Authors: Miller,Cassie-Ann L.
I roll up my yoga mat and slide it into my bag while Isla’s students filter out of the studio. She smiles at me as I approach.
“Class was awesome today,” I say. I make a big deal of joining the tips of my index fingers with the tips of my thumbs in an exaggerated yoga gesture. “I’m totally blissed out or whatever.”
She shakes her head, resisting the smile playing at her lips. “Thanks, hun.” She wraps an arm around my shoulder and leads me to her tiny office. “We have this awesome new ginger-charcoal matcha tea,” she says excitedly. “Wanna try it? You’ll love it.”
I crinkle my nose at her. “Uh, I think I’ll pass.” I sink into the colorful velvet armchair across from her battered, hand-carved desk.
She chuckles as she puts teabags into two cups and adds water from her glass teapot. “Earl grey,” she says setting a cup in front of me before sitting behind the desk. The mess of spreadsheets and receipts and hand-scribbled notes on the table are in stark contrast with the earthy, bohemian style of the room. Isla looks at the documents and groans. “This is really the last thing I want to deal with right now.”
“Most people don’t like dealing with their accounting,” I say sympathetically, “but it’s a necessary evil. Take Keeland, for example. He let three years worth of stuff accumulate and now it’s taking forever to get everything sorted out. I’d bet he wishes he’d dealt with it all sooner.”
Her eyes light up. “Speaking of Keeland, did he tell you he’s been coming to my Wednesday morning hatha class?”
I toss my head back and chortle in surprise. “What?”
She nods. “Yup. The ladies love having him there. I swear attendance of the class has doubled and now everybody’s fighting for a spot at the front of the room so he can get a good look at their ‘assets’.”
We both roar with laughter at that. “Well, it looks like Master Kee is good for business,” I say.
“He definitely is.” Isla leans forward on her elbows and peers eagerly at me. “So, tell me – what’s going on with the two of you?”
I sit back in my chair and try to appear aloof. “What do you mean?”
She grunts. “Don’t act ignorant with me, Sammie. Are you two still screwing? Is it becoming serious?” She narrows her eyes and smirks. “Should I be expecting you two to show up at next weekend’s Tantric Yoga for Lovers Retreat?”
I laugh. “Yes, we’re still ‘screwing’. No, it’s not becoming serious. And,
no, we won’t be at your weird, couples’ yoga ménage orgy retreat or whatever.”
I’ve recently given up on the idea of trying to resist having sex with Keeland. It’s pointless. Our chemistry is off the charts and he makes my body feel things I never imagined possible.
But a relationship is out of the question. Not only because Daniel would kill us both, but also because Keeland Masters is not the kind of guy I’m willing to put my heart out there for again. I did it once and it backfired in a disastrous way. So, we’ll keep ‘screwing’. But that’s about it.
Isla folds her arms across her chest and gives me a disappointed look. “Sammie – would you please stop getting in the way of your own happiness? We both know that you have feelings for Keeland. You’ve
had feelings for Keeland.”
I fold my arms, too. “I don’t have feelings for Keeland. Besides, how do you know that
wants a relationship?”
“Because he’s a great guy and I know he knows how awesome you are. Of course he wants a relationship. But, you’re stubborn and you’ve got a huge chip on your shoulder where he’s concerned. You act like you’ve got something to prove.”
“Something like what?”
“How good you are at resisting him.”
I scoff, looking away. “You’re ridiculous.” I stare blankly at the oriental tapestry hanging on the wall behind her. “We’re having fun. It feels good. Simple. I really don’t feel the need to psychoanalzye it.”
Her face goes serious. “You two might have something special, Sammie. Something that can withstand the test of time. Something other people would die for.” I instantly know exactly where she’s coming from.
Isla married Zayn Wilkinson straight out of high school. To the outside world, they looked like the perfect couple, until it abruptly came crashing down last winter. She and I don’t talk about it, but the subject is always there in the background, ghosting her words and adding morbid undertones to every conversation.
Luckily, I’m saved by a knock at the door. Blakely, Isla’s younger sister and trusty assistant, sticks her head into the office, a rush of fiery red curls spilling across her face. She speaks in a hushed voice. “Hey, sorry to interrupt, but Mr. Byrne is here for his massage and he insists on having you.”
Isla looks at the documents on her desk and slaps her hand to her forehead. “Shit – we haven’t even started looking at this mess yet, have we?”
I give her a reassuring smile, all too happy to put an end to our little, off-topic meeting. “Let me take this stuff home. I’ll look it over and we can chat about it over the phone.”
She looks at me with relief on her face. “That’s an awesome idea.” She turns to Blakely. “Can you help Sammie organize this stuff and give her a ride home?”
Blakely nods, stepping into the room. Isla tosses her the car keys before rounding her desk and popping a kiss against my forehead. “I owe you, Sammie.” She says as she rushes out.
I laugh. “Just stop talking to me about Keeland and we’re even.”
I’m raking the leaves from Sammie’s front lawn when she climbs out of Isla’s car. When I see her struggling with the hefty bag she pulls from the backseat, I hurry down the walkway to help her.
“Hey there,” I say as I snatch the load from her hands.
She looks up at me with suspicious eyes. “Hey.” She glances past me to the pile of leaves on the lawn and back to me again.
Ignoring her wary expression and whatever nonsense is probably brewing in her head, I lean into the car. “Hey Blakely. How’s it going?” I say brightly.
The shy redhead turns to me with timid, green eyes. “Hey Keeland. I’m fine.” She purses her lips and dimples pop up on her freckled cheeks.
“See you in hatha class on Wednesday?” I say with a small salute.
