Have you been missing your friends in Silver Strand, CA? Well, miss them no more! Hattie Beckett arrives from Connecticut hell bent on finding the father she's never met but has received crazy gifts from since she was a tiny child. Dante Beckett is nowhere to be found when she arrives, but she does run into a cast of characters who surprise and embrace her...for a reason she never saw coming! Enjoy ;)!
The sun is everywhere out here. I press my sunglasses closer to my face with my finger--like that will help--but it’s relentless. Like it’s demanding I embrace its warmth and feel cheerful. Which makes me feel like a damn grouch.
And making me even grouchier is the fact that there are no solely residential places on this street.
Did my dad own a business here? No. One of the very few facts I have about him is that his job demands an excessive amount of travel, especially overseas.
The address turns up a plot of land that looks like it was recently leveled in preparation for...I have no idea. There’s already everything you’d ever need within ten miles of this strip. You could guess a dozen things--vitamin store, vegan restaurant, exotic furnishings store, bead store, tattoo parlor--and you’d be repeating yourself, because this street has every one of those freaking wacky places all lined up in a row along with the usual coffee shops and convenience stores. The tattoo place borders the empty lot, so I push the door in and do what Ashwin advised: I see if I can get any clues, even tiny ones.
A pretty girl with dark, shiny hair in old-fashioned pin-curls and deep red lipstick I could never pull off looks up and starts to smile. Then stops. She tilts her head to one side and blinks a few times, like the sight of me is shocking.
I glance at the tattoos of an anchor and a compass with twisting cursive around them on her wrist and imagine there are lots more hidden under her tight red dress. I guess I stick out because I’m so un-inked? But why would she assume I’m not an eager customer? I could have a full back piece for all she knows.
Feeling defensive makes me act like a jerk, and I sort of snap, “Can I speak with the owner of this shop?”
The girl narrows her eyes and lifts a perfectly arched brow. I back the hell down because I get a strong vibe that this girl could whip my ass any day of the week. But then this intensely stubborn part of me rears up and attempts to arch a brow right back. I’m not sure how well I pull it off, but it gets me a small smile from her.
“Rocko is with a client right now,” she says, her voice husky and smooth. “Could I help you until he finishes?”
“Maybe you can. Do you have any idea what they’re planning to build next door?” I ask, pointing to the empty lot.
Her tiny smile grows. “Actually I do. It’s a second branch of the owner’s wife’s herbal store. There’s one on the outskirts of town, out by the beach, but she wanted a location in town, near this place.”
“Oh.” I knit my brows.
I guess my father sold the land. I could have sworn it said the owner was D. Beckett, but maybe the papers didn’t update. A lot of these buildings seem to have apartments on top, so it could have been more residential when he lived there. I didn’t exactly expect that, and I’m nervous now that it will make things harder. I was expecting to be able to ask neighbors about him. These businesses all look new, and what are the chances he even talked to any of the owners regularly enough that they’d remember him?
Unless he’s covered in tattoos he got done here of course. I honestly have no idea.
“Do you happen to know if your boss purchased the land or if it was purchased by his wife?” I keep my voice all business.
Her brown eyes lock on me and she just looks, hard. “Are you a friend of the family?” She leans forward on her low stool, swinging one leg so her gorgeous black heel with its little bow-tie juts out.
“I...” Ashwin told me that I could disclose information that didn’t give anything important away if I thought it might make the person I was questioning feel more comfortable. “I’m trying to contact Dante Beckett. I was given the address next door as his last known residence.”
“Dante Beckett?” The girl slides off the stool and walks to me with slow, deliberate steps, her heels clicking on the floor tiles. I’m a little scared she’s about to take out her big gold earrings and start smacking the crap out of me, but I’m also distracted by how sexy she looks when she walks over. This girl is formidable, and I’m terrified as hell I bit off more than I can chew on my first cold call. “Why would you need to contact Dante Beckett?”
My plan is falling apart at the seams, and I start to gush a little more information than I should. “I’ve been getting things from him,” I explain, and her expression is patient as a cobra waiting to strike. “Presents on my birthday every year. Christmas gifts. Over the top things. I...I need to know. I need to meet him before--”
I know I’m giving away more than I should, so it’s a huge relief when the owner comes out of the back with a tall guy who has his shirt folded up and draped over his bare shoulder.
It’s like the dark haired girl is made of steel and the shirtless guy is a magnet. He rushes towards her, scoops her in his arms, and whirls her around. She lets out a little gasp, then a loud laugh bursts from her cherry lips.
“I know you think if I get your name tattooed on me it will curse our relationship and all that voodoo. So I compromised.” He slides her down to the floor and turns. On one shoulder blade is a brand new tattoo of a mermaid sitting on a rock, flipping her tail. She has the girl’s exact face and body.
Other than the tail, of course.
“Deo!” she cries, pressing her fingers to her lips. “You ass! Rocko, how could you have let him do this?”
“I think it looks just like you,” the smaller man with dark glasses and dancing eyes says. “I tried to capture you smiling, but it was hard. Every time I thought about you seeing it, I pictured that scary frown.”
He points at her and the frown drops off her face. I can’t be sure, because her makeup is so well done, but I think she’s blushing.
“I married you, doll. If you ran away from me, stole all my money, and shacked up with some other dude, you’d still have my heart. I’d be pissed as hell and probably break the other guy’s face, but I’d still love you like crazy, and nothing’s gonna change that. Definitely not some tat.” He grabs her by the waist. “Especially some tat of your fine, smoking-hot ass.”
The girl gives a long sigh, then smacks a kiss on his lips and brushes his hair off his forehead with gentle fingers. “Technically it’s a fish’s ass.”
“You could make a fish’s ass look fine,” the guy--Deo--says, then turns and looks at me. He does the same double-take the girl did. “Uh, hi. Sorry. You look really familiar. Like, weirdly familiar. Have we met?”
I shake my head. “Um, I don’t think so. I just had a question for the owner--”
The girl is looking at Deo, her fingers linked with his. “Deo. I think...I think she might be your sister,” she says quietly.
Deo rears back, both his hands up, his face suddenly clouded with fury. “What?”
The girl nods at me. “She came in looking for Dante. He’s been sending her crazy gifts for years. Also...well, look at her.”
….TIES is coming August 26, 2013!