The ride to the resort was fairly normal, yet a good enough amount to listen to a ton of my favorite songs. Cars trips are my favorite time for music.
I sat with Danielle in the back window seat, Cade up front with his mom, the brother—who’s name I found out was Trace—in the seat behind them. We were all getting along swimmingly to my relief. I wasn’t good in social situations unless I opened up. And I opened up to them quite quickly.
Marcia turned into a curvy stretch of road, and from where we were I could see the resort getting closer.
The lobby was elegant and quaint, a well-dressed receptionist there to greet us at the check-in desk. She peeked at us from the monitor and smiled.
“Good afternoon,” Her nametag read “Petunia”. “Do you have a reservation?”
While Marcia and Danielle figured the accommodations out, Cade, Trace, and I took a break at the lobby’s seating area. I kept my bag close to me as if someone would steal it at any moment. Maybe it was just he anxiety of being around only one person I knew on a higher level.
The chandeliers hung over us with elegant lighting, the walls painted a relaxing sky blue, floor-to-ceiling windows, a visible pool area outside of the back entrance. It almost reminded me of the hotel my family and I stayed at when we went to Disney World.
Cade went to get himself something from a nearby vending machine, leaving me alone with Trace. He kept looking me over as if he were checking me out while this made me uncomfortable.
He must’ve noticed this; Trace moved to the couch I was sitting on and flashed a friendly grin, pearly white teeth gleaming.
He nods understandingly. “I can tell. It must be weird springing you into the family so quick.”
I shrugged. “It’s no big deal. At least you guys don’t make me feel unwanted.”
“Really? Someone’s done that to you?” Trace moves in closer.
I scoot a bit further, just enough for him not to notice. “Yeah, but everyone does at some point, right?”
Cade returns from his mini adventure to the vending machine with two Cheez-Itz bags and a Coke. He tossed the bag at me and gave the Coke to Trace.
“How’d you know?” I giddily open the snack and pinch a cracker between my fingers.
“Every time I see you, you either have a Cheez-Itz or a Starbucks drink of some kind.” Cade opens his own bag with a smirk. “It’s not hard to guess.”
Marcia motioned us to follow her where she and Danielle were standing by the elevators. A bellhop met us inside the velvet red carpeted elevator and gladly took a majority of our luggage.
Our room was on the fourth floor with a nice view of the pools and outdoor exercise classes that were going on at the moment. Danielle, Marcia, and I had 415 while the boys had 414.
Danielle hauled her big Louis suitcase on the first bed seen when entering. The weight of her clothes and other “necessities” wrinkled the perfectly-made white puffy sheets a bit, which hurt a little.
“We’re staying a weekend,” Marcia reminded her daughter. “Not a week.”
“It should’ve been a week.” Danielle pouted. “I had enough days off.”
“I’m sure Ellis has things to do during the week and that’s why she chose to go for the weekend, right?” Marcia took off her high-heeled boots.
“It would’ve been nice to stay a week,” I sided with Danielle for a moment. “But yeah, sadly I have commitments.”
“I hear ’ya.” Marcia rolled her eyes. “I can’t wait to be promoted to CEO’s assistant.”
“That’s a pretty impressive position.” I praised her. “You must’ve busted your behind for that.”
“Yes I did.” Marcia applauded herself and ended with a hair flip, and we both laughed.
That evening, there was really no point in starting any treatments because most of what we wanted to do was closed by 8pm, and our treatments would need more time. We went for dinner at the all-you-can-eat buffet, a mellow section of the hotel besides yoga right across from them.
Preceding a nice and fancy steak dinner—that was actually enjoyable—we all headed to our respective rooms to relax and drift off to wake to the next day’s adventures.
Danielle and Marcia were sharing the same bed so I had my own. Marcia was on her tablet and Danielle was brushing her long dark hair, which she caught me watching her do.
“It’s real.” She jokingly snapped.
“Oh, I wasn’t—”
“I’m joking,” She tossed a spare brush at me. “Come on over here if you want to learn how to get it to grow this long.”
I rushed to her side, eager to learn. I’d been trying to get my hair to grow since I cut it in tenth grade against my will. A lot of dye damage. Heartbreaking, really.
