I know I’m a bit late in doing a blog post on this but kids at home on school holidays kinda sucks my time. Anyway…
JET’S STORY IS COMING!!!
I know quite a few of you have been waiting for Jet’s story for some time and it has been my most frequently asked question. If you read Black & Bluhe you would’ve fallen in love with Jet well before you fell in love with Gray or Kris. It’s a fact that Jet is wonderful. He just is. He is adorable in all his vulnerability. He is one of my favourite characters to write and I’m so proud I could give him his happy ever after in Blueprint. But of course, this is me, so Jet’s happy doesn’t come without some hard work on his part.
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“Jesus, Gray. I can’t talk to you when you’re like this.” I attempted to slam the front door on my brother, but he was right behind me as we entered the condo after our students’ final play performance.
“Like what, Jet? Just because I don’t want you to move out?”
I dropped my messenger bag on the living room floor with a heavy thud and turned to glare at him. “The only reason you don’t want me to move out is because then you won’t be able to look out for me, control me. Protect me.” My tone may have been a little singsongy on those last two words, but I didn’t care. Gray was smothering me, and I was more than a little tired of it.
Gray’s expression tightened as he flexed his fingers. “The last thing I want to do is control you. You’re free to do anything you want, you know that. You’re my brother, and I like having you here. I love you—that’s why I don’t want you to move out!”
I almost laughed when he yelled he loved me. It wasn’t the tone you’d normally use when telling someone that. Not that I’d know. He was the only person I’d said those words to.
But I knew Gray wasn’t angry. He was scared. He’d been protecting me out of a misguided sense of guilt since we were teens. Meeting Kris and moving in with him helped Gray accept that life moved on. But if I no longer lived with him and Kris, Gray would stress and drive all three of us crazy with his worry.
As it stood now, I had to watch them get all lovey over each other, reminding me of what was missing in my life and what I’d probably never have. Everyone around us was coupled-up. Cam and Jake’s wedding came and went. Brandon proposed to Mason, and even Gray, in all his brash broodiness, managed to find his soul mate in Kris. Tears burned the back of my eyes, but I was determined to hold onto my anger. If I didn’t, I’d turn into the pathetic creature I knew I was.
I threw my hands in the air, my chest getting tighter as I glared at a slightly disheveled version of myself. “I’m not listening to you anymore. You need to get over this protective bullshit you’ve got going on and let me lead my life, and you need to get on with yours.”
Gray slumped a little, the tightness in his shoulders bleeding from him and his expression turning miserable. I couldn’t hide anything from him. Just as I knew he wasn’t angry, he knew I didn’t really want to move out.
“I’m just sick of being the third wheel.”
As soon as I finished that sentence—leaving no time for Gray to respond—the front door opened and Kris slowly ambled in, looking more than fine in his black suit, but bedraggled and sad. Dr. Nichols’s funeral must’ve taken a toll on him.
Gray was on him in an instant, our argument forgotten. That was okay. It wasn’t like we wouldn’t argue about it again next week.
“How was it?” Gray asked as he wrapped his arms around his boyfriend. “I’m sorry we couldn’t be there. We really wanted to go, but it was the final performance for the play…”
“It was fine,” Kris said against his shoulder. “Ethan was torn up, as you’d expect. He lost his mom only a few years before he left for Australia, and now his dad’s gone too.”
Dr. Nichols had died last week in a fishing accident. He was an old college buddy of Kris’s dad and the doctor who’d attended to Gray’s concussion and twisted ankle when Gray slipped on a loose rock one fishing trip. I didn’t know Dr. Nichols very well—having met him only a handful of times—but Gray had had a few fishing trips with him.
“I’m sorry, Kris. I’ll talk to you when I get back, okay? I have a session with Danielle,” I lied as I patted Kris on the shoulder. He was still engulfed in Gray’s arms. “I’ll take the car.”
Gray ran his hands up and down Kris’s back while he looked at me over his boyfriend’s shoulder. He looked so dejected and sorrowful, and I wasn’t sure how much of that was for Kris.
I hated lying to Gray, even if it was only a little white one. Although I didn’t really lie. Well, technically, I did. Sort of.
I’d told Gray I had a session scheduled with Danielle, my Pilates instructor, but in actual fact, I had a session with Jeremy, Gray’s MMA mentor. They both worked at the same gym, so…
Jeremy must’ve seen the look on my face as I exited the locker room because the first thing he said was, “You’ve been arguing again, haven’t you?”
“My brother’s an ass,” I grumbled while I slipped under the ropes into the ring and started to warm up.
“Gray was the biggest asshole I knew, but since he’s been with Kris, he’s mellowed. He’s happy now, but not as much fun in the ring as he used to be. You looking to take over his spot?”
“Then wipe the scowl from your face and get moving faster.”
