Big badd wolf, p.3
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       Big Badd Wolf, p.3

         Part #7 of Badd Brothers series by Jasinda Wilder
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  You'd think.

  "Um, I'm from upstate New York, originally." A true answer, at least. "A little town outside Buffalo called East Aurora."

  "Nice." He spoke around a mouthful of French fry. "And what brings you Ketchikan?"

  I shifted on the chair. "I, um. I just kind of ended up here."

  The other twin, the one with an undercut, guffawed as if I'd said something hilarious. "Yeah, okay. Like what, you went 'whoops, let me just accidentally end up in a remote Alaskan city accessible only by sea or air.'"

  "I mean, yeah, sort of." I gestured at the first twin who had spoken, and then the second. "Which one of you is which?"

  The first twin, with the long loose hair, lifted his hand. "I'm Canaan. My wife is Aerie."

  The other lifted his hand, then, in a mirrored gesture of his brother's. "I'm Corin, and this is Tate."

  "So, you accidentally ended up here?" Bax asked. "The real question, then, is what you're running from."

  I swallowed hard, tracing patterns in the sweat on the outside of my pint glass. "Um. I'm not running from anything."

  Bax did the eyebrow thing, now--the expressive eyebrow quirk seemed to be another trait all the brothers shared. "And I'm Abraham Lincoln." He winked at me. "'Then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.'"

  "I...um--"

  Zane, the scary one, threw a French fry at Bax, interrupting my attempt to come up with an answer. "You did not just quote the Bible at her."

  "I thought we've established that I can actually read," Bax said, "all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding."

  "Quit trying to talk like Xavier," Zane said, and threw another fry, bouncing it off Bax's head. "Next thing you know, you'll be quoting Shakespeare or something."

  I watched this exchange, waiting for someone to get angry.

  "I can quote Shakespeare, I just choose not to." Bax drained his beer, poured another, and polished off the last of his burger. "I'm not into sounding like a pretentious douche. I think Xavier is the only person on the planet who can non-ironically quote poetry without sounding like a total asshat."

  Zane reached for another burger, adding ketchup and mayo as he responded to Bax. "You can quote Shakespeare from memory?"

  Bax shrugged. "Sure."

  "I call bullshit."

  "'These violent delights have violent ends. And in their triumph die, like fire and powder. Which, as they kiss, consume.'"

  Zane laughed. "You only know that quote because you watch Westworld."

  "Romeo and Juliet. Friar Lawrence in Act two, scene six." Bax gave his brother the double middle finger. "Bet you didn't know I played Friar Lawrence in college."

  Eva twisted away from a conversation with Dru--Bast's wife, a curvy, gorgeous redhead--to stare at Bax. "You were in a play? You never told me this."

  Bax shrugged, suddenly uncomfortable. "It was...ah...well--um."

  Brock chortled. "It was to impress a girl, wasn't it?"

  Bax blew a raspberry. "I didn't need to join a stupid play to get chicks, bro. Believe that shit." He sighed. "I lost a bet with a couple guys from the D-line."

  Eva eyed him warily. "What was the bet? Or do I not want to know?"

  Bax's grin was embarrassed. "Ah, you may be better off not knowing."

  Bax only laughed all the harder. "Well, we were drunk and talking shit, and so of course the bets got crazy. None of us had a lot of money, so we were trying to come up with stakes that didn't involve money. Well, one of Bobby's best friends was the director of the drama team's play, and they still needed a Friar Lawrence, to the point that they were desperate. Apparently the guy they originally cast had come down with mono or something horrible, and had to pull out. Like, the play was literally in two weeks, and they had no Friar Lawrence, and nobody was stepping up. So the bet was if I failed to score with three girls at once I had to audition for the part, and if I did score, Bobby had to wear a dress to school every day for a month."

  Eva laughed, now. "And you couldn't score?"

  Bax faked outrage. "Of course I scored! Jesus, what kind of a loser do you take me for? I got four girls to agree to go to my dorm with me. But by the time we got back there, two of them were a fucking disaster, like couldn't walk on their own. So me and the other two got their friends to their rooms, and I ended up with those two girls in their room, just because it was closer."

  Eva shook her head. "You're ridiculous."

