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From the upcoming book "Water Touched"


* * * * *


“There’s going to be a lot you’ll need to do before you bring her here,” Lance said. He was one of Darien’s older brothers—one of many, and the second closest to him in age.

Tommy nodded. He was the brother sandwiched between them in birth order. The three of them were inseparable. Darien knew he could count on them both to not lead him astray.

“Clothes,” Lance said. “Katelyn is going to work on putting together a new wardrobe for her. She wants sizes, though. Any chance you know all of that?”

“Uh…” Darien blinked. “Medium? That’s a size right?”

His brothers exchanged a glance. Tommy shook his head and got up from the kitchen table to pour himself another cup of tea. “Do you have anything planned out? Cellphone plans, identification cards, what she’s going to do after she gets here.”

“Once I know she’s going to handle everything okay, I’ll get her a phone,” Darien mumbled. “The last thing I want to do is seclude her from the world, but you know I can’t give her free reign until she understands what’s at stake.”

Lance rested his chin in his hand. “You’re sure she’s going to take it well? I mean, you’re positive she’s the one. What did you think of the girl the priests recommended?”

“Not for me. She wasn’t the one for me.” Darien slouched in his chair. “Tai is smart. Once I explain the truth to her, she’ll be on board. Maybe we won’t have instant marital bliss. I can deal with that, though. Not everyone gets to be as lucky as you, Lance.”

His brother shrugged. “Get me a refill too, please, Tommy?”

“You have two legs.”

“But yours are already up and moving,” Lance protested. He batted his eyelashes. “I said please.”

With a groan and a roll of his eyes, Tommy grabbed Lance’s mug from off the table. “Keep your realism, Darien. Otherwise, you’re going to be disappointed. A lot has changed from even when Lance brought Katelyn home. Women are more independent and driven. It’s a good thing, but it does change how they view certain…traditions.”

“Like the sacrifice,” Lance chimed in.

“Right, like the sacrifice,” Tommy said. “I hope you’re right. I hope she understands and you’re able to adjust to your new life together easily. Be ready for a challenge.”

Darien scowled, not looking at either of his brothers. He knew the world was a different place from when the rouse of the sacrifice was first invented. Was it wrong for him to hope for the best? To dream? It’s not like I’m stupid. I’ve been in school with the humans, so I know what people are like now. Ugh.

His older brothers exchanged another glance. “Why the angry face?” Lance asked.

“Oops,” Tommy mumbled. “Sorry, Darien. I’m not trying to be a downer.”

But you are because your marriage isn’t exactly flourishing. I get it. Out loud, Darien said, “No, it’s okay. Good to go into this with a grounded perspective.”

“You’re going to do fine,” Tommy said, softly.

There was a soft knock at the door. All three of them turned to the noise to find the eldest brother of the bunch, Brian, standing in the doorframe. “Dad here?”

“Nope,” Lance said. “Can’t say we’ve seen him since dinner.”

“He’s probably in the office,” Darien said quietly. Avoiding me since I didn’t come home right after my meeting with the priests. That was the way his father let everyone know he was mad—he hid.

Brian gazed over at Darien, as if finally acknowledging his presence. Being the youngest of seven, Darien didn’t have a fantastic relationship with his older brothers thanks to their age difference. Add the fact that his mother died giving birth to him, and there was a whole other level of tension whenever the whole family was together. Brian seemed to be the only one who didn’t forgive him.

Darien tried to stay out of the way. Easy enough to do in their massive apartment complex—except when Brian came looking for their father. Then, for whatever reason, they tended to always bump into one another. Like fate was trying to force them into making up.

“What’s going on in here?” Brian asked.

Shaking Darien’s shoulder, Tommy laughed. “Giving a pep talk now that he’s chosen his future bride.”

“Have you practiced your kissing?”

He’s joking, right? “Excuse me?” Darien asked, hoping he’d heard wrong.

No smile appeared on Brian’s face. He was as stoic and cold as ever. “Your kissing. Have you practiced?”

Darien scoffed. “How am I supposed to do that?”

“Your hand,” Brian provided.

“Pillow!” Lance offered.

“Movies, watch a lot of movies,” Tommy suggested.

Swallowing, Darien risked gazing at Brian. “Is it going to be that important?” Kissing? Really? It’s not like she’s kissed a guy before…or maybe she has. Okay, note to self, watch a lot of sappy movies. The last thing he needed was to embarrass himself on his first kiss.

“I’ll find Dad in the office,” Brian said, ignoring Darien, entirely.

Lance noticed the snub too. “Don’t let him get to your head. Part of the fun is learning together.”

“I concur,” Tommy said.

Heat flushed over Darien’s cheeks. “Noted. I’ll get Katelyn whatever she needs to work her wardrobe creating magic in the morning.” He stood. “Love to stay, but I’m feeling pretty beat from the flight.”

He wasn’t, but it was a great excuse that his brothers would hopefully buy. They seemed to, each nodding slowly and, more importantly, keeping their mouths shut. Tommy took a long sip from his mug, waving, while Lance grunted something that resembled goodnight.

In truth, Darien wasn’t feeling anywhere near tired. He made his way through the apartment to his room. The way the building was laid out, each floor was like its own separate house. Each floor had its own main entrance, which was the only door that needed a key to get inside. The elevator that went to the front lobby connected to these entryways, allowing for privacy from outsiders. Other elevators were scattered about the floors so the family could visit each other with ease—because only Darien’s immediate family lived inside of the apartment building.

It was twelve floors in total, each brother having his own floor to call his home. At least, that was the eventual goal. For the time being, Darien shared the “family floor” with his father, Lance, and Tommy. While Lance and Tommy were married, their families were still small enough for everyone to have their own room. Lance was in the process of transitioning to his own space.

Hopefully, that wouldn’t happen for at least a year. That was the selfish part of Darien wanting to keep his brother as close as possible. Whenever one of his older brothers moved to their own space, emotional distance seemed to follow soon after. With Brian, Asher, Connor, and Noah, he didn’t feel the loss quite as much. They were so much older than him. Lance and Tommy were a completely different story. Maybe with his own wife, he wouldn’t notice the void as much. Marriage changed a lot after all.

Darien slipped past the open door of his father’s bedroom, glad Brian was providing a distraction so he wouldn’t be forced into conversation himself. Receiving a lecture followed by uncomfortable small talk was not the way he wanted to spend the rest of his night.

Instead, he shut the door to his room, jumped onto his bed, and then grabbed the remote for his flat screen television hanging on the wall across from him. He queued up a list of movies—romantic movies at that—and picked one to stream.
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