Savage Love, page 6
Putting a good measure of physical distance between him and her, Patrick admitted, “I'm sure Dylan's presence will overshadow my absence. But to ensure forgiveness I'll arrange driving lessons for the boys during your vacation.”
Dylan gave Carolina a questioning look, “You're taking the twins on a trip?” He'd hoped they'd start spending time together as a family right away.
“I'd like for us all to go. The boys can get to know one another better and you and I will have time to figure out what's between us.” Carolina thought her explanation was a reasonable modification of the truth.
Remembering the fierceness of her inner struggle the previous day, Dylan didn't completely believe her. “It's a great idea but I can't get away and I need to take Justin back with me this morning,” Dylan announced regretfully, making a mental note to talk with her later about her change of heart.
“But I promised him the whole weekend.” She'd wanted time to convince Justin that telling his father about what he'd suffered was the best thing to do. In addition, she needed time to monitor his initial recovery as the doctor had instructed.
“Sorry Carolina. You and the twins can come and stay with us though. There are tons of things to keep y'all busy. That is if you won't mind my brothers being around?”
She'd been willing to spend time with him, Justin and the twins, but she wasn't keen on the idea of more people. “No, I-”
Giving Carolina a cautioning look Patrick interrupted, “She'd love to. The twins will be floored when they meet your brothers.” Patrick focused his unblinking gaze on the other man saying, “I told her who you and your family are.”
Dylan was unmoved by the other man's accusatory stare and turned to address his words to Carolina, “I was going to tell you. The right time just never came around.”
Well how could it? She hadn't wanted to talk to him. Acceptingly she said, “Everyone has secrets.” She'd bet hers could totally outnumber and outweigh his.
“In my experience keeping secrets causes problems in relationships,” Patrick warned, giving Dylan a cold, hard look of inquiry. “What do you think Dylan? Would you be able to forgive someone for keeping serious issues from you?”
“It depends,” Dylan replied cautiously.
Carolina knew what Patrick was trying to do and she didn't like his arrogance. “Patrick Donovan, don't you have somewhere to go?”
“I'll soon be on my way.” Disregarding her threatening tone, he gave Dylan his full attention and broached a serious topic, “What has she told you about us?”
Even if Dylan had been blind, he would have seen there was something strong and binding between Carolina and Patrick, but he respected her, would wait for her to tell him whatever she wanted him to know. “Nothing,” he stated coolly.
Patrick's tone was open, “Here's your chance. What are you curious about?”
“If she has anything to tell me she will.” Dylan had sized up Patrick, discerning that despite the man's slight build and appearance of youth, he was someone to be very worried about. He didn't need the other man to reveal more.
Patrick gave a slight nod. “That's foolish but fair. One more thing Dylan. Last night I brought gifts for everyone and-”
“Patrick!” Carolina turned his name into a caution and a threat.
Again, he ignored her. “Since you weren't here I held on to this so I could give your surprise to you personally.” Pulling a folded paper from his back pocket, he passed the eldritch sheet of white to Dylan.
Accepting the quarter-folded unique vellum Dylan said politely, “Thank you.”
“You're welcome. Please, open your gift,” Patrick instructed evenly, watching Carolina's wary eyes studying him.
Dylan gave the paper a suspicious look, then opened and read the contents. Muttering to himself, he reread the document before curiously contemplating Patrick. He then graciously offered, “I'm forever in your debt. How did you get this?”
Casually as if telling someone the time of day, Patrick replied, “I know people.”
Dylan waved the paper in the air, “Heck, I know people and I still hadn't gotten it.”
Patrick gave a lazy shrug, “The change becomes effective this Sunday. All the lawyers will have the official documents Monday. That paper just keeps Liz from picking Justin up this weekend. Your ex-wife will be notified later today.”
Carolina leaned closer to Dylan trying to read the document, “What is it?”
Dylan looked at her with undisguised surprise, “Sole custody of Justin.”
Not caring that Dylan was there, or that she was as bare as a Canadian Sphynx, Carolina squealed girlishly and jumped from the bed to rush into Patrick's arms. “Ye are my wonderful prince Patrick Donovan.”
Dylan studied the pair, paying close attention to their deep connection that he'd probably never be privy to and felt claws of jealousy tearing at his insides. He eyeballed Patrick, watching as he pulled away from Carolina to plant a tender kiss on her forehead, looked daggers at them as his eyes followed the trail of the other man's fingers down the center of her naked chest to the flat plane of her stomach where he halted momentarily before slowly retracing the path on her pale skin until they encountered, then lifted, the simple but priceless looking gold medallion she wore. Patrick, while gazing into her eyes, placed the emblem to his lips before letting it fall back between her breasts. He left then without a word and Dylan knew two certainties about Patrick. First, he'd intervened in the custody dispute only because of Carolina. Second, and most significantly, he was much more to her than a best friend.