No wonder Gray always referred to Jeremy as a tough fucker in the ring. He was pretty hardcore and didn’t let anyone slack off. Gray was all about MMA, taking out his opponent in the shortest amount of time—and he could certainly kick ass—but I was here for self-defense lessons. I knew some moves, watched Gray a lot, and took notes, but it was time to get some real training under my belt. Especially if I was going to be living on my own. If Gray knew I could handle myself, then maybe he wouldn’t worry so much.
Jeremy was a good guy, albeit a little rough around the edges, and we’d been coming to his gym since we arrived in the Bay Area. He was one of the few people we could call a friend.
I ran in place to get my heart rate up while Jeremy paced, his gaze assessing me the entire time.
“Get your knees up.”
I ran harder, lifting my knees almost to my chest. Sweat dripped down my back, and I was glad I’d splurged and purchased the moisture-wicking shirt rather than a regular T-shirt. Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same for my tights, but they made my ass look great.
Jeremy continued his relaxed walk while I was about ready to drop dead from exhaustion. Pilates was one thing; full-on cardio with an MMA fighter was something else.
“One thing you need in self-defense is better stamina than your attacker. You need to know the moves and be quick in your execution. If you’re out of shape, you will lose.”
I stopped running and bent over, resting my hands on my knees as I sucked in great lungfuls of air. The sweat combined with my hair wax, making it so I couldn’t get the sticky strands out of my eyes easily. I had to remember to wash the product out beforehand next time.
No sooner had I stopped moving than Jeremy bellowed at me. “No standing still. Walk it off, breathe, then we’ll see what you’ve got.”
If I thought Jeremy was going to take it easy on me because we were friends, then I was stupidly mistaken. Jeremy put me through my paces, showing me how to flip an attacker if I was caught from behind—unsuccessfully, I might add—and other basic moves that I really should’ve known before now.
Then the comments and questions started.
“He’s scared, you know.” Jeremy feigned an attack to the left. I dodged him, only for him to come at me again. I wasn’t so lucky the second time.
“I do,” I stated, puffing harder. “But he needs to get over himself.” I huffed a frustrated breath as I tried to take Jeremy’s legs out and failed.
“You don’t really want to move out.”
My lungs burned and I wondered why we were talking. “I need to.”
“Because I’m sick of being the third wheel. They cuddle on the couch and watch stupid TV all wrapped up together. I sit all by myself, pretending I’m interested in watching whatever program is on. When I go to my room with my laptop to have some time to myself, they don’t even notice I’ve left the room. I may as well not be there at all.”
“You don’t want to move out.”
“You’ve lived with your brother your whole life and now you’re watching him move on—as hard as that might be for him to do—with someone who loves him. They’re making a life together, and you know eventually that won’t include you. You want what they have.”
I straightened my stance as I glared at him. Jeremy’s all-knowing gaze didn’t waver.
“Tell me,” he went on. “If you could have a boyfriend, someone who loves you like Kris does Gray, would you still want to live with them?”
“I…” Would I? If I could be with someone who loved me and still share a place with Kris and Gray, is that something I’d want? Would my future boyfriend want that? Probably not. I didn’t want to leave Gray, or Kris for that matter, the big guy was like another brother to me. “I wouldn’t move far,” I finished lamely.
As I said those final, pathetic words, Jeremy flipped and pinned me to the mat, his forearm pressing lightly against my throat. “This is why you need to be here. You’re easily distracted, the same as your brother. I’ve been pussyfooting around tonight to see what you can do. I can tell you’ve been watching Gray, and with some hard work, I’ll be able to teach you some moves Gray won’t see coming.”
Jeremy stood and held out his hand, pulling me to my feet. Training was over. Thank God. “I’ll tell Danielle to up your Pilates workout. Your balance wasn’t the best tonight, and you’ll need it to train with me.”
He was right, my balance was a little off after the stress of arguing with Gray. Fatigue didn’t help, either. My cheek twitched in agreement. Great, I’d overdone it.
“Oh, and make sure you add in a weight routine.”
I climbed out of the ring and stuck my middle finger up at him as I headed for the showers.
Jeremy’s deep chuckle followed me. “Just like your brother.”
I managed to get a parking spot outside our building, and after I pulled the emergency brake, I looked up to see Kris sitting on a bench alone. I briefly wondered why he was there and where my brother was. Then I realized he was waiting for me.
“What took you so long?” Kris asked as I approached, not moving from his position on the wooden seat. He’d showered and changed, the somber suit replaced with a tight black T-shirt and sweats. “Thought Pilates only went for an hour.”
I sat beside him. “It does. I was training with Jeremy.”
Kris’s eyebrows shot into his hairline. “Say what?”
“Jeremy’s showing me some self-defense moves. I know why Gray goes on about him now. He’s a sadistic bastard.” I was going to be sore tomorrow.
