Sum of Us

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Ch. 23 : Poppy

When Claudia said she had an apron with my name on it, she meant it. Each member of the family, including the kids and excluding Rhys, has a black apron with their name embroidered with white thread. Harper’s little apron has a ruffled skirt. She loves it so much that she asked to keep it on after we finished baking. Claudia cleaned it with a wet washcloth and gave Harper permission to wear it for as long as she likes. In fact, all of Harper’s reasonable requests were brought to fruition in her grandma’s presence.

Harp said she wanted “appy-sass” with her “ookies” instead of milk. Mama Wilde promptly gave her a bowl of applesauce. She was able to feed the dogs and brush their fur. Widget and Gizmo’s beds have been relocated to the girls’ bedroom for the weekend because Harper asked if the “pups” could sleep with her. The three of them were resting soundly when I checked on her.

The same caliber of hospitality has been extended to me. I have no memories of my mother; I was a little older than Harper when she died. Claudia took me under her wing the first time Rhys and I dated. She’s been holding me extra close since I reentered her life. Our relationship extends well beyond my relationship with Rhys (or lack their of). We have a personal connection. When Mama Wilde said I’m hers, she meant it. I’ve felt welcome and well-cared for since I stepped foot into her house.

~

“How’s Harp?” Rhys asks when I step into the bedroom we’re sharing.

“She’s sleeping on cloud nine. Gizmo and Widget are asleep beneath her crib.”

“I think it’s a sign.”

“They like her. Big deal. Everyone likes her.” I climb into bed beside him.

“You took a picture of the three of them.” He eyes me with a knowing smirk.

“I did not.”

“Then, you’ll have no problem showing me your phone.” He holds out his hand.

“Fine! I took a picture. They all looked so peaceful. I’m only human.”

“Her first word was ‘pup,’ Pop. Pup. She’s meant to have a dog.” Rhys puts his arm around me as he begins to state his case.

“Who’s going to take care of it?”

“We are.”

“Exactly.”

“We as in Harper and me. You’ll be too busy hanging out with other geniuses.”

“You’ll be on the road.”

“My last performance obligation is in April. Another Wilde Knights album has to be made before we can go back on tour. A puppy would be very inspirational to my protégé and me.”

“This is suddenly making a lot more sense.”

“It’s for her.” He defensively retorts.

“Uh-huh. Sure.” I nod sarcastically.

“It is.”

“Right, and there is no way that it’ll end up named Lassie or Beethoven.”

“I mean, I wouldn’t say that. We already have plans to watch those movies. If Harper decides she wants to have a dog with one of those names, who are we to say ‘no’?”

I turn to look at him. “She won’t be able to pronounce those names. I’ll know you put her up to it as soon as she starts calling the dog ‘Assy’.”

Rhys grins. “If it happens, it happens.”

I nudge him with my shoulder. “Show me the tattoo sketches.”

“So violent.” He reaches over to the nightstand on his side of the bed.

“Will I see anything traumatic if I scroll too far?” I hold his unlocked phone in my hands.

“Landscapes, food, and family are all I take pictures of. If you find our daughter throwing fall leaves into the air scary, we need to get you checked out.”

“Aw, when did she do that?” I swipe through his photo album in pursuit of the mementos he took of their most recent father-daughter outing.

“While we were at the park and you were getting your hair done. We jumped into a pile of them and threw them. Leaf angels were saved for last.” He puts his arm around me.

“No wonder you were exhausted.”

Our baby girl’s the star of the photographs and short video clips he captured. She’s as happy and carefree as all children should be. My heart melts each time she says “Daddy”.

“Picking the leaves out of our hair is what did me in.”

“That’s to be expected. You and our cub have thick and luscious manes.” I snuggle into him.

“It’s a blessing and a curse.”

Rhys’s fingers lazily dance up and down my arm as I analyze the mock-ups his tattoo artist sent him.

“I like the style of this one; it’s whimsical, which is very Harper--” I show him the one I’m referencing, “but have you thought about making the harp heart-shaped and only writing her birth year on it?”

“That was the one I liked too. Your edits will make it my favorite. I’ll send them to Mark. Thanks for helping.” He kisses my cheek.

“What color is it going to be?” I return his phone.

“Black. All of mine are and will be. Less fading.”

“When are you going to get Harper’s?”

“When we’re back here for Christmas. It’ll be a present to myself.” He reconnects his phone to its charger.

