A decision was made. I saw it. She came to some conclusion.
Her chin lifted higher. “Screw it. I’m going to tell you everything—”
She swore before whipping around. Her whole body tensed. “Molly. Hello.” Her tone was guarded. Her chin went from determined to bracing.
A woman in a yellow dress was coming toward us, holding two flute glasses and wearing a large white hat. The hat was a third of the woman’s weight. It could’ve toppled her over, but she kept coming with a graceful smile on her face. When she stopped in front of us, wide, blue eyes ignored Summer and were transfixed on me. She was a stunning woman, but the term airhead seemed appropriate to describe her.
She wouldn’t hold a candle to Helen or Malinda or even Analise.
“You must be Samantha.” She thrust both of the flute glasses to Summer, saying, “Here, dear. I brought you each a mimosa.” As soon as her hands were clear, she reached for me. “I have to give you a hug. I have heard so much about you from Sharon. She’s raved about how beautiful you are, and she wasn’t exaggerating. You, my dear,” she held me in front of her, enraptured, “are just stunning. Absolutely stunning. Summer mentioned you were pretty, but she didn’t do you justice. You look so much like Garrett. I’m in shock.”
That snapped me out of it. My eyes went flat. “I’m nothing like him.” I rolled my arms, loosening her hold on me, and I stepped back. “Not to be rude.”
She didn’t look offended. Her smile only increased. “Yes. You have the same fighting spirit as him, too. I can see it in you. You’re so much stronger than Summer here. Summer, dear, you should be taking lessons from your roommate. I can’t help but be charmed by you, Samantha. I’m so glad that Summer finally invited you to our family dinner.”
Finally? I threw Summer a look. Finally?
She wasn’t looking. Her eyes were fixed on something in the distance. Her throat trembled. I got the impression she was fighting back tears. A wave of remorse rolled through me—no, forget that. She lied to me.
She was Garrett’s goddaughter.
That was enough to bring back the anger. Once it clicked back into place, I felt safe again, and I said, “Well…” I searched for words. There were none. I wanted to get out of there. “I’m leaving. What’s your address?”
“I’m going to call a cab.”
“What?” She asked Summer, “Did you do something to upset her?”
Summer sucked in a breath and let it out, her cheeks flaming red, “You, woman, are a piece of work. You know why I haven’t been able to tell her the truth. You guys even approved, telling him it would all be worth it.” She pointed at me. “It’s not worth it. She’s upset! And Garrett’s here. I heard her yelling. He hadn’t even told her about her little sister until today. She has every right to be angry.”
I have a sister coming?
Summer and Molly were snapping at each other, but their voices went away to the distance for me. I couldn’t believe it. A sister. He said a baby, but I hadn’t really thought about it. Another excuse. That was all I’d heard. Another excuse for his absence, but now…it was seeping in.
The corner of my lip twitched. I was going to be a big sister. A real sibling, with my same blood, I closed my eyes, not one from Analise.
Garrett was whatever he was. Distracted, forgetful, neglectful—I didn’t know. But he wasn’t Analise. That child wouldn’t have what I had—my mother.
Good for her. Relief poured through me at the thought of what my sister would be saved from.
My little sister got a shot at a good family with two parents. A lump formed in my throat, and I swallowed it, shoving it down. Garrett would be a good dad. My jaw firmed. I was going to make sure he would be.
It was him, and I pulled myself out of my reverie.
He stood to the side, frowning fiercely at me. “I’m sorry that I haven’t called. I really am.”
Molly sighed, grabbing ahold of Summer’s arm.
He continued, “I didn’t grow up in a family where phone calls were a common occurrence. It’s not an excuse. It’s just…I don’t think about calling because I’m an idiotic father, and I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s not worth much, but I wanted you to know that I didn’t not call on purpose. Well, I did, but it wasn’t to hurt you or keep you out of the loop. We didn’t know at first. Sharon didn’t want to say anything. Miscarriages run in her family. She said she’d probably lose the baby, so I didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. Then, she did.”
He blinked rapidly. Some moisture built up in the corner of his eye.
He ignored it. “It hit us harder than we’d thought. It hit me harder than I’d thought, but we kept trying, and it happened almost immediately. The second one…we thought we were good to go. I called David, but you were on a run. He told me you were getting ready to go to Cain University. It was a month before or maybe more than a month. He told me when you were moving there and everything. I was going to surprise you and help you move in, but I wanted to wait again. I wanted to be sure to have good news for you, but we lost the second one.” His voice grew hoarse.
