Life deals you a whole different hand when your parents get divorced.

More specifically, when your parents have remained faithful to each other for the first year of their marriage and unfaithful for the next fifteen. My parents divorced when I was four. However, I grew up with the tormented idea that every three Saturdays, I had dinner at Da's and my mother drank her pills twice every day. I was around fourteen when Carson began screwing around. He'd made sure my parents knew of it, always bringing girls into the house and going so far as to hook up with them on the couch. Both of my parents had had enough of it. Darcy and I hated him for it. What type of older brother did that sort of stuff? Mother tried desperately to get him to stop and Da made him endure countless hours taking community health class, which never worked because Carson didn't give a single fuck.

The drop that spilled the glass over was when he slept with Poppy.

She had been Darcy's best friend since they were in onesies and drinking formula. Poppy was like another older sister to me. When I spilled all of my secrets to Darcy, I knew they were being heard by Poppy as well. Darcy was furious when she'd heard about it. When she figured it out, actually. Poppy hadn't even said a thing about it, it was Carson and his very big mouth at the dinner table that enlightened us. Darcy was furious at Carson, and Poppy was brokenhearted. She knew Carson had used her and it was sad to see Poppy's happy-go-lucky demeanor crumble and fall. Carson forgot her in a matter of days, Poppy in a matter of months.

That was three years ago.

So, you can imagine my shock when I stumbled into Carson's room, way past eleven, hoping to find him in some boxers and a well-deserved hangover, and instead I find myself with the pleasant surprise of Poppy Abbott with her legs tangled around Carson's. Both of them asleep. Her hair splayed out over the pillow and one of his hands holding onto her hips. I swore I'd seen Poppy last night walk back to the room that she had been sharing with Darcy before Darcy had left late to catch her honeymoon flight. I swore I had.

I couldn't contain the gasp. They were naked and in bed and just plain together. Oh good Lord. Why was it that the two people that were told to stay away from each other were the ones that couldn't? Darcy would freak about this; she'd explode. I wondered if Carson got a huge kick out of making my mother's hair turn grey. Nan would be ecstatic. Her and Johnny would have to pay up… I warned him about this!

I didn't know who to direct my anger at and finally settled on both of them. But for now, I'd remain quiet about what my eyes had just encountered. Yes, I would. I had to anyways. Growing up in a family where drama seemed to fill my everyday life, one would know that this information could later serve me well. I tiptoed out the way I came in.

I stepped out of the room, breathing a sigh of relief. That relief was short lived as I noticed Nan walking down the hall. She was whistling Dancing Queen and dressed in her best, as usual. She walked with her cane and I knew where she was headed.

As soon as she saw me outside Carson's door, she grinned, "Go fetch your brother, we're going to the bookstore."

This was a very odd order coming from Nan, who had settled both her hands on her glitter-covered cane and stared straight faced with a smile. The woman may have been a few inches smaller than me, but she could make any man do just her bidding with her sharp tongue. "Why are we going to the bookstore, Nan?"

Her grin grew wider and I knew where this was going, "I heard that they'll be giving away copies Fifty Shades of Grey signed by the author."

I couldn't find it in me to laugh, "But Nan, don't you think you should start to read something more like, hm, let's say, Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre?" My grandma was starting to worry me. A lot. In fact, she always had but if she found out that behind this door lay Carson and Poppy, she'd certainly announce it to the world.

Nan's smile fell and I could already feel the smack coming, "You stupid girl!" And smack me she did. "Get out of my way! Your brother would surely like to come."

She tried to push past me and I couldn't, wouldn't, budge. She humphed at me and tried with all her might. She tried three times with her scrawny form and failed. One more try and I would not be able to hold on any longer. She gave me a once-over. Her eyes carefully taking in my appearance and she realized that I was indeed, still in my pajamas. Of course I would be anyways.

"I've changed my mind," a frown built itself on her face, "we're going shopping and changing your entire wardrobe."

"My wardrobe is fine, Nan," I stated, "Darcy helped me with it."

She turned around, showing me her middle finger as she walked away. Man, that woman was crazy. Bat-head shit crazy.


I glowered at Carson during dinner. We were having pasta with shrimp and grilled steak. A courtesy of my mother, who was apparently having a very good day today. So far she'd popped three pills and she was wearing her cocktail black dress. Nan kept going on about Fifty Shades of Grey. We were quite a sight: my mother in her elegant dress, Nan in her suit, Carson in his cotton pants and sweatshirt, and me, in my work uniform.

"I'll be going to New Jersey," Mom announced, "for a few days."

