Still Jaded

Page 30


"I'm guessing you've slept with Corrigan?"
She choked in surprise but quickly recovered. "Uh—no, I haven't. I'm picky about who I might have a relationship with."
Bryce smiled and hugged me tighter against him. Then two things happened at the same time. Bryce pulled me to stand in front him, and I heard a sudden explosion of noise from the living room. "What the—" My words stopped short when I heard Corrigan's voice bellow out, "Start cleaning, boys!"
Cadence flashed two perfect dimples. "We told the guys we were coming over to help. They decided to join and make a social event out of it. I'm surprised Corrigan didn't tell you this morning."
As she glided away, I turned to look at Bryce. "I don't know what to say. I didn't know you were going to be here."
His eyes glittered from emotion, but I saw that he couldn't speak.
Then I caught movement from the corner of my eye and looked up. Corrigan stood in the doorway. He watched us in return, guarded. "I didn't know this was the plan until you left."
Bryce moved away from me. "You went to see him this morning?"
I nodded.
Corrigan spoke quietly, "It's not even like that, man."
Then Bryce shook his head. "I don't know if I should be more upset that you saw him and didn't tell me or that …I don't even know anymore. I just know that you two are hiding some secret from me."
Corrigan jerked forward. "Maybe I should remind you that you ended things with her."
"Sheldon left me." Bryce moved to face him.
"Because you pushed her away! You wanted her to end things and you didn't fight for her."
"Well I am now!"
"Then act like it. You don't have a lot of ground to stand on. You weren't really cheated on."
"You were supposed to be my best friend!"
"You were supposed to be mine all those years too, Bryce. You always knew and you never cared."
I stood between them but now rounded towards Corrigan with wide eyes. "Wait—what?"
Seething, Corrigan looked away and Bryce retreated to the window. I felt the room spinning and knew I was at my limit. Things weren't making sense and nothing good ever happened when I felt overwhelmed. I snapped, "Stop it. Both of you. We will clean this mess up and deal with this crap between us later when it's just us three. Got it?" A second later, both jerked their heads in nods and I took a deep breath. Be calm. Be calm. Be calm. This day sucks. I need better pain meds.
I left the room and stopped when I saw Cadence beyond the door, slack jawed. When she saw me, she snapped to attention. "Things don't seem so rosy in your threesome."
"We're just fine," I said. Now I was sure Cadence's deal with me had been empty words. She wanted Bryce and was going to do whatever it took to get him. When I heard Grace's voice from below, I looked over and saw that she was dressed like the rest of the sisters. She was glowing.
"She's come into the group with her arms open wide. She's happy with us, Sheldon." Cadence purred in victory. Of what she was victorious—I wasn't sure, but I made the decision to find out. I'd underestimated the bitch, and I rarely underestimated anyone.
I turned back to face her and rolled my shoulders back. "If you're the one who's done this to me, you best be scared."
"I'm trying to help you."
"You're helping yourself."
She moved back a step. "And how is that? Correct me if I'm wrong, but you don't have any friends except those two in there. They're loyal to you because they grew up with you, but you're holding them back. You know it. You know that they'd be better off if you'd just let them go. I'm trying to help you with that. I'm trying to help Grace too. You can lean on us. We're here for you."
I watched as she spoke each word and realized that a part of her believed what she was spouting. But I also knew how cunning she could be. I'd had a few conversations with that side of Cadence. And I also knew what crazy looked like so I asked, "How crazy are you?"
Her smile slipped a little, but she returned, "More than you can handle."
The rest of the day was monotonous. Everyone cleaned. Some flirted. Most laughed, but everyone kept cleaning. When Cadence said the girls came to work, she was right. So did Corrigan's boys. The media arrived after a couple hours, but I took great delight in shutting the gates. I knew a lot of the brothers and sisters were disappointed, but it was my house. I'd do what I wanted, and they could cry about it to someone else.
Bryce's agent left in the evening, but only after he ordered pizza for everyone. Twenty large pizzas were delivered an hour later, and everyone took their first big break together. I found juice that had been spared by the stalker and set it out. It was gone quickly.
"Everyone's worked up a thirst." Grace smiled as she approached with a broom and dustpan in her hands. She glanced around and noted, "This is quite the event. I like it. It reminds me of high school. I used to do things like this with my brother."
I studied her intently. "This isn't the same. You did charity stuff because you cared about helping out. They aren't doing this to help me. You know that, right? Cadence is doing this because her house wants to be closer to Corrigan, and she wants to be closer to Bryce. Corrigan's house is here because they knew there would be hot girls, and they feel some loyalty to me but just a little."
Her tentative smile vanished. "I was just saying…this is fun…"
"Because you feel like you're a part of the 'in' crowd. You never felt that in high school."
She bristled and then swallowed hard. "Why are you saying this?"
I moved closer and pulled her away from the group. "I don't want to delude you, but I see that you're changing. I get it. I really really do. You're being accepted. You're wanted. People like you. People are paying attention to you. I DO get that." I took a deep breath. "I'm also telling you that there's another side. You're blind to it. People are going to eat you up, swallow what they want, and then spit you out…eventually. It might not be today, tomorrow, or next month. It'll be someday."
Grace fidgeted. Her hands trembled, but she shook her head. "You're wrong, Sheldon. I like these girls. They like me. I didn't know this would be so difficult for you to accept. Is it really that big of a stretch for people to like me?"