Cross didn’t budge.
Unease shivered down my spine, but hell yes. I was so down for this. One big chaotic rough and tumble fight. Let’s have this out. Finally. His eyes locked on Zeke’s before they moved to mine, and whatever he saw in me, it changed him. A different look came over him, and he blinked, as if clearing his head.
Bren was successful in pushing him closer to their truck, but he braked and called over her shoulder, “Who are you fighting at your house?”
Right. I rolled my eyes. “What am I supposed to say? Your mama?” I gave him my middle finger. “It ain’t any of your business. Go screw your woman.”
His eyes went feral.
“NO!” Bren was firm. “I said no. Not him. Not your brother, because he might mean something to you later. Trust me.”
Goddamn. “You’re annoying, Bren.”
She ignored me, still shoving my brother back to their truck. Once he was inside, she turned and addressed me. “You’re a prick, but you’re still blood to him, and I know him. That does mean something.” Her eyes went cold. “Don’t push him until you go over a line you can’t come back from.”
And with those kind words, she strode around to get in on the other side.
My brother flipped me off out the back as they drove off.
Zeke started laughing. “I was hoping to see some Bren fighting moves. That girl is hot.” He turned to me. “Your house, right?”
Jamie let out a breath, his hand trembling slightly as he raked it through his hair. “We were driving to your place when he noticed the Mercedes here. We saw you and them, and it was perfect timing, huh?”
I narrowed my eyes. “You can’t hang with me if you’re scared of a fight.”
Zeke started laughing.
Jamie’s eyes widened, then cooled. “Yeah. Didn’t know it was like that, but whatever. I’m down.”
I doubted it. I could see why no one had made a move against Zeke until now. They needed a fucking leader because they were followers.
I felt Zeke studying me and met his gaze. “Now can you see why I love you? No one else like you around these parts.”
It was an odd thing for him to say, but I was understanding my “best friend” a little more each day. And it seemed odd, but right at the same time.
I sighed. “Let’s go and hope Griffith isn’t at the house.”
“Can I call him pussy if we see him again?” Zeke asked.
I relaxed. “You can call him pussy as if his new name is Pussy DeVroe.”
Blaise never called, but he texted close to midnight.
Blaise: I’m sorry. Major family drama tonight. Non-bio dad refused to leave the house. I almost beat the shit out of him.
I sat up in bed, and a cold sweat came over me.
Me: Is everything okay now?
Blaise: Can I come over?
A zing raced through me, a flutter of excitement.
Blaise: You’re in the gated community, right? I know Tucker. He’ll tell me which house.
Tucker was Mr. Carl’s son.
Me: Tucker shouldn’t let you go through.
Blaise: He won’t unless you call and tell him to do it. Will you? Are your parents home?
I threw back my covers as I replied.
Me: Okay. I’ll call. Tucker is supposed to put you on a list. My parents will see that list.
Blaise: He won’t. I’ll ask him not to. He works with my mom so he’s cool.
I sighed and called the front desk for our neighborhood. Tucker answered. “Yeah. He’s right here,” he said after I explained.
“Can you let him through?”
I heard a beep in the background, and he came back on the line. “Are you sure about this, Miss Aspen? I know Blaise, and he’s got issues.”
“He’s good with me. It’ll be fine. Please don’t put him on the list.”
“I won’t if you ask me not to.”
“Thank you, Tucker.” I hurried down the hallway and passed the front door. We didn’t have the alarm on because my dad was in the back shed, where he was still editing. He said he worked out there, but we all smelled the cigars.
I waited at the side of the house until I saw Blaise’s Wagon. He parked on the street, closer to the next lot, and walked back toward my house.
As he came up the driveway, I flashed my phone and waved at him.
He changed directions, coming toward me in the dark. “Nice. I’ve not snuck into a girl’s house in a long time.” He grabbed my hand and kissed my cheek.
I was momentarily stunned at that greeting, “For future reference, this is how you’ll sneak in, okay?” I squeezed his hand as I led him through the side door.