"You mean months," Carson said, drinking from his glass of wine. His eyes were cold as he looked at her. Mother and Carson had never had a good relationship. Not since my parents got divorced.

Mom frowned, "No, I mean days." My mother's voice had this icy ring to it, like she meant for you to never stop paying attention to her. Her voice commanded attention and not once had it stopped.

I finished chewing, "To see Mrs. Laughlin?"

Mom nodded, "Carson will be in charge while I'm gone."

Nan frowned, "I'll be in charge. I'm the oldest."

"No, Carson will be in charge, mother," Mom said sternly, "he'll be in charge of the house and its inhabitants. That includes you."

Carson smiled at his plate, I knew what he could be thinking, and Mom gave him a hard glance. Apparently, she knew what he could be thinking too.

"That does not mean you may turn this house into an orgy."

I bit my cheek to stifle a laugh when Nan spoke, "And here I was actually looking forward to your absence."

"Do you have to go?" I asked quietly after a few moments of silence.

"Of course I have to go," Mom said quickly. "Rebecca Laughlin is in need of my help and you want me to stay."

"I was just asking, Mom," I said, "I mean, last time you were gone for two months."

"Three, actually," added Carson, "but I think it'll do you some good to take a vacation."

"I could use a vacation too," said Nan. She grabbed the bottle of wine that stood in the center and served herself a generous amount. That would be the fourth time she filled her glass.

Carson laughed and Mom sighed. "You live on vacation, Nan," I told her.

"I most definitely not live on vacation. I sit here all day listening to you whine and your brother fuck-"

"Mother!" reprimanded Mom, with a scowl on her face as she looked into Nan's eyes, "These are your grandchildren."

"Is it not true? I need an urgent vacation to Las Vegas," said Nan, "I have a friend in Las Vegas I could be visiting next week. In fact, I will be visiting next week."

Carson laughed, "Is he an escort?"

Nan smiled at him and before she had time to answer, Mom scolded both of them, "You will not be going anywhere, Mother, and you," she scowled at Carson, "are staying here and I better not return to a house full of prostitutes."

Carson rolled his eyes at her and he stood up from the table, "I'm going out tonight. Want to come, JoJo?" This was a normal habit of his, he'd go out three or four times a week, bring a girl home, or if we were lucky, go to the girl's place, and go out the following day. It was a routine he had constructed over the years.

"I want to go," Nan said.

"Who's going?" I asked, debating if I really should go and pretend to interact with Carson's friends or stay home and continue reading Burrough's Naked Lunch. Burroughs was better. Besides, I didn't know if Lucas had already returned back to New York and there was a slight chance that if Lionel was going, he was going. I was not going to risk it. Definitely not.

"I'm not sure," Carson said, leaning on the table, "Lionel, Patrick I think, Johnny boy, Poppy maybe…"

"Poppy?" I asked rather surprised. Since when did Poppy go out with the boys?

Carson's eyes shifted to his hands and back to me, "Yes, Poppy."

"Oh," I muttered. I hoped Poppy knew what she was getting herself into. I knew where this was all going to go. It'd be exactly like what happened three years ago. I knew it would. And Darcy wouldn't be here to put things in order.

"So, you coming?" Carson asked and started to walk out of the dining room.

"I don't think so," I said, "I have a few things I need to do."

"Like remodel her wardrobe," Nan cackled. She certainly got a kick out of me. That's the way it had always been. Even though it'd been different a few years ago...

I groaned. "Suit yourself," Carson called out from the hall. Nan smiled and winked at me with, what I assumed would be, her 'good' eye.


I was lying awake when I heard laughter downstairs. It was three o'clock in the morning and who else could it be but Carson? I expected to hear hushed voices, Carson's wild laugh maybe and a woman giggling. I was surprised to hear men chuckling and their deep voices downstairs. I had been unable to sleep for the last six hours, resulting in me grabbing a book. With enough light coming from the outside, I had been quite engrossed in it. I tossed my book aside and got out of my covers. With that noise, they would wake up Nan and that was something neither Carson nor I would want to deal with.

My curtain-less window offered the light of the half moon and helped me guide my way through my bedroom. I debated whether to put a robe on, considering my pajamas, but I doubted Carson and his companions would even pay attention. It had been Darcy's birthday gift few months ago.

As I made my way downstairs, I heard Lionel's deep baritone voice and Carson's wild unmistakable laugh. The lights in the kitchen were on and I was welcomed with the smell of Bailey's and Brandy. An unusual combination for Carson considering the hour, but he could be a little unexpected like that. I thanked God for the in-floor heating, because my feet would be half-way ice if Nan hadn't complained about it a few years back. The only thing she'd be complaining about if she woke up right now would be the racket the boys were making downstairs.

