“Reece!” Josh waved me over from where he stood getting his barbecue ready.
I glanced around but didn’t see Dave anywhere. I’d offered to pick him up but he’d said he’d just meet me here since it was within walking distance from his place to Josh’s.
“Where’ve you been?” Josh poured some briquettes into the grill and sprayed them with fire starter before lighting them.
I would have answered if Dave hadn’t chose that moment to show up.
“Josh, how’s it going man?”
“Dave? What are you doing here?”
I didn’t turn to look at him; instead I watched the expressions flicker across Josh’s face. He glanced back and forth from where I had heard Dave’s voice to me. It was actually quite comical to watch him try to puzzle out what was going on. I hadn’t told him I’d invited Dave and whenever he’d asked me about Dave, I’d changed the subject and left him guessing. I knew it wouldn’t be long before Dave put him out of his misery, and I was right.
“Hey.” His voice was husky as his arms slid around me, and I leaned back into his embrace.
My eyes closed as his lips brushed my neck, and when I opened them again it was to see Josh staring at us, a smirk on his face. The smirk quickly turned to a glare.
“You shit. You could have at least told me, either one of you.”
“We thought it would be more fun this way.” I grinned at my cousin as I teased. “I guess I do at least owe you a thank you though.”
“Damn skippy! I can’t believe it actually worked. And Maryanne said I had no matchmaking skills. Wait until I tell her.” He closed the lid on the grill and walked towards us. He only stopped for a minute and clasped his hand on my shoulder before continuing into the house, to find his wife I presumed.
“You sure me coming was a good idea?” Dave pulled back and led me over to a couple of lawn chairs scattered all over the lawn. He sat down across from me, and I could see the worry on his face. “I know Josh doesn’t care, but I don’t want to cause problems for you with the rest of your cousins.”
“You won’t.” I was as sure as I could be. “My cousins may have been raised by bigoted pricks, but with the exception of one or two of them, they’ve managed to escape with their humanity still intact.” I leaned forward and brushed my lips against his in reassurance.
Before I could pull back he grabbed the back of my neck and deepened the kiss. We were the only ones in the backyard at the moment, but I doubt it would have mattered if we weren’t. I wasn’t ashamed. I loved the feel of his lips on mine and returned his kiss until we were broken apart by my cousin Jesse’s voice.
“God, you two, get a room.”
I felt Dave tense for a moment but he relaxed when Jesse, Aunt Leslie’s son, came towards us smiling. Jesse nodded at Dave before turning his attention to me.
“I’m happy for you, Reece. You going to bring him to the next family dinner? Cause I gotta tell you, whatever you said to my mom had her ranting all night long about how our generation should respect our elders.” He snickered and plopped into a chair next to me. “I barely managed to tell her maybe our elders would get respect when they came out of the dark ages. I didn’t think she’d appreciate it, but I was glad to see you stand up to her.”
“I won’t be going to any more family dinners.” I’d said it and I planned to stick to it. I didn’t need the drama of being treated like shit by my own family. Dave stood and moved his chair next to mine and sat back down. I turned my head and smiled at him as he linked our fingers together.
“Serves ‘em all right.” Jesse turned more serious than I could ever remember seeing him. “I probably should have stuck up for you a long time ago, and I’m sorry I didn’t.”
“Doesn’t matter.” I shrugged because it really didn’t. I knew my cousin could care less, and it wouldn’t have done any good any way. It hadn’t when Josh said something.
“Still—” He was interrupted by a squeal coming from the direction of the house.
I looked up just in time for Josh’s sister April to flop down onto my lap and wrap her arms around my neck in a hug. I hugged her back before gently easing her off my lap. I didn’t want to find myself on my ass when the chair I was sitting in gave out. It wasn’t built for two people.
“I’m so glad you thought of this, Reece.” April grabbed another chair and brought it closer. “I don’t know why you kept coming to those damn dinners with the way everyone treated you. If I had been you, I would have told ‘em to shove it a long time ago.”
“They’re my family.” That’s what I had kept telling myself every time I had nearly talked myself out of going. I’d hoped eventually their attitude towards me would thaw, but it hadn’t. It was high time I realized it never would and focused on more important things, like whatever was building between me and Dave.
“They sure as hell didn’t act like it.” April scowled but then smiled. “Enough about them, let’s not let them ruin our night. So”—she glanced between me and Dave and down at our joined hands—“I see my brother’s plan actually worked for once.”
“Yes, it did. Amazing isn’t it?” I saw Josh step out of the house with a cookie sheet full of burgers and couldn’t help but get a dig in. “Though, everyone has to win once in a while.”
“I heard that.” Josh opened the grill and started plopping burgers onto it.
I smiled and stood, only pausing to drop a brief kiss on Dave’s lips. I headed over to my cousin. He glanced at Dave and then focused on me.
“You seem happy.” It wasn’t like my cousin to talk about feelings, but it was nice to know he cared so much about me.
“I am. He’s a great guy.” A great guy I had a hard time keeping my eyes off of. We’d only been dating a week, but it felt like longer. There were times I was afraid I was dreaming the entire thing and would wake up to find out I was still alone.
“He is. I knew you would be perfect for each other. I just had to get you two to meet.” He glanced over at Dave and I could see a hint of worry in his eyes. He lowered his voice. “Just do me a favor, Reece. Don’t hurt him if you can help it. He’s been hurt enough.”
“What are you talking about?” I didn’t have any plans to hurt Dave, but there was no guarantee it would work out.
“You’ll have to ask him. It’s not something he generally talks about.”
I looked over at Dave and tried to guess at what had happened to him, but he seemed like such an upbeat guy. As stupid as it sounded, I hadn’t thought he had any major hang-ups. He looked up and saw me watching him and smiled. I smiled back, despite the fact my mind was going a million miles an hour.