"Sorry, about that ma'am. You okay?" Philip asked.
Tiara blew water from her face and tucked her long strands back behind her. They clung to her and she stared back. "I'm fine."
"Good, do you need help? Or you gonna go ahead and swim now that you're all wet?" Philip took in her pink skin, noting it wasn't burnt, but could easily get that way if she wasn't careful. Her hair glistened in the sunlight and though she was now hidden under water, he had seen her luscious figure before she'd fell into the warm liquid.
"I guess I'll stay now."
He smirked. "I'm Philip Traverse. My Pop lives over there."
"Traverse?" She thought a moment and then said, "Oh that's right, you're the folks that opened up the place for me. Thanks." She swam the short distance to his boat and gripped the rim. Her hand came up and she gripped his, shaking it firmly. "I appreciate you doing that. The food too, it's ummm . . .hearty." She grinned.
He chuckled. "Well, Dominic told Dad, you weren't going to be too concerned about folks, so he wanted you well stocked, so you could stay away from people as long as you needed."
"So you're here after a week?"
He laughed. "I'm here because Pop sent me over, to invite his new neighbor to dinner."
"Oh, I see, otherwise you'd have stayed away?" She asked.
"Nay, eventually I'd have come over and checked on you. We were told there was a woman coming to stay and she'd be alone. Not saying you can't take care of yourself, but coming over to say hello would have just been the neighborly thing to do."
"Well Philip, or Phil?"
"Either works. Dad's Chad."
"What time is dinner?"
Philip grinned and winked. "I am. Dad's up in age, so I'm staying with him. Mom passed a few months back. I got Pop duty."
Tiara nodded her head. "I lost my parents last year in March. I'm sure he's still hurting, as are you."
He looked back at his Dad's cabin. "Yes, he is. He misses her a lot. Some days he's okay, others he seems really lost. We all miss her. She was a diamond."
"Well, I'd be honored. I'll do a few strokes out here and then finish up some work I'm doing inside. Who else will I have the pleasure of meeting?" Tiara found herself looking for reasons to continue treading water near his boat. She chalked it all up to being lonely for some company. The silence of the lake had lost its beauty on the fifth day. She loved the area, and the little house, even the solitude had its moments, but she finally admitted she wanted someone to talk to every once in a while.
"Just Dad and I, you're more than welcome to bring a guest." Philip really hoped she didn't.
"It's just me."
"Great," he quickly added, "we'll see you then."
Tiara started to turn away and then stopped. "Before you sail away, could you help me out?"
Philip's lips radiated a huge smirk and his answered "yes" came quick.
"I'm trying to get this old canoe that is behind the house off its rack. The rope is knotted pretty good and I'd rather not cut it."
"Sure let me dock and I'll meet you on shore."
"Thanks," she answered and quickly swam back to the shore and then walked along the dock. He watched her as he puttered to the side of the pier and tossed her the rope, which she secured to the hook that had been screwed in years ago. "All set," she told him and stood upright, blushing having caught him staring at her round bosom.
Philip climbed out of the boat and onto the pier. He followed the bathing suit clad figure and enjoyed the round cheeks of her ass and sway of her hips. He felt his body react and for a moment he had an urge to try his charm on the lovely woman in front of him. "Dominic didn't give us a name."
Tiara paused and waited for him to catch up with her. "I'm sorry," she gave him her hand again, "Tiara Able."
"Nice to meet you."
They walked together toward the back of the cabin. Philip noted she stood much shorter than him. Her hair was long and gold with red highlights. Her eyes, once he'd taken his time to gaze into them he discovered were a rich green. They reached the canoe and he began to work on the knots that looked as if they had been secured over twenty years ago.
Tiara watched him pull on the swollen cord and chose that time to admire his physic. His body was tone and firm. His skin tanned, unlike her pale complexion that screamed for color. His hair was a dirty blonde, his eyes emerald green. She really liked his eyes. They pulled her and those eyes were staring at her intently. "Oh, sorry," she blushed.
"No worries. I have your canoe free. I've got a lot of extra rope back at Pop's place and you're welcome to it. Do you want me to take this down to the shore for you?"
"That'd be great."
He eased the small craft off its rack and dragged it down to the water's edge. He pushed it in and then secured it to the pier on the opposite side of where his boat was. When he looked back, it was to see Tiara's eyes glued to his rump. He chuckled inwardly. "I best get back to Dad. We'll see you at six then?"
