He stiffens. “Hot date?”
“Something like that,” Ayers says. She doesn’t elaborate; she wants him to be jealous. “But we can still do beach. I’ll meet you around ten, we’ll get sandwiches. I know a place out in Coral Bay that’s always deserted. I swim naked.”
“Yes!” Baker says. “I’m in!” He stands up, offers her a hand, pulls her in close and kisses the tip of her nose. “I don’t want you to think I meant anything by stopping. I just want this to be memorable. I want it to be perfect. You deserve that.”
He’s saying all the right things. But he’s a tourist. A tourist! He lives in… she tries to remember. He has a child somewhere and a wife who left him.
“How much longer do you have here?” Ayers asks. “When are you leaving?”
Baker pauses. “I’m not sure.”
“You’re not sure?” Ayers says. She suddenly gets the feeling he’s hiding something, and she realizes that she felt that way while talking to Cash as well. As if not everything added up. They’re here for a family reunion, the father is dead, but the mother has a date tonight. They don’t know the address of where they’re staying and Baker seemed pretty dead set against Ayers driving him home that morning. He was lost, he said. “Well, you rented a villa, right? How long is the rental?”
“It’s not a rental,” Baker says. “The villa belongs to my father.”
He and Ayers have made their way back up to the road. At the Beach Bar, a band is playing a Sublime cover. “But isn’t your father dead?” Ayers asks.
Baker stops in the street. “Did Cash tell you that?”
“Yes?” Ayers says. “He said your mother has a date tonight and I asked if your parents were divorced and he said no, your father was dead.”
“Did he say anything else?”
“Anything else like what?” Ayers says. It’s now more than a feeling; it’s a certainty. Something is going on with these two guys that they’re not telling her.
“Well, first of all, my mother does not have a date,” Baker says. He takes Ayers’s hand and they head back in the direction of La Tapa. “But we do, tomorrow at ten. Right?”
Ayers takes a deep breath of the sweet evening air. The problem, she realizes, is Mick. Mick has made her mistrustful. He cheated on her with Brigid and now Ayers is destined to think everyone is hiding something.
“Right,” she says.
At five minutes to eleven, Cash finishes his beer, leaves a tip for Skip, and stumbles out to the front of the restaurant. He has called Baker three times but gotten no answer, which is really making Cash’s blood boil, because while Baker is out putting the moves on Ayers—on Ayers, the first woman Cash has been attracted to in years—Cash has no way to get home.
What is he supposed to do? He has twenty-six dollars left to his name; all the rest of the cash from his now-defunct stores is gone. To live another day, he’s going to have to ask his mother or brother for money. He can maybe pass off his flat-broke state as a logistical situation, claiming his bank card doesn’t work down here, but there are enough cover-ups and lies in this family as it is. He needs to come clean: the stores are gone.
It seems like a minor problem. He tried to be someone he wasn’t, he failed, and now he will go back to being the person he is. A ski instructor. For some reason, the idea doesn’t hold as much appeal as it did before all this happened.
He tries Baker again: voicemail. He feels himself about to snap. But then he hears his brother’s voice and see Baker waving an arm.
“Back in five!” Baker says. He’s with Ayers; they’re holding hands. They walk down the street to a green pickup and then Cash is treated to the sight of them kissing, really kissing. Cash feels sick.
“He’s married!” Cash calls out. But they don’t hear him.
On the way home, Baker is giddy. He sounds like a teenage girl. He kissed Ayers on the beach, he could have done more, way more, but he stopped her. He stopped her. She was totally into it, eager, ready, but with a woman like Ayers, a quick hookup on the beach isn’t good enough. She deserves a bed. A suite at Caneel Bay. He’s going to look into it.
“Look into a suite at Caneel?” Cash says. The words leave his mouth just as they happen to drive past the grand landscaped entrance of the Caneel Bay Resort. None of the resort is visible beyond the gatehouse, but Cash imagines it’s pretty opulent. Like his father’s house, only sexier. “You’re married.”
“I told you, Anna and I separated,” Baker says. “She came home on New Year’s Day, I kid you not, like five minutes before Mom called with the news, and she said she was leaving me. She said she was in love with someone else.”
