Helios Awakened Teaser

iStock_000025395744_Full 2In Book 1 of The Helios Chronicles, Helios Awakened, Madison moves from New York City to the California desert to care for her ailing grandmother but she never expected that she would meet the man of her dreams while there, a man that would set her heart, body and soul on fire. However, this man comes with a price, a heavy price. Is she willing to pay it?

Adult Content: Language, Violence, and Sexual Situations

Excerpt form the upcoming novel, Helios Awakened by TM Witko

PROLOGUE

May 2012

Madison heard the incessant ringing on her phone but refused to answer it. It was too early and she had fallen asleep too late, not to mention that her head was still pounding. By the second round of rings, she groaned and grabbed the receiver, prepared to yell at whoever was on the other end.

“Madison,” her mother said flustered.

“Yes, what is it, Mom?”

She glanced at the clock, 7:00 a.m. Madison couldn’t fathom why on earth her mother would be calling her so early, especially on a weekend. She stretched a little and then felt a hand brush up against her lower back. Madison sighed. She had already forgotten about the man lying beside her.

“What the hell is going on?” Madison barked into the phone as she sat up and wiped her hand over her sleepy eyes. She glanced at her hand and saw black there. The remnants of last night’s heavy mascara and eyeliner winked at her. She shook her head just as Kurtis grunted and reached out for her.

“It’s your grandma.”

There was an edge to her mom’s voice, more so than usual. That immediately set off alarms. What could be going on with her grandma that could cause her mom to call so frantic?

“Hold on, Mom.”

Madison slipped out of the bed and looked around the floor for her clothes. Instead, she spotted Kurtis’s t-shirt so she quickly threw it on and then glanced back at the bed. He was lying on his stomach, his naked backside completely exposed. Kurtis worked in her office and was her occasional… Well, let’s just say he served a purpose. It had been awhile since they had been together, but a work gathering and several margaritas later, they found themselves making love wildly in her bed. Madison frowned. They had left the bar close to 2:00 in the morning, were at her apartment by 2:40 and he was asleep by 3:00. Not exactly the evening she had envisioned. She wasn’t even sure why she’d invited him back to her apartment in the first place. He was definitely handsome but often a lot more work than she wanted. Her frown turned into a scowl as she realized that now she would have to do the whole awkward thing where he wanted to hook up again and she wanted to forget they ever hooked up at all. She ran her hand through her knotted hair, frustrated that she didn’t seem to have any chemistry with anyone. She heard her mother’s impatient breathing on the other end of the line and quickly exited the bedroom. Her lack of chemistry debate would just have to wait for another time.

“What happened to Grans?” she asked as she walked towards the living room.

“Apparently she slipped last night in her bathroom and they had to admit her to the hospital.”

“Is she okay?” Madison asked as she made her way to the couch, plopping down on it in shock.

“I don’t know, Madison. I’m going out there. My plane leaves in three hours. I’ll call you when I know something.” Her mom sounded oddly kind and compassionate.

“Thanks, Mom,” Madison replied, feeling tears already pooling in her eyes. “Hey, can you please tell Grans that I love her and that I miss her.”

“I will,” her mom said right before hanging up.

“Oh God! Grans please be okay.”

Madison dropped her face into her waiting hands. She was consumed with guilt. She should have gone out to see her. She shouldn’t have been so selfish. It had been a while since she had even talked to her. Madison had thought she would always be around, that she would be there to let her vent about what her mom was saying or doing. Madison wrapped her fingers in her hair and cried, hoping that it wasn’t too late.

~*~

“Mom, there is no way in hell that Grans is going into a home.”

“Well, she has to. She can’t be on her own. The doctors say she needs assistance.”

“For how long?”

Madison watched as her mother paced in the living room. She couldn’t help but think that her mom was just angry that this was a huge inconvenience for her.

“Oh, who knows, Madison? You know how doctors are. They don’t give a straight answer to anything. They say anywhere from 3-6 months to forever,” Jacqueline replied flustered.

“Can’t we hire a nurse or something?”

Madison was trying desperately to find a solution that didn’t involve forcing her Grans out of her home. It wasn’t as if she had some life-threatening disease or anything. She just needed help getting around. Why was her mom making it so complicated?

“With what, Madison?” Jacqueline asked harshly, snapping Madison out of her thoughts. “How are we going to pay for a private nurse? With your charm and good looks? How much is that going for now-a-days?”

Madison could hear the bitterness in her words. All she could think to do was glare at her. They had never gotten along that well but, at this moment, Madison despised her. What kind of daughter throws her mom in a nursing home just because she doesn’t want to take care of her? It wasn’t Grans fault that this happened. Of course, now that Madison thought about it, would she want to take care of her mother? Probably not, but this was Grans they were talking about. She was always kind and sweet, a little too religious, but to each her own. Madison often wondered how the hell her mom came from her womb. She couldn’t believe how selfish she was being.

“Don’t look at me that way, Madison. I have a life here that I am not willing to sacrifice. What? Are you going to give up your career and your life to help her? Because that’s what it will take,” Jacqueline said, cocking her brow, having thrown down the challenge.

This was just great. Her mother was putting all of this on Madison. If she said ‘no, I won’t help’ then her mother would send her Grans away and Madison couldn’t say anything about it and if she said ‘yes, I will help’ then Madison really would have to give up her career and life. As she contemplated what the options were, she noticed the smirk on her mom’s face and suddenly knew exactly what she was going to do.

“Yeah, I’ll do it. I’ll take family leave. According to the Family Leave and Medical Act, the firm will have to hold my job. I’ll go and I’ll take care of her.”

Madison smiled at the expression on her mom’s face.

“So let me get this straight. You’re going to go live in white trash central in a tiny two bedroom trailer in the dead of summer. In Bakersfield, no less. That’s your plan?” she stated, now smiling at the stunned expression on Madison’s face as she realized that that was exactly what she had just agreed to do.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Madison replied with less conviction than she had before.

Jacqueline huffed and threw her arms in the air. “Fine, fine, go martyr yourself for her. I don’t care.”

Madison rolled her eyes which elicited the scowl that she had come to look forward to from her mother. It meant that she’d won this particular round. It wasn’t until her mom stomped out of her apartment that she looked around and realized what she’d just done.

“Oh Shit!”

1. A DRY HEAT

Madison hated the dry heat of the desert and she hated living in this little shit town even more. She had only been here for three weeks but it felt like a lifetime. The sun beat down on her skin and the light sheen of sweat on her brow told her that it was easily close to 100 degrees in the summer sun and it wasn’t even noon yet. Oh how she wished she could just toss her blouse off and go around in her bikini top and shorts but she knew that wouldn’t work. Her grandmother would not allow such frivolous actions to bring shame on the family. It didn’t matter that Madison was a grown woman who had given up a good job in the city to come and take care of her. No, Grandma Downing held true to the belief that a woman need not show flesh in public. She nearly had a conniption when she saw the shorts her granddaughter had put on to go to the lake.

Madison was new to Bakersfield, California but, on a trip to town, she had met a few people who were going to the lake that afternoon. They had asked her to come along, saying that it would be fun. Madison was fully aware that the invitation may not have been sincere but, at this point, she didn’t care. Madison just wanted to go somewhere, anywhere but here. She needed to do something that would get her the hell out of this God forsaken trailer park that she hated with such passion that it was seriously bordering on unhealthy. She adored her Grans but living here had been crushing. The heat, the cramped quarters, the lack of anything interesting or exciting was driving her insane. So, going to the lake sounded like as good a plan as any, until a flat tire had crushed her hope. Her grandmother, who had tired of hearing Madison’s exaggerated sighs and moans about the heat and her thwarted excursion to the lake, had decided to call a friend. She knew that Aaron and Olivia had a nephew living with them that might be able to help out.

Madison hadn’t actually seen the man that was working on her car, as he had arrived while she was inside grabbing the cooler. But when she had come back outside, the car was jacked up and a man in a pair of loose fitting jeans and a holey white t-shirt, practically bare from over wear, was working diligently to change her tire. Madison had been instantly intrigued by him and had decided to lay a blanket down and place one of the cushions from her grandmother’s tattered lounge chairs against the hot metal of the trailer so she could watch him. She didn’t know what it was about him but there was some kind of heat emanating from where he knelt. Maybe her brain was starting to fry in the ungodly desert air, but as she watched his shoulders and the muscles on his back move effortlessly each time he turned the tire iron, her heart fluttered and a part deep inside of her was awakened. A part she thought would forever lay dormant.

As he stood up, he stretched his arms above his head and arched his back just slightly. This small action caused the back of his shirt to ride up a little, revealing a sliver of skin and what looked like some sort of tribal tattoo that spanned his lower back. It wrapped around his waist and rib cage and rested, she presumed, somewhere on his abdomen. Madison couldn’t take her eyes off of him as he reached into his back pocket to pull out a pack of cigarettes. He carefully tapped the bottom of the pack until the desired stick extricated itself. She could see the motion of his heavy breaths as he leaned his head down to light the cigarette. She found herself swallowing reflexively as his long fingers placed the pack back into its rightful place. Madison was unable to focus, she was lost in the way the sun shone around him, making him seem almost ethereal to her, an enchanted being sent to earth. She was finding it very difficult to function in his presence. His head tilted ever so slightly to the left as he blew out a long cloud of smoke into the dry desert air. Madison desperately needed him to turn around; she didn’t just want him to do this, she needed it. She had to see the face that would soon be starring in her dreams. And as if her prayer had been answered he turned slowly and as he did, her mouth parted as air quickly expelled from her lungs.

“My God! He’s so… beautiful.”

Andrew had heard the trailer door open and close but he couldn’t bring himself to turn around. He had felt her eyes on him and he could sense the desire emanating from her presence. After he changed the tire he knew he would need to talk to her but he lacked the courage to do so. He had lit his cigarette, taking long slow drags, hoping that it would calm his rapidly beating heart. After a few hits, he turned around and was taken aback by her breathtaking beauty. He had wanted to see her up close since he had caught sight of her a few weeks ago but now that he was here he was left spellbound. She was wearing the shortest shorts he had ever seen, paired with some leather boots that made her legs seem to go on for days. His eyes followed up the milky white skin of her thighs to her see-through blouse which was starting to stick to her skin, exposing the dark bikini top she was wearing underneath it. Her long chestnut hair flowed way past her shoulders and as he walked closer to her he could make out the tiny freckles on her cheeks. He was at a loss for words as his body drew nearer to her. He wondered what he could possibly say that would not make him sound like he was some sort of a simpleton living in a trailer park with his aunt and uncle because no one else would take him in, not with his record. Andrew noticed the cooler sitting by her side, the one she was most likely bringing with her to the lake. He nodded in its direction, trying to be as nonchalant as possible.

