Tied, p.5
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       Tied, p.5

         Part #4 of Tangled series by Emma Chase
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  I drag my eyes away and head for the shower.

  Chapter 3

  We get to my sister’s place a little after 7:00 A.M. The apartment is a madhouse—the sounds of yelling kids, talking adults, clattering coffee cups, and barking dogs fill the air.

  Well . . . one barking dog. His name is Bear—he’s a Great Dane. I got him for Mackenzie last Christmas because Applejack the pony didn’t exactly work out as I’d planned. Despite some serious begging, pleading, and negotiating, the Bitch wouldn’t break down and agree to let the pony I bought Mackenzie for Christmas live with them. Her main reason was the Central Park West Homeowners Association.

  If you’re not familiar with these types of organizations, I’ll fill you in. They’re the geriatric version of the gestapo—composed mostly of bitter, wrinkly old bags who lie in wait for someone to do something they don’t approve of.

  Such as hang a gaudy wreath on the door or play music too loud . . . or convert a bedroom into a barnyard stall.

  Instead of trying to buck the system and risk eviction procedures, Steven and Alexandra relocated Applejack to my parents’ place upstate—leaving my poor niece without a live-in pet. Which was utterly fucking unacceptable. Hence—Bear.

  He’s awesome. And big. Sort of like a pony’s dwarf cousin.

  But he’s gentle—great with kids—even though he has no idea how large he actually is. He’s always trying to climb into Alexandra’s purse or sit on Steven’s lap—which can make breathing difficult.

  Kate and I walk into the living room with James on my shoulders, and Bear welcomes us with deep woofs and slobbering licks. We greet the parentals, and Kate heads into the kitchen with my mother—rattling off a list of instructions and unloading James’s paraphernalia for the overnight stay. I put my son on his feet and he waddles over to the corner where his cousin Thomas is quietly constructing a tower of blocks.

  If Mackenzie is my sister Alexandra’s twin? Tommy-boy is all Steven. He’s a little underweight for his age. But long—lanky. His hair is dark, his eyes are blue and thoughtful. Thomas is easygoing. Laid-back. The perfect yin to my son’s Tasmanian-devil-like yang.

  With a diabolical giggle, James obliterates Thomas’s tower. But he doesn’t complain. He just starts building another one. I wrestle with Bear a bit, until my sister walks in with a cup of hot coffee for me.

  I take the cup and gesture toward Bear. “How’s the house-training going?” Bear has a weak bladder. And though it doesn’t detract from his appeal, he’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.

  “Fantastic—if the goal was to turn my nine-thousand-dollar Persian rug into his pissing ground.”

  I glance at the rug in question. “He’s got good taste. That’s a fugly rug, Lexi. I’m thinking about pissing on it myself.”


  I sip my coffee. “I try.”

  She leads me toward the adjoining dining room. “I talked to the wedding planner last night and finished the seating chart. Take a look.”

  The wedding.

  Okay—most guys would rather have their teeth pulled than have any involvement in the wedding planning. Sorry to break it to you, ladies, but we don’t give a shit about colors or centerpieces or the embossing style of the goddamn invitations. If we act as if we do, it’s only because we’re smart—and we’re trying to keep you off our backs.

  As long as the bride looks good and those mini hot dogs are served during the cocktail hour? We’re there.

  So in the beginning, I happily left all the details of the big day to Kate and my sister. But then I started hearing such words as low-key and small, intimate affair and nothing too ostentatious. And I had to step in.

  Because when an Olympian wins the gold medal, do they have a small, intimate affair?

  Of course not.

  They throw a fucking ticker-tape parade.

  Which is the least of what Kate deserves. Because she did what everyone—including the members of my immediate family—thought impossible. She bagged me. The grand prize—the unattainable—the megamillions jackpot.

  That should be celebrated. In a huge way.

  Plus, a woman’s wedding day is supposed to be special—unforgettable. She only gets one. This is particularly true in Kate’s case, because shortly after James was born, we had that whole discussion about what we would do if one of us kicked the bucket early. You’ve heard of that “It’s a far, far better thing I do” guy in A Tale of Two Cities? The one who sacrificed himself so the woman he loved could go on to live with another man?

  Fucking pansy. He deserved to hang. I’m not him.

