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By´╝ÜCandace Blevins

“I know them,” Gen smiled. “In fact, Ethan worked with me until I was comfortable fighting someone as big as him. Taught me how to use his size and weight against him. He’s way cool, and so in love with Sam, sometimes my eyes water just watching him watch her.”

Keith chuckled and touched Gen’s cheek. She’d given up on trying to be professional, as she had a feeling this group would open up to her only after they were comfortable with her. However, Keith’s touch upped the ante even more. Before she could say anything, though, his next words made her forget to tell him to keep his hands to himself.

“One minute you tell us you’ve learned fighting skills from the fucking champion of the world heavyweight MMA titleholder, and the next you reveal how much of a fuckin’ romantic you are by saying you get all teary-eyed just seeing the way he looks at his wife? Damn, Gen, you’re still that same free-spirited little girl, just all grown up with curves now. I’m likin’ what I see.”

“You didn’t even know I existed back then, Keith. I crushed on you so hard and we never even had a full conversation. And you say the eff word an awful lot.”

Gen winced as she realized the filter between her brain and mouth was apparently malfunctioning.

Duke’s smile was so cocky she wanted to crawl under the table, but instead chose to glare at him.

“You crushed on me?” The cocky smile grew to arrogant and cocky.

“I was, like, fourteen,” Gen retorted. “It was a long time ago, and you didn’t know I existed.”

“Oh, yeah I did. Definitely did. You were off limits, though. Frisco’s little sister.”

“Off limits? Seriously?”

“Seriously. Good thing I’ve got new brothers now, with different little sisters off limits. You’re no longer on the list.”

She chose to ignore him and go on with the story. She looked towards Brain and Bash and said, “So, a big group of Sam and Ethan’s friends went out to Vegas with them. Cassie avoided Frisco, who by this time was heartbroken, knew he’d screwed up, missed both Cam and Cassie, since he’d broken up with both of them by this time, because he was an idiot.” She took a breath before heading into the part she’d rather not talk about, but it was important, so she said, “Cassie had made arrangements to go to a—”

“Hold up, Cassandra Smith? Cassie? Fuck.” Keith looked to the other men at the table, his jaw flexing, and they all looked just as unhappy.

Cassie’s rape by a famous MMA fighter had been all over the news, so it was no surprise they knew the story. Relieved to not have to go through it, Gen skipped ahead, since they knew that part. “Okay, so, Frisco refused to leave Cassie alone at the hospital. She made him stand outside her room at first, but eventually he managed to worm his way in, though she says he mostly stayed quiet in the corner to keep from bothering her. She had other friends there, so she managed to ignore him.”

Gen wasn’t close to her thirty-minute limit, and there was still food left, but she found it odd these men seemed to be this into the story. Keith, sure, because he knew Isaac and Frisco. But they were strangers to the other men. Unless throwing Sam, Ethan, and Cassie in made it more interesting? She wasn’t sure, but took a breath and kept going. “Meanwhile, even before the rape, Isaac had planned to wait until she got home from Vegas to tell her Frisco hadn’t stepped up, and he was, if she’d have him back. So, she goes home and ends up with Cam there because he lives there, and both Isaac and Frisco refusing to leave. Cam apparently laid down the law, put Frisco to work cooking, helped Isaac get back close enough to Cassie to help her move around during the day since Cam was finishing his last year of college at the time. When Isaac and Frisco started sniping at each other, Cam told them if they couldn’t behave they’d have to leave.”

She shrugged. “If the whole BDSM thing is right, and I’m assuming it is, then Isaac and Frisco are in charge, and Cam and Cassie do as they say. Cam sits on the floor at Frisco’s feet a lot, even when company is over. It looks natural, like he belongs there, but casual, not sexual. However, he’s apparently not a pushover, and he’s very protective of Cassie.” She thought about the night before and added, “Me too, actually. He made Frisco back off of me last night, when he was asking questions I wasn’t ready to answer yet.”

“What questions, Beautiful?”

Her eyes snapped to him. “Well, if I didn’t want to tell my brother, I sure as heck don’t want to tell you.” She looked at their table, took in the beers, and it suddenly occurred to her she was the only one not drinking. She smiled and lowered her voice to say, “I’m guessing everyone in here would be surprised to know I’m the only one at this table carrying.”