“Can I have a drink?” Andrew asked in a raspy, deep voice that he didn’t recognize as his own.

Madison stared at this perfect specimen of a man before her. As he flicked the ashes from his cigarette she noticed that he had another tattoo, this one on his forearm. It was spectacular, to say the least, and went from his wrist up past the joint where his arm bent. It was not a sleeve though. She didn’t know a lot about tattoos but she knew a sleeve went all the way around and this one didn’t because she hadn’t noticed it when his back was to her. No, she knew this was something else. It appeared to be some form of a bird coming out of flames, a phoenix perhaps. She blinked as she followed the tattoo up his arm and to his face. He had at least a days’ worth of stubble, masking what she could tell was a fantastic jaw line. His eyes were a striking green, with little specks of gold in them. Perhaps it was the light reflecting off the trailer that made them appear this way but, whatever it was, they were hypnotic. They were made even more striking compared to his dark, almost black hair and pale skin. His nose was only slightly crooked, like maybe he had been in a fight or two. His lips were red and moist and his expressive brows begged for an answer to his earlier question.

Madison reflexively swallowed, trying to contain her mounting desire for this stranger, something that rarely happened with her. She inhaled sharply, gaining momentary control of her senses as she remembered that she was from New York, and not just New York, but Long Island, and LI girls weren’t afraid of anything. Madison mustered up every ounce of East Coast courage she had within her and smirked at him as she slowly removed her glasses in hopes of getting a clearer vision of his stunning masculine beauty.

“What will I get in return?” Madison queried with a flirtatious undertone to her voice.

Andrew was floored by her boldness, causing his lips to twitch into a crooked smile that quickly set Madison’s heart on fire.

“That depends, darlin’,” Andrew replied as he languidly brought his cigarette back to his mouth.

He drew in a couple of long slow drags before finally flicking the butt away from the trailer, stepping on it with the sole of his flip flops. Madison glanced at his feet and wondered why it was that even this man’s feet seemed to be perfect. She lifted her eyes again and watched, entranced by his every move and paying special attention to his mouth. His lips parted and puckered slightly as the smoke exhaled between his lips. Why she was suddenly acting like a 15 year old school girl, hot for the new guy, she wasn’t sure, but she clearly felt a strong desire to have him.

Andrew himself was feeling a stirring in his body that he hadn’t felt in years. Realizing that his hands were still dirty from changing the tire, he quickly wiped his greasy palms across his denim clad thighs and waited on her response. Madison dropped her gaze and followed his long, greasy fingers as they swiped and gripped his thighs. Her body soon began to pebble at the mere thought of his hands on her. She swallowed, quickly swiping her tongue across her dry lips and hoping that the trembling in her body would soon subside. This is ridiculous, get a hold of yourself, woman! She chided herself internally.

The sound of him coughing loudly caused her to break from her spell as she raised her eyes to slowly meet his. It did not go unnoticed by her that his eyes were now a shade darker than she remembered only a few moments ago. She now felt a heat arising from within her that was not being caused by the blistering sun. Madison took another quick breath trying to regain her equilibrium as well as her courage. She playfully patted the soft blanket next to her.

“Would you like to sit?” she asked him, watching as his eyes twinkled in delight.

“Hell yes!” Andrew smiled, pulling his cigarettes out of his back pocket and dropping them beside her. He then hopped onto the blanket, not believing his luck.

She passed him a cold beer from the cooler and watched as he nodded, cracked it open, and lifted it to his lips. Andrew gulped the cooling nectar but all that Madison could see was the bobbing of his Adam’s apple as it moved up and down in a rhythm of its own. Mesmerized by the way his tongue traced across his lips after each swallow, she could feel herself becoming aroused in ways she never expected. She was completely drawn to him, to his lips, and the desire to feel them pressed against hers.

“You’re from New York?” Andrew asked, as he swallowed the rest of his beer.

Madison blinked several times, thankful for the change of subject.

“Ummm, yeah, I work for a large accounting firm out there. Well, I did, at least.”

Madison could feel her brows furrow at the thought of what she left behind. What she gave up because her mom hadn’t been willing to give up her own life. Her mind couldn’t help but wander to nearly a month ago and the argument she and her mother had had about her grandmother’s care. It was what had led her to this time and place right now.

Andrew watched as Madison got a faraway look on her face and her brows moved closer together. Without thinking, he placed his finger between them, touching her lightly and making her gasp. He quickly withdrew his hand, shaking his head at his idiocy.

“Thanks for the beer but I should really go,” Andrew said quickly, standing up, anxious to get away before he did anything else.

There was something about her that made him nervous. He didn’t trust himself in her presence. It was as if all the boundaries he had put in place so long ago to protect himself were being pushed away without his consent. She made him feel like a man, like a normal man, with no baggage. He was desperate to leave, to give himself some distance from this bewitching woman. That was his only solution at this point. He quickly reached his hand down to grab the cigarettes that were lying next to her.

“Hey wait!” Madison said, placing her hand on his.

She felt her heart flutter. She wasn’t the type of girl that fell easily. In fact, one could say she never fell at all. She didn’t generally trust people, something she liked to blame her mother for. She kept her relationships, for lack of a better word, void of emotional commitment, so the fact that she was feeling something for this stranger, aside from simply wanting to have sex with him, which of course she strongly desired as well, was throwing her off guard.

“What’s your name?” she stuttered out, trying to gain her composure.

He smirked and looked down slightly, drawing his bottom lip into his mouth. He looked like he was contemplating something as he sat back down and leaned against the trailer. Madison was again captivated by his very presence. She couldn’t take her eyes off of him and internally she knew she needed more from him. After a few moments, Andrew looked over to her and smiled, and from her angle it appeared that she was indeed looking at an angel, or quite possibly the devil disguised as one.

“Andrew,” he said simply.

Madison nodded her head, unsure if she was capable of forming any words at that particular moment in time.

“My name’s Madison,” she finally expelled quickly.

“That’s a… pretty name,” he said softly.

Andrew closed his eyes, slightly flustered. He had always been able to talk to women. It was an art that he had perfected while on the streets, yet here he was stumbling over his words. What was happening to him? He breathed out deeply as she smiled widely at him.

“I was headed to the lake. Would you like to tag along?” she asked with an air of playfulness in her voice.

Madison immediately chided herself internally for being so forward but it was too late now. The cards were already on the table. Andrew stood up completely, breaking their connection and stared at the beauty before him. He wondered if it was a good idea to be so close to her and whether she would even want him to be so close if she really knew him and what he had done, what he had been imprisoned for. Unfortunately for Andrew, his body spoke for him before his brain had a chance to intervene.

“I’d like that,” he heard himself say.

Madison smiled victoriously and pushed herself up and off the ground. “Come on, Andrew. Let’s get the hell out of here!”

He shook his head again, grinning wildly as he reached down to pick up the cooler. He knew that going with her was likely a mistake but a part of him was pushing him forward nonetheless. What could go wrong? He wondered and then thought nervously, everything.

2. OVER MY HEAD

Madison couldn’t believe what she had done but there was no turning back now. This incredibly hot man was clearly interested in her and she planned on taking full advantage of that. It had been a long time since she had those feelings for someone, that all-consuming desire to be with them and to feel them near you at any cost. Although she was perfectly capable of satisfying her own needs when the mood arose, she was more than willing to allow someone else to take over. Could that someone be Andrew? She wasn’t sure, but what she was sure about was that her desire for him was stronger than anything she had ever felt before. Where that took her, she would just have to wait and see.

Andrew watched as she adjusted her shorts and shirt, and as she did so her shorts rode up just a little, revealing a tad of her sumptuous backside. His mouth parted as he once again readjusted himself, hoping to God that she would not notice his raging hard on. The sound of her bracelets clinking together caused him to shake his head and get some kind of control over himself. Only a city girl would wear jewelry to the lake, he thought, grinning slightly. As he continued to watch her, it was becoming abundantly clear that he was likely in over his head with this girl. He was enflamed with want and yearning and that scared the hell out of him.

As he gained momentary control of the cloud of longing he had for her, he realized that in his haste to accept her invitation that he didn’t have any swim shorts on him which meant he would need to go to the house before heading out. He briefly wondered if his aunt was still home and what she would say about the situation. As they approached her vehicle, he cleared his throat.

“We need to swing by my aunt and uncles place so I can grab my shorts,” he said as he set the cooler in the backseat.

“Oh sure, absolutely. I wouldn’t want you to have to swim in the nude or anything,” she replied with the playfulness that he already loved immensely. She walked around to the driver’s seat and slipped inside, giggling at her wittiness.

“Pop the trunk so I can put away your jack.”

She did so and watched him load up her jack and flat tire. She would need to get that fixed sometime soon. When he was done he approached her side of the car. Andrew smiled and leaned into the open car window. He stared at her, giving her a penetrating gaze as he tried to steady his belief that being with her was indeed a good thing to do. For Madison, it was as if she were swept into a sea of blissful contentment. His eyes entranced her as they seemed to change colors depending on how the sun hit his face. Right now they seemed to be blue, while earlier they appeared to be green. Either way, she was mesmerized by them, lost in the hurt and desire she saw reflected at her. She recognized immediately that she was in over her head.

“Follow me, beautiful.” His voice melted the hot air. She longed to hear it whispered to her in the throes of passion.

“Anywhere,” Madison heard herself say in a small and timid voice.

Andrew grinned again and tapped the open window frame with his long fingers before he abruptly stood, walking towards a motorcycle just a few feet away. Wait! When did that get here? Madison looked at him, stunned when he threw his leg over the seat and cranked the motor. The seat shimmied slightly from the vibration of the bike which made his shirt rustle up, exposing his lower back again and the top of his boxer briefs. Madison sat dumbfounded as she watched him maneuver in front of her car, and as he passed her window he looked over his shoulder and winked. She sat there like a gaping fool before turning her key in the ignition, having completely forgotten that the car was already running. She looked down, shaking her head, and just as she brought her eyes back up, she saw him chuckle right before a cloud of dust flew up in front of her. She quickly put her car in gear and followed through the dusty trail he left behind, realizing, without a doubt, that she would indeed follow him anywhere.

