3. Playing the game

"Riley Joelle Miller, I am not playing with you!"

If there was one thing I'd learned in the past hour, it was that the more frustrated my mom got, the more aggravating her voice got as well. I pressed my head as far into the pillow as I could, but there was no escaping her incessant whining.

Soon enough, I heard footsteps pounding up the stairs, growing closer and closer until suddenly they stopped right outside my room. Then my lovely mother started banging on the door so hard I was sure she'd get splinters in her fist.

"You have five minutes, Riley! That's five minutes before I decide to break down this door and drag you downstairs by your ankles!"

"They call that child abuse! I could report you to the authorities!" I finally yelled back, hoping maybe this would stop her banging on the door. No such luck.

"Get out of the damn bed, Riley!" She screeched, and I finally decided to oblige, not sure how much more of her voice I could take.

With a groan, I rolled out of bed, stumbling over to the door and swinging it open to reveal an extremely red-faced woman who looked just about ready to kill. She stared at me in silence at first, trying her hardest to intimidate me, but I was much too tired and much too annoyed to let it affect me.

I leaned up against the door frame and stifled a yawn. "What?"

"What do you mean what?" She said, her voice frighteningly calm, "I spend an hour trying to get your lazy ass out of bed and that's all you have to say? You know what today is, don't you?"

I sighed, not wanting to remember why I had purposely tried (and failed, thanks to my no good mother) to sleep in. I would have to come face to face with Bryan and Ethan today, and to say I wasn't looking forward to it would be an understatement.

I'd tried all week to convince my parents that letting them stay here would be a bad idea, but to no avail. My dad was so excited about having more men in the house and too busy buying all the beer he could fit in the cellar to even acknowledge my existence. Mom was just happy she would have more people around to help her with Liam and ignored me whenever I brought the topic. It was a lost cause.

"How could I ever forget," I mumbled, looking at her with a frown.

Her eyes narrowed even more, and she pointed a finger at me, getting as close to my face as she could. "Be downstairs in ten minutes, and if you're not dressed and ready to see them by then, then I swear all hell will break loose." And with that said, she turned on her heels to walk away, stomping back downstairs to further prepare for their arrival.

In typical five-year-old fashion, I stuck my tongue out at her and then slammed my door shut, narrowly missing Poof who scampered in the room quicker than a ninja and planted himself on my bed. I turned around and glared at him, prepared to take my frustrations out on the giant ball of fluff. But he simply sat on my bed like a king on a throne, daring me to disturb him. I reluctantly decided it wasn't worth it. He could rip off my face with his claws, and I didn't think my parents would be willing to pay the medical bills for that.

With a resigned sigh, I bent down, picking up a pair of shorts and a t-shirt from the piles of clothes amongst my floor (I didn't really see the point in dressers). Ten minutes. Ten minutes until the very day I had been dreading for the past week arrived. I would even prefer spending a day with Hal Simmons, my creepy neighbor, over this. Even if he did have a slight obsession with me…and stare at my boobs a lot.

I threw on my clothes on and ran a hand through my hair. Maybe I should try to stay positive. Maybe I was just being too damn dramatic as my mother was so used to telling me. Maybe my cousins had changed into nice, upstanding citizens and they would come over to repent for the sins of their childhood, and insist on making it up to me by showering me with kindness.

Not likely.

I went to the bathroom in a mood worse than when I woke up and quickly washed up and put my tangled hair back into a ponytail before walking downstairs to get something to eat.

Since my mom was busy talking on the phone, I found Liam alone in the kitchen, wearing a vampire cape and standing on his toes to try and reach a tray of cookies on the counter. For reasons that only she could understand, my mother had decided to put him on a no sugar diet, giving him sweet peas and corn as a substitute for cookies and candy. I couldn't help but feel bad for the poor kid, and I didn't doubt that he was beginning to see the evil ways of our mother.

I walked over to where he was and grabbed a couple cookies from the tray, handing them to him.

"Don't tell mom," I whispered. He gave me a wide grin and nodded before snatching the cookies out of my hand and beginning to munch on them happily. Walking to the fridge, I got some milk, poured myself some cereal, and had barely taken the first bite when I once again heard the shrill ring that was my mother's voice break through the silence.

"Riley, grab Liam and hurry up! They're here!"

I groaned and then took a few more bites of cereal before dumping it out. Soon enough, I heard the door open and a bunch of voices all talking at once. Liam, who had sat down on the floor next to the counter, stopped eating his cookie for a moment and looked up at me with confused blue eyes, clearly not knowing what was going on. I bent down and wiped the crumbs from his mouth to hide the evidence before giving him a simple explanation.

"The devil has arrived."

Grabbing him by the wrist, I walked out the kitchen silently and to entry-way where we came into contact with seven other people.

