So Tempting

Free So Tempting by Jean Brashear

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Authors: Jean Brashear
his father's embrace. "I love you so much, Papa. I will make you proud."
    His father drew away slowly, his eyes fierce and sad and hurting. "I know you will." He set Dante from him. "You must go now, my son." 
    "Papa, can't we—?" Abruptly he stopped, unable to bring his father more pain. With the dawning of a new maturity, he saw his father as a man, mortal and flawed, not the god he'd believed him to be.
    He straightened and composed himself, carefully stifling the cry clawing at his throat. "Goodbye, Papa."
    His father looked old and shrunken.  "Son, I..."
    Dante clasped the amulet and prayed for courage. Felt its comforting warmth and knew he would never be truly alone again. "It's all right, Papa. I understand."
    But that didn't ease the pain of parting from the man who had given him life.
    Before he could give into unmanly tears, he strode quickly away.

Chapter Four

    Cassie kicked the dirt at her feet, watching rocks and small chunks of dirt tumble down the slope in Fort Marcy Park. The vista before her lay bare to the golden sunlight, yet behind her shadows still clasped traces of cool night air. She breathed in the scent of freedom, hearing the bird calls, the soughing of the wind, the preternatural stillness.
    Dante thought she was picking up Melinda to go shopping; he didn't watch her that closely in the daytime. It was nighttime when the drawbridge went up and her jailer's eyes sharpened.
    But Cassie didn't want to shop or to see Melinda, at least not yet. She needed to get away, to think. She was no closer to The Club after last night.
    She sighed and kicked the dirt again.
    "You mad at the world or someone in particular?"
    Heart pounding, Cassie whirled to face the intruder.
    "Whoa there." Hands raised, he smiled, hazel eyes sparkling. "I didn't mean to scare you."
    Curly auburn hair framed his friendly face. Cassie guessed he was in his early twenties, around six feet tall, his build lean and wiry.
    "I can leave you alone, if you'd prefer." His voice was warm, a teasing note making her ashamed that she'd been so ready to run.
    Cassie shrugged. "It's a free country." Lowering her voice, she muttered, "For some people, at least."
    He chuckled and extended a hand. "Jimmy Carroll. Sorry someone's making you unhappy."
    His smile was infectious. "I'm Cassie—" Her last name always screwed things up. "Just...Cassie."
    Jimmy nodded as though names didn't matter. "So who's got your goat?"
    The corners of her mouth turned down. "My brother."
    "What's he doing? Not that it's any of my business."
    Suddenly she wanted to talk to someone who had nothing to fear from Dante, no reason to bow and scrape to him. "He's a lot older and thinks he's my father."
    "What's your father say?"
    "He and my mother are dead."
    "So this brother's your guardian?"
    She stuck out her chin. "I'm—" She glanced sideways, deciding that he might think she was a kid if she told her age. "I'm twenty—but he controls all my money."
    Jimmy shrugged. "So get a job. Move out."
    Cassie frowned. "You don't understand."
    "Don't want to lose that shiny new convertible, that it? The expensive lifestyle that provides that five thousand dollar watch?" A sneer tinged his voice.
    She grew quiet. She wanted her freedom, but... Looking at Jimmy's shabby clothes, she knew he wouldn't understand. "I don't care about luxuries."
    "Sure you do."
    A sharp retort sprang to her lips, but she stifled it. He confused her. What was preventing her from running away, making her own life? Then she thought about living on what she could make. What skills did she have? How would— Cassie shook her head. She already had enough to think about. "It's not that simple."
    "Oh, but it is." He swept an arm toward the trees nearby.
    Cassie saw a sleeping bag open, a knapsack at the head. "You slept here?"
    His eyes scanned the horizon. "Great view from my bedroom, don't you agree? See, you don't need a fancy house with big windows to see vistas when you wake up. A little dodging the

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