Andrew glanced back after he passed her just to make sure she was still following him and that she hadn’t already changed her mind about him tagging along. When he saw her watching him with her lips slightly parted he couldn’t help himself, he winked and then laughed again as he blew ahead of her. He glanced back a second time and was pleased to see her keeping a good distance behind him. He was thankful that she wasn’t one of those people that didn’t care about riders and followed too closely. He couldn’t help but allow his mind to fantasize about Madison sitting on the back of his Harley, holding onto him tightly as they made their way over the many desert roads only to find a nice shaded spot to make love under. He quickly shook his head, angry at the wayward thoughts that she was eliciting.

Andrew took a deep breath as he pulled up to his aunt and uncle’s modular house. It wasn’t much to look at from the outside but the inside was very nice. Nicer than most of the places he had ever stayed in. He switched his bike off and quickly walked inside, tossing his keys on the table near the door. His aunt looked up as he walked in, thinking he looked somehow happier than she was used to seeing him.

“Did you get it taken care of, Andrew?” she asked as she looked back down at her magazine.

“Yeah, it’s good, Auntie. Hey, Madison asked me to go to the lake with her so I am gonna head out. I don’t know what time I will be home,” Andrew quickly said, making his way to his room to fetch his swim trunks.

When he turned around he saw her at his door, a concerned and worried expression on her normally jovial face. He understood her concern but he was a grown man and really didn’t need permission. Well, technically he did need permission but not from her. But as he thought about it, going to the lake was not against his parole, so really he was free to do what he wanted. Well, technically he wasn’t truly free either. He sighed at the complexity of his life.

“Do you think that’s a good idea, Andrew?” she asked, a tenor of nervousness coming through her tone.

“Probably not, but…” He hesitated and then took another long breath as he shoved a pair of board shorts into his pocket. “I like her. She’s nice.”

Olivia watched him carefully. He had always struggled. His entire life had been filled with chaos and despair. Her sister, Kimberly, hadn’t exactly been the maternal type and Andrew Senior had been a disaster from the start. The two of them together was a nightmare waiting to happen. Being so far from Chicago, she didn’t know the struggles that Andrew had gone through and by the time she did find out, it was too late. He was not interested in help from any of them. She had always regretted not intervening earlier on, not taking him away sooner. She often wondered if she had, would his fate have changed. Of course, she would never know the answer to that.

When he was eligible for parole a few years ago she had not hesitated at all in asking him to stay with them. It was the least she could do but she never felt it was quite enough to make up for his childhood. She had initially worried that her husband, Aaron, wouldn’t understand but, as usual, she had underestimated his level of compassion. Aaron had done his best to develop a relationship with Andrew, to be a father figure of sorts, but Andrew kept him at a distance. She understood why he didn’t trust anyone but it hurt her just the same.

As Olivia watched her nephew give her that lost little boy look, she was filled once again with remorse. Why did I write Kimberly off? She was consumed with guilt and had an overwhelming desire to have Andrew know love, to know what it felt like to depend on someone, truly and unequivocally. She didn’t know Grandma Downing’s granddaughter at all but if she could put a smile on Andrew’s normally melancholy face then she couldn’t be too bad. She let out a soft breath as she offered him a small smile.

“Be careful, Andrew.”

“I will,” he said, kissing her on the forehead before he passed through the door.

Olivia stood there, watching him leave. “Please Lord, watch over him and help him to make good choices today and please don’t let this girl break his heart. He has already been through so much.”

She closed her eyes, feeling moisture in the corners, before she walked back to the couch and picked up her magazine, catching up on the latest Hollywood gossip and trying to forget all the bad things that had happened in her nephew’s life. She had sincerely hoped that when he came to them that he could start a new life for himself, maybe this was that start.

Madison anxiously tapped her fingers on the steering wheel, waiting for him to come out of the house. She glanced back at his motorcycle, imagining riding on it with him, her hands resting on his waist and locking right at his abdomen. It wasn’t one of those big bikes so she would need to move real close to him, close enough so that her breasts would touch his back and her head could rest on his strong, wide shoulders. She shook her head. She needed to focus on controlling her desire. Had it really been that long since she had a man look at her the way he did? Had she ever had a man look at her like that, full of carnal want and need? She couldn’t actually remember a time where that was true. She knew Kurtis cared about her. Well, cared is too strong of a word. He wanted her but she didn’t share the sentiment. This man, however, was already making her feel like some sort of cat in heat, sticking her tail up and begging him to mount her. If she was this aroused already, she seriously worried how she would respond to seeing him in his swim trunks. Just then, the door of the house swung open and he smiled at her, casually strolling up to the car and sliding inside. Madison watched him, suddenly nervous. Picking up on her change in demeanor, Andrew questioned his decision to go but then she smiled at him and his heart started beating once again, until she peeled out of the trailer park like some kind of crazed woman on a mission.

“You know you aren’t in New York,” he joked, as he gripped the inside door handle, holding on for dear life as she swerved unnecessarily fast around a corner.

“Hahaha, Mister I drive a motorcycle in flip flops with no helmet,” she said, offering him a sideways glance and an arched brow.

He tried his best not to smile back but her smart mouth and attitude were a serious turn on for him. He traced his lips with his tongue, pulling his bottom lip into his mouth again. She made him feel like some lovesick teenager, which left him both exhilarated and frightened. He had never actually been a teenager, in the normal sense of the word, so all of this felt new and he was once again left unsure of himself.

“Well, I am probably a lot safer on my Harley than with your crazy driving,” he finally said as a grin spread into a smile instantly.

He could see her smirk from where he was sitting and as she glanced at him again he was left awestruck at how beautiful she was and how her deep brown eyes held such warmth and adoration in them. He had been with several women in his lifetime but none he had ever loved. Most were a means to an end for him or the culmination of a night spent getting high. This felt different to him.

“How long have you had that Harley?” she asked curiously, bringing him out of his thoughts.

“About a year now. My uncle knew I was looking for one and he was able to arrange for an exchange with a friend of his. My uncle paid for it and then I paid him back. I made my final payment last month,” he said proudly.

“What kind is it?” she wondered out loud.

“It’s a 2005 Harley 883XL. It’s a sweet bike that was well maintained. It has an Evolution engine, 53 horsepower at 6,000 rpm’s. I mean it’s not the most powerful of the Harley’s but it was all I could afford. One day I want a real nice sportster, maybe a Forty Eight or a Nightster or even one of the XR1200x or one of the 1200’s so I can customize it …”

Andrew continued to talk excitedly about motorcycles. Madison didn’t know very much about them. She didn’t see too many of them in the city except for the occasional middle-aged banker or lawyer trying to relive their lost youth. Weekend warriors she liked to call them, like in the movie Wild Hogs. She couldn’t help but chuckle a little at that thought and wondered if Andrew would still be riding when he was older.

“I’m sorry, I get excited talking about bikes,” he said hesitantly, having heard her chuckle and wondering if he was getting carried away.

The only thing he had been interested in when he got out of prison was motorcycles. His uncle helped him go to school to learn how to work on them in hopes he might find a job as a mechanic, unfortunately no one in town would hire him.

“Oh, no, you’re fine, really. I just had a flash of that movie Wild Hogs,” she said with a shrug and smile.

He rolled his eyes at her but also found himself laughing at the same time. His laugh sounded like angels singing to Madison and she was left with a strong desire to hear him do that all the time. She could be funny. Well, more smart-ass than funny but he seemed to find her amusing. She had to hear him do that more often.

“Have you ever ridden before?” he asked.

“No. City girl, remember?” she said with a smirk and he found himself smiling once again.

“Maybe I can take you for a ride sometime,” Andrew said, the words coming out before he recognized what he had done.

She turned to him and her smile switched to something else, something he recognized as desire. In that moment, he realized that she wanted him as much as he wanted her. Now he was really worried. She continued to stare at him with lust filled eyes and then swerved slightly. She quickly turned around and shook her head slightly.

“Keep your eyes on the road, missy,” he said as he tried to stifle the laugh that was desperate to come forth.

She rolled her eyes exaggeratedly. “Hey, I was raised in Long Island, there ain’t nothing a LI girl can’t handle,” she said with a quick arch of her brow. “Besides, if I can drive in New York, I can drive anywhere.”

“Remind me never to drive in New York.”

Without thinking, she quickly pushed his leg in a joking manner. “Forget you, bike boy. I am an excellent driver.”

His breath hitched at the contact and he quickly turned to look out the window, hoping he could steady himself. Madison watched him turn and felt the change in his demeanor. She kicked herself for whatever she had done to make him shift like that. They drove the rest of the way in comfortable silence. She kept her eyes on the road while he kept his eyes on her. Every so often she would squirm in her seat and then glance at him sideways. He would quickly avert his eyes, not wanting to make her nervous or uncomfortable but as soon as she turned again so did he. The lake was 35 miles away which should have taken a half an hour or so but with Madison’s mad driving they made it in 20. Madison looked around and pulled up to where she saw the most cars. Now it was Andrew’s turn to squirm as he became overwhelmed with the amount of people that were there.

“You look nervous,” Madison remarked, observing how his body posture had suddenly changed as he looked at the group of people they would be joining. “You don’t like Brie and her posse?”

He slowly turned to face her, fear clearly written on his face. “It’s not that.” He hesitated, feeling he had made the wrong decision already. “Most of them show me no interest which is fine. I just…”

“What’s the matter? You changed your mind?” she asked with a slight tremor in her voice that she was attempting to mask with a chuckle.

“Umm, no I didn’t change my mind.” His lip quirked up into a sly and devilish smile before fear took hold of him again.

“So what is it?”

“There are just things about my past that I am not happy about or even comfortable talking about,” he said hesitantly before looking down and away from her.

“Andrew, we all have shitty pasts. It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.”

This did not bring him comfort as he was unsure how she would really feel once she knew the truth. He let out an exaggerated breath, deciding that he needed to tell her.

“I’ve been in prison before.”

“You have?” she said, trying to mask her shock.

“I’ve been out for a few years but I generally keep to myself. I wasn’t expecting so many people to be here,” he said, looking out across the lake. Madison turned her eyes away from him and glanced around to see that the lake was indeed very crowded.

“Don’t worry about it, Andrew and, you know, it’s cool. I don’t care that you were in prison. Lord knows I have made enough mistakes in my life. Never anything huge, I guess, but still. I mean, you didn’t like, kill anyone did you?” she asked as she lightly tapped his thigh.

