Rival Page 17

He leaned down, hovering over Jax, whose forearms rested on his knees, and he did nothing more than c**k his head, welcoming whatever Liam was bringing.

“Leave him alone, Liam.” K.C.’s deep command surprised me, and I peered around her boyfriend to see a fire in her eyes that wasn’t there before.

Liam ignored her and threatened Jax under his breath. “She’s mine.”

“Only until I start trying,” Jax shot back.

And we all did a piss-poor job hiding our smiles as Liam marched off the patio, following K.C.

One thing I knew right then and there. I might hate Madoc, but I loved his friends.

CHAPTER 7

MADOC

I was going to throttle her.

Not the girl at my feet whose neck I imagined was Fallon’s as I tried not to strangle it but Fallon herself.

The chick walked around my party as if this was her house, and she had friends here. She and Tate were acting like they were besties already, and Jax was smiling and chatting her up. Next thing I knew Jared was going to be talking shop about her motorbike or some shit.

What was her game? Why come home willingly after so long when she practically ran from here two years ago? She was only going to be here a week. What was she doing?

“Who is that?”

Taylor, the girl sitting between my legs, had turned around and was questioning me. She looked over at Fallon and then back at me, and I realized that I’d been staring.

Not good.

I flashed a smile, trying to appear cocky. “Someone who likes to watch, I guess.”

Fallon had been staring, too. We’d been locked in for who knew how long, and I was hoping no one had noticed.

I did a quick sideways glance around the fire. Jared was whispering in Tate’s ear, while she nuzzled into him, and everyone else was deep in conversation.

“Get lost, honey.” My date, Taylor, snickered in Fallon’s direction.

“You’re in the middle of a party, honey.” Fallon mimicked Taylor’s fake sweetness. “Get a room.”

Taylor made a move to get up, but I put my hands on her shoulders, gently pushing her back down.

Taylor wasn’t a wallflower. She acted catty, but she had the guts to back it up, too.

“It’s okay.” The rumble of a laugh began in my throat, but my tone rang true. “Fallon likes to cause trouble. Don’t let her draw you in.”

Fallon’s green eyes burned across the fire, and I waited for a reaction I thought for sure would come. She always spat something back.

“You should watch who you invite to your parties, Madoc.” Taylor leaned her back into the seat of the chair, relaxing again.

“I didn’t invite her,” I replied. “I feel sorry for her, though. She doesn’t have many friends.”

Taylor laughed. “Yeah, her clothes will only get her enemies.”

“Madoc, what the hell—” Tate started but got cut off.

“It’s okay, Tate.” Fallon sat up straight and pushed her glasses to the top of her head. The audience around the fire pit had grown as quiet as a graveyard.

Fallon continued. “We learned in school that bullies abuse others because they feel bad about themselves. They’re hurting.” She brought up her knees and locked her arms around them, her tone light and taunting. “We shouldn’t be mad. We should pity them. Madoc has never had to make a real decision in his entire life, which means he’s never had anything real. This house, the cars, the money. It’s all an illusion. It’s like parading a victory when you missed the war.” She took a breath and whispered slowly. “Madoc has no idea who he is.”

Something gripped my heart, and it felt like it was spreading across my chest and down my arms. I let the fake amusement in my eyes seep out toward her, but I didn’t feel the humor.

Fallon had always been so stubborn. Always. She spouted off and said shit that she didn’t think about all in an effort to look tough.

But now it was different. More calculated. She’d thought about me. Assessed me. And anticipated my reactions.

“You’re right, Fallon.” I looked down at the beer in my hand, swirling the brown liquid in the cup. Letting out a condescending sigh, I took out my phone, gesturing. “But I also know that if I call my parents right now, they’ll both answer. My mom would fly here on a moment’s notice if I needed her, and my dad isn’t hiding from wiretaps or indictments. I also have friends I wouldn’t trade for any of this shit.” I waved my hand, referring to the estate. “And I do have something else going for me.”

I grinned as big as my face would allow and popped up, draining my beer. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone, knowing they were all watching anyway.

Don’t do it.

Tossing my cup to the side, I ran down the stone steps to the lower-level deck and circled the pool to where the music was playing near the patio doors to the house. “I can sing.” The sky flashed with lightning as I got ready.

Clicking to one of my workout playlists, I opened an Offspring song—perfect for this occasion—and grabbed a water bottle to use as a microphone.

The lyrics started before the music, and I was ready. With a couple of small changes, of course. Offspring’s “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” gave me only a second to catch my breath, because the lyrics started before the music.

“My dad’s got a wife!” I belted, standing up on the edge of the Jacuzzi. “Man, he hates that bitch!” Everyone spun around to face me.

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