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Boys South of the Mason Dixon ~ Abbi Glines, Page 4

Abbi Glines

  I climbed in the passenger side of the truck and it dawned on me then that the other Suttons weren’t here. Asher shared this truck with the twins and they rode to school together every day.

  Asher got inside with a chuckle. “Don’t worry about them, Dix. They’re just parents being parents. No need to be embarrassed.”

  “Where are your brothers?” I asked, wanting to forget that scene inside. I wasn’t looking at him, I couldn’t do that yet.

  “They got another ride.”


  “Because I didn’t want them in here to see me give you this.” I looked up from my lap to see a small silver box with a shiny pink bow on top. Asher was giving me a present. A boy had never given me a gift, not on my birthday at least, unless you count the white bunny Davey Miller gave me way back in first grade. It was the same bunny he napped with his entire kindergarten year which made me feel pretty special at the time.

  I reached for it. My hand trembled a little and I hoped he didn’t notice. I was excited, part of me wishing he’d left it on my doorstep so that I could open it privately. I knew that even if it were a rock, I would love it. It didn’t matter to me what was inside that box. It was from Asher and that made it precious.

  “You gonna hold it like it might bite you or go ahead and open it?” he teased.

  “The wrapping is so pretty I hate to mess it up,” I replied, no longer able to contain the big smile tugging at my lips.

  “Thanks. I did it myself.”

  I wasn’t sure I believed that. “Sure you did.”

  His eyebrows immediately shot up. “Hell yeah I did, ask my momma. She supplied the wrapping paper and the bow. But I wrapped it. Honestly, I did.”

  Now I didn’t want to ruin the wrapping even more. I’d keep it like this forever.

  “Open it, Dix,” he said, smiling.

  Fine. But I wasn’t going to tear the paper. I unwrapped it as gently as I could. Sliding out the small box, I realized I was holding my breath. I quickly inhaled before I passed out in front of him and embarrassed myself even more.

  I lifted the top from the box and my heart swelled even more from seeing what it held inside. It wasn’t because of the price of the gift or its beauty. It was because he’d remembered something about me that not many people knew.

  “How did you remember this?” I held The Little Mermaid sterling silver charm that would now complete my Princess bracelet. They discontinued it when I was nine years old, before I could complete my collection. I’d cried that day when Momma told me she couldn’t find one anywhere. Asher had been borrowing a saw from Daddy and he’d seen me in tears. When I told him why I was crying, he had hugged me, assured me that one day this wouldn’t be a big deal to me. I cried that it would always be a big deal because The Little Mermaid had been my favorite. I’d wanted that charm from the moment I got my bracelet, but it was always sold out everywhere we looked.

  I’d forgotten all about that, but he clearly hadn’t. That bracelet was still in my jewelry box, missing its last charm. Until now.

  Tears stung my eyes and I smiled as I held it in my hand like the priceless treasure it was to me.

  “When a beautiful girl cries, a boy never forgets why,” Asher replied softly.

  Asher Sutton

  DALLAS HAD LET his black hair grow long and it was now pulled back in a ponytail. When I came home for Christmas, he’d been tucking it behind his ears, but it hadn’t been pulled back yet. He had our mother’s green eyes and my grandmother’s Native American skin tone, also like mom. She always said Dallas was the prettiest of us all and we gave him hell about it. He was also fucking spoiled, being Momma’s favorite, her baby.

  I took a big drink from the milk Momma fixed me and noticed my baby brother’s grin. Dallas was clearly looking forward to Steel getting back because he thought we would fight. And Dallas loved a good fight and placed bets on underground fights all the time, thinking I didn’t know it.

  “You want another pie?” Momma asked, glancing over her shoulder as she dropped another pastry into the frying pan.

  “No, thanks, I’m good,” I replied.

  “I want one, Momma. Fighting makes me hungry,” Dallas drawled, Brent shoving him and causing Dallas to lean off, before he cackled with laughter.

  “Ain’t no fighting going on around here. And you two stop rough-housing in my kitchen.” Momma spoke, frowning at them both.

  “Can I still have another pie?” Dallas asked, seriously pouting. He was seventeen years old and pouting over a fucking fried pie.

