Unforgettable Summer: Wild Crush, Book 1, page 1
This book is for my friend Annie, with whom I used to swap romance novels many years ago in the real “Leyton’s Headland”. I am eternally grateful to you for dog-earing the “good bits” of those books and thus encouraging me on my journey toward wickedness. Yes, I’m blaming you. Thank you for being my friend then and now.
As though the earth held its breath, all was silent as Tyrone Avery Butler climbed onto the second-floor balcony railing. He took barely a second to find his center of balance, long used to accessing it at a moment’s notice.
A cool evening breeze, tinged with the familiar scent of salted waves, brushed over his face as he carefully moved into a standing position. Beyond the property’s fence line, the darkness of the Pacific Ocean blanketed his view like a shroud of black silk. For a moment he felt he was alone in the world, standing on top of it like a conquering hero, nothing between him and the moon.
The command was like a stone being dropped onto the surface of a calm pond. Ripples of unrest fanned out to the other members of the gathered crowd, until a chant started up. Jump! Jump! Jump!
Easing out a steadying breath, Ty finally let his gaze lower from the vast, black horizon. Below him the swimming pool was lit from beneath by iridescent blue spotlighting.
Not that far down. If he was a little apprehensive, it only added a welcome edge to the adrenaline coursing through him. He’d been dared, after all. And Ty Butler never could resist a dare.
As the crowd continued to chant, their voices pounding the air like an extra heartbeat, Ty raised his hands above him, Olympic diver style.
Then he caught sight of her.
If she hadn’t been standing beneath a porch light, he wouldn’t have known it was her. Ty couldn’t read the expression on her face, but he could see the length of male arm that twined around her waist in a possessive act that made Ty’s foot slip.
After that, his balance was shot. He did his best to correct it as he hurtled through the air, but the distance between him and the pool was too short. Instead of the graceful feet-first entry he’d intended to make, Ty fell into the water with a splat that he felt on his skin like rug burn. He sank all the way to the bottom before surging back to the surface in a jumble of bubbles and churning water.
The sound of laughter mingling with groans of annoyance greeted him. Aaron Sanderson, whose parents owned this house, stepped out of the crowd, his face scrunched tight with mirth. “You did that on purpose, you funny prick. You drenched the lot of ’em!”
Aaron placed a hand on Ty’s head and with a jovial shove pushed him back beneath the surface. Remaining underwater, Ty dolphin kicked to the stairs, easily evading what would undoubtedly be a repeat performance from Aaron, who was well and truly stonkered and not in a condition to know when he was about to piss someone off.
His board shorts and T-shirt clung to his body as he stepped out of the pool. His eyes searching the crowd, Ty ripped the shirt off and wrung it out. Someone threw him a towel and Ty caught it one handed. Partygoers scattered as he moved through the throng with one purpose in mind. To reach the spot where he’d seen her.
When he got there, she was gone.
“Shit, man, you look like you’re about to run someone over,” Aaron said, catching up to him. “These are your mates. What’s up?”
Ty wasn’t so sure that he’d count everyone here tonight as a true mate. He knew a lot of the partygoers, but only a handful of them meant anything to him.
One in particular meant more to him than she should.
Her name echoed in his mind as he searched the yard. He turned and faced Aaron. “Did you invite Summer tonight?”
“You mean Jasmine’s sister?” Aaron laughed. “I dunno. I invited everybody. This is your big farewell. We’re celebrating your success. Seriously, dude.” Aaron put an arm around his shoulders and jostled him. “You should be partying hard. What’ya asking about Summer for?”
“I saw her when I was up on the balcony. She was with someone.” Ty remembered an arm banded around her waist, and his fingers curled into fists. “She shouldn’t be at a thing like this. She’s too young.”
“She’s what? Only one year younger than Jasmine and you?”
True, but it was more than the fourteen months difference between the sisters that separated them. Self-possessed, defiant Jasmine would be perfectly at home holding court amongst a mob of halfway out-of-control teenagers. Quiet, obedient Summer was far out of her depth.
