Mike let go of Drew and he ran, bouncing on his feet in front of Tony.
“This is Cindy. She’s Mike’s girlfriend.” Oblivious to Tony’s angry face, Drew continued in his excited voice. “She’s super good at playing Nintendo.”
Cindy tried to pull her hand away, but Mike held tighter. He raised an eyebrow and met Tony’s eyes.
Tony sat in the recliner across from them. “Hey, Drew, go see if dinner’s ready. I’m hungry.”
“But I want to talk with you guys.” His bottom lip jutted forward.
“We’ll be up in a minute. Save me a seat.”
Mike smirked as Drew ran up the stairs. He’d do anything for Tony’s approval—like Mike used to before he learned his brother was an asshole.
Tony gazed back and forth between them. “So, you’re dating?”
“Got a problem with it?” Mike asked.
Tony smirked and looked back at Cindy. “Kind of.”
“Sucks for you.” He stood and pulled Cindy with him. “Let’s go eat.”
She clutched his hand and nodded. He wanted to punch his stupid brother. Tony’s sarcastic laugh increased the urge.
Tony shook his head. “I always knew you had idiot potential, but I’d hoped you’d be more like Mom than Dad.”
Mike turned back and took a step toward Tony. “What the hell does that mean?”
“Mike.” Cindy clutched his hand and held him back.
“You always do what you want and never think about how it affects anyone else.”
“Who I date doesn’t affect you. And it’s none of your business either.”
“I think it is.” Tony curled his lip.
“Oh really? Why?” If he said it, the punch to his face would be his own damn fault.
Cindy pulled on his hand again. “Come on, let’s go upstairs.”
“Listen to your girlfriend. You don’t want to start something with me you can’t finish.”
Tony crossed his arms. Muscles bulged underneath his sweater and one twitched in his jaw.
“Finishing wouldn’t be a problem.”
“Mike, don’t. Let’s… let’s go.”
The uncharacteristic tremble in her voice stopped him. He glanced at her face, his stomach aching with guilt. Damn his stupid brother. And damn himself for putting her through this. “Okay.”
He ignored Tony’s chuckle and led her up the stairs. At the top he hugged her, whispering in her ear. “I’m sorry. He’s way out of line.”
She sniffled. “Yeah.”
“He’s wrong, he’s the idiot for not giving us a chance.”
“This was a bad idea. I should go.” She pulled away and wiped her eyes.
“No, I want you to stay. Tony can piss off. His opinion doesn’t matter.”
“It should matter. He’s your brother.”
He rubbed a finger on her cheek. “So, if Elijah hates me are you going to dump me?”
“Well, no. But family is important.”
“You’re important.” He kissed her, holding her soft cheeks in his hands. “And your opinion is what matters to me. We got this. You and me, together.”
“I don’t want you to fight with your brother or anyone.”
“I can handle him.”
“But you shouldn’t have—"
He covered her mouth with his hand and gave her a crooked grin. “We. Got. This.”
Taking a deep breath, she nodded. “All right. Yeah. We do.”
“Good. That’s the stubborn girl I love. Now let’s go eat. I’m starving and my dad’s burgers are the best.” He took a step toward the kitchen, but Cindy jerked his hand again, stopping him.
“What did you say?” She stared at him with wide eyes.
He wrinkled his brow. “My dad’s burgers are the best?”
“No, before that,” she whispered.
The words rewound in his head and he smiled. “You heard me.”
“I’d like to hear it again.” She took a step toward him.
A warm bubble filled his chest and the words came easier than breathing. “I love you.”
“Have you been taking romantic line lessons from Hayden?”
Heat prickled his cheeks. “No, it sort of slipped out. But I meant it.”
She wrapped her arms around his waist and laid her head on his chest. “You know what?”
She laughed. “No, I love you, too.”
“Then this should be a piece of cake.”
“Or maybe a pie in the face. You haven’t met my family.”
“Yet,” he said.
She pulled back, frowning. “Yet.
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