In general, Tyler never made plans on Friday nights, preferring to relax at home before having to get up at the crack of dawn for training the next morning. So it confused Lucy just a little when he practically dragged her out of school and towards his car after the last bell rang. It wasn’t as though she still had things to do at school. She had finished all of her work for the school paper earlier in the week because it was the first time in ages that the entirely family would be home and she intended to enjoy every minute of it.
Still, Tyler’s eagerness to get home was a bit eyebrow raising.
“What’s going on with you?” she asked when they reached his dark blue SUV and she tossed her bag in the trunk.
“Nothing,” he shook his head as he closed the trunk door, realizing he probably seemed a bit too eager. “I’m just excited that Jessa is coming home today.”
She would have accepted that response due to Jessa and Ty’s closeness had it not been for the fact that his jaw was sharp with tension which wasn’t coming from his concentration as he reversed his car out of the parking spot. “You know you can tell me anything, right Ty?”
Of course he knew that. Lucy knew all of his deep dark secrets and he had never had a problem telling her things that he had a hard time telling his parents, so why was he so reluctant to tell her about Cassie? Perhaps because nothing had actually happened, so he wasn’t sure how much there was to tell.
“I’m just kinda anxious, I guess,” he admitted, keeping his eyes on the road as he exited the school car park. “Because Jessa is bringing her roommate down with her.”
Lucy parted her lips to ask why he would be nervous to see Jessa’s roommate before her eyes widened with misinformed realization and she smacked Tyler’s arm as she gasped. “Did you hook up with Jessa’s roommate?”
“No,” Tyler scoffed honestly, his fingers tightening around the steering wheel. “Nothing happened between us.”
His response was genuine, she could tell because there was a hint of sadness in his eyes, so her next words came out softly. “But you wanted something to happen?”
“Yeah,” he sighed heavily. “And therein lies the problem.”
It took her a few seconds to realize what that meant. “Because Jessa would kill you.”
He nodded, pressing his lips together, but didn’t speak, so Lucy continued slowly, sensing she was in murky waters. “You have to admit that makes sense, Ty. I mean, your sister has to live with this girl. The last thing she needs is for things to be awkward because you hooked up with her roommate and then got bored and broke her heart.”
“Why does everyone think I’m gonna break her heart?” he asked, his tone sounding hurt, which immediately made Lucy feel guilty.
She supposed it was unfair to assume that things between Tyler and Jessamine’s roommate would end badly. It wasn’t as though Tyler was a bad guy: he was just sweet and funny and made you feel like you were the most special human being on earth, which made him easy to fall for. The trouble came in that whenever girls showed the first sign of wanting something more serious, he got scared of that level of commitment and broke things off, leaving at least one person who had been in the relationship a little scarred.
“Look, Ty,” Lucy sighed softly. “I don’t think Jessamine doesn’t want you getting involved because she doesn’t trust you, but no matter how things between you and the roommate play out, Jessa is gonna get caught in the middle.”
He hadn’t really thought of it that way. He’d been so focused on keeping his promise to Jessamine that it hadn’t occurred to him why she’d asked him to do so in the first place.
“I guess that’s true,” he whispered, his eyes still focused on the road. He could survive one weekend. It was only two nights and then the chances that he’d see Cassie again were very slim because Jessamine didn’t come home from school except for major events and Tyler was going to be much too busy with his swim training schedule to go visit her on campus.
“Yeah,” Lucy allowed a small smile to turn the corners of her lips upward. “So for your sister’s sake, maybe keep it in your pants.”
Out of the corner of his eyes, he shot her a glare, but his lips did kink to a smirk, which caused her to laugh as she changed the subject.
“So, hey,” she said, grinning. “I was thinking that we should do something tonight, just us kids. I know we have family dinner tomorrow after Piper’s concert, but I thought it might be cool for us to hang out without the parents since it’s been a while since we’ve all been together.”
