The Insiders

Page 29

Matt didn’t take me to Quinn’s section of the house, but he stopped in his old room. Besides having his own entertainment area right outside his room, like the others, complete with a sectional couch that spanned the entire room and a movie screen against one wall and full-length bar against the other, his room was relatively normal. A desk. A large bed. A bathroom. That was it, besides the walk-in closet and his own entrance. The other two didn’t have that.

I was overwhelmed. Seriously and totally overwhelmed.

This wasn’t a life I could’ve had. There was no way I could stand with these people, with everything they were given. That was not what Hayes women did. We worked. We hustled. Hayes women kept going, no matter what happened to us.

Hayes women persevere.

Matt must’ve sensed my anxiety. His eyebrows went up. “Whatever’s going on in that head, don’t worry about it. I know I give Kash a lot of shit, but the guy’s saved my ass almost a dozen times. If he says you’re safe here, you’re safe here. Don’t get scared because I was the dumbass who broke in.”

He was mistaking my silence, but on that matter, he was right.

I took in his room. “You guys have … a lot here.”

The tour took a long time, and to be honest I wasn’t paying much attention to time. I knew it was early morning by now because the sun was starting to show through the windows. If Matt was tired, he never let on. He was patient through the whole tour.

He nodded, leading me out to sit in his entertainment area. Plopping down on one of the couches, he threw his leg up on the table in front of him. Leaning back, his arms spreading over the backs of the corner he was in, he frowned at me.

I followed at a more sedate pace, curling up in the far corner. I was tempted to pull a pillow over my lap, but I just toed off my shoes and pulled my knees up, hugging them to me. I gazed back at him, resting my chin between my knees.

He seemed about to say something, when a soft and feminine cough came from the hallway, just past the doorway that connected Matt’s “wing” with the rest of the house. Quinn stood there, not in a ball gown like the other day, but still looking just as exquisite. She wore a soft cashmere bodysuit. The front crossed over her body, connecting with a tied sash at the waist. There was a lace bodice underneath, but she was very classy. Her hair was swept up in a French side bun, and like the other day, there was no jewelry at all. She had a clean, simple, natural look to her, but I knew her makeup was as good as if a professional had done it for her.

Crap. This is how she looked so early in the morning?

No way could I hang with these people. I’d still be walking blind, trying to find the coffee pot, and probably knocking into everything and everyone in my way.

Before she spoke, I saw two heads pop up from behind her.

Cyclone’s grinning mischievous gaze sparked back at me, right before he pushed forward, shoving his mom aside as he darted ahead. “Heya, Girl!” He ran around the couch, launching over the table to tackle Matt. “Heya, loser asswipe!”

He was wide awake too.

When did these people get up? Was this normal?

Matt’s arms shot up, catching his little brother. “Oh really? I’m the loser asswipe?” He laughed, rolling Cyclone to the cushions beside him and starting to tickle him. “I’m the loser?”

“Loser!” Cyclone laughed as his legs were flailing in the air. He landed a good solid kick to Matt’s face. “Whoa! Sorry. I’m sorry, Matt.”

Matt jerked back, a hand cupping the side of his face, and he turned away.

Silence. Total silence.

“Matt?” Cyclone’s eyes were wide with fear.

A sniffle came from behind Matt’s hand before he jumped back on his little brother, pinning him back down and tickling him with no mercy. “Gotcha, you little punk. That’s what you get for kicking your older brother. Huh? Huh? Am I right?”

Cyclone was trying to wrestle, but he was no match for his older brother.

Quinn wore a fond expression, with a resigned patience there, too, as if this were a common occurrence.

It was then that I noticed that Seraphina had stepped farther out from behind her mother, more to the side. They were holding hands.

Seraphina looked almost exactly like her mother. Same cornflower-blue eyes, same honey-blond hair, but with a touch lighter streak to it. It couldn’t compare to her mother’s, but Seraphina’s hair was wispy, with a bit of natural volume and frizz to it. She had some flyaway strands that couldn’t be contained in the braid her hair had been put in. Similar high cheekbones and a heart-shaped face with a pert little chin. She could be a model. Long arms and legs that she was still growing into, but she didn’t have the teardrop eyes her brother and mother had. She must’ve taken after her father, like the rest of us.

The rest of us.

That was the first time I lumped myself in with them, as if I were one of them.

But I wasn’t. I was the outlier.

“I can see we weren’t the only ones up early this morning. I think we’re all a bit ‘feisty’ from the lack of sleep.” The same fondness, shot through with a frustration, too. Quinn raised her chin up as both her boys paused in their wrestling, which had taken them to the floor by then. “Matthew, perhaps you and…” Her eyes darted to mine. “Kash’s friend could join us for a late lunch later today? Seraphina has her lessons at three, remember?”

Matt scoffed, grabbing Cyclone and lifting him to his feet as he stood. “I did not, dear Mother, realize my being here may upset Seraphina’s precious lessons in how to be a lady.”

Quinn wasn’t amused. Her mouth pinched together.

Seraphina giggled, looking down at the floor.

Matt smirked, still holding his brother captive. Cyclone was trying to kick out of his hold, but not enough to actually be set free. “I’m surprised Victoria is coming today. Does she not realize that Kash isn’t here?” His smirk dropped to a meaner glint. “She’d be wasting her time.”

Cyclone stopped kicking.

I could see from the angle that Seraphina’s eyes had widened, but she kept her face pointed downward.

The only one who moved was Quinn herself, and it was when her eyes narrowed. “Be nice, Matthew, or I won’t be, either.” Her gaze slid my way and her threat was evident.

Cyclone watched her too, and his head popped up. “Why’d you be mean to Kash’s friend? She’s Kash’s friend.” He said it like it made the most perfect sense in the world, as if he had been asked if his name was Cyclone or not. The whole tone was a resounding “Duh.”

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