A Perfect Ten

Page 68

I folded my arms over my chest and lifted my chin. “Of course.”

Brandt snickered, knowing better. “So if we mention it to him tonight...?”

Damn it. “Don’t you even dare.”

The fourteen-year-old chuckled, telling me just how doomed I was right before he said, “I don’t know, Caroline. I really don’t think he’d like you dating his best friend...the very friend he warns to stay away from you, like, every time Ten visits.”

Oren groaned and looked up at the ceiling. “Damn...he’s even going to blackmail us for his silence just like I would.”

I sighed out my acceptance and glared at Brandt. “Fine. Whatever. Twenty bucks.”

“Gee, big sister.” Brandt scratched his cheek thoughtfully as he glanced from between me and Oren. “This is kind of a big deal. Noel would be really mad if he knew.”

“Twenty-five?” I hedged, hopefully.

He snorted. “Try fifty.”

“Fifty dollars? Are you insane? I’d go tell Noel about it myself for fifty dollars.”

“Hmm,” Brandt answered mildly, totally not buying my bluff. “It just went up to a hundred.”

“Oh my God. Seriously, I don’t have that much money.”

I did, but it was tied up in a banking account with Noel’s name on it too. He was alerted to every withdrawal I made.

“Fine. Okay.” Oren waved his hands and stepped between me and my brothers. “I have fifty. You chip in fifty,” he told me before he turned to Brandt, “And you keep your damn mouth shut? Capiche?”

Brandt nodded, the happy gleam in his eyes telling me he was satisfied with Oren’s offer. “Capiche,” he answered.

Shoulders slumping as he blew out a relieved breath, Oren turned to me. “Your haggling skills seriously suck.”

“What?” I said just as Colton cried, “Hey, I want a hundred dollars too.”

“The hundred dollars covers both of you,” I said through gritted teeth

Brandt snorted. “The hell it does. I’m not sharing with him.”

“Watch your mouth, you little smart ass.”

The fourteen-year-old batted his lashes at me. “I’d tell you to watch yours, but it seems Ten’s already got that job covered.”

“Jesus,” Oren groaned, shaking his head. “He’s a freaking mini me.”

Unfortunately, yes, he was.

Just then, approaching footsteps outside alerted us to someone new approaching. All of us in the kitchen exchanged wide-eyed glances, knowing it had to be Noel.

“A hundred each,” was Brandt’s hushed final offer.

I began to sweat as I glanced at Oren for help. His eyebrows lifted as if letting me decide our fate. Scowling, I hissed at Brandt. “No way.”

He shrugged. “Suit yourself.” Then he turned toward the doorway, and as if reading his mind, Colton followed.

“Noel,” they called together.

My eyes bugged open. “No!” I screeched just as Oren muttered, “Shit,” and grabbed both boys by the scruff of the neck and hauled them backward so he could growl into their ears. “One fifty each, and you both better be dead fucking silent.”

Colton and Brandt nodded. Then they stared up at Noel with overly innocent smiles when he opened the back door and stepped inside with an armful of grocery bags.

Noel paused when he saw them. He glanced from Brandt to Colton and then frowned a little before turning his attention to Oren.

“Hey. You here to work on your resume with Aspen?”

As Oren nodded and murmured, “Yep,” Brandt let out a small snort, which caused Noel to slice his attention back to the two boys, who were still standing frozen in front of him and watching him attentively.

Crinkling his eyebrows in confusion, Noel lifted a finger to waggle between Brandt and Colton after he slowly set the bags on the kitchen table. “Okay, that’s creepy. What’s wrong with you two?”

“Nothing,” they chorused in tandem.

I groaned and rolled my eyes. I was going to kill both of my younger brothers, silently, at night with pillows over their faces. Really, it would do the world a service.

“Seriously,” Noel pressed, still staring at them before his curious gaze moved to me. “What’s wrong with them?”

“We can’t say,” Colton chimed up. “We’re being paid to stay silent.”

I slapped my hand to my forehead and groaned. Scratch the pillows. That was way too humane of a way to take them out.

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