Page 16

I glance at Avery. "Is he serious?"

Avery nods. "One hundred percent." Her voice hitches slightly, like it bothers her that he didn't ask for more. I catch it and wonder if Sean knows. He doesn't seem to, but then again he seems to be acting assy on purpose.

"Well, good luck with that, Sean." I don't mean to, but I make a face as I look at Peter.

Sean doesn't let it slip by. "You think it's inappropriate? Really, after screwing your professor and superior, you really think you have the right to judge me?"

"Sean," Avery warns and glances at Peter.

"That's enough," Peter scolds. It silences Sean, but I stare burning holes into Sean's forehead. He glances up at me.

"You think I'm after his family's money, don't you? You think that I'm not good enough for him, that I'm some white-trash gold digger. Isn't that right?" My jaw tightens as I speak. I see it in his eyes before he has a chance to answer, so I cut him off. "I don't need his goddamn money. I can get by on my own. I always have, and I always will. You on the other hand will die miserable and alone. In the five seconds since I've met you, I could see that Avery deserves so much more, more than you could ever give her. You're chasing a dream. Wake up." I snap the last two words at him as my palms slap the table. The silverware shakes.

I glance over at Peter. "I'm sorry, Peter. I'm not sure why we came here tonight."

Peter exhales slowly and glances at Sean. There's a warning in his eyes. At first I think Peter's telling Sean to back off, but that isn't it.

Sean rolls his eyes, like this much drama gives him heartburn. He taps the butt of his knife on the table before lifting it and using it like a pointer, gesturing to his brother. "Because Peter wants me to come with the two of you."


"Peter wants you to do what?" I swear to God the vulture must have eaten my brains while I was asleep last night, because there is no way in hell that Sean just said that. Peter didn't tell me what he wanted or why he needed Sean, but I don't like it, mostly because Sean hates my guts for no apparent reason. It's hard enough facing what I have to face. I don't want Sean there crushing me as well.

Peter leans forward and takes my hand. "It's just for a day or two. You don't even have to talk to him." Sean doesn't move, but the way he watches us says everything. He thinks that I'm bad news for his little brother. Sean's gaze returns to his plate. His lips part as he cuts through his steak. Peter turns abruptly and cuts off Sean before he can speak. "Shut up and eat your dinner."

Avery pokes her food and eats slowly. She didn't know their plan either based on the look on her face. "How long will you be gone?" It's a loaded question. Avery isn't asking for dates, although that's part of it. She's asking Sean something else. I wonder if he notices.

Sean's voice softens, but he doesn't look at her. "Only a couple of days."

She nods. "What about tonight? And tomorrow?"

"It's your decision," Sean answers, sounding like he couldn't care less.

Avery gently places her fork down, then puts her napkin on the table. She stands and smiles at Peter and me. "It was nice to meet you." She turns to Sean and gives him a look that could castrate another man. Her voice is cold and completely detached. "Do whatever you want."

Avery walks away, but I don't know why. It feels like they were having a private conversation even though it was in front of us. Sean said the wrong thing. He doesn't chase after her, and Avery doesn't slow down or look back. She knows Sean won't rush after her.

Awkward silence fills the table. Peter is leaning on one arm, watching his brother with a grin on his face. Sean lifts his dark gaze and notices Peter's amusement. "What?" Sean snaps.

"You like her, a lot."

"It's not your concern." Sean sips some of that disgusting amber liquid from his glass.

"Of course not. Just stating the obvious." Peter's gaze follows Avery. "It's interesting; that's all. The woman clearly brought you to your knees, but you're too proud to chase after her. Too bad she's used goods, huh?" Before I can scold Peter for saying such a thing, Sean bolts upright and grabs Peter by the throat. Sean hisses something, but Peter is laughing over the threats. Peter rips his brother's hands away and blurts out, "You are so fucked."

Everyone is looking at us. Sean sits down again as Peter continues to grin like it's funny. I kick Peter under the table, trying to make him stop. Sean is sending off the crazy vibe in massive waves and I don't want him to kill us in the parking lot.

Peter shakes his head and pushes his hair out of his eyes. "So you know?"

Sean works his jaw before taking a swig from his glass. "Of course I know."

"Does he know what?" I interrupt and look between them.

When Sean doesn't answer, Peter says in a playful tone, "He loves her."

