I woke up with my cheek pressed to Tyler’s shoulder, our legs tangled beneath the comforter. My shorts had ridden up and my hair was in tangles, splaying out on the pillow behind me. Tyler’s arm laid across my middle, his fingers dancing across my waist. I sighed, breathing in his scent.
“You’re finally awake,” Tyler mumbled.
I lifted my head. His eyes were just barely open, staring at the ceiling and breathing deeply. Patting his bare chest, I leaned up to kiss his jaw.
“How long have you been up?” I asked.
His eyes fell shut, leaning his head against mine. “About an hour.”
I rolled my eyes as well as I could—I felt exhausted. “You should’ve gone for something to eat. What time is it?” I swiveled to check the nightstand. The alarm clock read ten after two. “Damn, we slept a long time.”
“Correction,” Tyler smiled. “You slept a long time.”
I snorted. “Fine, smart ass. You should’ve woken me up.”
“You’re cute when you sleep,” he commented. “It’s a nice contrast from your usual aura.”
I slapped his chest lightly. “Aura. Stop using your smart words on me.”
He shrugged. “You’re smarter than you give yourself credit for. If only you’d stuck with school.” He tsked at me.
“Whatever,” I brushed him off. “Haven’t you heard of online classes?”
“I have,” he answered, squeezing my side. “And you wouldn’t take them even if you wanted to.”
I pushed away from him, rolling off the bed and onto my feet. Tyler’s t-shirt fell to mid-thigh on me, covering most of the loose fitting shorts I had on. My feet were bare and cold against the floor as I tiptoed over to the drawer filled with my clothes and tugged on a pair of socks.
“Is it bad that you’re right?” I asked half-heartedly. To be honest, I didn’t care. I could live without going to a building where you sat for eight hours of the day and learned absolutely nothing. ‘Education’ was overrated, even if all I had to do was sit at a computer.
Tyler laughed. “Only a little.”
I pulled on a cardigan, not bothering to match the rest of my ensemble. It hung a little longer than my shirt, and kept my arms warm. Turning back to Tyler, I blew him a kiss.
“I’m getting something to eat,” I said.
He nodded, sitting up and swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. I held up a hand, shaking my head.
“I’ll get you something.”
He rolled his eyes at me. “I’m not crippled.”
“I know,” I answered. I shrugged. “Sorry I wanted to be nice. I was coming right back up anyway.”
Tyler smiled. “Fine. You know what I like.”
I returned the grin. “Yes I do.” My legs carried me to the door. “I love you,” I told him as I slid out into the hall. I barely heard his reply through the crack in the doorframe as I made my way to the stairs.
Peter and Chloe were at the dining room table, Bella sat on her dad’s lap while Chloe slowly fed her food from a jar. I grimaced at the mossy looking mush, brushing past them and into the kitchen.
“It lives,” Peter commented in my direction. I shot him a glare before reaching up into the cupboard above the sink. “What time did you all get back last night?”
“This morning,” I corrected him. Pulling down a box of cereal, I shifted to the next set of cabinets for two bowls. “We drove around for a little bit, celebrating—one, maybe? We made bank, you know. There was enough in three duffels to last us half a year.” I turned to Peter and Chloe. “Jason is loaded.”
Chloe nodded. “I could’ve told you that. Half the girls I go to school with talk about him and his gang. They’ve probably all been with the whole group once or twice.”
I snorted. “Has his way with the girls, I take it.”
I poured cereal into both bowls, then replaced it in the cupboard and shifted to the fridge. Peter and Chloe broke off into a side conversation as I pulled the milk onto the counter, filling both bowls to the brim. Tyler always liked extra sugar in his bowl, and marshmallows on top of it. I had no idea how he’d even figured out putting just regular marshmallows in cereal was good, but he’d done it for as long as I could remember.
I added his two toppings and turned back to Chloe with a spoon in my hand. “How long are you and Baby Bella staying?” I took a bite into my cereal, waiting for her answer.
