Authors: Maya Banks
Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Romance, #Erotica, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Christian, #Romance Contemporary, #Best Friends
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By Maya Banks
We did what we set out to do. It wasn’t always easy, the road was bumpy as hell, but what a fun ride. Thanks for sharing it with me.
The living room erupted in cheers as the wide receiver ran into the end zone. Toni watched as her brother and their two roommates, A.J.
Spinelli and Simon Andrews began high-fiving.
“Toni, why don’t you come sit down. You’re missing the game,” Matt called out to his sister.
She smiled and shook her head. “I’m fine right where I am.” She continued to watch from her perch on a barstool from the kitchen bar.
The kitchen opened up into the living room, and from where she sat, she could just see over the three heads on the sofa.
The three were embroiled in the game as it wound down to half time.
Matt lounged back in the sofa, his brown hair, the exact color as hers, flopping around his ears, screaming for a haircut. A.J., Mr. Greek God, the golden one, was busy stuffing popcorn into his mouth. His sun-streaked blond hair was spiked on top, hinting at the amount of mousse that went into his styling. And Simon the Serious sat forward on the sofa watching the TV intently as play resumed. His dark hair, not brown, but not quite black fell lazily across his forehead. He turned, saw her watching, and winked at her, his leaf-green eyes twinkling.
Sighing, she looked back down at the pad of paper she was writing on and chewed her lip in consternation. Beside the pad was the rental section of the classified ads. She fiddled with the pen she’d circled a few
ads with, her heart not really into choosing which apartment suited her best.
The fact was she didn’t want to move out of the home she’d shared with the guys for three years at all, and she couldn’t really afford to. But she had to. And soon.
She shoved the paper under the nearby phone book when the guys got up and headed into the kitchen.
“The Texans blew a fourteen point lead,” Simon said in disgust as he walked toward the guys’ bathroom.
“Hey, Toni, you care if I use your bathroom?” A.J. asked as he ambled over. “Simon’s got ours tied up.” She nodded, and he flashed her a sunny grin.
“Whatcha doing, sis?” Matt asked as he took another beer from the fridge. “Want one?”
She controlled the urge to puke and waved him off. He shrugged and popped his open, taking a long swig from it.
He came back over to stand by her and ruffled her hair. “You’ve been quiet today. Not interested in the game? You’re usually over there screaming louder than anyone. Something bothering you?” She took a deep breath, knowing she had to confront him sooner or later, and she’d rather do it when Simon and A.J weren’t staring at her as well. “I’m going to move out.”
He wouldn’t have reacted more violently if she’d knocked him in the head. His brown eyes popped open and his mouth dropped. He set his beer down with a resounding thud. “You can’t be serious. What’s wrong?
“Nothing’s wrong. Nothing’s happened,” she said quietly. “It’s just time for me to get my own place.” She immediately regretted bringing up
the topic. She’d expected resistance, but she hadn’t bargained for Matt’s vehemence. “Can we talk about it later?” He stared hard, studying her. “Something is up,” he said, ignoring her request. “You aren’t telling me everything. I thought you were happy here. We decided together to let Simon and A.J move in when mom and dad died and left us the place. Do you regret doing it now?” She closed her eyes. This was going to be more difficult than she thought. “You know I love you guys. I don’t regret letting them room with us, but it’s time that I got my own place. Spread my wings a bit. Time to prove I don’t need you guys taking care of me all the time.”
“Is that what this is about? Do you think we’re overbearing? Because I can talk to the guys. We can lay off.” She smiled and laid a hand over his. “Yes, you’re overbearing. You all are, and I love you for it. This isn’t about you or the others. I just think it’s time for me to get out on my own.”
“I don’t like it.” He crossed his arms over his chest and set his lips in a firm line. “And you aren’t telling me everything. I can see it in your eyes.”
“What’s going on?” Simon asked as he approached the bar.
Guiltily, she raised her eyes to see his concerned expression. She flushed and wished the floor could swallow her up about now. Of all people, she hadn’t wanted him to know yet.
“She just told me she’s moving out,” Matt said in disbelief.
“Is that true?” Simon asked softly, boring into her with his intense green eyes. Eyes that left her feeling like she had no clothing on.
Another flush crept up her neck as she envisioned him naked, over her body, her hands gliding over his broad chest and bulging arms.
She nodded, unable to speak or meet his gaze.
She fidgeted on the stool, twisting her fingers in her long curls. “I think it’s time I got my own place.”
“You’ve said that already,” Matt replied. “In fact, so far, that’s the only reason you’ve given. Why is it so important that you have your own place?”
“Don’t badger her,” Simon reprimanded. “I’m sure she has a good reason.” He turned back and looked expectantly at her. “We’d just like to hear it.”
