I hadn’t met any of them.
I was trying not to have a reaction, but it was there. It must’ve been on my face.
I felt a slicing going down the middle of my body.
Nate’s words from the beginning came back, and now this time, they were haunting.
I have a whole group. You have no one.
I swallowed over a lump. He was right. I knew then, but I hadn’t been feeling it. I was feeling it now.
Nate and Matteo were starting to turn for the SUV, but Dierek asked, almost gently, “Nate mentioned that your brother is Graham Robertson?”
“He’s my half-brother.” Normally, I’d say nothing more. This time, it hurt to admit. “We’re not real close.”
“Oh.” His eyebrows dropped back down, and he straightened in his seat.
Nate was coming back to his side, and Matteo was rounding the vehicle, carrying a large bag in hand. He’d been reaching for the door handle on my door when he looked through the window and saw me. He froze, and his eyes got big. “Whoa!” His voice came out loud and was barely muffled through the glass. “Nate, you have a chick in your car. You got another sister we didn’t know about?”
Nate was opening his door. He paused, saying over the hood, “Shut up. Get in the back with Dierek.”
A wide smile came over the footballer, and he was quickly moving to the back door. Throwing it open, he leaned down and boomed, “It’s Mason’s agent! How are you, man?!” It felt like he was crawling inside the vehicle, but he was just sitting down. One leg. His body. The other leg.
The SUV dipped under each section and again as he settled to get comfortable.
The big bag came in, and he tossed it to the back, then he reached over and clapped Dierek on the shoulder. “How’s it going? Are you finally here to try to steal me away from my team? I don’t think my agent will go for that.”
Nate snorted, starting to pull away from the curb.
Dierek let out a soft sigh. “Hello, Matteo. You played well today.”
I liked Matteo.
I had turned to watch him, and I was captivated. He had a giant heart in him. I could feel it, and after snickering, he turned to me. “’Sup, New Girl? I’m Matteo. I’m a big Hawaiian.” He glanced at Nate. “Logan know about this one?”
Nate adjusted the rearview mirror, pulling into a line of cars all edging toward the interstate. “Logan has actually met this one.”
I burned from the implication of that.
I was sure they used that terminology in the past for who? What? Nate’s past conquests?
And he was letting Matteo think that about me.
Matteo’s phone started buzzing. He pulled it out, swiping over the screen. “That’s cool then. I like being the last to meet the new girls, but oh… Uh. So.” He looked up, a slight grimace pulling at the corners of his mouth.
Nate’s eyes instantly went suspicious, and a cloud came down over him. “Who was that from?”
Nate was glaring in the rearview mirror at him. “What’s going on?”
“Where we eating?”
“Peluzzo.” A pause. “Why are you asking?”
“Peluzzo?” He sent off a quick text, then shoved the phone back in his pocket. “Got it.”
Nate’s face went flat. “You never ask where we eat. Why are you asking now?”
“No reason. Look at all those cars.” Matteo twisted almost all the way to the back, pretending to be distracted by the traffic.
He turned back, a low mumble coming out. “I don’t want to get in the middle of this.”
“Matteo, I swear. I will fuck you up if you don’t tell me. You and Mason both said something. What?” His voice got firmer. “Is Logan doing a surprise visit?”
He raked a hand over his face. “Fuck’s sake, Nate. Man. You get bitchier the older we get.”
“Fuck off, Matt.”
He snorted, clearly not offended.
“Who is it? Mason would only warn me if it were Logan. There’s no one else he’d even register to warn me about.”
“Yeah. Let’s go with that.”
A pissed-off but resigned shadow formed over Nate, and he let out a sigh. “Fine.” He cast a worried glance my way. “I wanted to do this proper, tell you about Quincey here.”
“Um. Yeah.” Matteo moved forward, his big hand wrapping around the back of my seat. “Quincey. I have a name now.” He held his hand out for me to shake it. “Nice to meet you. How long have you and Monson been boning? You know, he’s not brought any other female around us. Off the bat, I know you’re important.”
My mouth almost dropped, and my hand slid out from his. I turned to Nate. “Is this how your entire group of friends treat each other? Or each other’s whatever? Significant others.”
Nate and Matteo snorted at the same time, both covering a slight grin.
Nate shifted gears, moving now onto a bigger road. “I’d like to say no, but that’s not true. Matteo’s the kindest one in our group. He just doesn’t know the situation.”
“What situation?” Matteo spoke up.
“I don’t want to have that convo in the vehicle. Later. Over drinks. Or at the house.” Nate’s tone grew softer. “There’s someone else at the house I want to introduce you to.”
“Yeah? You get a dog?”
Nate smothered a laugh. “Not a dog, dude.”
“Oh.” Matteo went back to looking out the window. “A pig?”
“Not a pig.” Nate glanced at him through the mirror.
“We’re doing this? You’re going to try to guess who you’re going to meet?”
“Why not? Dierek’s keeping quiet. I’m thinking he’s here to watch the fireworks. Am I right, D?”
“You’re not right. I flew in to meet Quincey, actually.”
“You did?” The big footballer suddenly had a new interest in me. He was scanning me over. “You gotta be an athlete for D to make a trip to meet. Let me guess, ice figure skater?”
I laughed. “No.”
“Hmm.” He seemed to be chewing on the inside of his mouth before snapping his fingers. “You’re a horse rider, aren’t you? Rodeos?”