“Man, I think your uncle’s down there.”

“Is he?” Damien gathered Andie in his arms and turned away. He wanted her away from that smoke and in the back of an ambulance.

“We should get him out.” Caine called after him.

“What the fuck for?”  His uncle could burn in hell or in that basement, either was acceptable, “Where’s the damn ambulance?”

“Should be here any minute.”

“Drake, how the hell did you beat the shit out of him when we just got here?”


He looked back to see his uncle stumbling out of the cellar doors. Damn. Clothes filthy and ripped, he limped along, split lip dripping blood and what looked like one hell of a broken nose if his two blackening eyes were any indication. The man looked bad.

“Man, he looks bad.” Caine said.

Stan appeared from the other side of the house, lowered the phone at his ear, “Damien, when did you sneak in and kick your unle’s ass?”

The woman in his arms flicked a hand his Uncle’s way, “Oh, I did that.”

Caine Lawrence blinked, “Pardon?”


She sniffled out half a snort, “Dumb-shit kept doing dumb-shit so I kept having to beat the shit out of him.”

“The hell you say.”

“Oh, I say.”



Andie had never seen an actual expression on Caine Lawrence’s face. He was wearing one now. Utter, dumb-founded, dumb-foundary. She may have actually heard a snicker, “That little slip of a girl kicked your ass?”

Dumb-shit got a mite defensive over that one,  “That little slip of a girl is sneaky as all hell and has a mean-streak a mile wide. She beat me with a chair, shot at me, and threw me down a flight of steps.”

Caine shook his head, “And we had to save your ass from the fire. I’d say don’t quit your day job, but being as you don’t have one, maybe you should join the circus or some shit, because a life of crime is not your calling.”

Damien popped a brow at her, “How, exactly, did you manage all that?”

Andie waved flickering fingers, “Floating ligaments.”




The smoke left the air around her. She breathed fesh air Damien must have carried her upwind. What a peach. Keeping up with all the men and their back and forth made her head ache so she closed her eyes and drifted.  Then the sirens started and a parade of emergency vehicles turned into the almost driveway.  An ambulance must have been among them, because when the fog retreated, she was sitting in the back of one.  And then there were fire-fighters spewing water on the blazing house, a man flashing an annoying light in her eyes and asking her questions – again. And boy, was she spending a lot of time with emergency vehicles these days. Drama drama drama.

“You rich people.” She muttered low and a little scratchy from the smoke, but Damien, who was busy sitting beside her and smelling good heard her. “What about us?”

“Are having any pain?” The man behind the light asked.

“Plenty. And it’s all in my ass. Let me tell you something Mr. Paramedic man. Stay away from rich people. They’re all nutso.”


“The hell you say.” The Demi chuckled where he sat beside her smelling good.

“Oh, I say. I say say say. There’s Dumb-shit kidnapping me cause you won’t have a conversation…..”

“Ma’am, watch my finger.”

“Sure thing, hot-shot.” She watched and returned to her dissertation, “There’s the stinky weasel and his whacked-out roofie. And let’s not forget all those leather-bound yahoos and their leather-bound, boom-boom room sex-capades….”

The finger stopped moving.

The demi did his sexy demi chuckle, “Boom boom room…”

The finger started moving again.

“Sex-capades. And the chocolate sauce topping all this cray-cray – you and your uni-bomber lair.”

The finger fell out of sight. Good, she’d had her fill of floating fingers and flashing lights.

“I can explain that.” The Demi said.

“Uh-huh. Bet it’s going to sound nuts.”

“Ah, well, you’ve got me there.”

“Darn Tootin’”


She leaned around the side of the Ambulance to see Jose and Layla leaping out of the Prius, Jose was waving a juice box and peanut M&M’s. Thank God. She was starving.

Jose stopped to hand her the food. Layla kept going. Oh no. “Stop her!”

Too late, Layla bobbed Caine, weaved the other EMT and dropped Dumb-shit with a chic and devastating Round-house kick.

“Damn, that was fucking poetic, that was.” Andie saw the second emotion on Caine’s face. Starstruck.  Layla was impressive kicking ass in ssatin pants and stilettos.