“We’re going to wait this one out with grandma,” Chloe mumbled in a high voice, directed at Bella. She poked Bella’s stomach, making her giggle wildly. Chloe turned to me. “I’ll probably head over and see what it’s like around seven, but knowing my mother, we’ll probably be here for the next week.”
I nodded, smiling widely at Bella. “And I am okay with that.”
She giggled and clapped her hands together. Peter struggled to keep a hold of her as she bounced up and down on his leg, and Chloe rolled her eyes. She set Bella’s food down on the dining table and grabbed for her daughter, blowing on her stomach.
“Did Miss Phoebe come down and ruin your lunch time?” she growled playfully. Bella screamed, making me wince.
“Sorry Chlo, didn’t mean to,” I apologized, reaching back for mine and Tyler’s bowls of cereal.
Chloe waved me off. “It’s fine. She wasn’t eating well anyway. I think this little girl is starting to teethe.”
I tsked. “Good luck with that, BB.”
I walked back through the kitchen and dining room, then up the stairs and into Tyler’s room. He was sprawled out on the bed, shirtless and eyes closed. My eyes trailed along his muscled torso, smiling to myself. That boy was mine, and I loved him for it.
I tiptoed over to the bed, leaning over him to place a kiss in the center of his chest. I felt him stiffen, surprised by me, and I smiled against his skin.
“Time to get up,” I mumbled, standing up and looking at his tired face. He groaned, making me roll his eyes. “Come on. Let’s go.”
Tyler pulled himself up, accepting the bowl of cereal I handed him. “Thanks, Babe.”
I blew him a kiss. “All for you, Love.”
The corner of his mouth tugged upward and his arm reached out to snag me waist. I yelped as my feet slipped against the floor, stumbling forward with my bowl gripped tightly in my hand.
“Careful!” I scolded, frowning at him. “This is a full bowl.”
“Boo hoo,” Tyler mocked. “I can clean my sheets if it spills. You would get to help.”
“If it gets on me, I have to shower.” I pushed away from him, finding a place on the mattress next to him. His arm looped around my waist and I leaned into him, stirring my spoon in my bowl.
“I could always help with that, too.”
I smacked a hand against his chest. “Stop it,” I laughed.
“Mmm,” he mumbled into my neck, sending a chill up my spine. “I think you need a shower. I can join you.”
I scoffed at him. “Thanks, asshole. I just took one when we got back. And when I shower, I shower alone.”
“You’re no fun,” Tyler pouted at me.
“And I intend to keep it that way.”
We spent the next twenty minutes eating small bits of cereal at a time, teasing each other back and forth. Somewhere in the next three hours, our bowls ended up on the floor and we ended up on the bed, my legs curled with Tyler’s and my arms wrapped around his torso. His lips were pressed against my temple, mumbling short answers as we just talked about everything and about nothing. Before we knew it, it was ten o’clock and we were both starving.
“We had a pajama day,” I stated as I lifted myself from the bed, Tyler following after. I stooped to grab our cereal bowls from earlier, then lead him out the door.
“We had a comfy day,” he corrected.
I hummed in agreement, my feet tapping lightly against the stairs as we made our way down. Peter, Chloe, and Bella were no longer at the table. The whole main level was empty except for Emmett and Markus in the living room, just off from the kitchen. I shuffled over toward the sink and set the bowls in, running a little water to rinse them out.
“What are we having for dinner?” Tyler asked, running his hands from my shoulders down to my hips, squeezing lightly.
I turned my head to raise my eyebrows at him. “I don’t know, Ty. What are we having?”
He pulled his expression into a smile. “Whatever you want, Babe. I’m all for it.”
“I want some of whatever’s going on the stove,” Emmett called from the other room.
I rolled my eyes as Markus chimed in as well, asking me to make various dishes. Being the only girl in our immediate group, I was also the designated cook whenever we didn’t eat freezer food or order in.
“Maybe I’ll just give you all food poisoning instead,” I suggested, not entirely kidding. Tyler let go of me, backing away with his hands in the air.
“I just wanted some of your delicious food.”
“You’re such a kiss ass,” I scoffed. I felt his hand brush against my butt and I swatted it away. “Not the time.”