“Sounds good,” he nodded, thinking that there was safety in numbers, so all of the kids being around meant he wouldn’t ever be put in a position where he would be one on one with Cassie. “Where do you wanna do it?”
“Our house?” she offered, figuring she could probably get her parents to go to the Peters’ for the evening. “That way you can leave early if you need to since you have practice tomorrow.”
He smiled widely at her thoughtfulness as he turned into their neighborhood. “I can cook, if you want.”
“That’s what I was hoping you’d say,” she laughed as he came to a stop in front of his house and she pulled her phone up from where it had been sitting in her lap to send out a group text message which would inform the other kids of the planned programming for the evening.
Turning off the engine, he held up one finger. “Just give me a second to change and drop my book bag off and we can head over to your place.”
She waited in the foyer of the Copeland house just long enough to kiss her Uncle Justin on the cheek and inform him of their evening plans before Tyler jogged back down the stairs, having changed into tan jeans and a black Blink-182 t-shirt. Justin called out for them to have a fun night as they headed back to Tyler’s car and ten minutes later, Tyler was making himself at home in the Saxton’s kitchen as Lucy went upstairs to change out of her school uniform.
Cooking had always been a sort of escape for Tyler. He loved swimming with all his heart and he never really felt like he was doing anything right as much as he did in the water, but since he swam competitively, there was always a lot of pressure on him to be perfect. So when he needed a break from the world of timed laps and perfecting his stroke technique, he’d think about pasta.
He hummed to himself as he readied the kitchen by looking through the Saxton’s fridge and pantry and cupboards for the necessary ingredients and pots and pans, knowing that this time, he’d be using cooking to distract himself for an entirely different reason.
Cassie had a knack for always being ready too early, but this afternoon, she was sure she’d set a new record. She had been packed and ready to head out before Jessamine even came back from class, so she’d spent the rest of the day in her room, cleaning and pacing and just generally wasting time until Jessamine had knocked and asked if she was ready to leave.
Although the thought of seeing Tyler again made her anxious, she was also excited and flattered that Jessamine cared enough about her to want Cassie to meet the rest of her family, so Cassie’s heart beat had been slightly faster than normal since the moment they pulled out onto the highway. They were a little over an hour away when Jessamine received a text message and asked Cassie to read it out loud.
“It’s from Lucy,” Cassie said after Jessamine gave her the password. “It says ‘kids’ dinner at our house’.”
“Cool!” Jessamine brightened, apparently understanding what that meant better than Cassie. “Then we’re just gonna go straight to the Saxton’s house and you can meet my parents tomorrow. Is that alright?”
Cassie shrugged, settling back against the passenger seat and dropping Jessamine’s phone into her lap. “Sure, I don’t mind.”
“Great,” Jessamine grinned, excited for the night ahead. “That means you’ll get to meet all the kids tonight. It also means Tyler is probably cooking, which is another plus.”
Eyebrows shooting up in surprise, Cassie looked at her roommate out of the corner of her eye. “Tyler cooks?”
“Yeah,” Jessamine let out a laugh at Cassie’s incredulous tone. “I know he doesn’t really seem like the domestic type, but he’s actually kind of a whiz in the kitchen. Which is great because neither of our parents can cook, so we only ever got homecooked meals when Tyler wasn’t completely wiped from swim training. It’s kind of like therapy for him.”
“Hmm,” Cassie hummed, turning her head to stare out the window and watch the scenery zip by, wondering what other mysteries she had yet to learn about Tyler Copeland.
“Something smells amazing.”
Tyler turned from where he was stirring the tomato based sauce on the stove and immediately grinned at the sight of Jamie Brewer standing on the other side of the counter. They saw each other much more often now that Jamie had graduated and worked in the city, but Tyler was always excited to see the guy he considered to be a big brother.
“Hey man,” Tyler laughed, setting down the wooden spoon he’d been using to stir so he could go hug his friend. They squeezed each other once before letting go and Tyler looked to his right to see that Jamie’s girlfriend, Kira, had slipped into the kitchen as well and gone over to greet her baby sister, who was sitting on the kitchen counter, eating any leftover ingredients and keeping Tyler company while he cooked. “Hey, Kiki.”
