I’LL BE THERE FOR YOU – THE REMBRANDTS
“I have a question.”
Rain snorted. “Of course you fucking do.”
I shivered at the sound of Harlow’s low, gravely voice.
Something about it, about him really, made me sit up and listen.
“What?” Rain complained, hearing Harlow’s warning much as I had and, as usual, chose to act like a butthead anyway. “She always has questions. Just like Rachel.”
“Dare you to say that to her,” I jibed, watching as, in the light from the fire, he rolled his eyes.
Another shiver rushed through me.
“He started it,” I grumbled.
His hand settled on my knee.
On the joint.
Not on my inner thigh. Not with his fingers curved down toward that area.
I wasn’t sure how he always managed to be respectable, acting like something out of Bridgerton, yet managed to rake up so many damn feelings inside me.
It’d be annoying if I knew it wasn’t intentional.
Gently, his fingers squeezed my leg, and there was another soft warning in his words as he said, “He’s leaving for Boot Camp tomorrow.”
“I know he is,” I muttered. “Dumbass.”
“Fuck off, Wynter. We’ve already been through this a million times.”
A million might have sounded like an exaggeration but it probably wasn’t.
Rain leaving for the army pissed me off.
The douchebag acted like he was fifteen years older than me and not just fifteen months, but I… Well. I…
I loved him.
He was my uncle, and he was annoying, and he listened to shitty music, and had annoying opinions about the US’s foreign policy that I did not agree with, but I loved him. I didn’t want him to get hurt. I didn’t want him to die. I wanted him to be here. Safe.
The dick couldn’t even do that right though, could he?
I huffed under my breath, but halfway through the huff, Harlow’s arm moved away from my leg, and he curved it over my shoulders. The huff soughed into a long, deep sigh. I kind of tensed up though because I didn’t want him to let go. I wanted him to hold onto me.
“It’s okay, Wynter,” Harlow soothed.
I was pretty damn sure that everything would be okay if he always kept his arm around me.
“If you two are going to make out, I’m leaving,” Rain said flatly.
“Because they do that so often,” Drew mocked, immediately coming to my defense.
I peered through the flickering flames and shot him a smile. He’d been staying at my mom and dad’s place since he’d showed up at Cruz and Harlow’s patch-in party. He had better taste in music than Rain, and we definitely agreed that cows were killing the planet, and his eyes were a little lost and a lot kind. I’d decided ages ago that I’d take him under my wing. He needed all the help he could get; Drew was definitely awkward. He made my mom look like a charmer.
“Thank you, Drew,” I jibed, and because I stopped thinking about Harlow, I settled back against my seat, forgetting that he was holding me.
Which was when I remembered.
I sucked in a breath in surprised pleasure, then twisted, slightly, so that I was leaning against him.
When he didn’t move away, I sucked in another breath and settled even more into him.
Was this what heaven felt like?
“You need to get out of Priest’s ass,” Rain grumbled. To whom, I wasn’t sure.
Drew snorted. “Priest’s ass has no interest to me—” It was definitely interesting to me. “—You’re just sore because Peach announced she’s leaving tonight.”
Rain pulled a face.
“Maybe you’ll get lucky and she’ll send you away with a blowjob,” I mocked.
Drew and Rain chuckled at that, both of them proceeding to do what teenage boys did a lot—talk about sex. I’d gotten used to it, and had actually learned stuff from them, but I was pretty damn sure Drew had never seen a naked woman in real life, whereas I knew Rain had definitely gotten with one of the clubwhores.
Yes, this was my life now. I knew what a patch-in party and a clubwhore was. Surreal, but I wouldn’t change it. Apart from Rain enlisting—
“Wynter,” Harlow rumbled in my ear, setting off another shudder inside me.
“Yes, Harlow?” I questioned meekly. He’d always be Harlow to me. Never Priest.
“You don’t have to talk like they do to fit in. You fit in fine just as you are.”
My cheeks tinged pink at the depth of his acceptance, but as always, his calm, judgment-free tone had me blurting out the truth, “I’m mad at him.”