His emotion was thick. I felt my own rising up, blocking my vocal cords.
“I didn’t show up. I meant to. David thought I would be there, but I wasn’t, and I’m sorry for that. I was mourning, and that’s no excuse. I’ve been messing up nonstop since I found out about you, but with this one…”
His head hung down. The charismatic and charming Garrett that I’d witnessed at times morphed into an unsure little boy. He was vulnerable, and he’d meant every word he said.
I held my breath. I hoped he’d meant every word. It meant he was flawed, not intentionally a fuck-up.
I shook my head. What was I doing? But a sister…I was going to be a big sister.
He started to speak, but I cut in, “You can’t not call anymore.”
He looked back up. A shine of tears was on his eyelids, ready to spill. He cleared his throat. “What?”
“You have to call. Once a week.”
He wiped at the corner of his eye. “I know. I got an earful from Sharon when she found out I hadn’t been calling you. She’d thought I had. Her mama bear stuff has been coming out with you, too.”
I cursed in my head. I knew, after hearing that, that I would be getting another mother in my life. A wary chuckle left me. I didn’t know how I was going to handle any of this, but a sister…I never thought about it.
I asked, “Is she here?”
“No.” He gestured to Molly and Summer, both dabbing at the corners of their eyes. “She said I needed to make things right by myself. She’d sweep in and smother you with kisses. She’s been waiting for a long time, but now, with the baby, there’s no holding her back anymore. She was going to find you whether or not I made things right today with you.”
Mama Malinda would approve.
A small grin was on my face. I didn’t try to hold it back. “I’m still so pissed at you, but…” I pressed my lips together. “A little sister?”
“Yeah.” A proud expression crossed his features. “I got lucky. Two daughters now.”
“Do you have a name picked out?”
“Ah!” Molly stuck her fingers in her ears and turned away. “I don’t want to hear. Sharon didn’t want anyone to know.”
Summer groaned. “Oh my god. I’m sorry. Here, we’ll go in the back.” She searched my face, taking hold of her stepmother’s elbow. “This was part of the reason I didn’t say anything. We all knew he wanted to tell you himself. I am sorry for deceiving you.”
I waited until they were out of earshot before murmuring, “You’re really close to Summer’s family?”
“What?” Garrett was grinning from ear to ear. “Oh, yeah, I am. She really hasn’t said a word?”
I shook my head. “Not a word.”
“Wow. She said she’d keep quiet, but I didn’t think she really would. She’s a good goddaughter. She’s excited about little Seb.”
A car door sounded behind me. I heard it in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t paying attention. “You’re naming her Seb?”
Garrett laughed. “No, no. Sabrina, but her nickname will be Seb. Sharon’s already calling her that. We’re not quite out of the first trimester, but I knew I needed to let you know what was going on. I mean, we’re hoping you’ll be her godmother.”
More emotion. More tears.
My heart was melting.
I coughed, trying to clear some of the pressure weighing on my chest. “Of course.”
The door opened behind me.
I was going to be a godmother. My word. I knew my smile was spread from cheek to cheek. I couldn’t wait to tell Mason and Logan.
A male voice sounded behind me.
“Uncle Garrett, I forgot you were coming today.”
A sickening feeling took root.
Garrett laughed and reached around me to shake a hand. “I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It’s your birthday. Plus,” he clasped me to him, bringing me around to face who I already knew it was, “I can finally introduce you to my daughter. Samantha.”
I wanted to vomit.
Garrett introduced, “This is my godson, Sebastian.”
Looking down at me, his eyes laughing at me, was Park Sebastian. One corner of his mouth lifted into a cocky smirk and he drawled, “Happy birthday to me.”
I punched Sebastian.
My hand was in a fist, and I was swinging before I realized what I was doing. When I did, I swung harder. I glared at him, silently daring him to do something about it.
Sebastian kept staring right back at me.
I’d made contact with his cheek, and a red spot was already forming, but he hadn’t done anything. He hadn’t flinched. He hadn’t hissed. He hadn’t stepped back. He took the hit and never broken eye contact with me.
Well, if he was going for scary…I thought about doing it again.
He must’ve sensed my intent. He warned, “Don’t you dare.”
I huffed out, “Really?” And I swung again. I didn’t care about the girls-can’t-hit-guys-because-they-can’t-fight-back rule. That was bullshit.
Park Sebastian deserved all the punches he got.
I stopped, my arm in mid swing, and let it fall back to my side. I’d forgotten Garrett was there.
