“I never had an annoying younger sister, Dylan, but if I had to imagine what it might be like…” He looked meaningfully at Kara’s back as she walked away, and she turned and shot him daggers. He shrugged, with an utterly unapologetic smile.
“What the hell’s got into you?” Sophie hissed as soon as they were safely inside the villa.
Kara shrugged, aware that her behaviour had been questionable at best. “I just get the wrong vibe from him.”
“The wrong vibe? Kara, we might be in Ibiza, but since when did you get vibes? You don’t know the first thing about Dylan.”
“Exactly! Do you?” Kara said. “Does Lucien?”
“No I don’t, but I trust Lucien’s judgement.”
Kara trusted Lucien’s judgement too, and knew that she was just digging a bigger hole by pushing her point. The vibe she got from Dylan Day wasn’t an untrustworthy one. She didn’t fear that he was going to rip her friends off or that he’d be terrible at his job. It was far less tangible than that. The man just somehow pushed her buttons.
Her alive button.
Her awareness button.
Her turned on button.
In Kara’s book, they were all buttons that she didn’t want pressed. This summer, and probably the next one too for that matter, were all about restoring her equilibrium through work and friends. Her heart had been well and truly trampled on, and it wasn’t anywhere near ready to be prodded and poked by an American with a chip on his shoulder and a smart comeback always on his lips.
But Kara was ready to play nice for Sophie’s sake.
“Okay.” She sighed, and then smiled. “Okay. I’ll be on my best behaviour. Just don’t ask me to apologise for the Lola comment.”
“I’d have thought you of all people would have some empathy, Kara,” Sophie chided gently, handing her a fresh bottle of champagne to take outside. “He might be broken-hearted for all you know.”
Kara huffed as she left the kitchen. “He doesn’t look broken-hearted to me.” Quite the reverse, in fact, she added, to herself.
Sophie watched her friend walk back across to the dining nook, deep in thought. Kara’s reaction to Dylan Day was unreasonable, and that could only mean one thing. Hope and fear mingled together in Sophie’s gut for her friend. Kara was the toughest person in the world, until she wasn’t, and then she fell to pieces. But she did it in a scary, private way that allowed her to stay looking perfect on the outside while on the inside she was broken glass. Sophie knew her well enough to be sure that there were still some big, jagged shards within from the way Richard had treated her, and she just hoped her friend was not about to get sliced open by them.
Lucien glanced at his watch. The evening had settled into a more relaxed mode after Sophie and Kara had returned to the table, and for the remainder of dinner Dylan had showed himself to be an interesting and well-informed guest. His instincts told him that Dylan was a safe pair of hands for the club, and they also told him that Dylan Day was a man with a past that hounded him. He understood those hounds. He’d lived with his own pack of wolves for enough years, but he’d also learned that there were ways to silence their howls.
He dropped his arm over Sophie’s shoulders and massaged her bare shoulder, the girl who held the hounds’ reins and kept them at bay.
She reciprocated with a light massaging hand on his thigh as she laughed at something Dylan said, and when he slid his hand under her hair to stroke his thumb over the extra sensitive spot on the nape of her neck, she passed a hand over her forehead.
“You know guys, I might have to call it a night. I think I’ve got the beginnings of a headache,” she murmured, her cheeks pink from champagne and Lucien’s attentions as she stood up. “Lucien?”
He smiled, his fingers toying with the zip of her dress.
“I’ll come with you.” He placed a hand on her forehead. “We can play doctors and nurses.”
Sophie rolled her eyes as he stood up and put his arm around her waist.
“Dylan, it’s been a pleasure.” She raised her hand to stop him as Dylan went to stand. “You guys stay a while and finish the champagne, it won’t keep. I’ll see you again soon, I’m sure.”
As she leaned down and kissed Kara goodnight, she distinctly heard her mutter ‘bitch’ in her ear.
“Listen, Kara…” Dylan topped up their champagne glasses in the silence that followed Lucien and Sophie’s disappearance. “I think we may have got off on the wrong foot, and for my part in that, I’m sorry.”
He handed Kara her glass and picked up his own, turning his body towards hers on the bench as he settled back down. The top couple of buttons on his dark shirt were open, and Kara found her eyes following the tanned column of his neck down and wondering what he’d be like if he lost the shirt altogether.
Balls. She closed her eyes and brought her glass to her lips. She didn’t want to think that.
Don’t think it, don’t think it, don’t think it.
Maybe if she said it three times in her head something magical would happen and he wouldn’t be so attractive when she reopened her eyes.
Well, that didn’t work. In fact, if anything, he looked sexier still, because he was watching her, waiting for her.
“Are you waiting for me to apologise too?” she asked, placing her drink down.
“Do you feel like you need to?”
He was half school teacher, half sex god, and for some reason Kara found herself ready to be thrown over his knee and chastised for her sassy mouth. Oh Lord. This was going to go bad. Champagne swilled in her veins, and there was no stopping the words from leaving her lips.
“No. I actually feel like sliding over there and unbuttoning your shirt.”
Dylan’s expression went from lazy amusement to round-eyed surprise in five seconds flat. Surprise laced with arousal.
“Which is why you should leave right now,” Kara continued, aware that she’d said too much, as always. Her big mouth had got her into all sorts of trouble over the years, and it would seem that this was destined to be another of those times.
She watched him swallow hard and wanted to trace her index finger down his Adam’s apple.
He watched her watching him.
“Well, that’s an unexpected development, English.”
“You’re telling me,” she said. “Leave. Please?”
Kara manoeuvred herself off the bench and stood to allow him room to get out.
“Should I finish my drink?”
“I could take my shirt off?”
He was standing too close, his fingers on the buttons at his chest, his eyebrows raised suggestively, his expression caught halfway between joking and deadly serious.
Kara crossed her arms firmly, and for the briefest of seconds Dylan’s eyes moved down to the cleavage she’d just inadvertently served up like two oranges on a platter. She didn’t dare open her mouth for fear of what might come out. “Rip my dress off and take a proper look,” sprang unhelpfully to mind.
Dylan leaned down and touched his lips against her cheek; warm, tingly, and lingering for a second longer than could be deemed platonic. Jesus, he smelt like nothing on earth. She wanted to lick his face.
“Goodnight, English,” he said softly. “I’ll see myself out. And for the record… I’ve never felt less like leaving anywhere in my life.”
Dylan jerked awake just before sunrise, his heart thudding. A bead of sweat slipped down his cheek as he pushed himself up to sitting. He was alone. No-one knew he was here. He dropped back heavily against the soft pillows, forcing himself to concentrate on the constellations glowing above him, chasing his demons away across the Milky Way.
This place was different.
These people were different.
He could be different too.