“Parker wouldn’t be visiting Nikki with just talking in mind,” Troy commented, and hell if Gabe didn’t already know that.

Lucian was quiet as he focused on one of the ornate chairs Gabe had finished, but still needed to paint. “Yeah,” he murmured.

Gabe frowned, sensing there was more. “What?”

A long moment passed. “I don’t know.” Lucian tossed his empty bottle. “Probably nothing, but there was this thing that happened. Forgot about it until just now. Shit.”

“Details?” Gabe turned to his brother.

“I think Nikki was around seventeen? She was in the pool house. I didn’t know she was out there. Not at first.” He paused. “Anyway, I’d gone in to grab a towel.”

Gabe stilled.

“I walked in and Parker was in there with Nikki. She was just in a towel—”

“What the fuck?” Gabe exploded. How in the hell was this the first time he was hearing this?

“Yeah.” Lucian dragged a hand through his hair and let it fall. “He said he’d just walked in, like a few seconds before me, and that was possible. I’d gone into the house to get changed and just came back out to go to the pool house. Nikki didn’t say anything to me. She looked embarrassed, but . . .”

“But what?” Troy leaned forward, dropping both feet onto the floor.

“But it didn’t sit right with me.” Lucian’s jaw worked. “When I asked him afterward about him being in there, he’d sworn he was only there for seconds. I told him to stay away from her at that point. I don’t think anything happened. I mean, I feel like Nikki would’ve said something, but I . . . yeah, I wish I’d done more.”

“Like knocking him the fuck out?” Troy asked. “Because I have a hard time believing it was just seconds he was in there. Shit. You walk in on a girl who’s in a towel and you’re not supposed to be in there? You turn into the Flash and get the hell out of there.”

Gabe was barely hearing what they were saying. He didn’t know about this. Had something happened in the pool house? And he remembered how Nikki had reacted earlier to his accusing her of throwing herself at Parker. There was no mistaking the shock and disgust and . . . and something else he’d seen in her eyes.


Troy didn’t stay long, wanting to get back to his wife, and Gabe figured Lucian would be right behind him since it seemed like he didn’t spend more than a few hours apart from Julia.

Lucian didn’t leave, though. He took Troy’s seat, kicking his legs up on the workbench Gabe was leaning against. “How’ve you been?” he asked. “We haven’t really gotten a chance to talk after . . . everything happened.”

Gabe smirked. “Probably best, all things considered.”

“Except more shit kept happening,” Lucian replied, rocking his feet. “Everything with Emma—”

“Don’t want to talk about Emma,” he cut Lucian off.

“Maybe you should,” his brother said softly.

Jaw hardening, he picked up the chisel he’d been working with and walked it over to the table. Talking about Emma—damn, thinking about Emma always ended the same way.

Drinking about his weight in scotch.

He didn’t want to spend the night like that.

“I know it’s a no-fly zone for you, but you got to get that shit out of you.” He paused. “Or you’ll end up like Dev.”

Gabe snorted as he tossed the chisel on the table. Some days he wished he was more like Dev, who was about as caring as a rattlesnake with its head chopped off.

“I know something’s up. You wouldn’t be here on a Saturday night if there weren’t,” Lucian continued. “You’d be at the Red Stallion, finding yourself a woman to spend the night with. Maybe two.”

He faced his brother. “Are you playing therapist tonight?”

Lucian grinned. “What’s going on? You don’t keep me in the dark. Maybe Dev. But not me.”

That was true. There were few secrets between him and Lucian. He walked over to the stool he’d been using and dropped onto it, running his hands over his face. He needed to keep his mouth shut. That was the best thing to do, but he knew his brother. He’d end up annoying the living fuck out of him until he told him what was up.

He exhaled heavily, letting his hands hang between his knees. “It has to do with Nic.”

Surprise flickered across Lucian’s face. “It does?”

“Something happened between us.”

Lucian’s stare sharpened. A heartbeat passed. “What happened between you two?” A terse pause. “And when?”

Letting his head fall back, Gabe stretched his back. “Fuck. I can’t believe I’m even going to talk about this.”

“Whatever it is, you better get talking, because my head is going in a lot of different places.”

He lowered his chin. “It’s probably going in the right direction.”

Lucian’s eyes widened slightly and then he murmured, “Shit.”

Threading his fingers together, he did something he never thought he would ever do—told someone else the story of that night. “Right before Nic left for college, she came to the house. Her parents had already left for the evening, and I have no idea where you and Dev were, but you guys weren’t there. I’d been drinking. A lot that night. I was drunk but honest? I would’ve let her in anyway. It wasn’t the first time she came to my apartment. It was different, though. It was at night.”

Lucian became very, very still.

“I let her in, and I don’t know how it happened,” he said, closing his eyes. That was a mistake, because what he did remember from that night came back in flashes. Teasing her like he normally would. Then her telling him that she was going to miss him when she left for college. At some point she started to cry when she talked about not seeing him, and he’d hugged her. Somehow, and he couldn’t even figure out how, she ended up in his lap . . . and then under him. “But it happened.”

“I’m assuming that by it, you mean you two hugged it out?”

Gabe barked out a short laugh, but it was without humor. “We had sex.”

The only other time Gabe had seen his brother shocked was when they’d learned the truth about their mother and father. This was the second time he’d seen Lucian shocked into silence.

Lucian pulled his feet off the bench, dropping them heavily to the floor. His mouth opened, but he didn’t speak.

He needed to keep going. “When I woke up hours later and she was in my bed, at first, I had no clue—” He cut himself off, swallowing. “I flipped the fuck out on her. Nic bailed out of there so fast, and the first time I’d seen her since that night was when she showed up to work.”

“Fuck,” Lucian said.

“Yeah. That about sums it up.”

Lucian stared at him. “I’m actually at a loss for words. That never happens.”

“That’s not making me feel better about this.”

“Not trying to make you feel better.” Lucian shook his head. “She was eighteen when she left for college, right?”

“Yes. But that doesn’t make a—”

“Bullshit. That makes a difference. Not a huge one, but it makes a difference.” His jaw worked. “You were drunk?”

“I was shit-faced. Nic swears she didn’t realize how drunk I was and I . . . I believe her.”

His brother blinked slowly. “Exactly how drunk were you that you ended up having sex with Livie and Richard’s eighteen-year-old daughter?”

“Drunk enough to not care,” he replied honestly, and fuck, saying it out loud was like some kind of weight lifted from his shoulders. He hadn’t been an unwilling participant. Honest? He’d been willing. “That’s how drunk.”

“Shit, man.” Lucian leaned back. “And you and Nic talked about this?”

“Last week when I saw her. I was pissed. She never gave me a chance to talk to her about it before. And I tried. Called her. Texted her after she left, to make sure she was okay—”


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