“Ty!” Kira smiled widely, coming over to hug the swimmer once she’d finished hugging her sister, kissing him on the cheek as she pulled away. “I swear you get more devastatingly handsome each time I see you. You must be fighting off the suitors with a stick, huh?”
Under normal circumstances, he might have agreed, but the whole Cassie situation was still in the back of his mind, so he rolled his eyes and changed the subject, turning back to his sauce. “So how’s domesticity treating you?”
After Jamie graduated, he had moved into an apartment near his work. Kira visited him often, to the point where she was spending most nights there anyway, so he asked her to move in. As of last weekend, they had officially lived together for two months.
“Awful,” Kira joked, hopping up on the counter next to Lucy and popping an extra piece of tomato into her mouth. “Jamie hogs all the hot water.”
“And Kira never folds the laundry,” Jamie retaliated. “She takes it out of the dryer and it just sits there in a laundry basket until I get sick of it and fold it myself.”
“Brilliant plan, right?” Kira smirked, her eyes gleaming.
Jamie shot her a glare, but the corners of his lips were lifting into a smile as he leaned over to kiss her quickly on the lips before coming to stand next to Tyler by the stove. A knock on the door kept Tyler from commenting on how disgustingly adorable they were and Jamie pushed himself off the counter to answer it.
“That’s probably the twins,” he said as he stepped around Tyler. “Brody said he was waiting for Piper and then they were gonna head over.”
“What about Care?” Lucy called after him, inquiring about his younger sister.
Jamie walked backwards towards the door as he responded. “She had a game today, so she’s coming after and said she might be a little late.”
Cassie wasn’t sure what she was expecting when the door swung open. Perhaps Lucy Saxton, the girl with the striking green eyes that she’d seen on Tyler’s phone, would answer the door; this was her house after all. Put when the wooden door moved, Cassie’s gaze was met with an eyeful of tall, dark, and handsome.
Jet black locks fell messily across his forehead, slight stubble coating his jawline and piercing blue eyes which lit with excitement at the sight of Jessamine, Cassie had no doubt that this was Jamie Brewer. If the fact that he looked like a spitting image of his frontman father at the same age didn’t give it away, his charming smile and kind eyes and confident stance did; befitting a natural leader, and Jessamine had told her that he aspired to work his way up the political ladder.
“Jamie!” Jessamine squealed, throwing her arms around his waist because she couldn’t reach his neck.
He laughed as he squeezed her tight and kissed the top of her head. “Hey, Jessa. It’s good to see you.”
“I hope you saved some of that love for me.”
Cassie’s gaze shifted as a new voice entered this conversation and this time, she found herself stunned by beauty of an entirely different kid. Dirty blonde waves were dyed teal green at the tips and long bangs fell into dreamy blue eyes. There were about ten different rings pierced through the cartilage in her right ear and her midriff was showing beneath the cut off hem of her white tank top, her black skinny jeans tucked into a pair of dirty combat boots. Based on the description that Jessamine had given her, Cassie guessed that this was Kira Saxton, but the way Jamie’s eyes flooded with love at the sight of his girlfriend confirmed her suspicions and Cassie felt a pang of jealousy as she wondered if anyone would ever look at her the way Jamie looked at Kira.
Jessamine hugged her friend tight before stepping back and gesturing to Cassie. “Guys, this is my roommate, Cassie. Cassie, this is Jamie and Kira.”
“Nice to meet you!” Kira said brightly, stepping forward to pull Cassie into a hug, a gesture which Cassie appreciated because she never really knew how to greet people she was meeting for the first time.
After Cassie had hugged Jamie as well and Kira had closed the door, Jessamine clapped her hands together and inhaled deeply. “I take it Ty and Luce are here.”