At breakfast, the twins were overjoyed to see Dylan, seemingly untroubled at missing Patrick and when they learned they were going to meet the rest of 'The Savages', Callum and Calder were figuratively bouncing off the walls. Justin wasn't pleased to see him though, and his questions about the boy's bruised face made his son clam-up. Dylan interpreted Justin's behavior as disappointment over not being able to stay with Carolina. He noted how the child rarely strayed from her side, helping her without being asked. What was also apparent was the marked change in the way Carolina treated Justin. Before she'd been caring but reserved. Now she was openly affectionate, often hugging his son as if needing reassurance he was there. When they'd decided to drive separately to his home Justin insisted on helping Carolina load her SUV with luggage, bags, boxes and the yellow planter of flowers he'd presented to her weeks earlier, calling dibs for her front passenger seat, leaving the twins to team up with him for the ride in his truck.
Dylan wondered at the changes in Carolina, not that he wasn't pleased that personal matters seemed to be going his way for once in a very long while, but he sensed without Justin, she wouldn't want him around. That she'd welcomed him into her bed that morning wasn't enough. What he wanted from her were deeper emotions that would make her look at him the way she looked at Patrick, as if he was her entire world and she'd be lost without him. For the remainder of the drive his mind was a hornet's nest swarming with images of Carolina in Patrick's arms.
When they arrived at his home, Dylan was surprised to discover not only his brothers there but their wives and kids as well. He doubted much work would get accomplished from the boisterous noises coming from the main house and pool areas. Ushering Carolina and the boys into the party atmosphere with laughing kids and blaring R & B music, Dylan gave her a look of apology, “My brothers didn't tell me the whole clan was coming.” He caught one of his littlest nephews as he went running by, giving the preschooler a bear hug before setting him back on his course.
Seeing Dylan with the mocha-skinned child clinging to his broad shoulders, Carolina wondered how he'd looked holding Justin as an infant. She would love to see pictures of them together, of his entire family. Being in his home was better than a vacation. Standing at his side with the bustle of happy people all around them was a taste of life she'd had before and the sense of family made her heart beat faster. He'd unknowingly brought her
He patted her hand reassuringly, “Three, all married, and each has six kids.”
Carolina felt such a tremendous sense of his mother and father in the house that she didn't hesitate to ask, “Will you introduce me to your parents?”
“Honey, they died before Justin was born,” he offered in a misery-tinged voice.
She heard his words, felt his loss, but, she sensed his parents were near, felt if she reached out they would take her hand and would’ve told him so if she didn‘t think he’d call the white-coat squad to have her hauled off for a seventy-two hour hold. Placing a comforting hand on his forearm she willed him to take in the nearness of his parents and their abiding devotion while empathetically saying, “I'm deeply saddened they're no longer with us. Someday please tell me about them.”
The sincerity in her voice underscored his adoration of Carolina and he couldn't stop staring at her. “After the extended family is gone we'll sit with the boys and I'll tell y'all about life with my Ma and Pa.”
Feeling uncomfortable in the light of his intense gaze she asked the first question that popped into her mind, “Where is everyone going to sleep?”
“The twins can bunk with Justin if they want but there's enough space for them to have their own rooms. This house has twelve bedrooms and there are two guest dwellings with six bedrooms each.” He was just finishing his statement when the twins and Justin dashed off after a couple of older boys armed with laser tag guns. Seizing the opportunity to stop her worrying Dylan navigated Carolina through the house and out to the patio, making introductions as they went, all the time checking her reactions to the mayhem and to her credit she appeared to be enjoying the amplified merriment.
With her hand in his, they walked to the far end of the pool area where the only couple she hadn't met was relaxing. His ginormous brother and his lovely wife, a hazel-eyed, African-American goddess, were relaxing on chaise loungers while four of their six kids splashed in the water a distance away. “Hey, I want y'all to meet Carolina.” Feeling her hesitation Dylan drew her closer to the reclining couple. “Carolina, this is my eldest brother Chris and his wife Vega.”
From her reposed position, Vega smiled warmly, “It's nice to meet ya Carolina.”
“You too,” Carolina replied completely in awe of the woman with her flowing auburn hair and delicate features. Vega was clad in a scant red sweetheart bikini top that was filled to bursting, matched with a ruched bikini bottom that emphasized her feminine charms. Carolina felt positive Vega impressed everyone she encountered. Her body was long and graceful with a pinched waist that looked to measure sixteen inches around. Carolina couldn't believe the feminine mold of perfection was the mother of six children. She felt like a frump in comparison, her pear-shape covered by a belted black silk sweater atop a salt-and-pepper tweed skirt.
Chris addressed his brother, “You know Dylan when you're expecting family you shouldn't go off to lay up with some aging piece of tail.”
Dylan groaned inwardly. “She's not a piece of tail. I had to pick up Justin from her house. Next time don't wait 'til the plane is landing to say you're comin'. No offense Vega, cause you and the kids are always welcome,” he finished hospitably.
Picking up on his cordial lead, Carolina extended her hand to Chris, an imposing presence of golden hair and skin. Taller and broader than all the other Savage men, he sat relaxedly next to his wife, covered only by a pair of deep sapphire-blue swim trunks. From Dylan's tone and expression, Carolina gathered Chris was extremely important to him and in turn she stated politely, “I'm honored, Mr. Savage.”