  Sure, I want Kate to be happy—but I want her happy with me. Or no one at all. So if I bite the big one before her? She’s just gonna have to muddle through on her own.



  Because if she hooks up with another guy? Has my son calling some loser Daddy?

  I’ll haunt her. Forever. Like, The Grudge style.

  You think that’s awful, don’t you? Selfish, possessive, egotistical?

  And this surprises you why?

  Anyway—back to the wedding. Once I took over the reins, things got jacked up a whole lot of notches—no expense spared, no detail overlooked. Alexandra and I work great together. Her hyperactive planning and organizational skills coupled with my micromanaging and determination for the perfect day have made a stupendous combination. We also have the assistance of Lauren Laforet, the most sought-after wedding planner in the city, making sure all our big plans become a reality.

  Prince William and Kate can kiss my ass. Amateurs. We’ve got this wedding-of-the-century thing in the bag.

  On the dining-room table sits a model of the Four Seasons ballroom, with dozens of miniature tables and hundreds of name-labeled chairs perfectly arranged.

  I’m impressed. “This is amazing.”

  She pushes a strand of blond hair behind her ear, contemplating her handiwork. “I know.”

  I notice one table doesn’t look right. I’m about to comment, but a commotion in the living room signals a new arrival. I move to the doorway to see who’s here.

  “Woof! Woooof!”

  It’s Brangelina. Otherwise known as Matthew and Delores. Curious about the nickname? You’ll see.

  “Get off me, beast!”

  Bear has a real hard-on for Dee-Dee. Literally. He tries to violate her every chance he gets. Maybe he’s just horny. Maybe he likes how her ass smells. Maybe he instinctually senses that she’s a freak who’d be into bestiality—I don’t know. Whatever the reason?

  Funniest fucking thing ever.

  “Matthew, help! He’s licking me! He’s drooling on me!”

  “Down, Bear!”

  Steven appears and drags the hot and bothered hound out of the room. Dee-Dee adjusts her outfit—a green silk halter jumpsuit, with a royal-blue poncholike cape and silver stiletto heels. Reminds me of a strawberry-blond, hazel-eyed peacock.

  Matthew pounds me warmly on the arm. “Hey, man.”


  Then Mackenzie walks into the room. She’s taller than the last time you saw her—she’ll most likely get to five feet ten by the time she’s done growing. Her hair’s still long and blond with a slight curl; she’s wearing blue jeans, Converse sneakers, and a pink Yankees jersey. She’s a month shy of nine now—in this day and age, that’s practically a preteen.

  Mackenzie is a masterpiece—and I take full credit.

  She’s polite, brilliant, feminine—but not in a screechy afraid-of-spiders way. She watches sports—not to get the attention of some little prick, but because she knows what a two-point conversion and a technical foul are. She paints her nails and plays guitar. She’s confident but kind. Best of all, she takes shit from no one. Yeah—that’s all me.

  Even though I have my own son now, she was the first. The only girl. A piece of my heart will always, always belong to her.

  “Hey, sweetheart.”

  She jumps up and throws herse
lf into my arms. I spin her around.

  “Hi, Uncle Drew! I didn’t know you were here.”

  “Just got here. I like your shirt.”

  Then, from down the hall, I hear Steven and Alexandra going at it. And not in a good way.

  “I told you to put him in his crate!”

  “I was going to but—”

  “Going to isn’t doing! I should’ve just done it myself—like everything else around here.”

  “Can you give the martyr complex a rest, please?”

  They’ve been like this lately. Tense. Strained. We’ve all noticed. It happens—live with someone long enough, they’re bound to get on your fucking nerves. My sister’s nag-athons don’t exactly make it easy. But Steven’s always known what she’s like, and he worshipped her anyway.

  Until now.

  It’s his tone that bothers me the most. He sounds tired. Worn-out. Fed up.

  Mackenzie gazes at the floor.

  I grasp her chin and tilt her face up. “How’s it been around here?”

  She sighs. “Dramatic.”

  I glance down the hall. “Yeah, I’m sensing that.”

  “That’s parents for you.” She shrugs. “Can’t live with ’em, but emancipation is a costly and complicated process.”

  I chuckle. “You know my door’s always open, right? There’s a spare room with your name on it.”