I stepped into the kitchen and to my horrifying surprise, encountered the man I least wanted to see and the precise reason why I hadn't gone out tonight. Just my luck. Carson was leaning on the kitchen island, Lionel was serving himself some Tequila, Johnny was searching in the fridge and there was Lucas, sitting on the kitchen marble counter. In jeans and a white vintage v-shirt with a glass of Bailey's in his hand.

"JoJo!" Carson raised his glass to me. Johnny shut the fridge after pulling out some of Nan's cookie dough that she loved to eat raw. "Have some Tequila or Bailey's. What can I serve you sissy?"

I cleared my throat, "Um," Lucas' eyes were running their course over me form head to toe and I hugged myself, "Nothing, thanks."

"Come on," Carson grabbed a glass and poured Tequila into it. He took a few steps toward me and handed it over. He stunk of alcohol and his face was red. If Mom woke up, he'd have hell to pay.

I grabbed the glass of Tequila from his hands. "I just came to say that you guys should quiet down. Nan and Mom are asleep."

From the corner of my eye, I saw Johnny eat chunks of the cookie dough. Lucas didn't take his eyes away and I started to become self-conscious. I rubbed my hands over my arms. "We're not even making any noise."

"Actually, you are," I said, grabbing my glass of Tequila and placing it on the counter, "so shut the hell up before I-"

"Before you what?" interrupted Lucas. I looked at him straight in the eye for the first time that night.

I narrowed my eyes at him, "Before I kick you out."

Lucas' eyes squinted with humor, "Kick us out? Or just me?"

"All of you," I scowled at him.

His smirk grew wider, "You don't want your Tequila?"

I glanced at the glass I had set down on the counter. "I don't drink."

"You don't? Why's that?" He said in a voice that pretended cluelessness. He knew why. He knew the fuck why I hadn't touched a drop of hard alcohol since I was 17. I'd only ever drunk wine since that time.

I didn't answer him. "I suggest you stop asking so many questions and instead get the fuck out of my house."

"Woah, Jo, calm down sissy," Carson walked toward me and grabbed the glass of Tequila he had served me. He started to drink it himself, "Chill."

"Tell him to calm down!" I raised my voice. "It's my house, not his and you're asking me to calm down!"

"I invited him!" Carson said, raising his glass towards Lucas who was smirking at me. The fucker. He set it down harshly on the counter once more. The noise making me jump.

"Get out," I turned toward Lucas once more, "Get the fuck out."

"No," interrupted Carson, "you get out."

"What the fuck Car? I'm your sister," I said, "You're drunk."

"I don't care." Oh shit, he was getting angry. "You're asking my friends to go and I won't allow that. You get the fuck out of this house right now or I call Nan."

"You think I'm afraid of her?" I was not leaving. One second I'm on my bed reading Burroughs and the next I'm getting kicked out of my house.

Carson didn't move and his eyes were cold, "I think you're old enough to understand who has control in this house."

"I'm not moving. You may think you're head of house since Da was gone but we both know Darcy's always been the better one out of all of us."

Lucas' smirk was gone by now, but his eyes didn't take themselves away from my face. "You don't know shit," Carson said to me, "now get out."

"No," I stayed where I was. Carson's cold unrelenting expression made me wish he was was as drunk as I hoped he was. He had to be. Johnny kept eating the cookie dough, Lionel was watching us close and Lucas' face was unreadable.

"Car, man, come on, is this necessary?" Lionel interjected.

I didn't like it that Lionel had to step in. I could handle my brother by myself. "Yes!" Carson raised his voice at him and looked him in the eye, "Yes it is, and if I tell her to get out of this house, she gets out."

"This is my house too," I said, "And I will fucking stay here if I want to." Lionel stepped back. He raised his hands as if to say 'fine with me'. Having been friends with Carson for years, he knew how he worked. He also knew how he got when he was drunk.

"Not if I say so," Carson stared me straight in the eye, "Get out or I'll tell Lucas about Dean."

My heart stopped, "You wouldn't."

"You know I would," he gave me a smirk that made goosebumps crawl all over my skin. How the fuck does a person remember that when they're drunk? How the fuck did he remember Dean? Most importantly, what information did he have about Lucas that made him threaten me?

My eye turned towards the floor, "Fine, you win."

Lucas' face was unreadable, he stared at Carson then at me. Carson smiled. "You can come back for lunch or whatever."

