“You chose me. Or don’t you remember that?” He hadn’t uttered a single syllable during the entire cab ride, but the minute we’re back in our apartment, I find myself pressed against the back of the door, one hand pinned above my head, the other one Marc now presses to his chest, right over his heart which is currently beating like the thunder of hooves. “You said you never felt it, in here, for him.” Pressing my hand flat to his chest, he holds it there while I listen to the bones in my hand being crushed into a fine powder.
“Marc you’re hurting me,” I whisper, looking at our clasped hands, at how small my hand looks in his, something I’d normally find comforting, that would normally make me feel safe but now makes me feel vulnerable. Cursing under his breath, he lets go of me all at once and turns and stomps to the centre of the room where he falls into the couch and mutters something under his breath that I don’t need to hear to know that it isn’t good. Rubbing my wrists, I look around the room for somewhere to sit that’s not exactly right by him. Not because I’m scared of him. That’s the largest display of temper I’ve ever seen out of Marc, I just don’t really feel like sharing his space right now.
So I perch on the edge of one of the dark leather chairs that’s ninety degrees from where he’s sitting but when I reach for the remote, he makes a face and rolls his eyes.
“What?” I ask, trying my best to keep my voice even and calm. He is my redhead and though it might not be obvious to others, it’s crystal clear to me when sparks are snapping at the end of every single flame coloured hair on his head.
“So we’re not even going to talk about this?” he snarls, still staring straight ahead as he gnaws at the end of his thumb. Not a good sign. An even worse sign is the way one knee starts bounce up and down in quick, jerky movements; so not a good sign.
“I wish I knew what you’re talking about,” I reply, aiming the remote at the television again, only to have him pounce, jerking it from my hand and tossing it behind him. I listen to it skid across the hard wood floor and just for a moment I let myself wonder under which piece of furniture I’ll have to go looking for it later. Yeah, it’s a river and it’s called denial, I know.
“Tonight...you and Jordan...,” he gnashes his teeth as he leans into my personal space, his sea blue eyes blazing as he searches my expression for some sign that I know where he’s going with this. For the record, I do, I just don’t want to go there. Obviously aggravated by my silence, Marc pushes himself back up to his full, very intimidating height and holds his arms out at his sides and manages to look angry and helpless at the same time. “Fuck Kensey, you were flirting with him like some kind of puck fuck!” He stares at me, waiting for me to argue, and I have every intention of doing so, except I know that he’s not done. Not when he gets that look on his face where his eyes are wide and he looks like he’s just had his favourite hockey stick broken. I’ve seen that look, but usually it’s aimed at Eric or Jared, hardly ever Jordan and never me. “You swore to me...you said it was just a summer thing, an experiment. You swore it meant nothing. You said this meant everything to you, that we meant everything...more than anything, more than the band.” Exasperated he turns his back on me and I’m left curled in the chair, watching his enormous shoulders move up and down as he tries to force himself breathe slowly.
“Aside from Daze, you know Jordan is my best friend,” I begin but that’s the wrong answer, clearly.
“No, Kens, I’m your best friend, or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he cries, pivoting on his heel until he’s facing me, leaning in again until his hot breath blasts my face, his big hands with their long fingers gripping the arms of the chair, making me scootch back in it until I feel like a cornered mouse. “Why are we getting married if you don’t think that?” he adds, his aquamarine blue eyes searching mine for an answer to a question I’ve never even contemplated.
“You said you wouldn’t make me choose,” I whisper back at him, because I don’t know how to answer him and because it’s the only thing that’s important to me and not because I want my cake and to eat it too but because I’ve never wanted this. I’ve never wanted to come in between any of the brothers. I know it’s a battle I’ll never win.
“And you promised me that what happened...you said it didn’t mean anything Kensey...you said...,” he closes his eyes and furrows his brow and then sinks to his knees in front of me, like letting the air out of one of those giant balloons in the Macy’s Day Parade.
“We’re always like that, you know that,” I tell him, running my fingers through the fine strawberry blonde hair on his head like I’ve seen his mother do a thousand times. She calls it soothing the beast.
“Not like that, Kens,” he says quietly, his forehead resting on my knee, his voice muffled but strained. “And he’s never brought that up before,” he adds, rolling his head to the side until he’s looking up at me, hurt and fear in his eyes. “Why tonight? Why did that come up tonight?” I shake my head but I know that it’s not answer enough as he shuts his eyes and sighs like I’ve disappointed him. “There has to be a reason Kens. We both know Jordan doesn’t use his ammo unless he has a reason.”
I nod but I don’t give voice to the first answer that comes to mind, because I’d only been with two men, both Staals and I’ve never compared them. I wouldn’t. It would be like comparing oil and water, chalk and cheese. But now I’ve been with three men and one of them is not his brother but his friend and somehow that’s changed everything, for me, for him, for all of us.