“Can you tell by the smell?” Kira asked, nodding towards the kitchen. “Your brother has been hard at work.”
Cassie tensed slightly at the mention of Tyler, but she took a deep breath, knowing she’d been mentally preparing for this moment for the past week. They entered the kitchen to find the green eyed brunette Cassie recognized as Lucy sitting on a kitchen counter and popping cut up pieces of tomato into her mouth as she talked animatedly to Tyler, who was at the stove, stirring sauce in a pot.
“Jessa!” Lucy yelled out as they entered, hopping off the counter and zipping across the room to hug her pseudo big sister.
The acknowledgement that his sister had arrived made Tyler happy for multiple reasons, the first being that he was always happy to see his sister and the second being that Jessamine being there meant that Cassie was there as well.
He looked up from the stove, his eyes finding her immediately as he tried not to smile. She was avoiding looking at him, keeping her gaze focused on Lucy as they introduced themselves, but he was soaking her in, admiring how her cheeks flushed from the attention she was receiving and how she kept reaching up to tug on her curls out of nervous habit.
“And of course, you already know Ty.”
The sound of his name being uttered turned his attention to the person who had said it: his sister.
“Hey, sis,” he smiled widely, turning off the stove. “Long time, no see.”
His gaze shifted to Jessamine’s left, settling on Cassie, who was finally looking straight at him. It wasn’t as though a week had in any way changed his appearance, but for some reason, she still felt as though she had been struck by lightning.
“Tyler,” she said softly, nodding, her fingers tightening around the strap of her purse as though it was going to keep her steady.
He did his best not smirk as he responded with a nod as well. “Cassandra.”
Everyone noticed the tension in the room, but no one commented, not even Lucy, who understood the best what was going on. She had been intrigued to discover the kind of girl that had Tyler all twisted into knots, but she had not been expecting Cassandra Thompson. Quiet and easily flustered, Cassie seemed like someone who was much more comfortable sitting back and observing because she never quite knew what to say, a trait Lucy could appreciate, especially considering the big personalities in their family, but would never have picked out as a characteristic that Tyler would be drawn to.
But perhaps that was the reason he had been drawn to her in the first place. After all, they say that opposites attract.
Breaking the tension with a quick smile, Lucy pulled Cassie towards the counter where the ingredients to make a salad were set out. “Come on, Cass, you can help me make the salad. Jessa, Jamie, and Kira, wanna do the garlic bread while Tyler makes the pasta?”
There were nods and murmurs of consent as everyone set out to do their assigned tasks, and Cassie let out a relieved sigh as she tore off pieces of lettuce and did her best not to keep watching Tyler pour uncooked pasta into boiling water, resigning herself to the fact that it was going to be a long night.
So this is what it was like to have a big family, Cassie thought as she settled into her chair and looked around the table during dinner. She was right in assuming she had been missing out on something all these years.
It had taken a little while, but she had finally figured out who each person was based on the descriptions Jessamine had given her in the car and their relationships to each other.
The Peters twins had come in about ten minutes after she and Jessamine had arrived and Cassie had figured out instantly why Tyler had a crush on Piper all those years ago. She was charming and charismatic with an extremely dirty mind, which was rather endearing, and the ability to spit back any bullshit any of the boys tried to toss in her direction.
Personality wise, her brother was nearly her polar opposite. Brody Peters sat quietly next to his girlfriend Caroline– who had come breezing in just as they’d sat down to eat and planted a firm kiss on his lips as she slid into the chair beside him, leaving him flushed for the rest of the meal – observing everyone from behind his dark rimmed glasses. Cassie felt a sort of kinship with him and his more reserved nature, though she sensed he felt completely at home and his lips were always somewhat turned into a smile.
Caroline Brewer was a nice counter balance to her boyfriend. Effervescent and wide eyed, she was able to hold a conversation with every person at the table for extended periods of time, including Cassie, a trait she seemed to share with her older brother, who seemed to be able to charm any person he was talking to.
