Hooked by Love (Bellevue Bullies #3)(9)

By: Toni Aleo

“So we’ll have a house in California and one here.”

“I’ll spend half the week here and half the week there,” Claire says.

“That’s a lot of travel,” Mom says, concern on her face.

But Claire nods. “Yeah, but it’s what’s best for us. We are happy.”

“And that is all that matters,” Mom says with a grin. “Because then you’ll start trying for a baby, right?”

“Ugh, Mom,” Jude groans.

“What? I want more grandkids.” Mom’s gaze then falls on Baylor.

“Whoa! Don’t look at me. They are more likely to have kids than us,” she says, hooking her thumb to Jude and Claire.

“Um, no, and it only makes sense that you guys have a kid first ’cause you live here. Easy babysitters,” Jude teases down to Jayden and Baylor.

“No, I can’t play and be pregnant, dumbass.”

“So? Do your job as a woman and have a baby,” Jude throws back at her, his eyes playful. But even I knew he was a dead man the moment he opened his mouth. The women at the table gasp, and laughter sputters out of me.

God, he is a dumbass.

“Jude Marshall!”

“Really, Jude?” Lucy asks as Claire shakes her head.

I look to Coach, but he’s just laughing. “Man, she’s gonna kill you.”

“Your funeral.” Somehow Markus is able to comment around stuffing his mouth as I sit back and watch the show.

As I expected, Baylor’s eyes narrow, her face turning red as she declares, “My job as a woman is to murder you, Jude Sinclair.”

“And I won’t stop her,” Jayden adds.

“Neither will I,” Claire says and Jude just shrugs his shoulders.

“Bring it. I’ll take you out like I did last time.”

That has Baylor’s eyes blazing even more. “It was a cheap shot, and you know it.”

“You took her legs out,” Coach hollers. “On a breakaway!”

“Like a pussy,” Jayden declares with a nod.

“I had to stop her.” Jude shrugs like it was a given, but it was a dirty play. And when Baylor punched him square in the jaw, man, that was probably my favorite thing ever to watch.

That girl is twenty shades of nuts on that ice.

“Whatever. I’ll kill you dead, Sinclair,” she sneers and Mom throws her hands up.

“Enough. It’s over. Baby talk done. I’ll shelve it for another time.”

“It’s gonna be a while. No babies here,” Jude says.

“Or here. Make sure to dust that shelf, since no one is bringing it back up,” Jayden adds.

“Definitely not here. Say hello to your one and only baby doll.” Lucy cups Angie’s face. Angie sends a big, toothless grin to my mom and she smiles.

“And she’s more than enough, aren’t you, stinker?”

“Yup,” Angie cheers then as my mom’s smile grows. I know that her initial request wasn’t directed at me, but I decide to throw in too.

“Sorry, Mom. I can’t give you a baby either. No woman,” I tease and she smiles.

“Thank God. The world isn’t ready for another Jace Sinclair.” She pats my hand lightly and I scoff.

“For sure, man. That would be a spoiled, whiny-ass baby,” is Jude’s opinion.

“Annoying as hell too,” Lucy decides.

“Ugly as hell,” Jayden says with a shake of his head, which throws everyone into fits of laughter.

“Whatever, dude. You’re just jealous I’m hotter than you!”

But no one pays me any mind, and soon I’m laughing too as I look around the table at the people I love. I know I need to go soon; I need to set up and get ready for tonight, but as my gaze goes from person to person surrounding me, I decide I want to be nowhere else but here. Why would I want to change this insanity when they are my reason for smiling? No one can come close to my family. But as soon as that thought comes, a pair of turquoise green eyes appears in my head and then I’m really smiling.

Not sure what that’s all about, but I want to find out.

And that means no matter how much I don’t want to leave, I have to.

Because I gotta save a beer for No Dating Diane.

After dinner, we only stay a little while longer before I say good-bye to everyone. As much as I want to hang out and chill, I have to get back to the house to prepare. My phone has been blowing up with questions from some of the guys, and honestly, I’m really reconsidering taking this leadership position. But I can’t. Both my brothers were captains of the Bullies before they went into the draft. It helped them in the long run—hell, there is even talk that Jayden will be the captain of the Nashville Assassins when the famous Shea Adler retires. That’s huge, and I want that. I want that security, so I need to work for it.

