Giles slid onto the driver’s side of his compact car, buckled the strap over his lap, focused on the tight maneuver needed to get into the flow traffic, and felt his stomach clench.
Once he roared the motor to life, gripped the wheel and flipped the music on high, he made an expert swing into the proper lane. His fingers began tapping a lively dance, and his head started bopping to the rhythm. Blood pumped and his stomach unclenched. He grinned.
He sped onto the highway and pictured Esmeralda’s face. Lovely woman. Beautiful eyes. He suspected…beautiful everything. Well, from what he knew of her. Online chats can only take a man so far. One phone call. Lovely voice. Husky…just the way he liked it.
Once at the Millard exit, he turned off and scaled the hill to his sister’s house. Sadie had said she wanted to “talk.” His stomach tightened again.
After he rang the bell, Sadie swung the door wide and beckoned her brother inside with a languid half-wave. “Dan took the kids to a movie, so we have at least two hours of uninterrupted chat time.”
Giles pursed his lips as he slid one leg over the kitchen stool by the counter. “Why do we need”—he made quote marks in the air—”‘uninterrupted chat time’ together?”
Sadie rounded on the refrigerator, pulled out an ice-cold soda, swung to a high cabinet, flipped open the door, shuffled with her fingers, and pulled down a red bottle. After filling two tall glasses with crushed ice, lemon-lime soda, and Chardonnay, she handed one to her brother. She lifted her hand in salute. “Cheers, brother. Do I need a reason to chat with you?”
Giles leaned back, perching his foot on the stool rung. “Usually, you have a reason.” His eyes widened. “Is something wrong with Dan…or the kids?”
Sadie leaned on the counter, savoring her drink. “No. They’re fine.” She looked straight into Giles’ eyes. “As the older, wiser sibling, I just want to catch up with my little brother. Anything wrong with that?”
Giles snorted. “Seventeen months! You’re only seventeen months older, girl.”
Sadie straightened and clutched a platter of brownies. She slid them onto the counter. “Hard as rocks. Wilda made ‘em. First attempt. Not bad if you don’t break a tooth.” She tilted her head. “So, tell me all about Izzie.” Her eyebrows wiggled.
Giles bit into the brownie and froze. They were indeed hard as rocks. He tapped his tooth, laid the brownie aside, and glanced up. “Izzie? Who—?”
Opening the refrigerator, Sadie grabbed a bag of baby carrots. She pulled one out and crunched. She talked around munches. “You know…your online friend.”
Giles’ eyelids dropped to half-mast. “Her name is Esmeralda. And we’re just getting to know each other.” He shrugged. “What’s so wrong? You met Dan through a Catholic dating service.”
Sadie took a sip of her drink. “That’s my point. I knew something about Dan before we met. I knew he was Catholic, and that says volumes.”
Giles grimaced. “Screams loud and clear.” He wrinkled his nose and stared at the carrot held like a cigarette between Sadie’s fingers. “How can you eat a carrot and drink a wine-cooler at the same time?”
Sadie shrugged. “Easy. But don’t roam off topic. Listen brother-o-mine. I love you dearly, but I think you’re making a humongous mistake. You don’t know anything about this woman…and worse yet…she doesn’t know a thing about you.”
“I know she’s gorgeous.” Giles smiled. “I’m not bad looking…What else matters?”
“Is she funny? Does she handle money well? What religion is she? Any ax-murders to her credit?”
Rolling his eyes, Giles labored to his feet and sauntered into the strangely clean living room. He glanced back at Sadie who followed him. “What happened to all the toys…and the mess?”
Sadie punched Giles in the arm. “Listen, buddy, one time you show up unexpected and the house looks unfit for human habitation, and you act like that’s my usual routine.” She eyed him as he plopped down on the sofa. “You still got dust bunnies ruling the roost at your house?”
Giles set his drink on the end table and covered his ears. “Dang it, Sadie. I told you never to mix metaphors in my hearing. You know how that makes my skin crawl.”
“Sorry, Editor. Didn’t realize you wore your English Grammarian badge during off hours.”
