“I don’t think she’s ready,” I insisted, smoothing out a wrinkle in my pants.
“She’s almost twenty-five,” Chris said.
“With the maturity level of a sixteen-year-old,” I grumbled.
“She’s not that bad,” Garrett chuckled.
“Says you. You should hear how she talks to me.”
“She’ll settle down once you—”
“Whoa!” Chris yelled, raising his hand. “Dad in the room.”
“You gave us your blessing, Chris,” Jake reminded him.
“That doesn’t mean I want to think about that part of the arrangement.”
“Fair enough,” Garrett said.
“What makes you think she’s going to agree to this, Chris?” I asked. “She’d rather ‘hang out’with guys her own age. The shadier the better.”
“That’s part of the reason I came up with the trip idea,” he explained. “She needs time away from her life in Miami to gain some perspective.
“A month on the road with three mature guys who know how to treat a woman will open her eyes. She’ll realize she doesn’t have to settle for losers who beat her up and get her thrown in jail.”
“Jail?” Jake gasped. “How the fuck did that happen?”
“She was getting high with her loser boyfriend when the cops busted down the door,” I explained.
“They cuffed her and took her down to county. But I guess the boyfriend told them she was innocent. I can’t imagine why he would do that after he beat her up.”
“Maybe he figured she wouldn’t press charges if he got her out of trouble,” Jake suggested.
“I still think she should charge him. That’s a nasty shiner.”
“What?” Garrett barked. “He gave her a black eye?”
“Yup. And kicked her in the back.”
“What?!” Chris bellowed. “I didn’t know that. Did you know, Evan?”
“Are you kidding?” I snorted. “She doesn’t share things with me. That’s Jake’s department.
“She’s been following him around with her tongue hanging out since she was a teenager. He’ll have no trouble convincing her to ‘hang out’ with him.”
“Stop using that phrase, Evan,” Chris requested.
“Would you prefer he said ‘fuck’?” Jake asked. “Cause we all know that’s what’s gonna happen. If she agrees to be our woman, that is. I’m not so sure she will. Vada is pretty independent.”
“Jake!” Chris cried. “I’m begging you. Please stop talking about having sex with my daughter.”
“I think we all need to calm down,” Garrett suggested.
“Vada needs to go to the hospital,” Chris said. “How hard did he kick her?”
“She’s got a big bruise,” Jake shared. “She showed me.”
Chris picked up the phone. His deep voice roared through the PA system in the shop. “Vada, get your ass in here!”
Vada appeared a few minutes later, wearing shop coveralls. “Let’s hear it,” she demanded.
“You’ve got grease on your nose,” I said, grabbing a tissue.
“I can do it myself,” she hissed, her gorgeous green eyes flashing with anger when I tried to rub it away. “Don’t touch me.”
Yeah. She’s not gonna sleep with you, jackass. When she finds out it’s a package deal, she’ll bolt.
Vada was beautiful. There was no doubt about that. She inherited her rich, raven hair from her mother. And those eyes. Sea green and full of spunk.
Her lips were full and luscious, with perfect white teeth sparkling behind them.
And I didn’t stand a chance with her. Jake and Garrett were going to miss out on having her as their wife because I was an asshole.
“Vada, you’re going to the hospital,” Chris announced.
“Because you’re hurt, honey.”
“I’m fine, Dad.”
“Did that piece of shit kick you in the back?”
She turned her icy glare on Jake. “Really?” she snarled. “I thought I could trust you.”
“I’m worried about you, Vada,” Jake said. “A kick in the back can be a serious injury. You need to get checked out.”
She studied him for a moment, her tongue darting out to moisten those delicious lips. Vada had a mouth made for—
Nope. Not gonna think that way in front of her father. It’s disrespectful. Even though he did ~ask his business partners and best friends to have a foursome with his daughter.~
Well, technically he asked us to marry her. But he knew what marrying three men would involve.
“Fine,” she relented. “I’ll go to the hospital. But only if Jake takes me.”
“I’d like all three of you to accompany Vada to the ER,” Chris said.
“Why?” she sighed. “I’m not a child. And why aren’t you coming, Dad?”
“I have an appointment.”
“Whatever,” she muttered. “What about our meeting?”
“We’ll do it tomorrow.”
“C’mon, Dad,” she whined. “I wanna know now.”
“Go to the hospital, Vada. Please?”
We took my car. Vada sat in the back with Jake and made fun of my Audi. She called it the “old-dude-mobile.”
And she flirted with him nonstop. He might’ve physically resembled the type of guy she went out with, but he wasn’t a bad boy.
Jake Edwards was a kind-hearted guy who loved to bake and sing in the shower. He had an awesome voice. He was always a hit at karaoke night. And he loved cats.
I fucking hate cats. But when you live with someone, you have to compromise.
Fortunately, our house was massive. The cats had their own room. But they wouldn’t stay in there! They were always rubbing against my ankles. All four of them!
I’d never admit this out loud. My ego wouldn’t allow that. But I was jealous of Jake. He was the whole package. Jake was a top-notch mechanic. I didn’t know shit about fixing cars.
He was smart. Not as smart as me, of course. But he was well-educated and intelligent. And the guy was extremely good-looking. If I was into dudes, I’d definitely be attracted to him.
