Their connection flares hot in an instant...but is it doomed to fizzle out?
Hayley McAllister lowered her oversized gym bag to the floor, staring up at the house she’d grown up in. It was hard to believe her miserable bastard dad was dead—she always thought he’d outlive everyone—but it was true. Oh, how her heart bled for all the people who “missed” him. She didn’t, never had. And Hayley wasn’t going to start now…whether he was gone or not.
When she’d received call after call, email after email, she simply swiped them from her screen and went on with her life. Now, eight weeks after his funeral—killed by a heart attack—here she was. Home. But she wouldn’t be staying for long. England hadn’t been home for the last seven years; Ibiza was her home. A place filled with exhilaration. Some people felt born again, some were clubbers on their annual 18 to 30 holidays, some were looking for something more in life. If anyone wanted to begin again, Hayley would demand that Ibiza was the place to start. After all, it was where she found her own happiness the day she left this house.
She’d been back to England yearly since her permanent move. She simply chose to avoid a visit to the family home. What would have been the point? Her dad would have had something nasty to say, criticism landing the moment she walked through the door. And his new wife, Diane, surely held the same opinions he did. She had married him, so she was bound to be a miserable bitch to match his miserable bastard personality. Nobody else would put up with him.
As Hayley swallowed down her nerves, she cast her gaze on the front door. It had been freshly painted, the door knocker bronzed and polished. That surely had to be “the stepmother’s” doing. Her dad never had been the one who looked after the house. They’d had a pleasantly decorated home growing up, Hayley’s mum made sure to keep up appearances with the neighbours, but once she left, leaving Hayley with her dad, he seemed to lack any interest in most things. She couldn’t remember the last time a wall inside had a lick of paint or when a loose door handle had been tightened. He just hadn’t cared. While Mike called every woman around him fit to burn, Hayley retreated to her bedroom, mixing her tracks with her door locked. And when the moment came to get out…she ran and never looked back at this place.
She’d never had his support, but on reflection, she’d never needed it. Support was few and far between in Hayley’s world, especially in England, but she would be back on a plane to Ibiza in no time at all. Five weeks, that’s all she had here. She would get her belongings together—if he’d kept them—catch up with some people, and then the sun and sangria would be calling her name.
Exhaling a long, slow breath, she pushed the garden gate open and stepped closer to the front door. She had her old key in her pocket—fully expecting it to be a dud now—but she’d do the decent thing and knock first anyway. Hayley may not know her dad’s wife, but she still had respect for people and their homes.
She knocked, then took a step back and looked up at the windows. There was a light on in the living room, the hallway too, but nobody seemed to be coming to the door. So she knocked again before taking her keys from her jacket pocket. Maybe the wife had gone out and left the lights on for security.
Satisfied that nobody was home, Hayley turned her key in the lock, surprised that it still worked. “Hello?” she called out, closing the door after her. The house looked entirely different from how it used to. Modern, well maintained, loved. She sighed and dragged her bag along the hallway floor, kicking it out of the way, when the sound of a lock clicking caught her attention, and she froze. “Hello?”
Christ. Was her dad’s wife hard of hearing?
She’s probably some old bat with a face that looks like a bulldog chewing a wasp!
As Hayley shook her head and gripped the living room door handle, she heard a creak upstairs. She glanced towards the noise, her body weighted in place when a brunette came sauntering down the stairs…wearing nothing but a short, black silk robe.
“I, uh…I think I have the wrong house.”
“You do?” The woman stopped midway down the stairs, a bright white smile almost blinding Hayley. “Then you should probably leave before I reach for the baseball bat.”
Hayley swallowed. While she couldn’t put her finger on this woman’s reaction to her being in the house, she definitely had a playful tone.
“Sorry. This…used to be my house when I was a kid. I thought my dad’s wife still lived here.” Hayley paused, her eyes trailing the woman’s body. My God, she was stunning. “You should probably change your locks.”
“So, I assume you’re Hayley?”
“I…am.” Who was this woman, and how did she know Hayley’s name?
The woman took the rest of the stairs, landing in front of Hayley. Her dark brown eyes shone, a twinkle in them as the light caught them. “Then I must be your…stepmother?” She wrinkled her nose. “Maybe not. That sounds strange. I’m Diane.”
Hayley frowned. Diane? Her dad’s wife was called Diane. She was sure of it. “Excuse me?”
“I know you two didn’t see eye to eye, but I’m certain he told you who I am. Diane…Mike’s wife.”
“Y-you?” Hayley burst out laughing, shaking her head. “Nah. No way. There’s not a single chance that my dad could bag a woman like you.”
Diane cocked her head, folding her arms as she rested against the banister.
“Sorry, but I don’t believe it. Not for one minute.” It simply couldn’t be true. Diane was drop dead gorgeous with immaculate hair and striking dark eyes. The deep red lipstick she wore had Hayley’s heart rate slightly elevated—she was a sucker for an older woman. “No way.”
