Control

“Close those damn curtains,” I yelled, pulling the blanket up to shield my eyes.

“Not a chance, sweetheart,” Alex chimed in. “Rain says ya’ll got some decisions to make. That means,”—he yanked the covers off me—“you need to get your pretty little self cleaned up and to the breakfast table.”

“Why can’t he talk to me in here?” I grabbed the covers and pulled them up again.

“Ya’ll get to talking in here and might not ever come out.” Alex chuckled and walked to the door. He placed his hand on the knob and turned around. “Seriously, I know you and Rain didn’t end on the best of notes, you gonna be able to take the close proximity?”

“What do I look like to you? A little league player?” I tossed a pillow at him and stuck out my tongue.

He ducked and slid out of the room. His laughter echoed down the hallway.

I drug myself out of bed and headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth. It wasn’t until I checked my cell that I realized I’d slept all day and through the night. Outside, another day was unfolding. Thank God for room-darkening curtains.

I huffed at the idea that Alex thought I couldn’t handle Rain. The question was: Could Rain handle me? Yesterday, he’d caught me off guard, but only because it’d been the first time I’d seen him since we parted ways. Not to mention, I’d been totally sleep-deprived. Under any other circumstances, I would have retained complete control.

Didn’t I always?

Rain’s biggest peeve was a lack of integrity in people. Ask me, he took the integrity shit too far. Life was about gaming others before they gamed us. The sooner he woke up to that concept, the better off he’d be. Then he would see I wasn’t the person he made me out to be.

I did have to give it to him for standing so strongly on his principles though. He’d always been a man of his word, even up til now. If only I could convince him that I could be who I was, while he stayed who he was. And since I’d long ago figured out I couldn’t fuck that knowledge into him, I’d use this time to go about it another way. Make him think I’d change. Make him think I’d fixed something that, to me, was never broken.

I timidly walked to the kitchen. I didn’t need to be caught off my game again. I grinned at the sight of Red woofing down his breakfast like he hadn’t eaten in days. I’d never seen a time when he didn’t seem to take extreme pleasure in gobbling his food down in less than 2 minutes.

He looked up and smiled as I entered the kitchen. “Morning, cuz. We got a good breakfast this morning: turkey bacon, grits, biscuits, butter and jelly, scrambled eggs with cheese—all your favorites.” He swept his hand across the table. “Rain planned the menu. Right, Rain, right?” Food spewed unchecked from Red’s mouth, and I quickly grabbed a napkin to wipe his face.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Rain said, trying to read my expression.

“No, that’s fine.” I scooted into a chair, and Alex laid a plate filled with a taste of everything in front of me. “Alex, are you trying to tell me I’m too skinny?” I half-joked.

“Nah, baby girl, you just the right size.” He winked at me and joined us at the table.

“Yeah, Yanni, you just the right size. Right, Rain, right? You know Rain always did like your size,” Red shouted, a little too loudly.

“Umm,” Rain said, clearing his throat and pretending to not hear Red’s remark. “When you’re finished, can we take a minute to discuss the patient?”

“Sure thing,” I snapped and dug into my food. I didn’t give a fuck about the patient—I wanted to know where Rain and I stood. I wanted to know when we’d talk, lay the cards out on the table and stop bullshitting. He still wanted me, and he knew it. I’d just have to show him how much he missed me.

After dabbling in my food a few minutes more, I excused myself from the table. “Rain, whenever you’re ready,” I said and walked out of the room.

No sooner than I’d stepped into the den than I heard his shoes coming across the hardwood floors. “Your friend needs surgery.” He moved closer to Mason’s room, as if he were about to enter. “He’s got a crushed cheekbone and a fractured rib. The x-rays didn’t show any breakaway fragments, so we can wrap him up, but his face, well, that’s another story. He’ll be down for a few days.”

“Get him what he needs, and then I want him the fuck out of my house.”

“Still as unladylike as you always were, I see,” Rain replied, lowering his voice to a deep growl.

“What do you want me to say? That I care about him? That I want him to get better?”

“What I want you to do,” he railed back, “is act like the man is in the room right next to us. Act like you must have cared if you brought him here. And it wouldn’t hurt, if you didn’t curse so much.”

“Fuck you, Rain,” I yelled. My face had begun to burn and my heart was cutting flips. Just who the hell did he think he was?

“We’ve already been down that route, and you did just that, Yanni. You screwed you and me out of something good. Seems you do that to everybody who cares about you. It’s a wonder Alex and Red are still around.”

Crossing my arms over my chest, I narrowed my eyes and walked over to him. “I don’t have to take this in my own house.”

“No, no, you don’t.” He shook his head for emphasis. “And I can leave at any time—just say the word. I know what this is all about. The one time your spoiled butt doesn’t get what you want, you blow up. Try to exercise your power. Well, exercise it then. Have your men take me out, I don’t care. But know one thing,”—he pressed a finger against my chest—“I’m not selling my soul for you or anyone else.”

I knocked his hand away and rolled my eyes. Pissed to the point of no return, I stomped off to the patio. I had to get things under control. Maybe I’d been gone too long. Maybe I’d become too soft. Something wasn’t right about this whole thing. Since when had Rain had the upper-hand and knew it?

I growled at the vibrations coming from my phone.

“Hi, Starlet. You calling to chew me out too?” I hissed into the phone.

“Girl, I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I thought you’d want to know something Eric and I recently uncovered.”

“Uncovered? What the fuck? Are ya’ll some kind of detectives or something?”

Starlet giggled. “I see you haven’t lost your sense of humor, but be that as it may, we decided to check out Sabrina’s house, and guess what we found?”

“Just say it already,” I dryly replied, peeping around to make sure no one had followed me outside.

“Sabrina has us all on candid camera—from your house to Eric’s. We found this high-tech camera room set up in her house. She’s been taping us.”

Someone could have slapped me in the face and not gotten the same response. “That bitch did what?” I screamed, not caring who heard.

“You heard me, she’s been taping us. She even had separate monitors with your name, Eric’s and Mason’s.”

“Mason?” I muttered.

How had that shit gotten past me? So much for being in control.

“Look, until this thing cools down a little, Eric and I are staying at the Blogsome Bay Inn.” She paused then continued, “So, you got any ideas what we should do, or how we can spot the cameras?”

I heard her, but my churning mind could only consider one scenario right now. Mason had some explaining to do. Something had told me he knew more than he’d let on. Well, he could talk all the shit he wanted, but he was going to tell me why Sabrina was at his house and leave nothing out.

And by the time I was through with Sabrina, the fruit basket was going to wish she’d never learned to spell the word camera. The nerve of that idiotic bitch.

I slammed the phone shut without saying goodbye. I marched to Mason’s room and flung open the door. He was laid out on the floor near the window.

“And just where in the hell do you think you’re going?” I roared.