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“You’re cheating,” I scream.

“So what?” he laughs back, and then jets into the kitchen.

Except the minute he hits the line that delineates the kitchen from the living room—that line that goes from wooden laminate flooring to old linoleum—his foot catches a curled edge and he trips forward, completely off balance. His arms go flailing in a windmill pattern, trying to regain balance and ease off the trajectory. He’s moderately successful in stopping his momentum by slamming into the refrigerator, which almost tips over.

“Jesus Christ,” Beck grumbles as he turns to me, his face pale from the near disaster. “We need to get this fucking floor fixed.”

I saunter into the kitchen laughing, step into him, and work at the drawstring of his board shorts. My voice is husky when I say, “Maybe. One day. But for right now, it appears I just lost the race.”

Beck’s face fills back up with color and I can feel his cock thickening when my hands brush against it as I untie his shorts. The look of anticipation and desire on his face fuels me to work faster.

The ringing of Beck’s cell phone distracts both of us, and because we really haven’t gotten started, Beck leans over and grabs it off the counter. “Beck North.”

I watch as his eyes are open and curious as whoever is on the other line talks, and then they close briefly as he lets out a breath of regret. I immediately drop my hands away from his crotch area and rest them on his chest in a show of emotional support. His eyes open up and he looks down at me, as he tells the person, “Okay. Thank you for letting me know. I’ll look for your email.”

Beck hangs up and doesn’t even bother to wait for me to ask what’s happened. “My dad had a heart attack night before last. It was sudden and nothing could be done. He was dead when the EMS got to the house.”

My hand goes to my mouth as I gasp, but I don’t say anything. The words I’m sorry won’t work, because I’m not sure if I am. I mean…I’m sorry anyone is dead, but I don’t think his death is going to affect Beck very much. His parents haven’t reached out once to their son after the charges were dropped against us, and likewise, Beck hasn’t contacted them either.

“That was the estate attorney,” he said thoughtfully. “Apparently my father had his will redone a few months ago. Provided for some money for both me and Caroline, with the rest to my mother.”

“Really?” I say, stunned by this news. That’s the first acknowledgment of Caroline as his daughter since before she was raped.

“Caroline won’t take the money,” Beck muses.


“I’ll give my portion to a rape crisis center or something,” he adds.

“I think that’s a great idea.”

“Now,” he says, taking my hands and pushing them down from his chest to his stomach. “Where were we?”

I stop my hands and press my fingers into his abs. “Want to talk about this?”

“My dad dying?” he asks, eyes wide with surprise.

“Well, duh,” I say with an eye roll.

“Baby…you know my parents were already dead to me, right? I don’t feel much of anything about it other than a general sorrow that someone I knew has died. He wasn’t there for his kids when they needed him. My mother the same. So no, I don’t want to talk about it.”

I lean in and press a kiss to his chest, nodding my understanding. I’m sure this is affecting him more than he’s letting on, but I’m going to let him process this a bit and we’ll come back to it.

In the meantime, I drop my knees down to the yellowed linoleum and give my man his prize.

Fifteen months since the charges were dropped…

“They’re here,” Ally squeals from the kitchen window that looks down to the driveway. Being that this is a stilted cottage, the kitchen and living room level are actually one flight up. The three bedrooms on the next floor up, and the loft above. Our cottage is narrow and tall, and looks goofy from the beach, but I love it. It’s been almost exactly a year since we moved in and I can say I am now an official Floridian.

“Come on, munchkin,” my dad says as he walks to the front door and holds his hand out to Ally. “Let’s go down and welcome them.”

My dad’s been here on vacation for nearly a week. He’s almost ready to retire and he’s contemplating a move here. Maria, he’s told me, is not keen on the idea, and I think it’s caused some friction between them. The few conversations I’ve heard them have on the phone while he’s been here have been tense. I want my dad to be happy, but I want him to move to Florida more, so…sorry, Maria. I’m going to keep pushing at him.

Beck saunters out the door behind Ally and my dad, but I make it no farther than the entryway as I watch. Two vehicles are parked behind Beck and me: Caroline’s little beat-up sedan that she drove and a large U-Haul trailer that Dennis drove across country to complete Caroline and Ally’s move here. They’re going to be living in a beach house about four blocks down.

Ally had flown out with my dad two days ago, as Caroline and Dennis had planned on driving hard and long hours to get here. I watch as Ally hugs her mom, and then Dennis, then Dennis and Beck are backslapping. My dad is already at the back of the U-Haul, opening it up and assessing the situation. It’s late in the day and we won’t go down to unload this stuff into Caroline’s new house until tomorrow, but my dad’s a planner.

They start making their way back up to the house, first Beck and Ally, followed by Caroline, and then Dennis. I don’t miss the subtle move that Dennis makes, putting his hand on Caroline’s hip as she moves in front of him to start up the stairs. It’s intimate and I’d wondered if their friendship had turned into something more.

Later that night, we have a shrimp boil out on the back deck. Beck and I bought a copper fire pit and there’s nothing like sitting under the stars with the rumble of the ocean and a glowing fire. We’re all fat and happy from the good food and the several bottles of wine we’d opened.

Ally’s laying on Caroline’s lap, her head on her shoulder. Dennis is sitting in a lounge chair next to them, and not hiding in my opinion a genuine interest in Caroline. She seems a bit oblivious to me though. My dad balances his wineglass on his stomach and he looks like he’s on the verge of going to sleep in his chair, while I sit on the love seat rocker and wait for Beck to come back with another bottle of wine.

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