Mary gave him a bright smile as he boarded his plane, “Good evening Kyle, I’ve got sandwiches in the fridge, your favorite sodas on ice, and snacks in the overhead. Sheila already has the flight plan filed, we’ll be stopping in Houston to refuel and should be landing in Cancun in seven hours unless we get delayed.”
“Thanks Mary, I really appreciate you and Sheila waiting for me overnight,” Kyle responded sincerely as she closed the door behind him.
“No problem, this place is gorgeous, and we may had indulged in one of the hot springs hotels, on you of course,” Mary grinned smugly. “I can’t wait for the new place to be finished.”
“You do like your employee comps, don’t ’cha Mary-mary,” A huskier female voice said from behind her. “We’re wheels up in 15, boss. Legal wanted me to remind you that the Nicolov paperwork needs to be back to them by Friday and the court transcript you wanted is in a separate folder.”
“Thanks Sheila,” Kyle said distractedly looking at the folders. “Ladies, can I ask you something personal, something only a woman would have an opinion on?”
They both looked at him curiously. Their boss was one of the nicest, most courteous men they had ever met. He seemed completely fine with them being a couple and even paid for their honeymoon when they were able to finally get married. Never once had he made the vulgar ‘can I watch’ comments they often got from other men.
Kyle swallowed, he didn’t know how to ask politely so he just asked, he knew they would give him an honest answer. “If someone you knew was sexually assaulted, and they never talked about it, but you needed to know what happened so you could help them. Would you try to find out? Would you want to know?”
“Woah...” Mary breathed out.
“That’s a tricky thing to ask, boss. Does she know you want to know?” Sheila inquired.
“She told me a little about what happened.” He shrugged.
“Does she need help dealing? I mean has she talked to anyone about it? A therapist maybe?” Mary shook her head, a worry line creasing her brow.
“She says she’s never talked to a therapist about anything. So, I guess, she only talked to the police and the attorneys in court when she put them in prison,” Kyle answered.
“Them?” Sheila’s whole demeanor changed from concern to outrage, “You said them as in more than one?”
“Like I said, I don’t know the details yet, but yes, there were three of them. They overpowered her and injected her with something to paralyze her.” Kyle ran his hands through his hair, admitting, “I don’t know if I want to know the details, but she just shuts everything inside of her. Compartmentalizes in a way that is almost scary, and I am worried about her. In three years, she went through more crap than most people go through in a lifetime and she’s never dealt with any of it. She just focuses on getting through today and tomorrow, and being what everyone else expects of her.”
“And you’re afraid she’s going to crack. What changed to have you so worried?” Mary demanded softly.
“She is fostering a girl who went through something similar and I can see that it is bringing back a lot of her pain,” Kyle leaned against the desk and rubbed his forehead, “And a person that caused her a lot of pain is back in her life and trying to make things right.”
Sheila and Mary shared a look, he didn’t notice. Mary squeezed Sheila’s arm with a nod.
“Boss... Kyle... A woman getting raped isn’t just about her body being hurt. It hurts her mind and her soul. It makes a woman feel worthless, helpless, like she is less of a person. Then you get all the haters who say bullcrap like, ‘what did you do to ask for it?’, or ‘did you lead him on?’, or ‘what were you wearing?’. Like you wanted to get punched and dragged into the back room of a nightclub by some guy you’d never met so he could have a good time. It’s the most personal and horrible thing that could happen because it isn’t like being shot or stabbed, it’s worse. You need to ask yourself seriously if you can handle knowing, and think about how she will react if she finds out you looked into this without her permission.” Sheila’s voice was firm but there was something in it that made Kyle angry for her.
“Did they catch him?” His voice was low.
Sheila didn’t even blink as her answer was what happens frequently. “Yep, and he got off scott-free. His defense attorney made it look like I wanted it because of what I was wearing and where I was when it happened.”
A sound came from the cockpit and Sheila cocked her head, listening, “That will be our clearance to take off.” Then she looked Kyle straight in the eyes. “Boss, most women don’t tell or talk about being raped because nobody wants to relive that. Hell, I still hate the smell of Giorgio for Men and Hennessey. If you love her, you have to know she might hate you for trying to help her through this. Are you willing to take that chance?”
