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HUGE PLAYERS: Chapter 11

Tomorrow brings breakfast pancakes courtesy of me, but this time I make a whole heap of them so by the time the boys come stumbling noisily down the stairs, the pancakes are waiting for them.

There’s still a lot of snatching and stuffing into mouths as though they think they’re stealing my breakfast, and I don’t tell them any different because what would be the point? If it makes them feel good to think that they are getting one over on me, then let them have their moment. I notice Kyle glancing in my direction as he’s pouring himself some coffee and I smile to myself, feeling as though I’m in on this secret and suddenly the world is looking different.

Different strange, definitely. Different better? Maybe. When we gather our things and hit the road, I’m listening to their conversation so much more than I did yesterday, wanting to gather bits of information in case I might need them. What for, I’m not sure. To avoid them, I suppose. To know what they’re doing so that I can plan how to not stumble into their paths or put any more temptation into their way.

Oh Lord, I feel ridiculous thinking it.

When we get to the parking lot, the boys pile out of the car and I’m I gather my things too. I’m expecting them to all be rushing off as they did yesterday but Kyle stays back. “You know you should come watch us today,” he says. “If you don’t have classes this afternoon.”

“I don’t know,” I say. “I’m not sure what my schedule is going to be like. It’s all so new. There is a look of disappointment in his eyes and I don’t like it. It makes me feel icky inside, more so because this feels like him reaching out the hand of friendship and I’m just slapping it away.

“Well, you know where we’ll be. It’s up to you.”

Oh that’s it. Put all the pressure on me. I’m perfectly aware that he has no idea that I was listening to his conversation with Kameron last night or that I know what he’s been thinking about me.

Even so, his move is out of order. Up to you with a side of guilt. SMH.

“Okay,” I say. It’s noncommittal and that’s how it needs to be today.

Kyle nods and jogs to catch up with his twin. Sara has already messaged me to meet her outside the coffee house after our first classes so I check out the map that was in my welcome pack and powerwalk to my building.

The class is interesting and the time flies past; so different from high school. When I’m done, Sara is already messaging me to tell me I have to get over there fast. Coffee Club isn’t a short walk from where I am and powerwalking with so many students around isn’t the easiest but I make it in record time. What the hell was so urgent?

When I arrive, I see why she was foaming at the mouth. All my stepbrothers are there, along with what looks like the rest of the football team. There is hardly any space for anyone else they are all so huge.

“There you are,” Sara squeals, dragging me into a hug as though we haven’t seen each other for years. When we’re close she whispers in my ear, “Surprise!” then chuckles darkly. I swear this girl is working toward corrupting my very soul.

“Not funny,” I whisper, and she chuckles some more.

I try to hide behind her as we queue for coffee but when the barista insists on calling out my name, five sets of eyes crane in my direction.

“Maisie!” Kyle shouts. “Get over here and meet the guys.”

His brothers all look at him as though he’s being weird, and I guess he is for trying to include me in their lives. When we were little, they’d shut me out when their friends came over. I’d have to play by myself because girls can’t play with boys’ toys, can they?

Sara gives me a nudge and I reluctantly make my way over to their random gathering of tables and chairs. “Everyone, this is Maisie, our stepsister.”

There is a rumble of “hi,” mixed with some laughter. Kameron fixes a guy to the right with a death stare. The guy shrugs. “What, dude?” He flicks his blond hair with a quirk of his neck. “You never watched Pornhub? That’s a movie worth watching right there.”

Ugh. Could my life drop any lower than being scouted for step-sis porn? I don’t think so.

“Come here, sweetheart.” The guy goes to tug me onto his knee and I stumble and fall into his lap as one of his friends grabs hold of Sara and does the same. Shit he’s strong, and big, but not as big as my stepbrothers.

“You didn’t seriously just do that?” Jessie says through gritted teeth. He stands and launches himself, grabbing me around the middle and hoisting me away from the grabby guy. The dude is still laughing but when he sees Jessie’s menacing expression he seems to get that he’s overstepped. He clears his throat and straightens up in his chair.

“It was a joke,” he says.

Jessie shakes his head. “Not funny, dude.” He puts me back onto the floor, moving me like I weigh nothing. I’ve never felt more insubstantial in my life. He scans me as though he’s checking for injuries, but I’m okay.

The rest of the team are looking between me and my stepbrothers as though they’re trying to work out what the hell is going on. If I had to guess, I’d bet they hadn’t mentioned that I was going to be starting at the same college as them. I bet they haven’t even mumbled my name to one of their friends before today. I bet no one here even knew I existed.

“Let’s just get one thing clear,” Joshua says. “This girl is out of bounds for any of you douchebags. I know where you put your dicks and they don’t need to be going anywhere near Maisie. Do you hear me?”

There’s a rumble of what sounds like reluctant agreement and I’m blushing like a beet. This whole thing is so unbelievably embarrassing for me, but not so for Sara it seems. She’s still sitting on the lap of a huge, cropped-haired, African-American dude who must be one of the defense because he looks like a brick wall. For a second, my vivacious friend looks like a ventriloquist’s dummy, she’s so out of proportion with this guy. But Sara doesn’t look worried or pissed off. He’s whispering something in her ear and she’s giggling like a school girl. In fact, she looks so comfortable that I’m starting to worry that she’s setting up camp.

