent tendencies of yours. I don’t remember you being this hostile.”
“I must be PMSing.” She smirks as we walk away from my house and toward Ty’s. It’s the Fourth of July, so most of the town is closed to observe the holiday, and we’re hoping to catch Ty at home.
Jill bounces up the stairs of his porch ahead of me and knocks on the door.
“You could just go in.”
“Nah, it’s better this way.” She winks at me and waits patiently for Ty to answer his door. After thirty seconds she knocks again.
“I’m coming!” Ty yells, and swings the door open with a scowl. At the sight of his sister, his face transforms into a big, wide smile and he scoops her off her feet into a big bear hug, turning her in a circle. “Oh my God, Jillybean! When did you get here?”
“Last night.” She laughs. “I wanted to surprise you.”
“Best surprise ever.” He smiles at her widely. “How long are you here for?”
“I go back Tuesday morning.”
“Quick trip.” He tugs on her braid.
“I’m here for the holiday.”
“So we’ll all be at the party at the lake?” he asks as we sit on his porch, Jill and I in the porch swing, and Ty on the railing, leaning his back against the pillar in the corner.
“When do you get your house back?” Ty asks me, and crosses his arms over his chest. He’s in a T-shirt again today, a Van Halen one this time, with ripped jeans. The muscles under his sleeve tattoo bulge with the movement and I can’t help but watch.
Any red-blooded American woman would take notice.
“Wednesday,” I respond.
“Good.” He nods and looks over toward my house. “It’s coming along fast.”
“It’s a good crew,” I agree, and cross my legs, enjoying the sway of the swing. Jill leans against me and rests her head on my shoulder.
“What’s new with you, big brother?” she asks.
“Absolutely nothing.” He pushes his hand through his raven hair and turns his eyes to Jill. Their eyes and hair match perfectly. No one would miss that they’re siblings. But where Jill is petite and delicate, Ty is tall and broad. Not quite as tall and broad as the King brothers, but then, few are.
“Nothing at all?” she asks doubtfully.
“Nothing at all.”
“What’s new with you?” He narrows his eyes on her, and I know he sees what I do: pale skin and sad blue eyes.
“Now, I know for a fact that’s a lie.”
“I’m not in a courtroom,” she snaps, her voice hard, and it surprises the hell out of me. “Back off.”
He just tilts his head to the side and watches her for a moment, then nods. “Okay. For now.”
“You’re so pushy.”
He shrugs unapologetically and grins. “Job hazard.”
“No, you’ve always been pushy.”
He nods and grins at her, then turns his gaze to me and I squirm in my seat.
“I’m not in a courtroom either,” I remind him lightly.
“How are things with King?”
“He’s phenomenal in bed and he came to the hotel in the middle of the night just so he could snuggle with her,” Jill smirks, and evades my punch to her leg.
“Shut up,” I say.
“I really don’t need to hear about Josh’s sex skills,” Ty responds dryly, a smile tickling the corners of his lips. Finally, he gives in and lets out a belly laugh.
“Jilly hasn’t gotten lai—” Jill’s hand covers my mouth hard, her eyes wide with panic.
“Mmmph mmph poph,” I mutter against her hand.
“What?” she asks, and drops her hand.
“Don’t fuck with me.”
“Cara’s a badass.” Ty laughs. “If you’re not good, she’ll show you the jail.”
“Yeah,” I agree with a laugh. “I’m a badass.”
“Let’s go get ready for the party, badass.”
I absolutely love the Fourth of July.
Cunningham Falls always does it up big. Most of the townspeople gather by the city beach, which is nothing more than about one hundred yards of sandy beach at the shore of a large lake at the edge of town. The kids swim, and adults bring coolers full of food and blankets to lounge on. Boats float in the lake or zoom around, pulling water-skiers swiftly about the lake.
It’s a day of fun and sun, and even the tourists get into it.
This year is no different. We’ve spent the majority of the afternoon with our friends, enjoying each other’s company, laughing and eating good food.
Josh and I are sitting in the shade, on a blanket, very much like the night at the movies. He’s leaning against a tree, me between his legs, and I’m leaning against his chest.
“Are you comfortable?” he asks into my ear, making shivers dance down my body.
“I am,” I sigh happily, and watch Zack and Jill chat with each other several yards away. She is telling a story about a mansion she sold in Bel Air, gesturing wildly with her arms, her pretty face expressive, and Zack is laughing with her.
Seth is sitting under another tree not too far away, clad only in his swim trunks, listening to his iPod.
“What time do the fireworks start?” I ask.
“At dusk, so around nine thirty, I guess.” I rest my hands on Josh’s bare thighs and grin when he inhales sharply. He never wears shorts, so to see him in his tan cargo shorts and sexy black T-shirt is a treat. His soft hair tickles my fingers as I rub them rhythmically against his muscular thighs. “But if you keep doing that, we’ll put on a fireworks display of our own, for all of our nearest and dearest to see.”