“Fuck.” He swore under his breath, his very tanned and slightly oily fingers gentle as he looked at my wound. His dark eyes seemed to penetrate my shoulder before he sat back on his heels, raking a hand through his dreadlocks. “What were you doing?”
I wasn’t going to admit a fly had outwitted me.
When I was doing yard work, Blade made himself scarce. For the years he’d been living with us, he’d been content to clean the inside. He did most of the cooking, cleaning, and dishes, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to come home from shopping and find him wearing a maid’s apron and duster—and nothing else.
So for him to come looking for me outside like this wasn’t normal.
“What is it?” I jerked my head toward the house, hearing the television blaring.
His concerned eyes lifted to mine, and a whole different look slid over him.
My alarm level went up three notches.
Of the three of us living in this little cabin outside of Calgary, or Cowtown as we called it sometimes, Blade wasn’t the one who got concerned about things. He enjoyed indulging in marijuana, kept his hair in tight dreadlocks, and dressed like a child from the sixties in a brown vest, no shirt, and a tie-dyed bandana over his hair. Only instead of bell-bottoms, he wore tight, frayed jeans over regular runners. He handled all our computer stuff, and when we walked inside, I wasn’t surprised to find he had switched over the news he’d caught on his computer to the main television screen.
I also wasn’t surprised to be watching a report from New York City.
“—ennett mafia princess has been missing for forty-nine hours now.”
Ice lined my insides.
A picture of my old boarding school roommate, Brooke Bennett, flashed on the screen, along with numbers to call if she was found.
As in, she was lost?
I felt punched in the chest.
Brooke was missing.
Dazed, I reached out for a chair to sit in. Blade moved to my side.
“That’s your old roommate, right?” The chair protested. Blade’s hand left my arm, and his voice came from my side. “The one you had at that rich school.”
I almost snorted at his wording, but I was still in a daze. I nodded instead.
The news was showing pictures from her social media accounts, and she was gorgeous. Fourteen years. I don’t know why that number popped into my head, but it felt right. It’d been so long since I last saw her, or was it fourteen years since we first met? One of those.
“She was always so girly,” I murmured, almost to myself. She’d been so full of life.
Not me. I’d been a numbed-down, post-traumatized zombie when I walked into that room.
“Oh my gosh! You must be my roommate!” She had launched herself at me from behind the moment I entered the room, wrapping her arms around me. Her face had pressed into my shoulder.
Janine had squawked. “Oh my.”
I’d ignored my dad’s secretary and had taken one second before the girl let me go and hurried around in front of me. Her hands went to my arms, just underneath my shoulders and she’d looked me up and down.
I did the same: black oval eyes, stunning jet-black hair, a pert nose, small mouth—but lips formed just like the ones that had been a stamp on my last Valentine’s Day party invitation, full and plump.
I was slightly envious, or as envious as I could get since I wasn’t usually the jealous type. She had a small chin to end her perfect heart-shaped face, and her eyes were glittering and alive.
That had been the one moment when I truly was jealous of her. Life. She had what I didn’t. I wasn’t jealous of her looks, though if I’d had a different upbringing maybe I might’ve been? In a way, that was something I was thankful for. Life meant more to me than looks or things. It meant yearning for safety, smiles, the feeling of being loved.
The other girls had been jealous of her money. For a “rich kids” school, everyone seemed to be pissed about how much money they had. They always wanted more, and they seemed to know who had the most. I was toward the lower end of the wealthy crowd, but Brooke—as it had been whispered around school—was at the top.
There’d been other whispers, other looks, but we were twelve in our first year there. I didn’t understand what the word mafia actually meant. But it was used often as a taunt by our second semester at Hillcrest. The first semester there hadn’t been that kind of bullying. Some girls liked us. Some girls didn’t. A few hung out with us, and our room became known as the “hot guy” room. Not because we had guys there. Far from it. I would’ve died if a cute guy even looked my way. No, no. Our room had the name because of all the posters and photographs Brooke plastered all over our room. All gorgeous males.
It never made sense that some of her pictures didn’t look professionally taken, but the posters were real, and who wouldn’t drool over a full-length shot of Aaron Jonahson, the best football player in the United States—or the celebrity actor from everyone’s favorite television show, or the so-hot model that’d been a convict first. Brooke seemed to have all the guys covered, but some pictures seemed more like snapshots. Which was the truth.
I found out around the holidays: they were her family.
They weren’t celebrities—not in the sense that I understood back then—they were her brothers, all four of them.
Cord was the oldest at eighteen.
Kai was fifteen.
Tanner was fourteen.
Brooke was twelve.
And Jonah brought up the rear at nine years old.
Brooke was quiet about her family, really quiet. But when I found out those boys were her brothers, and their names, I was fascinated. I couldn’t lie about that. I just hadn’t known who I was becoming obsessed about.
Cord kept his hair short, almost a crew cut above his more angular face. Brooke told me he was usually the reserved one, and artsy. She almost hissed when she used that word, as if it was a curse, but then she shrugged. “It’s the truth. He wants to be a painter one day.”
Next in line hadn’t been Kai. She’d skipped over him and chewed on her lip, pausing before pointing to Tanner. As she did, her eyes lit up and a bright smile took over her face.
“Tanner has this shaggy hair that he bleaches blond, and sometimes it’s dark when I see him. He’s funny, Ry. He’s so funny, but he also has an attitude. All the girls here would die over him, literally just die.”