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The Keeper: Chapter 6

EASTON

“I’ve been expecting your call, kid. Thought it would have come a little earlier than this though.”

“Listen, old man, I’m pushing thirty. I think it’s time you retired the whole kid thing,” I tell Becket as I wait for my Uber outside the Philadelphia airport. “And it’s only been a few days.”

“Rumor has it you’re old and married, at least according to Juliette and a few hundred gossip sights.” Yeah . . . Becks has always had a way with words. “And it’s been almost a week.”

“Looks that way.” Not that my wife has returned a single one of my calls since she texted me the day after she left Vegas. And I’ve been calling. “And you’re arguing semantics. A few days. Almost a week. I say tomato . . .”

My Uber pulls up, and I slide into the back seat and confirm the address with the driver.

“Why are you giving someone my address, Easton?” Becks questions.

“Because I’m coming home, Becket.”

“Home? Like home, home?” he asks, and okay, yeah, maybe now I do feel like a kid again because this is how Becks used to question me before I moved out.

“Home. Like Kroydon Hills home, Becks. Like Max offered me a trade this weekend, and I accepted it, home. We had to hammer out a few details, but it was official as of this morning.”

Becks sucks in an audible breath and blows it out in a long, low whistle. “Well damn, kid. It took you long enough. Max has been making that offer for a long time. Glad to know you finally took it. And a little pissed he didn’t tell me.”

“Yeah. I know. I can feel the I told you so vibes through the phone. And don’t be mad at Max. I asked him to let me break the news.” I look out the window at the dusky, snow-covered city and think about all the reasons I wasn’t ready to come home until now. Most of them starting and ending with Lindy.

“Maybe I wasn’t talking about the trade,” he taunts. “You’ve got the family pretty upset with Lindy and you. You ready to talk about that yet?”

“You ready to listen? Because the messages Jules has been leaving me don’t really sound like she’s ready to hear me out. She just sounds pissed.”

“Listen, Juliette may not be your mom, but she loves you and Kenzie the exact same way she loves Blaise. It doesn’t matter that she didn’t give birth to you. You’re hers. Ours. And she’s hurt. We didn’t exactly expect to find out from social media that Lindy and you got drunk and married in Vegas. It’s safe to say some of the family may be a little pissed off.”

Becket Kingston came into my life a week after my mother died. I was an angry teenager, mad at the world. He didn’t try to change me or fix me or force me into some fucked up box that would fit the Kingston mold. Instead, he spent time getting to know me. Setting boundaries and proverbially knocking me down whenever I stepped over them, which I did, a lot. He never raised a hand and rarely raised his voice. No. He used his words. He led by action and demanded I follow. That’s how Becks works. Probably why he’s spent the past decade as a US senator.

He earned every ounce of respect I will forever have for him. Even if I don’t tell him enough. So if he wants to be pissed I drunkenly married his baby sister in Vegas, he’s earned that right. But it’s not going to change anything. Madeline Kingston is my wife. And I don’t care what anyone else in this family thinks about that.

“You pissed, Becks?”

“Kid, I may be the only one who isn’t. My wife . . . ? Now, she’s pissed. And according to Jules, your wife is pretty pissed at everyone too. Not sure if that includes you.”

Lindy’s pretty pissed with me at the moment. At least judging by the lack of communication, it’s pretty safe to assume she is. Although it’s probably not a great idea to tell Becks that. “Am I better off asking why you’re not . . . or why Jules is?” I ask as the driver pulls onto Main Street in Kroydon Hills.

Becks sighs. “I’ve been married long enough to know better than to speak for Juliette. But for me, let’s just say I have faith in the man you are, and that man wouldn’t marry my sister without loving her. You wouldn’t do that to Madeline or to me. You’re a good man, Easton. Now, do I wish you hadn’t done it drunk in Vegas? Yeah, fuckhead. I’ve been trying to calm Jules down for twenty-four hours. Newsflash—it’s not working. And she’s not half as upset as Ashlyn. But—and this is a big one—if you tell me right now you want to be married to my baby sister—if you tell me she’s it, and you’re willing to take on the whole family—I’ll back you up 100 percent. I’ll fight the family with you. You’re not a dumb kid, E, and I’m not oblivious enough to ignore the fact that there’s always been something between the two of you.”

The driver pulls up to the closed gates in front of Kingston Manor, the ten-thousand square-foot mansion where I spent my last two years of high school living with Jules and Becks. “You think you can buzz me in?”


“So where are Jules and Blaise?” I ask Becks as he hands me a bottle of beer.