Damien didn’t bother rising from the back of the ambulance.

“She’s going to kill him, you know.” Andie said.

“He deserves it,” Jose popped the straw in her juice box, “Kick his veneers out, Lay-lay!”

Layla was giving it her best attempt. The round house followed with a couple of fist-flying judo chops. Dumb-shit hit the dirt and stayed down so he wasn’t completely brain dead. “Get up, Asshole. I’m not done…”

And an extended cab Mercedes joined the group of vehicles. Nate leaped out, ran over,  grabbed Layla from behind and lifted. Layla shrieked. Nate laughed.

But then the car window came down to reveal Evelyn, “What in the world is going on here? Nathan, put Miss Markham down.  Desmond, explain yourself.”

“Dammit, I told him to leave Mom out of this.”  Damien rose and headed over.

Nate did as his mother bid, setting Layla on her feet. She stalked away with a few choice words in Mandarin and took Damien’s place on the back of the ambulance.

“Amazing Lay-lay.” Jose said.

“Gave up awful easy.” Andie scarfed M&Ms.

Layla raised a hand and pointed at the group, “That right there is family shit.  You don’t get involved in other people’s family shit..”

“True that, my dearest.” Jose agreed.

“Mom, what re you doing here?” The question was addressed to Evelyn, but Damien’s glare was all for Nate.

“Damien, we will discuss you keeping me in the dark on this later.” Evelyn said in the voice Mothers have been using for a millennia.

“Mom knew something was up.” Nate shrugged,  “She asked what was going on. I couldn’t lie.”

“Huh, he really is a Mama’s boy.” Caine Lawrence said. He’d also taken a few steps back.

 “Desmond, You kidnapped Andie? At Gunpoint? Have you lost your mind?” Evelyn looked ready to kill somebody. For the first time, Andie saw the resemblance to Damien.

“So I’m guessing Evelyn had been kept in the dark about Desmond.” Layla hissed.

“I guess so.” Andie said.

Desi-dumbshit had glares for everyone, “Your son, stole my company out from under me.”


Wow, Evelyn had a set of lungs on her.

“It was already in its death throes.” Damien said.

“You think I didn’t know that.” Dumb-shit stumbled to his feet, “I was working on a merger.”

“Now you don’t have to.”

“Excuse me,” Evelyn interrupted, “But may we revisit the kidnapping. Desmond?

“How about him fucking with the brakes.” Layla broke her rule about family shit, “The little fucker.”.

“And let’s not forget the fire.” Jose lifted a handful of her ruined midnight magic dress, “Just look what he did to your Ellie Saab.”

“Hey now, wait a damn minute I don’t know anything about brakes and I sure as hell wouldn’t lock myself in that house and set it on fire. Shit, I was tied up in the basement.”

You were tied up in the basement?” Evelyn looked understandably baffled.

“Yeah, long story, that one.” Caine had returned to his neutral expression, “And I’m inclined to believe him about the brakes. That was a professional job. And this guy couldn’t even tie a knot.”

“Well, I am double jointed.” Andie felt it was only fair to reminded them.

“He could have hired someone.” Damien said.

“With what? You took all my money.”

” Desmond, you could have come to me.” Evelyn said.

“Nah,” Nate opted in, “He didn’t want to have to explain how he was penniless all of a sudden.”


“Deborah took my money when she took the boys. She’s using again.”

“Oh dear.” Evelyn turned a worried frown on her son, “Damien, you have to help him.”

“Help? Him?”

“She’s addicted to pain killers, you little shit.” Dessie said, Andie thought he might be foaming at the mouth. “I’ve had her in and out of rehab for years”

“Not possible. I would have known.”

“You arrogant son of a bitch.” Desmond jumped and swung.

Damien ducked and punched.

Nate grabbed the Dipshit.

Caine went for the Demi.

“Damn, this is better than Dynasty re-runs.” Layla’s eyes were glued to the drama.

“Right?” Jose sat forward, “Wish we had popcorn.”

Andie tilted the yellow bag in his direction, “Here, have an M&M.”