My blood was boiling and I had to squeeze my fists together to keep myself from punching him. "I will come back when I feel like it."

"Good, then please feel like it in a few years," Carson stated and turned around to serve himself some more Tequila. I was stalling. I knew that if I stalled for a few more seconds, he'd carry me out if he had to.

"No, Carson," my eyes snapped to Lucas as he spoke up, "it's cold out there and she's barefoot…"

"You think I care?"

"Considering she's your sister, yes, I think you care." What was he trying to pull? Lucas met my eyes. I couldn't read his face, like every other time. The unpredictable Lucas Kingscott was taking the reins and I had no clue why he'd do it.

Carson noticed this and looked red, "Good, then you can join her outside, now go!"

"What?" Lucas was pissed, "No fucking way, we're both staying."

"You don't want me to call the cops, do you?" Carson threatened him in a low voice.

Lucas' eyes were wide but he didn't let anything on, "What the fuck man? Why would you even-"

"You're forgetting who my father is, Lucas," Carson said with a smirk, "and the history you have. Well, not to mention my sister's, just a whisper of identity and past sins to those cops and I'll have you out of here in no time."

Oh shit. We were fucked. Lucas and I shared a look. He knew what I was thinking and even though I hated it, he knew. "They wouldn't believe you, that was years ago."

"You think they aren't still looking? You think you left and your past here was erased? Well, wake up call my friend," Carson looked him in the eye and stepped forward, "And once again, you're forgetting who my father is."

"The only goddamned fucking lawyer in this place," I interrupted, "like you even care Carson."

"Exactly," Carson turned to look at me, "and you haven't treated Da like a father have you? So anything I tell him about you, he'll believe."

That was true. That was so fucking true I didn't even have an answer to that. Thankfully, Lucas spoke up, "Come on, Josie, let's leave these fucking wankers."

In that moment, I hated Carson. I hated that he got away with everything and he didn't give a fucking care about anyone else in this world. I hated that he had never forgotten about Lucas and Dean and all that history that I had tried so much to forget. I hated that Carson was drunk and he would forget all of this come morning. I hated that Lucas wasn't drunk and he wouldn't forget any of this come morning.

I sighed and started to walk towards the entrance. Lionel stepped towards me and gave me his jacket. I thanked him with a small smile and Lucas stood behind him. Lucas' expression was grim as he followed me towards the door.

I got to the front door and turned to look at Carson one last time, "I hope you made sure Poppy doesn't say anything to Darcy."

Carson's expression changed, "What?"

"You know, since you guys fucked last night, just saying you should make sure she doesn't tell Darcy," I stated, and before I had the chance to see his face, I opened up the front door and stepped out. Lucas close behind, he closed the door behind us and my first thought was: it's fucking cold.


There's always this one day in November when you know winter is close and you feel it right in your bones. When the sky is dark, moody and you believe you might as well die if you lived in Fairfax Station, Virginia. It was so gloomy it made me want to cry. The shade of grey covered it like a blanket. The frosty air bit at my exposed skin. My teeth chattered and I felt my lips turn blue. My house stood to the side, Carson's friends cars parked in the front. The windows dark except for the main floor.

I looked over my shoulder to see Lucas behind me. I hugged my arms to my chest and I couldn't fucking believe it that Carson had left us out. I couldn't go to Poppy's. I couldn't go to any of my friend's because they'd want to know what the fuck was up with me.

There was always Da's. No fucking way.

Lucas unlocked his car and he walked towards it. It sat at the corner of the street and I could recognize that beat-up red jeep anywhere. The dent on the side brought back a string of memories and the sudden image of Lucas' weight over me in the backseat made me turn away. Moans erupted in my memory and just remembering his touch made my skin tingle.

"I'm not getting in your car," I stated firmly, crossing my arms over my chest.

"I never told you to get in it," he said, making my cheeks burn. That was awkward. I hated how he would always have the upper hand in everything. No matter what I did or said.

"Well, anyways… Hope to not see you in heaven. Or hell." I started walking to the garage that held my car. He didn't turn around or say anything. He got into his car and drove away. I looked back at the beat-up jeep he was probably only using it in Fairfax Station. He most likely had better driving arrangements in Manhattan.

When I got to the garage I cursed myself because I suddenly remembered I had no key to get in the house or open the fucking garage. Carson would most likely have locked every window and door on the main floor. Just like he had done three years ago.

Two times I'd been kicked out of my house by my brother. Two times and counting.

And the only person alive who had been mi exit ticket from this hellhole was currently driving away.