Lacey Martez Byrd
“I can’t believe you’re leaving me.”
Maria said as she slid her books into her locker.
“I know…but I can’t stay here anymore. At least I have my brother. If it weren’t for him…well, who knows.”
I didn’t even want to consider what would happen if it wasn’t for Jackson.
“Who am I supposed to complain about everyone else to now? I can’t very well complain about all the idiots with said idiots, can I?”
Maria was the only soul at this school that I would dare to spend time with.
She was the only girl here other than me who realized that we were here for school and not to do whatever it was all these other girls did all day. I wished I could just take her with me. This place didn’t deserve her.
“Nope, you can’t. But I’ll call you every day and you can vent to me all you’d like.”
“Deal,” she said before she slammed her locker.
Two days later, I stepped out of an airport and into another life as I looked around for my brother. Where the heck was he? Just as that thought crossed my mind, my cell phone buzzed in my back pocket.
“Where are you at?”
Hello was overrated.
“I had something to take care of at work… My buddy is there waiting; he’s in the white Bronco.”
I looked around at all the cars waiting for their passengers to arrive until my eyes landed on the Bronco and its driver…
I’d spent countless hours with my nose stuck in my Greek mythology book, but I’d spent even more time listening to my teacher, Mrs. Macrom, obsess over the Greek god, Apollo.
He was believed to be the most handsome of all the gods, so I suppose in modern times that would make him smoking hot.
A tan, golden-haired creature opened the door to the Bronco with a scowl on his face and all I could think was that he must be as close to a Greek god as a human could be.
My brother was still talking, but I didn’t have the slightest clue what he was saying. I was too busy studying the stranger’s perfect face.
His brows were drawn together and I could already tell how excited he was that he was picking me up. I pulled my suitcase behind me and walked toward him.
“He’s here. See you later, Jackson.”
I slid my phone into my pocket before opening my mouth to speak to the stranger, but he beat me to it.
“Are you River?”
“Yep. Jackson didn’t tell me your name, just that you’re here to pick me up.”
He took my suitcase and lifted it into his back seat before grabbing the bag off my shoulder.
“I’m Beau, and your brother is an idiot. He forgot to request off work today.”
“Well, I can’t argue about that.”
He reached out to open his passenger-side door for me.
Look at that; chivalry wasn’t dead after all.
He walked around and climbed into the driver’s side and wasted no time whipping his vehicle onto the road.
“Thanks for picking me up. I could’ve called a taxi.”
“A taxi? No, that’s too dangerous.”
I looked over at him to see him staring at me, scowling again. Geez, he was easy to annoy.
I opened my mouth to respond, but again he beat me to it.
“Besides, it’s over eighty miles; that’s one expensive cab ride.”
~Wait, did he say eighty miles? ~
“Oh my gosh, you’re right. My brother is an idiot. I’m so sorry you had to drive all the way here to pick me up.”
Holy distance, I felt terrible.
“Are you hungry? Let me buy you dinner or something. It’s the least I can do.”
I had saved most of the money I made from my tutoring gig. I could spare some to buy him food.
I peeked over at him to see that the scowl had returned. It should really just be a permanent fixture on his face at this point.
What did I say now?
He didn’t say anything else. He just leaned over and turned the radio up and I took that as my cue to just sit back and be quiet.
He had already gone out of his way to come all the way here to pick me up; taking a hint was the best I could give him at this point.
After a few minutes, the song changed and Beau leaned over and switched the station, settling into some classic rock station.
“Didn’t like that song?” I asked.
“No, it’s not appropriate.”
~Not appropriate? ~
He looked over at me and sighed.
“You shouldn’t be listening to that.”
~What the hell? ~
“Look, dude… I’ve been left to my own devices since Jackson moved out. Music isn’t going to hurt me.”
A noise came over from his direction and it took me a few seconds to realize that he was laughing. I wasn’t sure he was capable of it, but my gosh, it wasn’t an obnoxious noise as I’d hoped.
“Why are you laughing?”
“I didn’t anticipate you being so…spirited.”
I crossed my arms and returned his scowl to him, which only made him laugh harder. What was up with this guy?
“Well, prepare yourself, you haven’t seen anything yet.”
He put his blinker on and merged onto the interstate.
I wanted to be quiet, to make him suffer in silence, but that would mean I’d be doing the same.
“Do you like cookies?”
I just couldn’t shut my mouth.
He cleared his throat.
“I’m making cookies when we get there. I know Jackson already has all the ingredients because he’s been bugging me about making them. Consider that your payment.”
“What kind of cookies?”
“Peanut butter oatmeal.”
“I love peanut butter.”
He grinned at me.
~Jesus, why did he have to do that? ~
“How much longer?” I asked, trying to ignore how beautiful he was.
“About forty-five minutes.”
After forty-five minutes of silence, we pulled up to Jackson’s house.
“He won’t be back for an hour or so, but I’ll stay with you until then.”
He assured me as he took my luggage out of the back seat.
“Oh no, you don’t have to do that. I’ll be fine.”
I wanted to tell him that I was used to being alone, that I had been that way for a while, but based on the way he was looking at me, that would have only made him more annoyed.
“I’m sure you’d be fine alone, but I’m still staying.”
He put my bag over his shoulder and pulled my suitcase behind him as he stalked toward the front door. He unlocked the door and gestured for me to go in first.
I was shocked at how pristine the living room was. This was not the Jackson I grew up with. You could rarely see the floor in his room because it was just too messy, but this place was spotless.
“I’ll just leave your things here, I’m not sure which room he’s set up for you.”
“Okay,” I , but I was too busy looking around to concentrate. I found my way to the kitchen and start opening cabinets.
Jackson had a crockpot?
What did he need a crockpot for?
It looked as if it had never been used. I continued my exploration and found way more kitchen gadgets than I ever expected Jackson to own.
I walked to his pantry, gathered all the ingredients I’d need for the cookies into my arms, and shut the door with my foot only to almost jump right out my skin when I saw Beau’s large body standing on the other side.
“Need help with those?”
My God, he needed a bell or something.
I didn’t respond, so he took it upon himself to take items out of my hands and place them on the counter.
“He has a mixer somewhere,” Beau said as he searched through the cabinets.
Why was he still here? Didn’t he have somewhere else to be?
“You don’t have to help.”
I looked at him. Really looked at him for the first time.
He looked tired like he could use a nap. But his eyes… They looked almost hypnotic, and I had to force my gaze away from the deep blue.
“I know, I want to.”
But why? I wanted to ask so badly.
But instead, I passed him the measuring cups and the peanut butter.
An hour later, we were sitting across from each other at my brother’s kitchen table, staring at the cookies, waiting for them to cool off enough to shove them in our mouths.
He parted his lips to say something and I straightened up in my seat, giving him my full attention, when the front door swung open and my big brother came barreling through, making a beeline right for me.
“Riv! You already made cookies?”
He pulled me off the chair and into his arms.
“Yes…Jackson, I can’t breathe, you’re squeezing me too hard.”
I squeaked out.
He placed me back on the ground but didn’t let go of me.
“Shit! What is that? It smells so good in here.”
Another guy walked through the front door and I suddenly had the feeling that it was a common occurrence.
“Watch your mouth.”
Both my brother and Beau snapped at the same time.
The new guy cocked his head to the side, looking at them like they had both lost their minds.
Beau raised his eyebrows and I could tell he was hoping this guy would question him, but Jackson saved him the trouble.
“My baby sister is here,” he said, pulling me closer to his side.
Yep, I was there whether I liked it or not.
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