Trenton raised an eyebrow. “You are, you just don’t know it yet.”
Colin’s eye twitched. “Chase is here to talk to his sister. This is family business, Trent. You need to stay out of it. Camille, outside. Now.”
“You can talk to me here, Colin. What do you need?”
He glared at me. “You really want to talk about this here?”
“What do you want to talk about?” I asked, trying to remain calm. I was sure if we went outside, Colin or Chase would lose his temper and a fight would break out. It was safer to stay put.
“You didn’t show up for Thanksgiving. Dad said you had to work. Whatever. But then you don’t show up at Christmas. Then your chair is empty again at lunch on New Year’s Day. What the f**k is going on, Camille?” Chase asked, incensed.
“I have two jobs, and I’m taking classes. It’s just the way things happened this year.”
“Dad’s birthday is next week,” Chase said. “You better f**king be there.”
“The f**k did you just say to me, Maddox?” Chase snapped.
Trenton lifted his chin. “She better be there, or what? What are you going to do if she doesn’t show?”
Chase leaned against the counter. “Come get her.”
Colin leaned in, too, keeping his voice low when he spoke. “I’m only going to say this one more time. This is family business, Trent. You need to stay the f**k out of it.”
Trenton’s jaws worked under his skin. “Cami is my business. And her cocksucking brothers walking into her work trying to bully her is most definitely my business.”
Colin and Chase glared at Trenton, both of them taking a step backward. Colin spoke first, like he always did. “Camille, come outside with us right now, or I’m going to tear this place apart while I kick your buddy’s ass.”
“I’m not her buddy. I’m her boyfriend, and I’ll knock you the f**k out before you can scratch the paint.”
Calvin appeared on the other side of me. I looked down and his hands were balled into fists. “Did you just say you were going to tear up my shop?”
“What are you going to do about it?” Chase spat on the floor.
“Chase, Jesus Christ!” I yelled. “What is wrong with you?” Trenton held me back, even though I wasn’t trying all that hard to go anywhere.
Bishop and Hazel came out of their rooms, curious about the noise. Bishop stood on the other side of Calvin, and Hazel on the end.
Hazel crossed her arms. “I may not look like much, but when one of these big boys are holding you down and I’m clawing your eyes out, you’ll understand why I’m standing here. But see . . . I don’t want to claw your eyes out, because you’re Cami’s family. And we don’t want to hurt her. Ever. Because she’s part of our family, now. And you don’t. Hurt. Family. So take a lesson from us, wipe those frowns off your punk ginger faces, and go home. When you cool off, Chase . . . give your sister a call. And talk to her nice. Unless you don’t want to keep your eyes.”
“Or your arms,” Trenton added. “Because if you ever talk to her with anything less than a respectful tone again, I will rip those f**kers off and beat you with ’em. Do we understand each other?”
Colin and Chase watched our group with wary eyes, from Trenton to Hazel, and everyone in between. They were outnumbered, and I could see in Colin’s eyes he wasn’t going to take them all on.
Chase looked to me. “I’ll call you later. We deserve an explanation for why our family’s falling apart.”
I nodded, and they both turned and pushed through the double doors.
When Colin’s engine fired up, I looked down, embarrassed. “I’m so sorry, Calvin.”
“The shop’s good, kiddo. We’re good.” He walked back to his office, and Hazel walked over, sliding her arms between mine and pressing her cheek against my chest.
“We got you,” she said simply. I kept my eyes on the floor, but when it was obvious Hazel wasn’t letting go, I squeezed her tight.
Bishop raised an eyebrow. “I wasn’t going to fight. I was just out here to watch.” He walked back to his room, and I chuckled.
Hazel let me go and took a step back. “All right. Show’s over. Get back to work.” She left for her room.
Trenton pulled me into his arms, and touched his lips to my hair. “They’ll get it eventually.”
I looked up at him, unsure of what he meant.
“I’m never going to let them intimidate you again.”
I pressed my cheek against his chest again. “It’s all they know, Trent. I can’t really blame them.”
“Why not? They blame you for everything. And they’re not robots. They’re adults, and they can make different choices. They choose to stick with what they know.”
“Kind of like you and your brothers?” I didn’t look up, and Trenton didn’t respond right away.
Finally he took a breath. “We don’t react to things because it’s all we know. It’s just the opposite. We have no f**king clue what we’re doing.”
“But you try,” I said, nuzzling up against him. “You try to be good people. You work toward doing better, being better, more patient, and more understanding. But just because you can beat someone’s ass . . . doesn’t mean you should.”
Trenton chuckled. “Yeah it does.” I tried—and not very hard—to push him away. He held me tighter.
“I’m going to make you beef tips and rice tonight,” I said.
Trenton made a face. “I love your cooking, baby doll, but I can’t keep eating dinner at three AM.”
I laughed. “Fine, I’ll have it waiting for you. There’s a spare key under the rock that sits in front of the pillar by my door. I’ll leave it there.”
“Can I take a rain check? I promised Olive I’d take her to Chicken Joe’s.”
I smiled, but I wasn’t happy about missing out on Olive time.
“Wait. Did you just tell me where the spare key was?”
“So can I use it anytime?”
A small smile tugged on one corner of Trenton’s mouth, and then it spread across his face. “I’m going to bet on Travis’s next fight. Try to get the money back I lost to Abby, and then some. I’m going to start looking for a place next week. I want you to come with me.”
“Okay,” I said, not sure why he had such a serious look on his face. I already knew he was working toward getting his own place.
Trenton’s smile was beaming. “It’s his end-of-the-year fight. Big money. They’ll probably get some has-been MMA fighter like they got last year.”
“Who’d they get last year?”
“Kelly Heaton. He lost the championship four years ago. Travis beat the piss out of ’em.” Trenton was clearly enjoying the memory. “I made fifteen hundred. If I can make at least that this year, we’ll be set.”
“Yeah, well, maybe one of these days you’ll decide to stay the night and you’ll never go home.”