One Ring:Suncoast Society

By: Tymber Dalton

Don had bought the house at a bank short sale. It had been inhabited by a hoarder and needed a lot of work. He’d gutted it and started over from scratch, doing nearly all the work himself over a period of three years while living in it most of that time.

You’d never be able to tell the disaster it’d been when he’d bought it. He’d originally planned to flip it, but he’d liked the place so much that he stayed. With a pool, a nice shaded backyard, and a hot tub, it was his calm retreat from the rest of his life.

Another reason he refused to give it up.

Carl also couldn’t argue with Don’s logic. At thirty-eight, Don was five years younger than Carl, and apparently had made far wiser choices.

“I’m going to go take a dip in the pool before the rain comes in,” Don said. “I finished mowing the front and back yards. Your turn next week to do them.” He headed back inside the house.

Carl had a lawn service at the house he’d shared with Maria. Getting back into the swing of yard work had taken a little getting used to, but at least it kept his mind occupied for a while.

Just like working on his car.

Except while working on the car, Carl couldn’t help but think about Jeff.

He examined his skinned knuckle, which still bled. Losing Jeff had hammered home to him how short life was. Jeff had only been two years older than him. Had only been married to his wife for four years.

Life was damned short and not getting any longer.

Maybe it was time he stopped looking back and started looking forward.

* * * *

Don felt a little bad about getting on Carl’s case, but he hated seeing his friend so down. That was the only word to describe Carl lately. Carl had been maintaining before, but then the divorce being finalized seemed to push him into a new low. Don knew it wasn’t a clinical depression, just a logical emotional response to the situation, but he still fought the urge to shake some sense into Carl.

Maria had fucked the man over. Yes, that would piss anyone off and depress the hell out of them.

But every time they went to the club, there were usually plenty of eligible, attractive women who wanted to play with Carl, and he was just too self-absorbed in his pain to see it. If it wasn’t for Don arranging play for his friend, Carl would sit at a table all night and talk, eventually meandering back to the subject of his divorce.

Don also knew it wouldn’t do a damn bit of good to point it out to his friend, either. It was something Carl had to work his way through, in his own time.

Yet it reinforced Don’s own beliefs, that no woman who wasn’t completely worth risking half his shit over would work her way that deeply into his psyche. He wouldn’t allow it.

There’d been a few close calls before. Invariably, when the women realized how strongly he felt about them, it was like they changed, maybe thinking they had him under their control.

And no, he wasn’t going to play that game with them.

The first one walked and thought he’d come chasing her, and had gotten even more pissed off at him when he hadn’t.

That had been a close call, to see her anger issues cropping up like that.

The other two thought they’d play games, and when they realized he wouldn’t play them, they tried other tactics, like guilt.


He’d slowly found himself learning how to weed those kinds of women out of the potential dating pool. He’d rather be single and play at the club than get emotionally entangled with a woman who wasn’t mature enough to meet him firmly halfway and stay there. Sure, he easily could have had his pick of several women who wanted a man to run their lives.

He didn’t have the time or emotional energy for that, either. He didn’t want a doormat. A submissive, sure. But she needed to be a self-starter, self-sufficient, a plug-and-play partner who wanted to be there with him, not needed him to be there with her.

He also had no interest in some young, barely legal newbie, either. He wasn’t even interested in any particular body type over another. Thin, thick, it didn’t matter to him. He was more interested in a woman’s brain, her personality, her confidence. Her sense of humor and self-respect.

He changed into swim trunks and walked out to the lanai, jumping into the deep end and sinking below the surface before floating to the top and flipping onto his back. Despite the overcast day, the pool was the perfect temperature because of the heater.

Wiping the water from his face, he stared up at the top of the pool cage. He’d need to get the pressure washer out tomorrow and blow a few leaves off the screen once the weather front moved through. Otherwise, they’d rot up there and cause mildew.

He wasn’t a perfectionist by any stretch, but he’d learned what not to leave undone in terms of taking care of this house. The other option was to get rid of the trees in the backyard, and he refused to do that.

Swimming over to the side, he grabbed the hand brush he kept there and worked his way around the pool, scrubbing at the tile above the water line. The automatic pool sweeper he kept running didn’t reach here, and if he did it once a week by hand, it didn’t get gross.

That done, he flipped onto his back again and closed his eyes. Life was peaceful.

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