“Is that right?”
I stiffened, but I couldn’t deny the relief that went through me. Mason came up behind me and stood next to me. He didn’t touch me or pull me against him. For some reason, I was thankful.
Brett stiffened too, but he jerked his head in a nod. “I was telling your woman that I consider the rivalry done. Budd’s in jail. Whoever set his truck on fire made that possible.”
“You make it sound like you wanted him in jail?”
He frowned at Mason, and the two engaged in some unspoken message between them before Brett slowly lifted his head up and down. “My brother was hurting a girl. He needs to take the punishment for it. That’s all I’m saying.”
Mason didn’t respond. The two continued to stare at each other.
I shifted next to him, unsure of what to do. The air had filled with tension when Mason spoke up, but I didn’t feel that it was nearing any violence. I hoped not. “So,” I gave each a forced smile, “Brett came to say that Budd’s in jail, and Shannon lied all those years ago. We’ve made progress, I think.”
Faint grins came over both of them, but disappeared instantly.
Mason spoke, “You know Shannon lied? That I never slept with your sister and used her?”
Brett jerked his head in a nod. “I do. Her best friend told me the truth. She came onto you and you rejected her.” His gaze lingered on me. “I know you could have your choice of women so it never felt right, my sister’s story, but she’s kin, so we did what we did.”
“If someone rejected my brother, I wouldn’t force her to date him.” Mason’s jaw had hardened. “It’s an extreme response.”
Brett lifted his head, and his shoulders rolled back. As his arms fell back to his side, my eyes widened. His hands turned back as if they were going to form into fists, but they didn’t. I let out a small puff of air, and then he replied, “We’re old fashioned. Big brothers look out for their little sisters.”
“Your sister’s a bitch.”
I closed my eyes in frustration. Logan had the worst timing. Ever.
He strolled to the group, his eyes narrowed and lethal as he added, “And she’s a viper. There’s no way in hell you have to look out for her.”
Brett’s head lifted even further, and I saw the storm brewing.
“Okay.” I stood between them and shooed Logan away. “Get out of here. You’re not helping.”
“Not going, Sam.”
“Go. I mean it.”
He ignored me. His gaze trailed past me to Brett, and he asked further, “What are you here for?”
I lifted my voice, “He came to make peace, so get out of here before you blow it.”
Logan’s narrowed eyes turned to me in disbelief.
My eyebrow arched high, and my hands found my hips. “I mean it. Go,” but I stopped as Mason’s hand curved around my waist, and he pulled me against him. His fingers slid under my shirt and pressed against me. I got the message. I shut up.
Logan stepped next to me now so that all three of us stood in a line. As he did, I understood Mason’s message. The three of us were together, no matter what. I’d forgotten the rule, and it felt good. It felt like home once again.
Brett skimmed over us and nodded to himself. It was a faint nod, but I caught it. He gave me a small grin before he moved back a step. “I came to see how Sam was doing, but to say what I already said. Budd’s in jail, and he ain’t getting out any time soon, so I run Roussou now. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no beef between us anymore.” He paused a beat. “And Fallen Crest is closer to our farm than Roussou, so I’m also warning you that I might be grabbing a bite to eat every now and then at Manny’s.”
Mason narrowed his eyes.
Logan raised his chin. “You put our buddy in the hospital. We never got even for that.”
“You had a hand in putting my brother in jail. I think that evens the field.”
Oh boy. That can did not need to be opened. I nodded. “That’s fine with me.”
The two glanced down at me as I stood between them. I ignored them. Heather would be fine with it. She’d be happy even. If Brett stopped by for a bite that meant the rest of Roussou could come, too, and that meant Channing’s friends. They had stayed away because of the rivalry. He’d been the only one to come around, and had started an odd friendship with Mason at the same time.
“Okay.” Brett nodded to himself, and then gestured to me. “It’s nice seeing that you’re better.”
I told Mason what Brett had done for me at the street dance, and I felt him relax beside me. I gave Brett a small grin. “Thanks for coming.”
He lifted a finger to his forehead in a slight salute to me, but it was his farewell. Turning, he headed back around Manny’s. It wasn’t long before we heard his truck leaving the parking lot.
“Well, shit. Who do we prank now?”
Mason grinned. “What do you mean? I think we owe Principal Green a few times.”
Logan flashed a smile. “You’re right. We never got him back for not expelling Kate in the first place.” He asked Mason, “Where’s Nate? I thought he was supposed to be here by now?”
“He’s got a new girlfriend. Relax,” Mason chided, but pulled me close and pressed a soft kiss to my forehead.
As he moved back, his eyes caught mine and held them for a second. A shiver went through me at the heated promise, but I caught the underlying message, too. Brett was in the past. So was a lot of other stuff. I caught his shirt and pulled him back for a real kiss. As his lips covered mine, the need for him began inside of me. Logan groaned. “Come on, guys. You’ve been going at it like rabbits since she got all healthy.” His phone beeped. “Thank god. That’s Nate. He’s done with the girlfriend, so let’s go.”