Chapter Six: Of Family Fights and Birthday Kisses
It had been a week and a half since Cole had saved me from Teague. It was a Friday night, and everyone had turned up to the Prince House for my birthday. Carter was pretty much responsible for planning all of it. Having an older brother who owned and ran a nightclub had its perks. He'd even brought the bouncers from the club to act as security and make sure that the only people who got in were on the list.
I grinned at the sight of the flashing lights, smoke machine, DJ station and makeshift bar. My oldest brother had gone all out to make my seventeenth birthday special.
The chairs had all been pushed up against the walls and Carter had brought over a bunch of sofas to use from the club, the closet was being used as a makeshift bag room, and Eli was doing his thing at the DJ station, making some awesome beats and getting everybody dancing. It was just us and two hundred and fifty of our closest friends. Carter had hooked up everything perfectly, and now our living room looked like his nightclub.
"Glad you agreed to celebrate?" A gravelly voice asked warmly in my ear. I turned to Cole and my grin widened. He was dressed pretty well, for a change. He'd made an effort for tonight, both in dress and in organising the entire event. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have agreed to have it.
He'd been my rock, lately. Every night he had slept in my bed with me, arms wrapped firmly around me and stubbly cheek pressed into my neck, reminding me that he was constantly there. I'd had only two nightmares, and he'd woken me on both occasions, holding me until I stopped shaking. He'd skipped classes for the most part, spending entire days with me. I'd never given him a chance to show me anything other than the face he wore around everyone else, but the Cole I was seeing now was easily the most incredible person I'd ever met.
"Definitely," I responded, wrapping my arms around his waist in a hug. "Thank you so much, Cole."
"Anytime, sweetheart." He murmured, returning the embrace tightly and pressing his lips to my hair.
I reluctantly pulled away after a few moments, in time to hear a loud clang and a deep voice curse. I turned my head quizzically to the staircase, and nearly fainted when I saw Ashton running down the stairs, roaring with laughter, while his twin followed, buck naked.
"GET BACK HERE YOU SON OF A DONKEY'S TESTICLE BITCH ASS!" Hayden roared, chasing after him.
I turned my head to Cole to see him having simply raised an eyebrow at the display. "Well, I admire his creativity under pressure." He said.
I snorted, nodding in agreement. "Do you know if my family's here yet?"
Cole nodded. "Carter and Eli are here, the others haven't arrived yet. But they will soon, don't wo-"
He was interrupted mid-sentence by Ashton's deafening cackle as he skidded to a stop beside us. "Ah, man, that was awesome." He snickered, panting from running so hard.
I shook my head in disbelief, "I'm still not entirely sure what that was, exactly."
"That, milady, was payback in the form of coitus interruptus." He informed us, evil grin plastered on his face.
An amused expression crossed Cole's face. "You interrupted him while he was having sex?"
"Oh, it was much more brilliant than that." He explained, grinning. "I walked in, took a photo, grabbed his clothes and threw them out the window, and then told the chick to call me later if she wanted some real fun."
Cole snorted. "You're an idiot."
I simply chuckled. "Is the poor girl still up there?"
Ash shrugged carelessly. "I dunno. But I can't wait for Hayden to realise everyone's seen his-"
"I'M GOING TO KILL YOU, DOUCHEBAG." Hayden bellowed, running back into the room. All the drunk party-goers around us started to guffaw at the naked man causing a ruckus through the party. Ashton simply sniggered and gave him the finger.
I rolled my eyes at their antics, hiding a smile. The boys had been keeping my spirits up for days, and I knew that if it weren't for them I would be a sobbing mess. Cole grinned at me, slipping his hand down to mine and pulling me further into the party.
I heard a voice call my name and turned to see Carter and Brandon striding towards me. Carter embraced me tightly, grinning. "Enjoying the party?"
I smiled warmly. "You're a miracle worker, Carter. Thank you."
Brandon also pulled me in for a hug. "We really wish you'd come home, Chase."
I slumped a little in his arms, and pulled back. "I'm not going to live in the same house as her." I told him quietly.
He sighed. "I know. To tell you the truth, we all want her out. But then she'd be homeless, and Dex would kill us. We're just patiently waiting for them to break up."
"Do you think he honestly likes the girl that much?" Cole asked him.
"I think it's partly that he likes her, and partly that he likes being the white knight." Brandon explained, rolling his eyes. "He likes that he's the hero and he's standing up for his girl."
I wrinkled my nose. "She's not a girl. She's a dirty whore-bag."
