“Still ain’t figured out how the fuck you scored that one,” Kiro said pointing with his bottle toward Reese while looking at Mase.
“Me neither,” Mase replied then sank down on the sofa across from Kiro. “Pass the whiskey.”
THE SMELL OF flowers. I hated the overpowering smell as much as I hated funerals. They depressed me. I shouldn’t have to be here. I didn’t know Emily Manning. Sure, I knew Lila Kate but I wouldn’t expect her to come to my grandmother’s funeral. Hell, I wouldn’t go if I could get away with it. Once someone was dead it as done. Why have a big ass depressing funeral?
I wanted my ashes taken out a few miles into the Gulf and scattered. No songs, no flowers, and no fucking tears. I loosened the collar on my shirt some and sighed. My dad had been adamant that I was going. We all were. The whole damn family was here. As was every other family in Rosemary Beach that we were close to.
“We are going for Grant, Harlow and Lila Kate!” my dad had roared when I bitched about not seeing a reason to attend this funeral.
The truth was, I had tried to get Lila out of my head for the past three days and it wasn’t working. All I could see was Lila. When I’d had another girl pressed up against the wall of my condo last night, I’d had Lila Kate’s face in my head. I didn’t want to see her this soon. I was still working her out of my system. I even pointed out to my father that they may be having a funeral for me once Grant Carter got his hands on me. Dad had told me I’d asked for it.
She grabbed my arm like I was still eight years old. “For taking Lila Kate without a word. That’s what for.”
I wasn’t apologizing to him for that. “No.”
Her nails bit into my skin. “Now.”
I wasn’t apologizing, but I’d walk over there and say something to him to let her think I did before she grabbed me by my ear and hauled me to him.
“Fine,” I muttered and her hand released me as soon as I headed in his direction.
Apologize to Nate. Seriously? Did they even know Nate Finlay? As if this wasn’t something he would have done. Jesus. They were all being dramatic as hell. I didn’t kidnap her. She went willingly.
Nate was also dressed in a suit, and Bliss stood beside him looking stunning in a black dress with her hair pulled up off her shoulders. “Hey,” I said as they turned to see me approaching.
Nate did a lift of his chin.
“Yeah. Why? You got your bike with you?” Nate smirked as he said it.
“She’s gone to get a drink. Been talking to everyone and her mouth got dry.”
I nodded. Good. I’d have time to get back out of sight before she returned. “Y’all here long?”
“We came in last night. Stayed at Dean’s. Heading out in the morning,” Nate replied. Dean was his grandfather. Kiro Manning’s best friend.
“I’m headed out soon as this is over,” I said. “Good to see you again, Bliss. I think I’ve been over here long enough for my mother to think I’ve apologized sufficiently. I’ll leave you to it.”
Nate grinned. “Apologized, huh? I think I’d like that apology.”
Bliss giggled. “Nate leave him alone. It’s good to see you again, Cruz.” She started to say more, then paused and smiled at something over my shoulder. “There they are,” she added.
I glanced back without thinking and my eyes locked on Lila Kate. She was stunning. Her dark hair was curled loosely and brushed her shoulders. The midnight blue dress she was wearing hugged her curves so damn sweetly I had a hard time looking away.
“Should I get him? Or do you think she wants him to stay with her?” Bliss asked.
“Leave it. She seems to want him with her,” Nate replied.
I tore my gaze off Lila Kate to see a tall blond guy with his hand possessively on her back. His expression was serious as he listened to something she was saying. Who the fuck was that?
“Who is with her?” I asked since they obviously knew.
“That’s Eli, my best friend,” Bliss said with a pleased smile.
“How does she know him?” Lila Kate wasn’t one to bond with someone fast.
“They had been spending some time together before you rode in on your bike and took off with her,” Nate replied. He was amused. He knew why I was asking and he was fucking amused.
“She wanted to go with me,” I told him turning to glare at his smug expression.
He nodded. “Yeah, she did. But now,” he tilted his chin up toward Lila Kate. “She wants Eli. Lesson learned fast I’d say.”
“What the fuck does that mean?” I snarled taking a step toward him.
Nate didn’t back away. But then I didn’t expect him to. He took a step in my direction. His expression went cold. Hard. “It means Eli is a good guy. The staying kind. That’s what it fucking means,” Nate’s voice was low as he said the words.
“But she knows you enough, now doesn’t she,” he shot back.
We were at a funeral. That should be why I stopped and walked away. But it wasn’t. It was because Nate was right. She did know me. I could have parked my bike and gone with her. That’s what a good guy would have done. But I’d fucked her, dropped her off and driven away. As I let myself think about it I had to admit that might have been the coldest thing I’d ever done. And I’d done some pretty cruel shit. I turned my gaze back to Lila Kate and Eli. He was whispering something to her and she smiled. The smile wasn’t the radiant one I knew.
It was sad. Her eyes didn’t glow and light up the room like I knew they could. She’d lost someone, and Eli was there with her. That’s the kind of guy she needed. I had left her because she needed to move on from me. I just hadn’t fucking expected it to happen so fast.
“She deserves more. You know it. Let her have it,” Nate’s voice annoyed me simply because he was right. I didn’t say anything to him. I just walked away. Back to my family. I would get through this damn funeral and leave quietly. I’d forget what happened with Lila and me. Eventually.
As I was walking away I felt her eyes follow me. The best thing to do would be to ignore her but I couldn’t. I met her gaze. She didn’t smile. She just looked at me with eyes so full of disappointment it burned in my gut. She’d ruined me. Just like I was afraid she would.
ELI’S HAND HELD mine as I studied the private mausoleum that was for all Slacker Demon members and their family. My grandmother was the first to be buried in it. Kiro had bought it because he said he didn’t want to be buried in the ground and he didn’t want his Emily in there either. So he’d decided that the best way to rest in eternal peace was a mausoleum with those he loved most.
“I’ve never seen anyone laid to rest in one of these. Just been to burials,” Eli said softly beside me.
“Me neither. It seems easier than watching them sink into the ground doesn’t it?”
I focused on my grandfather as his bloodshot eyes stared straight ahead at the marking where Emily had been slid in. He was drinking from another bottle of whiskey. I was concerned he was going to get alcohol poisoning, but my mom said he’d built years of tolerance to the stuff. He’d be fine. His suit covered his tattoos but he still looked like a rocker. It was in his stance, face, the way his hair was still too long for an older man. He would always be Kiro Manning. Even at seventy years old.