Kris chuckled, probably remembering some of the moves Jeremy had put him through. Kris was a firefighter with some mean boxing skills. He wasn’t out of shape by any stretch of the imagination. “He is, but he’s the best person to train you. He knows everything. Knows how much you’ll be able to handle and what you need.”
I eyed Kris. “You won’t tell Gray?”
“Not if you don’t want me to, but you won’t be able to keep it from him forever. Why don’t you want him to know?”
“He wouldn’t like the idea of me training with Jeremy; he’d be scared I’d get hurt. Gray knows me better than I know myself, but sometimes I wish he didn’t know everything. I’d like something to be just for me.”
“Is that why you want to move out?” Kris’s bummed-out tone as he looked at the ground between his feet made me feel like an ass.
“He told you we’ve been arguing, huh?” I laughed a little, hoping to ease some of the strain that had been blanketing us since I sat next to him. “I don’t know. I love living with you, but sometimes it gets to be a little too much. I don’t think I could live by myself, but I’m not sure how much longer I can continue to live here either.”
“You know what he’ll be like if you move out. He’ll visit all the time, call you every day and night to make sure you’re okay. He may smother you a little now, but if you live somewhere else, he’ll turn into a stalker.” Kris glanced at me, his lips quirking. “And he’ll drive me bat-shit crazy. I knew you guys were a package deal when I asked him to move in with me. I know how you both think.” Kris focused on the ground once more. “You wanna know the picture that popped into my mind before you guys moved in?”
I shook my head but Kris told me anyway.
“I had an image of living in the suburbs, picket fence, you know? Gray and me and a yard with a dog. Maybe a kid.” Kris turned his entire body toward me, his expression solemn. “And you living next door.”
It was a nice fantasy, albeit a sad one. Sad because, even though Gray had been going to counseling, I’d never move too far away from him. Not because he wouldn’t let me, but because I wouldn’t want to. Gray and I were a package deal; I was as dependent on him as he was on me, and I was beyond pleased that Kris understood and accepted that. Many partners wouldn’t.
I smiled at Kris, probably a little wistfully. My eyes burned with gratitude.
“Maybe you could rent one of the condos in our building,” he went on. “That might be a good place to start. You can visit whenever you want, and Gray won’t be such a bear to live with if he knows you’re still close by. Jasmine across the hall is selling, finally moving in with her boyfriend. You could have your space but still be close, and if you get sick of us, all you’d have to do is walk next door. You could bring a boyfriend home without Gray being all up in his face.”
“Jasmine’s place is great. All modern and sleek.” I perked up a little. The thought of plush leather and sleek stainless steel was enticing. Then I sobered. “I don’t have the money to buy anything. It’s a nice thought, though.”
“What happened to your share of the money from your home in Seattle?”
I thought we’d told Kris everything, but I guess we hadn’t. “When our father pled guilty and was hauled off to prison, Gray sold the house and car to pay for my rehab for my injuries. Somehow he managed to get me into one of the top facilities in the country, but it didn’t come cheap. The rest went to college.”
“I’d assumed that but wasn’t sure if you might have some of it tucked away. I didn’t want to ask. If he hadn’t done that, though, you might never have regained the ability to walk. Or do anything again, for that matter. He fought hard for you.” Kris’s voice broke on the last few words, and I had to look away from the emotion in his eyes.
“I know.” He wasn’t telling me anything I wasn’t aware of. Even though some of the details were a little sketchy, the actions of our father had cost not only me, but my brother as well, and it wasn’t just monetary.
When I first woke up after the beating our drunken father had given me, I thought I was dead. During those months in the hospital, then the rehabilitation facility, there were times I prayed for it. I hadn’t been able to move much, and what little movement I did have, I had no control over. Gray helped feed me, using a small spoon to scoop the bland food into my mouth. He washed and shaved me, brushed my hair. He rubbed moisturizer into my pale and withered flesh, as the air-conditioning dried my skin so much. He helped me use the bathroom. Humiliating didn’t begin to cover it. At the time he was doing it because he loved me. We were identical twins, after all, so our bond was that much stronger than ordinary siblings, but he was also looking after me because he felt guilty. He didn’t walk home with me that fateful day after school like he usually did. He’d been blaming himself ever since.
Now Gray was overprotective and smothering. Although, to give him credit, since meeting Kris, he was a lot better than he used to be, and the counseling helped. But I still lived with him. I needed to move out, not only so I could move on and have my own life, but so Gray could too.
“He’s cooking pasta, you know.” Kris’s words brought me out of my reverie.
I beamed. “He’s sucking up.”
Kris grinned; he was fully aware of how good Gray’s pasta was. “He is.”
“Maybe we should argue more often.” I stood, clasping Kris’s shoulder. “C’mon. I’m fucking starving now.”
I hope you enjoyed that little insight into Jet’s story.