I heard Cole snicker, right as Dex himself entered. I immediately knew there would be trouble when he stormed up to me, looking furious. He stood over me, chest puffed out, emphasising that he was bigger than me. If there was one thing I knew about Dex, it was that he was a whirlwind. He didn't stop and think, ever. He just followed his impulses, and didn't particularly care about the destruction left behind. When he spoke, his voice was deadly. "Imagine my surprise when I get here, excited for my little sister's birthday party, and see that my girlfriend has been left off the list."
I attempted to hold his gaze. I knew that the minute I buckled, even slightly, he would have won. I couldn't let that happen, I had left Sophie Claire off the list because I didn't want her at my party. It was my birthday, and I didn't want her ruining it. All the boys of the Prince House had agreed with me, and I knew that all of my brothers would also. Apart from Dex.
"This is my party, Declan. I get to decide who comes." I told him levelly. I usually would have ripped his head off for even trying to force me into inviting her. But the events of late had left me mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. I just didn't have the strength to escalate into a proper argument with Dex.
I was tired.
"That's my girlfriend, Chase." He snarled. "I get to bring her to my sister's party. She's outside right now, waiting for me to get her. This is humiliating for her. She's a part of this family now, accept it."
"She isn't part of my family." I told him. My voice was quiet, and I realised my eyes were starting to get that feeling just before you cry. I refused to let him do that to me. I'd never seen Dex like this, and I hated that the bitch was tearing us apart.
"She's more a part of this family than you are, now. She lives in our house now, and you don't. So shut the fuck up about family, little sister. I don't think you even know the meaning of the word." He went in for the kill. "The minute you found out she was moving out, you walked away. You're a fucking disgrace. Put it right, do it right now. Let her in."
Throughout this, Brandon and Carter had been still, eyes wide and horrified expressions on their faces. Carter's fury was mounting, though, and it was obvious. What was surprising, though, was that it was Cole who recovered most quickly and stepped in front of me slightly, pulling himself to his full height and standing over Dex.
"Dex, watch who you're calling a disgrace. How can you tell your own sister that she's not a part of your family anymore? You're the one who drove her out by bringing that whore into her home. This party is your sister's party, and this house belongs to us. You will respect our rules, and if you don't like them, you can get the fuck out." Cole's tone was quiet, subtle, but firm. And nobody could miss the dangerous undercurrent in his voice. Dex's mouth twisted as he made to protest, but Cole held his hand up. "No, you don't get to talk yet. You disgust me. You know what she's been through, but you're still fuckingtrying to intimidate her? You know what is the obvious sign that this is fucked up? Chase is looking frightened. You know she would usually tear you apart. The fact that she's not doing that right now should tell you to shut the fuck up and leave your sister alone. I can't believe you're targeting her when she's obviously going through hell. You're the disgrace here."
Dex's face was pale as he looked at me, remorseful, but he turned back to Cole with a tiny bit of fight left in his eyes. "Are you that fucking pathetic, Ryan? You're practically panting after her, and she doesn't give a fuck. You and your cousin need to get out of her life, you're both parasites." His voice turned quiet as he made his final strike. "I wouldn't put it past you to try what your cousin wanted to do."
Cole's expression was removed of any single trace of friendship. I looked in horror at Dex's face, which was slowly looking slightly green as he realised he'd crossed a line. I reached out and touched Cole's arm, but it seemed to set him off, as his tightly clenched fist shot out and hit Dex in the face with a fierce right hook. My brother stumbled back and over his feet, falling to the ground. A bruise was already forming on his now bloody lip. I looked on in curious detachment. I reached out and took Cole's hand, holding it gently and looking at the new graze on his knuckles. But at that moment, I didn't even bother to make sure Dex was okay. I wanted him to leave.
"You're picking him over me?" Dex asked quietly, eyes pained and mouth bleeding profusely.
I looked back on him with pity and resignation. "You chose her, Dex. You chose her the moment you asked her to move in. Now you know what it feels like. The only difference is that he's done this for me, he's proven he gives a crap. But when Sophie leaves you, I won't pity you. Because I warned you."
He opened his mouth to reply, but Cole's harsh tone cut him off. "You've said your piece, we've said ours. If you won't stay without her, then leave this house. And I wouldn't try to come inside until you get your priorities straight."
Brandon and Carter intervened at this point, leaning forward and pulling Dex from the ground. When he saw his older brothers, the disappointed looks on their faces, his face became ashamed. The boys took him to the door and told him to go home with Sophie, and that they were all going to have a serious discussion tomorrow.