He looked shocked. His eyes were arched high, and his head was craned backward. “What are you doing? You can’t hit people.”
I rounded on him. “You use cars, dude. They use fists. One grossly outweighs the other. You can defend yourself against a hand. You can’t against an oncoming car.”
“Wait—” Garrett’s head was swiveling between us. Back and forth. Back and forth.
“Really? What about a house being burned down? What did I do that was worse than that?” Sebastian shoved his face forward, right into mine. He stopped with barely an inch separating us. “He took my house away. My house. That was everything to me.”
“You tried to take his future away.”
“No.” He laughed, and it sent a chill through me. “His future isn’t his career. Oh, no. Someone else is his future, and you’re damn right. I—” He stopped. His eyes went wide, and a look of panic flared there before he jerked backward. He raked a hand over his head. “Shit. I…” He shook his head. “I didn’t mean that, Samantha. I didn’t. I’m sorry.”
Someone else. I didn’t need two guesses to know that I’d been right this whole time. He wanted to hurt Mason via me. I was that ‘someone else.’ I held my hands up and started around him. “I’ve heard enough. All you did was confirm my suspicion.”
Garrett asked, “What just happened?”
I shoved out the door, the second one for the day, and stalked down the driveway. Whatever. I’d get to the street, walk to an intersection, and phone a cab from there.
I was around the first bend when Summer started shouting behind me, “Sam! Sam!”
I clipped my head from side to side. I wasn’t having it.
Her feet pounded on the pavement, running behind me.
My teeth ground against each other as she came to my side. I could feel her caution, and I snapped, “Don’t! You lied to me.” Screw it. If we’re going to do this, it might as well be when I am heated.
She stopped, her face pale. One of her hands lifted, as if to ward me off, but she let it fall slowly back down. “I did.”
“He’s your brother. Your fucking brother.”
She winced. “Okay. One, he’s not my fucking brother. He’s my brother. That word makes it sound gross and twisted. He’s my brother. That’s it.”
“You have different last names.”
“I took our mom’s maiden name, and he kept our dad’s last name. If you haven’t figured it out, I’m not close to my dad or his family. I can’t stand Molly, and most days, I can’t stand Parker either.”
“Parker?” I snorted in disgust. “Is that like a reverse nickname you have for him? Instead of shortening the name, you add to it?” My top lip curled up. “How unfucking cute.”
She reared back and cursed. “I knew you’d be mad, but you’re not holding any punches.”
“I don’t have to!” That was enough. My hands formed fists, and I kept them tight against my sides. They dug into me the more I talked. “You lied to me. Did you know who I was the whole time?”
She didn’t respond, not at first. Then, a quiet, “Yes,” came from her.
My hands flew up. I knew it. “What was the plan? Were you supposed to spy on me? My god.” A new and so horrifying thought came to me. “Were we even supposed to be roommates? Did Sebastian do something to switch our roommates? I got my dorm assignment late.” My gut clenched. I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. “Was that because of your brother?”
Again, there was no answer.
The guilt was there. I knew enough.
I shook my head. “I can’t believe you. I can’t believe any of it.”
“Yes. Okay?” A new frenzied plea was in her voice as she surged toward me. “He didn’t inform me about the feud. I had to see it for myself, that first day of classes. When I saw how you guys reacted to him, I knew something was up. I already really liked you, so I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to lose a potentially great roommate.
“When I cornered him at the house the next week, he told me everything. It was why he hadn’t shown up on moving day. He was supposed to help me move in. He explained everything, talked about how Mason burned down his fraternity house, and how he started a fight and beat up a bunch of his brothers.
“I don’t know what my brother’s done, but I’m guessing he’s done something. He claims that he hasn’t, but I’m not an idiot. I love my brother, but I’m not blind to the things he’s capable of. I know he can be ruthless, and I begged him to leave it all alone. He said he would, and then Logan crashed his party and started a massive brawl.”
“Logan did?” A harsh laugh ripped from me. “Really? Sebastian went to the trouble of making us roommates, of planting a spy in my own room? You think your brother was going to drop everything, but it’s Logan’s fault. It’s because Logan crashed a party and started a fight. That’s why your brother won’t drop this whole thing?”
My hands were up. My eyes were bulging out. My face felt hot, so it must’ve been red all over. I wanted to grab ahold of my hair and try to pull it out.
Instead, I yelled, “Are you an idiot?”
She jumped back, startled. Her eyebrows bunched together.