  "I was a player, babe, what can I say?" He grinned and winked at her. "So the next morning I got dressed and left their room, because I'd never actually gone to bed--ahhh...anyway, I met Bobby, Mac and Deon for breakfast, and was all like, I won the bet! Better start picking out dresses, yada yada yada."

  "But the bet was for three girls, not two," Bast said. "So you lost."

  Bax nodded. "Exactly. But I'm a man of my word, so I tried out for the part, and I got it. But I did score, technically, meaning I didn't totally lose the bet, so Bobby had to wear a dress to school for a week instead of a month."

  "And were you any good as Friar Lawrence?" I asked.

  Bax cackled with laughter. "Hell no! I was terrible! I forgot half my lines, and the ones I did remember, I sounded like I was reading from a cue card, like a fucking robot or some shit." He shrugged. "But I still remember that speech."

  He took a deep breath, staring at the ceiling as he recalled the words, and then quoted:

  "These violent delights have violent ends

  And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,

  Which, as they kiss, consume. The sweetest honey

  Is loathsome in his own deliciousness

  And in the taste confounds the appetite.

  Therefore love moderately. Long love doth so.

  Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.

  Here comes the lady. Oh, so light a foot

  Will ne'er wear out the everlasting flint.

  A lover may bestride the gossamers

  That idles in the wanton summer air,

  And yet not fall. So light is vanity."

  Xavier clapped. "You are full of surprises, Baxter."

  Bax bowed, laughing. "And that's the story of how I acted in a play with the Penn State drama team."

  I leaned close to Lucian. "How much of that story is true, do you think?"

  He grinned at me. "All of it, knowing Bax."

  "And his wife is okay with that?"

  A shrug. "I mean, it's not like he does that kind of thing now that he's married, so how can she be genuinely pissed at him for something he did when they didn't even know each other?"

  "But I mean, the thing with the three girls or two girls or whatever? It's kind of gross." I shuddered.

  Lucian just laughed again. "I told you, my older brothers are animals. They're settled down now, but in their wild days, they drank like fish and fucked anything that moved."

  Baxter clearly overheard us, because he pointed at Lucian. "Hey now, I had standards! I didn't fuck ugly, and I didn't fuck desperate, because desperate means clingy, and clingy means I'd just break their heart when I left the next morning, and I'm not into breaking hearts."

  Lucian held up both hands palms out. "I stand corrected." He addressed me. "My bad--what I meant to say was that Baxter was a connoisseur of hot but easy women."

  Bax nodded sagely. "That's better. Although I take exception to the word 'easy.' Just because a girl likes a good time and isn't looking for commitment doesn't make her easy."

  The petite blonde woman, who was with Brock--the brother who looked like a Greek god--raised her beer over her head. "Amen to that!"

  Dru threw a packet of mayo at Claire. "What are you talking about? You've said yourself you used to be the world's biggest slut."

  Claire just nodded. "But like Bax said, I had standards in my sluttiness, and I'm not about to apologize for liking dick."

  Mara, a woman about my height with long blonde hair in a braid, howled in laughter. "Liking dick? You were a cock expert. You rode
so much dick before you met Brock it's a wonder your vagina isn't a blown-out cavern."

  Claire tilted her nose up in the air. "My pussy is tighter than a drum, thank you very much." She glanced at Brock. "Right, babe?"

  Brock, tilted back on the hind legs of his chair, nodded. "Like a fuckin' vise, hon."

  Claire pointed at Mara. "Unlike yours. Now that you've had a baby, I'm guessing you've got a nice case of beef curtains going on."

  I about spit out the mouthful of beer. "Ohmygod!" I sputtered, coughing. "What the fuck is wrong with you people?"

  Mara just laughed along with everyone else. "I did so many Kegels while I was pregnant, if you could see my P-C muscle, it'd look like Bax's bicep. My shit is just as tight as it was before I had Jax, thank you very much."

  I wiped beer off my chin with a napkin. "This is the weirdest, grossest conversation I've ever heard."

  Bax picked a French fry off of his wife's plate and threw it at me, and it smacked into my forehead before falling to my plate. "Like I said, welcome to the family, Joss."

  "Seems like a dubious honor," I said, before I could think better of it.

  "Ohhh! Burn!" Bax shouted, cackling. "Yeah, you fit right in, sweet thing."