Cole pulled me into his chest, and I clutched him tightly. I realised I was still holding onto his hand, and brought it to my mouth to press a soft kiss to the slightly bloody knuckles. I realised that I'd forgotten there were partygoers surrounding us, who were still staring at us, and conversation began to rise about the scene that had just happened. Cole nodded and smiled at a couple of them while running his uninjured hand lightly against my back.
"Dex crossed the line." He said simply, looking determinedly over my head. "I wasn't going to stand aside and do nothing."
"You care about me." I realised. I'd known he cared, but it was more than that. He really and truly would help me in whatever way he could.
"There hasn't been a second since I met you where I didn't." He responded, turning to face me.
I marvelled at his revelation. I'd been convinced that he had thought I was irritating, a silly little girl. And here he was telling me I was wrong. I opened my mouth to say more, but Dylan came hurtling into me.
"Happy birthday, little sister!" he said, tone a little too bright. I caught his eyes looking between Cole and me, and his jaw was taut. I slumped a little, but smiled at him, accepting his tight hug. Despite his odd hatred of Cole, Dylan was the brother I was closest to. He and I just got each other, and we didn't have to speak every day to know we were a team. But I had a feeling we were going to start having problems, and it would have something to do with Cole.
"Had anything to drink, yet?" I asked lightly. Cole was stiff next to me, eyes looking anywhere but Dylan, and his arm curled possessively around my waist.
Dylan's eyes caught the movement and a vein near his temple began to show. "Not nearly enough." He moved forward and grabbed my wrist, pulling me firmly from Cole. "Can I talk to you for a second?"
"Dyl, this is a party. No more serious conversations, tonight." I told him gently, "I wanna have fun. Forget everything and have a good time."
He looked like he wanted to say more, but relented, giving me a forced smile. "Yeah. I know you do, hun." He turned to Cole. "If anything happens to her tonight-"
He cut him off. "It won't. You should know me better than that."
Dylan gave a short, bitter laugh. "I don't know you at all. Just take care of her, asshole." And with that lovely message, he stalked off.
I stared after my usually gentle brother. "Tonight's turning out to be a blast, huh?" I said glumly.
Cole touched his fingers lightly to my wrist. "It'll get better." He assured me, his dark eyes burning intensely as he looked at me. "I promise."
A corner of my mouth quirked. "I'm holding you to that."
It was some time later that I'd had a few drinks, and was beginning to feel lightheaded. But I was enjoying myself. Cole had been with me all night, only having a couple of beers, eyes twinkling as I laughed. I was giggling at a friend from school as we drunkenly conversed, when she suddenly stood and screamed another of our friend's names, going over to them. I groaned at the shrill sound, covering my ears, but began giggling again. I heard a low chuckle beside me and turned to him.
"Don't laugh at me," I complained, punching him in the arm. Not that it helped, his muscles were rock-hard.
"I would never!" He protested, grinning at me.
The air between us changed. I realised how close we were, how close we'd become over the past few weeks. I'd very quickly come to rely on him. I knew that without him, I would be a mess. He was everything to me.
My eyes traced his features, his smooth, sun-darkened complexion, dark and silky hair, soft brown eyes. The smell of the pineapple wax he used to clean his surfboard every day. His eyes searched me as I did him, tracing the contours of my face. My heart was pounding in my chest, and butterflies swirled in my stomach.
He lifted a hand and gently pushed a lock of my hair behind my ear, sliding his hand down until it cupped the back of my neck lightly. I lifted my own fingers to press against his cheek.
I didn't even think, leaning forward to press my lips to his. The light stubble over his cheek was rough against my palm and fingertips, while his lips were soft and gentle, brushing against mine. He tilted my head back, pressing his mouth to mine more tightly, and I immediately responded with a small gasp. His tongue traced the inside of my lip, and soon mine tangled with it. I wrapped my arm around him, drawing myself closer to his hard body. He pressed me closer for a moment, before he stiffened suddenly and drew away.
"Shit." He cursed, dropping his head to his hands.
The butterflies in my stomach that had exploded into heat when our lips touched, turned to ice. "Wha- Did I... do something wrong?" I said timidly, swallowing the lump in my throat.
"No, Chase, it's just- Fuck." He swore again, sighing. "You're drunk. You're vulnerable. I can't do this with you after what- Shit, Chase. I feel like the biggest asshole."