  “Of course. Go sit and be good,” she replied, Dallas winking at her, and causing her to roll her eyes before going back to frying the pies.

  “You’re a dipshit, you know that, don’t you?” I said, as he pulled out a chair, turned it around and straddled it.

  “Missed you, too,” he replied, trying his charm on me, like he did on the rest of the world. He could be a smartass one minute and a charmer the next.

  “Your pretty face don’t work on me,” I said, taking another drink of my milk.

  “He’s here,” Bray announced as he walked into the kitchen. “Just saw him drive up. You gonna play nice?” He was looking directly at me.

  I wasn’t mad at Steel. I was angry because this shit was going to hurt him, too. He’d be changed forever, the same as I had been, and all I ever wanted was to keep them safe. But I’d failed. My leaving hadn’t helped anything. It had simply made it worse.

  “I’m good,” I replied when I realized all four sets of eyes were on me.

  The screen door opened again and this time it was Steel who walked in. He looked straight at me and stopped. He looked nervous.

  “About time you finally got home,” I said casually, rising from my chair.

  He took a step back, then froze, taking a deep breath. I’d eased him with my words.

  “I haven’t seen you since Christmas,” I said, closing the space between us and pulling him into a hug. “Missed you, bro.”

  The tension in his shoulders slowly relaxed as Steel hugged me back. “Glad you’re home,” he finally replied, and it sounded like he meant it.

  “Awww, shi—crap,” Dallas whined, catching himself before he cursed in front of Momma. “I was hoping for some action. You two are gonna be all mushy and sh—stuff.”

  “Stop being a douche,” Bray growled at Dallas.

  Momma spun and pointed her spoon at Bray. “You say douche in my kitchen again and I’ll send you to the store to buy some. You hear me?”

  Momma didn’t seem to care we were all men now. She still treated us like we were little boys. Bray nodded and mumbled an apology. Once, he’d called Brent a pussy in front of her. Momma took him to the grocery store and made him buy tampons. When they got to the checkout, she made Bray hand the tampons directly to the cashier and then take the sack once the lady bagged them. For a thirteen-year-old boy, that had been traumatic. Bray never called anyone a pussy in front of Momma again. In fact, he hadn’t used that word again until he finally got some actual pussy a few years after that.

  “Since we’re all here together and everyone is good, why don’t we leave Momma to her television shows and homemade wine, and take this party down to Jack’s. It’s Karly Walsh’s birthday and everyone’s headed there tonight.” Brent spoke, his eyes meeting mine. He still didn’t trust us to sit around with Momma present in case I decided to say something to Steel.

  “Sounds good! I’d forgotten about Karly’s party,” Dallas said, jumping up, his fried pie all forgotten.

  “Watch him,” Momma replied. “He ain’t old enough to be going to one of them parties or Jack’s.” Momma pointedly looked at me. The twins and myself had been going to Jack’s well before we were seventeen. She always expected me to keep them safe and out of harm’s way. And even with me being gone, she still relied on me to look after them whenever I came back home.

  “I’ll keep him out of jail,” I promised as we all headed for the door.

“Take this fried pie,” momma called out to Dallas. He turned around and took the fried strawberry pie she’d wrapped in a napkin for him. Dallas kissed her cheek and she grinned, looking up at her six-foot-three baby and patting his face like an infant.

  Some things never changed. Except that my baby brother was now as tall as me.

  Deep down, I never expected this. I knew that my walking Dixie to classes would keep most guys back. But I should’ve been prepared for guys like Sellers Brachen to be cocky enough to walk up to Dixie right in front of me.

  “Heard it’s your birthday,” Sellers drawled as I stood there and watched Dixie blush and stammer over her words. Sellers came from money. His dad was the head of the boosters and we had top of the line equipment on the field and in the locker room thanks to his contributions. Sellers was a good running back. And now he was pissing me off.

  “Yes,” she managed to respond. He clearly made her nervous and I wasn’t sure I liked that much.

  “Well, happy birthday, Dixie.” He then turned his attention to me for a second and I could see the challenge in his eyes. Dumbass. I wasn’t going to compete with him. Dixie wasn’t a prize to be won.

