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Page 3

“It’s either raise your rent or let your future wife move out,” Trevor explained as he squirted ketchup on his meatloaf. At least, Danny thought it was meatloaf, but since Zoe had cooked this meal he really couldn’t be sure of anything.

“She’s not my future wife,” Danny said, sighing heavily as he placed the bowl of mashed potatoes down. “You really need to quit that shit.”

“Then what is she?” Jason, another one of his cousins asked as he gestured towards the bowl of mashed potatoes. “Pass the scalloped potatoes.”

Frowning, Danny looked around the table, but he didn’t see anything that even remotely resembled scalloped potatoes.

“That’s rice,” Trevor said tightly, shooting them a glare with the silent message to shut their mouths and not question the food, something that he badly wanted to do. But since it would just end in a fistfight and with answers that he probably really didn’t want, he let it go and answered his cousin.

“She’s just the woman that rents the apartment across from me and that I torment for my own entertainment when I’m bored or I’m just in the mood to piss her off,” which was every day, but he didn’t bother to point that out since it would just encourage his cousin’s bullshit.

“I see,” Jason said, sounding amused.

“I’m glad that you do,” he said, glad that this bullshit was over wi-

“She’s definitely your future wife,” Jason said, chuckling and pissing him off.

“We could have the wedding in our backyard,” Haley, Jason’s wife and a cute little thing that he wouldn’t have minded spending a little time with before his cousin corrupted her, said, looking hopeful as she pushed her glasses back up her nose.

Zoe sighed, shaking her head as she picked up the bowl of what appeared to be gravy and said, “Bradfords don’t have weddings. Weddings imply that some planning went into it and the bride was asked when what it really comes down to is a kidnapping, a terrified Justice of the Peace, a quick ceremony and a race across town to have the marriage consummated before the bride comes to her senses and gets the marriage annulled.”

Trevor gasped in outrage. “You said that it was the most romantic night of your life!”

“Oh,” Zoe said, blinking before she added, “It was,” in a placating tone as she reached over and gave her husband’s hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Keep your lies, woman!” Trevor snapped, sounding pissed, but when Zoe sighed and tried to move her hand away, he quickly snatched it back and entwined their fingers together even as he continued to glare accusingly at her.

“Just because we didn’t have a wedding doesn’t mean that no Bradford has ever had a wedding,” Haley pointed out, picking up a bowl of….well, Danny was at a loss at what the chunky, clear pink gunk was.

“Yes, it does, my little grasshopper,” Jason said as he took the bowl from Haley and with a discreet shake of his head, warned her away from the stuff that not even a Bradford would take a chance on.

“There’s only been three weddings in the Bradford family in the last two hundred years,” Trevor said, picking up the bowl of pink goop and scooped some onto his plate.

“See!” Haley said, sounding triumphant as she moved to pick up what Danny thought was gravy, but another discreet shake of Jason’s head had Haley quickly passing on that to take a sip of water.

“And all three of those marriages ended with divorce in less than a month,” Jason added, receiving a nod of agreement from both Trevor and Danny, because every Bradford knew the family history, traditions and counties that they were still banned from by heart.

Bradford men didn’t propose, because a proposal meant that he wasn’t out of his mind in love. It was the same reason that they didn’t buy rings or plan weddings, because if a Bradford male was thinking rationally enough to do any of that shit, then he wasn’t really in love. A Bradford male might realize early on that he’d found the woman of his dreams, but until he was at the point that he was willing to risk a kidnapping charge, he wasn’t ready for marriage.

“No worries,” Trevor said, scooping some “rice” onto his plate. “After the wedding Aunt Mary will throw a big party.”

“My mother isn’t throwing a party, because there’s not going to be a wedding,” Danny pointed out, doing his best not to let his cousins know how much they were pissing him off since it would only encourage them to keep this bullshit up.

“Well, if he drags her off to Vegas and we get wind of it in time, we can-” Zoe said, sounding hopeful while the rest of them were trying not to cringe.

“We’re still banned from Vegas, sweetheart,” Trevor said, cutting off his wife, who looked more confused than ever.

“Wait,” she said, frowning. “I thought the ban was lifted,” she said, looking around the table and undoubtedly making note of the fact that none of the men at the table could quite meet her gaze.

“There, um,” Danny said, clearing his throat, “was a small incident there a year or two ago that may have resulted in the ban being reinstated for another ten or fifty years.”

“Wait a minute,” Haley said, her eyes narrowing accusingly on her husband. “Didn’t you have a layover last year in Nevada on your way to that convention in Texas for your father’s construction company?”

“I-I might have,” Jason said, swallowing nervously as he threw a panicked look Danny’s way, but Danny was a Bradford and knew a thing or two about saving his own ass even if it meant that he had to shovel questionable food into his mouth to give himself the excuse that he needed to keep his mouth shut. Trevor apparently had the same idea, because he suddenly couldn’t seem to get enough of his wife’s cooking.

“And when I asked you about the breaking news alerts that kept flashing across the bottom of the television screen about the emergency shutdown in Vegas you swore to me that you had nothing to do with that,” Haley said, her murderous glare cute, but a clear warning that Jason and anyone dumb enough to open his mouth was in deep shit.

“Wait a minute,” Zoe said, and just like that, Danny knew that Trevor was truly fucked, “you went on that trip, too!”

Every Bradford male who worked for Uncle Jared went, but Danny didn’t bother to point that out since he was home free. It was times like this that he was actually glad that he wasn’t married, one of the few times he had to admit. Unlike his cousins who had fought going to the altar with everything that they had, Danny was more than ready to settle down and start a family.

In a few months he was going to be thirty-two years old and he was still alone. He’d always thought that he’d be settled by this point in his life with at least one kid on the way, but apparently life didn’t always turn out the way that you expected. He certainly hadn’t expected to do half the shit that he’d done so far.

When he’d been a kid he’d always thought that he’d follow in his father’s footsteps and go to medical school, join his father’s practice and get married, but at seventeen all his plans had changed when he’d fucked up. He’d been a cocky kid, too damn cocky. Not only hadn’t he studied for the SATs because he’d been sure that he was going to ace the test right off the bat, but he’d also decided that he’d celebrate a pre-victory the night before by stealing his father’s beer out of the refrigerator in the garage and proceeded to get drunk.

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