It takes a few minutes, but finally he speaks again. “She’s not Mom, Dylan.”
Tears sting my eyes. When did I turn into such a p**sy? Dad’s a workaholic. Derrick is a nutcase. And I’m turning into a sniveling baby. So much for the Gibson Boys.
“You’ll like her. She’s gorgeous, fun, smart, can outdrink my ass any day of the week. She’s good people.”
With the palm of my hands, I rub my eyes. Stupid, cold, rainy wind. “Whatever. Don’t think I’m happy about this. And don’t think I’m going to stop trying to get you to change your mind, but I guess she must be alright if you like her.”
Or not, but he doesn’t want to hear that. I push to my feet and before I know it, I’m tumbling off the porch and into the mud puddle I was just watching. Not hard and it wasn’t a big fall, but Derrick’s on top of me, shaking me.
“That’s what I like to hear. I knew you’d understand.”
I’m going to kill him. I push my brother, getting the best of him for the first time. Now I’m on top. And it’s still cold, and why are we wrestling in the rain? I don’t know, but it feels okay… almost normal.
“I don’t understand shit, whipped boy. I’m just not going to bail on you the way you’re bailing on me.”
Derrick pushes me again, and we break apart, both trying to find the best position to attack and get the better of each other.
“I’d never bail on you, and you know it. Just wait. One day you’re going find the right girl and fall so head over your ass in love, you’ll know what I’m talking about.”
“Not in a million years.” I lunge and tackle him to the ground. We’re both laughing and panting as we roll around on the cold-ass ground. He may be making a huge mistake, but he’s still the brother I know. I didn’t realize how much I missed him.
“You’ve gotten stronger.” He rolls away from me, chest heaving. Rain is hitting us in the face, but we don’t move.
“You’ve gotten softer. Is that what marriage does to you?”
Derrick laughs. “I’m not married yet, smart ass. I can’t wait until you realize how dense you are. It’s going to be a joy to watch.”
I open my mouth to tell him he’s lost his mind again, but we’re interrupted by a female voice. “Derrick? Oh—hey. Are you guys okay?”
There’s a pair of familiar green eyes looking down on me. I can’t place where I know them from, but there’s something about them I recognize.
“You must be Dylan.”
She holds out her hand, and I want to be lame about it and ignore her. But I don’t. I let her help me up.
“Hey. Nice to meet ya.” I look at the porch, the house, the ground, anywhere, but the girl who will always be there for Derrick, until one day she’s just gone.
It’s different to like girls than it is to get serious about them. Never get your heart involved. That’s what Derrick told me, and now he’s the one doing it.
“I rang the bell, but you guys didn’t answer.”
Derrick gives her a cheesy smile. “I told you just to come in, baby. My house is your house.”
I try not to gag.
“I’m Lora.” She’s looking at me. “You guys want some hot chocolate? I brought you some.” She holds up a thermos.
Hot chocolate? Hot chocolate? Does she think we’re five?
“Sounds good, baby.” He kisses her.
Yeah, totally whipped.
We get into the kitchen, and I’m wondering how this girl is just suddenly walking into my house.
“I feel really stupid for just suddenly walking in.”
Great. Apparently Derrick’s awesome, gorgeous woman also has ESP.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Derrick looks at her in a way I’ve never seen my brother look at anyone. I’m caught between wanting to vomit again, wanting to ask him, what about me, and also feeling a little good seeing him like this. He’s obviously into this girl, but still.
“Good hot chocolate,” I mumble, trying to break the connection. It actually is good, but whatever.
“Thanks!” Lora smiles at me.
Derrick was right, she is pretty. She seems nice enough, too, but nice doesn’t mean marriage and stabbing your brother in the back.
Lora stands. “Anyway, I just wanted to come and meet you before tonight. Derrick talks about you all the time.” Funny, he never mentioned her before the big announcement.
She looks at Derrick. “And to see you again.”
He gets this puppy dog look on his face. I’m afraid he’ll start humping her leg any minute. Can you say pathetic?
“I love you,” she tells him.
He gets a goofy smile on his face. “I love you, too.”
Has he told anyone he loves them since Mom? Have I? Suddenly, I hate her again, and the punch to Derrick’s head is sounding like a good plan.
Zila’s? What kind of name is that for a restaurant?
I pull the Hummer into the parking lot. I guess Lora’s mom owns this place. I had no idea this engagement party would really be a dinner at her family’s place. It feels like a point for their team, like we’re on their territory, and that kind of annoys me.
Lora and Derrick drove together, and I followed them over. I always drive my own car when I can. She turns to wave at me before walking inside. This girl is way too nice. Derrick heads my way, and I consider throwing him in the back and driving off.
Instead I get out and slam the door. See? I can be reasonable.
“I need you not to be an a**hole tonight, D,” Derrick tells me.
