Not My Type: Rhiannon Ch. 06byfirstkiss©
I sighed. "And the point of it all is?"
Chuck smiled gently at me. "To get everything off our chests. To say what we have to say to each other and make an official decision on things. And then we turn around and present a united front to Mum and Dad, like Matt said earlier."
"Yeah," Vi agreed. "What good are brothers and sisters if you don't fight first and then gang up on your parents later?"
I laughed. "I don't know Vi; I don't have brothers or sisters."
She leaned over and hugged me, her youthful exuberance contagious. "You do now!"
The four of us escaped the cottage and went down to the beach for some fresh air. Chuck and Matt skipped stones into the waves. Vi and I walked back and forth along the cove's shoreline. She regaled me with tales of the cute boy at school she had a crush on. I listened as patiently as I could, all the while ashamed that my ears were tuned mostly for the sound of Joe's truck coming down the lane.
But it wasn't Joe's truck that pulled up in front of the cottage first. It was a motorcycle of gleaming red and black.
"Lilly!" Matt and Chuck chorused, grinning.
"Adam!" Vi squealed. She turned to me and grabbed my arm, leaning in to speak softly in my ear. "Don't you think he's the most gorgeous thing you've ever seen?"
Adam and Lilly dismounted the bike and removed their helmets. Adam was good looking, ridiculously so, but I couldn't help but notice that he didn't have soft auburn hair, sea-blue eyes, and wide hands that knew how to find all the right places.
"Yeah, he's cute," I mumbled to Vi, knowing she expected some kind of answer.
Vi smile turned broad and mischievous. "Oh, I hope I find a boyfriend just like him, he's perfect!"
Adam unhooked a case of beer from the back of the bike as Chuck, Matt, Vi, and I walked back towards the cottage. From goodness-knows-where he produced a bouquet of flowers, and he held them out to me with a big, sexy smile as I approached.
"What are these for?" I asked with trepidation. From the corner of my eye I could see Lilly watching the proceedings with interest. I wondered what she thought of her boyfriend bringing me flowers.
"An apology for last night," Adam explained.
"From both of us," Lilly added with a shy smile. "I overreacted."
"Runs in the family," Vi said with a giggle. "Did you hear?"
Lilly nodded, her auburn waves bouncing. "Yeah, Mum called me just after you did. You'd think all hell's broken loose. If there'd been room on the bike we would have brought two cases of beer."
"It's going to be a long afternoon," Violet agreed.
My watch said it was only 3:30. "Aren't you all supposed to be at work?" I asked. It was little overwhelming that there were suddenly all these people at my house in middle of a Monday afternoon. And Vi had mentioned something about food. Just how the hell was I going to swing that? When I hosted dinners in the past I always called a caterer.
"Left early," Matt laughed, his blue eyes twinkling. He took the case of beer from Adam and hefted it onto one shoulder.
"Took a personal day," Lilly said with a smile over her shoulder as she followed her brother across the porch and into the cottage.
"Called in sick," Adam added, trailing behind Lilly, one hand on her hip.
"We're hanging out at home all summer, helping out around the farm," Vi chimed in as she and Chuck moved passed me.
"So basically we're at your beck-and-call any time you need us," Chuck offered. He touched my arm. "Are you okay?"
I nodded. "I'm just a little..."
"Overwhelmed?" Chuck supplied as he held the door open for me. Tanners were spread out around the front room, all with beer already in hand.
"In need of a drink, actually," I sighed. I'd almost forgotten how nice a cold beer on a hot day could be and with all the stress and drama, I never felt I needed one more. Adam and the Tanners each looked a sheepish as I jealously ogled their alcoholic beverages.
Chuck's laugh was low and sounded a little like Joe's. "Sorry Rhiannon. Would you like something else to drink? I'll get it for you."
"Nothing for me," I said with a thankful smile. "But I could use water and a vase for the flowers, please."
Chuck trailed off into the back of the house. I heard him rummaging about in the kitchen cupboards. I'd stumbled across an old vase during my cleaning that morning, but couldn't remember where I'd left it. Chuck reappeared moments later and took the flowers from me. He arranged them neatly in the vase and settled it on the coffee table where it sat between us all, looking quite festive.
