Reign of Brayshaw (Brayshaw High #3)

“These boys...” A quiet laugh leaves her, and she gives a small jerk of her head, her stare moving back to his. “I could never leave them, so there you go. Now you know for sure, from my own fucking mouth, they come first.”

Our dad’s jaw clenches, but not in anger, in prospect, so when he steps toward her, I stay planted at her side instead of shifting to guard her.

He nods, his feet fixed an inch from hers. “You are more than I could have imagined, Raven Brayshaw,” he admits. “But like you, I only want to protect my family, and while I understand they are now yours, they are still mine.” He frowns. “We have the same goals, Raven, I promise you this, but something your young souls have yet to face or understand is with life comes loss. With love, comes sacrifice.”

His eyes hit mine, and I can’t tell if he’s talking of his sacrifice, mine, or hers.

Maybe all three?

He holds the envelope out for me, so I take it, and he turns and walks away, calling over his shoulder, “Make her sign the papers, boys. The alternative isn’t something any of us want.”

Fuck.

Raven’s glare snaps to mine and she yanks her hand away, speaking before I can. “I don’t want it, Maddoc. Even I know money brings more problems.”

“You want to be able to care for yourself, right?”

She glares. “Yeah, myself. Not like this. This makes me feel like my mother. He gives me money and what, my taking it is me accepting my life is his?”

“Your life is mine.”

She can’t help it, and she laughs, looking away.

I step closer to her. “Sign the papers, Raven. You don’t have to touch the money if you don’t want, but it’ll be there. Keep whatever cash is in here” — I shake the envelope — “and we pretend it never happened. You have the card, you do what you want with it.”

“What if I give it all away?” she challenges.

I shrug. “I don’t give a fuck what you do with it. It’s yours. Cut the card up, hide it, mail it to your mom to blow on blow, who fucking cares. We have our own money, too, so it’s not like you’re screwing us. What you decide to do with it is on no one but you.”

She glares at the envelope. “It can’t be so simple.”

“Nothing ever is.”

“I don’t want anyone to know.”

“No one will unless it comes from your mouth.”

She huffs. “So, what, do I sign it as a Brayshaw or a Carver?”

I tear it open and pour out the contents on the coffee table. Her ID bounces from it to the ground, bottoms up. She looks from it to me.

“Let’s find out,” I tell her, bending to pick it up, but she rushes in first.

She flips it over, reading her name aloud. “Raven Carver Brayshaw.” She frowns. “My middle name is Carver?”

With a deep sigh, she reaches into her backpack for a pen and doesn’t bother reading over the forms, but blindly signs on each tallied line. She grabs the rest of the shit from the envelope and heads for the door. “Come on, I still want a coffee.”

We let her walk out and I turn to my brothers.

“Was he trying to say if she didn’t take it, it would default to the Gravens once she was given to them?” Royce asks.

“She won’t be given to them,” Cap quips.

“Probably, at least now it’ll be in her name and they won’t be able to touch it.”

“Yeah,” Royce scoffs. “If she hits him with a prenup.”

“Royce!”

Cap smacks him in the back of the head and his hands lift. “Sorry, fuck I know. I gotta stay pissed or make fuckin’ jokes, man. I don’t have an in-between. It’s either this, I fuck my way through the cheer squad, or choke everyone out with bare hands.”

Cap shakes his head. “Let’s go, she knows we’re talking about her.”

“Yeah, meet you out there in one sec.” Royce bounds up the steps and the two of us move for the car.

He’s back down within a few minutes, tossing Raven her iPod and headphones.

She picks it up, frowning at him, but he just shrugs.

“Keep ‘em with you in case you want to drown out everyone. Plug ‘em in, turn it on and fuck everyone else, RaeRae.”

She nods lightly and does just that.

We head for the donut shop, Raven at my side, happy to go get her dollar fucking coffee and maple bar, not at all affected by how only five minutes ago, she became an instant multi-millionaire.





“You gonna eat that?”

I tilt my head back to spot Victoria.

She drops onto the grass beside me. “You realize the grass is wet, right?”

“And you just sat on it.”

She grins. “Never said it bothered me.”