“I guess I am. The person she was versus the person she became. It’s my fault. She was recovering, beautiful, strong, and outgoing. It is my fault she became what she is now.” Kyle admitted, it made him ache to remember how vivacious she had been when they met and to see how she was a shell of a person now.
Mary was already walking toward the cockpit, when Sheila turned to follow. Kyle called after her, “Sheila, thanks for sharing that with me.”
“Kyle, I don’t tell just anyone, but I trust you. I’ve known you long enough to know you’re a stand-up guy. If you love her, if you really want to help her, find out what you need to know but never tell her you did. You have to let her tell you. If she put them in jail, then she’s a fighter. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t still wounded. My dad was a vet, and I learned young that wounded animals tend to bite the people trying to help them. People are the same way.”
~15 years earlier~
Camille stood under the waterfall jets of the wrap around shower, scouring the salt off her skin. She had just turned off the water when she heard a door close. She was glad Mina and Kent were back, two days diving with strangers had left her feeling alone. She wrapped her robe around her quickly and went out into her bedroom to talk to Mina.
A man was standing there with his back to her, in the doorway of her closet next to the open balcony door. She watched him reach in and touch her clothes.
“WHAT THE ARE YOU DOING IN MY ROOM?” she shouted and when he turned, she punched him in the face. He stumbled backwards out onto the balcony and almost went over the railing.
Catching himself, Kyle turned back to see through his blurry vision the woman who had attacked him, approaching him with a chair. Holding one hand over his throbbing eye, he held out the other in front of him.
“I’m... I’m Kyle... Kent’s brother, Kyle. This is my room.”
Camille stopped and almost dropped the chair, she lowered it so quickly. “OMIGAWD, I am so sorry. I... I thought you were a thief. I... I didn’t know. Are you okay?”
Kyle leaned against the railing, he could feel his eye swelling where she had dotted him. He wasn’t sure he had ever been punched that hard. With his watery other eye, he tried to get a good look at his brother’s fiancée’s sister.
She was beautiful and mostly naked. Long muscular legs lead up to a silky pale blue robe that barely reached past the top of her thighs. It was almost untied and hanging open to her navel, barely covering her nipples. Full perfect breast heaved in rapid shocked breaths, but the thing that caught his attention was the intricately detailed blue butterfly tattooed between them. He blinked trying to clear his vision, the wings seemed to flutter as she inhaled and exhaled, like it was alive. He tore his eyes up to her face, perfect bow lips parted slightly as she tried to calm herself, shocked wide hazel eyes that showed a mixture of fear and relief. Wavy, wet, caramel hair that framed her face, and stopped at her jawline. She was beautiful.
“Your... um... robe is... a little...” his voice trailed off as he fought and lost his battle against urge to look down at her breasts and tattoo again. They were perfect.
She squeaked in the most adorable way and ran out of the room, only to return a moment later, flushed red with embarrassment before she turned her back to him. Pointing at the closet, she stammered, “Ummm I... my clothes... in here.”
Clutching the robe closed up to her throat, it was like she didn’t realize he could now see the bottom of a pair of perfect booty cheeks below the edge of the robe. Those legs, he didn’t think he had ever seen better legs on any woman.
“Please go,” her voice was so high, it sounded like a hummingbird trill, but it snapped him out of his gawking.
“Oh, yes, of course, sorry... I’m... I’m so sorry.”
The door slammed behind him, and he stood in the middle of the living area, feeling like the biggest fool on the planet, with his hand still pressed over his throbbing eye. He needed to get some ice on it and maybe a cold shower for what was throbbing in his pants.
Camille stood on the other side of the door, feeling shaken and oddly stirred. Her sister’s fiancé was a good-looking, but Kent’s older brother was a Greek god. The way his tee shirt had hugged his body just enough to show he was as fit and muscular as most of the swimmers she knew made her heart flutter. His tanned chiseled features, rich ebony hair, and eyes the color of the deepest sea made her feel all melty. Mina had said Kyle was almost as handsome as Kent, but Camille decided she needed to take her sister to get her eyes checked. Kyle was a helluva lot more handsome than Kent. She dove into her closet to find something to wear, hanging on the end was a dress she had never seen before. Pinned to the cleavage was a note that said.
’Told you so. Wear this, love Mina.