  She glances at Thomas. “But that would leave Thomas holding down the fort. He’s just a little kid.”

  “And what are you?”

  Blue eyes stare up at me—wise beyond their years. “I’m the big sister.”

  I lean over and kiss her forehead. Then I whisper, “This weekend will be good for them, I promise. Like a mini vacation. And I’ll talk to them—knock their heads together.”

  She gives me a soft smile, as if she appreciates my effort but doesn’t quite believe it’ll do any good. “Okay, Uncle Drew.”

  Matthew walks over, oblivious of everything but Mackenzie. “There’s my girl!”

  She looks back at him and the smile free-falls from her face. She raises her nose and folds her arms. Did you feel the temperature drop? That’d be from my niece’s cold shoulder.

  “Mr. Fisher, how nice to see you again. You’re looking well.”

  Matthew groans and drops to his knees. Even though he’s over six foot, with a boxer’s frame, he looks almost diminutive when faced with my niece’s displeasure. “Mackenzie, you’re killing me, baby.”

  “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”

  He pushes a frustrated hand through his light brown hair. “Are you ever going to forgive me?”

  “Forgive you? For what? For depriving me of growing up with female companionship? For leaving me wallowing in a forest of penises? Is that what I should forgive you for, Mr. Fisher?”

  Having babies is contagious—like mono. Once a friend or a relative has one, everyone wants one just like it. At Thanksgiving dinner, the year after James was born, Matthew and Dee-Dee announced that they were having a baby. That they were adopting a baby.

  Brangelina? Get it now?

  After they proclaimed their intentions, everyone was happy for them.

  Well . . . almost everyone:

  “What do you mean, you’re adopting a baby?” asks Frank Fisher, as he sits at the dining-room table of my parents’ country house on Thanksgiving Day.

  Still holding his wife’s hand, Matthew faces his father. “What do you mean, what do I mean? We’re adopting a little boy! The paperwork is filed, and we’re waiting on the final approval, but the agency says that’s just a formality. Dee and I have passed all the big hurdles. He’s almost two months old—he’s healthy and gorgeous.” Matthew turns to Estelle. “I can’t wait for you to see him, Mom.”

  Estelle beams back at her son with budding tears of joy. But Frank asks, “Is something wrong with your wife? Is she barren?”

  Matthew’s smile falters. Before he can answer, Delores retorts, “No, Frank, I’m not barren. This is something Matthew and I have talked about doing since we were married.”

  Frank wipes his mouth with his cloth napkin, tosses it down on his plate, and pushes back from the table. The air shifts—like a summer afternoon when the sun is shining, but the wind picks up and you can feel the storm that’s about to burst over your head.

  “Why the hell would you want to raise a child that isn’t yours, Matthew?”

  My best friend frowns. “Because he will be ours.”

  “No,” Frank argues, “that’s my point—he won’t be. You have no idea where this kid comes from, what kind of garbage his real parents are. He could grow up to have mental problems, health issues—and you’ll be stuck dealing with that for the rest of your life.”

  Although part of me suspects my father agrees with him, he still tries to get Frank to lighten up. “That’s a defeatist view, Frank. Cases like that are rare when you look at the millions of children who are adopted each year.”

  By this time I’m on my feet, positioning myself closer to Matthew. Because I suspect this pot is about to boil the fuck over. In looks, Matthew resembles his father, but in personality he takes more after Estelle. Not much bothers him—he has a long fuse. But when he blows? It’s like the finale at the Macy’s fireworks extravaganza.

  Then Frank does the one thing that’s sure to light Matthew’s fuse: he lays into Dee-Dee. “This is your doing, isn’t it? You and your liberal, new age bullshit!”

  “Frank, please,” Estelle pleads softly.

  “You’re too self-centered to take time from your career to fulfill your duties as a wife.”

  “My duties?” Delores shouts from behind Matthew. “What year are you living in, Frank?”

  “Doesn’t matter the year—a woman is a woman, and a mother is a mother. Unless she physically can’t, a good woman gives her husband children. If you’re not up to the task, young lady, then my son would be smart to replace you with a woman who is.”

  Hello, shit. Meet fan.

