I just wanted it.
After totally disappointing him last year, I still craved his absolute love and acceptance of me.
More impatient knocking came as I wrapped a towel around my breasts.
“I really, really gotta go,” my fourteen-year-old brother whined.
With a sigh, I slung my hair up in a towel turban and then yanked the door open to glare out at my brother who—ack, was taller than me now. When the hell had he grown so much?
He glared right back.
I arched an eyebrow and waited for him to step out of my way so I could exit and let him in. “Why couldn’t you use Noel and Aspen’s bathroom if you had to go that bad?” They had a private bath connected to their bedroom, and it was like ten times nicer than this one.
“Because Aspen’s already in there.” Brandt knocked me aside as he bulldozed inside.
I huffed out an indignant breath and stepped into the hall, shutting the door behind me because I had a feeling he wasn’t going to wait for me to leave before he started his business. Disgusting, I know. Made me wish for the bajillionth time that I had three sisters instead of three brothers.
After I retreated to my room to change into clothes for the day and brush my hair dry, I made my way toward the kitchen, where Aspen was up and fixing breakfast. I stopped in the doorway and watched her, realizing I actually did have a sister now, didn’t I?
She was nothing like Noel; I wasn’t even sure how they found a reason to hook up in the first place, but you could tell from the intensity of their love when they were together, none of that mattered. So, to each their own, I guess.
I was just glad Noel had fallen for and managed to keep her, because she was an absolute godsend. She’d taken all four of us Gamble siblings into her home and let us crowd into everything until we’d completely rearranged her entire life. And she seemed freaking thankful about it, like she was actually pleased to have us ruin all her neat, orderly plans.
As if sensing my presence, she glanced over her shoulder and jumped. “Oh! Good morning, Caroline.” She sent me the sweetest smile as she carried a pitcher of juice to the table. “Breakfast is almost ready.”
When two halves of a bagel popped up from the toaster, I moved toward it to spread on some of Colton’s favorite strawberry cream cheese.
“Thanks,” Aspen said. “You didn’t have to do that.”
I tucked a piece of damp hair behind my ear and shrugged. “It’s fine. I don’t mind.” Honestly, I wanted to feel more useful than I usually did around here.
A year ago, I’d taken care of most of Colton’s and Brandt’s needs. Back home, I’d been the one to feed them, wash their clothes, make sure they took baths, and purchase all their necessities. But as soon as we’d moved here, Aspen had seamlessly taken over all those duties. I hadn’t been in any shape at the time to do them myself, so I hadn’t balked. And because of it, I’d backslid so much in the last year, I think I’d actually become less independent than I’d ever been.
I know that was crazy, but it just highlighted how much of a mess I was.
Still feeling awkward about doing kitchen stuff while Aspen was there too, I scraped on the cream cheese as fast as I could and carried the bagels to the table where Aspen already had everything set out for four people. I glanced at the empty spot where Noel usually sat. No plate or cup or silverware lay in his spot, which told me exactly where he was.
“Is Noel at the coffee shop again with—”
“The guys,” Aspen finished for me with a smile and roll of her eyes. “I don’t know why he feels as if he has to go there to work on his English assignments. It’s not like I stand over his shoulder and correct his grammar or anything.”
I snickered, because that’s almost exactly what she’d done this year every time Brandt or Colton or I had worked on anything involving English homework. But we younger Gambles had actually appreciated it and gotten awesome scores because of it. And Aspen really did thrive on sharing her knowledge on the subject. So it was a win-win for all of us. Noel was the only stubborn ass who didn’t want any involvement from her. I think that hurt her feelings as much as it tickled her. She knew how much he wanted to impress her with his own work.
Seating myself in my spot at the table, I chewed on my lip, still eyeing Noel’s vacant place. It felt weird knowing he was with Oren right now. What if Oren— Oh God. Of course Oren would tell him about last night. Oren was exactly the kiss-and-share-with-everyone type.
Fudge nuggets. My own brother was going to know every kinky, delicious thing I’d done. If Oren told him about the hair pulling, I was going to absolutely die. Why hadn’t I thought about this possibility until just now?