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McQUEEN:Las Vegas Bad Boys(34)

By:Frankie Love

McQueen watches me, as if absorbing my words. In the silence, I accept that there is this huge weight to our relationship. It may have started as a rebellious fling, but it turned into something so deep, so real, so fast.

But we're still learning so much about one another. And his pause in responding to me, reminds me that he isn't like my brothers, who say whatever they think. McQueen speaks with his body.

Dancing, fighting, fucking. Hell, I see the holes in the wall; they weren't there yesterday. He punched the wall when he realized I’d left.

But right now, I need a few words. I need to understand the man I've chosen.

"Say something."

He hesitates, his eyes flicking away from mine. Finally he speaks. "It's a lot of loss."

I close my eyes, as my tears find their way to the surface yet again.

"I invited my brother out for your fight," he says.

"Really?" I tilt my head, as I get a Band-Aid for the scratch above his brow. Now that he's cleaned up, I see that stitches aren't necessary. Just tenderness. "I didn't know you two spoke."

"We don't, not really. But, I don't know, just all the stuff that's gone on with you and your family made me miss mine. But—" He stops, shakes his head. "But maybe him coming is rubbing salt on a wound."

"No, it isn't. Just because my family is ... whatever ... doesn't mean you shouldn’t make amends with yours."

"So you'd be okay with it?"

I laugh, "Um, him coming isn't an issue—but, McQueen, I don't see how I can fight in a week. My coach not only stalked and assaulted me, but was also murdered. It kind of puts a damper on it all, you know?"

McQueen nods. "I know. But—" A knock on the door interrupts the conversation. "This conversation is not over," he says, getting off the stool. "It's just on pause."

He opens the door and in comes his entire crew. Ace, Landon, Jack; and the girls I hardly know, Emmy, Claire, and Tess.

Guess McQueen has even more family than he thought.

“Hey, JoJo,” Claire says, coming over to me and offering a hug. Out of everyone, we know one another best, from school drop-off. “You hanging in there?”

“Barely,” I admit. If this crew is my new family, I might as well be honest. “The entire day was horrible.”

“I can’t imagine,” Tess says, setting bags of takeout on the counter. “We brought sustenance. I bet you haven’t eaten all day.”

“We haven’t,” McQueen says. “Thanks for coming over, guys.”

“Of course,” Ace says. “Though you weren’t joking when you said your face was fucked up. You look like shit.”

“Be nice,” Emmy says, pushing her husband. “McQueen took a beating because he saved his girl’s life.”

My eyes fill with tears, because the truth of that is so beautiful, so overwhelming.

“Look,” Landon teases, pushing Emmy’s shoulder. “You’re making the new girl cry.”

“I’ll make you some tea, JoJo,” Tess says. “It always makes me feel better.”

“Good luck finding a kettle in McQueen’s place,” Jack laughs. “This is the ultimate bachelor pad.”

Tess shrugs. “I can use a saucepan. Surely you have that.”

I look at McQueen, who shakes his head sheepishly.

“God, you really did need a woman,” Ace says, cracking up.

Another knock on the door causes McQueen’s eyes to narrow. Everyone we know is right here.

Walking to the door, he looks through the window. In a flash, he spins to me.

"Shit. It's your dad. And your brothers. Kids. It looks like your whole family is here."

"Wait? Really?" I walk toward him. "Are you fucking with me?"

"Not even a little."

The doorbell rings, and I watch as McQueen smiles, swinging it open.

I hightail it away from the front entrance and busy myself in the kitchen, trying to figure out what to do ... what they might be here for.

I probably should have called my BFF when Kit … you know, was murdered … so she wasn't worried. I'm a shit friend. And shit sister.

“Josephine.” My dad’s voice bellows across McQueen’s house. When O’Malley enters a room, everyone knows.

This is no exception.

With my dad are my brothers, Mary and Lucy, and the kids. What I can’t figure out is what they’re all doing here.

I take a deep breath, realizing I have literally no idea what is going on.

“What I need to know,” Dad says. “Is that my daughter is okay.”

I see the faces of McQueen’s friends tighten as my dad looks them all over.

Finally, his eyes land on me.