  Matthew steps forward, the urge to put his father right through my mother’s professionally painted mural wall written all over his face. “Don’t ever fucking talk to her like that again!”

  I grab Matthew’s shoulder, holding him back. “C’mon, buddy, let’s take a walk outside.”

  He shrugs me off.

  In a lifeless voice Delores says, “I’d like to go home now. Matthew, can we please go?”

  He looks over his shoulder at her crestfallen face, and even though none of this is his fault, remorse is in his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, we’re leaving.”

  He turns to me—because Matthew and Delores drove up with me, Kate, and James in our new Escalade.

  I nod. “Kate—get the baby’s stuff. I’ll get our coats.”

  Looking as if she wants to plunge her stiletto into Dee’s father-in-law’s forehead, Kate agrees. She brings Delores with her to gather our son and his gear. Estelle wrings her hands and weeps silently.

  Frank just won’t let it frigging go. “When this blows up in your face, Matthew, don’t come crying to me.”

  Matthew replies with a mixture of anger and hurt, “Don’t worry—I would never fucking consider it.” He glances at his mother. “Sorry, Mom.” Then he walks out of the room and I’m right behind him.

  The ride home is quiet. James falls asleep before we hit the highway. My friend and his wife hold hands in the backseat, whispering apologies and reassurances to each other.

  Delores cries.

  I don’t like it. It makes her seem so . . . human.

  I offer my take on the situation. “I think we can all agree that sucked sweaty balls. But Frank’s not going to be a dick about it forever. He was blindsided—and he’s worried about you.” I make eye contact with my best friend in the review mirror. “Remember when you bought the Ducati?”

  Even though Matthew was twenty-two at the time, the way Frank blew a gasket when he saw his son’s motorcycle, you would’ve thought he was sixteen and taking out a
Lamborghini for a joyride. The first time Matthew rode it to the office, Frank bribed the maintenance guys to remove one of the fucking tires.

  Even though Frank went about it the wrong way, it stemmed from his concern for his son. Trying to protect him—desperately not wanting to see him become roadkill. This situation isn’t any different.

  “I remember,” Matthew begrudgingly admits.

  “It’s the same thing. He’ll get over it.”

  Matthew’s jaw clenches. “Well, maybe I fucking won’t. He insulted my wife. And this isn’t a motorcycle, Drew. This is my kid.”

  I sigh, ’cause I knew he was going to say that. “I know. But I bet once my parents and Lexi get through guilt-tripping him, he’ll be kissing your ass come Monday. Frank’s going to see the error of his ways and apologize. To you too, Dee. Just watch.”

  Only . . . he didn’t.

  Matthew and Frank didn’t speak to each other for two whole weeks.

  Then adoption day came.

  They flew to Transylvania or one of those small Eastern Bloc countries, and they came back with a beautiful baby boy. The weird thing is, he actually looks like them—bright hazel eyes and brown hair with natural-blond highlights.

  Estelle broke the standoff. She threatened to leave the stubborn bastard if he didn’t tell Matthew and Dee how sorry he was—how wrong he had been.

  The day after they brought the baby home, they threw a small family party so everyone could meet the new addition. I watched Frank from the second he walked into Matthew’s apartment.

  Proud. Distant. Hard.

  Until he saw his son, holding his own son.

  And all of his proud ideals about how things should be just kind of melted away.

  The Discovery Channel has a show about gorillas. At first, male gorillas feel threatened by their offspring. They don’t understand them, sort of ignore them, or bang their chests whenever they’re around. But then, after a couple days, they get used to them. And God fucking help anyone who tries to mess with them.

  It was a lot like that.

  After that first visit, from the moment Frank held the baby, he decided that this was his grandson in every way. And he’d happily beat the crap out of anyone who said otherwise.

  It’s been smooth sailing ever since.

  Now, back to Matthew’s groveling.

  Delores comes to his rescue and kneels down in front of Mackenzie. “I understand why you’re upset, Mackenzie. I didn’t have any girl cousins, either.”

  Mackenzie throws her arms up in the air. “I just don’t get it! You got to pick your baby! It wasn’t like with Aunt Kate and Mommy, where we just had to take what we got. Why couldn’t you have picked a girl?”

  Dee smiles softly. “We didn’t pick Rain, sweetie. He picked us. And even
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