  “What are you doing after school?”

  She stammered again, then replied. “Nothing. Going home.”

  He gave her a crooked grin, stepping closer to her. “That’s a shame. On your birthday, you should go have some fun. How about going to get a cupcake? Then I’ll take you out to see my new colt that was just born last week.”

  I was sure she was going to turn him down until he mentioned the new colt. Dixie loved horses.

  “Oh, really? Okay, yes, I’d like to see the colt.” She was less awkward now, smiling brightly at him. Sellers’ smile changed too because Dixie’s smile did that to a guy.

  “We’ve got practice,” I reminded Sellers.

  “Only till four. Dixie, can you wait until four for me?”

  She briefly glanced at me. I had no time to react. What was she expecting me to say? Did she want me to stop her?

  “Sure. I’ll, uh, do my homework, then come out to the parking lot.”

  Shit. Not what I wanted to hear.

  “I’ll be looking for you. Highlight of my week,” he told her with a wink. He fucking winked. Like a douchebag.

  Once he was gone, I tried to collect my thoughts, decide what I was going to say. I didn’t know how to warn her away. He wasn’t good enough for her.

  “This is my class. Thanks for walking me. I’ll see you later,” Dixie said. She broke into my thoughts with her voice and then was gone before I could say anything.



  I wasn’t okay with this.

  But what could I do to stop it? She was a freshman. Sellers was a junior. Not a big deal to most people. He hadn’t done anything I hadn’t done. My reputation was probably worse than his. I was the one she needed to be protected from.

  Goddammit. I just fucked up.

  “You look like you’re about to go jump off a ledge,” Bray said, snapping me back from my thoughts.

  “Not today,” I replied. Although pushing Sellers off a ledge didn’t seem like a bad idea.

  “Dixie,” was all Bray said. Just her name. Like it was all the explanation needed for my current demeanor.

  “What?” I was annoyed that the little fucker saw too much. He paid too close attention.

  “Don’t act stupid. You’re the smartest one out of the five of us.”

  Actually, Bray was the smartest. His grades just didn’t reflect it. He had an explosive temper that was hard to control. Since he was a little boy, we’d had to deal with it. “Bray, I’m not in the mood for games. What do you mean by that?”

  Bray sighed as if my question exhausted him. “She’s fifteen today, older, but not old enough to make it alright for you. That’s what I fucking mean.”

  Out of all my brothers, Bray was the one who didn’t let anything get past him. He was the one who saw it all, soaked everything in. And in moments like these, that insight might get him thrown from a window.

  “Dixie is my friend. Just like she’s your friend.”

  Bray laughed. “Oh, no. I’m not whacking my dick while fantasizing of fucking her.”

  “Jesus! What the hell is wrong with you?” I growled, knowing all too well that I couldn’t deny it.

  “Lighten up. She’s grown up overnight. I’m not blaming you. Just saying you need to admit it and do something about it before someone else does. Because, believe me, brother, they will.”

  “What are y’all talking about?” Brent interrupted. The twin I liked. The one who wasn’t a nosey ass fucker.

  “Asher’s wanting Dixie. Time he did something about it. Admitted that shit.”

  “Oh, yeah, you really should. Sellers is already talking about her. Move fast, bro, or perish.”

  Not what I wanted to hear.

  “I’ve got literature, I think. Fuck, I don’t know for certain. Either way, I gotta go. Do something, Asher. Get on it.”

  Those were Bray’s parting words as he turned and jogged toward the gym. There weren’t any classes that way. His lit class was in the opposite direction.

  “Reckon he’s going to meet someone?” Brent asked as we both watched him jog away.

  “I wouldn’t be surprised.”

  “How does he keep his grades up?”

  That was easy. “He’s brilliant. Crazy as shit and a fucking genius.”

  Brent nodded. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

  There was no guessing to it. I knew I was right. My brother was a force to be reckoned with.

  “Can I ask you something, Asher?”

  I turned to Brent. “Yeah.”

  He glanced at Bray’s retreating form, then looked back at me. “Do you think he’s okay? Like, mentally stable?”

  “Yeah. Why?”