“C’mon, have a drink. This is your party and you’re not even wasted.”
Yes, Aaron had thrown this party for Ty, but it wasn’t like the guy needed an excuse. Besides, Ty had been happy enough tonight to ride the high of his impending introduction to the elite list of surfing’s big names, names like Slater and Occhilupo. The new sponsorship deal he’d secured earlier this week after placing second in an exhibition event on the Gold Coast would soon see him regularly riding waves right beside his heroes. Alcohol couldn’t improve on that feeling.
“I’m going to look for a bit longer, make sure she’s all right.”
“I know you feel responsible for her, but shit, she’s eighteen, isn’t she? It’s not like she…”
The rest of Aaron’s speech was lost to the noise of the crowd and the pumping rap music as Ty left his friend behind to go in search of Summer.
Ten minutes later he found her in the games room, backed up against the pool table by some guy Ty vaguely remembered. He’d been maybe a year behind Ty in school, so probably graduated this past November with Summer. She likely knew the guy. But that didn’t make the fact he was slobbering all over her neck sit any more comfortably with Ty.
“Summer, hey,” Ty said casually. “I thought I saw you here.”
With a little yelp of surprise, Summer pushed against her date’s chest, trying to put some distance between them. The bloke didn’t give her the room she asked for, which made a muscle tic in Ty’s jaw. Stepping forward, he clapped a hand over the guy’s shoulder, using the grip to pull him off Summer.
“I remember you.” Ty shook the guy’s hand. “Paul, right?”
The guy gave a drunken burp. “Garth.”
“Right, Garth.” Ty didn’t stop shaking Garth’s hand, the exuberant action making the other guy sway on his feet. “It’s good to see you, Garth. Hey, have you checked out Aaron’s dad’s record collection? Seriously, mate—records. You have to see it. The rack’s way, way over there.”
Blinking, Garth followed the movement of Ty’s finger as he pointed it to the other wing of the U-shaped house. His gaze wandered back to Summer. “Hey, you wanna go check out the records?”
“Summer’s not going with you.”
“Piss off.” Garth extricated his hand from Ty’s crushing grip and stumbled back to Summer’s side. He very deliberately put that hand on her ass and squeezed.
Ty sensed the way she bristled at the proprietary contact, and his blood temperature moved from steamed to boiling. Not bothering to disguise the act this time, he reached out and yanked Garth off Summer, pulling the guy toward him so he was right up in his face. “Here’s how it is, Garth. Either you fuck off right now, or I fuck up your face.”
“All right, all right.” Garth shrugged out of Ty’s grip and began moving out of the room. “Shit, Summer. If you’re already with someone you shouldn’t be making out with me. I guess you’re as big a slut as your sister after all.”
Ty took two taut strides forward. One look at Ty’s face and Garth bolted. Ty was sorely tempted to go after the little prick and beat the shit out of him for that last commen
“Who do you think you are?”
Ty turned and met her gaze. Her almond-shaped eyes, a gift from her Filipino ancestry, spat black daggers at him. Her hair fell in perfectly straight lines to the place where her arms rested in front of her like a shield, its midnight strands shining in the light coming in from outside. She wore a denim skirt that was far too short and a black T-shirt that came only to her midriff. She had too much makeup on. Ty had never seen her wear makeup, or clothes so revealing.
The girl before him didn’t look like Summer, his now-ex-girlfriend’s sister, his… “I’m your friend.” Ty finally answered Summer’s question, even while the surge in his blood her skimpy outfit caused made it seem like a lie.
She let out an incredulous snort. “You didn’t invite me to your party. We’re not friends.”
“This thing wasn’t my idea, it was Aaron’s. And he doesn’t know that we’re…”
Into the silence that fell after he trailed off, Summer asked, “That we’re what?”
The descriptor didn’t seem any more apt than it had the first time he’d used it. Summer continued to stare at him, something akin to disappointment in her eyes. Her quiet scrutiny unsettled him, made his heart pump harder and more erratically than it had when he’d been standing on the balcony railing.