"So," Adam chuckled, looking about the room as I sat on my spot on the daybed. "This is one of those secret Tanner Family meetings. Been a while since you had one?"
The siblings all laughed.
"More than a year," Lilly supplied.
"Two months," Vi said at the same time.
The sisters looked at each other. Vi's expression was awkward, Lilly's surprised.
"You had the Significant Other Meeting, didn't you?" Lilly accused.
Chuck and Matt looked as guilty as their little sister.
"The Significant Other Meeting?" Adam and I asked together. They were speaking in Tannerisms again. I was lost.
Matt sat back in his armchair and stretched his legs out with a sigh. "We sort of get together, when one of us is seeing someone new, to decide whether or not we approve... usually the sibling in question isn't there for that one."
I laughed. "You had a meeting about Lilly and Adam?"
Matt shrugged and grinned.
"And the outcome was?" I prompted, curious.
"Well he's still here, isn't he?" Chuck said with a laugh.
Adam turned to Chuck with a look of shocked disbelief. "And what if you didn't all approve? What happens to the boyfriend then?"
"Nothing really," Violet pointed out. "It's not like we take you out to the back forty and beat you up...it's just painfully obvious when one of us is dating the wrong person. Really we just want what's best and usually the sibling in question catches on fairly quickly and realizes we're right. The Significant Other sort of... melts away, after that."
Adam and I exchanged a nervous glance.
"Don't worry," Matt laughed. "You two passed the test."
Adam stood beside me, leaning against the wall. He looked down at me with a crooked grin. "I don't think their standards are too exacting, Rhi. I've been to jail and you're knocked up...are we really sure we want in on this?"
He laughed loudly and I couldn't help but join in. It was nice to have an ally.
"It's not about who you are or what you've done," Vi said in a gently reproachful tone much more mature than her years. "It's about whether you're the right person for our brother or sister."
"And I'm the right person for Joe?" I asked incredulously.
Matt winked at me. "On paper, probably not. But you're the only girl he's had eyes for since the first moment he saw you. He's loved you for years."
I didn't know what to do with that or how to speak past the lump in my throat. Lilly looked as shocked at the revelation as I felt.
"Matt!" Chuck and Violet chorused in scandalized unison. Vi glared threateningly at her older brother; Chuck watched me warily. They obviously knew something I didn't.
Shock numbed me. Every pair of eyes fell on me. It was stiflingly warm. I needed air. I stood and wobbled a little unsteadily on my feet. Adam took hold of my elbow gently, supporting me.
"Rhi?" he asked. His voice was concerned, my name a soft question. His bright green eyes looked worried.
"I need to go," I muttered, more to myself than to him. Panic rose heavily in my throat. "I need fresh air."
Adam nodded and released his light hold. The horde of dumbstruck Tanners watched me flee.
Outside the sea air was brisk and mollifying. Unseeing, I moved to the shore and sat down in the sand, my back against a large piece of smooth driftwood. I pulled my knees up and curled my arms around them. With my chin on my knee, I watched the waves come endlessly in.
Love. That wasn't supposed to happen. That wasn't in the plan. It wasn't fair to me, it wasn't fair to Joe. Joe wasn't the sort of guy I was supposed to love. Goodness knows I didn't deserve his affection. This was supposed to be an arrangement for the baby. It wasn't right.
I don't know how long I sat there. There was only the rhythm of the waves and the empty hollow feeling in my chest.
The strong hand on my shoulder was unexpected and I jumped a little. When I turned my head it was Adam who stood behind me looking worried, not Joe. My stomach sank but I managed a polite smile.
"Can I sit down?" Adam asked in his deep,sexy voice. I nodded and he settled himself beside me. He leaned back against the driftwood log and stretched his arms across it.
"Joe's home," he said after a little time passed. "The pow wow has begun. It didn't feel right being in there, not when they were discussing how to deal with their parents, so I thought I'd come see how you were doing."
I tried to ignore the fact that Joe had come home and hadn't been out to see me.
"Are you okay?" Adam inquired gruffly when I didn't join in the conversation. I turned my head from the vista of the ocean to look at him.