My dad was there, grinning madly as he spoke to a tall, bulky red-headed man, Uncle Pete. Clinging to his arm was a tiny woman who seemed to be dwarfed by his size. Her blonde hair was in disarray, the bun she'd had it in coming undone. She had a nervous look on her face, and even as she spoke to my mom, her eyes never stopped roaming the place. It didn't take me long to recognize her as my Aunt Nora.

Then, as much as I didn't want to, I couldn't stop my gaze from wandering past the adults and to the two boys standing behind them. Bryan and Ethan.

The last time I'd seen them they had been nine and ten, both short with identical blonde hair cuts and mischievous, blue eyes. It had been nearly impossible to tell them apart, but now that they were older I had a pretty good idea of who was who.

I imagined the shorter one was probably Ethan who was a year younger than Bryan and I. Of the men, he was not only the shortest, but also the skinniest, and the ash blonde hair I'd remembered him having had turned strawberry blonde and was sticking out in random places as if he'd just rolled out of bed. His eyes were darker too, but his entire face still has that mischievous look.

And then there was Bryan. He stood next to Ethan with a frown on his slightly tanned face. He was taller now, beating my dad by a couple inches though he hadn't acquired the bulky form of his father. Instead, he had lean muscle and his hair color had also changed from light to dirty blonde.

I was contemplating whether or not I should say something or just wait for them all to notice me when Liam promptly broke away from my grip and ran to our mom's side, bringing all the attention to him. Both my aunt and uncle, who had never met him before, looked down at him, cooing and beginning to say how absolutely adorable he was. Mom beamed. Her little boy had stolen the show once again.

Liam didn't seem to notice. Instead he simply looked up at my mom, smiling.

"Wiley gave me cookie!"

I glared harshly at him. That traitor…

Fortunately, my mom didn't seem to hear him. She bent down and picked him up in her arms to better show him off to them.

"Everyone, this is Liam," she gushed before turning back to look adoringly at him, "Liam, say hi to your Uncle Pete, Aunt Nora and your cousins, Bryan and Ethan!"

Liam simply looked at them, not quite caring about the people he was being introduced to. Then he turned back to my mom, holding out his hand and saying in as demanding a voice as he could manage, "Cookie! I want cookie!"

My mom looked at him cluelessly, "Wouldn't you rather have some cabbage, Li Li?"

"Here, he can take these. They're left over from the plane ride."

I turned at the unfamiliar voice to see Bryan taking a small package of already opened cookies from his pocket and stepping forward to offer them to Liam. Liam immediately snatched the package out of Bryan's hands, shooting him his classic smile, before beginning to dig into the cookies.

I turned and glared at Bryan. He'd just arrived and already he was trying to kill my brother. I couldn't help but wonder what sort of poison he must have put in those cookies…

"Thanks…Bryan." My mom said, forcing herself to smile at him though I knew she was probably horrified to have to witness her little boy eating death snacks.

Probably sensing my gaze on him, Bryan turned and looked at me, a curious look on his face. I didn't waste any time glaring at him, but my desired effect (causing him to run away crying) didn't seem to work. Instead, he laughed at my pathetic attempt to frighten him, but when I opened my mouth to say something, I was immediately interrupted by my Uncle.

"So what's goin' on, RJ! How's my favorite niece been?"

I had to force myself not to cringe at my uncle's nickname for me, the same one my father had given me when I was born to help him deal with the disappointment of not having a son. It had taken me years to break my father of the habit of calling me RJ, (and also to convince him that, yes, I was a girl and girls were supposed to be held and comforted by their daddies and not told to "man up" when they cried after having dirt thrown in their eyes). Needless to say, it still struck a bit of a nerve when I heard the name.

"Good, I guess." I said with a shrug.

"That's great!" He said a bit too enthusiastically. "You still pursuing those acting dreams?"

"Yeah."

"Well, imagine that! My niece, Riley! The big Broadway star! Ha ha ha!" He let out a big, obnoxious laugh that both my parents joined in on. Nora just stood there looking like a mouse.

"Yeah, imagine that," Ethan finally piped up, giving me a mocking grin. I glared at him and took a threatening step forward, opening my mouth to say something back, but once again I was interrupted.

"So, you guys probably want to get to your rooms now, don't you? I bet that flight tired you out!" My mom said, looking at them all expectantly.

Pete nodded. "Yeah, you've got that right. Especially for Nora here!" Nora shrunk back at the mention of her name, trying to hide behind her hair from our gazes.

"Then it's decided! Frank and I will take you two to your room and help you with your luggage," My mom paused and then turned to me, an evil glint in her eyes, "And Riley…why don't you show your cousins where they'll be staying in the boat house?"