“She’s bringing Blaise home from basketball practice. They’ll be here soon.” He slides onto the chair across from me at the kitchen table. “Does your sister know you’re home yet?”

“No. Just you and Max. I wanted to talk to Jules before I told anyone else. Unless Max already activated your freaky family phone tree.”

Becks smiles and shakes his head, letting me know Max hasn’t done that. At least not yet. “So what’s your plan, kid?”

I run my hand over the condensation forming on the bottle and think about my next move. Which is basically the same thing I’ve been overthinking for the past twenty-four fucking hours. When I look back at Becks, I want to wipe that shit-eating grin off his face.

“Come on. Tell me you didn’t change teams and fly across the country without a plan to win Lindy over? Didn’t I teach you better than that?” He looks utterly amused when I don’t answer. At least one of us is. “Since you’re here alone, I’m assuming you need to convince my baby sister to remain your wife.”

“Maybe,” I mumble, and this fucker laughs at me.

“How drunk were you?” He pushes with an edge to his tone. “Is that why she’s pissed? Or did you do something else to upset her?”

I’m not ready to talk about this yet. Not with Becks. Not with anyone. Not until I talk to Lindy. So instead, I lift my head and look at the closest man I’ve ever had to a father and give him the only thing I can. “It’s always been her, Becks.”

“I’m not the one you have to convince.”

He’s right. But he’s a safe place to start.

Becks stares at me for a minute, contemplating something. “Do you have a place to stay tonight?”

“No. I was gonna grab a room at the hotel in town.”

“Maybe you should go say hi to your sister first,” he challenges. “You know they have a third-floor loft that has a spare bed in it. And if you need something more permanent, we haven’t filled one of the condos on the floor below theirs. Maddox and Callen are in the other one, so we haven’t been in a rush to fill their neighboring unit.”

I push back from my chair and grab my bag from the floor as my plan starts to come together. “You’re a fucking genius, Becks.” With a quick hug and slap to his back, I make my way to the door before he can stop me. “Tell Jules I’ll stop by after I check in with the Revolution tomorrow.”

“Coward,” he laughs as I open the door.

I’m not a coward.

I’m a man on a mission.

“Hey, Becks . . . Any chance I could borrow a car?”


Lindy

“Kenz . . .” I call out as I turn the TV on and find the show. “We’re about to start.” Myrtle and I snuggle up on the couch in front of the fire with a bowl of popcorn and a bottle of wine for me and a special cookie for her.

Bryn reaches over and grabs a handful of popcorn, dropping a few on the couch, which Myrtle inhales immediately. “Come on. I’m pressing play.”

“I’m coming,” Kenzie calls back from the kitchen before she walks in with a plate of nachos. “Did you start?”

“Not yet.”

We have a somewhat unhealthy addiction to a teen soap opera about a group of football players at prep school called The Kings Of Kroydon Hills. It’s based on a book series the twins’ Aunt Nattie wrote. The whole town went nuts when it was released on a streaming service last year. The only bad thing was we binged all twelve episodes in one weekend and had to wait an entire year for season two. It finally dropped today.

There’s a knock at our door, and Bryn and I look at Kenz. It’s her turn to answer since she was the last to sit down. House rules.

“Fine. I’ve got it. But you better pause it.”

“The guys aren’t coming near us tonight. They know we were planning on watching this.”

I throw a piece of popcorn at Bryn. “Like the guys would knock.”

“True.”

We both turn when Kenzie squeals. “Easton? What are you doing here?”

Brynlee grabs my hand, flipping the popcorn bowl over onto the floor in the process, as the two of us spin around on the couch and stretch to look down the hall.

You have got to be kidding me.

Bryn smacks me and silently mouths, Oh my God.

The door slams shut, and Bryn and I are too shocked to turn around and act like we’re not freaking out when Kenzie and Easton walk into the room. “Hey, E.” Bryn smiles and nudges me, trying to get me to close my mouth. “What are you doing here?”

Easton looks from her to his sister before finally setting those gorgeous hazel eyes on me. “I live here now,” he tells us, and his still boyish smile, crooked and handsome, stretches across his face. “I’ve been traded to the Revolution. I thought my sister and my wife might want to know.”

“You what?” I practically scream at the same time Kenzie pulls him into a hug.

“Finally. It took you long enough,” she tells him.

Bryn elbows my ribs again and mouths, Oh shit.

Yeah . . . Oh shit doesn’t really cover it.

“Did you tell Jules and Becks yet?” Kenzie asks, and Easton drops a bag I hadn’t noticed to the floor.