"Yes." Her eyes held his for a moment. "Thanks again, for everything."
"My pleasure." Tiara watched him leave and as she did she felt a wave of dizziness. She shook it off and headed back to the house, wondering if the heat hadn't gotten to her.
Philip set the boat back to the cabin; his gaze constantly looking back at the pier, the house and until she closed the door, the woman behind him. He felt a chill run up his spine and he gave himself a shake to ward off the tingling sensation. When he reached home, he quickly checked on his Father and then set about cleaning up the "bachelor" pad.
Chad woke up a few hours later and saw his son working on dinner. "I take it she said yes."
"Yep, it seems you and I are entertaining this evening."
He noticed his son was sporting a pair of clean jeans, a dress shirt and had shaved. He smirked. "I take it she's not my age."
Philip laughed and looked over at his father. "No, probably in her thirties. Her name is Tiara Able."
"Tiara? Like a crown?"
He chuckled. "Yep, like the crown. She's a beauty too, probably won a few when she was younger. Not that she's old now mind you."
Chad shook his head. "Well, is she driving over or are you boating out to get her?"
Philip stopped cutting the vegetables he'd been dicing. "Damn, never thought of that. You're good Dad. I'll go get her with the boat. I'll have to take her back on the boat too."
"I've still got some wits about me."
"Yes you do, good ones too."
Philip went back to dicing up the vegetables and then pulled on a pair of boots. "I'm off to get our dinner guest. Be back soon," he waved to his dad, "No matter how badly you want too, don't think of cooking those steaks."
Chad laughed and watched his young son head out the door. He turned and took a seat in his favorite chair and his gaze fell on a picture of his wife. It was an old photo. In her arms was a small child, beside her stood two teenagers. He picked it up and ran his fingers over Delilah's beautiful face. "I miss ya baby." He then touched the cheeks of the young boy and then his sister and brother. They'd been so excited the day the photo had been taken. Delilah had wanted another child, but because of her bout with ovarian cancer she could not have anymore, so they had adopted the blonde with the bouncing curls. Janie had commented that no boy should have hair that lovely and as Philip aged, his hair lost its "girly glow".
Chad remembered the promise to keep Philip's life a secret began that day. Janie and Matt both had to be convinced. They knew the child's name had been changed from Ethan to Philip, the reason being that Delilah had wanted to name a second son after her father, Matt having been named after Chad's. When Philip reached eighteen, Matt had wanted to tell him who he was, but Janie, Chad and Delilah convinced him there was no need.
He'd been awake the night Matt and Janie brought it up again. A conversation that he hadn't wanted to hear, but one he was drawn too. He thought of telling Philip the truth, but now after forty-one years did it really matter? What could he tell him anyway? He was born to a woman who for some reason or another couldn't care for him. They had no information for him, Hell with their money and contacts they even doctored up the birth certificate, since the State couldn't produce one. He heard the boat coming back and shook his head, erasing some of the past from his mind.
"No. It's okay Delilah. I'll not tell him. He doesn't need to know." His words faded away as the door opened and he left his chair to greet the woman that had walked in.
"Misses Able?" he asked, extending his hand.
"Yes, Tiara works better though. I hear you are the man that suggested my ride to dinner this evening. Thank you."
"That I am. I hope that was all right with you."
"Yes it was fine, makes more sense than me running over here with the car."
Philip whistled, "But damn that's a nice Porsche you drive."
She grinned and nodded her head toward the window. "You're Vette's not that bad either."
"Kids and their toys," Chad muttered. "Your mother and I drove around in a Wagon for years, did just fine for us."
"It was a fine car, Dad. Tiara, I've got some steaks to grill. Mind keeping Dad company?"
"Not at all," she answered. Her hand looped around Chad's arm and she led him back to the chair she'd seen him sitting in. "So what kind of wagon was it? Horse drawn?"
Chad's laughter erupted and he pulled the young woman closer. "You're a cheeky one, aren't you."