“How many do you have?”

“Seventeen, going on eighteen.”

“Well, give me a tour. I’ve only caught glimpses.”

“Do I have permission to remove my shirt in bed?” Rhys’s wearing a devious smirk.

“Yes, but no funny business. You’ll have to find yourself a new cuddle buddy if you do. I have options. The pup party next door looked mighty appealing.” I lightheartedly warn.

“I’ll be good. You have all my words.”

“You may proceed with caution.”

He strips off his shirt. “Do you have a preference on where I start?”

“No, lead the way.”

“Taylor and I both got Mom’s signature.” He shows me the scrawl in the inside of his left arm. “She’s made sacrifice after sacrifice for my siblings and me. What we lacked in material things, she made up for with love a million times over. Tay and I decided our first tattoo should be our hero’s autograph.”

“How does she feel about it?” I trace Claudia’s name.

“She pretended to be upset. Taylor peeped a smile when she thought no one was looking.”

“That’s about right.”

“She doesn’t accept nearly enough credit for all that she has sacrificed. Sorta like someone else I know.”

”I’m unaware of whom you are referring to.”

“You’re way too smart for that to be true. Moving on.” He turns to show me the outer part of his left arm. “Mount Rainier.” He rubs it.

It takes up most of his upper arm. Pine trees and Puget Sound are incorporated in the simple black ink design.

“Compass.” He points to its spot on his forearm.

In the middle of the maritime compass lies an anatomical heart.

“Follow your heart.” I smile at him.

“Cheesy but true. The one-time I didn’t listen to it cost me big time.”

“Me?” I guess.

He nods.

“Ah.” I snap my fingers. "So that’s how you tracked me down. I’ve gotta get me one of those heart compasses.”

“What would you use it to find?”

“I’ll know when I have it. That’s the whole point.”

My favorite smile of his forms. “I’ve missed you.”

“Your tattoos are making that pretty clear.”

“Did you, uh," He clears his throat. “Miss me too?”

I breathe an incredulous laugh. “I see you each time I look at Harper. She’s a reminder of everything we had. There wasn’t a second that went by that I didn’t wish I could share what we made with my best friend.”

His smile dims but remains. “I’m happy you met Chelsea.”

“The two of you are in very different boxes. You were the best friend I was referring to in that sentiment.”

Rhys’s spark returns at full force. “Do I have a shot at earning my spot back?”

“You have very stiff competition, but my heart’s telling me ‘yes.’”

“Listen to it.” He kisses my cheek.

“Continue my tour. Best friends know everything about each other.”

“Next stop is a pencil.” He shows me the underside of his forearm. “Songwriter.”

“Light-bulb.” He holds up his arm to display the underside of his upper arm. “Ideas help with the songwriting.”

“Sparrows.” He taps the two sparrows that are mirrored on his pecks. “They symbolize undying love, loyalty, and friendship.”

“Suits you.”

“Over here we have a lion with a lopsided crown. I came up with Taylor’s help. I remember him telling me about a Shakespeare quote about a heavy crown. The king in the play expresses how hard it is to have his job and how much the pressure worries him.”

“King Henry IV. ‘Deny it to a king? Then happy low, lie down! Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown’.” I quote.

“Of course you know exactly where it’s from, smartypants.”

“I actually read the plays we were assigned in literature class. Unlike some people.” I eye him pointedly.

“Taylor read them and summarized for me. There was no point in doing double work.”

“You really lucked out when you were paired up with him.”

“Right? Getting the Wilde Knights logo was my idea.” He lifts his arm to show me the backside of his upper arm. “The three of them copied me.”

Their logo is four swords creating the letter “W.”

“Armbands. One for me and each of my siblings.” He explains the six thin black lines that go all the way around the upper part of his forearm. “We band together when times get tough. Another one that’s cheesy but true.”

“Your bond is special. There’s no shame in displaying it.” I reassure.

“You’ve seen my poppy. The last stop on our tour is my back, where you will find my love of baseball.” He turns around to show me.

A baseball player wearing a jersey bearing the name ‘Wilde’ and number ‘6’ is standing on home-plate, looking out at the baseball field. The tattoo is drawn from the perspective of a person standing behind them.

“Am I supposed to ask which field is depicted in your meta back tat?” I run my fingers over the intricate details of his full-back piece; it’s exquisitely executed.

“I’ll be disappointed if you have to. The cornfield in the outfield should be a dead giveaway.”

