Frayed Page 92

With a grin on my face, knowing it is, I grab my keys and hers as well. I open the door to go pick us up some food and come face-to-face with S\elle\s brother Xander Wilde. We were in the same fraternity in college, although he\s older. I knew who he was but didn\ really know him. Last year I saw him again at Dahlia\s house when he pulled his brother off me and Caleb hauled my ass out of the room. Not one of my fondest memories getting my ass beat. But in hindsight it was well deserved. My cocky attitude and belligerent words were more than deserving of River\s anger.

His eyes narrow as they assess me. I feel he\s trying to determine if I\m good enough for his sister. Maybe I\m aiming higher than I should. In fact, I\m sure I am because I actually feel he\s trying to determine if I\m as big a piece of shit as he believes I am. It\s how I imagine I\d feel going to pick a girl up for a first date and having to meet her father, one that already hated me. But since I dated Dahlia all through high school and I had grown up next door to her, thank f**k I never had to experience that kind of scrutiny, because this is a really uncomfortable feeling.

He steps around me and makes his way in, looking around for Bell. ’’Where\s my sister?’’

I take a deep breath and extend my hand. ’’Xander.’’

His eyes keep sweeping the apartment. Then he nods, extending his hand in return, allowing his eyes to settle on me for a quick second. At least he doesn\ leave me hanging. ’’Jack told me what happened yesterday. I stopped by to check on Bell.’’

F*k me if this couldn\ be more uncomfortable. Normally I\d have already said f**k you. But since I\ve just spent the last . . . I don\ how long . . . f**king his sister and she\s sleeping naked in the other room while he\s here to check on her, and I do want to try to earn his respect, I face his scrutiny head-on. ’’She seems to be fine. She said her head only hurts around the stitched area.’’

His face turns red. His fists clench.

I start to wonder if he\s going to be the next one throwing a punch at me. I\m not worried for myself. I just want to prove to S\elle that I can handle the situation. So if he wants to pound the shit out of me, I\m going to let him. I need to make things right with her family, and although him throwing a punch at me isn\ ideal, it\s a start. I brace myself and fight the urge to retaliate.

’’I\m going to kill that motherf*ker one day,’’ he blurts out in a huff.

I let my tension release and nod in agreement. ’’My feelings exactly.’’

’’I had a bad feeling about him from the day I met him. I told Bell, but she always sees the good in people and couldn\ see it.’’

I know there was a dig in there for me. I could hear it in his voice.

’’Where is she?’’

’’She fell asleep ’’

’’I\m right here.’’ She pops up in the doorway fully dressed thank f**k.

’’You woke up?’’ I smile over at her.

Her eyes dart to my sweatshirt and she grins at me.

Xander crosses over to her and pulls her in for a tight embrace. He leans back to look at her forehead and hugs her again. ’’Are you okay?’’

She nods.

’’You sure?’’

I place my hand on the door as I witness what I already knew. This girl has been loved, protected, and sheltered her whole life by a family that adores her. There is no bad in her. She\s good through and through. I wish I could say the same. A feeling that maybe she\s too good for me makes my body tremble slightly. But when she looks over to me from her brother\s arms and winks, my stomach leaps.

’’I\ll leave the two of you to talk.’’

She pulls away from her brother and frowns at me.

’’I thought I\d go grab some food.’’ I quickly add, ’’Where is the closest Italian spot for takeout?’’

She smiles and her eyes gleam.

’’Vito\s. Around the corner on North La Cienega Boulevard,’’ Xander says.

’’Thanks.’’ I turn the handle on the door.

’’Hey, man,’’ he says, and I turn around. ’’Thanks for taking care of my sister.’’

I nod and as I turn back I catch S\elle\s big green eyes shimmering with happiness.




The thing about family is you can love them and dislike them at the same time, and right now I\m torn at seeing Xander. I nod toward the dark clouds massing on the horizon. ’’Looks like another storm is coming?’’

He huffs, ’’I\m not here to talk about the weather.’’

My brother\s stare is fierce, but I know I can be fiercer, or at least I think I can.

’’I know.’’ I smile to lessen the tension.

His brow furrows as though he wants to say something but changes his mind.

’’I quit my job.’’

That earns me a smile.

’’Finally,’’ he sighs with relief. ’’You know I never liked that guy. Bell, I understand you better than you think I do. I know you\ e determined to prove to us that you can make it on your own. But I came over here to tell you, the thing is, you don\ have to.’’

I open and shut my mouth without coming up with a response.

’’You\ e one of the lucky ones don\ you get it? You have us. We\ e here for you.’’

He takes a step closer.

I breathe in, willing myself not to cry. ’’I know that.’’

’’Do you? Do you really know that no matter what, we love you?\

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