“Come on,” he said at last. “I’ll take you home.”
“I’m not going home.”
“You are. You can’t come to a party like this dressed like that.” Ty’s gaze passed over the length of leg exposed by her skirt. How could there be so much skin on a girl who barely stood five feet two?
“I can do whatever I want.”
“Sure. If you want guys like Garth to get the wrong idea.”
“What makes you think it would be the wrong idea?”
Her attempt at sass made Ty bark a laugh. “You really want to lose it in Aaron’s parents’ bedroom with some drunken idiot?”
At his reference to losing it, Summer’s cheeks flushed. Remorse that he’d embarrassed her immediately flooded through Ty. He reached out and touched her arm. “Let me take you home, Summer.”
She shrugged off his hand. “No.”
“Then I’ll call your dad and have him come get you.”
At that she sent him a look that blistered him where he stood. “You wouldn’t.”
It was a testament to how badly he wanted Summer out of here that Ty said with certainty, “I would.”
Summer might be eighteen now, but a lifetime of her father’s strict rules had left their mark. She wouldn’t risk Rex Campbell finding out about her presence at Aaron Sanderson’s house, where it was widely known all sorts of debauched teenage revelry took place whenever his parents were out of town. She might be on the verge of adulthood, but she was still young enough to be afraid of her dad.
Heck, Dr. Rex Campbell—the heart surgeon with a stare that gave the impression he was thinking of crushing your heart, rather than mending it—scared the shit out of Ty too.
“Fine,” Summer huffed in disgust. “I’ll leave—on my own.”
Ty shot out a hand to grasp her wrist, stilling her egress. “I’ll drive you.”
Ty felt the rapid beat of her pulse beneath his fingers as he led her out of the house, the answering acceleration of his own heart reminding him why he was supposed to stay away from Summer. By the time he’d settled into the driver’s seat of his twelve-year-old Holden, Ty’s throat was as dry as parchment.
The drive to the home Summer shared with her father and sister was a short one. It only took five minutes to get from one side of Leyton’s Headland to the other. Summer remained stoic, quietly seething in the passenger seat the whole way. When Ty parked around the corner from her house so her father wouldn’t see his car, he figured Summer would get out without a word and disappear from sight—and from his life for good. His new sponsors were sending him to an exhibition event in Hawaii, and he was leaving the day after tomorrow.
Yet she sat still for several moments while his car engine idled, softly humming in the night. At length she asked, “Would you have even said goodbye?”
Guilt made his face tingle. “Jasmine and I broke up over a month ago.”
She shot him a look. “I meant would you have said goodbye to me?”
“I didn’t have an excuse to come to your house anymore.”
And there it was, the ugly truth hanging between them in the dark confines of the car. Jasmine Campbell was fun, a party girl looking only for a good time. She hadn’t wanted commitment from Ty any more than he had wanted it from her. Yet they’d dated on and off for almost a year, a stretch of time considered decades in the eyes of many teens. Why Jasmine kept hanging out with him, Ty couldn’t say. But the dark truth that he hadn’t dared admit even to himself was that he’d kept dating Jasmine so he’d have a way to stay connected to Summer.
His girlfriend’s sister, the sweet, studious Campbell girl. If Rex hated Ty dating Jasmine, the man would go ballistic if he ever discovered that layabout surfer had a major thing for his precious Summer.
“You still could have said goodbye. You could have called or something.”
“What would be the point?” Frustration erupted in the question. “I’m flying to Hawaii in two days, you’ll be going to uni soon—”
“I didn’t get in.”
Ty stared at her. “What?”
“I didn’t get into the course I wanted. I’m not going to be a doctor.”
“Oh, Sum.” It was instinct, completely uncontainable instinct that had Ty reaching across the car’s interior to curl his fingers against Summer’s nape. A gesture of comfort, that’s all. Yet the silken feel of her hair had him growing hard inside his still-damp board shorts, and it was all he could do to keep his hand from wandering. “There has to be a mistake. You’re the smartest girl I know.”
