Kash gave him a smug look. “Relax. What do you think happens to a hyper kid after pizza, swimming, a movie, and he has to stay in the same position while waiting to be found? He falls asleep.” He smacked the back of Matt’s head. “You’re it.”
“Hey!” Matt glared, ducking his head down, but Kash was heading down another hallway. “Hey! Where are you going?”
“Hiding.” Kash didn’t look back, jogging and turning another corner.
“We are really screwed if we have to find that guy.”
Kash’s idea was solid. I tapped Matt’s wrist, jerking my head forward. “Come on. Kids usually aren’t too brilliant about where they hide. Under beds, behind doors, behind a post.”
Matt snorted, trailing after me. “You’ve never played this game with a little genius.”
I started to laugh, but then stopped. He was right.
“Yeah. See.” Matt was reading my face. “This was a bad idea. It’ll take us hours to find ’em, and how do we know if they’re still alive by then? They could be hiding in a freezer. Or—”
I clamped a hand over his mouth, and on the echoes of his voice, there it was. Giggles.
Hearing it, Matt’s eyebrows shot up.
Turning. Turning. Pinpointing where those giggles came from. Bull’s-eye.
Then I crapped myself. The laundry chute.
“Oh my God!” Sprinting to the wall, I flung open the cupboard that led to the laundry chute downstairs.
“Cyclone!” Matt lunged for him.
He was wedged inside the chute, his hands and feet braced against the other side so he didn’t fall. “Aw, man. Seriously? You guys found me too quick.” And with a quick grin, just as Matt’s arms started to go for under his arms, he let go.
We heard a “Catch me later, losers!” all the way down, until a thud.
“Curt!” Matt yelled down.
I was right next to him. “Cyclone!”
I couldn’t—ohmygodohmygodohmygod—and then Kash hollered up, “I got him.”
“Fuck’s sakes. How’d he know?”
Kash answered Matt. “Little punk found me one time hiding in the same spot.” He was laughing. “I hadn’t fully filled out by then. Can’t believe he remembered.”
I couldn’t get air in for a full beat. Then I lost it, curling my hands over the edge and leaning down, “Some of us are human, Kash! We can’t scale buildings and jump over fences and we don’t keep all our limbs if we fall down a two-story laundry chute.”
Matt’s lips pressed together.
“I’m fine, Bailey! I mean it.” Did he have to sound so happy, too?
I replied to Cyclone. “Just be safe!”
“I will. Promise, promise, promise.”
Matt whispered, “That’s the ultimate promise in this house. He’ll be careful.”
A second later, from Kash: “We’re going to hide again. Come find us.”
My phone buzzed in my pocket. It was Kash.
I had security send me the footage. Seraphina is already asleep in the movie room. Go and have a drink with Matt in the bar. Be there as soon as Cy falls asleep.
Relief flooded me. I nudged Matt, showing him. “This is why adults should always have a plan in every game.” Then, “You guys have your own bar?”
How had I missed that in the tour?
* * *
It was an actual bar. A long, sleek counter ran down the length of the wall.
Matt went behind it, pouring a drink. He slid it over to me, nodding at one of the stools. “The most family time we’ve had has been this week.” He leaned back against the wall, pointing his drink to me. “Because of you.”
He nodded, slowly. “Why do you think Ser and Cyclone took to you so fast? Marie stays longer. Theresa sticks around. I’m here. Kash was around today. It’s all been you.”
“You called him Curt before. Is that Cyclone’s name?”
I knew, but I wanted to actually be told that. It seemed like information that should’ve been spoken, not read on a computer screen or in a file.
A second nod.
He was studying the bottom of his glass now. “Yeah. Quinn used to call him that. ‘My little Cyclone.’” His mouth tipped up. “Name stuck because, you know.” He looked up now. “The ADHD stuff.”
I noted, not knowing if I should, “He’s her favorite. It’s obvious.”
“Yeah.” His voice faded. He was looking back into his drink. “She’s hard on Ser.”
A sad grin at me. “You. Me. Them. Different moms. Dad got around.” His frown deepened, became more prominent. “I don’t know why he’s not claiming you. It wouldn’t be a surprise. He was with my mom, cheated on her with Quinn. Well…” He glanced to me before returning to that glass. “Cheated with yours, too, apparently. It’s been Quinn. She had Ser, and a couple years later, Cyclone. Funny thing is that he and Quinn were struggling. She went off with her family, then came back with Cyclone.”
I was quiet. I didn’t know what to think about any of it, the cheating, or anything.
Matt laughed abruptly.
His jaw clenched and his fingers tightened on his glass before he tipped his head back and drank the whole thing in one go. He never hissed. I was waiting. I’d watched as he poured the alcohol in there. It was almost all liquor. Then he motioned to my glass. “Want another one?”
He wasn’t waiting. He turned and began to pour himself a second drink.
I didn’t answer, just waited for him to finish and turn back to me.
He did, but he didn’t look at me. Instead of the glass, his gaze was fixed on the bar. His thoughts were elsewhere, that was obvious. “It was kinda messed up.”
He jerked his head up and jerked it back down, his eyes glittering in anger. “I overhead Peter talking to Kash one night. Quinn wanted to have another kid, but he’d been cheating on her. Quinn knows Kash’s family, actually, but that’s why she left. Because of the cheating. It ended how it was supposed to be, I guess. Quinn always wanted a boy.” He looked up now. “She got what she wanted, huh?”
I was hit with a wave of anguish. Not mine. Matt’s. It was so clear and so powerful that he couldn’t mask it. He was struggling to. His hand kept tightening, loosening, tightening again around his glass. I kept an eye on it, wondering if he was going to shatter it.