“Sure thing.” She blinks away coyly as I turn back towards the house. When Blakely peels away from the curb a moment later, Sammie follows me up the walkway.
“Why are you raking my lawn?” she asks cautiously.
I shrug my shoulders as I climb the stairs and stand aside for her to unlock the door. “I was raking mine and noticed that yours was a mess.”
She narrows her eyes at me, then stares out at the driveway. First, it’s confusion that registers on her face. Then, it’s pure panic. “Where’s my car?” she shrieks. “Oh my god! Somebody stole my car.” She gallops down the stairs and into the spot where her broken-down Prius had been sitting since it sputtered out on her. Now, all that’s left is a thick, black oil stain.
“Relax,” I say calmly from the front porch. “I got it towed to the mechanic shop. You’ll get it back in a few days.” I’d tried to fix it myself but – I’m not fooling anybody – cars aren’t really my thing. I didn’t want to make the problem any worse by tinkering with it so I decided to let the professionals handle it.
Sammie gasps so hard that she might have popped a rib. “You sent it to the mechanic shop?!” She marches right up to me. “I can’t afford to get it fixed right now. You haven’t paid me yet. How am I supposed to pay the mechanic?”
“I’ve got you covered,” I say with a wink. “It’s all paid for. And as for your remuneration –” I slip my hand into the back pocket of my jeans and hand her a check. “—here you go.”
She glances down at it and her eyes form big ‘O’s. “I can’t accept this, Keeland,” she whispers. “It’s way more than we agreed to…”
“I decided to give you a raise. I’m the boss. It’s my prerogative.”
“Don’t make this…
“Would you let me do something nice for you, Samantha? Sheesh!”
She pouts and hooks her hand on her hip.
“Well, you can at least say ‘thanks’.”
She lifts her eyes to me. “Thanks,” she says begrudgingly. Then, she grabs her bag out of my hand and steps in through the door. I can tell that she’s trying her best not to like me right now…and she’s failing.
“Have a nice day, Sammie,” I say with a smirk.
She just glares at me right before she slams the door in my face.
“Man – this is even better than I remember,” I moan as I shovel another forkful of poutine into my mouth.
Billy’s Burger is, was and shall always be the shit. It was one of our main hangouts in high school and I can’t believe it took me this long to swing by after getting back to Reyfield. When I walked through the front door, I didn’t even have to place my order. The owner, Billy Jenkins, just looked over at me and yelped over his shoulder for a large poutine with onion rings, secret-sauce burger and a Mountain Dew.
“I bet they don’t serve this shit in jail,” Daniel says with a laugh as he takes a swallow of his soda before picking up his burger.
I chuckle at his joke but the comment is a reminder of my past, which is the very last thing I want to think about right now. I decide to change the subject. “So, how’s family life, man? What’s going on at home?”
Daniel blows out a loaded breath and shoves his empty paper plate aside. “I love my wife but I swear to you, man, this marriage thing is hard.”
“So I’ve heard,” I say with a cocked eyebrow as I shove my last onion ring into my mouth.
“I work hard all day. I get home most nights and I’m too tired to even have dinner. I just wanna crash. That’s how tired I am. But she tries to bite my head off the minute I walk through the door. It’s exhausting.” Daniel looks ten years older as he speaks.
“It can’t be all bad,” I say sympathetically as I wipe my fingers on a napkin.
He shakes his head. “You see, that’s the thing. She drives me crazy, but I’m crazy about her. Watching her sitting in bed with her nerdy glasses on, cuddled up with her Kindle or watching her playing with our baby – that’s the woman I feel in love with. But the two-headed monster she turns into whenever she has to deal with me? I don’t know that person.”
I feel for him but what can I say? I’ve never been married. And looking at him right now, I can’t say I regret that. It’s a good thing that I found out that Rhys was a no-good, lying tramp
she strutted her deceitful ass down the aisle.
Just then, Billy shows up at our table with two enormous slices of dessert. “Chestnut wafer topped chocolate cake drizzled with salted caramel. On the house. To welcome Master Kee back to town.”
I offer him a lopsided smile. “Aww man. I appreciate that,” I say bumping knuckles with him.
“Think nothing of it. We’re just glad you’re back. Hopefully, to stay.”
Daniel frowns at him. “Hey Billy, how come you don’t hand out chocolate cake to celebrate
?” he says with mock offense. “I’m here all the time.”
“Maybe if you left town for a few years, we’d have something special for ya,” the man says teasingly before shoving Daniel jokingly in the shoulder.
“Whatever,” Daniel mutters as he sticks his fork into the cake and takes a bite. Billy quickly disappears back into the kitchen.
One taste is enough to convince me that this is the best damn dessert I’ve ever had. I gobble it up in just a few bites before calling the waitress over to order another hug slice to go.
Daniel looks at me incredulously. “You’re gonna eat all that?”
“Nah,” I say with a laugh. “This is for Sammie. I think she’d like it.”
I regret the words as soon as I see how Daniel’s eyes narrow in on my face. “For Sammie?”
I swallow. “Yeah,” I say with a casual shrug. “Gotta keep my employees happy.”
Daniel is silent, studying me as I pull a few bills from my wallet to cover the meal and a generous tip. “Hey man, you remember what I told you about my sister,” he growls, his face red now. “She’s off-limits.”
I wave him off in a casual motion. “Of course,” I say as calmly as I can muster. “You don’t have to remind me.” The guilt tastes acidic at the back of my throat.
“Good,” he says as he pushes his chair away from the table and stands. He glances at his watch. “Gotta be in court in an hour and a half. I’m gonna get going.”
“Yeah man,” I say. “It was good hanging out.”
He nods and gives me a stiff smile before he heads out the door.
This isn’t going to end well. I know that with every fiber of my being.