Broken and screwed 2, p.34
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       Broken and Screwed 2, p.34
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         Part #2 of Broken and Screwed series by Tijan

  But Alexi came to me willingly. Her mother turned away. A hand was pressed to her mouth and she walked a few steps away. As her shoulder started shaking, I knew what she was doing and I turned to give my niece the brightest smile I could muster. “You’re so pretty!”

  A toothy smile was my reward. Little fingers reached out and she grabbed hold of my cheeks and started yanking my face back and forth. It was the best feeling. Her eyes darkened and she grew serious then. Leaning forward, she plucked at my lip. My hair was attacked next. I didn’t care. She could yank all she wanted.

  When Claire remained away, still crying and wiping at her face, I took Alexi to a nearby bench. I was bouncing her on my knee when I heard my name called out. Hannah and Beth waved and came over. Beth frowned at the little girl. When she reached for her, Beth took two staggering steps backwards. The little girl grew more determined, but grabbed Hannah’s knee instead.

  Hannah gestured at her. “Who’s the kid?”

  “My niece.”

  I didn’t bat an eyelash. I didn’t hesitate. I was so damn proud. Ethan created this little girl. She would’ve been the love of his life.

  “Oh. Wow.”

  I looked up and squinted against the sunlight. There were no sarcastic remarks. Even Beth looked close to tears. She took the seat beside me and held a finger out. Alexi grabbed on and twisted. As Beth cried out in pain, Hannah snorted. “Dumb—”

  She caught my look.

  And finished, “head. Dumbhead.”

  “I’m better now.” Claire joined us, her voice still wobbly. She knelt and took Alexi from me. “Thanks for holding her.” Then she glanced at Beth and Hannah.

  “These are my friends.”

  “Oh, right. Angie and Marissa. Ethan told me about them.”

  “Hannah and Beth.”

  “Oh.” She flushed. “Sorry. Of course. You’re at college. Who goes to college with their high school friends?”

  “I did.” Hannah threw her arm around Beth’s shoulders. “Actually, I coerced my cousin to come here after me. Couldn’t live another year without her.”

  “Shut up,” Beth mumbled. Her eyes were glued to Alexi before she turned away. “Let’s go. This is a private moment.”

  “Oh man.”

  “Shut it, Chatsworth!”

  “Shutting it.” Hannah winked at me as she followed Beth to the dorm.

  “They’re, uh, nice?”

  “They’re like me.” I stood from the bench. “Not everyone gets us.”

  “So, um, the birthday party. Yes. We’re having it in two weeks. Did I say that before? Two weeks at my mother’s. Jesse knows the address. Bring him too. I haven’t been all that nice to him, but I’ve started to realize that he’s not the bad guy I always thought he was.”

  I grinned. I understood that as well.

  “It’s not going to be anything special. I mean, I can’t afford much, and I don’t like letting my mother dish out money all the time. Free rent is good enough, you know.” She rolled her eyes and sucked in her breath. She puffed out her cheeks. “Sorry. You don’t need to know all about that. I just feel bad. Seeing you, I know I’ve been wrong the last three years. I was so angry with your dad and I took it out on everyone. Alexi too. She’d probably love meeting your mom, huh? What am I doing here?” She choked out next, “Thank you for telling me about Ethan. I never knew. They only said he died in a car accident. That was it.”

  I stopped her as I put my hand on her arm. “Do you mind if I ask, but how do you spell Alexi’s middle name?” I needed to make sure.

  “Oh.” She blinked in her confusion, but rambled out, “C-L-A-I-R-A. I wanted it to be a bit different. My aunt’s name is Claira too. I thought I was taking care of three birds with one stone. Okay. I have no idea what I was thinking. I didn’t want her to be just like me or just like you. All right.” She forced out another deep breath. “I am so nervous right now. You are so beautiful. Ethan told me you were pretty, but I had no idea.”

  Now I was the confused one. Jesse always told me that I was hot. My mother mentioned I was beautiful, but it came from Claire now. I was touched. The tears started forming.

  “Okay. I’m going to go. I’ll be in contact. I really will. This wasn’t some form of drive by and meet-your-niece-sort-of-thing. You know what I mean. I’m just having a hard time keeping it together. You’re not what I expected. Jesse said that’s your dorm over there. I’ve been waiting all day to catch you. I almost left. Alexi needs to eat and take a nap, but then she took off running. I have no idea why. She’d been fine with me under the tree, but all the sudden she took off. It was like she was chasing something. I don’t know. She does that at times. She’ll suddenly start talking to someone in the room, but no one is there. And I’m rambling again.”

  She darted forward and gave me a hug. Her skinny arms wrapped around me before she let me go. Then she gave me an awkward wave and hurried to the parking lot. Alexi hung over her shoulder. Her dark eyes didn’t look away. Before they got into their car, she lifted her tiny hand and waved.