He shook his head as he brought his eyes down to where her hand was and felt himself shift in his jeans. Andrew wanted her more than he knew he should. It had been eight years since he had felt a woman’s touch. In prison, he had to fight to protect himself. In fact, he had spent his first year or so fighting and fighting and fighting until finally people just left him alone. Andrew chose to isolate himself while in prison. He always stayed on the outside, the peripheral, and watched as people created a life for themselves behind bars and when it was time to go back to his cell, he either read everything he could get his hands on or drew in one of his sketchbooks. When he was finally released, he stuck to his self-imposed isolation, quite successfully he thought. Well, that was until a beautiful brunette moved in to take care of her ailing grandmother and turned his entire world upside down.

“Come on, Andrew, let’s go have some fun,” she said, pulling her hand away and quickly exiting the car.

He nodded at her retreating figure and then exited the car as well, quickly pulling out the cooler from the backseat. They walked up to the group of people they were to meet and several looked over at them, fake smiles plastered on their faces. Andrew glanced over at Madison but she didn’t seem to care.

3. FRIENDS AND ENEMIES

“Madison, I’m so glad you decided to come,” Brie said, half-heartedly.

In truth, Brie had hoped that Madison would not show up at all as she didn’t like the way Jimmy couldn’t take his eyes off of her when they were in town earlier today. As Brie looked Madison up and down, she couldn’t see what the big deal was. Madison just seemed plain to her. Nothing extraordinary, nothing that was even remotely as attractive as she was.

“Who’s your friend, Madison?” she asked as she turned to face Andrew, batting her lashes. She did know who he was. She’d seen him riding his motorcycle around town a few times and had seen him up close a long time ago.

“My name’s Andrew, Andrew Harrison,” Andrew said, reaching out his hand to Brie.

Brie quickly scanned the good looking man as she reached out her hand to him. Andrew hesitantly shook it, feeling uncomfortable with her behavior. She grinned and brought her hand to her hair, twirling the ends and smiling at him flirtatiously. The thought of Jimmy ogling Madison didn’t seem to bother her as much now that she had some eye candy of her own. Madison knew that she shouldn’t be jealous. She had absolutely no claim to Andrew. She had just met him but seeing Brie blatantly throw herself at him infuriated her.

“So, we can just set up anywhere?” Madison quickly inserted, forcing Brie to look at her.

Brie sighed dramatically. “Yes, we have this whole area. We just started grilling and some of the guys have gone out onto the lake.”

Brie couldn’t believe how handsome Andrew was. She couldn’t wait to see him in just his shorts, well, truth be told, she would like to see him in nothing at all. Jimmy was handsome but nothing like what she was witnessing before her. She was disappointed however when she noticed that Andrew and Madison bypassed what was clearly her table and walked towards the back.

“Hi! I’m Callie.”

Madison smiled at the short, perky girl with the crazy red hair. She was patting the bench near her, indicating they could sit with them. Madison looked over at Andrew who just shrugged and placed the cooler on the table. Madison reached her hand out to the girl.

“I’m Madison. It’s nice to meet you, Callie.”

Callie smiled widely before she reached for Madison’s hand. “Don’t pay any attention to Brie,” she said motioning her head discretely Brie’s way. “She’s always a bitch, has been since high school,” Callie whispered as if afraid someone might hear her.

Madison was not having any of that. She had plenty of experience with girls like Brie. They thought they were better than others because they had money or they were pretty. It was always sad to Madison that girls like Brie never changed, that they insisted on living life as if it were one big high school. Well, Madison was not about to get involved in any childish high school games. She was 26 years old, had lived most of her life in the city and she knew how to take care of herself. Madison glanced over at Brie who was chatting with a couple of other bobble headed blondes who seemed entranced by everything she said.

“Is she aware that when you pass 25 you’re supposed to actually ‘act’ like an adult and not some petty ‘mean girl’ from a bad movie of the week?” Madison asked bitterly, her sarcasm clearly coming to the forefront.

Callie grinned, glancing at the man beside her before looking back to Madison while Andrew tried unsuccessfully not to laugh. He loved her sense of humor and her take no prisoner attitude. She reminded him of all the city girls he had known when he lived in Detroit and Los Angeles.

“Umm, I think Brie might have missed that memo. Maybe you should let her know. I’m Jayden, by the way, but everyone calls me Jay,” he said, reaching his hand out to shake Madison’s and then Andrew’s hand.

“Yeah, well, somehow I don’t think she would understand it.”

The four of them laughed at Brie’s expense and then laughed some more when Brie looked their way and gave them a speculative look. Madison already liked Callie and Jayden. They seemed different than the rest of the bobble heads. Well, they certainly dressed different, that’s for sure. Callie was a tiny thing and if Madison were to venture a guess she would say she couldn’t be more than 5 ft. tall. She was skinny with spiky red hair that looked like it must have taken a whole bottle of gel to do up. She was wearing a bright orange tank top over a lime green one and a short denim skirt with those 4 inch plastic heels that Madison had always affectionately referred to as hooker heels. Jay was wearing a loose pair of faded blue jeans, some black combat boots with a white t-shirt and a paisley vest. He had topped off his look with a brown fedora hat that covered his shoulder length ashy brown hair.

“You’re Andrew, right?” Jayden asked, eyeing him speculatively.

Andrew cringed. “Yeah, I’m Andrew.”

Jayden nodded. “It’s nice to meet you. You ride that Harley, don’t you?”

Andrew couldn’t help but smile. “Yeah, she’s mine. Do you ride?”

“Sometimes…” Just then Callie squeezed his hand and gave him a strained look. He sighed and kissed her lightly before he turned back to Andrew. “I used to race some but I lost control of my bike in my last race and well…” He moved his hands to his jeans and proceeded to roll them up to his knee, revealing his severely scarred leg.

Madison gasped at the sight while Andrew let out a soft breath and shook his head.

“I’m sorry, man,” Andrew said to him.

Jayden nodded his head again. “Yeah, well, I was bumped, tried to straighten out but just as I got it under control I hit a divot and BAM!” Jayden said throwing his hands in the air dramatically. “The bike went sliding, dragging me along with it.” He glanced down at his leg and started to roll his jeans down again. “It’s kind of messed up and ugly.”

“You’re still beautiful, honey,” Callie said as she nuzzled into him.

He smiled down at her and then kissed the top of her spiky head. She hugged him tightly as he glanced at Andrew and Madison. He rolled his eyes, mouthing the words, ‘she’s biased’. Andrew and Madison both grinned at them and came around to sit down. Andrew sat down on the tabletop and spread his legs slightly and without thinking Madison found herself sitting on the seat between them. Andrew’s sharp intake of breath made her catch what she had just done and she moved away from him quickly.

“I’m so sorry, Andrew,” Madison said flustered.

“Umm, it’s okay. I was just surprised. You can sit there if you’d like,” he said, once again allowing his body to do the talking while his brain stomped its foot and shook its fists at him.

Madison watched him hesitantly, wondering what she should do. She really wanted to sit there but that was so intimate. It was clear that there was something going on between them, some spark that ignited whenever they were in close proximity to each other but what did she really know about him other than he was gorgeous, rode a hot bike, and had been in prison. Sensing her hesitation, Andrew reached down and patted the seat in front of him, watching as her eyes grew darker and her lip curled into one of those sexy smiles that made him want to pounce on her. She walked over to him and sat down between his legs, feeling the heat brewing between them.

Callie and Jayden had watched their exchange and found it amusing that they were trying so hard to not give in to their obvious attraction to one another. Madison sat there stiff and unsure of what to do next while Andrew remained perfectly still, as if he were a statue afraid to actually move.

“Are you Grandma Downing’s granddaughter?” Callie asked, thinking this must be who she is.

Madison nodded. “You know my Grans?”

Jayden and Callie both smiled. “Everyone knows your Grans,” they said in unison and then laughed against each other.

“She is just the sweetest, Madison. She helps everyone in town. She bakes for people who are sick. She is probably the kindest old lady around. She’s like everyone’s grandma,” Callie said with the most genuine smile Madison had ever seen.

“I remember her baking a lot when I was younger,” Madison stated sadly.

“I think I might have met you once or twice when you were little. You stopped coming out though when you were what, eleven or so?”

Madison sighed, remembering exactly the day her relationship with her grandma had changed. Her mom had basically made it difficult for her to see her. The first time she didn’t come had been difficult as her mom made her choose. Madison felt tears pool in her eyes as her mind drifted to that time in her life.

“Maddie!” her grandmother said jovially.

Madison smiled. Her Grans always seemed to laugh when she answered her phone.

“I can’t wait to see you.”

“Grans, I can’t come out this year,” Madison said quickly so she wouldn’t cry.

“Oh, okay,” her grans replied.

Madison could hear her Grans normally steady voice shake and she didn’t seem as happy anymore.

“Why’s that, sweetheart?”

“Mom says that she can’t send me because we are moving this summer.”

“Well, if it’s money, I have some put aside. I could help,” Grans offered.

“Hold on, Grans,” Maddie said excited. She covered the mouth of the phone and called out to her mom. “Mom, Grans said she could help if I still wanted to go out there.”

Jacqueline glanced at her daughter sideways and sighed. “Is that what you want, Madison, to go play at grandma’s house while I do all the moving on my own?” She then raised her eyebrow in disapproval. “Of course it’s your choice,” she finished as she looked away.

Maddison could feel tears pool in her eyes. “Grans, I really can’t make it. Next year, okay?”

“Of course, Maddie.”

“I better go, Grans. I love you!”

“I love you too my sweet little girl.”

“Grans, I’m not a little girl anymore. I am going to be 12 in just three months.”

Madison could hear her Grans laughing again and that just made her giggle too. She wished her mom would let her go but she knew if she did that her mom would be mad at her. Madison was excited to move but wondered how she would see her grandma if she was so far away? And that thought made her sad again.

“I keep forgetting how grown you are?” Grans said through fits of laughter.

“Madison, you need to hurry. We have a lot to do!” Jacqueline said from the kitchen.

“Mom’s calling, Grans. I better go but I’ll talk to you later, okay?” Maddie said and before she hung up she thought she could hear her Grans crying.

Madison was brought out of her memory by the feel of Andrew’s fingers grazing over her hair. The sensation was like some sort of kinetic energy that immediately made her feel close to him. Without hesitation, Madison laid her head against his thigh, feeling tears come down her cheeks. She never did go back to see her Grans. Every year something would happen and her mom said they couldn’t do it and then Madison had hit her teen years and was no longer interested in spending time with her grandmother. She had boys to pursue, friends to hang out with, time to kill. In time, she found herself talking to her Grans less and less, usually only when her mother pissed her off. Madison realized that it had been years since she had actually seen her grandmother.

