Graham flashed Quincey a smirk. “Cynthia’s my dog. My best girlfriend. I named her after my favorite Atlanta housewife.”
A female was coming from the back with a rueful look on her face. She was slim with her hair up in some ’do. She saw us and stopped in her tracks. “Oh, good gracious. The guests are already here.” She glared at Graham. “You could’ve told me they were here. I haven’t even gotten dressed.”
Graham went over, throwing his arm around her and walking her to us. “This is my girlfriend, and no stress, Quince. She’s met the family already.”
“You’re—” Quincey’s mouth dropped open. “You two are together?”
The girl’s cheeks pinked, and she held her hands together, clasping her fingers tight. “Calihan had a hard time with it at first, but we’ve moved past that rocky ground. Thank goodness your mom loves me.” She started laughing and tipped her head up to see Graham shooting me a concerned look before his frown found Quincey. “Oh.” Her voice trailed off.
“I don’t know you. I’m Nate.” I held my hand out, giving both siblings a look. “What’s the awkward history here? I have to know all the gossip because Logan will be pissed if I don’t fill him in.”
Graham relaxed, barking out a laugh. “That Kade doesn’t change, huh?”
“Have you met my friends?”
“It’d be cool to all get together. When does Mason’s team…?” He trailed off after his girlfriend’s elbow nudged him in the chest. Hard. “Sorry. Uh, this is my little sister’s best friend. My other sister. Calihan.”
“Britney grew up with us. She and Calihan were, are, inseparable.”
“We still are. I’m technically her roommate.” Britney held her hand out. “You’re Nate Monson. I’ve heard a lot about you, and when I say a lot, I mean a lot a lot. You’re all anyone talks about in this family now. You, and the whole situation. You know.” She shot Graham a frown. “You are supposed to stop me when I ramble like this.”
He beamed at her, tapping her nose. “I happen to think it’s adorable, so I’ll never stop you.”
“Oh God.” Quincey moved to the side. “I need a drink. Do you still keep the liquor back here?” Britney blinked a second, then shot after her. She linked their elbows. “Let me show you. Cal and I were experimenting, and I think we found the next big drink. Everyone’s going to love it. We’re thinking of putting it on our YouTube channel.”
They turned the corner, and I found Graham inspecting me.
He raised an eyebrow. “You look intense.”
“I feel intense.” My phone started buzzing again. “I need a room and thirty minutes to have some hard conversations. Your sister can’t overhear in any way.”
His eyes got hard, but he nodded. “Follow me.”
He took me to the basement and into a far back room.
I was reading through the rest of the texts as soon as he left, shutting the door.
Logan: You need to call me.
Logan: Seriously. Now. I don’t care if you’re fucking.
Logan: Or driving.
Logan: K. I care. Be safe. Wrap yourself.
Logan: Not talking about the seat belt, but do that, too.
I had to laugh. Even a crisis didn’t deter Logan. I thumbed through to Matteo’s first before Mason’s.
Matteo: Guys said you’re in Seattle? What’s going on? Call. We’re due, man.
I clicked on Mason’s last.
Mason: Logan called, so I know what’s going on. Call when you can. We should do a three-way call. Also, Sam wants to come, leave the kids with Malinda before heading up. You down for that?
I hit call for Logan as I replied to both Mason and Matteo.
Mason was first.
Me: You know I’m always down for visiting and seeing you guys. Never ask, brother.
His response was automatic.
Mason: I figured, still you got a lot going on now. Still no Channing yet?
Me: Not yet.
Logan picked up right then.
“Dude.” He grunted. “I’m fucking Taylor right now.”
I started laughing at the same time I heard her voice in the background. “He’s winning at a video game. And he’s not being a gracious winner.” She was laughing as she said all that.
There was a muffling sound, then he said to her, his voice sounding at a distance, “You love when I’m a gracious winner. You tell me all the time when you go do--”
“Okay. Not the right talk when your friends are on the phone with you.”
Logan laughed. “Nate’s not my friend. He’s family. We’re like a mob family.”
I laughed. “We’re not the mob.”
He lifted the phone back, and his voice was clearer. “We should be. We’d be awesome at getting shit done.”
I needed to send my text to Matteo.
“Hold on. Let me call you back in a minute.”
He hung up, and I was typing next.
Me: A lot is happening, but we need to do a phone call. Warning. You might be mad at me.
Matteo: Fuck. Okay. Call when you can. We play there this Sunday. You want to come to the game?
Me: Of course. Make it two?
Matteo: Course. Call later, for real. I don’t like not knowing what’s going on.
Yes. It was time to let everyone know what was going on. I did what I could on my own, but even though I was used to operating as an individual, I wasn’t anymore. Our group, we were a package deal, and Mason was right. I needed to ask for more from them.
I couldn’t tell Matteo and not tell Channing.
I called Logan again.
He picked up. “Mason wants to do a three-way. You have time now?”
“No. We’re at Graham’s now.”
“I didn’t know that was tonight. How’s that going?”
“It’s…” I hesitated. “There are family issues here.”
Logan grunted, and I could hear an explosion from his end. He added, “Well, we all got experience there. I’m starting to think our families are normal. Like, who does have a nice and loving home nowadays?”
From his end, Taylor spoke up, “That’s...sad.”
Another grunt. I could hear his voice turn from the phone. “Don’t feel sad for me, baby. I know there are amazing peeps like Malinda, and your dad is pretty cool now.” There was some silence from his end, just the sounds of their video game in the background before Logan came back. “So, talk later tonight?”