“Sara,” I say, motioning to our coffees that she placed on a table to my left. She giggles and waves her hand to indicate that she’ll be with me in a minute. Let’s just say that Kameron and Kyle are pretty amused by the whole performance.

“Hey, Red, you find yourself a toy?” Kameron yells.

There’s laughter from everyone and Red wraps his arms around Sara like he’s cuddling a teddy bear. “I sure did,” he says. “I gotta grab the good ones, not leave them to stumble into the arms of one of you assholes. I consider it a public service.”

“Is that what they’re calling it these days?” Jameson laughs.

“You gonna give me your number, pretty girl?” Red asks Sara. She giggles and nods and then, before my eyes, Sara is swapping digits with a guy who looks as though he could eat her for breakfast. Damn, this girl moves fast.

“I’ve gotta go have coffee with my friend,” she says, getting off his lap and straightening her skirt.

“Sure,” he says. “I’ll call you later.”

Sara gives him a little wave and then practically skips over to me. Damn. She is exuding happy vibes. “Looks like I’ve lined myself up some fun,” she says, picking up her coffee and glancing over her shoulder to where Red is still gazing at her. The man looks hungrier than a starving bear.

“Fun,” I whisper. “He’s gonna tear you up.”

Sara fans herself. “Gosh I hope so,” she laughs.

“We’re going over here,” I tell Kyle, pointing to the opposite corner of the coffee house.

He nods and I know his eyes are on me as I walk away. I can feel them as much as the press of a finger against my skin. If Red’s gaze was hungry, then I imagine Kyle’s would be possessive but filled with questions.

Sara and I take our seats, both of us choosing to face in the direction of the boys. I sip my coffee, grateful for the bitter sweetness. To be honest, I could do with something stronger.

“Well, that was really something,” Sara giggles. “There was me thinking that I was going to furnish you with some gorgeous men, and look what happened.”

“Are you seriously going to hook up with him? He’s like three times the size of you!”

“And the rest. Anyway, that’s how I like it. Nothing like a big guy to make a girl feel delicate!”

“Well, good for you,” I say. “He can protect you, if nothing else.”

“I reckon he’ll do a whole lot more than protect, but speaking of that…” Sara twirls a lock of her curly black hair. “What was all that with your stepbrother? I thought he was going to murder that blond guy.”

“I know,” I say, opening my eyes wide.

“Jealousy,” Sara blurts. “One hundred percent jealousy. He just pounced!”

“Well, I am his stepsister. I know that they’ve all promised my dad to look out for me. I guess they’re taking that promise a little more seriously than I imagined. It’s not jealousy…. It’s just what he’s been asked to do.”

“Sure,” Sara says. “You’re still taking that line, even after what you overheard last night?”

I nod, playing with the plastic lid of my coffee. “I know what I heard but that was the twins. The rest of the guys aren’t on that page and I’m glad. That means I only have one of them to convince that he’s crazy…and maybe half of Kameron. I think he gets the pros of a group relationship, but not with me, and certainly not without his brother’s enthusiasm.”

“You mean you have three and a half to convince that you are their girl.”

As she says it, my stepbrothers all turn to look at me at the same time. Either they were talking about me or they all have the same brain. It’s eerie and exciting all at the same time.

“Can you just imagine what it would be like to be the meat in that sandwich?” Sara fans herself, flapping her shirt exaggeratedly.

“I think they’ve got enough meat for their own sandwich. I’d just end up being the mayo.”

“Being covered in the mayo, you mean,” Sara giggles.

“Ewww…you need to stop that. Oh and Red is looking over here.”

Sara looks up and waves and he raises his eyebrows suggestively. And although I shouldn’t feel jealous of my new friend because jealousy is not a good emotion, I do. She’s so carefree about going for exactly what she wants. And what she wants is Red. I wish I could be more like that. I’ve really tried in the past but I’ve been raised too responsible and sensible to seize life that way.

And anyway, even if I did have balls, they would have to be monumental to consider seizing all five of my stepbrothers. Even my own mind feels fractured at that idea, let alone what my mom would say…or my dad…or Janice. Even thinking about Janice’s reaction sends what feels like a trickle of water down my spine.

But as I gaze over at the guys, who now mostly have their backs to me, I can’t help the little yearn that squeezes my heart. I’ve felt lonely for so long, in a way that I haven’t really been able to put my finger on. Maybe it’s just the lack of a real family. I don’t want my daddy issues to influence how I feel about men and relationships, but maybe they are.

All I know is that the idea of being at the center of five men is a whole lot more appealing than I ever thought it would be, and that’s because of the men in question.

I’m just about to try and verbalize that when the whole football team begin to rise to their feet. As Jameson, Joshua, Jessie, Kyle, and Kameron all walk past they give me a nod and a “see you later,” and by the time they’ve all left, I don’t have the right words in my head anymore.

And what makes it worse is that Sara knows exactly how I’m feeling. I can tell because the gleam in her eyes has just gotten cosmic.


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