I laugh and look up into his soft chocolate eyes. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“I think I would.” He removes my hands from his legs, kisses them both, then links his fingers through mine and rests them on my belly.
“I like touching you,” I pout.
“You’re killing me,” he whispers. “I haven’t been inside you in almost twenty-four hours,” he growls against my ear.
“Oh, no! Whatever shall we do?”
“Smart-ass,” he mutters, and tilts my chin up to plant a soft, wet kiss on me, and I forget that our friends are standing nearby. His lips glide over mine, once and then again, and then he kisses my cheek and my jawline before pulling away to smile down at me.
“Get a room!” Zack calls out.
“They had one last night,” Jill responds dryly, also watching us closely. “Unfortunately, I was also in that room.”
“Kinky.” Zack grins and nods, earning a punch in the arm from Jill. “Ow! Easy there, killer.”
“The King men are pervs,” Jill complains as everyone laughs.
Ty grabs two beers out of the cooler nearby and hands one to Josh.
Just then, I notice Zack allows his gaze to roam up and down Jill’s body, paying special attention to her hips and her thick, lush dark hair. He takes a pull on his beer and turns away, looking for Seth.
I follow Zack’s gaze and then feel my chest tighten when Seth’s not still sitting at the base of the tree. His iPod is on the blanket, but he isn’t.
“Where did Seth go?” I ask as I begin looking around frantically.
Everyone joins me, looking around the crowd. Zack takes off down to the water to see if Seth’s decided to go for a swim.
“I saw him just a minute ago,” I murmur, and pull my sunglasses down as I stand and begin to roam around the area. “He can’t have gone far.”
“He’s in the water,” Jill confirms, and points to where Zack is standing at the edge of the shore, hands on his hips, glaring at the boy, who is splashing happily in the lake.
I sigh and shake my head. Seth’s swimming isn’t an issue, but he’ll get in trouble for disappearing without letting anyone know.
We’re all watching as Seth glances toward shore and sees his dad at the edge of the water. Zack just raises one hand and makes a “come here” motion with his fingers, and Seth scowls deeply, not moving closer to shore.
“Get your ass over here, now.” Zack’s voice is deceptively calm, but hard as steel. He’s in denim cargo shorts and a gray T-shirt, the cotton pulled tightly over his toned, muscular body, revealing ink on his biceps, and at over six feet tall he’s intimidating.
Much more so than Josh, despite their being identical twins. Something in the way Zack holds himself warns anyone off.
“What?” Seth asks defiantly as he approaches the shore. “I can’t swim?”
He juts his chin out and mirrors his father’s stance, arms crossed, body tense.
When he grows up, he’s going to look exactly like Zack.
“Why does he do that?” Josh murmurs from behind me, and wraps his arms around my middle.
“Because he’s angry,” I answer.
“You can swim just fine,” Zack responds patiently. “But you aren’t allowed to come down to the water without letting one of us know. You know the rules.”
“I’m right where you can see me.”
“I believe the correct answer is ‘Yes, sir.’ ”
“This isn’t the army,” Seth spits out defiantly.
Zack leans in to murmur in Seth’s ear so he’s the only one who can hear. His eyes go wide and he swallows hard, but when his dad backs away to look down at him, he scowls again.
“I don’t care.” Seth drops his arms to his sides and fists his hands. “Why are you such a jerk?”
Zack laughs and props his hands on his hips, shaking his head in exasperation. “I’m not a jerk, I’m a parent.”
“Same thing,” Seth mutters.
“I’m gonna beat him up,” Josh whispers, and I chuckle.
“No, you’re not. Look, he’s softening.” I gesture with a tilt of my chin, and sure enough, Seth gives his dad a half smile. Zack ruffles Seth’s hair but drops his hand when Seth backs out of his reach.
“Can I swim some more?”
“No, it’s getting dark. The fireworks are about to start.”
Just as the words leave his lips, someone lets off a firework on the street, sending a screeching wail through the air followed by a loud boom.
Zack springs into action. He grips Seth by the shoulders and throws him to the sand, covering him with his big, strong body. His arms cover both their heads, and Seth’s legs are tucked neatly between Zack’s.
“Fuck!” Josh runs down to his brother, Ty close behind him, and squats next to Zack, carefully laying his hand on Zack’s shoulder.
“Z, you’re okay. It was just some fireworks.”
Zack won’t budge. He’s holding on to Seth with all his might, every muscle in his body taut with fear and adrenaline.
“Z,” Josh tries again. “Come on, man. You’re safe. You’re home.”
Zack slowly raises his head and looks up at his brother, then down at the frightened boy in his arms.
“Damn it,” Zack mutters, and slowly lifts himself off Seth. “I’m sorry, Son.”
“It’s okay.” Seth’s voice is small and shaky.
“I’m sorry,” Zack repeats, sitting back on his heels as he helps Seth up.
“I’m okay,” Seth says, but looks down at his dad with wide, sad eyes. “It’s okay, Dad.”
Josh and Ty step back, and we all watch in wonder as Seth starts to cry and falls into his dad’s arms, burying his face in Zack’s neck and holding on tightly.
“I believed her,” Seth cries.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Zack murmurs, and holds Seth firmly against him.
“I believed her,” Seth repeats, and I feel my own tears on my cheeks as Jill joins me and links her hand with mine.
“Seth,” Zack begins, but Seth pulls back to look him in the eye and shakes his head, cutting him off.
“No, I believed her when she said you weren’t doing anything over there, that you just stayed there because you didn’t care about us.” Seth’s crying in earnest, his small hands braced on his dad’s shoulders, and neither of them cares about the audience they have right here on the city beach.