He was also having a hell of a time not thinking about what went down in that God-awful cabin. Fuck. What in the hell had he been thinking? Kissing Maddie—again? He glanced at Mitch and could almost feel his balls being castrated. And he’d deserve it. With his reputation, Chase was sure that Mitch wouldn’t be too pleased to know Chase had molested his sister. Though Mitch had never outright condemned the idea—hell, several times he’d actually suggested Chase and Maddie get together—there was no way that was going to happen. And he doubted Mitch would be so supportive if it became reality and one took into consideration Chase’s track record with women and the DNA he shared with his father. Mitch’s suggestions weren’t a green light.
Folding his arms, he ran his gaze over the sea of faces laughing and drinking around him.
There she was, by the benches. She had to be on her fourth glass of wine by now due to the amount of empty ones sitting around her, and if she was still anything like he remembered, this was going to be a long, albeit interesting, night.
Little freaking Maddie…
When he’d kissed her earlier… God, he didn’t know a more responsive woman. The way she arched into him… The breathy feminine sound she made had nearly undone him, and that had been his wake-up call, but she had been so damn hot.
She was still too damn hot.
Chase widened his stance, biting back a growl. What had happened this afternoon, like what had happened that night in his club, had been a mistake. A mistake he enjoyed, but something that couldn’t happen again. That was his best friend’s sister…
Who was now standing on a bench, a half-empty wineglass hanging from her slender fingers as she swayed her hips to the light thrum of music coming from inside.
One of Mitch’s work buddies stood below her, grinning like he just won the fucking lottery or something. Or, as she raised her arms and her body moved in sensual curves to the rhythm of the music, the guy was thinking his chances of getting laid tonight were pretty high.
Without thinking, Chase pushed off the railing and took a step toward them. Seconds away from walking right up to her and pulling her off that damn bench, he forced himself to stop. What the hell was he doing? She wasn’t his problem.
But damn if a part of him wanted her to be his problem.
Going back to leaning on the railing, he clenched his jaw shut so tightly that his teeth ached. Who was that tool talking to her, coaxing her off the bench? Robby? Bobby? Some dickhead name like that?
Whoever he was, he reached up, placed his hands on her hips, and lifted her down onto the floor. Her soft laugh travelled across the deck, and every muscle in Chase’s body locked up.
“What crawled up your ass, bro?” Chandler demanded.
Chase ignored him, unable to look away from the situation unfolding before him.
His oldest brother followed his gaze and chuckled. “What is little Maddie up to over there?”
“Nothing but trouble,” Chase muttered.
Chandler laughed. “She’s just having fun. There’s nothing wrong with her dancing with some guy.”
He so did not agree.
“She ain’t a kid anymore,” Chandler added, like Chase needed help realizing that.
Anger pricked at him. “She doesn’t even know that guy.”
“So?” And then he seemed to understand. “Aw, man, you’ve got to be shitting me.”
Chase’s head whipped toward his brother. Any other man would’ve cowered away from the dangerous look on his face, but not his brother. Nothing scared Chandler. “What?”
“Don’t even try to pretend.” Chandler shook his head and then laughed. “You’ve got it bad for Maddie.”
He scowled. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Bullshit.” Chandler propped his hip against the railing and glanced over his shoulder. “Mitch will probably beat the shit out of you.”
Like I don’t know that already, but thanks for pointing it out. Chase’s gaze swung back to Maddie. There was still some space between her and the tool, but she was smiling at the guy—the kind of smile that was innocent and sexy as hell all at the same time, and Chase’s gut clenched.
Chandler clasped his shoulder. “But I think after he knocked the crap out of you, he’d probably thank you.”
Doubtful. “For what?”
His brother stared back at him like Chase was an idiot. “Maddie could end up with someone worse.”
“Wow. Thanks.” A wry grin tugged at his lips.
“You know what I mean. Once he gets over the idea of you and her, he’d be more than happy about it. He knows you. Trusts you.”
Yeah, and that was the bitch of it. Mitch trusted Chase, so doing anything with Maddie was spitting in Mitch’s face, ’cause there was no doubt in Chase’s mind things would end badly. “Yeah, it’s not going to happen,” he said finally.
Chandler was quiet for a long moment as his gaze fixed on the swaying grape trees. “You want to tell me why?”
“Do I need to?”
There was another pause and then, “I just don’t get it. Maddie has always loved you—don’t give me that look. Everyone knows it.” His brother flashed a rare grin. “You two would be good together—she would be good for you.”
He refused to even think about that.
“And you’re good enough for her,” his brother added quietly.
Chase thrust a hand through his hair. “Why are we having this conversation? Hell, if anything, her brother should be taking her little ass back to her cabin before she gets into trouble with what’s-his-dick.”