My gaze dropped to the ground before me as I shifted away from Cole, making sure none of my body touched any part of his. He was disgusted by me. He had to be. "I can make my own decisions, you know." I told him, some heat in my voice at last. After everything, I was beginning to feel like myself again.
Cole's eyes burned into mine, the remorse in them surrounding me, I was drowning in it. "I'm so-"
"Don't. Please, don't." I interrupted quietly, but firmly. "I'm not a little kid. I can be responsible for my own actions."
He opened his mouth to say more, but I stood up and smiled at him robotically. "I'm just going to go talk to Blake. I'll see you later."
"Do you want me to-"
I cut him off again. "No. And I think I'll be fine on my own tonight. I'll just stay with Blake."
His expression fell, and I caught a glimpse of hurt in his eyes. "Whatever you need to do, Chase." He said quietly. "That's all I care about."
I nodded at him, before quickly fleeing.
I'd been attacked by Teague and damaged, then fought with Dex until I felt sick. But being rejected by Cole left me feeling empty. Because I needed him. Because he and I were bound.
I smiled at the pretty girl I was talking to. She was about two years younger than me, from what I could gather, and knew Chase from way back when they were kids. Chase had always gotten along better with guys as a rule- the price of having a bajillion brothers- but she did have some female friends.
The girl, Angie, laughed at something I said and I winked. I was distracted momentarily when I looked up and saw Chase and Cole sitting together on one of the sofas... and they were kissing. My jaw dropped at the sight. I tore my eyes away from them and shook my head, ridding my mind of the unexpected image. "Uh, sorry." I muttered to Angie. "Saw something unexpected."
She shrugged and smiled. "All good."
For the rest of the night I was somewhat subdued, a little lost by the unexpected sight from earlier. I was even more surprised when Chase came up to me and smiled that same way she had after what happened with Teague, the same way she did whenever she saw her parents. A shield, a mask.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Oh, nothing." She grinned too widely. "I don't want to interfere if you're doing anything too fun tonight, but if you're not... can I take you up on that offer for you to stay with me?"
I nodded, "Of course, sweetheart. But doesn't Cole normally..?" I trailed off as I thought back to their embrace, and my blood ran cold. "He hurt you?" I snarled.
"No!" Chase assured me, placing her hand gently on my arm. "I just miss you, is all."
I searched her face for a lie, and found no obvious signs of real distress. She was okay. But this wasn't just about missing me. There was more.
I sighed. "I'll stay with you, Chase. Of course I will." I wrapped her in a tight hug.
The girl was closer to me than a sister. If she wanted me there, I would be there.
Throughout the week, things were awkward. I ran into Dex a couple times, but he and Chase still hadn't made up. After having the argument explained to me, I had to admit I wasn't happy with the youngest of the Deegan boys. He should have been putting her first.
The biggest thing, however, was that Chase was studiously avoiding Cole. He'd asked me a few times to tell her he said hey, asking where she was, and if she was alright. I would smile uncomfortably and say she was fine. And when I mentioned it to Chase, she would blow me off, telling me she had to get to school or see Carter or something. I gave her a hug and told her I loved her, and that if she needed me I was there.
So that's why I was surprised when she came to the new club one afternoon after school, asking for advice. My brow furrowed, but I nodded at her, leading her out to the back of the club. "Alright, what's up, baby bear?"
She took a deep breath and her eyes locked on her hands as they twisted nervously. "How long do you think you have to wait, after like, a traumatic experience... to start thinking about moving on... with someone else."
I studied her carefully. "Is this about Cole?"
She exhaled a gush of air. "Yeah. Yeah, it is. I don't know what to do, Blakey." Her head lifted and her eyes searched mine. "I know I probably disgust him, after everything, but-"
"Where the hell did you get that idea?" I demanded. "Dude, he's been asking about you constantly, I've never seen him on edge like this. Or actually giving a darn at all."
"Really?" she asked hopefully.
"Go talk to him." I advised her gently. "If you think you like him, talk to him. Don't worry about all the crap with Teague. This sounds really stupid, but do what your heart tells you. You'll know if you're ready or not. Hey, maybe he can help you get better."
She gave me a brilliant smile, coming to a conclusion. "Thanks, Blakey!" She said cheerfully, wrapping me suddenly in a tight hug.
"Go get him, Chase." I told her, winking. "Do something for yourself, for once."
And she updates! Awoohoo!
Tell me what you think! Things will be moving faster from now on, and I think you guys will like the next chapter. But first, tell me how you feel about this one. I know it's not my best, but I hope it wasn't too disappointing!
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