. What could she say? Certainly not the truth. World War III would pale in comparison. She’d rather suffer through an entire hour’s worth of lecturing from the three of them rather than tell them why she had to move out.
Because of her own stupidity, her relationship with the three people she cared most about was going to be forfeit. They’d lived together for three years. But they had been friends for a lot longer.
It seemed logical to invite Simon and A.J. to move in when her parents had died. The four had been inseparable ever since the guys were in high school. The guys had gone on to become firefighters and work in the small town of Cypress, Texas they’d all grown up in.
“Toni?” Simon’s voice filtered into her thoughts.
She peeked up at him to see his concerned expression concentrated on her. Clearing her throat, she said, “I want to get my own place.
“I don’t see how we can’t take it personally,” he began. “It seems as if you want to get away from us. Have we done something to piss you off?” With an inward groan, she buried her face in her hands. “Surely, you didn’t think we’d live together forever. I mean you guys will want to get married and have a family. I’ll want the same.” Her head came up at Simon’s uttered “oh.”
“I think I see what this is about.”
“Well, do enlighten me,” Matt complained. “Because I’m in the dark over here.”
“I think what Toni is trying to say is she’s ready to start looking for a serious relationship. Maybe get married and start a family. I guess it’s pretty hard for her to do that with us three breathing down the neck of any guy she brings home.”
“Is that true, Toni?” Matt asked.
“Uhm, well, yes, I suppose. I mean, I don’t plan on getting married tomorrow, but I suppose I’ll want to in the not so distant future.”
mind that she couldn’t have the one man she wanted.
Matt didn’t look convinced, but he didn’t say anything more. Simon continued to study her until she was ready to fidget completely off her seat. Why did she get the impression he could see straight through her flimsily muttered excuses?
“Is there anything we can do to help?” he asked in a soft voice.
“Uh, no, not really. Well, I suppose you could help me move when the time comes.” She flashed him her best smile in an attempt to squelch the nervousness she felt.
“You know we’ll help.”
“Yes, I know,” she whispered.
She heard A.J shuffle back into the kitchen, and she turned in relief, thankful he was interrupting the tension. Her heart sank when she met with his expression. It was odd. He looked like he’d just eaten her attempt at meatloaf.
He stared at her with a deer-in-the-headlights look. Something akin to horror and confusion.
“What’s your problem, A.J.?” Matt called out.
He continued to stare at Toni as he walked slowly over. He held his hand out, and Toni’s stomach lurched, her heart jumping into her throat.
In his outstretched palm lay the early pregnancy test she’d taken the day before. The two lines were faded, but still very indicative of a positive result.
“What is this, Toni?” he finally asked.
Toni froze, but anger quickly surfaced in an effort to cover her dismay. “What the hell were you doing going through my trashcan?” She snatched the stick from him and clenched it in her fist.
A.J. blinked in surprise. “I wasn’t digging in it. I dropped my watch and had to fish it out. I couldn’t help but see the test.” Matt whose mouth was permanently rounded in an O of shock finally snapped his jaw shut. “Holy shit, Toni. Are you…are you
?” Simon took her hand in his much larger one and gently pried the test from her fingers. Matt and A.J. crowded around him as he examined it.
“What does two lines mean?” Matt demanded.
“It means she’s pregnant,” Simon said quietly, leveling a stare at Toni.
“Jesus! Why didn’t you tell us, Toni?” Matt asked.
“Is this why you’re moving out?” Simon asked, lifting her chin with his fingers in a gentle gesture that nearly had her in tears.
She nodded miserably.
“What the hell are you talking about?” A.J. demanded. “Who’s moving out?”
“No one is,” Matt growled.
“Who the hell knocked you up, Toni?” A.J asked. “Tell me so I can go kick his ass.”
“Was it that geek who took you out a couple of months ago?” Matt asked.
Toni looked in bewilderment as the questions came from all directions. Then she did the only thing she knew would shut them up.
She burst into tears.
Warm, strong arms wrapped around her and pulled her against the solid wall of a well-muscled chest. “You guys shut the hell up,” Simon ordered. “You’re upsetting her. We won’t ever get any answers if you continue to interrogate her.”
“Jesus, Matt, you made her cry,” A.J. said in disgust.
“Me? I wasn’t the one asking who knocked her up.”
“Quiet!” Simon roared.
Toni closed her eyes and inhaled the comforting scent of Simon’s T-shirt. God, he was strong, and everything that was wonderful about a man. She said a silent prayer he wouldn’t let her go. Not just yet.
A gentle hand stroked her hair, which caused her tears to flow even harder. “Come here, sweetheart,” Simon said, easing her off the stool and toward the living room.
He settled her on the couch and enfolded her in his arms. “Now, suppose you tell us what’s going on.”
She hiccupped and looked down. Matt and A.J crowded around the couch, looks of concern and confusion marring their handsome faces.