“So,” Danielle began instructing. She flipped her hair over to the front while tilting her head, brushing softly from root to tip. “This apparently gets the blood flowing to your scalp, and probably makes it, I guess easier for it to grow?”
“That’s not it, Dani,” Marcia laughs without looking up from her tablet. “Brushing your hair stimulates blood flow to the scalp, which helps bring more nutrients to follicles to promote hair growth.” She showed us the tablet screen to a Google search.
“Basically what I said,” Dani gave a final stroke to her hair and put down the brush.
“We better get to bed,” Marcia powered her tablet off and set it on the nightstand between the two beds. “Luxury-like breakfast followed by luxury-like treatment.”
“Why luxury-like?” Dani flicked off the room lights, leaving a single lamp as the only source of illumination.
“If we want luxury-luxury, that’ll take more than a few overtime checks. And maybe a lottery ticket.”
“Did you know it’s more likely to die on your way to getting a lottery ticket than to win one?” I informed without thinking.
There was a moment of silence after the fact, putting me on edge. Great. I freaked them out after only three hours on vacation. I’m not even supposed to be here.
Dani let out a phlegmy cackle. “I heard that too!”
“Your generation with believing such silly myths,” Marcia rolled her eyes. “The watermelon seed one is my favorite dumb myth.”
“I personally prefer the Pop Rocks and Diet Coke one.” I imitated a sophisticated business man.
The three of us laughed as we settled into bed for the night, awaiting the next day’s relaxation.
By afternoon the following day, us girls went and got shiatsus, mani-pedis—even if that isn’t really my thing—and spent some time in the hot tub to relax our muscles for a while.
Marcia and Dani went to mud and clay baths, and I told them that was where I drew the line; thankfully, they knew I was only joking.
I went alone to the sauna, unexpectedly running into the boys. Cade wore a tank top while Trace wasn’t afraid to show a little skin. The way sweat dropped down his lean body made me feel some type of way.
Cade caught me staring at his brother with sinful eyes and butted in. I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable, despite that shit already sailing.
“French mani?” He examined my nails with a smug grin. “Didn’t know you were like that.”
I snatched my hand away. “Shh. It’s the first time I’ve done it since fifth grade graduation.”
“That long, huh?” Cade teased. “They look great.”
I thank him with a nod and small smile, ignoring Trace’s eyes staring through my soul.
Trace stood from his spot near some guy who was now leaving the room, grabbing a fresh white towel by the door. He draped it around his neck and looked at me with eyes of... hunger?
“Cadelyn,” Trace ruffled Cade’s curly mop hair. “I’m not feeling these public towels down here. Can you get me some from the room?”
Cade’s eyes quickly darted from me to his brother, but he agreed and went on his merry way without protest.
There were a couple and another woman in the sauna with us, but we sat quite far from them in the corner closest to the exit.
“First time in an oven?” Trace chortled and sat beside me.
“Yeah,” I avoided the urge to wipe the beads of sweat forming under my side swept bangs out of habit.
“You like it so far?”
Our eyes met once I managed to finally look him straight in the face. He was gorgeous. They all were. How could those three spawns come from such a hideous bastard?
“Yup.” I gulped. There was no hiding the shake in my voice. I felt intimidated, yet turned on.
Trace licked his plump lips while looking at mine. “Cade was right about you.”
“What do you mean?”
“He always uses big words to describe you,” He explains. “Extravagant, hypnotizing, lovely. All true.”
‘Lovely’ is a big word to this guy? “Oh, that’s sweet.”
He leaned in closer. “How’s Brexton and the boys? Humble as always?”
“You know them?” I had no idea the Edens had any connection to our shit town. Hell, I’d never seen them until this year.
“Done some things with ’em.” Trace shrugs off the question casually. “Decent bunch of people.”
Done things? I anxiously thought to myself. What things? And was Zander involved? How did he even get into this mess without me knowing he existed as of last year? I was always by the boys’ side!
Cade finally came back to save me with two new towels, and I took this as a chance to zoom on out of there.
Cade found me by the elevator. “Was it burning you? I had to leave because of that, too.”
I play around with a damp strand of my now wavy hair. “Yeah. Sure. I guess.”
The elevator arrived and we waited for the elderly couple inside to exit. In the lift, I caught Cade watching me through the reflective walls.
