we were behind closed doors. He was getting a front-row seat now. Logan and Mason were scary when they stood against others, but they were downright dangerous when dealing with each other. There was love and a fierce loyalty between them, but they wouldn’t hold back either. This was one of those moments.
I moved forward so I was standing beside Mason. My hand grazed against the back of his, just enough so he knew I was there. He reciprocated by turning his hand to the side. His pinkie wrapped around mine and he squeezed it before letting it go again. “I mean it, Logan. You can take shots against others but not us. What is going on with you?”
“Nothing.” He drank the shot that was intended for me and downed the shots poured for Mason and Mark. “Just nothing.”
“Maybe I should go—” Mark started to say as he began heading for the stairs.
“Oh, no, Mark.” Logan stopped him. There was a savage bite to his tone. “Why would you leave? You’re actually family to Sam now.” He poured another shot and waved it between himself and Mason. “Not like us. We were supposed to be, remember?” His gaze settled on me, and a burning anger was there. “Back in the day when your mom was faking it. She was supposed to marry our dad, and seriously,” a bitter laugh came from him, “I hated your mom. I know Mason did, too. We wanted nothing to do with her. Here you came, right alongside her, and there went all that hatred out the window.”
He stopped and closed his eyes. His head hung down before rearing back up. He downed that shot before continuing, “She brought us you, Sam, but we’re not your family. We’re not your stepbrothers. That’s him now.”
Mark cleared his throat.
Mason let out a soft sigh. “Logan.”
“Just stop, okay?” Logan bit out. “Mark’s her family. You’re going to be her husband one day. Maybe then I’ll officially be family to Sam.”
I narrowed my eyes. Logan was family. This was bullshit. I didn’t believe him for a second, and I didn’t hold back. “You’re such a liar, Logan.” I felt the tension in the air double at my words, but I didn’t care. I knew he was full of shit, and I jerked forward, my chin lifting in a challenge. “What’s really going on?”
“I think I just spelled it ou—”
“You are family,” I cut him off. “You know it. Mason knows it. Everyone in Fallen Crest knows it, so drop the bullshit. What is this really about? My mother?” Wait… “No, your dad. She didn’t marry your dad, not yet, but she took him away.”
And Logan would be off to college after this weekend—when his dad wasn’t here and hadn’t been for an entire year.
I said softly, “That’s what this is about, isn’t it? Your dad.”
Logan’s eyes darkened to a dangerous level. He wanted me to shut up, but he couldn’t say those words to me. I read him when almost no one could read Logan Kade.
I shook my head. “Logan, your dad—”
He bit out, “Is a fucking asshole, but he’s not here, is he? And, yes, Sam, your mom took him away. He’s been at her side for a year now. He’s not here, not for his son’s last year, but I shouldn’t be surprised. He’s never been around. Always gone. Always screwing some woman. Of course, he’d fall in love and actually be the good guy to a psychotic evil woman like Analise Strattan.”
“Logan—” Mason started.
“Don’t even start, Mason. You were so pissed at him and for longer than I was. You’re the one who wanted to beat his ass all the time, not me. Give me this one time when I’m just fed up and spewing some anger out. I mean, why shouldn’t I?” He gestured to Mark, who was plastered against the wall now. “We’re celebrating his mom’s marriage to Sam’s dad. His mom, who is awesome and loving and a better mother in one day than Analise will be in her entire lifetime. I mean, this is great news for Sam. She’s getting a family who will love and support her. Finally, right? Finally. While you and I—we’re stuck with our fucking father.” Logan leveled his brother with a hard look. “You and I, Mase—we’re on the outs. That hug just proved it. Mama Malinda is great, but Sam’s real family is them now, not us.”
That wasn’t true. I started to shake my head, but I was reeling inside. I couldn’t believe he was actually thinking this. “No, Logan.”
He snorted and poured more shots. This time, Mason took one, and he handed one to Mark.
When Mark hesitated, Logan gave him a half grin. “Sorry. None of this was meant as a personal attack. I’m just,” he raked Mark up and down, and his half grin fell slightly, “jealous, I guess. Not an emotion I’m used to feeling.”
Logan nudged the last poured shot my way. “Forget my ramblings. I’ll get over it. What do you say, Sam? It’s your time to celebrate. You got the family you wanted. Finally.”
I glanced at Mason and saw he was torn as well. Logan was jealous, like he’d said. They came from money, but that was the only benefit from their family. It was a broken home. Their dad abandoned them on more than one occasion. It was enough that Mason wasn’t saying a word right now, and I knew it was because he understood his brother’s pain. That hurt so much more, that both of them shared in their abandonment. And they felt I was abandoning them, too, even though they rationally knew I wasn’t.
