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No Words: Chapter 17


The wind began to die a little as I wound my way up the steps to the bridge. It was too bad Frannie feared the ocean so much that she had forced Saul to go to the conch chowder lunch instead of joining us on The Moment. She was really missing out on a delightful day on the water. And also on what was about to happen.

“So when you see a pair of channel markers,” Will was saying to Jerome as I joined them in the cockpit, “you steer the boat between them. Except when you’re returning to dock, then you steer the boat right of the red ones—red, right, return.”

Jerome gazed in the direction Will was pointing, looking more relaxed than I’d seen him in ages. Possibly this was because he was on a luxury yacht with a beer in his hand, but you never knew. “Sure, sure. I will definitely need this information at a future point in my life.”

Will grinned. “Well, you probably don’t get many channel markers in Iowa.”

“I wouldn’t know. I saw Jaws as a kid and vowed never to go near the ocean again. This is my first exception since.”

Will laughed—the most genuine laugh I’d ever heard from him. It was easy to see he felt more comfortable out on the water than he did on land—more comfortable and maybe more himself.

“No great whites here. The water’s only a few feet deep in most places. We could practically walk back to Little Bridge, if we wanted. How are you, Jo?”

“Oh. I’m fine.” I kept my gaze glued to the ocean through the windshield, because otherwise, it might have strayed in dangerous directions. Jerome was rocking a perfectly acceptable dad bod, but Will? Oh my God. No wonder he’d been nominated for People’s sexiest man alive: beneath all that linen resort wear, he had the lean, muscular build of an Olympic swimmer.

Not only that, but his manscaping game was on point. He had to be manscaping, because I didn’t know many guys whose body hair grew naturally from a silky-looking mat across their chest into a nice thin line down their stomach before disappearing into the waistband of their board shorts, like an arrow or the trunk of a tree . . . a tree whose root I was getting more and more interested in investigating.

Whoa. Cool it, Jo.

“So I was heading down to the galley for more wine and thought I’d come up to see if you guys needed anything,” I lied. But since I’d waitressed for so many years, I felt like it came out sounding very natural and convincing.

“Oh, aren’t you sweet?” Jerome’s mischievous grin told me that he, at least, saw right through my lie. “As a matter of fact, I am getting a little low.” He rattled his empty beer can. No glass was allowed on board The Moment, so we were all drinking out of cans or plastic. “I was just thinking about heading downstairs to get myself a refill. Why don’t I bring back some for all of us?”

I recognized right away that someone must have tipped off Jerome about Kellyjean’s plans for Will and me. If y’all can, try and leave them alone together, I could almost hear her telling everyone in her Texas twang. It’s time those two crazy kids fell in love!

But instead of getting mad about her interference in my personal life, I decided to take advantage of it. “Sure. Thanks, Jerome.”

Jerome, wearing an expression of mild amusement, slid from the swiveling co-captain’s chair on which he’d been sitting and walked away. I was fairly certain he wouldn’t be back. I couldn’t blame him, really.

But it didn’t matter. Will and I were finally alone. This was my chance to do the research I needed for Kitty Katz #27. And Will made it all too easy.

“Is Garrett playing that damned ukulele again?” he asked, peering out the windscreen and down at the sundeck. His sunglasses were perched on top of his head. Maybe he’d forgotten where he’d left them.

“Oh. Um.” My gaze was on his legs. This was the first time I was getting to see them bare, since he was wearing shorts. They were as fine as the rest of him, tanned and muscular and ready to be wrapped around me. “Yes.”

“I thought I told him to leave it on the bus.”

“You did.” His feet looked amazing as ever. “But he brought it anyway.”

Will shook his head, bringing my attention back to his face. “Is it just me, or is there something a bit peculiar about him?”

I slid into the chair that Jerome had recently vacated, keeping myself from saying, Funny. He says the same thing about you. I had to handle this just right. “Well, he certainly does seem to like serenading members of the opposite sex. Maybe in his past life he was a lovelorn troubadour.”

Will frowned, still squinting through the windscreen down at the little group on the sundeck. “He doesn’t seem very good at it. And aren’t Kellyjean and Bernadette both married?”

“Um.” I nibbled on a hangnail. This was going to be harder than I’d thought. “Yes. But I think it might be your sister and Sharmaine he’s singing to.”

His dark-haired head twisted toward me fast. “My sister? She’s in high school.”

“I think Garrett’s aware of that. It doesn’t appear to bother him.”

Instead of storming off the deck and down the stairs to throw Garrett overboard, however, Will only leaned back in his swivel chair with a chuckle. “Well, good luck to him. If he actually tries anything, Chloe’ll kill him.”

This was an unusual take. “Chloe will?”

“Oh, yes. She and her friends on the dance team have started learning capoeira.”

“I’m sorry. Capo-what-a?”