  I bit my own lip now. The tears were starting to spill.

  I missed my brother so goddamn much in that moment.

  Four months later

  “Hey!”

  I looked over and saw Hannah and Beth crossing the lawn to me. Instead of the skintight and skin-showing ensemble Hannah usually wore, I was surprised that she was in jeans and a lightweight white shirt. She almost looked like me. I glanced down, but my jeans were ripped at the knees and Jesse had stretched the cleavage down one night. We’d been cuddling on the couch and wanted a better view. I was now the scantily clad one, but I was comforted at Beth’s usual apparel. All black. A new tattoo peeked out from underneath her neckline. It looked like the tip of a bird’s wing. Then I glanced around. “Where’d you park?”

  “On the street.” Hannah gestured to the red Camaro. “We figured everyone’s moving back in so there wouldn’t be enough room.” She glanced around and saw two other cars. “Maybe I was wrong.”

  “No,” I sighed and bent forward to grab my boxes. “Jamie just got here. Cord moved back last week. And their new roommate isn’t here yet.”

  “You guys got a new roommate?”

  I nodded. As both of them grabbed a box, I headed into Jesse’s house. Jamie had put all his boxes in the foyer and dining room so we sidestepped his stuff and placed my boxes in the living room. “Yeah,” I answered Beth as we headed back out. “Derek and Kara got their own place since she’s not a Resident Advisor this year.”

  “I can’t believe you’re really living with Jesse now.”

  Beth frowned at her cousin. “Why not? She basically did last year.”

  “Yeah, but she still had a place of her own. What if something happens? What if she needs somewhere to go?”

  I grinned while Beth punched her cousin’s arm. “Good thing I have your place to go to.”

  “Go to?” Hannah froze as if she hadn’t thought about that. “But we only have a two bedroom apartment. And her boytoy doesn’t work at Club T anymore. He’s got a new job so I know he’ll be sleeping over more. And me—”

  “We all know your sex life hasn’t really dwindled,” Beth spoke over her cousin, giving her a meaningful look.

  “What? It has. I’m not dating Scarred Baldy anymore.”

  I grinned, reaching into my car for another box. The other two followed suit and we headed back inside. As we got there, Jamie had jumped from the stairs. He landed in the foyer and scooped one of his boxes. When he noticed who else was with me, the slight warmth chilled. “Oh. You.”

  “Oh. You.” Hannah sent him a snarl.

  Beth sighed and moved around her cousin to put her box down. Hannah lingered in the foyer, skimming a disgusted eye up and down Jamie. “Have you gained weight over the summer?”

  “No.” He looked insulted. “I’ve been lifting over the summer.” Then he cast a shrewd eye over her figure. “You’re not the normal whore that you usually are. Wha
t’s up with that? Are you in costume today? Practicing for Halloween? We’ve still got two months to go.”

  “Shut up and what are you doing, gaining weight? That’s only going to slow you down on the basketball court.”

  I frowned and handed my box to Beth so I could take the one Hannah was holding. She looked ready to throw it at him.

  “It’s none of your business. You’re just hot for me. That’s the only reason you give a damn.”

  Her top lip curved even higher in a sneer as she tossed her platinum hair back. “You’re just jealous because my sister dumped your ass in May. Good one. Classy move cheating on her.”

  He stiffened, looking ready to throw his box at her now. “I was set up. Your sister wanted me to cheat on her.”

  Her mouth dropped open and her eyes bulged out. “Are you kidding me? That’s the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard.”

  He rolled his eyes. “Whatever. I don’t give a shit what you think. Alex.”

  My back stiffened at the abrupt call. “Yeah?”

  “Who’s the new roommate?”

  I sucked in my breath and shook my head. No way was I getting involved with that one. “Jesse’s almost home. You can ask him.”

  “What?”

  But I hurried out of there. I wasn’t looking forward to hearing Hannah’s reaction either when the new roommate did show up. And just then, because karma hated me, Tiffany’s Mazda pulled into the driveway. She got out, flashed me a friendly wave, and grabbed two large suitcases before she crossed the lawn. “Hi!”

  This wasn’t going to go well. I gestured towards the house. “He doesn’t know. And neither does she.”

  Tiffany went rigid. “My sister’s here?”

  I nodded. No words were needed.

  Beth stepped out from the door. She saw the packed car, her other cousin, and the luggage. She turned around and went back inside. Emerging a moment later, she had Hannah’s keys in her hand and she waved at us as she crossed the street. The red Camaro took off a second later.

  Tiffany grinned as she pushed her pink sunglasses on top of her head. “She’s smarter than I give her credit.”

  I grunted. “I was starting to like you until that comment.”

