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Page 36


“It was a short visit,” she pointed out as she released her hold on him and headed back towards the kitchen.

“I had somewhere to be,” he lied, rubbing the back of his neck as he followed his sister.

“Sure you did,” she said, sending him a mischievous smile over her shoulder as she pushed the swinging door open.

He walked in, expecting to find his mother arranging large bowls and platters of food only to find his father standing in the middle of the kitchen with a large bowl of mashed potatoes in his arms. When his father’s gaze locked on Kenzie, he shot her that warm, sappy smile that belonged to his only baby girl. That smile quickly disappeared when he looked up and saw Danny standing in the kitchen. Jaw clenched firmly, he walked past Danny, pointedly looking straight ahead.

“I do so love these family dinners,” he muttered, rubbing his hands down his face.

“Why don’t you just tell Dad that you-”

“Don’t,” he said, dropping his hands by his sides, “Just don’t.”

“Sorry,” Kenzie said, giving him a small smile as she grabbed a large platter of fried chicken.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, sighing heavily as he looked around the large kitchen. “Where’s Mom?”

“She spilled gravy on herself and had to go change,” she said with a shrug.

He gestured absently behind him. “I wanted her to meet Jodi.”

The smile on Kenzie’s face slowly turned to horror as his words registered. “You brought your girlfriend here?”


“Where is she?” she demanded, shoving the platter of chicken in his hands.

“In the front hall with everyone,” he said, wondering what her problem was.

“You left her with our brothers? Are you out of your damn mind?” she demanded, shoving past him and making him realize what he’d just done.

He’d left Tinkerbelle alone….

With his cousins….

And his brothers….

Who all thought it was their job to look after him.


He dropped the platter on the kitchen counter by the door and shoved past his sister at a dead run. He was halfway down the hallway when he realized the large foyer where he’d left Jodi with his brothers and asshole cousins was empty. By the time he’d reached the stairs the cries to stop had started.

“Please stop!” Tinkerbelle cried, sounding out of breath.

He was going to fucking kill them, he swore as he followed the sounds of her pleas. He couldn’t believe how stupid he’d been to leave her like that. He’d known better than to leave her with them, but he hadn’t been thinking. He hated coming here, hated seeing his father, hated the reminder that his father hadn’t spoken a word to him since the night before he’d run off to enlist, but most of all he hated the fact that his father looked at him as though he was a stranger.

“No, I can’t take anymore! Please stop!” Tinkerbelle cried, sobbing hysterically as he rounded the corner and ran down the hallway where he used to race his matchbox cars with his brothers late at night when their parents had gone to bed.

He ran down the hall, shoved the double doors to the family room open and decided then and there that he was definitely going to kill his brothers.


“Please, stop!” she cried, gasping for air as she tried to stop laughing, but she just couldn’t, not with all seven of Danny’s brothers shoving the most embarrassing pictures they could find of Danny in her face.

“Wait! I found the home videos!” Arik announced triumphantly as he held up a large stack of DVDs.

“You………Bastards!” Danny snarled as the photo album on her lap was suddenly yanked away.

“Oh, come on!” his brothers whined as Danny snatched the rest of the photo albums away from them.

“Betraying bastards,” he grumbled with a murderous glare aimed at his brothers as he slammed the photo albums down on the coffee table.

“Stop being an asshole,” Duncan said with a roll of his eyes as he reached down to-

“Ow!” he yelped as Danny grabbed his hand and with a simple twist of his wrist, dropped his brother to his knees.

“The next person that shows my girlfriend a picture of me wearing one of Mom’s bras is a dead man!” he snarled, using his hold on his brother’s hand to make his point.

“Let go, you bastard!” Duncan yelled, gasping in pain as Danny added a little more pressure to drive his point home.

She should be concerned about his brother, but……

“There’s a picture of you wearing a bra?” she asked, shooting a hopeful glance towards the pile of photo albums and wondering if it would be possible to get a copy blown up for her wall.

“Don’t even think about it,” he said, throwing her a menacing look that once upon a time would have cowed her, but now it just made her mumble under her breath and shake her head as she got to her feet and walked around him to find that picture for herself.

She heard a muttered curse and then she found herself pulled into Danny’s arms and his lips pressed against hers. “Be nice, Tinkerbelle, or I won’t show you my old tree house.”

“You had a tree house?” she asked, smiling against his lips as she imagined a mini-Danny holing up in his tree house, warding off his territory from his younger siblings.

“Yes, he did and I could only get him to come out for dinner,” a small woman with graying black hair and a huge smile said as Danny stepped back.

“Sweetheart, this is my mother,” Danny said, leaning down to kiss his mother on the cheek.

“Mom, this is my girlfriend-Mom?”

“Mrs. Bradford?” Jodi asked, panic taking over as she reached for the older woman just as her eyes rolled in the back of her head and she-


“I’m fine,” Mary, Danny’s mother, said, waving off everyone’s concerns and gesturing for everyone to eat.

“Honey, maybe we should go to the hos-” Dr. Bradford began to say only to stop mid-word when Mary turned a furious glare on him.

“My oldest son brought home his girlfriend to have dinner with me and I’m damn well going to have dinner with her!” Mary snapped at her husband, startling everyone at the table.

“Ummm,” Dr. Bradford began to say, swallowing nervously as he slowly, ever so slowly, handed his wife the ice pack he’d been holding against the back of her head where she’d hit the edge of the couch when she’d passed out, and sat back in his chair. “Just let me know if it starts hurting.”

“Uh huh,” Mary said, shifting her attention back on her. “Would you like any more chicken, Jodi?” she asked pleasantly, startling her even more.

“N-no, thank you, I’m fine,” she said, glancing down at the plate overflowing with food and wondering how she was going to eat all of this without getting sick.

“Are you thirsty?” Mary asked, sounding eager as she gestured towards one of the many pitchers lining the long dining room table.

“I’m fine, thank you,” she said with a smile.

“Are you sure?” Mary asked, gesturing for one of her sons to pour her a glass of lemonade.

“She’s fine, Mom,” Danny said, waving his brother off.

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