"I don't know," I admitted. My voice sounded small. It didn't sound like me at all.
Adam's answered smile was gentle. He shook his head and chuckled. "They are quite the family. And you and I are two of a kind, Rhi—we're like the anti-Tanners. We're not used to brothers and sisters and parents. We're loners. We take care of ourselves and depend on no one because that's the way it's always been for us. It's not easy to understand a life where things could be different for us, where there are people who love us and want to take care of us."
Adam's deep voice washed over me. The cadence of his words comforted me, even if their meaning didn't calm my fears.
"I don't know what to do," I whispered. "I feel lost."
Adam smiled crookedly. "Can't say as I blame you, sweetheart. Let's look at this logically for a minute. What are your options?"
"Stay or go," I said straightforwardly.
I thought about it for a minute. "Anywhere. Everywhere. Paris maybe. Have you ever been to Paris?"
Adam chuckled deep in his chest. He nodded and smiled.
"I love Paris," I said wistfully. "I could be happy there. The baby and I could be happy there. And no one would look funny at us, think twice about us. It wouldn't matter if I was a single mother, no one would know, no one would care. Here a baby born on the wrong side of the sheets is still a scandal. This island is too damn small sometimes."
I chanced a glance over at Adam. His darkly handsome face turned thoughtful. He understood me, even when it seemed like no one else did.
"And Joe?" he asked.
I bit my lip. Tears threatened behind my eyelids but I didn't want to let them win. "Do you think he loves me? Is that even possible? My own mother didn't even love me enough to stay, why would he?"
Adam cocked his head to one side and studied me. He chose his words with care. "Well, it's not like Joe and I are best friends so I don't know the deepest, darkest secrets of his heart. I doubt anyone does," he admitted with a chuckle. "But I think it's fair to say there's the possibility that he does love you. I mean really, look at you... how could he not?"
Adam's tone was lightly teasing, but there was concern in his words and I offered a weak smile, trying to acknowledge the compliment.
"Do you want to hear my theory on all of this?" Adam inquired. I nodded and he continued.
"I think the reason why Joe put that ring on your finger so fast is because he knows how independent you are. He knows you could raise this baby on your own. He knows you could easily take off and he'd never see you again," Adam took a deep breath and smiled reassuringly at me. "He panicked because he knows that ultimately the decision is yours and yours alone."
"I don't belong here Adam. What am I going to do? I don't even own appropriate footwear for this lifestyle. Unless Prada's new fall line is 'rural chic', I'm never going to fit in here!"
Adam held out the arm furthest from me then opened and closed his fist. He looked at himself, almost as if it wasn't his own body he was looking at. His tattoos moved as his muscles flexed and he grinned at me. "So what if you and I aren't meant for fitting in here, sweetheart? Don't let that get you down. There's no rule that says we have to. Maybe it's time for this sleepy little island to change a bit."
"So what do we do?" I asked, curious.
Adam laughed. "Well I'm not about to change any time soon, and I doubt you are either. I don't think you should. You are who you are, Rhiannon. There's no shame in that. And Joe loves you the way you are. The rest of them will catch up, I promise you. They'd be stupid not to."
He turned to face me, his emerald green eyes remarkably bright. I got the feeling he could see me more clearly than I could see myself. "You're a resourceful woman, Rhi. You could be anywhere in the world right now. What you have to ask yourself is why have you stayed?"
I didn't know how to answer that. I hadn't really thought about it in those terms. The answer terrified me. It must have shown on my face because Adam patted my shoulder and grinned at me teasingly.
"It could just be because I'm drop dead gorgeous, right?" His teasing smile lightened the mood. I could feel the tension sitting between my shoulders melt a little.
I smiled and laughed. "Why couldn't I have met you that night at the bar Adam? We understand each other. It's like you said, we're two of a kind."
His answered smile was sexy and there was a humorous glint in eye that made me laugh along with him. "It wouldn't have worked sweetheart," he chuckled. "We'd have killed each other on the first date. Besides, you might be the most gorgeous woman on the whole damn island, but you're just not my type."
To be continued...