“Better believe it, sweetheart. I’m Diane Astell.” Not only did she note Diane’s self-assured nature, Hayley also noted how Diane didn’t seem particularly upset by her dad’s death. Ha! She’s not the only one.
Diane held out a hand, quirking a brow when Hayley remained frozen in place, her mind running away with itself.
“Sorry.” Hayley quickly wiped her sweaty hand on the back of her pants before taking Diane’s. “Nice to meet you.”
Diane smirked, offering a single nod. “So, Hayley…what brings you here?”
The way Diane said Hayley’s name had the hairs on her arms standing to attention. Who knew her dad’s wife was such a fox? He’d kept that quiet. Most likely because he thought Hayley would come home and show Diane what real sex was. She grinned at the thought, taking her bottom lip between her teeth.
“I’m back for a while. I thought I’d chance it and drop by now he’s popped it, grab what’s left of mine.” Hayley was pushing her luck since she’d never met this woman before, but Diane seemed nice enough. She had planned to drop by her usual B&B if they had a vacancy but staying here would save her a lot of money. Five weeks would mount up. “Could I…stay here?”
“Of course you can. Your room is untouched. Take whatever you need…or want.”
“Would you mind if I had a quick shower? I’ve been travelling since this morning. And then maybe we could have a conversation?”
“Oh, now you want to speak to me?” There was that playfulness again. Hayley liked it.
Still, she understood Diane’s confusion. She’d avoided all contact since Diane had come into her dad’s life three years ago. “Fair point. I should have called. But I didn’t realise you were…well, you.”
“I’m not sure what that means.”
Hayley lifted her gym bag from the floor and turned back to face Diane. She inched a little closer, appraising her dad’s wife, and grinned. “Well, you don’t seem like his type. You’re far too beautiful.”
And then she stepped past Diane, taking the stairs two at a time. When she reached her bedroom and rushed inside, she slammed the door shut and leaned back against it.
“Fuck me! Who knew she was living here!”
Hayley ruffled her hair, leaning closer to the mirror on the back of her childhood bedroom door. She was heading out in the next hour. She had plans to meet up with a few of the girls she’d gone through high school with. And while she was there, she would demand to know why none of them had told her about Diane. It was a small community; there was no way they hadn’t bumped into her with Mike.
But first, she had to see Diane again. Not because she felt obligated to now that she was practically staying in her home…but because she wanted to.
God, that woman had to be the hottest woman Hayley had come across in a long time—and she often found beautiful women around and about back in Ibiza. But Diane had something about her that Hayley couldn’t put her finger on. Elegant yet with a firm knowledge of who she was and what she wanted. She looked like she knew how to have a good time too. Who Diane was seemed pretty self-explanatory…Hayley had just met her wearing practically nothing.
She closed her eyes and rolled her lips inward. She could play games—get one over on her dad by flirting with his wife—but Hayley wasn’t sure she had the energy in her while she was home. England just…made her miserable. There was no excitement for life here. Everyone had the same old routine day in and day out. They woke up, ate breakfast, then left the house for the daily grind. Back in Ibiza, Hayley had free rein over her entire life. If she wanted to head down to the beach and pick up a jet ski, she could. If she wanted to sleep until two in the afternoon, she could. The moment she stepped off the plane this evening, Hayley’s sex drive had practically shrivelled up. There was nothing here for her…including Diane.
With her shirt tucked into her black fitted pants, the sleeves rolled up to her elbows to expose her scatter sleeve tattoos, she left the bedroom and flicked the light off. She could hear pots and pans in the kitchen, so she decided she would head in that direction and get a feel for what was going on here.
When she landed in the hallway—her heavy boots clunking on the wood flooring—Hayley turned towards the kitchen. The sight she found when she reached her destination had her grinning from ear to ear. Diane was bent forward, looking in the fridge. Hayley could make herself known, or she could watch Diane for a moment longer. She knew what she wanted to do. She wanted to step forward, press herself to Diane, and slip her hand between those long, divine legs. But she wouldn’t. Because Diane was a complete stranger, and Hayley wasn’t in the habit of forcing herself onto women. Still, the fantasy was there.
You’ve lost the plot!
She shoved her hands in her pockets, approaching slowly. “Hi.”
Startled, Diane stood bolt upright and turned away from the fridge, that well-defined jawline catching Hayley’s attention immediately. “Hi, Hayley.”
“Good to see you wearing some clothes this time around.”
“Sorry about that,” Diane said, her voice husky…sensual. “I wasn’t expecting anyone.”
Hayley’s eyes lowered from Diane’s face, all the way down her body, to shapely legs. She pushed down the slightly present throb between her thighs, knowing full well that she was just trying to play with fire. “So…”
“So…what?” Diane lifted a brow, not intimidated by Hayley whatsoever. Hayley had to admit that she liked that in a woman. Someone who could hold her own and give as good as she got. “Did you need something?”
“He really was married to you?”
