Home > Loose Ends, Volume One (Loose Ends #1)(6)

Loose Ends, Volume One (Loose Ends #1)(6)
Author: Kristen Ashley

She sighed as she realized she was meeting Pearl at Cipriani at eight sharp.

“Can I help you try on?”

Luci again looked up, and there she saw Elena, ready to assist.

“I’ll just slip on the Dolce and Gabbana slides,” Luci replied. Slides, even D&G ones, far more appropriate for her home on the beach in North Carolina.

“You’re not taking the Aquazurras?” Elena asked, deflated. “They look beautiful on you.”

Luci looked down.

They did.

They looked beautiful on her.

They were the kind of shoes that would look beautiful on anyone.

But she was a former model. She’d even been called a supermodel in her day (now she was a former supermodel). So even if she was vain—and she was, slightly, the appropriate amount, considering she was gorgeous, knew it, and it would be disingenuous to pretend she didn’t—she had to admit to even more vanity about her feet.

She had beautiful feet.

And even better ankles.

Kia would love those shoes. And Kia helped out at the shop on occasion. Kia was her best friend in Kingston. In fact, Kia was becoming her best friend ever (and she had a lot of friends, but Kia was special).

She could let her try them on. Even wear them, if Sam took Kia somewhere lovely.

She lifted her head yet again. “Yes, I’ll take them.”

Elena beamed.

Luci felt a profound sadness inside because it was highly unlikely Hap would ever see her in those shoes.

She was putting the other one on—just in case—when her fingers stilled on the zip in the back.

She hadn’t thought of what Travis would think.

She always thought of what Travis would think, even if her beloved husband was very dead.

He’d love them. He’d make love to her as she wore them.

Hap would find them amusing, but Luci did not know if he was the kind of man who would tease his woman, doing this partially to hide how he admired her when she took care of herself, looking pretty and dressing up, and then he would show how he appreciated them in another manner.

She’d never know that.

And that was what made her the saddest of all.

Hap

“You’re a screamin’ idiot.”

Hap had his crab sandwich up to his face, his eyes on Sam and Kia sitting at the picnic table in front of him, but he slid his gaze to the side and up to see Skip standing there, looking pissed (not an unusual look), glaring at Hap.

It also wasn’t unusual for Skip to be at the crab shack seeing as it was called Skippy’s Crab Shack.

Hap just wasn’t in the mood to put up with Skip’s mood.

He started to lower his sandwich at the same time open his mouth to speak, but Skip (also as usual, especially with his mouth) was faster.

“So Luci’s in New York City, drownin’ her sorrows in stupidly expensive shoes she’s got no business ownin’ when she lives on a beach, and half the time she’s barefoot. So you’re down here,” he swung his arm out in front of him, “havin’ a visit when you’re nowhere near here when Luci’s around.”

Hap had once been banned from Skippy’s Crab Shack after an ill-advised discussion (read: fight that he thought was funny, but Skip had not) about the Army v. Navy game (Army had won, Hap was a first sergeant, stationed at Bragg, Skip was retired Navy).

It hadn’t been very long ago he’d been granted permission to return to the Shack.

He liked Skip’s sandwiches. And if pressed, say through water torture, he would admit to liking Skip.

He didn’t want to be banned again.

That wasn’t why he kept his mouth shut.

“Lay off, Skip,” Sam warned.

Good, Sam had his back.

Not a surprise.

Skip turned his attention to Sam. “I can tell you’re gearin’ up to back his play. I can also tell you it’s disappointing, when you’re one of the few males I know who primarily thinks with his first brain, those times you think with your second.”

Sam’s face got hard.

Kia giggled, and if Hap’s glance at Skip hadn’t happened the precise instant it did, he’d have missed the softness come into its craggy depths when he heard Kia’s laugh.

That was Skip. No woman on earth would think he had a soft spot for them, but as far as Hap could tell, he had a soft spot for all of them.

He was the crankiest, most foul-mouthed asshole of a ladies’ man in history.

“I’m sorry?” Sam said low.

Hmm.

Not good.

“Only a man thinkin’ with his johnson would be okay with another man pissin’ his life away and hurtin’ a woman he cares about,” Skip retorted.

Sam’s back got straight. “It’s called brotherhood, Skip.”

Skip jabbed a finger Sam’s way. “That. That right there. Thinkin’ with your johnson.”

Hap entered the fray.

“Maybe you can let us eat our sandwiches?”

Skip squinted at him.

Then he leaned into his fists at the table.

“If I thought it was worth my time, instead of a waste of it, to tell you a story that would get your head out of your ass, I’d do it. Since it’ll be a waste of it, I won’t. But you’re a damn fool, George Cunningham. Never thought I’d say that, even you . . . a grunt. But you’re a damn fool.”

Hap felt his jaw get hard, but Skip just pushed up and stomped away.

“Let it go,” Sam advised quietly.

Hap stopped watching Skip storm away and turned his head to study his sandwich.

“Eat your sandwich. We’ll take off, get some beers, hang out on the deck, and you can relax and let that shit go,” Sam suggested.

“Skip’s right,” Kia chimed in, also quietly.

“Baby,” Sam murmured.

Hap looked at Kia. “I don’t need this.”

Kia looked right back at Hap. “Yes, you do.”

At that, Hap felt his lips thin.

“Let it go, honey,” Sam urged his wife.

Kia gave her husband a stubborn look then she picked up her basket of food, twisted on her seat and swung her legs around, muttering, “I’m eating in the kitchen with Skip, the only man of my acquaintance here who’s using his first brain.”

Sam made a noise in his throat that was part humor, part annoyance, and Kia took off.

Hap watched her go and wondered when she’d start showing. She was only four months pregnant, so he figured it’d happen soon.

Hap bent his neck, lifted his sandwich and took a huge bite.

“Skip’s not gonna let this go,” Sam noted.

Hap kept his eyes on his sandwich as he chewed, swallowed, then grunted, “He’ll let it go.”

“Man, you gotta swing things back around with Luci.”

Hap lifted his gaze to his friend. His brother in arms. Just his brother, not by blood, but that was where they were at.

Like Gordo was there with them.

Always and forever, even after Gordo and Sam left the Army.

Travis “Gordo” Gordon.

Their brother.

Luciana’s dead husband.

“She finds someone else, I’ll get there.”

Fuck, it was a miracle he could get that out.

He pushed the miracle.

“And she’ll find someone else, Sam. She’s ready. She’s got herself past the hard part. It won’t take her long.”

Yeah, that was harder.

A fuckuva lot harder.

The thought of Luci with another man made him want to hurl.

He took another bite of his sandwich to get the sick taste out of his mouth.

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