I laugh lightly, offering her the donut I only peeled a small corner of maple off of, but is otherwise untouched.

She shakes her head. “I was kidding. I don’t like sweets.”

“Well I do, and I’m pissed I can’t eat it. My stomach is still turning. I couldn’t even finish my coffee.”

She gives me a side-eye before shifting her frown to the basketball courts where the guys are jacking around, shooting hoops before the bell rings. Why we all woke up at the asscrack of dawn today, I don’t even know. Guess we had too much on our minds to sleep.

“Maybell tossed out all of Vienna’s shit last night. Straight into the dumpster, carried it out herself even. Guess she heard what she did?” She looks back to me.

“That woman knows more than any of us could guess, I’m sure. You’d have to being around this family as long as she has. Secrets on secrets on... secrets.”

My brows pull in.

Maybell.

“Uh-oh.”

I look to Victoria. “What?”

“You have your ‘I just figured some shit out’ face on.”

I slide my eyes to her. “Since when do you want to know things, I thought your MO was the less you know the better?”

“It is.” She glares. “Did I ask you what you figured out? No. I didn’t. I just recognized your I’m gonna make a sneaky move that will piss them off face.”

“I thought it was my I figured some shit out face?”

“Yeah. Which means the same damn thing in Raven language.” She laughs.

I can’t help but laugh with her. “You know, you should rethink your position on the not wanting to know front.”

Her smile is suddenly washed away, her frown now focused on nothing. “It’s more complicated than that, Rae. Honestly, I shouldn’t even be sitting here talking to you, and I sure as hell shouldn’t have been with you guys these last several days. The fact that I want to chill with you kind of annoys me.”

“You’re making me think I shouldn’t trust you.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t.” She stares at me dead on. “I’m not gonna lie, there are things you won’t like about me, maybe even hate me for. I can also swear I’m not malicious, even though I have things to hide.”

“What the fuck am I supposed to do with that, Victoria?”

She gives an unapologetic shrug. “Do what you want with it, but I’m being as honest as I can. I can stay away, no problem, but at the risk of sounding like a weak bitch, I don’t hate having someone around who gives fewer fucks than me.”

“You do sound like a weak bitch,” I joke, still a little on edge from her confession, but damn, I mean, she volunteered that, right? That has to count for something. “But I could use another vagina around sometimes to balance out the dicks a little better.”

“What RaeRae means is, to balance on the dicks,” Royce teases as the guys grow closer. “As in...” He trails off wiggling his eyebrows. “Ain’t that right?” He looks to me, a big ass, innocent grin on his far from innocent face.

I glance at Victoria who blinks up at him, her head tilted the slightest bit, and a laugh bubbles out of me. I reach for Maddoc’s hand when he extends it, letting him pull me up.

“Nope.” I chuckle. “Not at all what I meant, ponyboy.”

“Ah, come on.” He wraps his arm around my shoulder. “Don’t lie. ‘Ponyboy’ proves you were thinking about the ride, even though it should be more like massive steed.” He grins. “Tell her how good we are, RaeRae. I’m thinking Cap wants to bone her down. Me and him could keep her up through the night, I’d bet.”

Victoria smashes her lips to the side as she pushes to her feet and turns to walk away, but not before I spot the slight blush creeping up her neck.

“You do know we’re not blood brothers, right?!” he calls out, teasing her further. “We can play with our toys at the same time and it not be weird, just sayin’!”

Cap’s glare prompts me to step out of Royce’s hold and then he gives him a solid shove.

“You’re such a dumbass,” Cap grumbles. “I’m going to class. I’ll come get you for second period, Raven.”

I nod, leaning against Maddoc when he steps against me.

Royce just laughs at his own idiocy and bends to snag my uneaten donut with his mouth. He heads for class.

“Thought you were dying for that thing?” Maddoc kisses my wrist as we follow the other two back into the building.

“I was, but after all the shit last night, Cap earlier and then the bomb from your dad, it’s not hittin’ the spot.”

As soon as we walk in the door, Maddoc stops me, slowly pushing me against the wall, hands on my hips, and glares down at me.

I lift my arms, lazily draping them around his neck and he turns his head, running his lips across my skin, smirking when I shiver.

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