Philip chuckled and watched for several minutes as Tiara and his father spoke quietly to each other. He left the room and grabbed the steaks from the fridge, made his way out to the grill and began to finish up the evening's preparations. His mind traveled back to the woman that was spending time with his father. He'd gotten to the lake and knocked on her door. No answer came to him, so he wondered around calling her name. He found her blue Porsche; it was sleek and sexy just like the woman that drove it. What he didn't expect to find was that same woman in a tree, hollering down at him.
He'd looked up and gazed at her legs dangling. For a brief moment he saw her as a young girl with hair that was a constant tangle. He saw it hanging down her back. He saw skinned up knees and heard laughter tinkling from her lips. Her laugh was what brought him back to reality and he had pushed away the odd image, to focus on the woman that had gotten herself in trouble.
"Whattcha doing up there?" he'd hollered back at her.
"See the ladder?"
He glanced down and chuckled. "I didn't notice, too tickled to see you to see you up there to look anywhere else."
"Ha I saw you checking out my car."
"Well, what man wouldn't."
"Aww, Hell, I thought I looked better than the car."
"Ohhh . . . believe me; you do. You beside me while I drive the car sounds better though."
She laughed. "It's my car. I drive."
He chuckled. "You need a hand?"
He grabbed the ladder and lifted it, arranged it against the branch she was on and watched her shimmy her way over to it. "Thanks."
He watched her move over the ladder and climb her way down. It was a sight he swore would get him hard every time he thought about it. She'd put on a pair of jeans and a sweater, both hugged her body and both drove him to distraction. When she was just a few rungs away, he had to physically fight the urge to grab her hips and "help" her down the rest of the way. He won the battle and was rewarded with the sight of her turning around and grinning. "Thanks bunches," she told him again.
"What were you doing in that tree?" he asked. His answer came with the "meow" that erupted from inside her sweater. He watched the small black head of a kitten peek out and he felt a stab of envy. "Lucky cat."
Tiara blushed and pulled the wee mite out of her shirt and then tucked it against her. "I heard it, but couldn't see it, until I got the ladder. Then I sorta, kinda, might have . . . bumped it and it fell over."
"Still damn, lucky cat."
She giggled again and Philip was lost. He'd waited on her porch while she got ready and then when she emerged, he found himself once more in awe of her. Philip had been attracted to all sorts of women. Some were short and petite, some full-figured, different races had never bothered him, nor had ages. With Tiara though it seemed that he was more than physically attracted. He felt a pull to her. They had talked briefly on the boat ride over and when she made the crack about the horse drawn wagon he'd known she'd fit in great. He hadn't thought that of anyone before, not even the woman he'd called wife for a short time.
When the steaks were ready, he headed back inside to find Tiara laying a blanket across his father's sleeping figure. She heard him and turned around. "I bored him," she winked, shrugged her shoulders and then made her way over to Philip.
He sighed. "Nay, he's been doing that a lot more and more each day, just the way it is."
"So am I."
"Is he okay? I mean, is it just his age or something else?"
Philip set the steaks on the table and pulled a chair out for Tiara. "I think it's a mixture of age and losing Mom. She passed on April Fool's Day and sometimes I think he wants to believe God played a cruel joke on him and she isn't dead."
"It's good you're here with him, though."
He poured a glass of wine and shrugged his shoulders. "I won't lie to you. I didn't want to be here. I wanted to stay in Vegas, living the life of women and song."
"Why didn't you?" she asked, then bit into her steak. "Oh this is good."
"Thanks," he winked. "I was told that I needed to grow up."
"Yeah, I did. I was a playboy. I still might be," he smirked, "so watch yourself."
"Oh, there isn't a doubt in my mind you're a player. I've seen my fare share of them since my parents passed, but you're the first I let take me to meet his Father."
Philip chuckled. They ate their meal and when she made another comment concerning his flare for cooking he admitted that years ago, in his twenties he'd run his own restaurant. When she asked what happened, he revealed his story to her.
"Sarah happened. I was married to my high-school sweetheart, or so I thought she was. It seems she enjoyed dipping into more than just my bank account. She had a few lovers on the side. By the time I realized she was milking me for my wallet, I'd signed papers making her a partner in the business. I could have bought her out, but decided I'd get rid of her and the memories. Well, that I thought was all it would take, but she decided she'd become accustomed to a certain lifestyle and so I was forced to pay alimony. Thank God she found someone with more money than I."
"Money; it all comes down to that doesn't it?" Tiara asked.