  She shrugged. “That doesn’t bother me either.” Nodding towards the house, she asked, “So who’s all in there? I see Cord and Jamie’s car.”

  “I just got here ten minutes ago. I had to go back home to finalize the sale on my house.”

  “Oh, that’s right. The one your parents left you.”

  I nodded. It was better in someone else’s hands. And it wasn’t somewhere I saw myself spending time in. With the monthly allowance my father was still paying, which I had been surprised when I got my statements from the bank; and the inheritance I got from my grandfather, the money from the house wasn’t that much. Still, I figured I’d find good use for it somewhere down the line. For the next three years, Jesse wanted me to stay in his house. He said even if we broke up, he still wanted me there. If that happened, he was family no matter what. He had to be. We needed each other.

  “Where’s Jesse?”

  I was distracted from my thoughts. “What? Oh. He was called in for a meeting with the coach. He just texted. He was going to help me move the last of my stuff, but he’ll be here in a few minutes.”

  “So I have Derek’s old room?”

  I nodded. The unspoken question was if she was still across the hall from her ex-boyfriend, and yes. She was.

  She took a deep breath and surveyed the house as if we were heading into enemy territory. “This is going to be interesting.”

  “Yep.”

  That was an understatement.

  “All right.” She flashed me a perfect smile. “Are you coming in after me? Or am I—”

  I waved her off. “Oh. You’re all alone going in there. I’m staying back. I’ll go to the back to move in if I have to.”

  She frowned and for a second, fear flashed in her crystal blue depths. She wavered before she rolled back her shoulders and her hands tightened their grips on the luggage. The Grant West Royal Princess was back in the building. She started for the house. Her shiny, white shirt that hung off one of her shoulders and draped over her, billowed in the wind. It hugged her form for a second. The sunlight hit on the sequins on her heels and cast a blinding reflection behind her as well. The only thing missing was a tiara.

  Hannah and Jamie were still bickering, but as Tiffany stepped inside, I only heard him scoff, “Oh hell no!”

  Then the bickering tripled.

  Another car pulled into the driveway. This time, a girl came out. She was dressed in a tight black halter-top and overly tight jeans that showcased every muscle in her legs. Dark almond eyes landed on me and she flipped a strand of sleek black hair over her shoulder. She was the darker version of Tiffany. I only hoped she wasn’t there for Jamie.

  “Hi.” She moved over to me. Her eyes crinkled a bit as she studied me before she asked, “Do you know Cord Tatum?”

  I let out a small breath of air in relief. “Yeah, but you might want to call him out. I wouldn’t step inside if I were you.”

  “Oh.” She frowned at me for a second before she pulled out her phone. Leaning next to me against my car, she quickly texted him.

  “Like fuck you are!” Jamie shouted over the sisters.

  “Oh.” Her head craned back. “I understand now.”

  I nodded.

  And we waited. No further introductions were made. This girl struck me as a type that didn’t lower herself to being the first one who gave her name and I didn’t care enough to be polite. She was another in a long line. She’d be gone after a week.

  A momentary lapse in the fighting occurred. Cord popped out of the door. He lifted his hand to wave her over, but saw me and lowered it instead. Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he sauntered across the yard to my car. “Hey.”

  The girl flashed perfect white teeth. Why wasn’t I surprised?

  He said to me instead, “I didn’t know you were back.”

  “Yeah. Ten minutes ago.”

  “When did that start?” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder.

  “Five minutes ago.”

  “Oh.” He skimmed his date up and down, but looked back at me. “Is Jesse headed back soon?”

  I nodded. “You know what the coach wanted?”

  He grinned at me. “That’s team confidential. What’s wrong with you?”

  I shrugged. “I’d appreciate a heads up if it’s going to be a problem for him later on.”

  “Oh. No. It’s nothing like that. The pros are already watching Jesse. That’s what it was about. I was just teasing before.”

  “Gotcha. And thanks for telling me.”

  I could feel the girl reevaluating me. It was always the same. Tiffany had underestimated me as well.

  Cord asked, “Is everything situated with your mom and niece?”

  My gut dropped. I hadn’t expected that question, at least not in front of one of his girls. Sucking my breath in, I couldn’t stop my hand from clenching around the bag strap in it. Then I forced my head to nod. I tried to sound normal as I responded, “Yeah. The lawyers notified Claire of the inheritance. They thought it was typo.”

  Cord nodded. “And the original lawyer never told them, right? He quit after your brother died?”

  “Something like that. Yeah.” I narrowed my eyes at him. Why was he dredging this up? And in front of a stranger?

  He turned and glanced back at the house. “They seemed to have come to an impasse. We could dart in and not get hit by any crossfire.” He jerked his head at the girl and she followed him eagerly.

  After they disappeared inside, I released the breath I’d been holding. My stomach was in knots now. It was rolling and twisting.
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