Jamie and Kira were the epitome of opposites attract. He was polished and charming and looked like he’d never broken a rule in his life and she was fiery and rebellious and seemed to enjoy defying authority, but somehow, they were perfect for each other. Perhaps it was because they’d known each other for so long and, as Cassie had found out through the retelling of how they got together, they were good friends before anything romantic happened.
Cassie had always thought that was the best way to fall in love: to slowly but surely realize that your best friend had been your soulmate all along.
“Are you alright?” Jessamine leaned in and whispered from Cassie’s right. She was worried because her roommate had hardly said anything for the past fifteen minutes. Not that it was entirely unusual for Cassie to be quiet – she was reserved by nature – but Jessamine didn’t want her to feel like she couldn’t participate in the conversation if she wanted to or like she was an outsider.
Lifting the corners of her lips into a small smile, Cassie nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine. The kids are great.”
“I’m quite fond of them,” Jessamine agreed, sitting up straight and pulling Piper, who was sitting across from her, into a conversation about a band that was coming to town that she was dying to see.
Tyler watched Cassie from where he was sitting beside Lucy on the other side of the table. He had purposely positioned himself far away from her, knowing that sitting beside her would feel too much like torture, but he still found himself glancing in her direction every few minutes. He was on home turf now, so he should feel completely comfortable, but instead he was worried about how she felt and that was a situation he’d never been in before.
“Anyone want seconds?” he asked, knowing there were plentiful leftovers of everything in the kitchen and needing to get away for a little bit. Despite the fact that he hadn’t actually had a conversation with Cassie, he felt like she was in his head.
Jamie shook his head and rubbed his stomach. “I’m stuffed. That was amazing, Ty.”
“Thanks,” Tyler grinned proudly, always happy to hear that his cooking was appreciated.
“I can help you clean up,” Brody offered, figuring he should help somehow since he didn’t do much of the cooking.
Nodding, Tyler reached out to begin gathering plates and Jamie stood to lend a hand as well. Thinking the boys could probably handle the cleaning up, Kira smiled brightly at Cassie from down the table. “Hey, Cass, you wanna come see my dad’s studio? It’s pretty cool.”
Not willing to pass up an opportunity to be included, Cassie nodded rapidly, shooting a grateful smile at the boys cleaning the table before following the girls to the basement stairs which led to Daniel’s in home studio.
The studio itself was amazing. The walls were lined with shelves filled with awards and framed platinum and gold albums. Where there weren’t shelves, there were old guitars that could no longer be used but Daniel couldn’t bear to part with. In the corner was a computer and recording station, beside which was refrigerator and beat up couches. Cassie had never been one to fantasize about the rock and roll lifestyle, but she did imagine that writing and recording and hanging out down here with best friends had to be incredible.
“Amazing,” Cassie breathed out as she turned in a slow circle.
“Not bad, right?” Kira agreed with a smirk. “But I’m gonna confess that I have an ulterior motive for bringing you down here.”
“You do?” Cassie’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, watching as Jessamine and Caroline plopped down on the couch and Piper wandered over to where she and Kira were standing beside the recording station.
“Yep,” Kira nodded, crossing her arms over her chest, her smirk widening. “I wanna know what’s going on with you and Ty.”
“There’s something going on with you and Ty?” Piper grinned widely. Now that Tyler was officially over his little crush, their relationship had come to resemble the one she had with Brody and Jamie, which meant that she could relish in learning tidbits of gossip about him. The only downside was that it was more than likely that Jessamine had no idea what was going on and Piper hated keeping things from her friend, but if it was short and not serious – and with Tyler that was usually the case – then it would be over before there was anything to tell and everyone would go on with their lives.
Cassie’s lips parted in horror and her eyes widened as she wondered if all of her emotions had been written all over her face. “What? No! Nothing’s going on. Why would you think that?”
“I don’t know,” Kira admitted. “I think it probably had something to do with the way he looked at you when you walked into the room.”
