Daisy beams, a longing in her eyes for something similar to what Lily and I have. I truly hope she finds love someday and way more than meh sex.
Her gaze drifts. “Look who showed up.”
Scott stands in the doorway, typing on his phone. He stopped in Los Angeles for a production meeting with GBA before he flew to France. He tucks his cell in his pocket, and his eyes find mine. The smarmy smile only heats my chest. He’s no longer as pissy as he was at the airport. I seriously consider pouring the vat of bubbling hot soup over his head.
But I don’t.
Because then I’d go to jail for assaulting him. And I’d probably be called a man-hater more than I already am, which I don’t think I warrant the title. And if I do…I need to work on that.
Jail and my pride are really the only two things stopping me. I can handle him going after me, but when he picks on my sisters with mean and offensive comments, like he’s been doing this past month, murder sounds so worthwhile.
This week is supposed to be a break from the chaos, but I have a feeling it’s all just beginning.
[ 25 ]
“So you guys are like nasty rich,” Julian says, gripping the stem of a beer bottle. Lo, Ryke, and I have pulled Julian outside after dinner. Since Daisy doesn’t have a brother, the three of us are in charge of questioning her new boyfriend.
I’m really just here to make sure Ryke doesn’t hit him and Lo doesn’t make him cry. Ben lost a game of rock-paper-scissors with Brett and Savannah, so he withstands the cold to film us.
“Our parents are nasty rich,” Loren tells Julian. “We live off their generous donations.”
“Trust funds,” Ryke amends.
“I make my own money,” I interject and take a sip of my wine. Lo and Ryke both have Fizz cans in their hands, not drinking alcohol per the usual.
Loren gives me a look. “Yeah, from your mom’s company.”
I shake my head. “She gave me five-thousand dollars for my twelfth birthday. I invested it and made good money. I don’t have a trust fund.” I refused the one she offered me.
“We should play a drinking game,” Lo says. “Every time Connor Cobalt makes me feel stupid we take a shot.”
“You’re fifteen months sober,” Ryke reminds him.
“Always gotta put a black cloud on everything, bro,” Lo refutes, though there’s more humor in his voice than hostility.
“What do you think?” Ryke asks Julian.
Julian shrugs, hardly affected by Ryke’s hardcore glare. “What do I think about what?”
No one elaborates because there’s nothing to elaborate on.
“You’re not sleeping in her room,” Lo warns.
Julian swishes his beer in a brief moment of contemplation (not long enough apparently) because he stupidly says, “I’ve already slept in the same bed as her before. I don’t see the big deal.”
Lo lets out a short laugh like is this guy for real? “You don’t see the big deal?” He steps forward. “Let me spell it out for you Julius—”
“Julian—” he barely has time to correct him.
“You’re twenty-f**king-three,” Lo says, not missing a beat. “How old are you, Connor?”
Lo turns to Ryke and mockingly tilts his head. “What about you, Ryke?”
“Twenty-three,” Ryke says.
Lo touches his chest. “I’m twenty-two myself.”
“That’s great,” Julian says a little dumbfounded as to what’s going on. Just wait, Julian. He’s getting there.
“I consider myself fairly smart,” Lo says, “but you must be a real f**king idiot if you think we’d be okay with someone our age sleeping with our girlfriends’ seventeen-year-old little sister.”
Julian’s not even intelligent enough to catch the obvious flaw in Lo’s statement—that Ryke doesn’t even have a girlfriend in this scenario.
He shrugs, still not seeing the issue. “She’s a model, man. We’ve spent nights at our friends’ flats in New York City together. She’s snorted coke before. I think she’s past the overprotective brother routine. Maybe if you haven’t noticed, she’s pretty mature.”
Lo grits his teeth and turns his head to me. “Can you believe this guy?”
I can believe he’s a moron, yes. But his argument is valid. It doesn’t mean I think he should be spending the night in Daisy’s bed. I’m not even sure she wants that. “You’re sleeping on the couch,” I tell him calmly.
He just shakes his head with a pouty lip, not even considering it. “No, I’m not.”
“I’m seriously going to kick his f**king ass,” Ryke says to us.
“I’m standing right here, man,” Julian retorts. “What’s your deal?”
“You’re twenty-three,” Ryke snaps, “and you’re f**king a girl who’s seventeen.”
“We’re not f**king. And aren’t you the one on Princesses of Philly who’s always around Daisy?” His eyebrows rise in accusation. “Maybe you’re the one f**king her. Or maybe you’re just jealous. Yeah, that’s probably it.”
Before Ryke has the chance to lunge, Lo steps in front of his body, blocking him from Daisy’s boyfriend.
“Julius,” Lo says, purposefully using his name wrong now that he knows it irritates him, “maybe you’re feeling a little goddamn disgusting being with a seventeen-year-old. Keep your shitty feelings to yourself. Don’t project them onto my brother.”
“I’m not projecting anything. Have you see the way he looks at her? He wishes he was me right now.”
Lo would normally have a snide retort ready, but he’s busy restraining Ryke who tries to charge forward, probably to sock Julian in the face. Lo rests his arm against his brother’s chest, forcing him back.
Ryke stares disgustedly at Daisy’s boyfriend, and the guy just leisurely sips his beer. But I sense an antagonizing quality in Julian’s fixed stance, in the way he watches Ryke with a hawkeyed gaze. He’s the type of guy who’d love to fight him—just to prove he’s the bigger f**king man. Ryke, on the other hand, just wants to protect that girl inside. It’s an interesting dynamic. One that I’d almost love to witness, but stirring that shit just gives Scott what he wants. And I’d rather smash in his face than help grow his ingratiating smile.
