Seriously, what the hell am I doing here? I’d asked myself the same question at least forty times over the past hour but the answer was blindingly obvious. I was here for her.
Jamie-Lea was the reason I came and she was the reason I was ignoring everything I thought I knew about myself. There was some kind of irresistible pull between us and the scientist in me was curious to understand it.
I messed up the night before; I could tell she was uncomfortable with the way that asshole was touching her but I was too busy wanting to kill something to make sure she was okay. Like the stupid fucker I was, I got angry with her instead of putting it right.
That won’t be happening again.
I’d been watching the way she acted with her brothers for the past few hours and I was sort of gobsmacked. It would have made for a fascinating study of human behaviour if I’d wanted to trade my education in for an armchair degree. I needed to figure it out.
It was like the girl I’d come to know over the past few weeks had retreated into the background and was replaced by someone else, someone who was afraid of her own shadow. Apparently, I was more right than I could have imagined when I jokingly likened her to a scared little squirrel. Whenever one of them looked her way, she seemed to freeze for a second.
I didn’t like that. Not one fucking bit.
I don’t know what I was expecting with meeting Jamie’s brothers. She’d said they were protective and I’d already met Craig so I had a good idea what sort of men I’d be meeting but I still wasn’t fully prepared for it. Six fucking brothers.
They sized me up the moment they saw me and I was fine with that because I was doing the same. It was part of the ritual and we all understood it.
I’d been a fighter all my life, through choice and necessity; I knew how to do the dance. With these guys though, I got the distinct impression that each and every one of them would have killed for the opportunity to have it out with me but they were waiting for some sort of cue. It was obvious that Ian would be the one to give that cue.
I knew he hadn’t taken his eyes off me since we’d arrived at the house. I wasn’t buying the friendly act. I didn’t give a shit that he’d offered me a beer. I knew he only wanted me to relax and let down my guard for some nefarious purpose. Not fucking likely.
When Karl ordered – yes, ordered – Jamie to clean up, I knew there was a purpose behind it. I knew something was about to happen. This was why it didn’t surprise me when, the moment Jamie’s back was turned, I was strong-armed into the room next door by Ian and Karl.
“Hey, E, you’ve got to see this, it’s fucking-” one of the twins broke off his happy laughter upon catching sight of the three of us and the expressions on his brothers’ faces.
If I hadn’t already suspected something was about to go down, this would have been a good indicator. The twins exchanged a look before they ushered everybody out of the room wordlessly and closed the door behind them.
I shrugged out of their grasps and turned to face them. Karl pretty much looked like he wanted to put my dick in a blender and that was fine; I was expecting that. I knew they’d pretty much raised Jamie. It was to be expected that they’d be weary about a guy she brought home.
Ian, I couldn’t figure out. He gave nothing away with his expression and that pissed me off. I was usually excellent at reading people but I couldn’t figure this guy out and it made me uncomfortable.
In the blink of an eye, I was trapped in a fairly standard lateral headlock. It was a basic move and we both knew it. He knew I fought for TacCom and he knew I could get out with a simple twist of my hips and some quick footwork. It was a test and we both knew it so I let it happen. He held me like that for a few seconds in silence and I kept my body relaxed to let him know he didn’t intimidate me.
The guy was scary as fuck but he didn’t need to know that.
When my oxygen supply started running low, he released me and gave me a solid shove back. I kept my temper under lock and key and waited for him to reveal his hand.
“Want to tell me why Jelly looked like she was about to piss herself when she saw you?” Ian asked after he’d stared at me for a while.
I grimaced because he was right; Jamie-Lea didn’t exactly look pleased to see me and I hated myself for it.
“We had a bit of an argument last night,” I shrugged, trying to play it cool. I was fairly sure Ian saw straight through it but he didn’t react.
“About?” Karl prompted. His body stance was anything but cool; his shoulders were bunched up and he was primed to attack. I was fairly sure the only reason he hadn’t launched himself at me was because Ian hadn’t finished with me.
My brain did some rapid processing because I got the sense Ian would know if I was lying but I couldn’t exactly come out and say “some bastard had his hands all over her and she’s mine.”
“Jake’s mate was manhandling her,” I ground out, barely maintaining my temper as I remembered it. “She obviously didn’t like it but when I confronted Jake about it, Jamie didn’t seem bothered and left me to deal with Jake.”
“That must have been Duff,” Karl smirked, glancing at Ian.
“They have a bit of a love-hate relationship,” Ian nodded, a slight frown on his brow.
“There was no love on Jamie’s side,” I answered coolly because it pissed me the fuck off that they didn’t know that.
Ian and Karl exchanged a look and I forced my fists to unclench because they looked genuinely amused.
“Sound a little jealous, mate,” Karl smirked.
I maintained my pokerface because he’d hit the nail on the head but he didn’t need to know that.
“Were you jealous, Jason?” Ian prompted.
The fucker was in my personal space, boxing me in and trying to make me sweat. It wasn’t going to work.
“I was concerned about her,” I smirked, leaning closer because two could play at that game.
“She’s not your concern,” Ian frowned, an obvious threat in his eyes.
His face was still expressionless but I saw the irritation for a split second as he spoke.
“I’m curious. Why are you here, Jason?” Ian took a step back, still studying me whilst Karl stood guard at my side.
“What do you mean?” I played dumb. I knew exactly what he meant but I wasn’t playing this game.
“Fine. You want me to cut to the point?” Ian scowled.
I nodded because this shit was getting old. He had something to say and it was better to get it out in the open so we all knew where we stood.
“What’s your interest in Jelly?”
“She’s a great runner and a sweet girl,” I admitted. I didn’t need to tell them that holding her hand was like being wrapped in a blanket, or that simply kissing her was hotter than any of the one-night stands I barely remembered. There was no need to sound like a pussy after all.
“And that’s all?” Ian raised a cocky eyebrow.
“We only met in September,” I answered, knowing I’d avoided the question. I saw the glimmer of victory in Ian’s eyes that told me he knew I’d avoided it as well and he was reading into it. I’ll have to be more careful around him.
“Let’s cut the shit, shall we?” Karl gritted out. It was obvious he was deviating from the plan because Ian looked irritated with him. “If you’re fucking Jelly-”
“I haven’t fucked her,” I growled, adopting an aggressive stance because – brother or not – he didn’t get to talk about her in such a dispassionate and crude fashion.
“Good,” Karl smirked and shot a victorious look at his brother. “Keep it that way and we won’t have a problem.”
“She’s eighteen,” I pointed out because I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t like the way they were acting like they owned her.
“Yes she is,” Ian nodded, pulling an irritated Karl away from me. “And she’s also a sweet kid who someone could easily take advantage of.”
I raised an eyebrow but I knew he was right. She didn’t have a bad bone in her body. It was one of the things that I loved… liked about her. She was completely selfless.
“I know your type, Jason,” Ian’s voice turned icy cold. “Don’t think I don’t know what you want with Jelly. You hurt her and I’ll make you pay. Have no doubts about that.”
He might have known the type of person I used to be but even I didn’t fully know the person I was becoming with Jamie in my life.
“Message received,” I nodded because I could understand his threat. If somebody hurt Jamie, I’d make them pay too.
“Are we done here?” I asked, already heading for the door. I wasn’t really asking because we were done. I turned my back to them because I didn’t want them to think I was scared of them. It didn’t matter either way. I wasn’t going anywhere, not unless Jamie wanted me to.