I’d heard enough and I stormed into the office, glaring at them in disbelief.
“Are you children?” I howled at them. “In grade school? What the hell is wrong with you?”
“You are what’s wrong with us,” Graham spat and I bristled.
“You clearly had problems long before I got here,” I retorted. “But if you want to blame me, Graham, by all means. I’ll be your scapegoat.”
A dead silence followed my accusation and Dan sighed heavily, dropping his head.
“We need to tell her the truth, Graham.”
“Uh yeah,” I countered, folding my arms over my chest. “I think I deserve to know what’s going on.”
The men exchanged looks that were worried and nervous but I was unrelenting.
“If you don’t tell me what’s going on right now, I’m getting out of here. I’d rather brave the snow than deal with this level of crazy.”
Dan raised his head and stared at me.
“Come on,” he sighed. “Let’s take this in the den.”
I could tell that no one wanted me to do this, to explain the painful truth behind my betrayal but Sasha deserved to know what was going on. No one had asked for her to be there. What had happened was a natural progression and we needed to set the record straight before anything went any further.
Of course, it was my fault. Bash, Stevie and Jim may have toed the line but in the end, I was the one who had broken our pact, even if Harry would have done it anyway.
“I’m waiting,” Sasha said curtly and I couldn’t draw it out anymore.
“First of all,” I sighed. “This has nothing to do with you.”
“Yes it does!” Graham countered. “I told you that—”
“Graham shut up!” we all chorused at him and he clamped his mouth closed, gazing at the ground sullenly.
I turned back to Sasha who stared at me expectantly with her vivid blue eyes and I knew what I was going to tell her was going to make her run screaming forever but we had to come clean.
“I think we told you that we were all involved in a bus crash,” I started.
“She knows,” Harry interjected and I gave him a scathing look.
“Can I do this without interruptions?” I demanded. “It’s difficult enough.”
There was a murmur of consensus among the men and I sighed, reclaiming my spot.
“After the accident, Sasha, we grew closer than ever. We had survivor’s guilt and we shared a bond that most people couldn’t understand but it worked for us and we love each other like brothers.”
I met her eyes again and she nodded, her face softening slightly.
“I know you do,” she conceded. “I never wanted to come between you. I just…I just don’t understand why I would.”
“I’m getting there…”
I paused to gather my thoughts.
“We had a friend, a free-spirited girl, not unlike you in many ways.”
“Not as smart,” Stevie offered, casting her a grin and I scowled.
“Sorry,” he muttered. “Go on.”
“Anyway…Collette was the sister to our group and she spent all her time with us. The eight of us did everything together. She was the glue that held us all together and inevitably…we all fell in love with her.”
Understanding colored Sasha’s face.
“She loved us all in her own way but we were all head over heels for her. She didn’t realize what a riff she’d caused, even without trying but we knew that unless we could somehow manage to share her among us, our relationship would fall apart.”
I sighed and looked at my friends. It was easy to see the memory still hurt them as much as it did me.
Or maybe it hurt a lot less now…now that Sasha was here.
“We asked her if she would be willing to love all of us and she refused. She was angry, disgusted with us even though she’d loved us individually. Our hearts were broken and it took us a long time to get our relationships back on track but the first thing we did was vow that we wouldn’t ever get involved with a woman unless she could love us all.”
I smiled mirthlessly.
“I know how that must sound and trust me, we long ago submitted to the idea that we would be childless bachelors.”
“You can’t even have children?”
“No marriage, no children,” I conceded and she gaped at me.
She must think we’re crazy.
“So you see,” I concluded. “I broke the pact when I slept with you.”
Sasha’s mouth opened and closed as if she was wrestling with what to say about that.
After a long moment, she finally spoke.
“So what happens now?” she asked. “You get exiled or executed or…?”
She was being facetious but she wasn’t far off the mark.
“We’ll put it to a vote,” I explain. “When they decide I’ve screwed up, I’ll be sent off this job and suspended indefinitely.”
I looked around at my friends and they all avoided my gaze. I knew exactly how this was going to play out. There was no real point in the vote.