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I drop my head. “Yeah.”
“God,” he mutters. “How fucking unlucky is that?”
“You’re telling me,” I say, then I turn to him. “You can’t tell anyone, Ripley. I don’t want this for Mom and Jack. They deserve to be happy.”
“And you don’t?”
I look away. “He’s my step-brother. It’s so wrong.”
“You’re not related. Honestly, I think it’s a stupid word. It should be called something like your-dad-married-my-mom-but-we’re-not-related-brother.”
I laugh softly. “That could get messy.”
“Still, you two aren’t doing anything wrong. You know that, right?”
“Deep down, yeah I do, but you don’t understand. Jack is the best thing that’s happened to Mom since we lost our family. I don’t want to ruin that.”
“You wouldn’t be,” he says. “She can still love Jack; it won’t affect that.”
“But it could. For more than one reason. Firstly, imagine what people would say. They’d taunt them, and rumors would start. Then there’s the risk of something going wrong with Blade and I—what if it ended really badly? That would put a massive rift between our families. Or what if Mom and Jack don’t work out?”
“Those are all big what ifs. Do you really think your mom would care?”
“I don’t know, and I’m not going to find out. Blade agrees. What we had was a few great nights; it’s finished. I need to move on.”
“That’s a lie. I know it was more than a bit of fun and so do you.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Ripley is silent a while. “You deserve happiness, but I won’t push you. I know how hard it is to admit to something when you’re terrified of the consequences.”
I raise my brows and look at him. “Care to share?”
He studies me. “Can I trust you?”
“Sure.” I nod. He can trust me. They all can. I won’t say a word about Brody and his story and whatever Ripley tells me, I won’t share either.
“I haven’t . . . I haven’t told anyone before.”
“If you don’t want to, you don’t have to, but if you do, I’m listening.”
He’s quiet a while and I figure he’s going to pull out, but instead he says, “I’m gay.”
I jerk and turn to him, shocked. “Excuse me?”
He looks away. “I’ve known for a long time. I don’t know how to tell them . . . Dad is so manly and so are Brody and Blade. They’d never understand.”
Oh god, poor Ripley.
“You might be surprised,” I say gently. “You can’t keep that to yourself forever. It’ll break you.”
He looks at me, and I want to reach over and hug him. “Do you think it’s awful?”
My eyes widen. “Jesus, no. If that’s who you are, that’s who you are.”
He smiles. “Really?”
“Of course. No judgment here.”
“You won’t tell them?”
I shake my head. “Nope. That’s your place. I won’t tell a soul.”
And I won’t.
“Thank you,” he says. “I think I might like having a sister. Maybe not as much as Blade, though.”
I shove his shoulder and he laughs loudly, wrapping his arm around me.
Dammit. These boys are getting to me.
“Are you okay?” Mom says, hugging me close.
“I’m fine. It’s just a scratch.”
Jack told her I fell off the jet ski, but he didn’t tell her I was drunk. The cut on my head is no more than a scratch that just bled well because of the water. I don’t even think it warrants a Band-Aid. Still, my mom worries, and I hate that I did something so reckless. It wasn’t fair, because if something had happened, it would destroy her. I’ll think before I act next time around.
“You had me worried,” she says, sitting us both down on the couch. “Jack told me what happened this morning. I was beside myself.”
“I’m okay,” I say, and I mean it. “I was just . . . it was hard to deal with, but I’m okay. The guys understand now, and today I had a breakthrough with, well, all of them.”
She beams. “That makes me so happy.”
I hug her. “I’m sorry I worried you.”
“Never be sorry, sweetheart.”
“There you are!”
We both turn to see Melanie running through the door. She launches herself at me, making us both fall back on the couch. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again. I couldn’t find you and I heard what happened. Damn you, woman.”
I push her off and sit up, but I give her a smile. “I’m sorry.”
“You will be,” she says, waggling her finger in my face. “You will be!”
Mom stands. “I’ll leave you girls to it.”
Melanie flops down beside me. “What happened?”
I shrug. “Nothing. I had a dream, Jack told them about it and I freaked out.”
“Brody was with you all day,” she says.
I nod. “Yeah, he was. I’m glad for it, too.”
“Did he say much?”
I shake my head. “Nah, we just got drunk and talked about random shit. Which is exactly what I needed.”
She sighs. “I’m so jealous. You have three awesome guys in your life.”