“Tell your parents and grandfather I’m sorry for their loss.” Her eyes lost their light. She had wanted me to say more than a simple generic condolence. I felt like a giant asshole.
“Thanks,” she whispered. “For everything.” Then she took her bag and walked away. I watched her leave. I wanted to run after her and say something more. To try to make her smile. But that would only make this worse. Instead, I waited until she entered the building. Then I climbed on my bike and headed back south. Back to Rosemary Beach.
I WAS NUMB. The flight to LA and the ride to my grandfather’s house in Beverly Hills had all been a blur. When the limo that had picked me up at the airport parked in front of his mansion, I realized I didn’t even remember getting in the limo.
I grabbed the single bag I had with me and stepped out when the driver opened my car door. I hadn’t been to see Kiro in about six months. He’d visited us, but I hadn’t been here. When I was a kid I visited more often. I stayed a week with him in the summer. I had good memories of this place.
My mother came to the front door and walked out to greet me. I climbed the stairs and hoped she wasn’t too upset over my riding around on a motorcycle with Cruz. She had her dad to be worried about. I didn’t need to add to her stress. I knew I’d never get on Cruz’s bike again.
He’d just let me go. No promises. Nothing. He’d just let it end. That quickly. My chest ached, and I felt guilty it was over a guy. My grandfather was suffering. I should be more concerned about him.
“How is he?” I asked as I hugged her.
She squeezed me. “He’s sad. Mom has been gone for a long time. The woman he knew. But now even the little that he had of her is gone. It’s going to be tough on him.”
“No. Her heart just stopped. With the damage her brain had endured, the doctor says it’s a miracle she lived as long as she did. But Daddy made sure she had the best care. And he was always here. I think she lived for him.”
Their story was so tragic. When I stepped back, I looked at her. “How upset is Dad?”
“He’s not happy,” she said with a small shrug. “But you’re a grown woman. What can he do? It was your decision to make.”
I agreed, but I didn’t think Daddy would agree.
“He won’t bring it up in there. For now, this is about Kiro and Emily.”
“Right now, it’s just Dean and us. Nan, Cope, Mase, Reese, Rush and Blaire are all on their way.”
Mom looked at the backpack on my shoulder. “What happened to your luggage?”
“I left it all at Nate’s.”
She sighed. “To run off on Cruz Kerrington’s bike.”
She didn’t say more. I hadn’t even been gone a week, and everything that had happened made it seem like it had been so much longer.
She reached out and touched my cheek. “You are kind, loving, generous, patient, and beautiful. You deserve something special.”
“Mom, you got a fairytale. Not everyone finds those.”
She titled her head to the side and smiled. “No, Lila Kate. Not everyone is patient enough to wait for it.”
She kissed my cheek then took my arm, and we walked up the stairs and into the house. I would ponder what she said later. Maybe she was right. Maybe it wasn’t that I wouldn’t get a fairytale. Just that I had wanted it from the wrong person.
The house smelled like cigars. It had all my life. I’d heard Rush once say it was better than the marijuana smell it had in his youth. We walked through the large entrance down the left hall where what Kiro called the game room was located. Large black leather sofas, massive flat screens—as in three of them—a pool table and a large bar were in the room. Sitting on the corner of the sofa was my grandfather, Kiro Manning. He was older now, but he was still a legend. His name was well known. He had a cigar in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other. His slender frame was tall, and he was covered in tattoos. Even retired and a grandfather he still resembled a rocker.
He lifted his red-rimmed eyes as we entered and smiled at the sight of me. He’d been crying at some point. “My Lila Kate,” he said his voice raspy from years of drugs, smoking and alcohol.
“Hey,” I said as I made my way over to him. It was no secret he’d been furious when my father got my mother pregnant. My mother wasn’t his only child but she was his favorite. Because she had been the child Emily gave him. My birth could have killed my mother. That had terrified him. But my mom often said he’d spent my lifetime making that up to me. I knew he loved me more than his other grandchildren. He was very blunt about it. But I also knew it was only because I was a part of Emily.
He held open his arms still holding the alcohol and cigar. I bent down and hugged him tightly. “I love you,” I whispered.
“Not as much as I love you, pretty girl,” which had always been his response. “Heard you took off on a bike with a Kerrington. Guess you got a little of your Granddaddy’s wild oats in you after all.”
I tensed hoping my dad hadn’t heard him. “Um, I guess,” I said as quietly as I could.
That made him laugh. I was glad he could laugh but this wasn’t something to laugh about. “Gonna give that daddy of yours a little hard time. He needs it.”
Of all the things for him to want to talk about this wasn’t one of them.
“Daddy be nice. She’s already nervous about talking to Grant about all this,” Mom interjected.
I closed my eyes and winced. When I stood up Kiro winked at me. “You’re grown girl. It’s okay.”
I turned my head slowly to look at my dad who was standing at the bar with his arms crossed over his chest and a frown on his face. “She’s better than Cruz Kerrington,” my dad said.
“And my Harlow was better than Grant Carter. My sweet baby girl was swept off her feet by someone who had a reputation as a player. Seems it turned out all right,” Kiro said before taking a pull off his cigar.
I tried thinking of something to change the subject when footsteps sounded down the hall. Then I heard the voices. Kiro’s other two kids were here with their spouses. I knew my Uncle Mase’s voice anywhere. And when he is arguing with my Aunt Nan it feels like a family gathering.
“I’m not taking the blue room, Mase. Shove it up your ass. I want the gold one near the back elevator. I always prefer that one. Don’t argue with me,” Aunt Nan said in her high-pitched annoyed tone.
“Give me another fucking bottle. I’m gonna need it,” Kiro grumbled.
He and my Aunt Nan didn’t have the best relationship, but Mom said it was good compared to the way it had once been.
When the four entered the room. Kiro held up his bottle. “I’m fucking mourning. Don’t start this shit in here.”
Nan looked ashamed, and Mase nodded. “Sorry. I was just getting her riled up out of boredom.”
“I’m so sorry, Kiro,” Reese, my Uncle Mase’s wife said as she walked away from the others toward Kiro. “You go ahead and mourn, and I’ll keep these two in check.”