“I like it. You’re already my co-conspirator.” He squeezed my hand back, and I led him up the back stairs to my room. “Can I tell you now how much I appreciate your ass?” he murmured. “It’s the best ass I think I’ve ever seen.”
“Shut up.” I grinned as I tugged us into my room and locked the door.
“Ooh, a locked door too. Such a scandal.”
“Shut up!” I took his head and tugged it down to mine.
I’d been wanting to do this since his text. No. I’d been wanting this since we left the campsite this morning.
Groaning, he deepened the kiss and picked me up.
I gasped as he walked us over to my bed. He eased me down and crawled over my body as I scooted up to the top. His eyes had darkened. “You are seriously gorgeous, Aspen.” He ran a hand over my shirt, hooking it on my shorts, but he didn’t do anything else. He only rubbed his thumb back and forth. I shivered, knowing what that thumb could do to my body. But he didn’t do more.
Lying beside me, he cupped my face as we kissed.
He rubbed his thumb over my cheek the whole time.
Which felt nice. It all felt nice. My body was literally humming.
After a bit, I eased back, frowning. “Why aren’t you putting the moves on me?”
He grinned, lying on his back. He slid one of his arms under me, pulling me against his chest. “I didn’t come over to hook up. I just came over.”
His other hand found my waist, rubbing back and forth over the stretch of skin showing there. He pushed my shirt up, but only moved over my stomach, back and forth in a slow and comforting motion.
“I almost got into a fight with my brother today,” he said after a moment.
I tensed, shifting to angle my body so I could see him. His hand kept smoothing over my stomach. “About what?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Because I wanted to fight him. I don’t even remember what it was about.”
I rolled my eyes. “That doesn’t sound like you at all.”
He grinned, his hand darting up and tweaking just under my breast.
But he covered my breast with his palm, soothing it before going back to my stomach. “Sorry.” He tensed, jackknifing upright. “Shit! I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I can’t just grab you and—”
“Hey!” I sat up with him, catching his hands. I tugged on them, getting him to look at me. “It’s fine. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t let you into my house, much less my room. It’s fine. I could lay down the law if I needed to.”
His eyes clung to mine, a haunting agony starting to show there. “You sure?”
Then he relaxed, one muscle at a time, until he was lying down, his hand back on my stomach. After a bit, he started running it in a circle again. “Jesus.” His lips found my shoulder, and he kissed me there. “I’m starting to realize how much of a mess I am. I am truly fucked up. I tried to fight my brother, and I don’t even have a relationship with him. I called my guys to back me up in case I tried to fight my non-bio dad. I needed them to keep him away from me.”
I frowned. “What happened?”
He snorted, a sound of disgust. “What always fucking happens with me. I mouthed off and kept going, purposefully pushing him until he wanted to flatten me. When we first came here, I thought I had everything handled. Then I found out about the dad situation, and now I’m just a walking asshole. The shit I said to Cross…” He shook his head, nipping my skin lightly before he sat up. “I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t bring this shit to you. You and me, we’re moving too fast. I’m sorry.”
He started to get off the bed.
My heart spiked in panic.
He was going. He truly was going to leave.
He paused, his hand on the doorknob, and looked back. “We shouldn’t be friends even. I’ll just fuck up your life.”
My heart splintered.
My stomach dropped to my feet.
That was enough. My voice unscrambled my head, and I darted off the bed. But I didn’t go to him. He wanted to leave, and I wasn’t going to physically stop him. That was beneath me, but when I saw he was waiting, I opened my mouth.
I didn’t know what I was going to say until it all came spilling out.
“I need you. Okay?” Oh my God. Did I actually say that?
I blinked. I had. And there was more.
My chest ached. I didn’t like to think about this stuff, but here it was. I balled my hands into fists. I’d never said any of this out loud.
“I barely know my brother. He’s been so mad at our parents that he mostly stays away. He’s almost a stranger, so then it was just Owen and me until…”
I heard the car screeching. The red lights flashing.
The taste of blood.