“No I’m not. Smart people don’t let themselves get so distracted that their grades slip.” She looked at him, and in the murky light of the car, he saw the way her black eyes glistened. “Dad found out about the surf lessons.”
He could picture how charmed the man was by the knowledge Ty had been schooling Summer in secret. It wouldn’t matter that Summer had asked Ty, practically begged him to teach her how to catch a wave. Rex probably had a contract out on Ty’s head by now.
“I only wanted to fit in for once, just once in my life, instead of being that Asian-looking girl with the sister who’s…” She trailed off. Even upset Summer would never do anything to criticize Jasmine or the way she’d dealt with their mother’s death two years before. Namely, by flunking out of school and sleeping her way around town.
Summer sniffled. “Surfing’s cool, and I thought people would think I was okay if I could do it. Everyone thinks you’re the greatest.”
Ty laughed, a little embarrassed. “I’m not that great.”
“Yes you are,” she insisted, and Ty’s chest felt like it had filled with helium because Summer thought he was great.
“What am I going to do?”
The tears were slipping down her smooth cheeks now, and the reality of her distress made the full feeling in Ty’s chest turn into a gripping ache, crushing his heart. He could no better prevent himself drawing her into his arms than he could stop the waves from crashing against shore. Her tears wet his skin, and he became uncomfortably aware that he hadn’t grabbed a dry shirt before leaving the party. Having Summer snuggled against his bare chest felt so unbelievably good that his dick responded with predictable eagerness.
She’s crying, you jerk.
Through her tears, Summer spoke. “My dad’s always talked about me following him into medicine, it was the one thing we had in common. He was proud of me for that at least, and now…” she choked on a sob, “…now he’s so angry and he blames you and I can’t stand that he hates you, and Jasmine says you’re a jerk, and they’re all wrong.”
“They’re not wrong.” Hadn’t he been calling himself that same thing a moment ago for having a raging hard-on while all he was supposed to be doing was comforting Summer? “I’m not a good guy, Sum. You shouldn’t be hanging out with someone like me.”
“Like I’m so perfect,” she muttered. Her fingers flexed against his chest, her nails scraping over his pectoral muscle, in very close proximity to his nipple. “I’m not as nice as everyone thinks.”
“Yeah, right.” Ty tried to get air to move in and out of his lungs. Summer’s hand shifted again, her fingertips trailing over his bare flesh, making breathing next to impossible. “Name one thing you’ve done wrong—and getting a B+ instead of an A does not count.”
“I lied to my dad. I told him I was at the library every time I was with you. I lied to Jasmine too. I’m a bad sister.”
“It’s okay to have a few secrets, isn’t it?” Lifting the hand that wasn’t moving in comforting circles over her back, Ty stroked it over Summer’s hair. God, he loved her hair, so long and black and perfectly straight. From far away it was almost as glossy and smooth as a mirror.
Ty had never touched her hair before, but he’d wondered if it would be as velvety as feathers in his hands. It was. Her softness made him hard. Her slightness made him feel huge, like a bloody Viking or something. Summer had always mixed him up and made him feel things he didn’t know how to handle.
Her hand moved lower, brushing over his abdomen until the muscles there tensed painfully. Her voice was a throaty whisper as she repeated her earlier statement. “I’m a bad sister.”
Lifting her head, she met Ty’s gaze. In the dark of her irises—usually so unreadable—Ty saw it all. The self-recrimination, the need. Summer didn’t think she’d wronged Jasmine because she’d lied about meeting Ty for surf lessons. She thought she’d betrayed her sister with her thoughts, her dreams.
The same lustful dreams that had kept Ty awake and wracked with guilt many, many nights.
Having it confirmed that Summer had been in as much torment as he the past year was a rush of adrenaline like none he’d experienced, not even on the biggest waves. It compelled him to commit one reckless, impulsive act, something he’d wanted to do, had fantasized about doing, for far too long.
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