“Really?” Cash says. He has never thought of Dr. Anna Schaffer as someone who would be “in love” with anyone, Baker included. She had appeared decidedly unenthusiastic at the wedding, but Cash understood that Anna was in thrall to her work. People took a distant second. Irene had long intoned her concern that Anna didn’t even have warm feelings for Floyd. Her own child. “Who is she in love with?”
“Dr. Louisa Rodriguez,” Baker says. “Another cardiothoracic surgeon. Friend and colleague.”
“Luis?” Cash says. He’s confused. “Or Louisa?”
“Louisa,” Baker says. “Woman.”
“Really?” Cash says. “Anna’s a lesbian? I guess I can see that.”
“I’m not sure we need to label her,” Baker says. “It might just be that she has feelings for Louisa in particular.”
“Fair enough,” Cash says. At that moment, his phone starts ringing and he thinks it must be his mother, calling to say the coast is clear and they are free to come home—because who else could it be? When he checks the display, he shakes his head. Anna, it says. Wait. He looks at Baker, then back down at his phone. It’s almost as if she heard them talking about her.
“Hello?” Cash says.
“Cash,” she says. “Hey, it’s Anna. Anna Schaffer. Baker’s wife.”
“Hi,” Cash says. It speaks volumes that she has to explain who she is. Still, he tries to keep his voice neutral. “How are you?”
“Do you know where Baker is?” she asks. “I’ve been calling him all night but he won’t answer.”
Cash nearly says, Yeah, Baker is right here—but something stops him. “Is everything okay?” he asks.
“Everything’s fine,” Anna says. “Would you please let Baker know that Floyd and I are flying down there tomorrow? We land at one fifteen and should be on the two o’clock ferry out of Red Hook that will get us to St. John by three.”
To St. John tomorrow by three.
“Okay,” Cash says. He can’t believe this. Didn’t Baker say he had a date with Ayers tomorrow?
“You really need to remember to tell him,” Anna says. “Baker has no idea we’re coming. It was basically impossible for me to clear it with work until the very last minute.”
“Will do,” Cash says.
“I can count on you?” Anna says.
“Absolutely,” Cash says.
“Okay,” Anna says, and she sounds happier, maybe even a little excited. “See you tomorrow!”
Cash hangs up the phone. He can’t believe this is happening. He can’t believe it.
“Who was that?” Baker asks.
“That?” Cash says. “No one.”
This is right up there with the craziest things Huck has ever done. A dozen times on the way over, he thought, For the love of Bob, turn around, go home to your book and your beer. Getting mixed up with this woman, the wife, is going to be nothing but trouble. Rosie is dead and nothing will bring her back. The voice in Huck’s head was one of reason, loud and clear, and yet still he drove to the north shore and found the utility pole with the two yellow stripes. Still he ascended the steep, winding road—there were no other homes, only dummy driveways that led to nowhere, until you reached the gate at the top, which had been left open. Huck wondered if this bastard had enough money to buy up the entire hill, just to make certain he had no neighbors.
Still he knocked on the door.
Irene looks pretty. It’s not a thought he should be having about Russell Steele’s widow, but there it is, plain and simple. Huck is a man, built like other men, and so he appreciates Irene’s chestnut hair hanging loose and damp down her back, and the black sundress that shows off her arms, her neck, and her pretty feet.
She’s nervous, he can tell—her hands are shaking as she accepts the rum. Huck thinks, Better do a shot right away. Why did God provide humans with alcohol if not for situations like this?
They make casual chitchat while Huck prepares the mahi. Irene pours white wine, it’s her favorite, from Napa, she says, and Huck makes a sound of general appreciation, as if he cares where the wine is from. Irene has set out cheese and crackers but she doesn’t touch them, and Huck holds back to be polite. Or maybe it’s rude not to eat? He can’t tell; he should have reviewed his Emily Post before coming up here. Huck asks Irene if she has a job. She says yes, she’s the editor of something called Heartland Home & Style. It’s a glossy magazine, she says, with a hundred seventy-five thousand subscribers and a quarter-million in advertising each month.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com