Andrew had watched as that familiar faraway look passed over her face. He had assumed she was lost in thought, as that seemed to be her thinking look. He was at a loss as to what he should do. With a mind of their own, his fingers began to lightly graze her soft hair. He longed to lean down and smell it, to just bury his face in her long, thick locks and to feel it tickle his cheeks. When her breathing changed, he glanced down at her and could see that she had tears in her eyes. When she first laid her face against his thigh he wasn’t sure what to do but she was so distressed which, in turn, distressed him. He wasn’t sure what she was thinking about but he knew she was upset. He had wracked his brain trying to think about what he should do. He was unsure and hesitant as he leaned down slowly, inhaling the most delicate scent of roses mixed with the smell of the spring air after it rains.

“Madison,” he whispered as he leaned down close to her ear, “It’s going to be okay.”

It was only then that she actually looked up at him, a look of sadness and loss on her beautiful face. He gently swiped his thumb under her eyes and wiped her tears away. He was filled with a strong desire to take care of her, to ease her pain. He had never truly cared about anyone and, aside from his Aunt Olivia and his grandmother, whom he didn’t quite remember; no one had ever really loved him unconditionally. His heart beat faster than it should but he had no control over how his body seemed to react to her.

Madison closed her eyes, trying to get a hold of her emotions. She couldn’t believe that she was having an emotional meltdown, let alone having one in front of people she barely knew. In front of a man that she was highly attracted to and wanted to impress. He was being so gentle and caring that it left her feeling even more distressed at the way she had dismissed her grandmother so many years ago. She desperately wanted him to hold her and to take away the guilt she was feeling.

“I hadn’t seen her in years and the only time I ever talked to her was when I was angry at my mom. I was so selfish. She must have hated me,” Madison said, tears breaking up her words.

“My aunt said that Grandma Downing talked about you all the time and when she found out you were coming to stay with her she was so happy. I don’t think she hated you at all,” Andrew said soothingly as he gently stroked her cheek.

“Really?” Madison asked stunned, lost in his smooth voice and the feel of his fingertips on her face.

Andrew nodded and Madison smiled before taking a long, deep breath, resting her cheek against the palm of his hand. Andrew could feel a stirring within him and for the first time in his life he believed he might be able to have a normal life. That maybe this girl could actually care about him in a way that no one ever had.

“Madison, we all love your grandma and are glad you are here. We were really worried she was going to get sent away,” Callie said kindly.

“Well, my mom wanted to do that,” Madison replied, catching her breath and sitting up.

Andrew smiled as he tucked her hair behind her ears and, in return, she turned and offered him a smile that immediately made his heart flutter. Madison felt so alive with Andrew. He awakened things within her that she had never felt before. Callie’s perky voice forced both Madison and Andrew to look at her.

“Is it true that you’re from New York?”

“Yes, we moved to Long Island when I was eleven and then a few years ago I moved to Manhattan for my job.”

“That must be very exciting,” Callie said dreamily.

Madison laughed. It seemed that everyone who wasn’t from New York thought that about the city. It’s not that she hated it. On the contrary, she loved New York but she was lonely. She had a great job and a really nice apartment but she wanted more than that. She wanted a life worth sharing with someone. She wanted love. It was a concept that shocked her.

“It can be,” Madison finally replied. “But generally that exciting stuff only happens in the movies.”

Madison found herself leaning against Andrews’s thigh again except this time there were no tears coming out of her eyes. She lightly traced the seam of his jeans from his knee to his ankle and stopped where his skin was exposed. She found herself gently slipping her fingers underneath his pant leg and tracing the tip of her fingers against his skin, smiling at the texture of his soft hair and how it was now sticking up straight.

Andrew was aroused. He liked the feel of her fingers on his skin. He liked her touching him. He had never had anyone touch him in this manner before. The women he had been with were not like this. What Madison was doing was erotic and sexy. His body was breaking out into goose bumps all over as it responded to her gentle touches. His breathing began to change and he swallowed loudly as he leaned his head down again to inhale her sweet scent.

“Do you want me to stop?” Madison asked, never taking her eyes off of the movement her fingers were making across his skin.

She could feel her desire escalating from deep within her, at her very core she wanted and needed him. The heat between them was hotter than the desert air and the energy she felt being near him was stronger than anything she had ever felt with any man she had been around. His hot breath was bearing down on her ear and she wanted to just turn her head and press her lips against his but knew that she shouldn’t.

“No, I like it,” Andrew finally said, his voice rough and heavy with need.

“Andrew Harrison?” The man Andrew dreaded seeing the most spoke from behind him.

Andrew sat up quickly, leaving Madison breathless in anticipation. She wasn’t sure what was going on but she could feel Andrew’s body tense up. Jimmy walked over to the four of them, flanked by a couple of other guys that Madison did not recognize. Andrew and Jimmy locked eyes. The tension was clearly palpable. Madison’s heart began racing as she looked between the two obvious adversaries.

Andrew quickly moved his leg around Madison and stood up. His fists clenched at his sides as he prepared himself for the worst. He didn’t want to fight, especially in front of Madison, but he would if need be. Of course, knowing Jimmy, he wouldn’t fight. He would call the police on Andrew, landing him right back in the place he least wanted to be, prison.

“You have some nerve showing up here,” Jimmy spat at him.

“He can go where ever he pleases,” Madison interjected.

Jimmy raised his hand in a vain attempt to stop Madison from saying anything else. This simple act infuriated Madison. She had only met Jimmy once and that was earlier today. He seemed like an idiot who had gotten by on his looks for what she imagined was his whole life. He had no right to say who went anywhere. Madison stood up as well and placed herself in front of Andrew.

“Put your damn hand down. Who the hell are you to say who can and can’t be here?” Madison fumed and Andrew couldn’t help but raise his lips into a perfect smile.

“Look, you’re new around here so I’ll let that slide,” Jimmy replied while Madison rolled her eyes. Jimmy motioned his head towards Andrew and continued. “But we don’t want any sex offenders around here, so this asshole you brought with you needs to go.”

Madison gasped and Andrew’s heart sunk but it wasn’t until Madison turned to him with tears in her eyes, that he felt as if he had died a thousand deaths. He had been afraid to tell her why he had been in prison although he knew he should. She would have found out sooner or later but to have it blurted out without any explanation or background information seemed unfair. As he watched her face shift from hurt to anger to disgust and back to hurt again, his heart broke and he felt as if his world was ending, yet again.

When Jimmy had uttered the word sex offender, Madison’s mind had shifted to all kinds of possibilities, ranging from rape to sexual abuse to, well, those were the only two things she had associated with the word sex offender. Madison felt a panic begin to envelop her as she looked at him, tears pooling in her eyes.

“Is that what you were in prison for?” she asked the question he most wanted to avoid.

“I can explain,” Andrew replied meekly.

“You can explain? FUCK!” she screeched as she chided herself internally for allowing her desire to cloud her better judgment.

4. TRUTH HURTS

Madison felt as if she had made a serious mistake and she wasn’t exactly sure how she was going to get out of it. How do you explain a sex offense? Madison walked away from him, away from everyone. She was enraged. She was hurt. She was defeated. She needed distance to sort through what she was feeling. It shouldn’t have hurt her so much to hear those words associated with Andrew, but it did. It hurt her more than she wanted to admit. She felt him approach before she actually heard him begin speaking.

“I was 22 and she was 14. I swear to you that I didn’t know. I was so high and she was drunk. I know that’s not an excuse but… she told me she was 18 and I had no reason to question that. When her father found out what had happened he came looking for me, saying that I raped his daughter. I was still kind of messed up when he found me and we ended up getting into a fight. He pressed charges against me and I was convicted of statutory rape and aggravated battery because I broke his jaw. Her father wouldn’t allow her to testify and when she did come into the courthouse…” Andrew lowered his head, feeling tears pooling in his eyes, “She looked really young. I was horrified that I had actually been with her. I…” Andrew sighed uncomfortably, knowing that when he had seen her again he had actually become physically ill.

“The judge…” He shook his head, remembering how the judge had looked at him as if he were the lowest creature on earth. “I got the maximum sentence for statutory rape which was 4 years and then they tacked on another couple of years for the assault plus five years of probation and…” He hesitated, unsure why it was so difficult to tell her all of this. “I have to register as a sex offender for the rest of my life. But I swear to you, Madison, I didn’t rape her. I would never force myself on someone.”

Andrew pleaded his case, hoping against hope that she would at least not look at him the way she did a little while ago. He didn’t understand the depth of his feelings for her. They had just met but he didn’t want her to look at him like he was some sick asshole who raped little girls. He wanted her to give him a chance, to mean what she said earlier about it not mattering that he had been in prison, but when she didn’t respond he felt all hope drain from him.

“I have regretted that night ever since it happened,” he said with a sigh, “but I can’t change it and I will pay for it for the rest of my life.”

Madison wasn’t sure how she felt about what he had said. She could hear the desperation in his voice and had to fight back the urge to pull him into her arms and hold him tightly. She wanted desperately to tell him that it was okay and that it didn’t matter but she wasn’t sure that she believed that. She had told him in the car that everyone made mistakes but this was a big mistake that was hard to overlook. Yet, she was having a hard time imagining him forcing himself on anyone. She looked at the ground, feeling so many mixed emotions. She wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. That was eight years ago. People change, she reasoned.

“Do you still get high?” she asked softly.

Drug use was a deal breaker for Madison. She had been on that particular road before and knew where it ended. In fact, she still bore the scars of its effect.

“No, I don’t.” He touched her shoulder and when she didn’t flinch away he wanted to cry. “I was pretty messed up back then. When I got out, only my Aunt Olivia and her husband, Aaron, would take me in.”

“How did Jimmy know what happened?”

“The first year I was here I rarely left the trailer. I got a job as a mechanic and, for some reason, Jimmy ran a check on me. The registry doesn’t really say everything that happened only that I had sex with a minor. He raised a stink and got me fired. No one in town will hire me so Aaron helps me get jobs under the table, construction sometimes, working on people’s cars and stuff. But I can’t really leave because I am on probation for another three years and…” Andrew exhaled loudly and walked a little ways ahead of her, looking out onto the water. “I will always have to register as a sex offender and what happened just now will happen wherever I go.”

