My skin is slick with sweat, the summer sun baking my shoulders and my pale ass scalp. I’m already red from the long hours spent outside the past couple of days, but it’s worth it, even if I’m left a bit crispy.
“You know, I’m shocked my brother hasn’t dragged you away yet,” I sigh, completely blissed out.
“You’re going to have to be more specific here, Addie,” Braxton replies. She’s sprawled out beside me on one of the reclining patio chairs in the yard of our rental, all of her springy curls piled into a pretty bun on the top of her head. There’s a dewy glass of wine in her hand with a swirly straw sticking out. The straw was my idea. My compromise when it came to agreeing to drink bland wine instead of the daiquiris I offered to make us.
Tinsley laughs from her place on a flamingo-shaped inflatable in the infinity pool. Her black one-piece swimsuit stands out against the hot pink floaty, but I think she likes that. She’s like me in that way. Blending in is boring.
Braxton swirls the wine in her glass and taps the side of the glass. “Yeah, are we talking about Maddox or Noah?”
I pull my pink, heart-shaped sunnies down from where they rest on my head and cover my eyes. The world tints a rose colour. “I was talking about Maddox, but Noah’s even more surprising, now that I think about it.”
“It’s because they’re all together. One couldn’t stay behind without being teased by the others,” Tiny says.
Braxton hums. “I’m sure we know who would have been the one on the receiving end of the teasing.”
“Cooper,” I say at the same time Braxton says her husband’s name. An ugly snorted laugh escapes me as I shake my head. “Maddox needs this time with the guys as much as you need this time with us. I don’t think he would have been the complainer. When’s the last time you had a weekend away from Liam?”
“Probably never,” Tiny tosses in, paddling herself toward the edge of the pool with her hands.
Braxton takes a long pull of her wine before saying, “You’re not that far off. We’ve left him with Ava and Oakley a few times these past few weeks, but this is the first time we’ve been this far away from him. Do I look like I’m struggling, or am I a pro at keeping it all inside?”
“You’re a total pro,” I tell her. And it’s the truth. She makes being a mom look easy, natural. Like it’s something she was born to do. Seeing her raise Liam has made me want to be a mom that much more, although I’m not planning on that for a few more years.
Tinsley slides off her floaty and quickly pulls herself out of the pool. Her feet splat along the wet tiles as she reaches for her towel and begins to dry off. “Addie’s right. You’ve got momma skills in bundles. You’ve got this.”
“Thanks, guys. I just miss the little bugger, you know? Even his angry fits, which seem to be never-ending these days,” Braxton sighs.
Tinsley bends forward and rubs her hair with the towel. “He makes up for the temper with his adorable looks.”
“That he does,” Braxton agrees.
“Speaking of tempers . . .” I start, holding back a giggle when Tinsley glares at me beneath the curtain of her hair. “I’m shocked you convinced Noah to come with us.”
Music festivals are something he should be interested in but definitely is not. I think it’s the people he doesn’t like. The crowds and random unwanted touches that come with them.
“I just asked,” she says, shrugging as if it’s no big deal.
“You just…asked,” I echo, disbelief thick in the words.
“Yes. You know, the thing you do when you want someone to do something, but don’t want to command it of them. It’s polite.”
“I know what asking entails, Tiny,” I grumble.
Braxton coughs into her fist. “I think what Addie is trying to say is that it’s surprising all you had to do was ask him to come. Noah isn’t really the agreeing type.”
“Sorry to disappoint, but that’s all it took.”
I glance at Braxton and find her already looking at me. We’re thinking the same thing. We’ve known it for years. Noah would do anything for Tinsley.
“Can you two stop looking at each other like that? I’m right here. Out with it,” Tiny huffs.
Braxton chews on her lip, and I look at Tinsley. With her hands on her hips and brows pulled together, she looks like she does before stepping into the boxing ring. Like she’s preparing for war.
“Relax, Mike Tyson. No need to bite my ear off,” I tell her, grinning at the humour trying to crack through her scowl. “We’re just curious. Noah’s our family, but he’s not the same with us as he is with you. You know that.”
She relaxes as some of the tension leaves her muscles. “I know. But you two love to get all the wrong kinds of ideas with me and him.”
“Can you really blame us? Are you really about to tell us you still don’t see it? The way he watches you?” Braxton asks softly.
“He watches me the way he does because he cares about me. He’s protective and yeah, sometimes a bit obsessive, but that’s because he’s my best friend. My literal other half. That doesn’t have to make us anything but platonic.”
There’s worry in her eyes. A lingering fear that I know has been there since we were kids. One that tells her the same thing we are. But also, one she refuses to accept. I think she’ll ignore it for the rest of her life if she can.
“Okay,” I relent. “I’ll stop pushing it.”
“How about we just finish our drinks and then get ready before the guys get back?” Braxton suggests.
The tension in the air doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but it does upset me a little. Not because I feel guilty for pushing, but because I’m nervous about what will happen if my brother and my best friend continue to pretend they’re not more than they are. What might happen when one of them snaps.
“You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Cooper groans as he spills inside of me, hands moving frantically all over my front and back.
When he pulls out of me, I whimper at how sensitive I am. After three orgasms in the span of a few minutes, it’s truly no surprise.
I press my forehead to the wall in front of me and try not to think of the cum leaking down my thighs as I stand there. His breath tickles my neck when he bends over me and pulls my hair from my sticky skin, kissing behind my ear.
“You okay, my love?” he murmurs.
I can’t help but giggle at his concern. “Am I okay? You just fucked me to orgasm three times against a wall. I’m better than okay.”
He smiles into my neck. “Just had to make sure.”
