Home > REX (House of Lions #1)

REX (House of Lions #1)
Author: Shayne Ford

 

1

 

 

LUNA RAE

 

“There are three kinds of men in the world...” Olivia mutters, pivoting and training her eyes on me.

A serene expression colors her gaze, a small smile tilting her lips.

Her hair is perfectly coiffed–– her clothes professionally pressed as always.

She holds a cup in one hand, her cell phone in the other, the aroma of fresh coffee mixed with hazelnut creamer drifting through the sunlit living room.

Distracted, she tips her gaze to her phone, a message alert lighting up her screen.

“Give me a second. I want to make sure she didn’t forget anything.”

“No problem,” I say, propping myself against the back of the sofa, my eyes pinned on her.

She sets the cup of coffee on the table and starts typing.

Olivia Harmon, my grandaunt and the woman who has raised me since I was five, is the woman I look up to.

Standing in the middle of the room, she exchanges messages with her best friend on her phone while I take a swift inventory of her crisp, buttoned-down, white shirt and full red skirt with turquoise parrots that move every time she twirls.

“Where was I?” she says, lifting her blue-gray gaze to me. “Yes... We were talking about men,” she mutters, flashing a smile while placing the phone on the table and picking up her coffee.

She seems amused, more than I am, for sure.

“The first kind...” she says, flicking her index finger up, counting, “is the one who does everything for you. This is the best that you can have if you’re lucky to find him.”

She gives me a small smile before continuing promptly.

“The second kind,” she says, clasping a hand on her tapered waist, “expects you to do everything for him. It could work if he loves you back, but you never know with him.”

She takes another sip of coffee before shifting her focus to our conversation.

“And the third kind ruins you for everybody else,” she says in a clipped voice as if she just ran out of steam.

I meet her eyes with a flutter of excitement.

Many things will happen this summer, but men are not one of them.

Why does she insist on talking about men when she’s going to be on a plane, cruising at a high altitude, heading to an exotic destination a few short hours from now?

Italy, France, and Norway are only a few stops on her around the world trip–– an adventure she embarks on with her best friend, Sasha.

A grin floods her eyes.

“I need to finish putting on my makeup before Sasha arrives,” she tosses at me before she collects a small pink case from her bag and takes a seat not far from the window.

Our eyes meet in the oval-shaped mirror sitting in front of her before her focus shifts to her face as she starts working on her makeup.

Mesmerized, I watch her coat her lashes and paint her lips before styling a strand of hair and checking her face from every angle.

At sixty-nine, she looks forty at best, her lifestyle matching her youthful looks and zest for life.

Content with the result, she swivels in her seat, rests her elbow on the table, and picks up her drink again before gingerly taking a sip.

My eyes linger on the golden rim, and the hand-painted roses splashed on the German porcelain, yet my mind going adrift.

I’m going to miss her these next few weeks.

“So, the man who gives you everything,” she murmurs, setting her cup down and picking a piece of fruit from a platter. “He truly gives everything you want. You can build a family with him, have kids, a home... A life.”

Olivia Harmon has never been married or had kids, yet she’s been a great mother to me despite winging it most of the time.

Beneath her delicate shell lies a fighter who’s never backed down, continuing the tradition of tough women in our family.

Lisa Harmon, her mother, and also the matriarch. Angela Harmon, her sister, and my grandmother. And my mother, Rose Winter, who hadn’t had the chance to see me grow up.

None of the women in my family had luck with their men, not because they were bad men, but because they left this earth before their time.

The only exception was my mother, of course. Her marriage ended before it began.

It was one of those situations... Two young people getting married before knowing what marriage entails, a little girl complicating their lives–– especially my father’s.

So Rose parted ways with him, doing what she thought was best for both of us–– her decisiveness had been passed down by generations of fearless women before her.

Olivia, on the other hand, opted against marriage.

She pursued her dreams of becoming a lawyer, so she had a successful career, built a life for herself, and never tied her existence to someone else’s.

She did a good job instilling her values in me too.

Independence, open-mindedness, resilience, kindness, and graciousness in the pursuit of happiness.

‘Follow your heart,’ she said when I was a little girl, and I have done that ever since.

From excelling in school and at sports to taking up an instrument–– I still play the violin when I’m alone and want to dive into a world of my own.

She nurtured me, cultivating the best in me.

I followed in her footsteps, pursuing my own dream of becoming a lawyer, but for now, I’m a pre-law college student, working toward my undergrad degree and spending the summer break on the Golden Coast in Half Moon Bay, California.

We’re far from being rich–– especially in San Mateo County that has tabulated some of the country's wealthiest people–– but we’re doing all right.

She’s earned decently enough to make this cozy house our summer home this year.

Located minutes away from the beach, the place comes with a splendid view. On a summer day like this, the sun glides across a bright clear sky, and the ocean is visible in the distance.

I grew up in San Francisco, where Olivia and I have our main residence, and I share a small apartment with my best friend, Frankie Mendoza.

She’s a student like me, and we’re joined at the hip, so naturally, we spend the summer together while Olivia departs for Europe with Sasha.

My grandaunt has planned this trip for a while, but she’s postponed it until now. She’s finally convinced that I’ll be fine on my own.

“The kind of man you’re doing everything for,” Olivia says, jolting me out of my head, “is a tricky one. He might value you for who you are, but it’s a crapshoot with him. So, you need to know if he’s serious about you or not.”

I push off the back of the sofa, collect a pink macaroon from the platter, and pop it into my mouth.

It makes my palate tingle.

My eyes rove over her bronzed skin as she speaks in a mellow voice.

“And the third kind of man...”

She pauses, a smile sprouting on her lips.

”The third kind ruins you for everybody else,” she says in response to my quirked eyebrows.

With that, she rises to her feet, collects her cup of coffee and the platter of refreshments, and heads outside.

I follow her.

Running her hand down her skirt, she takes a seat across from me in a chair filled with Hawaiian print pillows.

A soft breeze sweeps the terrace, a floral scent drifting from the pots of petunias, begonias, and marigolds.

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