Rival Page 37

The stream of water hit me in the face, and Jared released my neck to shield his head from the cold attack while I rolled off of him. We wiped the water out of our eyes and sat up, glaring at the hose-man until we noticed it was Mr. Brandt. And he looked pissed. His khaki shorts were splattered with water, and he had grease stains on his White Sox T-shirt.

“Your parents are seeing each other.” He spoke low, a hundred- pound weight in every word. “Worst case scenario they break up. Best-case scenario, you’re stepbrothers.”

“So?” I blurted without the good sense to shut up.

He threw down the hose and yelled, “So what are you fighting about?”

I swallowed, my mouth gone dry.

Yeah, I forgot about that part. Jared and Jax were already my brothers as far as I was concerned, but having our families connected like that might be pretty cool.

Unless the marriage didn’t work out. Which with my father’s history was damn well possible.

But on the other hand, his marriages probably failed because of his affair with Jared’s mom. Now that they could be together, it might be forever.

“I don’t know,” I mumbled.

Standing up, I couldn’t look at any of them, but I knew they were all looking at me. Why the hell did I attack my best friend? I had called his mother a slut, for crying out loud.

All of Jared’s shit while Tate was in France came back. He’d missed her. He’d loved her, even though he hadn’t known it then. And he had been withering away without her. He fought. He drank. He screwed.

And none of it made him feel any better.

So why was I screwing up my life for a chick I didn’t even love? Who didn’t even deserve my attention?

I could understand Jared losing control of himself for Tate. She was a good girl, and she fought for him. And when that didn’t work, she fought against him. She never stopped showing him that she was there.

But Fallon wasn’t Tate. She wasn’t even in the same league.

All of this was so stupid. I had no reason to go off the rails just because she popped back into town and f**ked with me again.

Holding out my hand, I was relieved when Jared took it. I helped him up, hoping he took that as an apology. Jared and I didn’t need to get all girly. He knew I f**ked up, and he knew that I knew it.

“Oh, look.” I smirked. “Fixing your car again? That’s a Ford for you.”

And I walked to my GTO, hearing Tate’s snort behind me.



My father’s house had been fairly empty when I arrived two weeks ago. That was exactly what I’d been looking for. While some people craved distraction and noise, I craved quiet country roads and no one talking to me. The seventy-five-hundred-square-foot brick estate sat in a private cul-de-sac and was another example of a rich shit spending his money on something he rarely used.

Okay, my dad wasn’t really a rich shit. Well, kind of. But I still loved him.

The house went for three million dollars, and when I questioned him about why he got a house when he could have gotten an apartment in the city, he gave me a geography lesson on why America is so well positioned from the rest of the world.

“Before the invention of rockets and nuclear weapons that could fly long distances,” he’d said, “it was very hard for any nation to attack this country. We’re strategically positioned between two oceans with friendly allies to the north and south. And let’s face it”—he lowered his voice to a whisper—“even if they weren’t friendly, we’re not really scared of Canada or Mexico anyway. Everywhere else, you have possible enemies surrounding you. Europe is a war strategist’s nightmare. Enemies can invade at any time, or threaten your buffer states. To attack America, one would have to sail over an ocean or fly a long distance. That’s why the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. They wouldn’t have had the fuel to get to the mainland. So . . .” He set the Shirley Temple he’d made down in front of me. “I pay to put a nice big buffer of land around my family and me, so I can see my enemies coming before they’re at my door.”

By that point I knew what my father did for a living, and while I knew it was wrong, I never hated him for it. I hated that he made me stay with my mother so much, and I hated that there were long periods when I didn’t see him, but he trusted me and always spoke to me like an adult. He always used big words and never held my hand crossing streets. He taught me things and expected the best from me.

To my thinking, when someone gave out their compliments and good opinions rarely, they meant more. My father was the only person on the planet whose respect and regard I cared about protecting.

“So did you get what you want?” He strolled into the kitchen as I sat at the granite-top island working on my laptop.

No “hi” or “how are you,” but I was used to it. I hadn’t seen him in a month, and he’d just arrived in town today.

“Yes, I did,” I replied, not looking up from my work as he went to the refrigerator.

“And your mother?” He plucked a frosted glass out of the freezer and went to the Guinness tap.

“Still AWOL. But she’ll show up soon enough to contest the divorce, I’m sure.”

I didn’t know why he was asking me about this. I had sent him an e-mail, letting him know everything was on schedule. He’d never been totally on board with my plan for a little revenge against those who had betrayed me, but he’d let me make my own choices and done what he could to help.

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