Tyler placed a kiss on my cheek. “If you don’t want to make something, I’ll go grab some fast food or something.”
I wrinkled my nose. “I think I’ll make something.”
My hands drifted to the cupboard doors, tugging them open to look at what was inside. A couple packets of seasonings were lined up next to cans of various vegetables I insisted on getting. I knew there was some raw chicken in the fridge, and my mouth spread into a smile.
“How does chicken sound?” I turned to Tyler.
He nodded quickly, stealing a kiss. “Sounds great. I’ll be in the other room.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but he was already gone. I rolled my eyes and huffed a breath.
My feet carried me to the other side of the kitchen, where I turned on the oven and pulled a pan out of the drawer beside it. I then took the meat out of the fridge and spread it out onto the pan, humming to myself as I washed my hands and got out a can of Green Giant corn. The oven went off a few minutes later, and I slid the pan of chicken in.
I let out a long breath as I leaned against the counter, wiping my hands on a clean rag. My eyes drifted closed, breathing in the smell of cooking. I honestly loved cooking, no matter how much I denied it. The boys all knew it too, and I knew they took advantage of it for a warm meal a few times a week.
“Whatever you’ve got going on in there smells great,” Sam’s voice said from the dining room.
“It’s chicken,” I turned to face him, grinning. “It’ll be ready in about seven minutes.”
He snapped his fingers. “And I’ll be with the guys.”
Sam brushed past and into the living room, joining in on whatever the others had going on. They let out long bursts of laughter every so often, but when I peeked in they were just gathered around the coffee table in the middle of the room. Probably an extremely casual game of poker, seeing as they could all get way too serious over a real one.
I walked back to the vegetable can I’d pulled out and pulled the top open. I found a bowl and poured it into that, adding a serving spoon and walking it over to the dining table. After I’d fixed the chairs a little, I set out plates and forks at each place. The one thing that had to happen when I cooked was the boys eating at the table. It just added a nice touch to the meal—a sense of home, kind of. They’d never objected to it, so it’d stood for the past few years.
The timer on the oven started to go off and I hurried into the kitchen and pulled out the pan. I reached into a cupboard for a bag of seasoning, tearing it with my teeth and dusting the chicken. Using oven mitts as a heat pad, I set the pan in the middle of the dining table and brushed my hands together.
“Alright, guys,” I called. “Let’s eat.”
All four of them filed in, grabbing drinks before sitting in their usual spots—Tyler next to me, Sam across the table and next to Emmett, and Markus at the head. Tyler set a glass of water in front of me, kissing my cheek before reaching for my hand under the table.
“This looks great,” Tyler remarked. Several sounds of agreement came from the others, and my cheeks warmed.
“Just eat already,” I hurried them. Another one of my rules was that I always got my food last. It just felt right to provide for others before myself. “I’m starving.”
They all dealt food onto their plates, and we were soon eating quietly. I felt like a proud mother to see people enjoying my food, and was satisfied when their plates were cleared.
I started to gather up dishes when the garage door started to open. We could always hear it throughout the house, so it wasn’t a surprise it was so loud. I glanced around the dining room before shuffling into the kitchen with a handful of plates.
“Is that Pete?” My eyebrows pulled together as I counted heads. “Did he take Chloe home?”
I was met with several shrugs as the garage door stopped running. My hand pulled on the faucet knobs, running water over the dirty plates I’d placed in the sink. I was sorting the silverware from plates when the door in the kitchen leading to the garage burst open, making me jump.
“Jesus, Pete!” I shouted, turning off the water. “Calm down with the—“
My head turned, catching the face of who’d come in the door, and froze instantly. The fork in my hand dropped as I almost heard the guys behind me tense. My heart pounded heavily, taking in the sharp jaw and hard set eyes of Jason McCann.
“Surprise,” he sneered, his hand tight on the gun in his palm.
Everything happened in a blur.
Before I knew what was happening, three of Jason’s guys were through the door and spreading out into the room. All held guns at least twice the size I’d been given last night. Sam and Tyler were beside me even faster, Tyler’s hand grasping my forearm tightly as he pulled me back toward the dining room. Emmett and Markus shifted to the front, closest to Jason and his guys. I recognized one to be the boy Sam and Markus had taken out at the warehouse.