“How did he look at me?” Cassie whispered, unable to get her voice any louder. She’d been so busy avoiding looking at Tyler when she walked into the kitchen that she hadn’t noticed how he had been looking at her.
Kira tilted her head to the side and stared at Cassie as she attempted to come up with an acceptable explanation. She wasn’t really sure how to describe it, but she had been watching Tyler because she wanted to see his reaction to seeing his sister, but had been more intrigued by his reaction to seeing his sister’s roommate. It was as though something had shifted and there was a bit more tension in the room.
“It was like…,” she said slowly, struggling for words, an unusual concept for Kira. “It was like up until that point, he had been sleeping and then you walked into the room and he was wide awake.”
“Wow,” Piper breathed out and Cassie was grateful because she herself was completely speechless. Piper’s gaze shifted to Cassie and she kept her voice low. “But nothing’s ever happened?”
“No,” Cassie shook her head when she finally regained her voice. “And nothing’s ever going to happen. Neither of us would do that to Jess.”
Although Kira could appreciate being sensitive to Jessamine’s feelings, there were some matters – matters of the heart, for example – which were more important. Or perhaps Kira just thought that because it wasn’t as though she’d ever consulted Caroline at any point in the saga of her and Jamie getting together. In retrospect, maybe she should have taken Caroline’s feelings on the matter in consideration, but seeing as they were still good friends and Caroline seemed to have no problem with Kira dating Jamie, Kira had never bothered to ask if there was tension there. She made a mental note to do so one day.
“I wouldn’t worry about Jessa,” Piper echoed Kira’s thoughts and glanced over to where Jessamine was deeply engrossed in conversation with Caroline on the couch. “We all love Ty, but she’s probably more worried that he’s gonna hurt you than vice versa. Cause let’s face it, it’s not like he has the best track record with relationships.”
Kira snorted in agreement, reaching out to squeeze Cassie’s arm comfortingly. “Tyler’s a big boy and he can take care of himself and at the end of the day, all Jessa wants is for both of you to be happy, so if you wanna go for it, go for it.”
“What’s the point?” Cassie sighed, realizing she was implying that she wanted something to happen. “After this weekend, I’m probably hardly ever going to see him again.”
Piper swung an arm around Cassie’s shoulder and pulled her close. “Oh honey, if Jessa is introducing you to us, it means that you’re already part of the family. You’re stuck with us.”
That sounded just fine to Cassie.
“Thanks for helping me out, guys,” Tyler said as he rinsed plates in the sink, looking over his shoulder to where Jamie and Brody were putting the leftover food into Tupperware containers.
“No worries,” Brody replied, sliding a container full of pasta into the fridge. “Why do I feel like I haven’t seen either of you in forever?”
“Yeah,” Jamie agreed, wrapping the leftover garlic bread in foil. “It’s been way too long since we’ve done this.”
“You’ve been away at school, so at least you have an excuse,” Tyler nodded at Brody. “I live in the same city as Jamie and I still never see him. He’s been holed up in his little love nest with Kira.”
Jamie let out a laugh but didn’t disagree. The past two months of living with Kira had been pretty blissful. “You’re just jealous. This whole being in love thing is a pretty good deal. Right, Brody? You should try it, Ty.”
Despite the fact that the person with whom Brody was currently in love was Jamie’s little sister, he had no problem nodding in agreement, though his cheeks did tint a bit redder. Jamie may be supportive of his relationship with Caroline, but that didn’t mean Brody ever felt entirely comfortable divulging his feelings.
Tyler rolled his eyes, turning his attention back to the soapy dishes in the sink. “I’ll let you guys have the committed relationships and I’ll just stick to what I do.”
“You sure? Cause Cassie is pretty cute.”
Tyler froze, turning just his head to find Jamie with a smug smirk on his face and Brody looking completely confused. “What are you talking about?”
“Oh please,” Jamie scoffed, looking very happy with himself as he shoved the freshly wrapped bread into the fridge. “I saw the way you were looking at her.”