I squared my shoulders back and grew firm inside. I took the shot and held it up, but I said to Logan, “You.” I looked at Mason. “You.” I skirted between both of them. “You two are my family. My mom left me. My dad left me. You two stuck around and held me up. You are the definition of family to me. No one else can even come close, and this stuff you’re talking about, how I finally have a loving family, is bullshit. You two were it for me for years. You two are it for me, no matter what. Drop the pity act, Logan, and enjoy the fact that Mama Malinda will start buying you Christmas gifts now because that’s the only thing changing. You both are in the family with me. They aren’t accepting only me. They’re accepting you two, too.” I leaned closer, making sure they were watching my eyes and could see the promise I held in there. “Deal with it. No one’s fucking replacing the two of you.”
A look of pride came over Mason as Logan was fighting to hold back a grin, and Mark sighed in relief beside me. I held my glass up, and they raised theirs.
I said, “To fucking family!”
Each of us downed our shots.
Logan grinned as he wagged a finger between Mason and me. He remarked, “In the literal sense for you two.”
No one commented.
The old Logan was back.
My brother was a dick.
After we took our shots and went back to the reception, I knew Logan got inside Sam’s head. This was David and Malinda’s day, but it was Sam’s too. She got a mom. She didn’t need to feel guilty about that, which is what Logan did. He should’ve let it go.
We weren’t being replaced.
Seeing him make a beeline for Heather Jax now, I knew this wasn’t going to end well. His hand was on her arm. He was looking down at her with a cocky smirk on his face and a look in his eyes like he was too cool for her.
Heather didn’t get pulled in by Logan’s tricks, but as her eyes darkened in lust, it was going to happen. She moved in closer. Her lip curved up in a seductive expression. She sucked in her breath, pronouncing her chest out more, and Logan’s gaze fell down, right where she wanted it to be. He wet his lips, and their eyes met again. I saw the look passing between the two.
They both knew where the night was headed. That was when I stepped in. Clasping the back of Logan’s neck, I grinned down at Heather. She jumped back. Her cheeks flushed, and she blinked up at me for a moment.
“Sam’s dancing.” I gave them both a knowing look.
Guilt flared in her eyes, and she looked down. “Oh, yeah. I should go say hi.”
Logan stiffened under my hand.
I was getting the vibe that my brother didn’t care what he was doing. He was going to have his fun with Sam’s best friend. There was no point in keeping
quiet. “You two are going to fuck tonight.”
Logan remained under my hand and his nostrils flared, while Heather bit down on her lip and swung her gaze in Sam’s direction. Neither of them corrected me. She felt bad. Logan didn’t give a shit.
“Jax,” I drew her gaze back to me again, “I’m going to violate my brother code right now.”
Logan sucked in his breath.
I didn’t care. “Logan wants to pound you. He always has, but he’s held back for a few reasons. Sam’s family. It would hurt her friendship with you. He doesn’t love you. You’re not the long-haul girl for him. And the last reason is Channing. However, my brother is not in the right frame of mind. He’s not thinking clearly, and he’s not caring about the consequences right now.”
“Fuck off, Mason.” Logan ripped himself from my hold. “Who gave you the right to play god for us?”
“I don’t have the right, but this is going to hurt Sam.” I looked through the corner of my eye. Heather had stepped back from us. She was thinking, and she was seeing that I was right, but hell, she was in pain too. I saw it there. Channing hurt her.
I added to my brother, “You can’t hurt Sam and definitely not on this day.”
Logan expelled a ragged breath, and he raked a hand through his hair. His head tipped back, and he let out a, “Fuck.”
As if hearing him, even though I knew she couldn’t because of the deejay’s music, Sam turned in our direction. She wore a bright smile on her face, her eyes sparkling and her cheeks were red from laughing. She lifted a hand to wave at us, but saw our faces. It was like watching a sunset falling fast. The liveliness left her. The smile dimmed. Her eyes grew worried, and the redness turned pink as her hand dropped back to her side. Just like that, with one look at us, seeing the storm over all three of us, it was like we’d sucked the life from her.
I gritted my teeth. I said to Heather, “Go and make her happy.” I said to Logan, “You and me—we’re going for a drive.”
Heather started away but stopped at my words. “Um…”
I shook my head. “Tell Sam we’re going on a keg run. We’ll be back in a bit.”
“Okay. Yeah.” She frowned at Logan, but he wasn’t looking at her.
Everything I’d said earlier to Sam was still weighing on my mind. Sebastian was a problem. I needed my brother with me to deal with Sebastian, and Logan was half himself right now. He didn’t fight me, falling in line with me. Both of us weaved our way through the groups. As we got to the parking lot, some people yelled out our names. It was like high school again. Logan and I ignored them and went to my Escalade.
As we started to climb inside, a truck braked right next to us, and a window rolled down.
Nate was grinning at us. He had on a dress shirt with the top unbuttoned, and his hair was spiked up.