  I looked at Lucian. "Is it always like this?"

  He nodded and shrugged a shoulder. "Pretty much, yeah."

  I sank lower in my seat. "God, I need this blizzard to be over."

  "Why? So you can keep running away from whatever it is you're running from?" Bax asked. "I mean, come on, quit acting hard and relax. You know you're having fun."

  I stood up abruptly, knocking my chair over backward. "You don't know the first fucking thing about me!" I snapped.

  Blood racing, pulse thundering in my ears, defensive anger raging through me, I whirled on my heel and stomped toward the stairs leading to the apartment. Within seconds, I had on my still-wet coat, hat, gloves, and backpack and all but ran down the stairs and to the door of the bar.

  "You can all fuck off. You don't know me, or what I've been through." I shoved at the door, but it was locked, frustrating my attempt to make a dramatic exit. "Goddammit! How do I unlock this fucking door?"

  "Good job, Bax," I heard Lucian say. "Way to push too far."

  I found the knob to unlock the door and twisted it, shoved the door open and took three running steps outside, turning right as I exited. Of course, within three steps, I knew I'd made a mistake. What had been merely a very bad snowstorm when I arrived had worsened into a total whiteout blizzard, snow flying so thickly that I couldn't see a single foot in front of me. I stopped dead in my tracks, fighting tears. I had to go back. It was bitterly cold, the wind slicing through me like a razor sharp knife; the fact that my coat, hat, and gloves were still wet only made it worse. In the seconds I'd been standing here, I was already covered with snow. I had no idea where I was and I was low on money.

  Helpless.

  Alone.

  Goddammit.

  3

  Lucian

  * * *

  When she got up, I figured she would go upstairs and try to catch her breath, so to speak. Just sort of calm down. But then she had her backpack and coat, and was at the front door and telling us all to fuck off on the way out. It all happened so fast that she was gone before I realized she was serious about leaving.

  I stood up. "Good job, Bax," I said. "Way to push too far."

  He held up his hands. "Well shit, I didn't think she'd react like that. Jesus."

  "We literally just met her," I said. "Tactful you are not."

  Bax sighed. "I'm sorry. That was a dick move."

  Dru gestured at the door, giving me a meaningful look. "Well? You'd better go after her."

  "Don't be sorry to me you asshole, be sorry to her," I said to Bax. "Assuming I can get her to come back."

  I didn't bother with a coat, knowing time was of the essence if I was going to catch her in this blizzard. I left the bar, tugging my hoodie up over my head and stuffing my hands into the front pocket. I stood outside the door and looked left and right, but the snow was so thick I could barely see the sidewalk in front of me.

  How far could she have gotten? This was bad. If she got lost in this, she could freeze to death a lot faster than she would realize.

  "Joss!" I called. "Come back!"

  "Fuck you." I heard her voice not far away. "Just tell me where the nearest motel is."

  "You'll never make it in this snow, for one thing," I said, moving toward her voice. "And it's booked solid, for another. I heard some customers talking yesterday about how all the hotels were sold out this weekend."

  "I'll be fine." Her voice was a murmur, depressed, flat. "Just leave me alone."

  I found her, then. Snow lay in a thick blanket over her shoulders and head, and was sticking to her dreads. She'd gone about three steps and then stopped, probably realizing her own danger.

  "Joss, please." I put my hand on her arm, standing in front of her. "Come back."

  Her eyes were hard and flat and emotionless. "Why should I?"

  "Because you'll literally freeze to death out here, if nothing else. Your coat is still wet, which will freeze around you and trap the cold in. It's actually doing more harm than good."

  "So you just don't want my death on your conscience?"

  I couldn't help a laugh. "Yeah, that's it. That's my only reason."

  She couldn't stop a slight quirk of her lips as she attempted to suppress a smile. "How chivalrous of you."

  I let out a breath. "Joss, come on. For real, I want you to come back. We all do."

  "Your brother is an asshole."

  I nodded. "I know."

  "Your sisters-in-law are all intimidatingly beautiful and funny and cool."

  I nodded again. "I know that too."

  "Your family is overwhelming as fuck."

  "Also true." I let my hand slide down to hers, and wrapped her fingers in my hand. "But we mean well, and we're loyal, and we'd all give you the shirt off our backs."