“What? I’m not an a**hole. Trying to impress the new family?” It pisses me off when he ignores the family part.
“Seriously. Don’t mess this night up for me, or I’ll kick your ass. You might even have fun. Lora has a sister around your age…”
Nice. Just what I need. Another overly nice, Team Marriage girl to deal with. This night just keeps getting better and better.
“Actually… forget about her sister. I mean, be nice to her, but I know you. Keep your hands off. Seriously.”
“What?” I push him. “Are you really trying to warn me off my future sister-in-law? First of all, I can find my own girls without trying to hit on someone at an extended-family function.” How weird is that? “Second, if she’s anything like Lora, I’m steering clear.”
Derrick suddenly looks like he wants to murder me.
“Nothing against her. Geez, simmer down Fight Club. I’m just saying, she’s not my type.”
I’m pretty sure this girl must have some magic power to seduce unsuspecting men, and the last thing I want is to get myself in the trap.
“Just come on, Lil D. I don’t want to be late. Dad already is.”
I try and put on my happy face for him. Until Dad gets here it will be on me to play nice. “Okay. I’m starving.”
We walk inside, and I’m still a little annoyed. But the place is pretty cool. A little more earthy-hippie than I go for, but black trim, good music, and funky printed wallpaper. Not bad.
Derrick introduces me to Lora’s Mom and Dad. Her dad looks pretty kicked-back, but her mom is running around like she’s hopped up on crack. She’s definitely the over-achiever of the group.
I find a corner and watch my brother smile and talk with his new family. He hasn’t let go of Lora’s hand once, and I wonder why–if he’s afraid she’ll be gone if he lets go or afraid he won’t be able to take care of her. It’s so strange to see Derrick looking all… domestic. It reminds me of after Mom was gone. How he stepped up to the plate and took care of me.
I shake my head. Definitely not going there.
Finally Dad arrives. He sees me in the corner and gives me a sad smile. And I get it. He understands how I feel and probably feels the same way.
He’s sucked up in the tornado of Lora’s family. Dad plays it perfectly, always smiling and talking the way a good lawyer can. I find myself wondering about the sister. Maybe she’s in the kitchen making hot chocolate.
A few minutes later they’re having us sit down at a long table for dinner. There’s an empty spot next to me, which I assume is for—holy shit! The sister is standing in the doorway. Green eyes, white T-shirt. No. No, no, no, no. Lora’s sister is Hanes?
Her gaze catches mine, and she stumbles a little, recognition lighting her face. Yeah, she remembers me, too. I’m not sure why I like that.
Then it’s The Look, and I can’t help but smile. This night might end up being sort of fun. I can’t wait to mess with her.
~ Ziah ~
I can’t believe this is happening. What is hot party guy doing here?
This is not what I need today. It’s still hard to breathe after getting text number one million from both James and Alyssa.
James. Alyssa. Their names have been spinning through my head all afternoon. I don’t have the details, and I don’t want them. The only text I read from Alyssa says I’M SORRY.
Things between James and I haven’t been perfect, but they haven’t been bad either. My stomach turns over again. I’m still numb. In shock. Someone clears her throat, and I’m brought back to the present—the part of me that’s still functioning anyway.
My eyes go from Derrick, attached to Lora’s side, to party guy, back to Derrick. Same blue eyes. Same almost-black hair. Same smug smirk. Oh. No. She is NOT marrying into that family. Half the table is staring at me. Right. I should probably move.
Lora gives me her best exasperated, wide-eyed, clench-jawed look that says I’d better find a way to get to my seat. But the only chair is sandwiched between Dad and hot party guy.
My phone beeps with another text, which almost pushes me into another round of tears. I’m not crying at the table so I pull in a deep breath, keep my eyes focused, and take the seat next to Dad. No reason for this guy to think I even recognize him.
“Hey, Dad.” Dad smells like hospital, as always, and his dark blond hair is in serious need of a cut. I lean into him, bumping our shoulders together, and try to pretend everything’s perfect.
“Hey, sweetie.” Dad pecks a kiss on my temple.
“Ziah.” Lora’s smile is too bright, and her eyebrows are seriously threatening to take over her hairline.
“Yes?” I smile back, really glossing it on. Can’t she see it’s more than the stupid wedding I’m upset over? She’s my sister. She should see this isn’t all about her.
“This is Derrick’s brother Dylan.”
“Derrick and Dylan. Cute.” But then my eyes meet Derrick’s dad’s, and I feel like crap for making a comment about their names.
His hair’s as dark as theirs, and he looks like the cover of some over-priced menswear magazine. These guys seriously won the genetics lottery.
I take a long drink from my champagne before turning to look at Dylan. Then I say, “Hey. I’m Ziah.” He doesn’t need a hand. Who knows what he’d spill on me this time.
“Cool name.” He smirks.