Empty-Handed Heart [Suncoast Society]

By: Tymber Dalton


He tucked her hair behind her ears and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Go put on your cuffs, sweetheart.”

“Naked?” More than a little hopefulness in her tone.

“Yes, sweetie. Naked.” He turned her around and gave her a gentle swat on the ass to send her on her way. She cast a sultry smile over her shoulder and his heart did a funny little twirl he hadn’t felt…

Well, in five years.

Maybe this is what I’m supposed to do with my life now.

He’d just have to learn to live with the glaringly obvious absence he somehow hadn’t yet managed to ignore.

Or forget.

He reached up to touch the captive bead ring in the shell of his right ear.

The ring he still couldn’t bear to remove, even five years later.





Chapter Two




“Have you told him you’re moving back?” Doyle asked.

Niall stared at his drink. That Wednesday night, he and Doyle were having dinner and drinks at a place only blocks from Doyle and Mal’s LA condo. Mal was in the recording studio tonight and wouldn’t be home until late.

Well, he was drinking. Doyle was having iced tea.

“I haven’t tried to contact him,” Niall softly said. “I’m afraid to.”

“Why?”

“Well, I don’t know he’s still single, right? He could tell me to go jump off the bloody Skyway.”

“I thought you two parted ways amicably?”

“We did.” Niall took a large swallow of his bourbon on ice. The cold alcohol burned all the way down.

“Haven’t you kept in touch with him?”

“I decided to stop running myself through that emotional woodchipper early last year. That I’d see if he’d try to contact me if I didn’t initiate it. Sort of just…faded out. I know he still talks to my Da.”

He swirled his glass, watching the ice cubes dance in the amber liquid. “I asked Da not to go out of his way to relay stuff back and forth unless one of us ask him to. I don’t want to interfere with Ade having a relationship with him when Ade has no family of his own.”

“Is he dating anyone?”

“Da?”

Doyle rolled his eyes. “Aden.”

“I don’t know. And before ye ask me, mate, no, I haven’t asked Da, or Tony, or any of the others if they know if he’s datin’.”

“I haven’t been around much to tell you. Mal and I have been traveling a lot. If I’m home, I’m usually working. Aden hasn’t been to the private parties lately, though, that I’m aware of. Not the ones I’ve been to.”

“I appreciate the job lead, by the way.”

“Yeah, well, we were both kind of miserable out here in our own ways. Sorry I didn’t realize you were so close, or I would have been getting together with you on a regular basis. For some reason, I thought you were up in San Francisco.”

Niall offered him a smile. “Ye swinging for the other side of the slash now, then, eh? In need of a good beatin’?”

Doyle laughed. “Not even close. I meant get together as friends, asshole.”

Niall smiled again. “I gave it a go out here, and it’s not for me. Too expensive, too many damn people, and all my friends are back in Florida. Five years of misery is five years too damned long.”

He took another burning swallow of the liquor. Yes, he knew stereotypically people thought he should be able to drink a gallon of booze without it putting a dent in his Irish liver’s ability to process it, but the truth was he didn’t drink very often.

Because when he did, his thoughts tended to go to bad places that filled him with self-loathing.

“How’s your anxiety?” Doyle asked.

“Through the roof. Another reason I’m not happy out here. I miss Florida. Maybe it’s because Florida’s the first place I lived after coming to the States, or because it’s where Da’s from, I don’t know. Miss my Da. Miss him terrible.”

“How’s he been doing since your mom’s death?”

He shrugged. “He’s bloody quiet. He encouraged me to move out here, if it was what I wanted. It’ll be good to see him again. He’s still in Tampa. I flew him out here for Christmas last couple o’ years.”

Which Niall had felt guilty about, knowing Aden had driven up to eat with him the previous years. But he’d missed the man, and he was his father, not Aden’s.

“So what else have you been doing lately? To keep yourself out of trouble outside of work?”

“Teaching erotic hypnosis. Like fish in a barrel, that is. Fun times. In fact, I’m teaching at a fetish convention in Tampa weekend after next.”

“Erotic hypnosis?”

“Aye.”

“I thought you stayed away from teaching that after you two broke up?”

“I stayed away from teaching in the Southeast. It’d be too tempting to show up on his feckin’ doorstep an’ beg him to come back to California with me. An’ too easy for me to want to press his buttons to try to get him to agree. That’s not a win, that’s a coup, an’ I’m not into that.”

“You don’t know that. It’s been, what, five years? Who’s to say he’d be a pushover for you? He stood up to you the first time, didn’t he?”