His wavy black hair and full beard drew the ladies to him like bees to nectar whenever we went out clubbing.
Jake and Vada’s baby would be gorgeous, with their black hair and dreamy eyes.
Yep. Babies were part of this deal. Chris wanted grandkids to carry on the business. One from each of us.
“I’ll drop you and Jake off at the door,” I said when we reached the entrance to South Miami Hospital.
“I hope she’s okay,” Garrett said while I circled around the parking garage searching for a spot.
“She’ll be fine,” I muttered absently, swinging into a sweet spot right by the stairs. “Vada is a tough cookie.”
“What do you think she’s gonna say?” he chuckled.
Garrett was always laughing. It took a lot to ruffle his feathers. But I knew he was fretting about the proposition.
Chris first came to us with his idea several months before. He knew we were looking for a woman to be our wife.
It was a pretty daunting task to find a woman we all liked, not to mention one that was willing to be shared by three men. He knew we had a soft spot for Vada.
But it took a while to come to an agreement. What Chris was asking bordered on creepy.
What would people say?
We helped raise her after her mother died. She was eighteen years younger than us.
“I’m not sure, Garrett,” I replied. “She’s unpredictable.”
“Chris will be crushed if she says no.”
“Oh, she’ll definitely say no,” I said. “And Chris knows it. That’s what the trip is for. It’s our chance to change her mind.”
“That’s not really what this trip is about, Evan.”
“Let’s not go there right now.”
“I can’t believe she told them Jake was her dad,” I grumbled, shaking my head.
“She wanted him in the room with her,” Garrett said.
“Yeah, but her dad? She couldn’t have said ~brother~?”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Evan.”
“I don’t like favoritism. If we do this, we’re all with her. Not just Jake.”
“Relax, Evan,” he said. “You’ll get your chance. But it’s going to be a big adjustment for all of us. You have to be patient.”
I glanced around the crowded waiting room. Why were there so many kids? And why did they all have snotty noses? I shivered when I saw one coming toward me.
“No, Joey!” the mother called, snatching the little booger monster before he could touch me.
Kids scared the shit out of me. Maybe it would be different when it was my own kid. But it wouldn’t be just my kid in the house. There would be two other ones that didn’t belong to me.
What if they wiped snot all over my stuff?
Or puked on the furniture?
Drew on the walls?
Tracked mud through the house?
“What’s your problem?” Garrett asked.
“Nothing. Why do you ask?”
“You’re looking a bit pasty,” he chuckled.
After a long two hours, Jake came out to the waiting room and flopped down in the chair next to us.
“How’s Vada?” I inquired.
“She’s fine. The doctor said she’s lucky. That asshole just missed her kidney.”
“Fuck,” I muttered. “She could’ve been killed. What if the cops hadn’t arrived when they did?”
“Let’s just be thankful they did,” Garrett said.
“When can we get out of here?” I asked.
“They’re just finishing up her discharge papers.”
I yawned and glanced at my watch. “I don’t want to take her all the way back to her condo tonight. We’re ten minutes from home.”
“Do you want me to invite her for a sleepover?” Jake asked.
“You better ask Chris.”
“She’s a grown woman, Evan.”
“Just text him.”
“Here she comes,” Garrett announced.
“Chris agreed,” Jake said, holding up his phone.
“Agreed to what?” Vada snapped.
“To you spending the night at our place,” Garrett informed her.
“Because it’s the middle of the fucking night,” I grumbled. “And our house is ten minutes away.”
“Whatever,” she muttered. “Let’s get the hell out here. I hate hospitals. This was a giant waste of time. I told you guys I was fine.”
“You heard what the doctor said,” Jake reminded her. “You could’ve had a kidney injury from that kick.”
“I would’ve been in pain.”
“You are in pain, sweetheart,” he said gently. “Why didn’t you tell anyone?”
“Because I’m not a pussy.”
“Admitting you’re hurt doesn’t make you a pussy.”
“Can we go?” she asked impatiently. “They forced me to take some pain medication, and I just wanna crawl in bed and sleep for an entire day.”
I put the car in park and glanced in the rearview mirror when I hit the remote to close the garage door. Vada was out cold, her head resting on Jake’s shoulder.
“She’s an angel when she’s sleeping,” Garrett observed.
“Yeah, sure,” I muttered. “An angel who turns into the devil the second her eyes open.”
“She’s not the devil, Evan,” Jake sighed as he climbed out of the car and walked around to Vada’s door.
“She’s gonna be a handful,” I warned. “Unless she does some serious maturing on the trip.”
I watched Jake lift her out of the backseat, cradling her in his arms before he headed for the door.
“She’s not sleeping in your bed,” I said.
“Relax, Evan,” he sighed. “She’s sleeping in the guest room.”
“Damn right she is.”
“Guys, let’s not fight,” Garrett suggested. “There will be plenty of opportunities for each of us to have alone time with her when she moves in.”
“Dream on,” I mumbled. “She’s not gonna agree to marry us.”
“Try to think positive, Evan,” he said, slapping me on the back as we followed Jake inside the house.
“I am,” I said. “I’m positive she’s going to laugh in our faces.”
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