I was feeling pissy.
Rome could tell, I knew, but thankfully,
he didn’t try to distract me or talk me out of it. It wouldn’t have worked
anyway. Sometimes a guy just felt pissed.
Okay. Sometimes I just felt pissed.
I hefted the last of the girls’ shit
down the stairs and out into the driveway. Why women needed so much stuff I had
no idea. I mean, hell, they walked around in tiny-ass bikinis all week, not
like they needed the fifty pounds of crap they brought with them. Except for
Rim, of course. She had one bag, one full-coverage swimsuit, and one thankful
“That everything?” Romeo asked when
Trent and I handed over the last of the haul.
“I hope the hell so,” I replied.
Trent snickered. “Dude, I don’t even
want to know what’s in those bags.”
Rimmel came down the steps with a list
in her hand and stopped beside me. I glanced down to see the checklist the
rental company left of all the things that needed to be taken care of before we
left. “Everything is done,” she stated.
I noted the neat checkmarks beside each
item and smiled. “Only you would find homework on spring break.”
She elbowed me in the gut, and I made a
sound like it hurt. It didn’t, but I didn’t want to make her feel bad. It
wasn’t her fault she was harmless as a fly.
“Sweet. Let’s go, then. The airport is
waiting,” Romeo said.
Trent glanced at the red convertible.
“You sure we’re all gonna fit in there?”
“Like sardines in a can,” I muttered.
“We’ll make it work,” Romeo said.
“Easy for you to say. You’re driving,” I
He gave me the finger.
“I’ll sit in the back because I’m
smaller. One of you guys can take the front,” Rimmel offered.
Technically, we had one person too many
for the car. However, instead of calling a cab or renting anything else, we
were just going to put the extra person in the back. It was illegal, but who
the hell cared?
Missy and Ivy came out the door and
started down the steps. Ivy was moving slow and Missy kept her pace, holding
her arm like she was an old lady with a broken hip.
“Move your ass, Blondie!” I yelled.
“We’re gonna miss our flight.”
“Braeden!” Rimmel scolded me. “She’s
I grunted. “It takes a lot more than a
bottle cap to take that one down.”
From the stairs, Ivy told me to go suck
an egg. I looked back at Rimmel and lifted an eyebrow. “She’s so delicate.”
Rimmel glared at me, and I knew I was
about to get a lecture. God help me. If any other woman tried to lecture me,
I’d tell ‘em to piss off. But Rim was different. She’d somehow gotten her way
in my heart and made a place there. I was really good at keeping women out of
there, but this was different. This wasn’t a romantic type of love; it was
family. She was family.
In my pocket, my cell rang. “Sorry, sis,
I gotta take this,” I said, trying to sound so sad I would miss her
instructions (okay, I didn’t sound sad at all) and pulled it out.
It was my mom.
“Mom,” I answered and turned away from
“Hi, Braeden, honey,” she said. “I’m
just calling to make sure everything is still on schedule with your flight
I was twenty-one years old and my mom
still called to check up on me. She’d probably still do it when I turned fifty.
“We’re heading to the airport now, Mom. Everything’s good.”
“Okay, well, you boys have a safe
flight. And Rimmel, too.”
I expected her to say her usual good-bye
and end the call. But she hesitated.
“Mom?” I intoned. “Is something wrong?”
“Oh, no,” she laughed, but it was
strained. “I just miss you is all.”
“I’ll stop by once I get settled back on
campus.” Or maybe I’d just swing by on the way from the airport. I didn’t like
to think of her sitting around worrying about me. Or being lonely.
She’d wanted me to live at home when I
went to college, and I did freshman year, but I wanted to live in the dorm. I
wanted a little more freedom, some space that was just mine. So I moved on
campus. Sometimes I felt bad about it.
“I’ll look forward to it,” Mom said,
breaking into my thoughts.
“Cool. I gotta go or we’ll be late. I’ll
call you when we land.” I turned back to everyone. Trent was helping Ivy into
the car, his hand on the small of her back.
I shoved the phone back into my pocket
and went to the car. Trent was getting ready to squeeze himself in the backseat
with the girls.
“You want the front, dude?” I asked.
“Nah, you can take it,” he replied.
I slid into the front and spun the hat
on my head so it wasn’t backward anymore and then pulled it low on my forehead.
The inside of this car felt like a pair of jeans with too much ass in them.
I ignored the chattering of everyone in
the back as Romeo pulled away from the house and onto the main road. The vacay
had been a fun time. And last night…
Well, I wasn’t going to think about that
Ten minutes down the road, a bare foot
came up between the seats and rested on the center console between Rome and me.
I glanced over and caught a flash of red polished toes and the edge of a
“Your feet stink,” I snapped.
“Who sprinkled the bitch in your coffee
this morning?” Ivy retorted.
I sat up, leaned around the seat, and
stared at her from beneath my hat. She was in the middle with Missy, poor Rim
squished up against the door, and Trent was on the other side of Ivy. Her hair
was falling around her shoulders and her arms were crossed over her chest.
I felt our eyes connect; even with my
hat partially blocking my gaze, my eyes still found a way to fix on hers. A
shock of awareness jolted me, like a shot of tequila that lit a fire all the
way from my throat to my stomach and then fanned out to coat my limbs.
Ivy’s teeth sank into her lower lip, and
I had an acute memory of sucking it into my mouth and licking over it with my
There was no way she could know what I
was thinking. I gave not one indication. Still, her body tensed and she pulled
back her foot, withdrawing as far away from me as she could.