“You’ve built your very own Field of Dreams two times over. How does it feel?”

“Construction hurt like hell. I wasn’t able to enjoy them at first, but life’s been pretty damn good in my fields lately. I’ve got my girls with me. Harper thinks my ‘itchers’ are ‘pwetty’; what about you?”

“I agree with her astute observation. Thank you for my tour.” I kiss his shoulder.

“I actually thought these through. Be proud of me.” Rhys rests his back on the pillows we’ve stacked.

“Except for your poppy.”

“My self-conscious knew what it was doing. I was drunk and I still followed my heart.” He shifts to face me.

“I’ll let you have that one because I like it so much. Where are you going to put Harper’s?”

“Right here.” He puts his hand on the right side of his ribs. “I need my ladies by my side at all times.”

“I hear the ribs really hurt. You were drunk last time.”

“It’ll be nothing compared to childbirth.” He puts his arm around me.

“I was nice and numb when I had her. Will you feel nothing from the waist down?”

“That wouldn’t do much of anything.”

“See.”

“You braved through contractions. I can handle a few pricks.”

“Do you want me to be there to hold your hand? It helps with pain management.”

“That’s a job a boyfriend or girlfriend does. Someone might get the wrong idea.”

“If you don’t do anything innately idiotic between now and then, I wouldn’t mind having that title again. If you’ll have me, of course, I’ve lost track of my score.”

“What your definition of 'stupid'?”

“What do you have in mind that could potentially fit that description?” I turn the question back onto him to limit loopholes.

“Okay, so, we play games every year on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Leo has been pushing for twins to be unable to play as a team. You can fill in the rest.”

“Yeah. It’s a little hard to forget witnessing your boyfriend get tackled into a coffee table. I watched in horror as you punched Taylor in the face for it.”

“I had to defend myself.” He quickly quips.

“You started it by flipping the game board at him.”

“He started it by cheating.”

“It was a game of Monopoly. It couldn’t have been worth bruised ribs and a black eye.”

“It was. I walked away knowing I was right about him pocketing the money.”

“Fighting your brother in front of your daughter over a board game definitely qualifies.”

“But card games and video games are allowed?” His voice is hopeful.

“No. Hitting him for any reason would be insanely stupid – equal parts insane and stupid.”

“You broke out an equation. You mean business, smartypants.”

“If you want me plus you plus Harper to equal a family, you better think twice before losing your temper.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He rubs my shoulder.

“I’m going to need you to put your shirt back on.” I internally pump my fist for staying strong in the face of so much sexiness.

Rhys groans melodramatically. “Fine.” He collects it from the end of the bed.

“Happy?” He says sarcastically once he’s got it on.

“Very. “I give him a chaste kiss on the cheek.

My glasses are placed on the nightstand. I lay down and roll onto my side, my back to him. Rhys switches off the lamp. My back to his front, his arm holding me close, I feel safe. Warm. At home.

I close my eyes with a smile on my face.

~

Harper wakes me the next morning by whining my name; I hear it through the baby monitor. Rhys’s still snuggled close and in a deep sleep. I give him a soft kiss on his forehead before vacating the bed. A pillow is put in my place to keep him from stirring.

“Good morning, Lovebug. Happy Thanksgiving.” I walk into the girls’ room.

“Pway pups, Mama.” Harper reaches for me.

“You can play with them as soon as you’re dressed.” I hoist her out of her crib.

“Pups go bye-bye?” She looks around.

“Grandma must have taken them out to potty. You'll see them as soon as you are dressed.”

“Bye-bye cwoes, pweeze.”

“They’ve been picked out already. You’re wearing a beautiful dress.”

“Unzel?”

“It’s not her dress, but it poofs when you twirl just like hers.”

“Wike dwesses.”

“I know, baby.” I give her cheek a kiss.

Harper talks non-stop about Gizmo and Widget as I change her diaper and exchange her pajamas for her Thanksgiving outfit.

“Daddy air.” She protests when I approach her with her hairbrush.

“He’s still asleep, Lovebug. He’ll do it next time.”

She shakes her head. “Ion time.”

“ROAR!” I tickle her with my hand claw-shaped.

“ROAR!” She giggles.

“We’re having lioness and cub time today.”

She roars in response. I do the same.

We sing The Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds as I brush and style her hair. I leave her hair down and clip the front of it back with a bow that matches the cream detailing on her dress.