"My ex, Roger, he left me for a million dollars."
"Ouch," Philip replied. He refilled her glass as she continued on with her tale.
"It hurt, knowing he could caste me off like that, but it was better that he did. He wasn't a nice man."
Philip noticed the way Tiara's eyes dimmed and looked far off. He heard her speaking; her voice seemed to come from a distance.
"My parents left me everything, except one million dollars, which they were willing to give to Roger if he divorced me, right there on the spot. They even had papers drawn up. I don't know how they did that. . .well I know now. Money talks."
"So he took the money and ran?"
"Yes. They threatened to destroy him. They had preaddressed, signed, and witnessed letters that would be distributed to all his business associates, telling about his abuse toward me as well as implicating him in 'shady' deals."
"He was abusive. Shady deals? I don't know. Don't care either. He signed the papers, took his cashier's check and was out the door."
Philip sat back and stared at the creature in front of him. "Fool."
She blushed. "I think so too. I didn't then. The sun and moon set on him. I just hate knowing that it took my parents' death to rid myself of him, and to make me wake up. I was with him far too long."
They were quiet, the mood tarnished by memories. A noise came from the doorway and Philip looked up to see his Dad standing there. "Phil, you and Janie, best get on up to bed, before your Mom sees ya still up."
Tiara raised her brows and showed her concern.
"We will Dad. Janie's gonna wash dishes first. You need anything?"
"No, I'm heading to bed. Night kids."
The couple watched Chad walk away, Philip followed a few seconds behind his Dad and Tiara began to gather up the dishes. It was fifteen minutes later that Philip returned, in that time he'd been able to help dry off the silverware Tiara had cleaned. "Thanks."
"No problem. Janie? Is she your sister?"
"Yes, Matt's my brother. Do you have any sisters or brothers?" Philip asked.
Tiara took a deep breath. "I don't know. I'm adopted."
The room grew silent. "Oh," Philip responded.
Tiara laughed quietly. "That always happens."
"I'll mention it to someone and they get all weird. It happened to me when people would tell me they were adopted. Why is that? It's not a bad thing." Tiara folded the towel and started to put things away.
"Leave them. I'll get them in the morning." He led her outside and offered her a place on the porch swing to sit. He took his place beside her. "I don't know why it makes a person feel weird to hear it. I mean, you want to say something, or you feel you have to. So you say, oh, or I'm sorry, or something else. It does kinda catch a person off guard."
"I guess. I found out a week after my parents passed. I was forty-two."
"Wow," he thought a moment, "don't tell me they let you know in the Will?"
"That had to have sucked."
"It did. I was surrounded by people I didn't know. My husband was walking out the door. I was shocked. I don't know why they did it that way. Maybe they were scared I wouldn't love them. I've been looking."
"Looking to see if I have any relatives. I've found out I have a brother. My mom's name was Ruby and my brother Ethan. I don't have anything else though."
Philip rocked the swing. "What will you do when you find them?"
"Well, Ruby passed away. Ethan was adopted, but I don't know by whom. My search is pretty much over, unless he starts looking for me through one of the many Family Finders sites, I'm registered with."
"Good luck with that. I don't know what I'd do if I was suddenly told after forty some . . . wait, you said you're forty-two? Or are you forty-three now? Either way, you look way younger than that. I told dad, you were in your thirties."
"Oh, do you think he'll be disappointed? I was hoping I wasn't too old for him."
Philip grinned. "I don't think Pop would mind. You're a pretty gem and that would be all that matters."
"Really? Is that all that matters to his son?"
He turned and found her eyes asking many unspoken questions. His did too. He wanted to know if she felt the same pull? The same attraction? His hand came up to caress her cheek. "Not anymore, but one time it did."
Her breath caught in her throat. "What's changed?" She leaned into his palm.
"I have. Dad loved Mom for the woman she was, not for the beauty she possessed on the outside. I want that someday, to just be lost in my woman's embrace, in her soul, in her eyes."
Tiara blinked. "That would be nice."
"Uh huh." Philip hooked her chin with his fingers and pulled her toward him, at the same time he moved closer to her. Their lips touched, briefly. He stopped and waited for her to come to him. When she did, he increased the pressure and eased his tongue out to slide over the seams of her lips, willing her to part them. When she did, he slowly slipped inside to taste her.