Brody’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. He and Piper had arrived after Jessamine and Cassie, so he’d missed her entrance, but for the rest of the evening, Tyler had done his best to be as far away from her as possible. Which, now that Brody thought about it, was extremely unusual, seeing as Tyler had a tendency to hit on anyone in a ten-foot radius.
“I wasn’t looking at her in any particular way,” Tyler mumbled, scrubbing a plate with a tad too much ferocity.
His response actually fueled the fire. In general, Tyler would have no trouble admitting that he eyeing someone up, but the fact that he was denying any attraction to Cassie at all was intriguing, to say the least.
Jamie meant to retort, but was stopped when Jessamine entered the kitchen, leaning against the counter across from him and crossing her arms over her chest as she directed her question at her brother. “Hey, Ty, Cass and I are wiped, so we’re gonna head out.”
“Alright,” Tyler nodded as he rinsed off the plate, glad that the attention of the room was no longer on him. “I’m gonna finishing cleaning and then I’ll be home soon too. Gotta get up early tomorrow.”
“I figured,” Jessa smiled softly, shifting her gaze to the other two boys. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
“For sure,” Jamie agreed, reaching out one arm and pulling her into a hug before stepping aside to let Brody do the same.
With a wave, Jessamine left the boys alone and Tyler once again found himself under the gaze of his two sort of older brothers.
“You know what I think?” Brody said quietly, leaning back against the counter now that all the food was put away. “I think that you like her and you want to make a move, but you’re too afraid of upsetting Jessa.”
Brody had always been incredibly perceptive, Tyler thought as he stuck the final plate into the dishwasher and closed the door of the machine. Sighing, he turned to face the other boys. “Jessa told me to stay away and I’m respecting her wishes.”
“So Jess knows you’re interested?” Jamie asked, figuring that would explain a lot.
“No…,” Tyler admitted, reaching up to tug at his thick curls. “I mean, I flirt with everyone, so that’s what I did when I first met Cassie and then Jessa sort of just asked me not to do that anymore. Something about being afraid that I would break Cassie’s heart.”
There was a moment of tense silence before Tyler spoke again. “This is this part where you say that I would never do that.”
“Well…,” Jamie replied slowly, earning him a glare from Tyler. “Look, bro, you said it yourself, you don’t do committed relationships. And I know I’ve only known Cassie for a couple hours, but she doesn’t really seem like she’d be into casual hookups, so it makes sense that Jessamine wouldn’t want anything to happen. The last thing she needs is for things to be awkward with someone she has to live with.”
Considering this was about the fifth time he’d heard a variation on that exact speech, Tyler figured they must be trying to tell him something, so he sighed and nodded, reaching for a nearby towel to dry his hands before stepping forward to bid the older boys a goodnight.
The house was dark when he got home and his father’s Escalade was nowhere to be seen, which meant his parents were still at the Peters’s and Jessamine and Cassie were most likely asleep. He crept up the stairs, not wanting to wake anybody up, but stopped at the end of the hallway which led to the bedrooms, noticing the light still on in the guest bedroom.
Every nerve end in his body was screaming that knocking would be an extremely bad idea, but he had never been particularly good at being rational, so he took a deep breath and raised a hand and rapped lightly on the door.
It swung open after ten excruciatingly long seconds. He wasn’t sure why he was surprised that she answered, but he blamed being caught off guard for taking his breath away, not the sight of her looking beautiful in sleep shorts and a hoodie, her dark chocolate curls pulled into a bouncy ponytail at the crown of her head.
“Hey,” she whispered, because she couldn’t make her voice go any louder and she also didn’t want to risk waking up Jessamine.
He nodded instead of responding verbally, sticking his fingers into the pockets of his jeans to resist the urge to reach out and pull her close. The memory of hugging her a week ago still lingered in the back of his mind, and he couldn’t seem to shake the thought that they had fit together kind of perfectly.