“We all win some,” Julian says to Ryke, “and we all lose some. You’ll find another girl who’s a better fit for you. Though she won’t be as hot as Daisy, and there’s no way she’ll lick c*ck as well either.”
Lo’s jaw unhinges.
Ryke almost loses it. He shouts a string of curses at the top of his lungs. I catch motherfucker, cocksucker, and a new one—dickfucker. I would laugh, but I want to throw Julian off the porch just as badly—I just don’t express myself with such vehement aggression.
Veins pop in Ryke’s neck, his face reddening as he shouts and points at Julian, who starts to scream back.
“You don’t know shit about that girl!” Ryke yells.
“And you do, right?!”
“Fuck you!” is Ryke’s only response.
This has turned into a moron battle. Fists would be more appropriate right now. But the only thing keeping Ryke from laying into Julian is Loren who stands between them, a human barrier.
I don’t even try to calm him down. A deep part of me just wants Ryke to hit him.
“Sorry, man,” Julian taunts as their voices lower. “You should have started dating her a year ago when she was single. You can have her when I’m done.”
A foul taste rises in my mouth.
Lo glares at Julian like the world shifted without his consent. “What the f**k did you just say?”
Ryke wears pure darkness in his eyes, nothing else. His muscles flex the longer he has to withstand this guy.
“He can have her when I’m done,” Julian repeats. “I can give you the exact date. I’ll need about three hours on February 20th of next year. Then you can have her. Mark your calendar.”
February 20th. Her eighteenth birthday.
And right as Lo is about to move out of the way and unleash his pissed off brother, the backdoor opens. Lily steps outside, wearing Rose’s black fur coat that swallows her skinny frame. Everyone stays tense, but no one makes a move to hit Julian in front of her.
“Hey, guys.” She shuffles to our group as we go silent. She notices the strain between the guys, and she quickly slides in the middle of Lo and Julian to try to diminish the prospect of a fight.
The girls are clever.
“Rose and Daisy want to play a game.” She tucks her hair behind her ear. “A drinking game though.”
Ryke peels his gaze off Julian and stares down at her. “The three of us don’t f**king drink, so how does that work?” He gestures to Lily and Lo.
Lily shrugs. “I think we should participate somehow. It’ll be fun.”
I chime in, “You three can play the strip version.”
Lo lets out a short laugh. “Always trying to get me nak*d.”
My lips rise.
“Oh, and Rose wants to talk to you,” Lily nods to Julian.
“Great,” Julian says with added sarcasm. He even rolls his eyes, probably wishing he stayed home. He leaves our group and Ryke loses his chance to lay a fist into him.
Lo watches Julian disappear inside. “That was the first time I didn’t warn a guy to protect his balls before talking to Rose.”
“That’s because we all hope she crushes them,” Ryke says roughly.
I remember how delicately she held my c*ck for the first time, and I try my best to hide my smile into my next sip of wine.
I know her better than anyone.
[ 26 ]
We’ve switched games three times to help Lily, but she’s still losing. Luckily before we started she layered on clothes in her bedroom, waddling out like a little snowman. She even stuck my bobby pins in her hair and has been throwing them off as a “clothing” item.
She’s down to a sweater and pajama pants without any accessory to fling off, and Scott refuses to switch to another game this time.
I’m a little tipsy, but nothing like Daisy who stumbles around the kitchen trying to find a bag of marshmallows for the fireplace.
“She’s going to hurt herself,” I say, but when I stand to help, everything spins. Okay, I’ve definitely surpassed tipsy. I plop right back down on the couch and try to recover. Maybe no one noticed.
“You okay, Rose?” Loren asks with a knowing look.
Connor combs his fingers through my hair, which feels so damn good that I forget to snap back at Lily’s boyfriend.
“Hey, stay away from the f**king knives!” Ryke yells angrily as Daisy clatters around. He’s about to shoot up from the couch opposite of us, but Julian, her real boyfriend, beats him to it, sauntering into the kitchen.
After I lectured Julian about statutory rape and sodomy, he’s been pretty much exactly the same: dismissive and lackadaisical. It’s really f**king annoying. I tried to capitalize on cutting off his balls during our talk, and he just shrugged at me. I swear he was seconds from patting my head like I was a little girl.
Connor saved him from the wrath of my purse. I could have hit him over the head with it. But Connor drew me away and distracted me with a promise of something new tonight in bed. Although he never specified what new entailed. So I’m left to guess.
Connor’s hand falls to my neck, and he rubs the bareness of my skin with his finger and thumb. I lean into him, snubbing the couch cushion which was warm from my back. But he feels much better, my buzz tingling my body.
Scott refills everyone’s empty shots that line a log coffee table. A bear-fur rug covers the hardwood, and flannel blankets drape over the chilly brown leather furniture. Ryke keeps stoking the fire so no one grows cold. It’s nice. All of us here. Even Savannah and Ben have relaxed in the kitchen with drinks while Brett singlehandedly films our game.
I hiccup and touch my lips. I think the last game we played was designed to get us wasted. Only problem is that Daisy and I weigh less than the guys playing. Ergo, we are getting f**ked up faster. The game we’ve chosen now, Never Have I Ever, targets the most experienced person in the room, which means Lily is at a serious disadvantage. I should be winning, but Lily and Loren use phrases like “Never have I ever made an A on a math test.”
I turn to my less-than-tipsy boyfriend. Despite how much wine he consumes, he never gets drunk. “How many shots have you taken?”
“Less than you.” Translation: He’s winning.
“Who’s next?” Scott asks. He’s been the game pusher all night. I think he has his eyes set on Lily, trying to get her nak*d or nearly nak*d in front of everyone. She sits on Loren’s lap, looking petrified to continue a game without another bobby pin to remove.