Diane simply smiled and crossed the kitchen, pulling out two chairs as she moved towards the kettle. When she paused and glanced over her shoulder, she narrowed her eyes. “I don’t get the impression that you like to sit drinking coffee. So, how about a beer?”
Hayley grinned. “A beer would be great.” She watched Diane as she reached into the fridge, taking a seat and relaxing back. “How are you?”
“How…am I?” There Diane went again with the eyebrow. Hayley would have to curb how that confidence made her feel; it was only riling her up to have some fun with this woman.
“Yeah. You know, since he fell off his perch.”
“Oh, Hayley. You really don’t mince your words, do you?” Diane shook her head, an astounding laugh piercing the air. “I’m fine.”
Hayley wasn’t sure Diane was telling the entire truth. The man she loved and married—though Hayley couldn’t fathom why—had died. And very recently too. But it wasn’t Hayley’s business nor did she plan to make it so. The less she gave a shit about life around here, the less she felt inclined to get involved.
“Look, I don’t know what he told you about me, he probably just called me all the names under the sun, but I have zero interest in him or his life. He was a dreadful dad, and I’m not sorry I wasn’t here for him in his final days. If I’ve learnt anything since I left, it’s that I’m not giving my time to people who bring toxicity to my life.”
Diane pointed Hayley’s beer towards her. “I admire that. I really do.”
“But enough about him. Tell me all about you.”
Diane joined Hayley at the dining table, setting a bottle of wine and a glass down in front of her. She glanced up at Hayley briefly, her dark hair neatly in place. “I’m not sure what you want to know.”
“Any kids? What do you do? Why the hell did you put yourself through a marriage with him?”
“No children. I’m an accountant—that’s where I met your father.”
Hayley waited expectantly for the rest, but it never came. “And…?”
“And that’s all you need to know considering I don’t know the first thing about you. You’ve just walked through my door, took yourself for a shower, and now you want to know about me. It doesn’t quite work like that, sweetheart.”
Hayley had to smile at that. This woman didn’t take shit from anyone. “Fair enough.”
“What I will say is that I had no plans to grow old and decrepit alone.”
Hayley snorted. “Old and decrepit? Trust me, you’re not.”
With a sexy squint aimed at Hayley, Diane simpered. “You’re a bit of a charmer, aren’t you, Hayley McAllister?”
“I can be,” Hayley admitted, a slight blush creeping up her neck as Diane stared directly at her. “Not so much recently, but it has been known…”
“Why so?” Diane twisted her wine glass on the table, still staring at Hayley. “Been burned?”
“Not really. I don’t get attached so I don’t have that issue. I just needed a break from it all. Women can be intense.”
“Mm. I’ve had enough of intense. Your dad was intense. Being alone since he…went has been good for me. As you probably know, he didn’t like taking instruction from women. I’m not sure either of us realised that before we decided to tie the knot. The last year or so wasn’t great. But I feel as though I’m getting back to a good place.”
The look in Diane’s eyes told Hayley that she thought she had said too much. But Hayley could handle any negativity thrown her way about her dad. Hayley had no emotional attachment to that man whatsoever. As Diane lowered her eyes, picking at the corner of a magazine that sat on the dining table, Hayley thought it best to lighten the mood.
“That’s what I like to hear. He could be a prick, and if he didn’t treat you right, then you should get back to your good place sooner rather than later.” Hayley couldn’t help the grin that spread on her mouth. Her first encounter with her “stepmother” had been to witness that gorgeous face, tanned divine legs, and those tits… Man, those tits were enough to smother Hayley from the other side of the room.
When Diane didn’t respond, Hayley lifted a hand. “Do you miss him?”
Diane cleared her throat. “I miss the company. That may sound awful, but for the short years I was with him, it wasn’t a bed of roses.”
Again, Diane realised she was still talking and cut herself off. Hayley couldn’t place the look in her eyes when Diane spoke about Mike, but it wasn’t joy, that was for sure. He didn’t have an ounce of joy in him!
“I get that. I really do.” Hayley didn’t like knowing this woman had spent three years of her life on her dad. If she had known who Diane was, she would have been here in a heartbeat to save her from wasting her time on such a pathetic man. “I’ve always said that older women know what they want. You should go out there and find it.”
“I’m just looking for the fun in life now. Relationships aren’t my thing anymore.”
Hayley spied a pen and stack of post-it notes on the unit close to the back door. She scribbled her number down on a piece and handed it to Diane. She was looking for trouble here, but so what if Diane was her dad’s wife? He was dead, she was gorgeous, and Hayley…well, she lived every day as if it were her last.
“In that case, if you’re ever looking for some fun…give me a text. I’m sure I can find something for us to do while I’m here.” Hayley trained her eyes on Diane for a beat or two, certain her chest was rising and falling a little faster than it had been before. “Take it easy, Diane. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“You’re going out?”
“Mmhmm. Seeing friends. I’ll be quiet when I come back later. If I come back later.”