Logan grunted out a short laugh. “You sure you left the fraternity, Nate? You’re only missing a crew sweatshirt for your neck. You’d be the image of Yale assholery.”
“Missed you too, Logan.” Nate rolled his eyes and gestured around the lot. “Let me park my baby, and I’ll hop in with you to wherever you’re going.”
I was about to decline, but he headed toward a parking spot. As he did, I glanced to Logan. “I’ll tell him—”
“Let him.” Logan shook his head, letting out a long sigh. He leaned back in his seat, his head falling to the backrest. “I’m the asshole. I’ll get my shit together. I know what you were going to do, and we’ll talk. I promise. I’ll let you know what’s going on, but you’re right. I know you want my head in the game.” He rolled his eyes. “I’ve been an asshole almost all year, but we have Seb-ass-tian to deal with. Monson will have the latest updates on him. We need to hear what he has to say before heading back to the reception.”
I was slightly relieved. “Thank you.”
“I know. I know. Trust me. I want nothing more than to pound Seb-ass-tian’s head in, and it’s game time.” He grinned at me. “You have no idea how boring senior year was. No one to fight. No one to deal with. It was all too easy. Maybe I got bored. Maybe that’s the problem.”
He laughed to himself as Nate climbed into the backseat.
Logan remarked, “Maybe I need a war to get all my demons out.”
“What?” Nate was reaching to shut the door, but he heard Logan’s last statement and froze. “Huh?”
Logan said, “Nothing. You’d better have the latest and greatest on Seb-ass-tian.”
“I do.” Nate leaned forward as I eased out of the parking lot.
The Elite formed in a small crowd outside the door, but I didn’t think they would do anything against Sam while we were gone. Heather was there. It was Sam’s parents’ wedding and Mark was her stepbrother now.
Logan saw the group, too, and met my gaze. We were thinking the same thing.
I murmured, “She’ll be fine. Mark will step in if he has to.”
Nate was talking, but he stopped and looked between us. “What?”
“Nothing. Can you start over? I wasn’t listening,” I said.
“Yes.” He started as I drove away, “Sebastian was allowed to buy a house off campus, but their place is only a block away.”
Logan cursed. “Let me guess. All his roommates are the same douchebags from his fraternity house?”
“No?” Logan’s eyebrows shot up. “That’s surprising.”
“Campus stepped in. They thought the same thing, so they set a rule in place that no more than five members of their fraternity could live in the same place. If they have more, they’re violating the rule and can be expelled. No clue if that’s legit or not, but if they want to be students there, I guess it’s allowed. They can have non-students live there or guys who weren’t members of the fraternity.”
“How many are in the house?” Logan questioned.
“They’re allowed three, and have two more guys who weren’t members of the fraternity.”
“Well,” Logan snorted, “that’s something.”
“They’re a block off campus?”
Nate nodded. “None of the members are allowed to live on campus unless they’re in the dorms.”
I knew the rules. I’d been there at the hearing when they were instated, but Sebastian had connections. He had money, too. Those rules could’ve been bent from last spring until now.
“Good,” I said. This was good. Cain U was enforcing their policies.
Logan was watching me. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking Sebastian is waiting for us to come back. He’s getting all his ducks in a row, and when we’re in place, he’ll start again.”
“You think?” Nate was looking between the two of us, his hands dangling over the sides of our seats. “So much damage has happened.”
Not to me. That was the bottom line.
I shook my head. “Sebastian wants to hurt me, and it hasn’t happened yet. He hit Marissa in the hit-and-run and when they jumped me, I hurt them more than they hurt me.”
Logan grunted. “Prick. Prick. Prick. He’s a super prick…in my asshole.”
Nate and I paused, glanced at Logan, and then skipped over that one.
I said, “Sebastian always gets his way. He pushes people around to do what he wants, and I didn’t do what he wanted. He wanted to control me, and I said no. Every time he’s tried to hurt me, it hasn’t worked.” I sighed. “I don’t want Sam to be a part of this. At all.”
Logan and Nate gazed at me.
Nate nodded, saying, “Fine with me.”
Logan frowned, narrowing his eyes. “She is a part of this.”
“Not this. Not this war. She’s out.”
“He’ll go after her anyway.”
“We can’t include her in this. That means all talk about Sebastian, anything we do against him—she can’t know about it. If she’s involved with anything, we’re giving him an excuse to hurt her. I know it sounds ridiculou
s, but if we separate her from this, he might not focus on her as much.” I was wishing, but I had to try something.
I gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles. My brother had no idea how dangerous this would be for her. “This will be her freshman year. I want her to have some semblance of a normal year. New friends, dorm room, feeling lost—that bullshit.”
A grin teased at the corners of Logan’s mouth. “Sometimes I forget how much of a softie you are inside. If that’s what you want, that’s what we’ll do, but first, can we stop at that liquor store? I really do want to get some booze.”