“Capoeira. It’s an Afro-Brazilian style of dance, combined with martial arts. The girls have gone mad for it. Could cause significant cranial damage with a single kick, from what I’m told.”

“Wow,” I said. “So I guess your sister can take care of herself.”

“Certainly well enough to handle the Garretts of the world.”

I recalled what the sheriff’s daughter had mentioned the night before about Will’s fears that his sister might be kidnapped . . . probably something I should have remembered before I’d come rushing up to tell him about Garrett.

But he still didn’t seem to be experiencing any anxiety on Chloe’s behalf. Probably because the only possible threat in the area was Garrett, and he wasn’t actually all that threatening. We were in the middle of the Florida Keys backcountry. There wasn’t another soul around for miles, or at least it seemed so to me.

Which reminded me . . .

“Where are your parents?” I asked, definitely not eyeing his naked chest over the rim of my plastic wineglass. “Why does Chloe live with you and not them? Or are they here and I haven’t met them yet?”

What I did not say was, None of the interviews I’ve ever read about you have mentioned your parents. Not that I’ve read many, of course. Okay, I’ve read them all.

“Our mother passed away,” Will said shortly, then busied himself with doing something to the console that made the boat engines quieter. He must have noticed my suddenly stricken expression, however, since he added quickly, “A long time ago. Chloe was just a toddler.”

Whoa. There was nothing in any of Will Price’s bios about his mother dying tragically young.

Then again, most publications limited bios to one hundred words or less. It’s why mine read merely, Jo Wright was born in New York City. She is the author of over twenty books, including the #1 New York Times bestselling Kitty Katz, Kitten Sitter series. She lives in Manhattan with her cat.

“I’m so sorry,” I said to Will, meaning it. “That must have been terrible. How did she die?”

Of course you’re not supposed to ask “How did she die?” when someone mentions that a loved one has passed away. That’s rude and none of your business and also probably painful for them to talk about. At least that’s how it had been for me, until time and therapy had softened the blow of my mother’s passing.

But if you’re a nosy writer trying to put a story together that’s more than a year late and you’re talking to the person responsible for making it late (more or less), then it’s okay to be rude.

Or at least, that’s what I decided in that moment.

Will threw me an expressionless glance. For a few seconds I thought he wasn’t going to answer, but finally he said, “Embolism.”

“Oh.” I winced. “That’s awful. And your dad?”

“My dad.” Will said the word like it tasted bad. “My dad. He was—how can I put this?—ill-prepared to assume the responsibility of single parenthood.”

“Oh.” I nodded. “Like Johnny’s dad?”

Now the look he threw me was startled. “Johnny?”

“Yes. Johnny Kane. From The Moment. Or are you telling me that’s not an autobiographical work?”

Slowly, he began to grin. “So. You’re reading it.”

“Of course I’m reading it. It’s a free book that someone left in my hotel room. How could I not read it?”

The grin widened. “And what do you think of it?”

“Well.” It was always so delicate when another author asked what you thought of their book, especially when that author was your sworn enemy, and yet you couldn’t put their book down. “Johnny and Melanie certainly seem to have had a lot of trauma in their lives. But that isn’t stopping them from having a lot of sex with each other.”

The grin froze. His gaze became very still—almost wary—on mine. “And what do you think about that?”

“Well, on the whole, I’m a fan of sex, as long as it’s between consenting adults.” What was happening here? Why was he looking at me that way? “But since I haven’t finished the book yet, I’m reserving judgment. I presume you’re going to kill Johnny off at the end, since you’re such a big fan of catharsis.”

The wary look left Will’s face, and the grin returned. “Oh, you never know. I might surprise you this time.”

“I doubt it. Anyway, I thought we were talking about your dad. I hope he didn’t die in a mine collapse like poor Johnny’s father.”

“Not exactly. But like poor Johnny’s father, my dad only loved three things: his wife—my mother—gambling, and alcohol. After she died, he threw himself into the latter two with impressive abandon.”

I was genuinely shocked. Not only because the normally tight-lipped Will Price was suddenly opening up to me, but because none of this matched what I’d assumed I knew about him. “Will. That’s . . . that’s really horrible.”

He gave a nonchalant shrug of those enormous shoulders, as if nothing he was saying mattered. “I suppose. But however bad it was for me, it was much worse for Chloe. At least I got to spend a dozen years or so with a loving parent, who introduced me to so many wonderful things—books and reading. My mother loved them. Chloe didn’t have that. I tried as best I could in my mother’s place, but—”

He shrugged again, this time with a helplessness that almost broke my heart. I couldn’t believe I was feeling sorry for Will Price, of all people.

“That’s a lot of pressure,” I said gently.

He didn’t look very convinced. “I suppose. When I got into university, I didn’t even want to go. Who was going to take care of Chloe?”