“You tired?” I ask, not wanting to call him out.
“Yeah. Sure. I guess.”
I give him a playful knowing look.
“So what’s the deal with your brother?” I found myself probing Cade informally.
“Why do you ask?” He paused. “If it’s the ‘Tiger Eyes’ look, don’t mind it. He just naturally looks like a predator about to pounce on prey.”
That made me feel a little less uneasy. “Good to know.”
We made it to the girls’ room and Cade invited himself in when I didn’t shut the door behind me. The sliding glass door to the balcony was slightly open, Marcia knowing I’d probably be dying of heat stroke when I came back.
I went out onto the small triangular balcony and sat on one of two mesh chairs tucked into the small circular glass table. Soaking it in was what I needed to ease my natural anxiety and overthinking.
Cade stood behind the other chair, also admiring the setting sun. “I haven’t watched the sunset in forever.”
“Really? You don’t see it through your window or when you’re out?”
“I mean really watch it.” Cade looked up at the small amount of bubblegum-colored clouds. “The last time was probably when our family was still somewhat sane together.”
“Sane together?” Curiosity began gnawing at me.
Cade gave me a panicked expression for a second, then went back to a laid-back demeanor. “Yeah... I never really shared that story with people. Not even my closest friends.”
“Ah,” He probably expected me to egg him on, but I hated being outwardly nosy. “I get it. You don’t have to tell me.”
He lowered himself onto the chair like it would fall apart any minute. “You’re the best friend I’ve had for a long time. I feel comfortable enough to tell you.”
“I’m all ears.” I pressed my ears forward to make them look like elephant ears.
He forced a chuckle before speaking. “Well, Dani and Trace aren’t my only siblings. There are four more.”
“Holy shit!” My mouth dropped open. “I mean, I don’t mean ‘holy shit’ in a bad way, more like, ‘Wow that’s a lot of kids’.”
Cade nods understandingly. “Dad lost his mind over something that Mom never wanted to tell us about, and began torturing us. It got to the point where we adored school because we would be away from him. We slept over friends’ house almost every other day. The longest we’d spend consecutively was, like, three days.”
“Oh.” Was all I could say then.
“One night,” He cleared his throat. “I woke up Danielle when I heard a sort of muffled scream or yelp or something. And we smelled smoke. She sprinted out of the room almost instantly. Turns out Dad was a dealer and fucked up one of his clients’ life in one way or another. So the guy got payback. Or that’s what he told Mom.”
His story continued. “The house was burning. Mom could only save me, Dani, and Trace. We didn’t know what happened to the rest. Eventually we reunited with them at the neighbor down the street’s house. But they thought Dad and Mom were unfit to be parents. So they took us away.”
I was so immersed in the story that I didn’t notice Dani came into the room in her bathing suit and grabbed a towel quickly.
“Mom got joint custody of the three of us, but that was all she could do. They somehow let her keep three of seven kids.”
“W-where are they now?”
Cade shrugged. “Good homes. Ones where they won’t be victims of attempted murder by their own father.”
“But I thought you said—”
“We found out Dad was the one who set it.” Cade revealed. “He went to jail but his drug buddies bailed him out. Drug money may not be good money, but it’s sure a helluva lot, no questions asked by police.”
I wanted to say something similar to “This system is so corrupt and fucked up!“, but decided against it. Instead I said, “Wow.”
Cade nodded, not expecting much of a reaction.
“Is that why you’re with your dad sometimes?”
“Yeah,” Cade opens the can of Pepsi that he’d been holding since we got to the room when he grabbed one from the fridge. “Don’t want to, but it’s the law. Can’t wait til I’m 18 and can tell him to legally fuck off.”
“That’s a lot, Cade.” I sounded breathless.
Fear in his eyes. He was scared I was overwhelmed and wanted to back out of friendship.
“I’ve been through a lot too.” I tug at my sleeve nervously, hoping he’d understand what I was implying.
Cade tugs at his.
“I’ll tell you my life story after dinner.” I announce when Dani and Marcia walk through the door.
Cade is relieved to have gotten all of that off his chest, no question. I made sure to give him reassuring gestures throughout the night, letting him know I wouldn’t change my opinion on him based on his backstory.