“I’m good.” My voice came out hoarse.
The corner of his mouth lifted up, as if he was reading my thoughts. “Good. I need to check on Matt. Security called that he’s at another party. We’re supposed to collect him and take him back to the estate. Apparently Quinn is worried about her stepson.”
“This is Matt. If he’s bored, if he’s upset, if he’s unhappy—he parties.” That grin faded. “Look. We didn’t talk about Quinn last night, but you have to know that if you want to be in this family, it’ll be a fight. She’s not going to make it easy for you. None of them will, except Seraphina and Cyclone.”
Oh. We were going serious.
“Matt’s been nice.”
“Matt’s been playing with you.”
My mouth opened. “What?” No way. “That’s bullshit.”
His eyebrows went up. His words were hurting me, but he didn’t care. He was putting it out there bluntly. “It’s true. He thought you were a new toy of mine, and he wanted to mess with you like a cat does with a mouse. Then he got wind of your computer skills and put two and two together. But if he’s acting like he cares, he’s lying. He’s playing you.”
“Why would he do that?”
Damn. That was burning more than I wished it had been.
Liability. That’s what I was. No feelings. Right? I could do that.
I was already failing.
“To get at your father. Peter’s been after Matt to do more with the company. He doesn’t want his oldest son to be a fuckup—Peter’s words, because that’s what he thinks of Matt. He doesn’t mean it how it comes out, but anyone who’s not doing computer work is a fuckup. Only reason he’s off my back is because I can physically hurt him if I want. Your dad is…” He shook his head side to side, choosing his words. “He’s like a conceited, glorified nerd with power. There’s a nerd in him, but it’s mixed with all the other crap that makes him hard to deal with sometimes.
“Matt is not a nerd. He’s never been a nerd. He’s smart, but he grew up with social skills and getting pussy and—you know the drill. You saw it last night. Peter doesn’t understand his kids. Not Seraphina, who has a heart of gold and is shy, or even Cyclone, who does get the computer stuff. The similarities end there. Cyclone has ADHD, and as soon as he starts one thing, he’s off to another. And now Peter is learning more about the daughter he didn’t have in his life, and he’s not liking it. Matt’s going to capitalize on it. He’s loving that he’s the family member in your ear. Gives him something that Peter wants; it’ll make him back off your brother. Or that’s what Matt thinks.”
Another one-two punch. Complete with a roundhouse to the face.
I was done, and down for the count.
“Thanks for that.” I cut my eyes to the side.
“Hey.” That word had me looking up before I could catch myself. Kash’s mouth was pressed in a line. “Peter’s not liking himself right now, because you’re the kid who’s like him the most. And he really hates that you spent the night here with me.” A smirk tugged back at those lips. “And he really, really hates that he can’t order me to stay away from you, because I’m the one protecting you right now. He thinks you’re a kid still.”
I bristled at that. “I’m not a kid.”
“You’re a woman, and you’re hot, and you’re smart, and you have a sarcastic side to you that I want to come out more. I like your fight and I like your sass and you gotta cement up those walls if you want to hang in with this world. They’re all wolves, Bailey. They’re not nice like your mom. They’re not Mrs. Jones, who called the police at seeing a mysterious vehicle sitting in your driveway. Yes, I read the police notes. They’re not going to look out for you. The kids, maybe, if they were taught that way. They’re not being taught that way. And Matt, he’s too angry at your dad to see that beneath the layer where he’s using you, he actually is starting to care about you.” He frowned. “But don’t expect him to tunnel down and start acting all nice like. It’s not in him. It’s not the world they come from.”
All his words were making me feel raw, but I focused on that one word. “Aren’t you one of them too?”
He paused, his eyes moving away for the first time since seeing I was awake. “I’m half in, half out. I come from a whole other dark and twisted world that makes your father’s world look like it’s made of cotton candy. And no…” He shook his head, seeing I was about to ask another question. “That’s it for sharing time. Get dressed. We gotta go collect your brother. Again.”
Consider me yanked up by the bootstraps, a firm pat on the ass, and sent on my way.
I went to the bathroom, then saw my newly washed clothes folded and waiting for me on the counter, alongside a cup of coffee, and some of that annoyance dissipated.
Only some of it.
I didn’t know why Kash even told me what he had, if he was telling the truth about Matt, or how what we did together would play out, but this was the Kash from earlier. Or maybe this was the Kash he had to be when he was in work mode? Maybe? I didn’t know. I just knew I liked the Kash from last night. That Kash—my gaze paused on the coffee—was the kind to bring me a cup of coffee before I even asked.
Who was I kidding?
I was in way over my head.
We found Matt in a similar state as the night before, surrounded by his friends, in a tent set apart from the rest of the party. Instead of a nightclub, it was a day party.
Matt’s eyes were glazed over and his head flipped up when he saw us. “Hey. Look. It’s my family.”
Kash frowned. “You vomited for a full hour last night.”
“Yeah.” Matt hiccupped, smiling wide. His eyes were dilated. “Thanks for the IV drip. Your nurse hooked me up and it made me feel good enough, I thought, Why not?” He started laughing, Chester and another friend joining in. “Am I right? Right, Nuts?”
Chester stopped laughing. “Shut up, dickhead.”
Matt just laughed harder. So did the other guy friend.