The first half of that didn’t surprise me one bit. He’d really filled out in the last year, was built just like Brandon, and looked exactly like him. Their size was intimidating, and they were incredibly handsome. But what the hell? “I’m sorry, I must be missing something, girls like you?”
“He plays football and is the captain of the soccer team, I’m not into sports or anything school related really.”
“If he’s dating you, then I’m pretty sure that doesn’t matter at all to him. You’re gorgeous Aubrey, and you seem really sweet, it’s not hard to see why he likes you. Jeremy doesn’t just date girls…actually, he hasn’t had a girlfriend in the two years that I’ve been with Brandon. So for him to ask you out is a big thing for him. And those boys don’t have a cruel bone in their body, he would never date you as a joke. He’s just like his brother, they’re extremely protective and devoted to the girls in their life. Nothing less.”
She blushed again, “You and Brandon are so perfect together. Jeremy’s told me so much about you both, and seeing you together is cute. It’s obvious how much you love each other.”
I smiled and leaned back on my hands, “We are definitely in love.”
Brandon and Jeremy walked through carrying two ice chests and smiled widely upon seeing us on the counter. Jeremy couldn’t tear his eyes from Aubrey. Oh he was such a goner.
“So then, you’re not into sports, what are you into?”
Aubrey was looking at Jeremy’s back and biting the corner of her bottom lip, “Um, what?” She blinked her doe-like eyes at me.
“Interests,” I laughed and nudged her side, “what are your interests? Besides Jeremy.”
“Oh,” there goes that blush again, I think I’ve met my match in the blushing department, “well I like photography, and I read a lot.”
“What do you read?” I never got into reading, the only books in my house growing up were by Stephen E. Ambrose, R. Lee Ermey or Tom Clancy and those didn’t exactly pique my interest.
“Anything with a love story. I love love triangles.”
How is that exciting? I was in the middle of a love triangle not long ago. It wasn’t exactly fun. I just nodded my head, “And photography?”
She touched the large bag at her side, I’m guessing she had her camera in there, “Anything really. Scenery, people, flowers…” She trailed off.
“I’d like to see them sometime, if that’s okay with you.”
“See what?” Jeremy asked as he jogged back into the kitchen, planting himself between Aubrey’s legs, his hands resting lightly on her waist.
“She said she likes photography.”
Jeremy glanced up at me briefly, “Oh man sis, you should see her stuff, she’s really good. She has her camera with her, why don’t you show her what you have on there Aubrey?”
Kate and Laura chose that moment to come back in and Aubrey’s blush instantly left her face as she took her hand back out of her bag.
“Later.” I whispered and she nodded her head in relief.
Brandon walked into the kitchen talking on my phone, even though I saw it in his hands, I still patted my shorts to make sure I didn’t have it on me, “Yeah, you’ll see a white truck and black Jeep out front, just walk on in. We’re in the kitchen. See ya.” He tapped the screen and handed it to me.
“Yep, they just pulled onto the street. Where’d Konrad go?”
I rolled my eyes, “Jerk said he forgot to get ice and left me on the counter. Thankfully someone is nice enough and agreed to join me up here after everyone ditched me.”
Brandon looked at Jeremy and started laughing, “Sweetheart, he didn’t forget the ice, we just dumped it all in the ice chests with the drinks.”
Konrad and Bree walked back in the kitchen, Bree looked completely ravished. I narrowed my eyes at him and pointed at his chest, “Ice, huh? Asshole.”
He gave a sheepish grin and shrugged, “I’m sorry, but it’s too funny that you can’t get down.”
“You’re on my list Konrad Anderson. You are on. My. List.” Everyone was laughing loudly when we heard a voice from somewhere in the front.
“In here.” Brandon called and the twins started smiling.
Carter rounded the corner, closely followed by a few guys, “What’s up man?” He shook Konrad and Brandon’s hands and looked at me awkwardly as he came in for a hug, “What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing.” I grumbled.
“She’s mad because Brandon put her up there, and no one would help her off.” Konrad smirked and leaned up against another counter, with Bree in his arms.
“Well duh Blaze. That way they don’t have to worry about you getting into trouble.”
I glared at him and scooted toward the edge, but quickly went back. Aubrey did the same and Jeremy eventually helped her down. She was at least three inches taller than me, and even she wouldn’t jump down.
Carter walked back into the dining room when he heard more of his friends come into the house and Brandon sauntered over to me, “It’s just because you’re so damn cute up there.” He kissed me and pulled me down, making it so my chest was pressed hard against his as I slowly slid down his body. His gray eyes heated and my body instantly responded. Stupid barbecue.
