I was in the kitchen with Mom, putting the final touches on the cold dishes. Dad and my sister-in-law, Carmen, were already grilling and deep-frying seafood. Mandy appeared in the kitchen, wearing a sundress with a daring v-neck. Mom, knowing that when a child hits 27 that they were probably too old to send back to their room to change clothes, just rolled her eyes.
“The artist,” she whispered conspiratorially to me. “has all of the women in town pretending that summer has never left. Even your sister.”
“Maybe I should go and change,” I said.
“He’s not your type,” Mom said. “Definitely a bad boy. Tattoos and rides a motorcycle.”
Not my type, eh? I wonder what she’d think of Damien.
My brother, Joe, was lighting the tiki torches around the eating area as I started bringing out the salads. He grinned at me and took a long draught of beer.
“You need to leave more often if we get to have a party when you get back.”
“I’ll make a note of that.”
A tiki bar was set up on the far side of the deck. My other brother, Tommy, would be playing bartender to the extent that he knew how to make rum punches and mai tais.
I walked out onto the beach and savored the soft wind blowing. They said that there was a hurricane down south and that by next week it could be here. I hoped not. Being here, home, the ocean, was like being spiritually cleansed. I felt fresh, new.
I heard the low rumble of his voice before I saw him.
“Damien! You came!” Mandy yelled as she threw herself at him.
I turned and watched as she hugged my Damien. Oh, yes, those three letters, WTF, fully enforced words in my head, sprang to my lips.
“You’re the artist?” I asked as I swung around on him. Vaguely I remembered that he’d smelled like turpentine that last time I saw him.
His eyes widened as he laughed. “You’ve finally shown up, Red,” he said.
“You are the craziest stalker that’s ever existed.”
“I doubt that. There are far crazier stalkers than me.”
Mandy frowned. “You two know each other?”
“Very well,” Damien said.
“Not that well.”
“We could know each other better.”
“You were here and you couldn’t just stop in? You knew this was my family.”
He at least looked a little shame-faced. “I wanted to surprise you.”
“Oh, yeah. I’m surprised. I was waiting to hear from you.”
“I explained about my phone.”
“You were less than a mile away from me.”
He grabbed my hand and pulled me close. “I didn’t want to ruin the surprise.”
“I was worried about you,” I said, looking into his cognac-colored eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ll know better next time.”
“There won’t be a next time.”
He kissed me then. I heard the gasps of Mandy and Missy and maybe even my mother. Maybe bad boys were for me after all.