“I know you are, but when he goes, you’ll feel bad for not being kind to him and will regret that. It’s a lose/lose situation.”
I peered up at him, and decided to be daring—I nuzzled into him. “Will you stop hanging out with Drew and me when Rain goes?”
He blinked. His blue eyes were hard to see in the flickering glow of the bonfire, but his lashes were so damn long that I saw the shadows on his cheekbones. “Why would I stop that? I like hanging out with both of you.”
“We’re a lot younger than you are,” I pointed out.
Harlow shrugged. “You’ve more brains than some of the brothers.”
Snorting, I agreed, “You’re not wrong. Have you tried talking to Gunner about politics?”
“No,” he said dryly. “I didn’t bother wasting my time.”
I sniffed. “I don’t understand why they don’t care.”
“They care about their world. To them, the MC is all that matters. Outside of the bubble, nothing counts.”
“Dad’s not like that,” I pointed out.
“Your father’s different. Maverick and Cruz are the same.” He hummed. “Actually, all the council are capable of seeing beyond the MC. It’s just the brothers who are short-sighted.”
“You’re a brother now,” I remarked.
“I am. But I won’t be for long.”
I tensed. “You’re leaving?”
He shook his head. “Of course not.”
“Then what do you mean?”
“I mean I’ll be on the council soon.”
My brow puckered. “What? The council’s full.”
“I know it is. They made a place for Cruz. I intend for them to make a place for me.”
I stared at him in surprise. “You’d want that?”
He shrugged. “Got to aim for something.”
“You could go to college. Get a career.”
“No. This is my place.”
His focus shifted to the clubhouse in the distance. It was raucous and rowdy from Rain’s farewell party, so we’d set up the bonfire far away enough for the sounds of fucking and chanting and singing and boozing not to disturb our conversations.
“It doesn’t have to be,” I breathed.
His gaze drifted to mine. I didn’t need to see his eyes to know that they were on me.
“The club. It doesn’t have to be your ‘place.’”
“Where should it be?”
I licked my lips. “I’m going to college next year.”
“I want to…” I sucked in a breath. “I want to become a songwriter.”
“I’ve heard you play the piano. You should be more than a songwriter.”
I could feel the burnished heat in my cheeks of before turn into a living flame. “Thank you,” I whispered.
His hand drifted to my hair, and his fingers twirled the ends of my ponytail between the tips. “You don’t need to thank me for the truth.”
I’d gone to second base with my last boyfriend, but nothing he’d done had lit me up like Harlow could just by playing with my hair. Hard pressed not to moan, it made it easy to say, “You could attend school with me. You can do anything, be anything you want, Harlow.”
“I’m Priest,” he rumbled softly. Soft enough that only I could hear as Drew and Rain started bitching about a stupid baseball game.
“Not to me,” I whispered back. “You’ll always be Harlow to me.”
“Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.”
“What do you mean?”
“Maybe you’ll remind me of who I am when I get lost along the way.”
My brow furrowed. “Lost where?”
He sighed, and before I could pepper him for answers, he stunned me by pressing a kiss to my temple. “It doesn’t matter, little one. It doesn’t matter.”
I knew it did, I felt sure it mattered, but his endearment stunned me.
“Harlow?” I whispered.
“I-I think…” It took more courage than he’d ever know to whisper, “I have feelings for you.”
He didn’t tense up; he didn’t laugh. He just said, “Little one, you deserve so much better than me.”
It was rejection. Plain and simple. But even though it hurt, what hurt more was how he put himself down.
I shook my head and couldn’t stop myself from blurting out, “You’re… I think you’re wonderful.”
“Something broke inside me when Jessie died,” Harlow rumbled. “You should run far away from me, Wynter.”
His arm tightened at that exact moment.
Which was when I knew Harlow had feelings for me too.
It was also when I knew he’d fight them every inch of the way.
Unluckily for him, I was my father’s daughter and staying power was our thing…