“I’m okay, Dad.” I bite my lip, pushing away my tears. Did he really come here to check on me? “McQueen saved me. He took care of me.”

Dad’s jaw clenches, and I know how powerful my verbal alliance with Ryan McQueen is. My brothers all stand with crossed arms, watching me.

“Good,” he says, not offering me anything more.

"So what's going on, Dad?" I ask them. "I'm assuming you heard about Kit, then?"

"Oh, we heard about him, all right," John says, grinning.

Oh fuck. No. No. No. This is not happening.

"What did you do?" I ask.

If my brothers did something criminal, I do not want them to bring it into McQueen's house. I told my dad this morning I was walking away from the family. No way in hell am I letting them tie up the man I love in their activity.

"We'll let Dad explain," Peter says.

My niece Bailey comes over and tugs on my hand, shifting the dynamic in the room the way only a four-year-old can. "Can we play with the toys, Auntie?"

"Um. Well, I don't know if there are any toys here," I tell her with a frown. "But you can watch TV if you want?"

"Just take my phone," Mary says, handing her iPhone to her daughter. Hardy immediately snatches it from his sister's hand, and Connor—in literally the first act of parenting I have ever witnessed from him—hands Bailey his smart phone to keep her from fussing.

Lucy, who is now standing next to me, leans in so only I can hear. "I bet there's a wild stash of battery-operated toys in the bedroom...."

I don't give in to her joking, because my mind is in a million other places.

Before I can ask any more questions, Dad speaks again. "Josephine, can you join McQueen and me outside?"

"Uh. Sure." I shoot Lucy a look of confusion, but she just shrugs, then joins Bailey and Hardy on the couch. She should be the new nanny.

McQueen closes the screen door behind me, and looks at the ground, not meeting my gaze.

"What's going on? I mean, this is weird. I saw you twelve hours ago, Dad, and you basically wrote me off. And now what? You had the boys murder Kit? And then you have the audacity to come here, to McQueen's home? It's too much, Dad, it's way too—"

"Stop, babe," McQueen says. "Just take a seat and listen."

Fuming, I plop into a chair on the outside patio.

"Josephine," Dad begins, his hands clasped, sitting opposite me. "Let me start by apologizing."

I laugh, a little too sharply—but, seriously, I don't like getting caught off guard and right now I am totally on the defense.

"You have a right to be angry, to hate me, to want to get back at me,” Dad says. “I've let you down. Over and over again. And I've done plenty of questionable things over the years, as the man of this family. But the one thing I most regret is accepting an alliance with the Grottos in exchange for your life."

I swallow, not expecting this.

He keeps talking. "When you left this morning, I thought long and hard about your mother. How very much like her you are. How much I wish she could have seen you grow up into this strong, capable woman."

Tears fill his eyes and, for the hundredth time today, mine too.

"Jo, you aren't like Mary; she's a girl who doesn't know how to rein in any of her emotions. I love her, but she's trouble. You, on the other hand, know when to throw a punch and when to hold back. When you told me this morning you were training at Kit's Gym, it didn't surprise me. You aren't timid, but you aren't a fool, either. You're a fighter."

I blink back my emotions. I’ve never heard my dad talk this way.

McQueen holds my hand in his, a simple act of a solidarity that goes a long way.

"Did you kill Kit, Dad?" I whisper, needing to know. That answer will determine how I can react to this heartfelt apology.

"Well," Dad takes a deep breath. "That's a hard question to answer."

"No, it isn't."

Dad and McQueen lock eyes, and something passes between them. Trust?

"I've just met McQueen. But if you love him, JoJo, I trust that the things we say here at this table will stay between us."

My heart melts a little with the acknowledgment that my vouching for McQueen is enough.

"I love him."

Dad nods.

"After you left this morning, I looked into things. Had to find out who McQueen was, verify your allegations against Grotto, and check out what kind of fighting you were doing. An hour or so later, I made a few calls, and then I had your brothers and Connor go to the gym to meet your coach."

My eyes widen, frustrated at his intrusion into my life.

"Listen, Josephine, after the things you told me—about the stalker, about Grotto—my biggest mistake today was that I let you walk out of my house this morning without any protection. Honestly, I was dazed at your decision. But once I came to, I knew you weren't safe."