Andrew closed his eyes in despair, knowing that he had no right to want her; he had no right to have her accept him. He knew that he couldn’t ask her to just look passed this and pretend that it was nothing when he clearly knew that is was something, a big something, a life altering something. Andrew had made many mistakes in his life but none hurt him more than the one he made that fateful night so long ago.

Madison watched him, a forlorn look on his face. How horrible to have to live forever with a mistake you made in your youth. Madison could clearly remember times when she was in high school. She had dated many older men and had never thought much about it. What made her situation so different, aside from the fact that she didn’t have a father to ‘defend her honor’? There was definitely something about Andrew though, something that drew her to him, something that already made her care about him. She walked next to him and sat down on the grass, bringing her knees up. She wrapped her arms around them and looked up at him just as he looked down at her. She patted the grass next to her.

“Sit with me, Andrew,” she said with a smile.

Andrew was trying desperately to contain his emotions, something that he had always been able to do rather effectively. He didn’t want to make more of this than it was, but when he sat down next to her and she smiled in that flirtatious and sexy way, he felt his throat constrict. Andrew had nothing to laugh or even smile about for the past eight years, well, in reality, his whole life, but sitting there on the grass with her made him think that maybe things were changing for him. Maybe, just maybe, life could be making a turn for the better.

“Oh My God! This dry heat is seriously killing me. Give me the humidity of New York any day!”

Madison laughed as she fell backwards onto the grass. She closed her eyes and brought her hands to her side so that she could touch the soft grass. She decided at that moment that she liked him and for some reason she did not understand, he had come into her life. She wasn’t sure how Andrew being in prison would affect her or even how his past drug use would play a role, but he was in her life for a reason. She told herself that she was not going to question it; she was just going to see where it went from here. She had never felt any kind of real chemistry with anyone, but with Andrew it was emanating from every pore of his body. She felt it and she suspected that he did as well. That had to be worth something. That had to be worth at least a chance.

As Andrew looked down upon her, he smiled and felt a happiness that he had only dreamt was possible. He longingly gazed at her beautifully sun kissed face and watched as her chest rose and fell with her laughter. And for the first time in his miserable life, Andrew allowed himself to really and truly hope. Hope for love, hope for life, hope for happiness. As he stared down at her, he was overwhelmed with the desire to kiss her with every ounce of his being. Without hesitation, he started to lean down, to offer her a soft kiss on the lips. Her eyes were still closed and soon his were as well. But before Andrew’s lips could meet hers, they both heard a ruckus and opened their eyes. Madison was simultaneously stunned and aroused to see Andrew so close to her face, his lips were almost on hers but then he abruptly sat up and shook his head. She wanted to say something, to tell him it was okay, that she wanted him to kiss her, that she had wanted that from the moment she had laid eyes on him but the commotion continued and they both turned to see Jimmy pushing Jayden out of the way.

Jayden had been irate at what Jimmy had just done. Jimmy knew nothing about Andrew, well neither did Jayden for that matter, but he had a sense about people and he felt deep in his gut that Andrew was alright. Jimmy had gone too far this time, speaking for all of them as if he was the ruler of this domain.

“Why do you have to act like that? You don’t know anything!” Callie said angrily, shaking her small fist at her sides. “He wasn’t bothering anyone.”

“The registry says he raped a girl. That’s all I need to know,” Jimmy stated as if that was the only explanation that was of importance.

“You don’t know shit, Bowers. You’re just being an ass,” Jayden said vehemently.

“So you’re okay hanging out with a guy that raped someone?” Jimmy questioned.

“All I’m saying is that we should give him the benefit of the doubt. You don’t…” Jayden started to say but Jimmy, as he had done with Madison, raised his hand stopping Jayden from finishing his comment.

“Well, I don’t want a rapist around me but it’s obvious that you do. Of course it figures, with you being raised by faggots, that you wouldn’t think it was a big deal. Hell, Harrison was in prison so maybe he’s a faggot too. Maybe that’s why you think he’s alright.”

Jimmy smiled as the blood drained from Jayden’s face. He felt empowered once again. Jayden had always been a challenge for him. He didn’t care about pleasing anyone yet he cared about everyone. He refused to toe the line and do as everyone else did. He dressed funny, he acted funny, and he talked funny. He represented everything that Jimmy hated and now he was defending some known sex offender.

Callie gasped and tears came down her face. Jayden looked at his beautifully sensitive girlfriend crying and was filled with rage. He didn’t care what Jimmy thought of him, he never did, which had made Jimmy hate him even more. In all honesty, Jimmy hated everyone that didn’t follow whatever he deemed was appropriate. Jayden moved real close to him as a stealth predator would.

“Fuck you, Jimmy. At least my parents love each other and didn’t fuck around on one another every chance they got.”

Jimmy’s faced turned as red as a beet as rage filled within him and he attacked Jayden. He pushed Jayden and soon they were both on the ground, throwing punches at one another.

Without thinking, Andrew stood up and raced over to where the two men were scuffling and quickly pushed his way through the crowd. He looked at the two men and reached down, grabbing Jimmy by the back of his shirt and tossing him to the side. Jimmy turned and stared into Andrews’s hard face. Andrew’s eyes were dark and his brows were furrowed. His body was already in a fighting stance, ready to attack should the need arise. At that moment, Andrew looked lethal, like he could actually kill someone. Jimmy drew his fist back to defend himself but the look on Andrew’s face frightened him enough that he decided retreat was the better option. Jimmy jumped up and out of the way, still seething with anger as his friends started brushing him off.

“You stay the fuck away from me, Harrison or I’ll call the damn cops on your ass!” Jimmy said with venom in his voice.

Jimmy turned around and scowled at Jayden as if to say their tiff was not over. He then proceeded to make his way over towards Brie. Andrew watched as he embraced her and then shot Andrew a lethal glare. Andrew stared at him and assessed that Jimmy was all talk and no fight but he sensed that he would also need to keep an eye on him. Andrew turned back to Jayden and reached down, helping him up.

“You okay?” Andrew asked concerned.

“Yeah, it’s not the first time Jimmy and I have rolled around in the dirt,” Jayden said nonchalantly.

“What were you two fighting about?” Madison asked quietly, although she had a strong suspicion, she wanted to make sure.

“Jimmy shouldn’t have done what he did to Andrew just now. That was wrong,” Callie said indignantly.

“He was just being an asshole,” Jayden said standing tall, he turned to Andrew. “I mean, I don’t know the situation or anything but I am not going to judge you on it until I know the facts. What Jimmy did was so uncool. We aren’t all judgmental jerks, Andrew. If you want to say what happened that’s cool, if not, that’s cool too. If there’s one thing I have learned from my parents, it’s never to judge others.”

Callie squeezed his hand and he looked at her, smiling. Jayden knew Callie understood. They had been together from the time they were children. Jayden had moved to town when he was twelve and they had hit it off immediately, starting out as best friends and eventually turning into lovers. When Jayden’s family first arrived in town everyone talked and whispered about them. No one had ever seen two gay men raising a child, but Jayden’s parents were sweet and kind and Callie had loved them immediately. Jayden truly had no patience or tolerance for judgmental people which had been why he had always been considered a freak by his peers. A banner he had worn proudly.

Andrew stepped back, shaking his head. So few people in his life had ever stood up for him, defended him, yet these two people whom he had barely met were willing to do that. He could feel his eyes moisten and was shocked at the fact that there were tears pooling there. He didn’t know what to think. His initial thought when all this had happened was that he needed to get the hell out of there but now he wasn’t so sure that was the best course of action. He was so used to shutting people out but he really didn’t want to do that anymore, especially where Madison was concerned.

Andrew stood there with his eyes shut tight as he tried to wrap his head around the last couple of hours. Since he had met Madison he had experienced feelings within himself that he had never thought he would be capable of, he had been shown a glimpse of what friendship would look like and he had seen someone look at him with adoration and kindness. She brought out a side of him that he thought would never resurface. All of this was new and exciting for Andrew but it also left him filled with an immense panic that it would slip away just as quickly as it had arrived. Nothing in his life ever worked out right and people usually proved that they could not be trusted or relied upon. Would Madison prove this as well? In the midst of his chaotic inner ramblings, he felt Madison’s warm hand wrap around his. He looked down at it, his heart racing. How was it that a 30 year old man had never felt the intimacy of holding a woman’s hand?

“Andrew, it’s going to be okay,” Madison repeated the words he had said to her before Jimmy had so rudely interrupted them.

“Do you think we should leave? I don’t want me being here to be a problem for anyone,” Andrew said, unable to meet her eyes.

“Is that what you want to do?”

Madison looked into his torn face. She didn’t believe that leaving was really necessary but also didn’t want him to feel like he had no choice in the matter. Madison had almost always been a take charge kind of person but she was desperately trying to rein that in. As she looked at the confusion and anguish on Andrew’s handsome face, she realized that he had been given no choices in his life for such a long time. Her heart ached for the pain he had endured and she had no desire to contribute to that. As Madison watched him, he still seemed reluctant, almost waiting for someone to tell him what was to happen next. No, she would not take his choices away from him. She took a deep breath and stood directly in front of him grasping his other hand in hers.

“Andrew, look at me,” Madison said forcefully.

Andrew snapped his head up and stared into her determined eyes.

“I am not making this decision, you must make it, but I will support whatever you choose. I just want to spend some time with you, whether it’s here or somewhere else, it makes no difference to me.” Madison then squeezed his hands to emphasize her point.

Andrew drew in several deep breaths, contemplating what he wanted. What he wanted was to kiss her. What he wanted was to feel her body close to his. What he wanted was to be near her. But that was not what she was asking him or was it? No, she was asking him to make a decision. It wasn’t that Andrew was not a free thinker because he had always been one. In spite of the chaos that had swirled around him, he had tried to hold on to his individuality and his sense of right and wrong. But years of heartache and despair had slowly washed that away until Andrew had finally succumbed to letting drugs make the decisions for him and then, later, authority. His aunt and uncle never told him what he could or couldn’t do. They respected him but he avoided making decisions, avoided it out of fear until it became a way of life for him. As he stared at the beautiful woman with deep brown eyes before him, his decision became as clear as the water on the lake. He needed to take charge of his life.

“I think I’d like to stay, and if we have further problems with anyone, then we can leave. Is that alright?” Andrew asked decisively.

“That sounds like a good plan to me,” Madison said with a smile before she drew her bottom lip into her mouth, watching Andrew’s smile light up the world.

“Do you want to go swimming, get out of this heat?” Andrew asked softly with a smirk and that same air of flirtatiousness she had experienced from him at the trailer park.