I was about to tell her no, and that if she had a problem with that then she could stick it where the sun don't shine, but the look in her eyes (the one she got that told me that if I valued my life I would do what she said) was quite discouraging. Besides, fighting back and refusing to do so would only make me look like I was still afraid of them. And I wasn't.

Sort of.

"I would…love to." I said, forcing the words out.

She smiled triumphantly. "All right then. Hop to it!" With a final stern look in my direction, she turned on her heels and began leading my dad, Pete and Nora away, Liam (who she had put down because of him spilling crumbs all over her shirt), trailing behind as he stuffed his face with cookies.

And we were finally alone.

I sighed as I turned back around to face them, a frown on my face. They both of stared at me as if I was some kind of foreign object, looking at me up and down as a tense silence filled the air.

"Long time, no see, RJ," Ethan broke the silence, grinning wickedly at me.

"You guys know where the boat house is," I said, completely ignoring his statement, "Just go around to the backyard. You can't miss it." I turned around to leave, but someone grabbed my arm, tugging me back toward them.

"Let go of me!"

"Hey, hey RJ, calm down," It was Bryan who spoke this time. I yanked my arm away, and he released me without protest.

"What do you want?" I demanded, trying to burn a hole though him with my eyes.

He smirked. "Why the anger? We haven't done anything to hurt you, have we?"

"Yet," I stated flatly, "I know you two. You've got to be plotting something."

"Sounds to me like someone's been holding a grudge," Ethan piped in, seeming to enjoy watching me get more and more furious.

Bryan nodded and took a step closer. "What makes you think we're going to hurt you?" His voice leaked with amusement.

"You already tried to kill my brother."

He seemed confused now, his eyebrows furrowing, "What?"

"Don't pretend you don't know!" I pointed a finger at him accusingly, "I know there was probably poison in those cookies you gave him you evil, sadistic devil child!"

His eyes widened at my accusation and then he started laughing so hard, tears came to his eyes. I felt my face turn hot at his laughter and I had to fight the urge to strangle him. When he finally started to calm down, he looked back up and shook his head at me as if I was some stupid little kid.

"Why would I hurt your brother? I already like him more than you."

I glared at him. "I don't believe that. I know what you're capable of."

He raised an eyebrow. "It's been seven years, RJ. You can't keep holding onto the past. Isn't that what the shrink was supposed to teach you?"

At the mention of my psychiatrist, I felt a mix between anger and embarrassment come over me. It was something that was rarely spoken of in my house, but I suppose I should have known Bryan and Ethan would have no qualms bringing it up. I crossed my arms indignantly, masking my embarrassment and trying to let them think that their words had no effect on me.

"That and he also taught me not to take crap from little boys like you."

"Well, well," Ethan mused, leaning back against the wall, "looks like she has a backbone after all."

"I'm not afraid of you two anymore."

"Aw, don't lie to yourself, RJ," Ethan taunted, coming closer to me. I almost took an involuntary step back, but I stopped myself before I could, standing right where I was and fixing my eyes on him coldly.

"First of all, my name is Riley," I spat and took another step forward, pleased to see that he backed up this time, "And second of all, there is absolutely nothing you two could do to scare me anymore. I'm not the same little girl I was back then, and I don't intend to be ever again."

Neither of them said anything after I spoke and I could feel the tension already beginning to build in the silence. Ethan stared at me blankly, but Bryan seemed to be contemplating something and his intense gaze caused me to look away. A couple more seconds passed before he started to walk over me and then he stood there, towering over me imposingly.

"Let's play a game, Riley," he began, his dark blue eyes boring into mine. "You've got one thing right, you're not as pathetic as you used to be, but that doesn't mean you're not afraid of us anymore. I'm just curious to see just how long it takes for you to crack."

My jaw clenched at his words. I knew what he was doing. I was familiar with this technique he used to intimidate me when I was younger. Bryan was definitely the more controlling of the two, and he liked to think he had a handle on everything.

I didn't say anything and instead continued to look up for him, my gaze unwavering. He stared at me for a bit longer before taking a step back and giving me a smug smile. "I'll give it a few months. We'll see how long you can play this game, Riley, but I doubt you'll last. You think you're up for it?"

I glared harshly at him. So he wanted a challenge, did he? Well, I was determined not to lose, and if he thought he was going to win this little "game" of his, then he had another thing coming. I stood up taller and gave him an equally smug smirk, not even hesitating before speaking.

"You're on."

Yay, finally an update! I know, it's been much too long and I apologize for the wait. I lost interest in this story for a while, but I missed Riley so much that I had to add on more to her story. Plus, I figured that with the three day weekend I ought to do something useful with my time. I really hope this chapter was up to par and makes you want to come back for more :) Let me know what you liked/didn't like in a review, and I'll make sure I'll get around to returning the favor! Thanks for reading!