Page 23 of Pleasure Island

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“Don’t sass me, Layla. Men like it when you cook for them.”

If she says so.

I’m never going to cook for a man.

“Why don’t you go get changed for dinner,” Mommy says.

“I don’t want to. It’s hot.”

One of the pots is boiling over when the doorbell rings.

“Get the door, Layla.”

Jeez. Bossy much?

But I go over to answer it. Partly because I’m curious. I haven’t met her new boyfriend and, since her cooking sucks, I probably won’t get another chance.

I open the door.

And I’m greeted by a wall of enormous, muscular he-man. He looks like a freaking Viking.

He’s huge.

He has a blond beard and tattoos and longish dirty-blond hair that, even though it’s long, it looks clean. Everything about him looks … tough, but also expensive, even with that longish hair and all those tattoos. He has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen.

His business shirt is straining against his big muscles, like he might burst out of it any minute if you got him mad about something.

This makes me giggle.

He’s staring at me with this funny expression. There’s something almost scary about the way he’s looking at me. He reminds me of a hungry tiger.

“You must be Layla,” he says. His voice is deep. And kind of husky. Like a Viking’s would be, which makes me giggle again.

I’m still wearing my bikini from swimming in the pool in our apartment complex a little earlier and his blue eyes stare at me. All of me. Mommy said I’m growing out of this bikini. The way he’s staring at me, I think she might be right.

He’s naughty, you can tell. He has a twinkle in his blue eyes.

And so do I.

“And you must be Dallas.”

He holds out his hand for a handshake, which makes me giggle again, especially when he takes my hand and kisses the back of it. If blue could be described as hot then that’s how I’d describe the color of Dallas’s eyes.

He follows me into to the kitchen and kisses Mommy on the cheek. She looks a little sweaty from cooking and her hair has come loose.

“Hi, Dallas. I’ll just finish up here and serve up our dinner. Layla, show Dallas around.”

Dallas’s eyes are still doing that thing where they stare at my bikini. I’ve filled out a lot over the past year and I realize this bikini really is getting a little small for me. There wasn’t much of it to begin with. I bought it last summer because I wanted to get as much of a tan as possible. At the strict boarding school I just graduated from, we weren’t allowed to wear bikinis.

It’s weird but I feel like teasing him. It’s fun to make his eyes flash like that.

So I take his hand and lead him out into our tiny living room. His hand is so warm. And kind of rough. He laces his strong fingers through mine. “This is the living room,” I tell him. Duh. “And out here’s our balcony. It’s small but we can see a palm tree if you stand way over at the edge.

“Show me,” says Dallas. He’s not quite smiling but his eyes are playful.

“You want to see the palm tree?” Mommy told me Dallas’s mansion has an unreal view of the ocean and palm trees, so I’m not sure why he’d want to see this one, but I lead him out there anyway. I point to the palm tree. “There.”

He doesn’t say anything. He’s not even looking at the palm tree. He’s looking at me. It’s weird. He’s making me feel warm and sort of squirmy, just from the way his eyes are roving my skin. It’s like he’s shooting invisible laser beams that can warm me just by looking at me. His thumb is touching my palm and it tingles where he’s touching me.

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