Carter came back in, making a total of six Marines, two of them had girlfriends with them, and we started the long process of introducing everyone. Brandon introduced us before Carter introduced himself and his friends. Kate caught my eye as she shamelessly stared at Carter, mouth partially open. I don’t know if it was her expression, but Carter definitely did a double take when he saw her too. He passed over Aubrey and Jeremy and when he caught sight of Laura, his brow furrowed and he quickly glanced over to Kate, back to Laura and finally rested on Kate again. When he looked over to me, I raised an eyebrow at him with a wide smile and I swear he blushed as he stumbled over his introductions.
“Did you see that?” Brandon whispered low in my ear. So I wasn’t crazy.
“Huh.” He kissed my head and stood up straighter. “Interesting.”
It was quiet when Carter finished with their names and thankfully Brandon said he was going to start the food, so all the guys shuffled out with him and the hamburger patties. It was adorable to see Jeremy hesitate and look between the guys and Aubrey a few times before she pushed him out the door. I started getting cheese ready for Brandon and slicing up tomatoes and onions for when the food would be done. Bree and Aubrey helped me as the other four girls sat on barstools and talked chattily.
“Hey Blaze, your hubby said he needed cheese.” Carter walked toward me but looked at Kate over his shoulder quickly before thanking Bree for the plate of separated cheese she was holding out to him.
“You’re drooling Kate.” I smiled at her after Carter went back outside.
She smiled mischievously and glanced back quickly before leaning forward like we were sharing secrets, her elbows resting on the counter. “He’s cute, huh?”
Bree and I grinned and rolled our eyes at each other while Laura agreed. Aubrey just nodded her head silently next to us.
“So, you’re the Blaze?” One of the girlfriends asked.
Stifling a groan, I plastered a smile on my face, “That I am.”
“I heard a lot about you, Craig lives with Jason.”
The name Craig wasn’t ringing a bell, I was trying to remember which guy had been next to her, “All bad things, I’m sure?” I smirked and turned to grab the sliced produce, “Aubrey, can you help me with the plates and bowls?”
“From what he said, you two are close?” Craig’s girlfriend continued.
“Uh, kind of. We were best friends back home, but that was a while ago.”
“Cute pet name he has for you.” She goaded.
I set the plates back down a little harder than I should have, and tried to stay smiling as I tilted my head to the side, “Not really. I wouldn’t call making fun of how much I blush ‘cute’.”
“He doesn’t have a nickname for anyone else.”
“Oh my God, he has a nickname for his best friend. Big effing deal.” Bree slapped her palms down to her sides in exasperation. “Can we eat now? I’m starving.”
Dear Lord I loved Bree.
“You were the reason Ashley left him, you know.”
I bit down on my tongue and counted to five before saying anything else, “I’m sorry, what was your name again?”
“Lauren, right. Can you come here for a sec?” I led her into the living room, thankful Bree made everyone else stay in the kitchen, “I’m guessing you’re a friend of Ashley’s?”
She raised a dark brow in confirmation.
“I’m sure you have a reason for trying to stand up for your friend that was sweet enough to empty Carter’s bank account and let him come back from war to find divorce papers, but I can assure you I had nothing to do with said divorce. Whether she believes that or not, is her problem. But if you still feel the need to be in the middle of it, feel free to ask Carter when the last time was that we spoke before last week. He’ll tell you it was months before he even met Ashley. I knew they got married, but I found out through a text.”
“I’m sure, I know you were still around and I’ve heard enough about you to know what kind of girl you are.”
“I doubt that.”
“You weren’t always surrounded by Marines? Sleeping with half the guys in Jason’s unit? From the way he talks about you, you’re still screwing him. Does your husband know you’ve f**ked most of the infantryman in Lejeune?”
“Excuse me? Who the hell do you think you are coming in my house, accusing me of –”
“Being a home-wrecker? It’s about time someone informed you of what you are! Do you know how heartbroken Ash was that her husband told her she’d never be you?”
“What happened between me and Ashley is between us.” Carter came up beside me and I felt Brandon’s large frame step behind me. “And whatever has happened since then is none of your business either.”
“It is my business when I had to listen to my friend cry for hours on end about some slut!”
“Shit.” A mumbled voice came through the back door, “Lo, what the f**k is wrong with you?” A lean guy I’m guessing was Craig pushed through us and grabbed her arm, whispered to her for a second and watched her storm out the door. “Y’all, I’m so sorry. I’m gonna take her home. Harper, Brandon, please forgive that. She’s – she’s…well what she said wasn’t right. Y-you’re not a, uh, slut Harper. I’m real sorry.”
My blood was boiling and my body was shaking, but I forced my voice to stay even, “Feel free to come back, but don’t bring her.”
Craig nodded at me and looked up to Brandon, “Brandon, I’m –”