James wrestles Kalvin away from me. “That’s enough! I will not listen to any more of that disgusting talk. Sit down, and don’t even attempt to speak to your cousin until you regain a civil tongue.”
Kalvin flips up his middle finger as he takes a seat at the table. “Love you too, Dad.”
These boys are crazy. Certifiable.
One of the older boys—the scary well-built one—pushes off the island and strolls toward me. “I’m Keven.”
Saliva pools in my mouth. “Hi.”
He gives me a curt nod. “Not that this wasn’t entertaining, but we’ve got to head back to Harvard.”
“Okay.” I don’t know what else to say, and this boy kind of intimidates me.
The other boy appears behind him, leveling a vicious look at his dad. “If we’d known you were delayed, we could’ve arranged to spend the night, but you seem to have a habit of waiting far too long to inform us of important things.” He doesn’t attempt to disguise his embittered tone.
James shares a loaded look with Alex. “Kaden—”
He thrusts his palm in his dad’s face. “I don’t want to hear it. We’re out of here.” He tosses me a quick nod before clicking his fingers at his brother. Keven saunters out of the kitchen with him.
Kyler’s “fucked up” comment from earlier isn’t so remiss now.
“I apologize for my sons, Faye,” Alex says, knotting her hands in front of her chest. “Are you hungry? Greta put some leftovers in the refrigerator.”
I shake my head. “Not really. I wouldn’t mind heading to bed, if that’s okay. It’s been a long day.” I’m still feeling nauseated, and I doubt I could stomach any food. Tiredness envelops me in a heavy blanket of exhaustion, and I yawn.
“Of course, sweetie.” She drapes her arm around my shoulder. “I’ll show you to your room.”
We pass through a succession of generous-sized rooms before landing in a resplendent porcelain-tiled lobby. I notice the K logo everywhere as we pass, and I have to make a conscious effort not to roll my eyes. It’s a tad over the top.
In the lobby, a decadent crystal chandelier hangs overhead, sending shards of glistening light raining down on us. An elegant glass display cabinet rests against one wall, filled with trophies and medals. Several black-framed photos and certificates reside on the other side of the wall, surrounding an old-fashioning-looking plaque that appears to be a coat of arms. A huge circular K logo is engraved into the center of the glossy floor. A narrow set of stairs resides at the back of the room, ascending toward a mezzanine level above.
We pass by the entrance door out into a corridor on the other side of the building. This part of the house seems more contained. Wooden doors line the passageway on both sides. Obviously, these are the bedrooms. Alex asks me random questions about school and my grades as we walk.
My room is more of a suite and almost bigger than my entire house back in Dublin. A gigantic bed occupies prime position along the rear wall. A massive walk-in wardrobe extends to the left with an en suite bathroom on my right. Light gossamer-type curtains drape across the wide window. I have a front row seat to the pool area outside. It’s lit up and the water looks so inviting. Various soft couches and eating areas offer plenty of ways to maximize the outdoor space.
A small path snakes from the pool area out toward the woods at the rear of the property.
“I hope you’ll be comfortable here,” Alex says.
I turn to face her. “It’s beautiful. Thank you for letting me live here. I promise I won’t be any trouble.”
She perches on the edge of the bed and pats the spot beside her. I sit down. “I already know that, sweetie. You’re family, Faye. You belong with us, and we hope one day soon to make that official.”
A layer of ice hardens my heart as I tilt my chin up. “What do you mean?”
“James and I would like to adopt you, Faye.”
All the blood leaves my body at once. A sharp, twisty pain lodges in the pit of my stomach, and the icy layer around my heart shatters, driving imaginary splinters deep into the very center of me. “Oh, sweetie, I didn’t mean to upset you,” Alex rushes to reassure me. “I just want you to know that James and I will love you as if you are our own flesh and blood. We want you to be on an even footing with the boys. For them to be your brothers.”
“Don’t I get a say?” My voice quakes.
Gently, she grasps my hands. “Of course, you do. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s too soon. I only want you to feel like a proper part of the family. To know you aren’t alone.”
One part of me gets that and is grateful, but another part of me wants to run as far away from this madhouse as possible.
I don’t know if I want a new ready-made family.
I still haven’t come to terms with losing the one I had.
Tears well in my eyes, but I blink them away. I scoot down the bed, propping against the headrest as I tuck my knees into my chest.
This is too much. I can’t deal.
“I appreciate the gesture, but I can’t even contemplate that right now. I have a plan for my future, and I don’t know where, or if, all this”—I wave my hands around the room—“fits into the overall scheme of things. And it’s way too soon to be even considering something like that.” The “adoption” word is stuck in my throat, refusing articulation.
I don’t want a new mum and dad.
I want my old ones back.
Her eyes are kind as she looks at me. “I’m sorry, Faye. That was insensitive of me. You’re still grieving. Take whatever time you need. We’ve no intention of doing anything without your approval, so don’t worry. Forget about it for now.”