This sounded so much like something Johnny Kane would wonder about his sister, Zoey, I began to ask myself if The Moment wasn’t slightly autobiographical after all.

“My dad agreed,” Will went on, staring sightlessly off into the sea. “He thought university was useless. He wanted me to take over his construction business, which was failing thanks to his betting habit. What a mess I would have made of that, eh?”

I blinked. I couldn’t believe how wrong I’d been.

Not about everything, of course: Will Price really had been raised by wolves. But only one of them, and not exactly in the privileged luxury I’d always imagined.

Feeling like it might be appropriate to lighten the mood a bit, I said, “I can sort of relate. My dad is great, but he’s a musician. He’s still devastated I didn’t go into the family business.”

“Really?” Will glanced back at me and smiled. “Did he try to force you to learn the piano?”

“Worse: violin. Even with all my literary success, my dad is still holding on to the hope that someday I’ll come to my senses.”

“You do understand, then. Parental expectations can be . . . difficult.”

“Yes,” I said. “But look how well you’ve done for yourself.” I gestured widely at the boat. “Your dad can’t still think that you made the wrong choice.”

The smile disappeared as his gaze shifted moodily back toward the windscreen. “Well, I’ll never know. He died before I graduated university. Heart attack.”

For once I was the one rendered speechless.

I understood now why there wasn’t any mention of this in any of his bios. It was something every single journalist he’d encounter would want to ask him about: What was it like to have suffered so tragic a loss at such a young age, then gone on to become so meteorically successful writing books about survivors of equally terrible loss? (Although Will Price would never allow a character to die of something so mundane as a heart attack. Being hanged for running over your lover’s husband would be more likely.)

Deeply regretting all the times I’d gouged out his eyes in photos in airplane magazines, I finally managed to stammer, “I . . . I’m so sorry, Will.”

So original. But then, what else were you supposed to say upon learning something like that?

Then, because I didn’t know what else to do, I added lamely: “My mother died when I was young, too.”

Oh, God, why? Why had I told him this?

Will looked startled. “I thought she was a homemaker who loves baking cookies for you and your dad.”

Now I was the one who was startled. “No. Where did you— Oh!” Comprehension dawned. “No, that’s Kitty Katz. Her mom is a homemaker who loves baking cookies and cupcakes for—”

“Kitty and her three little baby brother kittens. Right.” He was grinning again. “And Mr. Katz supports them all by working nine to five at Katz Savings and Loan.”

I gaped at him. What was going on? Will Price had read my books? Obviously I knew he was familiar with them. He must have seen the bits that Nicole Woods had stolen, since they’d been quoted in every article about her plagiarizing the two of us.

And since he was on the selection committee for the book festival, he’d have to at least heard Molly talking about them. Or possibly his sister had left Kitty Katz #15: Kitty Quinceañera, lying around the house, and he’d picked it up and learned about Kitty’s best friend Felicity’s rockin’ fiesta de quince años.

But read one? Actually read a whole book of mine, the way I was (finally) reading one of his?

“But in your interviews,” he went on, looking confused, “you always say Kitty’s family is based on your own.”

“Yes. Well.” I twisted uncomfortably in the co-captain’s seat. Wait—he’d been reading my interviews, too? No. Chloe had probably read them to him over the breakfast table or something. That made more sense. “Sometimes it’s easier to say things like that when reporters ask you questions about your personal life, don’t you think? Because the truth is such a bummer.”

He raised his eyebrows at me. “The truth about my upbringing, yes. But yours? It’s sad about your mother, but you seem extremely well adjusted . . . except for what you’ve done to your hair.”

I flung a hand defensively to my head. “What?”

“Don’t worry. I like the change. It suits you.” He was grinning again. “All I’m saying is that unless you have post-traumatic stress from being forced to learn the violin all those years ago, your upbringing seems quite normal. Why wouldn’t you want to talk about it during interviews?”

“Because I don’t want to share the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life with some stranger I’ve only just met. Why would I want to keep reliving the pain of my mom dying of cancer when I was fourteen, and how awful that was, and how my dad spent every penny he had—that he wasn’t giving away to his bandmates—trying to save her, all to promote a book? I know you’d call that cathartic, but to me, that’s private. That’s not for public consumption.”

Why was I telling him all this? But he had just told me his darkest secrets, so I might as well admit mine.

He didn’t look the least bit fazed, however.

“Of course. Makes perfect sense. The part about your dad, though, you did mention in one interview. I believe it was last year. Your father had just broken his arm slipping on some ice.” At my shocked expression, he added, “I only remember because I was on a flight and I happened to pick up a magazine and—”

“Sure.” I was mortified. “Yes. I remember. It was right after it happened. The journalist called while I was in the hospital waiting room.”

Wait. What was going on?

None of this made any sense. Will Price had been reading my interviews himself? Willingly? Not because Chloe had been forcing him to over bowls of Cheerios?

Why?


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