“Ayers is talking now, Baker,” Cash says. “Respect.”
“Thank you,” Ayers says. She bows her head and smells Mick’s scent on her clothes. When she’d gotten off the phone with Cash the afternoon before—You really shouldn’t be interested in either of us—she had flipped out. She had been blindsided. But once that piece clicked, everything else made sense.
Baker and Cash came to Rosie’s memorial lunch on purpose—because they wanted to gather intel on the woman their father was keeping on the side.
Even saying that phrase in her head fills Ayers with fury. Rosie was nothing more to Russell Steele than a side piece, a baby mama, an island wife. What can she think but that Russell Steele is a despicable human being? And yet she has to be careful, because he is Maia’s biological father. The Invisible Man is also the Pirate, which is sort of like finding out that Santa Claus is the Tooth Fairy.
“You’re both liars,” Ayers says. “Like your father.”
Cash holds up his palms as if to protest his guilt, and Ayers pounces. “Neither of you told me who you were at the memorial reception. You let me believe you were crashing.”
“We were crashing,” Baker says.
“And then I bumped into you on the Reef Bay Trail,” Ayers says to Cash. “Did you follow me there?”
“Follow you?” Cash says. “No, that was a coincidence.”
Ayers narrows her eyes.
“I swear,” Cash says. “I’ve never been here before, I’m an outdoors person, I wanted to get out of the house, see something, take Winnie for a walk. Bumping into you was totally random. How could I possibly have followed you?”
Fair enough, Ayers thinks. Maybe it was just really terrible luck. “But you came on Treasure Island because you wanted to ask me questions about Rosie. Admit it.”
“I came on Treasure Island because I wanted to see you,” Cash says. “Because I thought you were pretty—scratch that, I thought you were beautiful, and I thought you were cool. And you invited me.”
“Sheesh,” Baker says.
“And you!” Ayers says. “You were so much worse.”
“I admit, we went to the reception to do some detective work,” Baker says. “But when I saw you, Ayers… I could barely remember my own name. It was love at first sight.”
“You used me,” Ayers says. The sun is directly in her eyes so she squints, which suits her mood. “You say you like me, you say you love me, but both of you lied to me about who you were or weren’t. And the thing was… I knew something wasn’t right. I knew it.” She drops her voice. “I never met your father, but he spent years lying to my best friend. All I can think is not only did he have no scruples, he had no soul.”
“Whoa,” Baker says.
“She’s right,” Cash says. “I offer no excuses for my father. None.”
Ayers wants to land one more punch. “The two of you are just like him. You’re sneaky.”
“I called you and told you the truth,” Cash says.
“You did not,” Baker says. “I did.”
“You did?” Cash says. “I did, too.”
“Too little, way too late,” Ayers says. She never wants to see either of them again, and this really hurts because she liked them both. She’s also worried that she’ll never be rid of them now because they’re Maia’s brothers. “It doesn’t matter, anyway. I’m back together with Mick.”
“No,” Baker says.
“Yes,” Ayers says. “I was with him last night.”
She relishes saying this, even though a part of her is ashamed about taking Mick back so readily. She called him, and he was at her house half an hour later with an order of oxtail stew from De’ Coal Pot, plus a side of pineapple rice, plus one perfect red hibiscus blossom, which he stuck in a juice glass. He’d begged her for another chance. He’d made a mistake and it would never happen again.
Ayers had succumbed, even though she knew it would happen again—just as soon as he hired the next girl who looked like Brigid. But unlike these two, Mick was a known quantity. And he lived here.
Tourists, she thinks, are nothing but heartbreak.
The bad news is, he can’t have Ayers.
The good news is, Baker can’t have her, either.
She hates them both.
It’s a knockout punch, but Cash admires Ayers’s principles. He would hate them, too, if he were her.
They leave the pool and head back to the kitchen, where Irene, Huck, and Maia are sitting at the table in silence. It feels like they’ve interrupted something, or maybe they came in on the tail end of a conversation.
Huck stands. “We should probably go.”
“But wait,” Irene says. “The ashes.”
“I’m leaving,” Ayers says. “I’ll walk to the bottom of the hill and call my boyfriend to come pick me up.”
“I’ll drive you home,” Huck says. He looks at Irene. “I’ll run Ayers home and then I’ll come back to pick up Maia. Forty minutes. Will that be enough time to do what you have to do?”
“Plenty,” Irene says.
Cash, Baker, and Maia follow Irene down the eighty steps to the private beach. A few minutes later finds the children of Russell Steele, along with the wife he betrayed for thirteen years, tossing chunks and silt into the Caribbean. No one says anything. No one cries.
Irene saves a handful of ashes in the bag. “I’m taking these home for Russ’s mother.” She smiles at Maia. “Your grandmother. She’s ninety-seven.”
“Really?” Maia says.
“And you look just like her,” Irene says.
Cash has tried not to study Maia’s face too carefully—he doesn’t want to make her uncomfortable or self-conscious—but he agrees with Irene: there is something about Maia that strongly resembles Milly.
He replays Ayers’s words in his head. I never met your father, but he spent years lying to my best friend. All I can think is not only did he have no scruples, he had no soul.
Cash feels that’s too harsh. He wants to think that Russ was more than just what happened down here. Russ had spent years and years providing for their family in a job he disliked, and he had always been an involved, enthusiastic father. When Cash was little, Russ would hold onto his hands, let Cash walk up his legs, and then flip him over in a skin-the-cat. Two years ago, Russ had handed Cash the keys to two prime pieces of Denver real estate. He hadn’t objected to the name Savage Season Outdoor Supply; he had even come to Denver for the ribbon cuttings. He had believed in Cash more than Cash had believed in himself.
And yet there’s no denying that Russ made a terrific mess of things. The money for those stores had come from… where?
Cash is the first one back up the stairs.
He may feel differently at some point, but for now, he’s glad to be rid of the man.
When Huck and Maia are alone with Irene, she says, “I want to talk about money.”
“Maybe you and I should have that talk privately,” Huck says.
Irene ignores this suggestion. “I’m guessing Russ probably gave Rosie support,” she says. “And I just want you to know that I want to continue. Do you go to private school?”
Maia nods. “Gifft Hill.”
“And do you want to go to college?” Irene asks.
“Of course!” Maia says. “My first choice is NYU and my second choice is Stanford. I’m interested in microlending. That’s where you lend a small amount of money to help people get local businesses started. I want to help Caribbean women.”
“Well,” Irene says.
“I’m an entrepreneur,” Maia says. “My friend Joanie and I started a bath bomb business. They’re six dollars apiece, if you’d like to buy one.”
“I’d like to buy several,” Irene says.
“Let’s keep the transactions simple, like that,” Huck says. “I’m perfectly capable of supporting Maia and sending her to college.”
“Of course,” Irene says. “I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“Not offended,” Huck says, though he is, a little. The emotional terrain here is difficult enough without bringing up money, although he understands that Irene is trying to provide reassurance: She isn’t a witch, she isn’t vindictive. Maia will continue to have what she needs.
“I don’t want to impose myself on your life,” Irene says. “But I wanted to meet you, as strange or unconventional as that choice might have been. I want to stay in your life, as little or as much as you want me. Maybe I leave here on Friday and I don’t see you again until you’re on your way to NYU or Stanford. But I want you to know I’m here, and if you ever need anything, I want you to be comfortable asking me. I would be honored if you asked.”
“Thank you,” Maia says.
“You’re leaving Friday?” Huck says.
“I am,” Irene says. “The boys and I will spread most of the ashes today and Maia, I hope you’ll join us, but then I need to get back.”
“What are you going to do about the house?” Huck asks.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com