Christopher ignored the outstretched hand, considering her with the interest he would give a gnat. Snubbing her, he asked his brother, “Is she Justin's tutor?”
“No she's...” Well exactly what was she, Dylan thought, looking from Chris to Carolina. He stood staring at her, knowing the title he longed to bestow upon her, but he didn't want his sweet filly to get spooked, buck him off and gallop wildly for the hills. Therefore, he held his tongue and let his eyes reveal the many roles he saw her filling in his life.
Feeling strongly rebuffed by the elder Savage, but somewhat cheered by the reverent gaze Dylan was giving her, Carolina didn't allow her sorrow to show at not being immediately welcomed. She simply lowered her hand back to her side and offered in a smooth voice, “I'm Dylan's fiancee.”
Chris gave her a calculating stare, “You don't look like his type. My baby brother tends to like hot, rough action between the sheets gal. I don't see him satisfied by a frigid, straight-laced little thing like you.”
His wife playfully smacked his muscular thigh. “Chris, leave her alone.”
Dylan, shocked by Carolina's false claim, declared, “Sometimes you're a real pain Chris. Are you tryin' to scare her off?”
Tossing strands of wavy, chest-length, gilded hair over his sinewy shoulder Chris gave Dylan a penetrating look and replied, “Yep, I am. I failed at putting serious fear in Liz and we all endured untold misery with her in your life. The only decent thing she ever did was birth Justin and I still don't believe she's his mother. If he weren't your absolute miniature, I'd swear she abducted him and has been passing the boy off as your child. But Dylan, it's more like you had him yourself. There's not one drop of Liz in my godson. She never looked pregnant either, one day she was as flat as a sheet of paper and the next you called to say she'd delivered. Then you gave her five million dollars for birthing your son, which I still believe she demanded because you forced her to clean up her act for a few months. But whatever the case, what the devil kind of lunacy makes a man pay a woman for fulfilling her wifely duties?”
“She's a real piece of work,” the sneered statement was out of Carolina's mouth before she could stop herself, causing everyone to stare at her in surprise.
Vega, rubbing her husband's bulging bicep, asked sweetly, “So you've met her?”
“We had a bit of a run in the other day,” Carolina cautiously admitted, wanting Vega to think only the very best of her.
Dylan wasn't sure if Carolina was embellishing for the sake of his brother or not but felt compelled to express his worry, “Why didn't you tell me?”
Christopher's booming voice didn't give her a chance to answer, “What the hell is 'a bit of a run in'? I like plain speakin' gal. Do so around me or don't talk at all.”
Carolina didn't like that he kept poking at her. She was getting irritated and her voice didn't hide her annoyance, “Okay I'll cut through the polite bull. Liz threw wine in my face after accusing me of sleeping with her husband, which all took place in front of my clients during lunch. She and her pathetic ‘Nip Tuck’ posse stupidly followed me to the restroom where I shoved her skinny butt up against a wall and brained her two friends. I told her he was her ex and as soon as I could I'd engage Dylan in a shag-a-thon.”
Christopher gave a low whistle, “If you're telling the truth you've got grit. Liz is treacherous. If you two really are engaged why didn't you tell her you're marrying him?”
Feeling Carolina bristle at his brother's voiced skepticism, Dylan took her arm and started steering her away, “So I guess rehearsal is off for this weekend?”
Carolina gently extricated herself from his hold, saying sweetly, “I'm not finished talking to your brother.” Walking to stand looking down on Chris she asserted, “I didn't tell Liz because it's Dylan's responsibility to break the news to her. We've kept our relationship secret for nearly a year, even from the boys, because we wanted to be certain.”
Chris scowled at her. “He's my favorite brother and I've never heard a peep about you. Up until a few weeks ago he was considering getting back with Cruella or weren't you aware of that?”
Her voice was steady, “We talked extensively about Liz and the importance of family. Dylan wasn't raised to ever be divorced, none of you Savage men were.”
“Gal that's easy enough to
Carolina felt as if she'd fallen into a pile of brambles and she came up fighting mad. “I'm not one of your fans and you don't have to like me. Nevertheless, you need to accept I'm marrying Dylan. Now concerning my sexual experience, I have not had a single complaint. That's why we're late. I'm on a strict diet of three orgasmic feasts a day and as many quickie snacks as I like. Dylan was aroused to jump-start my daily requirement. Isn't that right treacle bear?” She smiled enticingly at Dylan, hoping he would play along.
From the flushed look on Chris' face Dylan felt sure his brother was having a stroke. “We already took care of the essentials, now we just need to grab a bite here-and-there,” he answered her, watching as his brother's face grew redder.
“Well I guess we better go find a place where we can safely nibble away 'cause I get down right cranky when I'm hungry.” Carolina leaned over Christopher and peered deep into his aquamarine-blue eyes, “Go ahead and try to run me off. But you better come at me with everything you've got cause I don't scare easily.” Carolina walked over to Vega, taking the woman's fine-boned hand in her own, she brought the back of it to her lips before saying, “I look forward to being a part of your family.”