That’s the one thing about hockey.

It’s the only thing I’ll truly work for because it’s my one true love.

Hugging my sisters-in-law and then my sister, I kiss Angie before loving on my mom and sending an awkward wave to Coach. I’m trying not to be weirded out as I watch Coach help my mom clean the kitchen. Nope, I just wave and don’t make eye contact. But it’s weird, like, really weird.

“Do you think they’re dating?” I ask as Jude and Jayden walk with Markus and me out to my car.

“I don’t know. It’s odd,” Jude says, crossing his arms over his chest as Jayden nods.

“Baylor didn’t know anything. I asked.”

“Does she think so?” Markus asks and Jayden nods sullenly.

“Yeah, she said for her dad to clean up and be sober for something other than hockey, that means he likes her. Not sure how I feel about that.”

“I don’t like it,” Jude decides.

“It’s weird,” I say once more as I lean against the car, and they all nod in agreement. When Jayden’s eyes fall to my BMW, I see the question in them before he asks it.

“Where’d you get the wheels?”

I look down at my beauty of a car, the fading sun shining on the blue finish before I cross my own arms to match my big brothers’ stances. Markus must have felt the tension thicken in the air because he’s moved to the side of the car, almost as if he is trying to hide. But he is almost seven feet tall, a huge, burly dude—there is no hiding him if he tried.

“Dad bought it for me,” I say simply, because I have nothing to hide. Did I ask for it? No. But really, what nineteen-year-old turns down a new BMW?

Not this one.

Jayden looks away as Jude shakes his head in disgust. “He’s trying to buy your love, Jace. I hope you see that.”

I shrug. “Sure, but I needed a car. I’m too hot to be walking. Come on, dude.”

“So buy one. I told you, you can buy my bike off me.”

“And I said you could buy my car off me.”

I roll my eyes. “So either I pay you two or I get a free car? A slick, woman-getting one at that. I think I’ll go for the free, guaranteed pussy-wagon.”

I’m trying for a joke to lighten them up, to make them see it doesn’t matter, but all my comment does is piss them both off. But I don’t want to fight. I really don’t. What do they expect? If they were my age, they would have done the same. Hell, they did before my dad was a cheating bastard. “I’m doing the same thing y’all did.”

Man, I shouldn’t have said that.

Jayden is in my face in seconds, taking me by my shirt and lifting me up onto my toes. While Jayden is the chillest dude I know, he has a temper. And anything that deals with my dad brings out the crazy. “I worked for everything I have, and you know that. I didn’t and don’t take free handouts, especially from the dick that broke our mother’s heart.”

Jude’s hand comes to Jayden’s chest, stopping him, but his green eyes are wild and locked with mine. It is true; Jayden does work for everything he has because he wants to. Before, he didn’t want to owe anyone anything, and I respect that, I like that about him. But I don’t owe my dad shit.

“I never said you didn’t, Jay. I’m just saying, if Dad wants to buy my love, he can go ahead and try. I’ll answer the phone and say hi, but it doesn’t mean I like him much. I just needed a car.”

“Then you should have worked for it. Things aren’t gonna get handed to you because of who you are. You’ve had this easy life, Mom spoon-feeding you, up your ass twenty-four seven. Coaches dubbing you as the golden player and not making you work for things. You have been given everything, and soon there will be no one to do that for you. You have to work for what you want,” Jayden stresses. This isn’t the first time I have heard this.

“I hear you,” I groan because he’s been preaching that shit to me, hard, since last year. He took the divorce the hardest, and I get it. But damn, I’m tired of the broken record. “But I don’t know what the big deal is about taking a car when I need one to get around campus and shit.”

“Because you don’t need that asshole for anything.” His voice is full of venom, and it’s obvious who hates our dad the most.

It’s the big dude who has my shirt clenched in his even bigger hand.

“He’s our dad.” I don’t know why I say that. To them, he isn’t. But to me, he is. I want him to be the man I loved for so long, not the cheating bastard he is now. I’m still hoping he’ll turn back into that man. I know it’s dumb to hope that, naïve even, but I really wish it would happen.

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