“You know Jordan is a law unto himself. He gets in a bad mood and everybody pays,” I whisper, brushing my fingers through his hair and doing my best to lie with my eyes. It’s seems as if it’s the lie Marc wants to hear or is at least willing to tolerate for the moment. The briefest shadow of a smile plays at the corner of his lips and he reaches for my other hand and laces his long fingers in mine.
“Maybe I’m jumping at shadows,” he offers and I know when he says it that he doesn’t believe it any more than I do but I smile encouragingly and let him pull my hand to his lips. “You still choose me, right?” he asks, sounding like the younger, less self assured Marc of the summer before he left for the Big Apple, worried about leaving me behind.
“You know I do,” I reply and give him my very best ‘ready for my close up’ smile and it’s enough.
“I’m sorry for losing it, for overreacting” he sighs, getting to his feet and pulling me up after him and into his arms. I let myself relax into him and the familiar feel of his long arms wrapping around me. “I just...I think I’d be lost without you.”
“You’re pacing. You know I hate it when you do that.”
Tyler doesn’t so much as glance away from the screen as he races through the channels, not stopping for more than a second or two at each one. Normally that would be reason enough for me to tackle him and take the clicker away but tonight I have other things on my mind, namely Kensey and why Jordy is pacing like a caged tiger.
“I’m worried about Kens,” he mutters, turning on his heel and heading in the opposite direction.
“And you think wearing a hole in the carpet is going to fix that?” TK asks, settling on MTV because Katy Perry is on and he has a thing for her. He figures if she’s into a guy that looks like Russell Brand then he might have a chance.
“So why don’t you call if you’re that worried?” I ask but Jordan only shakes his head.
“Because if Marc answers...,” he shrugs his broad shoulders and goes back to pacing. TK and I both watch him for a bit, because Katy’s videos over now and we don’t have to watch Coldplay to enjoy them.
“So there is something going on with you two.” Flower and Tanger both shoot me the kind of dirty look that says don’t go there but I’m still pissed off that she didn’t even give me so much of a glance. I have my pride.
“No.” Gronk looks at me I’ve just said the stupidest thing in the world and out of the corner of my eye I catch Tanger giving me that ‘told you so’ look.
“Then what’s with the wearing out the carpet thing?” I ask, ignoring the kick that TK aims at my leg. “Oh come on, you want to know too.”
“Il n’a pas besoin de tu dire quoi que ce soit,” Tanger hisses, not looking up from his blackberry. He’s probably texting Becky about how I’ve been a prick all night. She’ll give me a disapproving look the minute I pull into the driveway and maybe I’ll deserve it, but if I’m going to get it then I decide I’m going to fucking earn it too.
“Did you fuck her?” The room goes silent, the kind of silence that makes everyone afraid to look you in the eye so everyone stares at the floor or the TV but not at me and definitely not at Jordan. But Jordan does look at me and he’s wearing the kind of scowl that he usually only wears right before he rides someone head first into the stanchion beside the bench in an obvious attempt to send them to the dentist or better yet directly to emergency.
“What the fuck did you say?” TK clears his throat in an attempt to either distract the big blonde ape, which I’m guessing that while Ty is fairly brave and not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, or to suggest that I shut my big mouth, which is far more likely. Not to be deterred, I ask again.
“I asked if you fucked her, because that would explain why you’re acting like a jealous boyfriend right now.” Flower actually gasps. He really is the best of us. Well maybe Johnny too but then they’re both whipped, so they have that in common.
“Ce qui ne va pas avec tu ce soir?” Flower hisses at me, looking imploringly at me from underneath his bangs like maybe if he looks directly at me he’ll burst into flame or something.
“I just asked a question,” I reply without taking my eyes off the cleft chinned boy wonder who stares daggers back at me. His silence speaks volumes. “It’s kind of a simple yes or no thing.”
“Max, don’t,” Tanger growls at me, but I really don’t care about his opinion right now.
“Yeah Max, don’t,” Jordan repeats with no trace of his usual jovial nature. “I almost had a fight with my brother tonight. I really don’t want to fight with you, but I will, if you keep pushing it.”
I’m not asleep when my phone lights up and starts vibrating across my nightstand. With a glance toward the sleeping form beside me, I grab my phone and my robe and tip toe out of the bedroom.
It’s a text from Jordan; simple and to the point: R U OK? Pulling my robe on and leaning against the cool wall, I send him a simple reply: I’M FINE. Not good, not great, just fine. Jordan and I know each other well enough that a few simple words say as much as a mouthful.
His reply comes back predictably quickly: CAN I CALL? I may have a recording contract with Roadrunner but Jordan, at twenty two, is already a millionaire like his two older brothers. None of them will let me spend my money if they can spend their own. Shaking my head, I hit the speed dial that is his cell and head further into the apartment.
“You’re okay? And I don’t just mean you and Marc.” No ‘hello’. No ‘how are you’ are any of the rest of that pedestrian small talk. We don’t need that. I can’t remember the last time we did. “Are you and Marc okay?” he asks before I even get a chance to address the first question, which is fine by me because I didn’t really have an answer for it anyway and I completely ignore the query that I think I hear behind the question.