“Is there something you want, Tyler?” she asked when she could no longer bear the silence. Her heart always seemed to skip a beat in his presence, but now it was full on racing, a nice balance to the knots in her stomach. This was exactly the reason she’d been grateful that she hadn’t interacted with him one on one at all during the course of the evening.
That was a loaded question and she knew it. Rocking forward on his sock covered toes, he shook his head. “I just wanted to make sure you had a good time tonight.”
“Yeah,” she smiled brightly, sticking her hands in the pockets of her hoodie to give them something to do. “It was fun. You have an amazing family.”
“They’re your family now, too,” he said with the same ease that Piper had uttered those words, not liking the way her eyes flooded with sadness, he guessed because she had never had experience with such a large and loving support system.
She liked that idea. A lot. But the conversation was becoming too emotionally driven and she didn’t really want to cry in front of Tyler at the moment, so she changed the subject. “I saw your Uncle Daniel’s studio. It was pretty cool. Does your dad have one too?”
“Mhmm,” he hummed, chewing on his lower lip. “In the basement. I think all my uncles have one. Just can’t keep them away from the music.”
Although Cassie knew that Jessamine absolutely adored her father, she couldn’t imagine that growing up as the child of a world famous band member had exactly been easy.
“Was it hard?” she asked quietly. “Growing up the way you did?”
“No,” he shrugged, letting out a light laugh when he noticed her eyebrows lift in surprise. “It’s the only life we’ve ever known. The band hit it big before any of us were even born, so we were thrust into it as soon as we came into the world and when you’ve never known any different, it’s not so strange. And I know people always think that being the kid of a rock star must be crazy or glamourous or whatever, but to me and Jessa, our dad is just…Dad. He’s not Justin Copeland, bassist in platinum selling band Flux, he’s just our father: the guy who cheers us me on at my swim meets and models clothes for Jessamine when she’s trying new things and helps us with our homework, even if it’s over video chat because he’s on the other side of the world. Our parents did their best to make sure our childhood was as normal and stable and grounded as possible, even while we were with my dad on tour. Even the paparazzi and the tabloid rumors are things you learn to just ignore.”
“Do you still get a lot of paparazzi following you?” she asked, tilting her head to the side and trying to recall if she’d ever noticed any following Jessamine before.
“Not really anymore,” Tyler shook his head. “When we were little, our dad couldn’t take us anywhere without cameras being shoved in our face, but now that we’re grown up, they’ve kind of backed off. I guess taking pictures of us going to school isn’t exactly exciting.”
The corners of her lips lifted into a smile. “It probably helps that you guys don’t really do scandalous things.”
“Or we’re just really good at hiding it,” he smirked in response.
She laughed and he locked the noise away in his memory, knowing it had just become his favorite song. His words were lost on his lips as he watched the way her eyes crinkled and her laughter shook her whole body, so he met her gaze and held it, determined to memorize the golden color of her eyes so he would see it even in his dreams.
Her smile faded under his stare, but she stood with her shoulders back and her gaze locked on his, wondering if her inability to breathe was due to the directness of his eyes or the fact that if he leaned about six inches down, his lips would be on top of hers.
Even when the garage door opened, signaling the arrival of his parents, he didn’t flinch, and it wasn’t until he heard them enter the house and their low whispers swirl up the stairs that he blinked and took a step backwards, knowing that if they had been given thirty more seconds, there would have been no turning back.
“Goodnight, Cassie,” he said softly, turning towards his room across the hall.
She didn’t want it to end this way. Jessamine might have told Tyler to keep his distance, but she hadn’t said anything to Cassie on the matter and Cassie wanted Tyler to know that his feelings, whatever they may be, weren’t entirely one sided.
So before he could turn away completely, she grabbed his arm and stood on her tiptoes, placing a soft kiss to his cheek and scurrying back into her room before he had a chance to react, grinning widely as she skipped towards the bathroom to get ready for bed.
This time, it was Tyler who was left standing frozen in the hallway, wondering what the hell just happened.