  "Well, I am wearing Dru's clothing."

  Her teeth were chattering, now, and she was shivering. I tugged her back toward the bar. "Come on, Joss. Just come back with me."

  "No more inquisitions."

  "Not a single question."

  "I'm not running from anything." She stopped and glared up at me, making sure I saw how serious she was. "And I don't like answering personal questions from people I don't know. I'm very private."

  I led her back into the bar and relocked the door. "I understand completely. I'm pretty private myself."

  "How's that work, in a family of fifteen people?"

  I laughed. "It's tricky."

  When Joss approached the table, Bax stood up and moved around to stand in front of her. "I apologize for being a dick," he said, shooting her his trademark sassy, naughty, charming grin. "Sometimes my mouth runs away from my brain."

  "My dear, sweet husband has a chronic case of verbal diarrhea," Eva put in. "But he doesn't mean anything by it."

  Joss was frozen again, tensed, as if all the eyes and attention on her had a physically paralytic effect. "I--it's fine. No big deal."

  Bax batted his eyelashes and did an impression of a sad puppy. "So you forgive me?"

  Even Joss couldn't help laughing at that. "Yes, Bax, I forgive you."

  Bax moved in, big burly arms held out wide. "Can I get a hug?"

  If Joss was paralyzed by tense discomfort before, the prospect of hugging Baxter seemed to freeze her even further, to the point that she held her arms at her sides, hands fisted, shoulders turtled up, agonized awkwardness in every line and curve of her body.

  "Ummm..."

  I stepped up beside her and batted at Bax's arms. "I don't think she's ready for the full Baxter hug experience."

  "I'm...not much of a hugger," Joss said.

  Bax just shrugged. "I'll get you one day. You'll hug me and you'll love it. I'm a great hugger. World class."

  "Is that what the kids are calling it these d
ays? Hugging?" Corin quipped, snorting.

  Bax was close enough to Corin that he reached out without looking and slugged him in the chest. "I meant a totally normal, platonic, innocent hug, you filthy pervert."

  At that moment, Jax started crying, and despite Zane's best efforts, he wouldn't calm down. Eventually Mara took him and headed for the stairs.

  "I think this little Badd boy is ready for a nap," Mara said. "Which means this party has to quiet down."

  "Hey, Zane, wanna get a few sets in while your woman puts your spawn down for a nap?" Bax asked.

  Zane nodded. "Sounds good. You cool with that, babe?"

  Mara waved a hand. "Go for it. He had me up a lot last night anyway, so I'm gonna take a nap with him."

  Claire stood up and hauled at Brock's arm. "Come on, babe. All that talk about dick made me horny. Take me home and fuck me."

  Joss choked on suppressed laughter, which made Claire cackle all the more loudly. "I think we're scandalizing poor Joss, baby."

  Brock followed Claire, and then picked her up and pinned her against the wall with his hips, before turning his head to give Joss a playful wink. "Better avert your eyes, kiddo, this is about to get dirty. "

  Joss looked at me, and then back at Claire and Brock, who were doing a pretty convincing job at pretending to fuck right there against the wall, with lots of exaggerated grunts and moans.

  "Oh my god," Joss breathed. "They're crazy. You're all crazy!"

  "They're just fucking with you." I shouted at Brock and Claire, then: "Get a room!"

  "It's too far to make it home in this snow," Brock said, his mouth nipping at Claire's throat. "Can we borrow a room here?"

  Bast waved a hand. "Zane's old room is still empty. Go for it. Just wash the sheets when you're done."

  Claire slid down, wiggled out from between Brock and the wall, and hauled him toward the stairs. "Come on, Brock! I need your cock." She giggled. "That rhymes. Brock, Brock, give me your cock! Hickory dickory dock, I'm about to ride your cock."

  "CLAIRE!" Mara shouted. "Keep your perverted poetry to yourself! None of us need to hear that shit, you slut!"

  Brock picked Claire up, tossed her over his shoulder, and carried her up the stairs, spanking her at every step...and not gently. Which only made her squeal in what sounded like equal parts outrage, pain, and pleasure.

  "Are they really going to go have sex right now? Like they literally announced it to the whole group?" Joss asked me.

 
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