PS Don’t worry. He’s nothing like Kris.′
The floaty floral silk maxi dress appeared modest except for the deep halter neck. Mina obviously meant to show of her tattoo. The full skirt reached the floor, but when she walked, the smooth fabric clung to her curves. Camille stared at herself in the bathroom mirror, then decided on her usual, just a bit of waterproof mascara and lip gloss. If he liked her then he did, and if he didn’t, then... then she would eat a few gallons of ice cream every night forever and get a cat.
Her hand trembled over the doorknob. For a moment and the cold rational part of her screamed, who are you and what are you doing?
While the closet romantic, shouted at the ice queen to shut the f* up for once in her life.
Deep breath in and she hurried out to find him sitting casually on the couch with a towel of ice on his face. She apologized in a rush, “I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to punch you. I mean, well, I did mean to punch you, but I thought you broke in or something.”
He gave her a handsome grin and she swallowed the urge to giggle.The rich blue shirt and khaki shorts made him look like something out of GQ.
“I guess Mina and Kent forgot to tell you I was arriving tonight. Sorry, I went into the room you were using.”
She smiled sheepishly, “Well, it is sorta your room, so technically, I’m the one who was trespassing.”
“I think I could be persuaded into not pressing charges if you had dinner with me,” he offered, with a cheeky smirk.
Shocked by his forwardness, she laughed then taunted, in a high childish voice, “Oh officer, I was so scared and helpless, please arrest the bad man who snuck into my room while I was in the shower.” She fluttered eyes and patted her hand over her heart in mock distress.
His eyes flicked to where her hand rested over her tattoo, and he shook his head. Kent had warned him Camille would be a handful but what he should have said was she was the goddess of mischief. “Trust me and my eye. You are anything but helpless,” he assured her. She giggled.
They sat in silence after their humor wore off, then he introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Kyle. I’m the resort developer. I like being close to the water, I scuba, ski, and enjoy extreme sports like rock climbing and storm surfing, and I like taking long walks under the moon. How about you?”
Camille laughed, “I’m Camille. I’m an Olympic Diver, multi-bronze medalist, and college student. I love being close to the water. I also scuba, ski, and cliff dive, but I have never surfed. And rock climbing isn’t an extreme sport, Kyle, it’s just an afternoon playing around on my grandpa’s ranch.”
“Oh ouch...” Kyle chuckled, and her smile almost split her face
“And... and...” she interrupted, snickered. “I also like taking long walks under the moon.”
“Hmmm, perfect.” His deep blue eyes had a sexy gleam she couldn’t make herself look away from.
“Perfect?” she asked breathlessly.
“Yes, perfect. We should get married, I’m sure Kent and Mina won’t mind having a double wedding.” Kyle sounded so smug, so sure she’d say yes, that Camille burst out laughing.
“Why Mr. Hightower, you haven’t even asked me properly. What makes you think I’d agree?” she teased.
“Why wouldn’t you? I mean, we like the same things. You’re beautiful, driven, successful, and so am I. Marry me.”
She gaped at him, he seemed so serious, “Hold your horses, Mr. Arrogant... You really think I am just going to agree to marry a man I’ve only known long enough to commit assault and battery against?”
“Yes.” His confidence was outrageous.
Camille got up and walked through the living room patio doors out onto the balcony before turning to smirk at his confused expression. “Sorry, it was getting a little crowded in there with you and your ego.”
Kyle threw back his head and guffawed, he wiped tears of laughter from his eyes. “Ms. Wallace, would you have dinner with me, if I promise not to ask you to marry me until later?”
Her eyelids dropped, half-lidding her shining hazel eyes, they promised something he could only hope for. He already wanted to kiss her lips and their perfect pucker. She drawled in a very faux southern accent, “Why Mr. Hightower, that sounds delightful. But are you sure you can restrain your impulsive nature through dinner?”
He grinned again, as he walked over to look down at her, “I think I can manage to restrain myself for a month or two.”
He was so devastatingly handsome, she wanted to swoon, instead she sat down and waved her hand at the other chair, “Then shall we have dinner on the veranda?” in the same southern twang.
He nodded, “Room service it is. What would you like, Ms. Wallace? A salad and grilled chicken?”
“Oh heck no. I’ll have the ribeye steak and grilled swordfish, with rice pilaf,” she said tartly, “And cheese cake. You can have my salad.”
“As you wish.” He went back in, picked up the phone, and ordered two of the same.
She had pretended to look out over the ocean, she had never felt this way about anyone.