“For now,” I reply, curling up on the end of the couch and pulling my robe closer around me. The floor is cold and so is the leather sofa. I pull a cozy dark blue and red Ranger’s throw from the back of the couch and wrap myself up in it. “You probably shouldn’t have thrown that in his face. That definitely didn’t help.” Jordan sighs on the other end of the line and I picture him grimacing, the way he does when he misses a shot or gets nothing but air on it.
“I was just pissed. I hate to see him treat you like that, like you’re just a fucking piece of property,” he says and I vaguely hear a thump in the background, a sound I recognize as a tennis ball hitting the wall. It’s not only tennis players and Labrador Retrievers that use them and it’s definitely no accident that professional athletes have excellent hand eye coordination. It’s also something Jordan does when he’s stressing over something.
“You know that was just an aberration though right? You know Marc is never like that.” I know when I say it that Jordan’s going to make that noise that’s the caveman equivalent of ‘I call bullshit on that’ which makes me wonder if I sound like one of those battered women, defending her man to the limit of credibility.
“The boys know,” he says suddenly and quickly, as if he’s ripping off a band-aid, as though if he says it fast enough it won’t scare me quite so much. I don’t want to ask because I don’t want to know the answer, but I feel like I have to as if, somehow, not having it confirmed would be worse.
“You told them...about us?” The utter lack of sound on the other end of the line is Jordan’s version of trying to hide. My brain starts to throb in my skull. “Shit, Jordan.”
“Well it was more like Max guessed,” he added, tossing about half a shaker of salt into the wound. I dropped my forehead onto my knees and groaned. “I know. I mean...I didn’t outright say it, you know? I didn’t say yes or no but....”
“But you didn’t exactly say no, did you?” I mumble, wishing very much that the couch will turn into a sinkhole that sends me tumbling toward the centre of the earth, never to be found again. “Well I guess the silver lining of that will be that Max probably won’t want to sleep with me again,” I add doing my best to turn lemons into lemonade.
“Yuck,” Jordan laughs and I can almost see his grin from here. “Don’t talk to me about that. I can’t believe you even touched him.”
“Oh but I had to listen to you go on and on about...what’s her name? That girl who likes to put you in handcuffs?” I shudder as I think of the morning Max had posted a photo on Jordan’s facebook wall of him handcuffed to a bed in a strange hotel room, his chest dotted with red candle wax.
“Trina.” Jordy says her name in a way that makes me picture him shaking his head and laughing. “I haven’t seen her in...well, I don’t how long but it feels like forever,” he explains light-heartedly, as if he hadn’t told me how she’d turned down his offers to get serious, to be exclusive over and over again.
“Oh.” It’s all I can come up with and I cringe as I realize how happy it sounds when I say it. “Oh well, now you can get out there and go bunny hunting with Max and TK,” I suggest only to have Jordy snigger at my suggestion.
“No thanks,” he replies with a sigh. “If I do anything I think I’ll just...I think I might stay single for a while.” I want to tell him not to, that he’s a great catch and that there’s someone out there for him, give him the whole plenty of fish in the sea speech but the creak of a floorboard somewhere behind me makes my heart leap into my throat.
“I’ve...I have to go back to bed and you should get some sleep too,” I tell him hastily.
“Yeah, I’m actually tired but I wanted to check on you. You sure you’re okay, that everything’s okay?” he asks and I can now hear footsteps behind me.
“Yeah, all good, totally good. Okay, so, get some rest, talk to you later, luv ya bye bye.” I snap my phone shut just in time to feel Marc’s hands on my shoulders. He digs them into my Trapezius muscles and I close my eyes and let out a groan.
“Who was that?” he asks, his voice a low rumble in my ear before he presses his lips to my cheek.
“Oh, just Daze,” I lie and then wonder why I did. “I guess we left her at the club without saying goodbye,” I add and I know it’s true because she texted me a while ago to say so. Somehow it makes me feel better to have been truthful about something.
“Daze can look after herself,” he says simply as he digs his long fingers into my shoulders.
“She’s our friend Marc. It’s not nice to just take off on her,” I mumble, hanging my head forward so that he doesn’t see how I cringe every time something comes out of my mouth. It’s like I can’t stop myself from picking a fight with him.
“Are you saying she didn’t go back to the hotel with the Pens boys to continue the party?” he asks, sounding amused. I frown. It’s like he doesn’t know Daisy at all.
“No, she didn’t and she wouldn’t.” I know what she looks like but I also know her heart and how closely she guards it and the morals and values she has; the ones we used to share. I’m not so sure about my soul anymore. “I’m sorry...I’m tired...I don’t mean to be so bitchy,” I apologize, putting my hand over his. I feel his fingers curl around mine and I automatically feel better. Leaning back I look up into his blue eyes and reach up with my other hand to trace the sharp line of his strong jaw. “Take me to bed and hold me?”“I’ll do more than that,” he promises with a playful grin as he offers me a hand up. I almost say something about preferring ice cream but instead I keep my mouth shut, smile and let him take me to bed.