Madison nodded her head like the bobble head dolls she so despised and smiled widely as she bounced on the balls of her feet. The thought of seeing him wet, the water glistening across his chest, sent waves of desire coursing through her, making her hotter than the heat ever could. Yes, swimming was definitely a good plan.

5.FUN IN THE SUN

Andrew smiled at the way her head bobbed up and down in response to his question. He glanced back towards the inviting water and then turned around, taking in his surroundings. They were in a very nice area of the lake. It was mostly adults but there were a few families as well. Callie and Jayden had vanished and it surprised Andrew that he hadn’t seen them leave. He was normally very observant and aware of his surroundings. Just a little ways away from them was one of those bathrooms that also served as a changing room. He offered Madison another smile, watching in enjoyment as her eyes lit up.

“I’m going to go change. I’ll be right back,” he said, letting go of her hands.

Madison bit down on her bottom lip in anticipation of his return and as she watched him walk away she breathed in deeply. He was truly something else. There seemed to be so much under the surface with him. Just in the short time she had known him she had seen glimpses of his hurt but she also saw playfulness within him too, as well as the resident loner bad boy he portrayed to the world. He was clearly an enigma to her that would require further study. She snickered at herself, for she knew exactly what she wanted to study. She couldn’t help the smile that spread across her face as she turned and walked to the table, sitting down to wait for him to re-emerge.

Andrew walked into the changing room and quickly checked to make sure no one was in there with him. When he was reasonably sure that he was alone, he changed clothes. He hated that he always did that now. He had been out of prison for two years, yet bathrooms still terrified him. He had many close calls in the beginning of his imprisonment as the guards tended to turn their heads during shower time. He had guessed it was one of those ‘every man for himself’ kind of things.

Andrew shook his head, trying to get the images of prison life out of his mind. He leaned against the bathroom wall and stared at his reflection in the mirror. He started to wonder how Madison would feel about his tattoos as he studied the markings on his skin. He sighed and ran his fingers over the tattoo positioned directly over his heart. A look of sadness passed over his face as he felt the distinct scars that were hidden behind the ink. He had told Steve that he wanted an eclipse, a black moon covering up the sun. He had always remembered his mom, during her up moments, calling him the sun. ‘You shine as bright as the sun’, she would say. Therefore, he thought it only fitting, considering the circumstances, that he cover up the sun with darkness. He wasn’t her sun anymore nor would he be anyone’s sun ever again. She made sure of that. They both did!

Madison stared towards the building that Andrew had entered, speculating what was taking him so long. When he finally emerged, he literally took her breath away. He was wearing a simple pair of black board shorts with a white stripe down the sides and he was still wearing his holey shirt, much to Madison’s dismay. She noticed that his brow was slightly furrowed and he looked deep in thought. She wondered if Jimmy’s asinine behavior was still bothering him. Well, she was not going to let that happen.

“So, you gonna swim in that shirt, Harley man?” she asked playfully as he approached.

Andrew laughed. “What about you, city girl, you gonna swim with those on?” he replied, shaking her wrist and making her bangles hit one another.

She laughed heartedly. “Hmmm, well, I suppose I could take them off but what if someone tries to steal my bling?” she said, sticking her lip out in a pout.

“I’m sure it will be fine,” he said with an arch of his brow and a chuckle that soon turned into a full-fledged laugh.

Madison smiled, loving their light-hearted banter and the fact that, for some reason, she was able to make him laugh so easily. She grinned and slipped her bracelets off, setting them on the table. She then reached to the hem of her shirt and slipped it off before she wiggled out of her shorts. She stood in front of him in her black bikini and her boots which she quickly stepped out of. Andrew was breathing heavily and had to shake his head several times to get his bearings. Madison caught him eyeing her and felt good about it. She had never considered herself beautiful but she knew she was somewhat attractive. She had been told that she had a nice rear, which she sort of agreed with. It did seem to generate a lot of attention when she wore her skinny jeans. Of course, Madison was not seeing herself as others did. She had smooth unblemished skin, big brown eyes and full, red lips with a splattering of freckles that ran across the bridge of her nose and over her cheeks. Her breasts were just big enough to make her cleavage look good and she had legs that most women would kill for. As she watched Andrew’s reaction to her, she felt unbelievably sexy.

“Your turn,” she said flirtatiously as she flicked the hem of his shirt up and allowed her fingertips to lightly graze his flat stomach.

His breath hitched when he felt her touch him and he stood there, staring at her helplessly until she arched her brow and flicked his shirt again. He smiled as he lifted it up and over his head, taking another quick breath before he tossed it on the table beside her. Madison’s mouth parted as she took in the sight before her. He was lean and fit with just the right amount of hair on his chest but what her eyes zeroed in on immediately was his tattoos. Right where his heart was he had a solid black circle over the outline of what appeared to be a sun. Creeping over his right shoulder were what looked like the final points of the tribal tattoo that must be on his shoulder blade. It moved down his right arm and ended just below his elbow. The tattoo she had seen earlier on his lower back she now saw that it wrapped around his rib cage and ended on his hip. Madison’s eyes roamed down his chest to his stomach, admiring his perfectly sculpted abs and the V that she was certain was carved from stone.

“Are you ready?” Andrew asked, drawing her eyes to his again.

“Umm, yeah,” Madison said as she shook her head at herself for openly gawking at the poor man.

“You guys going in?” Callie asked eagerly. She and Jayden were just returning from the Lake.

“Yeah, you guys?” Andrew said in response.

“In a bit. Hey, you want to race jet skis later. I brought my dad’s. They’re pretty fast,” Jayden said and frowned before meeting Andrews’s eyes again. “It’s the only kind of racing I can do anymore.”

“That sounds like a lot of fun,” Andrew said smiling. He had never been on a jet ski but he assumed it was similar to driving a motorcycle.

“Hey, we could double up?” Callie jumped in.

Andrew turned to Madison. “Ever been on a jet ski, city girl?”

“No, but I told you, Long Island, baby. I’m up for anything,” she said, complete with her hand on her hip and a shake of her head.

He grinned and nodded at her before looking over at Jayden. “I guess we’re in.”

Andrew couldn’t contain the joy he felt saying ‘we’. He had never used that term in relation to a woman and it made his heart beat even faster. Madison watched as Andrew talked with Jayden about jet skis, she had no idea about horsepower and speed or how you handle a turn; she had better things to think about, like admiring the stunning man in front of her. She wondered what it would be like to trace her fingertips along the ink that adorned his body. Moving her fingers languidly down his chest until she reached that trail of hair leading to what she was sure was something beautiful to behold.

“Madison?” She finally heard Andrew say.

“Huh?” Madison dumbly replied.

She was almost positive she had some drool coming out of her gaping mouth. He laughed and then grasped her hand as he led her to the shore. As they approached the water, Andrew immediately started to walk into it but Madison stopped when the cold water hit her feet, forcing Andrew to stop as well.

“Hold on there, Hot Stuff!” Madison said, giggling at the expression he was now giving her.

“What did you call me?” Andrew asked trying hard to keep a straight face.

“Harley Man?” she replied with a smile as he shook his head.

“Tattsational?” Madison smirked and then laughed when his brows furrowed.

“SexyMoFo?” she offered and this time he smirked and grabbed her, leaping into the lake.

“How about asshole,” Madison sputtered, coming up for air and splashing water at him.

He laughed as he sat up in the water that was now coming up to his chest. He glanced at Madison, who was scowling at him, her hair falling in her face and looking fit to be tied. Madison glanced over at him, splashing water at him once again.

“How about you just call me Andrew?” he stated as he smirked mischievously, trying to grab her again.

“No way, I am going to come up with a great nickname for you,” she said laughing and ducking out of his way. “It will be what the kid’s now-a-days call epic!”

“Hmmm,” he said with a smile as he moved his hands to his now wet hair, trying to push it out of his face.

Madison smirked and, seeing an opportunity, she tackled him, forcing him under the water. When he resurfaced, his eyes were dark and as he cocked his head he gave her a look that immediately sent blood rushing to her most sensitive area as desire consumed her. Andrew watched her, her face flushed with excitement; he knew he needed to move before he did something he shouldn’t. His overwhelming desire for her made his heart pound rapidly in his chest but it was too soon for him to feel this strongly about her, he reasoned. Andrew took a deep breath and took a few steps forward, thankful that she couldn’t see the response he was having to her. Luckily for him, the water crashed around his chest covering his lower half, hiding his arousal.

Madison watched him walk further into the water, momentarily stunned. She marveled at his back and shoulders which she just now had a full view of. They were shrouded with an elegant tribal tattoo that spanned the length of his shoulder blades and then went down in almost a triangle ending at his lower back before it wrapped around the entire right side of his body. Madison wasn’t normally attracted to men with tattoos but Andrew was different. He looked simultaneously sexy and wounded, sweet and dangerous, all wrapped up in one beautifully inked package.

“You okay, SunDrew?” Madison said coming up next to him.

He raised his brow in a curious manner and Madison shrugged. Andrew shook his head and laughed riotously at the craziness of the moment. They spent the next several hours, swimming, laughing and, of course, flirting with one another and in between all of that, they talked. It was the strangest sensation for both of them. Two people who rarely opened up to others, talking freely. Of course, they didn’t tap any of the hard core personal things. Neither was willing to go there just yet but both had the sense that they could when the time was right. Eventually, Callie and Jayden motioned to them that the food was ready. As they emerged from the water, Andrew once again wrapped his hand around Madison’s, holding it tightly as they made their way to the picnic tables.

“Isn’t the water divine?” Callie asked, looking back at the lake.

“It was perfect!” Madison said, thinking that her assessment was most likely related to the company she was in versus the water itself.

“After lunch we’ll go ride!” Jayden said excitedly. He loved racing with Callie but she never wanted to go that fast. Andrew however, he believed would truly race him, something he missed terribly.

“Definitely!” Andrew exclaimed with enthusiasm.

Madison watched the exchange Andrew had with Jayden and grinned. Boys and their toys, she thought. Callie had grilled burgers while Madison pulled out her famous potato salad. When Andrew had asked what made it famous, she had winked and told him to try it. Andrew had to admit it was pretty darn good, the best he had ever tasted. Not that he was a connoisseur or anything but he knew good salad when he tasted it. While the ladies were making carefree conversation, the men were bouncing and on the edge of their seats, rearing to go. After an hour, Callie had enough.

“Alright fine, let’s go!” Callie said with a roll of her eyes. She knew better than anyone that once Jayden wanted to do something he would be antsy until it happened.