Giles lifted his hands. “It’s a curse I’m learning to live with.” He smirked as Sadie sat on an overstuffed chair opposite him and threw her legs over the arm, just like one of the kids. “I know you think you’re helping me out…but I’m having a good time with Esmeralda. It’s a fling. Fun time. Nothing more.”
“You told her that?”
“Pretty obvious, I should think.”
“Obvious to who?” Sadie tapped the rim of her glass. “I know you, brother. You’re still dealing with all the baggage from Janet.” She took a long slurp, finishing off the contents. “You need to get an annulment before you start anything new.”
His eyes nearly popping out his head, Giles leaned forward. “Annulment? Lord, Sadie. A Justice of the Peace married us. I’m not Catholic anymore. Janet doesn’t even believe in God. I don’t think we really need to bother some overworked Cannon Lawyer with the hideous details of our failed marriage.”
Sadie set her glass down with a click and leaned forward. “I think you do. I think you’d be a fool to start anything new without figuring out what went wrong last time.”
Giles shot to his feet. “Well, don’t worry your pretty little head about it, sis. I know exactly what went wrong.”
Sadie held her position. Only her eyes followed him as he paced across the room, turned at the television, and faced her.
“We were kids…stupid kids overloaded with hormones.” Giles shook his head and chuckled, his gaze dropping to the brown carpet. “Your Catholic God is the funny one.” He lifted his finger and mimicked a voice from on high. ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect!’” His voice returned to normal. “And then He gives us bodies and sensual joyrides.” Giles retrieved his glass and swallowed the last drops. “Joke’s on us—eh?”
Sadie rose and stepped closer, her gaze fixed on her brother. “You got hurt—really hurt, Giles. I know you did. Divorce is hell, no matter what.” She laid a hand on his shoulder. “Listen to your older, wiser sister, will ya?” She tilted her head and peered deep into his gaze. “I love you, idiot. And I never want to see you in so much pain again.”
Giles dropped his head to his chest.
Sadie swung away. “I don’t care how hot she is…now.” Sadie ran her fingers along the edge of a crib set against the wall. “You know perfectly well, looks fade or get ravaged.” She glanced back. “Remember mom?”
Giles jaw hardened, his moist eyes darkened. “Don’t go there, Sadie.”
“Listen, Giles. Every relationship you have with a woman is colored by every other relationship with women—mom, me, Janet…and all the little flings you’ve had…online or in person.” She lifted her hand. “Don’t pretend innocence. I’m not stupid.”
Giles plunked down on the couch and buried his face in his hands. “Why are you making my life so damn complicated?”
“It’s a sister’s job. Actually, it would’ve been mom’s job…if she hadn’t—” She swallowed and turned away. “Don’t forget, Giles, this gorgeous woman you like so much is someone’s daughter…maybe someone’s sister.” She strode over to an iPhone lying on the table. “These tech toys help us forget—but we’re dealing with real people. Not just names. Not just faces. People someone else might love just as much as I love you.”
Giles rubbed his face and stared across the room through vacant eyes. “I’m not a creep, you know.”
“I never thought that for a moment.” Sadie returned and knelt at Giles’ side, folding her hands prayer-like on his knee. “But you are unguided. You could use some help to make a real relationship work—better than Mom, better than Janet. Heck, she could even be better than me.”
Giles reached out and brushed a strand of hair from Sadie’s eyes. “Not possible, sister-o-mine. Not possible.”
Novels by A. K. Frailey
Last of Her Kind http://amzn.to/2y1HJvg
Newearth: Justine Awakens http://amzn.to/2pq0vWN
Melchior—Vengeance Is Mine http://amzn.to/2taeW2r
OldEarth ARAM Encounter https://amzn.to/2KLhlsN
OldEarth Ishtar Encounter https://amzn.to/2OAkDQF
OldEarth Neb Encounter (In production)
OldEarth Georgios Encounter (In production)
The Adventures of Tally-Ho http://amzn.to/2sLfcI5
The Road Goes Ever On—A Christian Journey Through The Lord of the Rings http://amzn.to/2lWBd00