“Better question,” I interrupt.

That damn smile gets even bigger, and the dimple that’s always done stupid things to my heart pops deep in his left cheek. “Yes, wife?”

“Could you please stop calling me that?” I demand because holy shit, I really don’t want to like the way that sounds coming from him.

“Was that your question?” he taunts.

My blood boils. Was that my question? “No, that was not my question, smartass. It was a question. One I’d like answered. But no. My question is where are you planning to stay?”

“We have an extra room,” Kenzie offers, and for the second time in just a few minutes, my head feels like it spins 360 degrees.

“Kenzie,” Bryn cuts her off, but it’s too late. The damage is done.

Easton throws his arm around his sister and drops a kiss on the top of her head. “Thanks, Kenz. I’ll only need it for a night or two. I’m working on lining a place up.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” I see red as I squat down and shoo Myrtle away from the spilled popcorn she’s devouring and grab the bowl. “Can I see you in the kitchen, please?”

Kenzie’s wide eyes fly to mine. “Me?”

“No.” I dip my head toward Easton. “Him.” I grab his hand to tug him behind me, furious with him and Kenzie. But he apparently didn’t get the memo because the big jerk laces his fingers with mine, following me willingly, which only pisses me off more. Partly because I like it, and I really, really don’t want to. And partly because this would be so much easier if he was just the bad guy instead of being Easton. My Easton. The man who’s always been my knight in shining hockey skates and one of my favorite people in this whole stupid world.

I slam the bowl on the counter and turn toward him, fully prepared to tell him off, when he moves closer. “What are you—”

Easton’s hands slide to my face, and goosebumps break out over my skin, making me forget what I was about to say as his clean crisp scent surrounds me. Calming me. “Telling my wife I missed her.” He backs me against the fridge and covers my mouth with his. Soft and firm and impossibly perfect.

As much as I don’t want to, I melt against him. Because it’s Easton.

Hell, little cartoon fireworks might as well be exploding above my head with the amount of electricity firing off between us.

Then as quickly as it happened, the kiss is over, and he pulls back and presses his forehead against mine. “Hi,” he whispers, and his minty breath fans my face.

“Hi,” slips past my lips before I even have time to remember why I’m mad at him. Cautiously, I bring my shaking hand up to his face and stroke his cheek. “What are you doing, E?”

“Saying hello to my wife.” There he goes again.

Yup. That helps me remember why I’m mad.

I drop my hand to his chest and push him back. “Don’t get used to calling me that. I told you I want an annulment. The entire family is freaking out about it. My mom is ready to kill me, and I’d avoid Brandon at all costs if I were you. Scarlet’s having a cow. ESPN is asking for an interview, and my brothers . . . Don’t even go near my brothers.”

“I’m not scared of your family, princess. I don’t care what they think.”

Why is his voice suddenly growly and sexy?

And why are my panties suddenly damp?

“You might not, but I do. Do you know how hard it’s been to get my brothers and sisters to treat me like an adult? To stop looking at me like I’m a baby? I won a freaking gold medal, and I’m still not sure I was an adult in their eyes yet. But I was a whole lot closer before I got drunk and got married.”

“Still don’t remember that night, do you?” His thick arms cross over his chest.

I lift my face to his, and for a moment, I just stare at the man in front of me. The one who’s meant everything to me for years. The one who looks like I just broke his heart. Suddenly, something cracks deep in my chest. “No. Not yet,” I whisper.

The hurt is replaced by disappointment before Easton can mask it with cocky confidence. “You will.”

“Maybe,” I admit and realize there’s a tiny nugget of hope in that truth.

Just as quickly as it vanished, Easton’s grin is back in place. “You gonna let me stay here, wife?”

“It’s Kenzie’s home too.” I try to hide the quiet tremor in my voice. “She said you can stay. And stop calling me that.”

He takes one more step closer. “But I’m asking you, princess. If you say you don’t want me here, I’ll go.”

I blink up at him and run my teeth over my bottom lip, hesitant to answer. Scared of the truth but completely unable to lie to him. “Of course you can stay here.”

He reaches out with his thumb and presses it against my lip, freeing it from my teeth. “I knew you had it in you, princess.”

“I said you can stay in my house. Not in my bed, hockey boy.”

He cups my face in his hands and presses his lips to my forehead, sending a wave of warmth straight down my spine. “We’ll see about that.”

I dip out from under his arm. “Is that a challenge?”

“No, baby. It’s a promise.”

Why do I think those words are going to haunt me?


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