Jayden’s eyes shot over to her. “Really?”

She laughed and both she and Madison stood up, gathering the remaining food and putting it away. As they all headed back to the lake, Andrew once again took Madison’s hand in his. Madison had not been one of those girls who enjoyed the whole PDA thing, thinking it was no one’s business but hers who she was with and what they were doing. But she was really enjoying this small and simple gesture that told her in no uncertain terms that he liked her and simultaneously told others that she was taken. As they approached the docking area they came upon two bright yellow jet skis.

“Boy, those are something else,” Madison said as she and Andrew walked over to them. She then looked up at Andrew. “You sure you can handle that, Your Royal Sexiness?”

Andrew shook his head laughing. “I can handle a lot more than this,” he said arching his brow.

“Hmmm.” Was all Madison said as she slipped onto the back seat of the water craft.

Andrew watched her and looked down, before looking back up at her with a sexy smirk that said he wanted her immensely. She mirrored his look and Madison knew without a shred of doubt that she had to have him. There was no denying what she was feeling for him and as he looked at her with want and need she knew he felt the same way.

“I only have two lifejackets and I think the girls should wear them,” Jayden said, breaking both Andrew’s and Madison’s gaze.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea. Thanks, Jay,” Andrew said, taking the life jacket from him and tossing it to Madison.

“Really?”

Madison looked between Jayden and Andrew who were both nodding at her. She didn’t want to wear a lifejacket. She wanted to wrap her arms around Andrew’s waist and feel his skin against hers. Andrew grinned when he saw Madison pouting about wearing the life jacket. It was definitely important. He and Jayden talked briefly about the operation of the Jet Ski and as Andrew expected, it wasn’t too dissimilar to a motorcycle. Once Jayden walked away, Andrew turned to Madison again. He smiled and made sure her life jacket was tightened before he threw his leg over the seat. She immediately brought her hands around his waist and locked her fingers together. Andrew looked down at the delicate hands touching his abdomen and swallowed thickly, unsure he could form words.

“I won’t go too fast, Madison,” he finally choked out.

“But what if I want you to go fast?” Madison whispered breathlessly. Andrew’s sharp intake of breath told her that he understood exactly what she was saying.

“Hold on tight then,” Andrew answered with a smile as he turned the engine on and rode away from the dock.

Madison felt exhilarated. Water was splashing up from all sides of her and she could feel the muscles in his stomach flex and move as he maneuvered the Jet Ski. She was way beyond aroused. Once he was out a good distance, he slowed down to wait for Jayden and Callie. Madison relaxed her grip and rested her forehead against his back, her breath labored. Andrew brought one of his hands down and placed it over hers, lacing his fingers with hers, both enjoying the tranquility of the moment.

“So are we racing?” Jayden asked, pulling up next to them and forcing water to splash all over Andrew and Madison, breaking their connection.

Andrew and Madison both laughed. Madison moved her hands away from Andrew and wiped the water off of her face, wondering if she and Andrew would eventually catch a break. Andrew turned his head slightly and winked at her.

“You ready for this, lead foot?” he said with that wicked smirk that seemed to trigger the cat in heat within her every single time.

“You bet your sweet ass I am.” Madison brought her hands around his waist and squeezed him tightly once more.

They spent several hours racing around the lake and then the boys dropped the girls off to sun bathe while they raced some more. As Madison sat down on one of the towels she had brought, she smiled at the happiness she now saw on both Andrew and Jayden’s faces. You could tell they were having the time of their lives.

“I haven’t see Jayden laugh so much in ages,” Callie said solemnly.

“Really? Wow! He kind of seems the type that would be laughing all the time.” Madison was curious what could make someone with such a carefree spirit feel so somber.

“He normally does but the last few years have been difficult. After he got hurt he felt a little lost. Plus…” Callie looked down, “some bad things happened a few years ago.”

Madison looked at Callie’s gloomy face unsure what she should say. “I’m sorry,” she stated with hesitance. Sorry sounded so insincere. “I know we don’t know each other that well but I’m here if you want to talk about it.”

Callie smiled. “Thanks Madison, maybe some other time. I don’t want to put a damper on today.” She then glanced at Brie and her friends, “You’re probably wondering how we ended up here, huh?”

“Well, the thought did cross my mind. You two don’t seem like you would fit in with that group of bobble headed idiots,” Madison said, lying down and glancing at her.

A huge smile crossed Callie’s face. “You see the dark haired girl talking to Brie?”

Madison looked over at Brie and her posse of gnomes and did indeed see a girl with long dark hair talking intently to Brie about what Madison was certain was something unimportant and insignificant.

“Yeah.”

“That’s my cousin, Irene. Her mom called my mom,” she said with an eye roll and Madison understood immediately that her cousin had not wanted her to be here at all. That it was a pity invitation just as Brie’s invite to Madison had been.

“I didn’t want to come since I can’t stand any of them but Jayden thought it would be fun, you know, just to piss them off,” she said with a laugh.

Madison laughed as well. “Sounds like something I would do.”

“Yeah, you should have seen their faces when we showed up. It was priceless!” Callie giggled again. “Of course it wasn’t as great as yours and Andrew’s entrance. I thought Brie was about to spit nails.” Callie chuckled as she lay down.

“Screw her!” Madison said as she closed her eyes enjoying the summer sun. “I don’t need her approval.” Madison smiled, knowing that was the truth.

“Me neither!” Callie said with conviction.

Callie already liked Madison and hoped they could become good friends. She thought about how wonderful it would be to have another person to talk to about things and wondered if maybe she could confide in her what had happened to her and Jayden. She sincerely hoped this would be the case. Besides, it was clear to Callie that Jayden was having a great time with Andrew so this could be good for both of them.

The girls soaked up the summer sun for hours as the boys raced until their hunger forced them to come back to shore. As Andrew helped Jayden load the Jet Skis, he decided that he really liked him. This was the most fun he had ever had and he knew that he owed Jayden the truth. It was the least he could do.

“I was high,” Andrew said softly.

Jayden stopped what he was doing and glanced at him. “When it happened?”

Andrew nodded. “I was wrong, I don’t deny that, but she said she was 18 and I was pretty messed up, too messed up to question it or see that she was clearly NOT 18.”

Jayden frowned. “If she said she was 18 why were you convicted?”

Andrew looked down. “I couldn’t remember for sure if she said it or not and she told her dad she didn’t remember much about the night because she was so drunk. I thought about it continuously while I was in prison and I am certain she said it but… I don’t know, maybe I just want to believe she did. Know what I mean?”

Jayden nodded but was still frowning.

“The judge gave me the maximum sentence because I was a lot older than her.” He again looked down, feeling remorse for what happened, “And then I got a few years for fighting her dad when he attacked me.”

“You know, Andrew it really sounds like you had an incompetent attorney,” Jayden stated angrily. He was fully aware that a good attorney could have gotten him half the time or no time at all.

Andrew shrugged. “I suppose so but in all honesty I didn’t give him much to work with. I was withdrawing and needed a fix bad by then and… I guess I sort of felt I deserved what ever happened. I know that probably sounds stupid.”

Jayden looked at him and sighed. “It’s not stupid, Andrew.” He hesitated for a moment but decided this was an important question to ask. “Do you still get high?”

Andrew shook his head. “No, but in the beginning of my incarceration I wanted it desperately, craved it all the time,” he said, instinctually wrapping his hand over his arm. “But I’ve been off it for a long time so I don’t really crave it anymore. Not that I want to test that theory,” he finished with a sigh.

He wasn’t 100% sure what he would do if confronted with the opportunity to use again. He wanted to believe that he wouldn’t do it but who really knew what they would do in any given situation until they were in it.

“Thank you for telling me, Andrew. I appreciate it.”

“Thank you for everything. I have never really had anyone defend me. It felt… good.”

“Well, you’re welcome, man,” Jayden said smacking his shoulder as they started to approach the shore. “If you want to hang out again, I am so there. You don’t need to hide out at that trailer park all the time.”

“Thanks, Jay. I will have to take you up on that,” Andrew said as they started walking up to the girls.

“I still work on a lot of bikes so maybe you can help me sometimes.”

“That would be great. Aaron helps me get a lot of under the table jobs but I would love to come help you out.”

“Sounds like a plan then,” Jayden said with a smile.

As Andrew and Jayden reached the shore they realized that Callie was already gone and at the table, leaving Madison alone. Jayden waved at Andrew as he headed in Callie’s direction. Madison was lying on her stomach with her hair to the side and the strap of her bikini top undone exposing her beautiful back. His eyes roamed down her body and stopped at her shapely ass and then down her long, lean legs and then back up to her ass again. He swallowed reflexively as he sat down next to her.

“Like what you see?” Madison asked, glancing at his now reddened face.

“A man would have to be dead not too,” Andrew quickly replied.

Madison smiled and held on to the top of her bikini as she sat up, turning her back to him. She then glanced over her shoulder, offering him a sexy smile.

“Can you snap me up, Jet Boy?”

She giggled as Andrew rolled his eyes at her feeble attempt to come up with a suitable nickname for him. He hooked her top and in the process allowed his fingers to lightly graze her back. He smiled when her skin pebbled under his touch. She turned around and watched him intently. His body was still dripping wet and his face was flushed with excitement. She smiled at his hair which was now a chaotic mess atop his head and his eyes sparkled in the afterglow of his adventure on the water. Before she realized what she was doing she had brought her hand to his face and was lightly touching the stubble he had along his jaw. He took a deep breath and was now looking at her with lost and scared eyes. Eyes that made her instantly want to comfort him. She hesitated for only a moment before her lips moved to his.

Andrew was lost in the sensation. He felt every nuance of her soft lips and when her mouth parted, his tongue entered hers without haste, exploring her, breathing her, consuming her. His whole body became a part of the kiss as he pulled her close to him, wrapping his hand in her hair while his other hand moved down to her lower back, pulling her body flush to his. It was as if at that moment everything was right in the world. He hadn’t been in prison, he hadn’t had a messed up childhood and he was not branded with a scarlet letter that would forever mark him to the world. No, in that moment, he found solace. In that moment, she washed it all away and made him… clean.

AUTHOR NOTE:

Well, that’s it for now. I hope you liked the little glimpse into Andrew and Madison’s love story. Their full story will be available on August 23rd in paperback and e-book form. Be sure you are following my Facebook page, The Helios Chronicles, for updated info on Helios Awakened.

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Available to read on Wattpad HERE