  “Because . . . sometimes he gets this darkness in his eyes. Like he’s not there. Like he goes somewhere else in his mind. Somewhere I never want to be.”

  I knew the answer to that, but it wasn’t my secret to tell. Instead, I replied, “he’s fine. Just Bray being Bray.” Because that much was obviously true.

  Dixie Monroe

  AS WE WALKED into Jack’s, Steel’s hand tightened around mine. He’d texted me to meet him here. The only place in town to do anything, even though they didn’t serve alcohol to minors, or at least that’s what they told everyone. I’d seen a waitress bring a Sutton boy a beer more than once in the past three years I’d been allowed to actually come inside the front door. When I drove up and saw Asher’s truck, I called Steel and he came outside to meet me. He assured me Asher was fine with us being together and that he’d been all smiles.

  Was it wrong of me to feel disappointed that Asher was happy I was with his brother? Shouldn’t I want him to be okay with this? Steel loved me. Steel wanted to marry me. Steel wouldn’t toss me out like yesterday’s trash.

  But . . . now Asher was home.

  I scanned the crowd. I could lie and tell myself I wasn’t looking for Asher, but I was. I craved to see him and I had to get a handle on this. I was happy he was fine with me dating Steel, and it bothered me, too.

  Brent’s laughter caught my attention and I knew Scarlet was probably with him. But my eyes didn’t seek Brent or Scarlet. They sought Asher who was sitting on a bar stool, holding a cue, watching Brent taunt Bray. The smile on Asher’s face wasn’t the heart-stopping one I’d once loved so much. Instead, it was a sad one. Did coming home make him sad? Once, I would’ve been able to wrap my arms around him and ask him what was bothering him. He would’ve told me and we could’ve worked right through it together.

  “Want a Coke?” Steel asked as he pulled me in his brother’s direction.

  I wasn’t sure what I wanted.

  I shook my head and Steel bent his to kiss the top of mine. “I swear, babe, it’s okay,” he whispered in my ear.

  He thought I was worried about Asher being upset abou
t us. But what really worried me was how I would react to being near Asher again, after all this time. Would I be able to breathe? Would my heart hurt too much?

  I looked for Scarlet, but I only saw Brent. He looked up from the pool table where he was watching Bray sink a ball, his smile wavering. He wasn’t sure about this. Great. Had Steel been wrong? “Guess we’re all together again. About damn time. Scarlet’s on her way,” Brent said with a genuine smile, before he winked at me and collected his stick, then walked over to the table.

  Bray straightened and glanced back at me. His frown told me he wasn’t on board. That this was a bad idea. I couldn’t help but agree with Bray. But this was something Steel wanted for us.

  “Hey, Em, why don’t you come entertain Asher while I take his place in this game,” Bray called to Emily James. Damn him. Was he doing this on purpose? I’d watched Emily paw all over Asher after he dumped me. I hated it then and it still made my skin crawl just thinking about it.

  “What the hell ever,” Steel said grinning. “If Asher is out, then I’m in. You had your turn. I’m up.” Steel left me to walk over to the pool table.

  I refused to glance over at Asher and Emily freakin’ James. I knew she was tall with long legs. She had big fake boobs her momma bought her when she was eighteen years old. I also knew she’d spread her legs for Asher more than once. Word had gotten around. It didn’t hurt any less now than it did back then. Emily of all people. Asher knew how she’d once treated me. And he’d done it anyway.

  “He’s not paying Em any mind. Stop tensing up or Steel’s gonna notice,” Dallas whispered in my ear. The youngest Sutton boy was the largest and the most perceptive by far. He studied crowds and body language like it was his chosen profession. “Ash ain’t into fake titties anyway,” he added, smirking all amused.

  I glanced up at him and he shrugged as if to say, “what? You know I’m right.”

  “Nothing’s fake about her legs,” I replied in a bitter tone that I hated myself for. Dallas’s gaze flicked over my shoulder in the direction of Emily’s lone voice. It came from where Asher was seated. “Yeah, true,” Dallas replied, “but once a pair of legs have been wrapped around the hips of every male in the county, what’s between them ain’t the glory land that it was before all the wrappings.”