I walk her to the mirror to check herself out. “What do you think, Lovebug?”

The joyous high-pitched laughter Harper emits while she whirls tells me all that I need to know.

“How about we go show Mel? I think she’ll love it.”

“Yeah!” Harper bounces with excitement.

I named the mermaid on her toothbrush. They became friends after my quick introduction. Harper looks forward to visiting her twice a day.

I’m really going to miss her gullibility when she gets older.

Holding her hand, Harper and I walk to the bathroom across the hall. She’s reunited with Mel and showing off her dress as I shield the toilet with a towel.

“Does she like it?” I drag the step ladder to the sink.

“Oh, yes. Ots and ots.”

“Lots and lots? Wow. You might have to let her borrow it some time. “

Giggling, she says “She too wittle, Mama.”

“You’re right. Maybe when she’s a big girl like you.”

Standing side by side, I have my arm around Harper’s waist to keep her steady on the stool as we brush our teeth. Her “brushing” doesn’t do much of anything.

There’s not even paste on her brush. Harp strives to be independent. I’ll help her pretend until she’s able to get there on her own. I actually clean her teeth once I am done with mine.

“Gamma and pups?” Harper’s hopeful expression makes me smile.

“Yes, and breakfast.” I make quick work of our toothbrushes and other items we used.

She asks to walk down the stairs by herself. Holding her hand, we take one step at a time. I have her count them as we go.

“What's dat?” Harper questions when we encounter a baby gate at the end of the staircase.

“It’s a gate there to keep you and your cousins safe. The stairs are dangerous if you walk on them by yourself.” I open the door of the short fence. “You could get hurt.”

“Ouch! I no wike owies.”

“Me neither, Lovebug, me neither.”

The sound of collars jingling in the distance causes Harper to bolt. She’s running to the kitchen before I can stop her.

“No running in the house, Harper.” I reprimand once I reach her destination.

She’s too busy receiving eager kisses from the dogs to listen.

“Please say she acknowledged you first.” I walk to where Mama Wilde’s chopping celery sticks at the counter.

“Yes. I got a hug and a kiss.”

“Good. The running is bad, but at least she has her priorities straight.”

“She’s fine, sweetheart. What she did was nothing compared to my fully-grown children.”

“I can’t exactly blame them for clamoring in here. It smells amazing.” I inhale deeply. “Satan wasn’t much of a cook. We always had takeout. It was just Harper and me last year. Putting a lot of time into a big meal wouldn’t have made sense.” I look away when I feel myself on the verge of tears.

Claudia puts her arm across my shoulders and rubs my arm. “Well, you’re ours now and this what you’ll always be having.” She kisses the top of my head. “I’ll drag you here if you try to run away from me.” She returns to her cutting board.

“Thank you for being so nice to me. I mean—I’d understand if you were mad. I kept her from Rhys, you, and the rest of her family.”

“You did what you thought was best for you and your baby. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Shake those negative thoughts out of your head right now. You did a wonderful job with her; all of us are fine.” She points at me with her knife.

“Okay, but only because I can’t exactly say no to you right now.”

She shakes her head with a soft smile as she goes back to cutting.

“Are you close to the mothers of Leo’s children?” I ask as I pour Harper a bowl of Cheerios.

“I try to be, but their relationships with Leo are rocky. They’ll bring the kids by when I offer to watch them, but they rarely stay and chat. ”

“That’s really unfortunate. You have been a huge help to me and make my life a million times easier.”

“That should be Rhys. Is Rhys not doing that? Where is he? He said he wakes up with her.” She stops cutting once again. Her hand goes to her hip.

“He does. Almost every morning. Both of them really look forward to it, but he’s going to get sick if he keeps running on such little sleep and visiting playgrounds. Kids are Petri dishes of bacteria. He’s pretty much begging for a cold at this point. I got to her before he woke up and turned off my alarm. I’m sure I’ll hear his mouth, but he needs his rest. He’s going to get it whether he likes it or not.”

“Keep keeping him on his toes.”

“Ook, Gamma!” Harper spins for her, revealing the dress’s ability to billow.

Claudia smiles at her. “I love your dress! Did you pick it out?”

“Mama dids.”

“It looks beautiful on you. Your bow does too.”

“Tank you.” Harper skips to her dog friends.

Mama Wilde rests her hand on her chest. “Always such a sweetheart.”

“Not always. She had a tantrum of epic proportions when the plane landed yesterday.”

