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“Where’s the birthday boy?” Brooke asked.
I pointed towards the backyard.  “He’s out there.”  I squinted to try and see where he was but I couldn’t find him.  “I think he’s out there.”
“Cool, I’ll go in search of,” she said, and left us to it.
“So, I saw Nash here,” Harlow said, surprise in her voice, “I wasn’t sure that J would invite him.”
“Yeah, me either.  That’s still a touchy subject but I’ve told J once and for all that he needs to get that shit under control.  He seems to be working on it.”
“Scott said, and I quote his words, ‘It’s a lot fucking easier to work with those assholes when they’re not being dicks’”.
I laughed.  “Yeah, I bet he did.”
The back door slid open and Nash graced us with his presence.  He grinned at us.  “My two favourite girls.”
“What will you call us once you find a woman, Nash?’ I teased him.
“Never gonna happen, sweet thing, so we’re all good.”
“I hope it does happen for you, Nash.  She’d be a lucky woman,” Harlow said.
He beamed at her.  “Means a lot, babe.  Now, have either of you seen Griff?  It’s his fuckin’ birthday and none of us can find the fucker.”
“No, I thought he was out the back with you guys,” I said.
“He was but none of us have seen him in the last twenty minutes or so,” Nash muttered.  “If you see him, tell him I’m looking for him.”
He headed down the hallway towards the front door.  As he left, Lisa and Crystal ran past him, past us and out the back door.  I heard him laugh and say, “Christ, it’s a fuckin’ madhouse here today.”
I reached into the cupboard and passed Harlow the potatoes for the potato salad we were making.  She began peeling them while I grabbed the ingredients for a caesar salad out of the fridge and started on that.
The front door slammed and a minute later, Scott entered the kitchen.  Harlow smiled up at him and he reached for her, giving her a quick kiss on the lips.  “You taste so good,” he murmured quietly.  Then he let her go and gave his attention to me.  “Gonna prepare you now, Dad’s on his way.”
My heart froze.  I shook my head.  “No, you’ve got to stop him.  Tell J, he’ll stop him.”  I was panicked.  I hadn’t spoken to Dad for awhile now and had been ignoring his calls for the last few days.
“I would tell J, but I can’t find him.  Can’t fuckin’ find Griff either.”
I frowned.  “They were here before.”
“Yeah, but nowhere to be found now.  Look, when Dad gets here, I’ll do my best to get rid of him but you know what he’s like.  I can’t guarantee anything.”
“Is Mum with him?”
“Don’t think so.”
“J told me what he did,” I said.
He nodded.  “I know.”
“Does Mum know?”
“I haven’t told her and I doubt that J has.  So, if you haven’t either, then no.”
I made a decision that I’d been toying with ever since J shared the information with me.  “I’m going to tell her.”
“Your call.  I don’t think it’ll motivate her to leave him but you never fucking know.”
I was about to say something else but we were interrupted by the rumble of a bike.
Scott gave us a pointed look that said ‘stay here’, and then stalked down the hallway to the front door.
I turned to Harlow.  “Where the fuck is J?”  I needed him like I hadn’t needed him for a long time.
She passed me my phone.  “Ring him,” she urged.
He answered on the third ring.  “Babe, I’m out the front with your father.  Stay inside while we get rid of him, okay?”
Relief hit me.  “Thanks, baby,” I said softly and hung up.
My gaze swung to Harlow who was watching me through concerned eyes.  “J’s outside.”
She smiled tightly, and then looked out the back.  “I’m going to round up these kids and get them inside.”
“Good idea.”  I watched her go, not sure why I had such an intense feeling of unease in the pit of my stomach.  When I heard lots of yelling out the front, it only intensified.  I was rooted to the spot, but when the yelling continued, I was drawn to the front door.
I opened the front door and found my father outside with J, Scott, Nash and Griff.  Scott was holding J back and Nash had my father.  The fury on all their faces was clear.  But the man who was radiating the most anger was Griff.  This really didn’t surprise me; he scared me at the best of times.
“Marcus, this is fucking bullshit and you know it,” Griff snarled at my father.
Dad’s attention turned to me, and then back to Griff.  “It’s not fucking bullshit, and besides, why don’t we let Madison be the judge of that.  She’s the one who seems to think J is the man for her.  The least we can do is give her all the information.”
I looked at J who had a feral look in his eyes and was struggling against Scott.  If Scott let him go, I knew he’d knock my father out or worse.  I needed to end this now, for J’s sake more than anyone’s.