Chandler chuckled. “Looks like Mitch is taking his fiancée out behind the bushes.”
And hell if Mitch wasn’t, not that he could blame him. Chase blew out a long breath, considered heading back to the cabin…or sleeping in the car for the night. It was getting late and standing here, watching her—
Maddie’s laughter rang out like wind chimes as she was lifted into the air, wineglass long forgotten. The guy had his arms around her waist, pulling her closer to him.
And that was it.
Chase stopped thinking. Pushing off the railing, he barely registered his brother said something taunting to his retreating back as Chase prowled across the deck and came up behind the guy, ignoring his brother’s distant laughter.
For a moment, the two before Chase didn’t seem to notice him, but then Maddie’s glossed over gaze drifted beyond the guy’s shoulder. The tool stiffened and then turned around. One look at Chase’s face struck the idiot speechless. Good.
“Maddie,” Chase said, voice surprisingly calm. “It’s time to go back.”
She stared at him, her cheeks flushed prettily. “Why?”
His look should have said he really didn’t need to explain but it was obvious she just wasn’t seeing things clearly. “I seriously think it’s time to call it a night.”
Maddie pouted and then turned, searching for her glass. “It’s still early. And I’m not ready to go back. Bobby, did you see where I put my glass? It’s around here, I swear.”
Her refusal must’ve given the little twerp courage because he planted himself in front of Maddie and Chase. “I’ll make sure she gets back to her room safely tonight.”
“Yeah, that’s not going to happen.”
Bobby-Dipshit held his ground while Maddie peered into the shadowy corners, searching for her lost glass. “She’s cool, man.”
“She’s nothing to you.” Chase brushed past the guy, leaving him standing there with his ruined plans for the evening. No way in hell if he was alive and breathing was some guy like that going to end up making Maddie a one-night stand.
Chase gently wrapped his fingers around Maddie’s arm and pulled her away from where a bottle of wine was chilling in ice. “Come on, let’s go back to our room.”
He gave Bobby a pointed look, satisfaction settling in Chase’s belly as his words sunk in and Bobby’s eyebrows shot up, his hands raised in surrender as he backed away. Yeah, game over, asshole.
She started to protest, but then she swayed way to the left, pressing her hand to her mouth and giggling. “I may be a little tipsy. Not too much, but I think I might be well on my way.”
Chase arched a brow.
Maddie giggled again as she peered up at him through thick lashes. “You look like you’ve sucked on something sour. What’s your problem? I was just dancing and…”
“And what?” he growled lowly.
She scrunched her nose. “Well, I was…huh, I don’t know.”
He rolled his eyes. “Come on, let’s get you to bed.”
“Oh, listen to you! Ordering me to bed. For shame,” she said, giggling as she wiggled free from his light grasp. “What would people think? The controversy, Chase.”
She flounced off ahead, and he sighed, trailing after her. Surprisingly, she was heading for the stairs that led to the pathway and away from the wine, which was a good thing, he guessed.
Passing Chandler, he cut his brother a look before he could make some smartass comment. And it was on the tip of his tongue, too. One thing Chandler didn’t do was relationships of any sort. His brother dated, sure, but it would be a good day in hell before the eldest brother settled down.
“Have a good night,” Chandler called out, laughing.
Chase flipped him off.
She made it down one step before he swooped in, getting an arm around her narrow waist. She leaned against him, and he led her down the stairs without her falling and breaking her neck.
Getting Maddie back to the cabin was an experience in patience and reluctant amusement. Several times she broke away from him and started to roam off to God knew where. He doubted she knew. Halfway back to their cabin, she kicked off her heels. Near the cabin next to theirs, she sat down in the middle of the pathway illuminated by the pale glow of the moon.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Taking a break.”
Shaking his head, he walked up behind her. “You haven’t been walking that far.”
“It seems like we’ve been walking forever.” She tipped her back against his knees and grinned. “I’m one of those drunk girls. You know, the kind who sits down in the middle of the street? God…it’s like I’m in college again!”
He frowned. “Did you sit in the middle of the street a lot when you were in college?”
“More times than I remember,” she replied with a chuckle.
“I don’t remember that.”
She raised a hand and pointed at him, but her aim was wobbly, so she ended up popping herself in the face.
He winced and grabbed her small hand, steering it away from her face. “Ouch.”
Maddie didn’t seem to notice that she’d almost knocked out her own teeth. “You weren’t always around, you know.”
Chase fought a grin as he bent down, got his hands under her arms, and lifted her back up. “Am I going to have to carry you? If so, it would complete my badass knight-in-shining-armor act with you today.”