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Home > Aflame (Fall Away #4)(8)

Aflame (Fall Away #4)(8)
Author: Penelope Douglas

Her dark eyebrows—the right one adorned with two barbells—pinched together, and she looked over at me like I’d grown a horn. I’m sure she knew it, but I’d certainly never admitted it before. I relied on her a lot, and it was a perfect arrangement, because she liked to be needed. Neglect did that to people.

As much as I liked her dad, he was about as good a parent as my mom was when I was growing up.

Pasha turned out well, though. She reeled me back in when I was drowning and made a lot of decisions for me when I couldn’t. She got me out of the pit crew and turned me on to motorcycles, hooked me up with sponsors and investors, and convinced me to buy into the shop. None of this happened over calm and reasonable business dinners—more like her screaming at me to get my head out of my ass—but before I knew it, I had so much shit going on, there was no time to think. She filled my life with noise when the quiet was too dangerous.

I not only needed her, but I wanted her around.

And now she knew it.

She was probably going to ask for another fucking raise.

***

Jax was waiting outside the terminal even though I’d told him I would text when we were at passenger pickup.

But I grinned anyway the minute I saw him, barely noticing Pasha zoom past us to go outside for a cigarette.

“Hey.” I hooked an arm around Jax’s neck and pulled him in, dropping my duffel on the floor.

“Hey,” he said for only me to hear. “I missed you.”

I let my eyes close for a second, all of a sudden weighted down by how long I’d been away from him. We’d kept in regular contact, and even though I’d stayed away only to avoid one particular person, Jax had suffered the price, too.

I was his blood. The only blood he had.

Pulling away, I took stock of everything that hadn’t changed. His black hair, styled to look like he’d just run his fingers through it, and his blue eyes were the same vibrant azure as the last time I’d seen him. No scars or bruises that I could see, so I knew he was keeping out of trouble.

Not that Jax got in regular fights anyway, but instinct told me to make sure. He still dressed in jeans and black T-shirts, matching me almost to a tee. I shook my head when I realized he was also taking stock of me, and then he finally relaxed, putting an arm around his girlfriend’s shoulders.

“Juliet.” I finally looked over, seeing her slip a hand around his waist.

She smiled and then greeted me. “It’s good to see you.”

I wasn’t sure if that was true, but I didn’t really care. She and I got along fine, but we weren’t—and probably never would be—besties. I had a limited tolerance for mindless chatter, and she seemed to regard me with less and less cordiality as well. Probably because of Tate.

Back in high school, Juliet went by her sister’s initials, K.C. When she started dating my brother two years ago, she reclaimed her birth name, and it still took some getting used to for me.

I picked up my bag and looked at both of them. “I hear congratulations are in order,” I told Juliet. “Teaching in Costa Rica? You two ready for that?”

Juliet had just graduated with her teaching degree, and since Jax had also beaten the clock and finished college early, the two of them were headed to Central America in the fall. Jax had told me a few weeks back that she had signed a one-year contract, but I hadn’t talked to Juliet about it at all.

She turned to look at him, a knowing smile playing on her lips as if they shared a private joke. “There’s no adventure too big,” she teased, speaking more to him than to me.

I cleared my throat. “So where’s our mother?”

Jax stuck his hands in his pockets. “Doctor’s appointment.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Yeah.” He nodded and turned around, starting to lead us out of the airport. “She’s perfect. When you get close to term you have to go in every week, apparently. You should see her, man.” He laughed under his breath. “She’s shopping like crazy and eating ice cream after every meal, but she’s on top of the world.”

I followed, seeing Pasha coming toward us, having just come back in.

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me that she was pregnant?” I prodded Jax.

I knew why my mom had kept it from me, but Jax could’ve warned me.

He shook his head, smirking at me. “Dude, it’s not my business to tell you your mom is pregnant. Sorry.” By his amused tone, I could tell he wasn’t sorry. “Besides, she really didn’t want you to find out over the phone. That’s why she’s been trying to get you home.”

A pang of guilt started jabbing at me from several directions when I thought of all the shit I was going to have to smooth over. Answering my mother’s questions, Madoc’s silent treatment, and getting reacquainted with my brother . . .

“Um . . . hi.” Juliet turned around as we kept walking, looking at Pasha. “Are you with Jared?”

I swung my bag over my shoulder, looking to Juliet.

“Sorry,” I shot out. “You guys, this is Pasha.” I jerked my chin at the girl next to me. “Pasha, this is my brother, Jax, and his girlfriend, Juliet.”

“Hey,” Pasha said casually.

Juliet shook Pasha’s hand quickly and then turned around, looking confused. I caught her sideways glance at Jax.

“Hi, Pasha.” Jax gave her a quick shake and then glanced to me quickly before crossing the walkway to the parking garage. “Why didn’t you tell me you were seeing someone, man?”

I let out a bitter laugh but was cut off.

“Aw,” Pasha cooed as we headed into the parking garage. “You didn’t tell him about us, honey?” And she kneaded my biceps with her hot pink fingernails.

I rolled my eyes. “My assistant, guys.” I tossed my bag in the trunk of my old Mustang, now Jax’s car. “She’s just my assistant. That’s all.”

Jax swung his pointer finger between us as he walked to the driver’s side. “So you two aren’t . . . ?”

“Ewwww,” Pasha grumbled, disgust written all over her face.

“So you’re gay, then?” he shot back.

I snorted, shaking with laughter as I opened the passenger side door for the girls.

Pasha planted her hands on her hips. “How did . . . what . . . ?” she stammered, looking to me accusingly.

I held up my hands, feigning innocence.

Jax narrowed his eyes on her over the hood. “When you think about the women who aren’t interested in my brother, it pretty much just leaves the lesbians.”

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