“Was it her ears? Courtney and Robby had trouble with theirs when we flew to Florida last summer.” She tells me.

“No. She wanted to return to the clouds.”

“Sometimes she reminds me so much of Rhys that it’s scary. He did the same thing for the same reason if he was on the swing when it was time to leave the park.”

“I’ve always seen him in her and both of them get their good looks from you.”

If Claudia didn’t have green eyes, she would be indistinguishable from Cindy Crawford.

“There’s plenty of you in there too. The complete package is what makes her so irresistible. Credit where credit is due.”

Harper’s hands and cheeks are washed before she’s put in her highchair. She’s donning a toddler bib and her sleeves are pushed to her elbows when I give her a bowl of cereal and sippy cup of orange juice.

“Do you mind watching her while I get dressed? I will make it quick.” I request.

“Take your time. I can cook and keep an eye on her with ease. Thirty-four years of experience.”

“Are you sure? I--“

“I say what I mean. Do what you need to do at the pace it should be done.”

“If you insist.” I give Harp a kiss before leaving the room.

Rhys’s still in a deep sleep when I reenter the bedroom we’re sharing. He looks precious cuddling my pillow like a teddy bear. I snap a couple of pictures.

Careful not to disturb him, the lights remain off as I collect my clothes and toiletries. The bathroom is where I get ready. A gray cable-knit sweater is layered over a white button-down shirt. Black skinny jeans keep the outfit casual. I do my best to recreate the waves the stylist made with the straightener I brought from home. It’s by no means an exact replica, but it looks halfway decent. I have the time to bother with makeup, so I do. It wouldn’t hurt to look cute in the pictures Claudia will be taking all day.

A quick tidying of the bathroom and a few final touch-ups to myself, and I’m on my way back to the bedroom. Rhys’s precisely where I left him.

I lean across the bed a kiss his forehead.

“Hm?” He grumbles in his sleep.

“I love you.” I push his hair out of his face.

He mumbles something in his sleep. My name is the only recognizable word. I give him one final kiss before leaving him alone.

My walk back to the kitchen is leisurely. All the help I’ve gotten the past couple of weeks has made a world of difference. I’m starting to feel like a person again, not just a mom machine.

“You’re making me want a daughter more than I already do.” Becca gushes as she holds and hugs Harper. “I have a present for you. I accidentally left it at home, but your Uncle Rob promised to bring it.”

Harper gasps. “I gets a supwise?"

“Yes. It’s a family warming present. I got one for your mommy too.”

“I wove Mama.”

“I do too. She is good for your daddy.”

“I wove Daddy.”

“Is he a good daddy?”

Harp nods vigorously. “He mine.”

“You’re mine too. He doesn’t get all this cuteness to himself.” Beck taps the tip of Harper’s nose with the end of her pointer finger.

“Mommy, I want juice.” Robby tugs on the hem of Becca’s dress.

“Sure thing, sweetie.” She addresses him with the same amount of affection she is giving Harper. “We’ll talk later, Lovebug.” She gives Harp a kiss on the cheek before placing her on the ground.

“Mama!” Harper’s the first to notice me.

She breaks into a full sprint. I catch her before she crashes into me and hoist her onto my hip.

“Did you have fun with Grandma, Aunt Becca, and Robby, Lovebug?”

“I w ove ’em.”

“I’m happy to hear that.”

“Who are you?” Robby looks up at me with suspicion.

“Mama!” Harper answers before I have the chance to open my mouth.

“Your Aunt Poppy. She’s your cousin’s mommy and someone special to Uncle Rhys. Treat her just like you treat your other aunts and uncles.” Becca’s pouring apple juice into a sippy cup for him.

Okay, I was not expecting this.

“Kay.” Robby walks over to the counter as though nothing happened.

“Pups, Mama.” Harper points to Gizmo and Widget; they’re now sitting at my feet. “I pweeze pway?”

“Yes, you may.” I grant her access to them.

“She is the most polite child I have ever seen,” Claudia remarks when I stand beside her at the kitchen island.

“I started teaching it to her early. It keeps the young mom looks to a minimum.” I push my glasses further up my nose.

“It tried to do the same, but my bunch is full of selective listeners.”

“What’s up, family?” Leo waltzes in with his permanent cocky grin on his face.

“Uncle Leo!” Robby rushes to him.

“Hey, little man.” He ruffles his hair.

