I pledged with a fraternity in college. Initiation brings back memories of running around the quad naked with my butt cheeks taped together. No matter how much you shave your butt beforehand, there’s always hair the tape pulls away. Not to mention skin. I shiver. Never again.
Rowan slaps my shoulder. “No need to worry. We’re not going to hurt you.”
“Yeah. No one’s going to dump a bucket of freezing cold water over you,” Cole complains.
Lyric rolls his eyes. “Will you get over it already?”
“Maybe if you pay for this round of drinks.”
Lyric snorts. “As if we ever pay anything when Maverick’s around.”
“Whoa!” Maverick holds up his hands. “Why are you bringing me into this? I wasn’t around when you tried to drown Cole.”
Lyric cocks his eyebrow. “You weren’t?”
I look back and forth between the two of them. I have no idea what they’re talking about, but I think it’s safe to say they aren’t really kidnapping me. Unless forcing me to drink a beer at four in the afternoon is considered kidnapping.
Maverick clears his throat. “Moving on. What are you doing with Lilac?”
My shoulders lose their tension. “This is the big brother intervention?”
“What else would it be?” Rowan pretends he doesn’t know I had no idea who the four of them were when they pushed me into a car and drove me here.
“I have four younger sisters,” I say. “I get it.”
Cole moans. “Four younger sisters? I’m already stressing about having one daughter. I can’t imagine having four.”
“I raised them after our parents passed away before I turned nineteen.”
“Shit,” Cole swears. “We can’t give him the third degree if he raised four girls when he was a teenager.”
“We still need to ensure he won’t mistreat Lilac.” Lyric glares at me. “You may think Lilac doesn’t have feelings because she appears all cool and collected, but she does, and they run deep. If you hurt her, she’ll retreat into her shell, and we’ll never get her out of it again.”
“I know Lilac has feelings,” I growl. “And I would never hurt her on purpose.”
“Not ‘on purpose’ is the problem. Lilac’s special. It’s easy to hurt her on accident and we won’t stand for it.”
I glare at him as jealousy flares through me. “You seem to know a lot about her.”
“I do. She’s four years younger than me, but she was in several of my math and science classes while we were in high school since the woman’s a genius. The other kids were not kind to her.”
I grunt as relief fills me. Lyric and Lilac were obviously never involved. “Teenagers are assholes.”
“But a man, a real man, would never be intimidated by a woman for being smarter than him.”
I chuckle. “You think I don’t know Lilac is smarter than me? I may be her boss, but half the time I don’t understand what she’s talking about.”
“And it won’t bother you if Lilac’s more successful than you?” Cole asks. “If everyone in town refers to her and not you on matters.”
“Hell. They better not refer to me on any environmental matters. I’m the CEO of the company, but I rely on my personnel for the day-to-day operations of the company.”
“You do?” Maverick folds his arms across his chest and leans back against the seat. “You went with Lilac to the convention in San Francisco because you were relying on her for the day-to-day operations?”
I sigh. Somehow they know what happened in San Francisco. “Let’s stop beating around the bush.”
Lyric leans across the table. “Good idea. Let me make myself clear. If you cause Lilac to run and hide again, I will find you and I will gut you.”
“And I’ll help,” Rowan adds.
“I don’t actually know how to gut someone, but I’ll alibi them,” Cole claims.
“And I’ve got a private jet at my disposal,” Maverick adds.
I gulp. “I understand.”
“Now,” Rowan says and stands, “who wants to play darts?”
He saunters off with the rest of them following as if they didn’t just threaten to gut me.
They don’t scare me, though. On the contrary, I’m glad Lilac has people watching out for her. In fact, I plan to be the main person watching out for her from now on. Just as soon as I can get her to stop avoiding me.