Home > Tangled Like Us (Like Us #4)(10)

Tangled Like Us (Like Us #4)(10)
Author: Krista Ritchie, Becca Ritchie

His brown eyes are narrowed at me like he’s staring straight at the blazing sun and refuses to look away from the scorching heat. “Akara did join security first. About a year and a half before Banks and me. But he didn’t give us a referral. No one at the gym did.”

My mind races, and I make sense of his words quickly. “You must’ve known an older bodyguard. From the first or second wave?”

“Second,” he says. “Bruno Bandoni recommended us to the Tri-Force.”

Uncle Loren’s current bodyguard. Moffy even had Bruno on his detail for a short period this year.

“We’d known Bruno since we were kids,” Thatcher explains. “He served with our dad.”

Of course. “Bruno was in the Navy too.”

Thatcher leaves his radio alone to focus entirely on me. “All the current military bodyguards are Navy…” He rakes a hand through his hair. “Except two bodyguards. But no one has a fucking clue that we served.”

My mouth keeps dropping. “Wait…are you saying you and Banks are…” I frown deeper. “Your background isn’t in martial arts?”

“I box.” He nods to me. “But Banks and I learned to box in the military. You asked what I was doing when I was eighteen to twenty-two. I was in the Marines, Jane.”

I shift my weight in shock and whack a fabric roll with my elbow. “Fuck,” I curse and hold my throbbing funny bone.

I freeze as the old wooden shelf lets out a long, threatening creak and sways unnaturally. “Do not fall.” I brace my hands at the shelf.

Thatcher is suddenly a foot away. Right beside me.

I look up as he stabilizes the shelf high above my head, his large hand on top of the dusty surface. Just like that, the creaking wood goes silent, and now we’re much, much closer.

His arm nearly brushes my shoulder, and his utility boot is only six or so inches from my ballet flat. He’s a size 15 shoe. An unhelpful fact that I learned after my big mouth asked.

Thatcher stares down at me, and I can hear my shallow breath in the quiet.

He’s a Marine.

I sweep him like I’m seeing more. “Why…?” I breathe. “Why keep your military service a secret from other bodyguards?”

Thatcher rubs his tense jawline. “If we told the whole team, they’d start asking why we chose the Marine Corps over the fucking Navy when our dad is a SEAL.” He pauses. “And I can’t get into it.” His jaw muscle contracts, his eyes brutally narrowed like he’s seared them looking into the sun. He turns his head from me, more so to fix his radio again.

I understand the rawness of painful moments that, without realizing, soon become painful pasts. Most of the time too sore to touch or talk about.

In the last year, I’ve barely been able to speak about the HaleCocest rumor or Nate, my horrible friends-with-benefits who is a fuck-buddy no more.

“I won’t pry further,” I tell him.

His eyes dart to mine and stay on me for a longer beat. I wish I knew what he was thinking.

“I promise you,” I say wholeheartedly. “I’m honored that you gave me this much. Truly.” It’s more than he’s even given other bodyguards. I ask Thatcher who in the entire team knows about their military background, and he only says three names.

Bruno, Akara, and Price, the Alpha lead.

Apparently, Price found out during Thatcher’s initial background check for the position, but Price agreed to keep the information private.

That’s it.

Those are the only people Thatcher and Banks ever told.

He inhales stronger, and we’re somehow even closer, his boot touching the tip of my shoe, my chin a breath from his chest.

“Jane,” he starts, but his mouth snaps shut as my phone rings.

I rarely desert a call. I’m about to apologize, but his attention is wrenched to comms. His hand flies to his ear and his other touches the mic at his collar.

“Say again?” He speaks through comms.

I find the blue zebra-print phone case in the pit of my purse, and as soon as I look at the Caller ID, my stomach falls out of my butt.

Something horrible is happening. Because Moffy is not supposed to call me.

This morning, he made me a cup of coffee for my first day at work, and he specifically said, “I’m not texting you. I’m not calling you. Not until five p.m. when you clock out. Today is about you , and you’ll kickass as long as you stay focused on yourself. Alright? No family distractions.”

I wavered, cup of coffee between my palms. “What if someone is in trouble—”

“You’ll be my first call,” he assured me. “But it won’t happen.”

It won’t happen.

I waste no time. Phone to my ear. “Moffy? What’s happened?”

4

JANE COBALT

“Janie…are…” Maximoff’s voice crackles with static.

My heart thrashes in my chest. “Moffy? I can’t hear you.”

“…I…bad.”

Bad.

I cage breath and pull my phone down to check the signal. I barely even have a single bar. Back to my ear, I speak quickly. “Moffy, who’s in trouble? Are you okay?” I wander down the aisle for better reception, and Thatcher keeps pace beside me, speaking harshly in comms.

Which can’t be a coincidence.

When shit hits the proverbial fan, the security team and my family will hurtle into action in swift harmony.

“Moffy, are you still there?” I hear absolutely nothing, and then faint static. “Who’s in trouble? What’s happened?”

“…Janie…”

“Moffy!”

“…okay…I—” His voice cuts out.

Silence.

I inspect the phone screen. The call just dropped. “No, it’s not okay,” I mutter, prepared to redial, but then someone else is calling me.

My brother.

A photo of Eliot from Greece pops up on the screen: windswept brown hair, a squared jaw, and eyes that cajole and ask do you dare? Moffy often says that Eliot looks like Clark Kent, to which I’d agree. But my nineteen-year-old brother has always possessed the devilish charm of a comic book villain, not of Superman.

Eliot just moved to New York with our eighteen-year-old brother Tom, and both fire-obsessed menaces are now living with Charlie and Beckett in Hell’s Kitchen. Moffy and I have a bet on how long until they burn down the apartment.

I said four months. He said two.

But we’re both hoping for never.

What if they’ve put themselves in real trouble? But I can’t think of a situation where they’d be hurt or in danger this morning. They’re incredibly busy these days. Eliot just joined a new theatre company, and Tom is a lead singer in an emo-punk band. Beckett is a principal dancer of an elite ballet company, and Charlie’s daily whereabouts are a mystery, even to me.

I answer, phone to my ear. “Eliot, what’s happening?”

“Sister…” His deep smooth voice breaks to pieces with the spotty signal. “…fucking fiend.”

Eliot is often dramatic and hyperbolic, as we all can be, but hearing him call someone a “fiend” does not alleviate any sort of panic.

“I can’t hear you, Eliot,” I tell him. “What was that?”

Call dropped.

My sisterly dread has now shot to the moon.

I lower my phone as it rings again.

Audrey is calling, but my little sister should be in class right now. 8th grade.

I try to accept the call—call dropped.

“No,” I breathe, clutching my phone like it’s my lifeline to my family.

The name Pippy shows up on the screen. My youngest brother is calling me. Ben Pirrip Cobalt—he should be in school too. 10th grade.

Call dropped.

Charlie is suddenly ringing. My nonconformist brother is often hard to reach, but it’s not uncommon for him to call during pandemonium.

My thumb taps the button. Call dropped.

A new name pops up on the Caller ID. Tom. He’s typically dead asleep this early in the morning. I tap—call dropped.

Now Beckett is dialing.

I stare wide-eyed at the phone. Beckett is usually the last of my brothers to reach out due to his rigorous ballet schedule. The fact that he’s calling now means this is a real catastrophe.

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