Sugar Free Page 55

Very, very dated.

“The cabinets aren’t whitewashed,” he observes.

I nod down to our feet. “Linoleum.”

“Curling in slightly at the edges,” he adds.

The Realtor scurries over, fearing the loss of a sale on what is a lovely little beach house but definitely a fixer-upper. “I’m sure the owner would have the floors and cabinets redone if that’s a sticking point.”

Beck looks at me with his eyebrows raised, and I grin back at him a moment, needing no verbal communication to know we’re on the same page.

I turn to the Realtor. “The floor’s perfect as is and we can paint the cabinets. We’ll take it.”

Four months after murder charges were dropped…

Life on St. George Island is good. Beck and I moved as soon as I graduated from Golden Gate with my master’s degree and we’re acclimating. The hardest part is not seeing Caroline and Ally, but that’s about to be remedied today. Beck is picking them up at the Tallahassee airport and I’m doing some tidying up of the place. Caroline is staying for a week and then she’s going to leave Ally with us for another three weeks of fun in the Florida sun, most of which will be spent at the Disney theme parks.

Beck’s work life has taken a decidedly different turn, and while he still has his fingers in some very important pies, his days are completely flexible. He prefers to sleep in late with me, then he usually wakes me up with his hand between my legs and we’ll play in bed for an hour or so. We have a late breakfast and then he works from his home office, which is the third-floor loft.

The sale of The Sugar Bowl was finalized last month. Like our decision to leave California, Beck wanted nothing left that reminded him of JT. He worked out an ingenious deal with the owners of a start-up company called ET Technologies, who had apparently approached him and JT months ago about investing in their project to create software that could read facial expressions. Beck was highly interested in this and it got his computer engineering juices flowing. He proposed to sell The Sugar Bowl to them in exchange for 50 percent ownership in their start-up as well as full ownership rights to the patents to the software, since he’d be developing it. This was a good deal for them, as this venture was not without risk and there was no guarantee it could even be done, whereas The Sugar Bowl was a solid business that only needed maintenance. It would provide them with a flow of money to provide them a good life while Beck worked in his office creating this amazing software program.

I hear the front door open and then the stomping of feet as Ally comes flying into the kitchen.

“Sela,” she yells out before throwing herself into my arms.

I pick her up, give her a quick hug, and then set her down, where I examine her carefully. “I swear you’ve grown two inches since I last saw you.”

She beams at me and says, “Mommy says I’m going to be tall like a willow tree, which is weird, because Mommy’s on the short side.”

My eyes flick over to Caroline as she walks in and she gives me a sad smile. JT was tall, and clearly Ally is going to get her height from him. Beck comes trudging in behind with two large suitcases in his hands. Caroline and I hug it out with a little bit of tight clutching and rocking back and forth, because it’s so good to see each other.

This week is going to be amazing. We’ve got so many things planned because the great but extremely hot state of Florida has an abundance of activities, attractions, and beautiful coastline to explore. But we also have business to get down to.

Beck and I are going to work on Caroline hard to get her to leave California and move here. She has nothing left back there except Dennis, who’s been keeping a close eye on her for us.

Caroline pulls away from me and looks around. “I love this place,” she says, taking in the decor. Beck and I furnished it with a coastal theme like seashell lamps, prints of sailing ships, and miniature indoor palm trees.

“But you need to do some serious updating,” she says as she looks down at the linoleum floor. I believe it probably started out as a creamy white color with a design of mocha brown etchings done in four-inch squares and running on a diagonal. Over time the mocha brown has faded to a tan color and the creamy white has yellowed.

It’s pretty hideous, but still I tell her, “We’ll get to it…one day. But we did update the cabinets. I stripped them and then whitewashed them. It was a fun little project.”

“You need to get a job,” Caroline says with a laugh. “The Sela Halstead I know doesn’t do home remodeling.”

And she’s not wrong about that. The cabinet project was fun, but I’m getting bored out of my mind. I finished my master’s just before we moved and I’m trying to find a job as a counselor, but options are limited in this little community. Beck keeps pushing at me to just open my own practice and build it up slowly.

It’s a good idea.


Eleven months after murder charges were dropped…

I fly up the deck stairs from the boardwalk, Beck hot on my heels. It’s an unusually warm day for December, and when it’s eighty-three degrees just two days before Christmas, you do what other Floridians do.

You put on your bathing suits and frolic on the beach.

I didn’t have any appointments today, which isn’t unusual. I only opened the doors to my counseling practice two months ago and I’m still building. I’ve also advertised as specializing in rape counseling, but in this small community there are—thankfully—precious few people who need those particular services. So I do general counseling too, and most of my clients are couples who are headed toward divorce and are struggling to keep the marriage alive.

“Better run faster than that, Sela,” Beck calls out from behind me, and the pounding of his feet on the wood stairs is loud so I know he’s really close. I dare not turn my head to look as I’ll lose precious seconds on my lead.

The competition is to see who can get to the refrigerator first for a beer.

The prize?

The winner gets an oral orgasm from the loser.

And has to clean the kitchen all week. That’s the bigger prize because Beck already spoils me with his mouth.

I fly through the sliding glass door, which we had left open, only fifteen feet from the kitchen when Beck’s arms wrap around my waist. He lifts me up, spins me fast, and deposits me behind him, and I can’t hold back my shriek of laughter.

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