“They’re going to pulverize you,” I warned with the hem of Shawn’s shirt gripped between my fingers. We were standing on the sidelines of my front yard while my brothers waited impatiently on the grass for my boyfriend—like a pack of killer whales waiting for its prey to dive into the water.
“I know,” Shawn agreed, unpeeling my fingers from his clothes one by one. A soft kiss on my cheek, and then he added, “Let them get it over with, okay?”
I gnawed on my lip, but let him dive into the infested waters. And I watched my brothers eat him alive. I cringed every five seconds while my dad watched approvingly from beside me, his broad arms crossed over his even broader chest.
Fifteen minutes in, when Shawn finally intercepted the ball and took off toward the end zone, I bounced onto the toes of my feet and screamed for him to GO, GO, GO. I was waving imaginary pompoms down the field, jumping on an invisible trampoline, when Mason charged at him and landed a vicious shoulder to the ribs. Shawn went airborne, his feet flying out from under him, before landing in a curled-up heap. I had just put one boot in front of the other, prepared to tackle my six-foot-three, two-hundred-forty-pound brother to the ground, when Shawn rolled onto his side and held up a hand for me to stay where I was. I froze, my hard eyes narrowed viciously at Mason while he hovered over Shawn and smiled.
“I think maybe we should call a doctor,” he taunted while Shawn gripped his ribs and struggled to catch the wind that had been knocked out of him. “What do you say, Kit?” Mason’s voice boomed from across the yard, and not one of our other brothers stepped in to help. “Should we wait six years to call?”
Everyone watched as Shawn coughed and writhed, and I was two seconds from showing Mason how deadly my combat boots could be—when his hand dropped in front of Shawn’s face. I watched as Shawn took it, I watched as Mason lifted him to his feet, and I watched as every single Larson on the field that day landed an elbow or a knee or a well-placed shoulder. By the time I drove Shawn home that night, he was in no physical condition to be even sitting up straight. I cast a worried glance at him from the driver’s seat of my Jeep, the light of passing cars chasing away the shadows on his face.
“I think they like me,” he joked, and the only reason I could laugh is because I understood my brothers well enough to understand that they did like him. They beat the shit out of him, but they helped him back to his feet every time, and the fact that he was still breathing had to count for something. It was their way of making things right.
Shawn’s body was still achy from that game when he came to the next family dinner, and the next. My brothers chided him about how tender his bruises still were—just like they would tease each other—and even though Kale was the slowest to come around, eventually he stopped narrowing his eyes at Shawn from down the table.
“You really do love him,” he said to me quietly just before we left last Sunday.
Instead of denying it, I pulled away from our hug and smiled. Aside from my psychotic break during that unforgettable family dinner, I hadn’t said the words yet—neither had Shawn—but I felt them. I felt them when he smiled at me, when he held me, when he made me laugh. And I felt them when he did none of those things. I felt them all the time.
I expected Kale to shake his head or scowl or twist his lip between his teeth, but instead, he gave me a small smile—just a little one, but one that I remember perfectly as I stand under Mayhem’s blue glow with my elbow on the bar, directing that same smile at him and Leti. I always imagined what it would be like to see Kale with a boyfriend, but I never imagined he would seem so . . . peaceful. Content.
He turns around, Leti leans into him, and I blush when my twin’s hands find my third-best friend’s waist, holding it tight as he steals a kiss that makes my ears blush.
“You guys are disgusting.”
Joel’s voice snags my attention, and when I turn to him, he’s busy watching Shawn’s fingers curl round and around in my hair. Since we came out as a couple, Shawn has made no secret that he and I are together—that I’m his, that he’s mine. His hands are always on me, always grazing or holding or touching, and while I would never have thought I’d like that so much . . . it’s Shawn, and I’m starving for the roughness of his fingertips when they’re not somewhere on me. I angle my chin to grin at him standing behind me. “I think he’s jealous.”
Shawn smiles down at me, his green eyes content as he continues playing with my hair. “Probably because Dee makes him sleep on the couch all the time.”
“I like sleeping on the couch,” Joel protests, and Dee quirks a perfectly shaped eyebrow into her perfectly powdered forehead.
God, those two are still a mess. Fighting and making up, fighting and making up. I swear they do it just for the make-up sex, which Joel always brags about and—if Dee’s constant antagonizing is any indication—she enjoys just as much.
Joel scrambles for a save. “I mean . . . I mean, no. No. I hate it. Seriously hate it.”
I chuckle against Shawn’s chest when Dee mutters something about making Joel sleep in the tub from now on, and Joel smirks at her before whispering something in her ear that I thank God I can’t hear. Shawn’s arms circle around my waist, tugging me tighter as I melt against him.
“I’m nervous about the show tonight.”
I turn in his arms and wind my arms behind his neck, my nose scrunching up at him. “You’re never nervous.”