"Then why'd you let her storm away?" Sean glares at me with venom in his eyes. He doesn't like this, but I have no idea what part he finds objectionable. Screw this. Avery was nice and this guy clearly needs a kick in the ass. "Do you need a textbook or something? Avery knew you wouldn't follow her when she walked away. She wanted you to say you wanted her. She wanted to go with you. What the hell are you sitting here for if you love her? How damaged are you?" I don't understand him at all. That cold confidence speckled across Sean's face is maddening, especially if he really loves her. Sean holds himself in check and buries every emotion that might play across his face.

Peter is nothing like Sean. They may look the same, but they're not. Peter still has a lightness about him. He jokes, smiles, and teases. Sean had all the light sucked out of him a long time ago. The man is a thunderstorm waiting to kill someone.

"Why should I go after her?" he asks callously. The way he sits in his seat and doesn't bother to look up at me says he could care less what I think, but then again, people like Sean don't waste words.

"What, do you need a lesson or something? If you love her, you can't let her think you don't care. And why the hell are you sharing her with other men? Or women or goats? Or whatever the hell she's doing? Why haven't you saved her yet? What are you waiting for, an invitation?"

Peter's gaze flicks between me and his brother. When Sean looks his way, Peter smiles pleasantly, like I didn't verbally bitchslap his brother. Sean asks Peter, "And your opinion is…?"

"My opinion is that the great Sean Ferro has fallen. You're a dick if you let her get away. She seems to tolerate you for whatever reason and you let her leave." Peter lifts the bread basket and tears off a piece of a roll, then pops it in his mouth. "No one tolerates you unless they're blood or paid."

"She's paid," Sean says in a clipped voice.

"It's more than that, blind boy. Open your eyes." How can he not see it?

Sean turns in his seat and looks at me. "You want Avery to come with us?"

I shrug and look at Peter. "It's not like I invited you. Oh, and shotgun. I'm not sitting next to the turkey."

Sean gapes at me. I feel his eyes on the side of my face. "What?" I don't offer clarification, although I feel bad for the turkey.

Sean looks over at his brother. Peter's beyond amused, wearing a huge grin that makes his eyes sparkle. "Oh, she's serious. She has a pet vulture that she seems to have named 'the turkey.' That isn't a very good name, Sidney. And, I'd like to add shotgun. That bastard will peck your eyes out if you drift off."


Peter and I are in the elevator. We left Sean sitting at the table alone. That man worries me. I wonder if that's what's at the bottom of the cliff for Peter. When Peter first told me about Sean, he said his brother was messed up. I tighten my grip on his hand and lean into him. "Were you like that?"

"What, like Sean?" I nod. Knots tie up my stomach. I'm a little bit afraid of what Peter will say. We exit the elevator on our floor and walk down the hall. Peter shakes his head. "No, at least I don't think so. Sean's not the kind of guy who wears his heart on his sleeve."

"That's an understatement. Damn, and I thought you were a head case." I realize what I've said after I say it and smile weird since I can't gather the words and swallow them back down.

Peter stops me before we get to the room. He grabs me by the waist and places a hand on either side of my head so that I lean my back against the wall. I look down at my dress, wondering if I really am wearing something that was made for old ladies. Broomstick skirts are for grannies with cankles. I don't remember why I bought this dress.

A smirk lights up Peter's face. He tucks a piece of hair behind my ear, saying, "You thought I was a head case? Me? You realize you're in this relationship, too, right?"

"Yeah, but me and you are equally nuts, where Sean is meganuts." I glance up at Peter. "He's a little freaky. Why did you want him to come?"

"Because he's a little freaky and I need his help. Dean won't mess with you after this. No one will." Peter kisses my forehead and takes my hand. We walk to the room in silence. I don't know what he intends to do about Dean. There's nothing to be done.

"Peter, what are you going to do?" I don't like the tone of his voice, but at the same time I love it. I hate that Dean did what he did and nothing happened to him. He turned my own damn family against me. I lost everything because of him.

When Peter doesn't say anything, I grab his shoulder and turn him around. Those vivid blue eyes look back at me. "Are you going to hurt him?"

"I'm going to make sure he doesn't hurt you anymore. Don't worry, Sidney. Go home, talk to your mother, and see if you can make peace with your family. That's what we came to do. Let me handle Sean and Dean."