“You’re sweet. But we don’t have time to sit in our bliss right now. Everyone is probably waiting for us already.”
“They can wait a little longer.”
I grin and look at him over my shoulder. He’s watching me intensely, eyes blazing with what I’ve come to know as love. My stomach fills with butterflies.
“I love you,” I state proudly.
His eyes crinkle at the corners when he smiles. “I love you.”
I spin in his arms and cup his cheek, loving the feel of his prickly jaw. “I have to go clean up. You should find everyone else and assure them I didn’t fall and die in the shower.”
“I can stay.”
“Go. I’ll live. Plus, you’re more of a distraction than anything else.” I wink, and we both know I’m right. It’s the exact reason we wound up having sex against the wall of our rental bedroom.
It should be illegal to look so hot in a pair of pink shorts and a t-shirt I tie-dyed and jankily cut the sleeves off of last night after one too many mojitos. What was I supposed to do? Not jump his bones the moment I laid eyes on him? Yeah fucking right.
“Suppose you’re right. Don’t be too long, I would hate to have to hitchhike to the concert grounds.”
He moves toward me, taking me into his arms before kissing me deeply. I fall victim to him just like I always do, completely losing myself in his smell and the reassuring feeling of being this close to him. Of knowing he’s mine. When he breaks the kiss a beat later, I fight off a pout.
“Don’t tempt me, Adalyn,” he mutters gruffly before sneaking a peck on my cheek and leaving the room.
The minute his footsteps fall silent in the hallway, I’m rushing to the bathroom to clean myself up. A handful of minutes later, I’m walking into the giant open living room to find everyone waiting.
Cooper notices me first with a heavy bob of his throat as he tracks his eyes slowly over my body as if he’s remembering exactly what I look like beneath my clothes.
The effects of his stare make my cheeks burn. Screw that. It makes all of me burn.
The girls notice me next, and then my brothers. I belt out laughing when I see what Brax and Tiny have wrangled them into wearing. Where Braxton looks totally hot in a shredded concert tee and high wasted shorts, she’s dressed my brother in an outfit similar to Cooper’s, but without the shirt. Instead, she painted flowers and peace signs all over his bare back and chest and continued the artistry over his white, mid-thigh length shorts. His hair has sparkles in it, and there’s a yellow feather boa around his neck.
Noah . . . well, I’m not sure what type of magic Tiny is working with, but I’m thoroughly impressed. She’s wearing an outfit similar to mine—a pair of flared jeans and a neon green cropped shirt with not much more coverage than a bra with a knot in the middle keeping it together. As amazing as she looks with her abs flashing and arms flexing, Noah’s highlighter green cropped t-shirt, hot pink feather boa, and shredded black jean shorts are a disturbing sight. He steals the show, in the worst way.
“What the hell are you wearing?” I burst into a choked laugh. I cover my nose to make sure snot hasn’t gone flying as I burst into a total laughing fit, my eyes going blurry with tears.
His glare is both ice-cold and as fierce as the flames of Hell. I smirk, swallowing my giggles as best I can.
“Clothes,” he grunts.
Glancing around the room, I take in all the shuttered expressions as they try not to join me in laughter. Unsurprisingly, Braxton is the one who collects herself the quickest and starts ushering us all out of the house.
Cooper is at my side in an instant, his arm slipping around my waist, tugging me close. His cologne tingles my nose, making me shiver. He smells so damn good.
“You’re definitely going to be the most handsome guy there,” I tell him as we step outside. He locks the door before leading me toward the party bus waiting for us—my idea, of course.
He bends and brushes a kiss over my cheek, humming softly. “Thank you, love. You’re stunning. You always are.”
I turn in his embrace and smooth my hands down his front, letting my fingers curl in his shirt. Tipping onto my toes, I kiss him, the taste that is oh-so Cooper hits my tongue in an instant, and I pull back faster than I want to, knowing everyone could be watching. Usually, a crowd isn’t a deterrent for us, but this crowd is a bit different.
Cooper makes me insatiable. A damn near nymphomaniac. But as he closes his eyes and softly groans as I back away, it’s clear I’m not the only one.
Fuck, I really hope we spend the rest of our lives like this.
I belt out the words to the song thumping around us from my place on Cooper’s shoulders. It’s a clear view of the stage from this height, and as the breeze ruffles my hair and cools my burning cheeks, I feel free. Like real life has ceased to exist while we’re here.
The fingers gripping my thighs tighten, and I glance down, threading mine through Cooper’s hair as he tips his head back. I grin and kiss his nose.
He pouts, and I can’t help but giggle. The alcohol in our systems has pulled out his cheesy side, and I’m loving it. For the first time in the past few weeks, he’s fully relaxed, work no longer at the forefront of his mind. It’s just us. Us and our big, crazy family.
I glance to the right and see Braxton and Maddox swaying in each other’s arms, their expressions calm, at peace. My heart squeezes at the burning love in their eyes as they watch each other, making a slow dance out of the EDM music. I look away when Maddox cups her cheek and brings her in for a kiss.
Movement to my left has me twisting my head to find Noah helping Tiny onto his shoulders. I bite the inside of my cheek when I catch him carefully avoiding touching her ass as she adjusts herself. She steadies herself with one hand in his hair and the other on the space of shoulder between her thigh and his neck. He lowers his hands to her knees and flexes his fingers before relaxing them.
Tiny looks at me and grins, holding out one hand for me to take. I reach toward her and interlock our fingers. Our hands sway as we start to sing to the music again. It’s the worst singing I’ve possibly ever heard, but it’s either too loud for everyone else to hear, or nobody cares. I know that at this moment, surrounded by everyone that I love, having the time of my life, I wouldn’t care either.