“What are you doing here?” Markus nearly growled, his fists clenching tightly.
Jason shifted his weight to his right hip, a casual smile across his face. “I was just in the neighborhood—thought I’d stop by.”
“Cut the shit, Jason,” Emmett spat, his whole body shaking as the muscles in his back tightened.
Jason’s expression hardened and his posture straightened. “Fine. You want real? Here it is.”
Before I could blink, he raised his arm and pulled the trigger on his gun. My eyes squeezed shut as drywall dust sprayed everywhere. I cringed as the gunshot made my ears ring, cowering into Tyler’s side. He was so tense that it felt like I was leaning against a brick wall.
“What the hell!” Sam shouted, closest to where the hole had been blown in the wall.
“You stole my shit,” Jason stated, letting his arm fall. “And a lot of it.”
Markus laughed, but it sounded more like a growl. “As if you’d miss it anyway. From what we saw, it looked like you’d been stealing our pot for months!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jason replied with a pensive expression. “All I have is from my guy.”
“Your guy must be loaded as hell,” Sam snapped. “He probably takes it from ours.”
“I don’t know where he gets it,” he replied, his hand tightening around his gun. “And I don’t care. What’s mine is mine.”
Emmett and Markus exchanged glances. “You’ve got more than enough,” Emmett said. “What’s in that warehouse could last you a year easy.”
Jason’s jaw clenched. “Yeah, and I want my six-month’s reassurance.”
Tyler’s arm tugged me back as Jason’s gun started to raise. I stepped back with him, but only slightly.
“You need to go upstairs,” he hissed a whisper in my ear. “Now.”
I moved slowly, trying not to alarm anyone of my departure. Tyler slowly released me, my arm cold where his hand had been, hot from being flustered.
“Put the gun down and let’s settle this the right way,” Markus suggested calmly.
“You knocked out one of my guys and stole thousands of dollars worth of weed,” Jason snarled, keeping his arm ready to fire.
My legs slowly moved me back. I was almost to the stairs.
“Put down the gun, Jason,” Markus said again. “Then we’ll talk.”
I could see the resistance in Jason’s expression, but slowly his gun lowered. His guys relaxed a little as well, but didn’t take both hands off of their weapons.
“Thank you,” Markus spoke up. “Now what exactly do you want?”
“What do you think I want?” Jason sneered.
“Beats me, asshole,” Markus shot back, his fists clenched. “I can’t exactly read your mind, and I don’t think I’d want to.” Jason scoffed, shifting his weight. “Do you want your shit back?”
Tyler turned his head, his expression almost annoyed to still find me standing on the main level. He waved his hand, telling me to leave. I glanced behind me—the stairs were only about a meter away, but I shot Tyler a look.
“Honestly, I don’t care about any of what you took,” Jason answered Markus. “It’s the principle—you took what I have, so now I take what you have.”
Sam turned toward me, his jaw clenching as his eyes caught mine. His expression told me to leave. I gave him a look that told him I was on it, and to relax. Markus seemed to have everything under control.
“What do you want then?” Markus pressed. I could tell he was getting anxious; I’d only ever heard of Markus getting overly agitated when Jason had something to do with whatever was going on. “We’ve got money and we’ve got pot. Take your pick.”
Jason shook his head, waving his gun at Markus and Emmett. They both tensed as the barrel grazed over their forms, making Jason’s mouth twitch upward. “Neither.”
"I have nothing else to offer you," Markus barked through gritted teeth, his fists clenched hard at his sides.
Jason shook his head, chuckling. "I only want one thing, and it's in this room," he sneered.
My brother took a step toward me, trying to push me toward the stairs. Jason's eyes flashed over and caught mine, a glint in his eye while a shiver went down my spine. My heart began to pound, unsettled by his expression.
"What do you want?" Markus asked, impatient, seemingly unaware of where Jason’s eyes were.
Jason's head nodded in my direction. I froze and the room fell deafeningly silent.
"I want her."