“Nunckle Eo.” Harper hugs his leg.

“That’s right. I’m your Uncle Leo. It’s nice to meet you, squirt.” He gives her the same hair treatment as Robby.

Maybe he’s grown up.

“Where’s your daddy?”

“Seepy-time.” Harper answers.

“Can’t say I blame him. Sudden fatherhood is an energy suck.”

Nope. Same old Leo.

“Who are you?” Leo nods to me.

“Poppy...” I say slowly.

He can’t be serious. We’ve been around each other countless times.

“I told you Rhys was bringing her.” Mama Wilde reminds him.

“Okay, he needs another intervention. Dating a girl with her name is creepy.” He acts as though I’m not in the room.

“She’s THE Poppy, idiot.” Becca chastises.

“But she’s hot.” He states as though it’s an indisputable fact.

“Could you be any ruder? What’s wrong with you?” Becca stands up for me before I have the chance to do it for myself.

“Have you had any…enhancements?” He motions to my face and body. “No judgment. It looks good, very subtle. You should see some of the girls on Insta. Brides of Frankenstein.”

“Leo Declan Wilde, apologize to her right now!” Claudia slams down the tray of rolls she just removed from the oven.

“I was paying her a compliment.” He casually dismisses.

“NOW!”

“I’m sorry, Poppy.” He complies begrudgingly.

“Do it right or you’re out of here!” She continues to snap at him.

He sighs and makes eye contact with me. “I apologize, Poppy. You look nice. That’s all I was trying to say.”

It’s the best he can do. I’ll take it.

Becca and Claudia’s protectiveness of me makes up for it.

“You’re forgiven. By the way, I didn’t have work done; I had a baby.”

“Holy shit! You’re the chick Rhys knocked up? I thought it was a groupie!” He goes right back to being crass.

“Shit,” Harper repeats.

“Out!” Claudia points in the direction of the front door.

“Are you seriously kicking me out right now? It’s Thanksgiving! Where am I supposed to go?” Leo questions in astonishment.

“I can’t stand to look at you. Until you figure out how to treat people, you’re not allowed in this house.”

“But—”

“NOW!”

He storms out in a huff.

“Why Nunckle Eo go bye-bye?” Harper’s the picture of innocence.

"He was very bad. He was mean to Mommy. I had to put him in time out.” Claudia answers.

“No mean to Mama!” My baby girl scrunches her little face in anger.

“That’s right, Lovebug, no one is allowed to be mean to Mama.” Claudia gives her a warm smile.

“She’s even adorable upset. Mom, can we keep her?” Becca turns to her.

“I’m trying.”

I smile at their playfulness.

“What’s Leo’s problem? He stormed right past me.” Taylor walks into the room.

“Nunckle Aylor!” Harp’s over-eagerly bounces to see him.

“There’s my girl.” He gets on her level to hug her. “Lookin’ sharp, Harp. I like the direction you’ve gone today.”

“Ook!” She twirls for him.

“It’s even better than I thought. High-five.” He raises his hand.

She hits with a big smile on her face.

“My turn!” Robby says.

“Up top, buddy.” Taylor gives him the attention he’s due.

Robby slaps his hand with all his might.

“Both of you are getting too strong. You’ve gotta start going easy on your Uncle Taylor.” He works his way back onto his feet.

The kids go back to playing with the dogs.

“Seriously, what was his problem?” Taylor returns to the topic of Leo.

“He was disrespectful to Poppy. I kicked him out for it. He’s not allowed to return until he gives her a proper apology.” Claudia begins to transfer the rolls to a plate.

“Did Rhys witness him being a d-i-c-k? He might try to kill him. He doesn’t mess around when it comes to Pop.” taylor asks.

“No, thank goodness. There will be no punches thrown this year.”

“Who fought?” I have to ask.

“Leo and Rhys. He gave him a hard time about you during the intervention. Things escalated quickly.” Becca sips a glass of water.

“What intervention? Leo mentioned it too.” I look between Becca, Taylor, and Claudia.

“We had one for Rhys last year. He was taking ‘brooding artist’ to new heights. We wanted to get to the root of his issues and lend our support.” Beck explains.

“Leo gave him a hard time for having feelings for you. I would’ve hit him if Rhys hadn’t.” Taylor says before adding, “I’ll be back,” and walking out the kitchen.

“Where are you going?” Claudia calls after him.

“To make a call!” He replies from the hallway.

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