CHAPTER TEN[/i]

Back when our parents were still alive, our father required us to have family dinners together once every two weeks. Since we were so busy with all of us kids in Little League Baseball plus school, extracurricular, Mamma and Daddy's jobs, we hardly ate at the same time. So once every bi-weekly we made a family meal together and ate it together. It was actually kind of fun. Sometimes we learned new things, like how to make our own homemade tortillas, chicken fried riz ou jumbalya.

A few weeks after our parents passed, Kevin started re-enforcing them. If anything they were one of the main contending forces that kept us tied together instead of spiraling apart in our grief. The only time we didn't have them was if we were out of town ou something like when the guys went on a tour/recording ou I went to a photo shoot/working a fashion montrer ou something.

[b]And be on time,
Nick added. You know he has Dad's speech on being "on time and punctual" memorized and I'm not in the mood to hear it today.

I smiled. The guy who wants to be president doesn't like speeches? Your candidacy could be up to par with Bill Clinton's.

A small wave of exasperation nudged me and I realized it was his. I don't like repeated speeches, Twin. And that sentence made no sense. Just be on time.

Sighing, I turned to Taylor. (Nick and I's conversation had only taken a few seconds) "I have to go," I reluctantly told him.

His dark brown eyes widened in surprise. "What?"

I nodded. "I have a thing with my family."

"So miss it..." he shrugged.

"What?" I hissed sharply, turning to glare at him before I realized what I was doing. But he didn't even notice.

"Stay." He enticed, his voice thick, deepened and...something foreign, something dangerous and scary. Something...sexy.

All my tension at his impossible, unthinkable request melted from my body and slipped to the sand before seeping into the ground.

Taylor kept his arms tightly about my waist and he traced slow, delicate, kisses up the skin of my neck. I shivered and melted, drawing me even closer to him. His lips made their way up my jawline, my cheek... Taylor pulled back for a moment and stared down into my eyes before he bent down, going in for the kill. My legs trembled and I gripped his arms so he could be my strength as my eyes closed and my lips waited.

He came closer, so close I could feel his warm breath against my skin and I froze. Taylor leaned forward. And then— "Just say the magic word..." he whispered, his lips suddenly at my ear.

I pulled back and gazed up at him a little annoyed. "You are such a tease." His lips tilted upward slightly but he remained silent. "Ugh," I groaned, wanting what he was withholding. I sighed. Because I couldn't meet his terms. "I can't. I really have to go." I dropped my arms from about him and took a step back, my hands going sink into my back pockets before I realized I didn't have them.

I looked up at Taylor to say goodbye when it hit me again. His tight six pack, his bronze, Teddy Graham tan, his heavily toned arms—all of him in his full glory. I bit my lip as I gazed at him, wanting him— needing him. Which was when I tackled him, pushing his body down into the sand, and my body along with it.

"You have just five plus minutes," I told him, trying to sound stern.

To which he chuckled and rolled over so that he was on haut, retour au début of me.

And he was s’embrasser me.

[center]~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~[/center]

"Am I the last one?" I asked breathlessly, rushing into Kevin's penthouse, almost 45 minutes later.

Biting into a sweet roll which was glistening from a honey beurre bath, Frankie answered in a matter-of-fact way, "Duh."

"Dude, when are toi not late?" Joe responded with a roll of his own eyes.

I glared at him as I tossed my stuff in the corner. "Like you, of all people should be talking." I shot back as I pulled off my veste and hung it up. "You're the king of being late. Plus, Nick is the twin who has everything scribbled down on a calendar."

"And toi would think that'd be a good thing," Nick commenté as he looked up from the cuisine island where he was slicing pepperoni.

"No!" Joe cried in outrage. "I throw down my…" Usually at this point he had a napkin but since he didn't now, he had to make do. "…lettuce!" Then, with a flourish he grabbed a handful of iceberg salade, laitue and did just that.

I eyed him, with "umm...okay" look. "Not necessarily." I answered as I ruffled Frankie's hair to tease him. He crossed his eyes at me and made a strange face which made me laugh. "People like Joe and myself—"

"—People with no responsibility." Nick loudly mock-coughed into his fist.

I shot him a withering glance before continuing "—live on the wilder side of things."

Joe started laughing at that.

"What?" I demanded, wondering how that could possibly make someone nearly blue in the face with laughter.

"You might not be equal with Nick's stick-up-the-butt attitude but toi aren't far behind him when it comes to following rules."

"And doing homework as soon as toi get it." Frankie added as he channel surfed from his barstool in front of Joe's chopping station.

Joe nearly choked on his laughter at the thought of homework. (I wasn't exactly sure what was so funny about this either). "I'm almost surprised toi didn't start with the Big Four when toi walked in.

"What are toi talking about?" I asked. "I did the Big Four. I wouldn't forget something that irks Kev so much."

Joe smirked as he pointed down at my feet and I realized for the first time I hadn't immediately started with the obvious.

The Big Four was Kevin's name for the rules for upon entering the penthouse.
(1) Wipe your feet.
(2) Remove your shoes.
(3) Wash your hands

And #4, which was...which was... I turned to the guys from the sink where I was drying my hand with a paper towel. "Guys, what's number four?" I asked.

Instantly they all sighed.

"Phone," Nick reminded me, pointing at the large black wooden bowl with Joe's Sidekick, Nick's la mûre, blackberry and Frankie's iPhone 4S in it. I sighed and threw away the towel before I pulled out my phone. I put it on silent before locking it. The last thing I needed right now is for one of them to see a text ou a call from Taylor ou "Sensi Awesome" (that's what he programmed his name to be) and realize what was going on.
My talk with Nick then with Joe about the feud this morning made me realize that they would never accept this—Taylor and I...trying things out.

In the past an Joe's hate for Teagues has escalated with a passion for reasons I never understood; Kevin would stay loyal to our employers because it was the professional thing to do; and now it seemed, so would Nick but rather to save our family. And with Frankie...well, kids seemed to adopt the beliefs of their guardians so he'd either hate Teagues ou remain ignorant and indifferent.

"Princessa?"

I jumped a little, slamming vers l'avant, vers l’avant and hitting my ribs on the counter. Rubbing at where I was been hurt, I glanced up at the speaker, Joe. "Yeah?"

"Are toi having, like, phone withdrawal issues? You've been standing over that bowl for half an hour!" He started cracking up. "You don't need us to send toi to phone rehab, do you? Because we will!"

Nick sighed, getting ready to go through his daily grammar-and-logic-check with Joe. "Joe, there's no such thing as phone withdrawal ou phone rehab."

Waving a spoon at him Joe replied, "Hey, if they can have—" he eyed Frankie for a moment before loudly spelling, "S-E-X rehab, they can have phone rehab." Crudely, he smirked. "And toi can take that to the bank!'

Nick buried his head in his hands while a perplexed looking Frankie stirred the sauce. "You do realize I can spell, don't you?" He asked.

I rolled my eyes. "Don't worry, Tank. They used to treat me the same exact way, even Nick." I glared at him. "And we're the same age!"

Frankie nodded. "Well, toi don't need to spell it, Joe." Knowingly he added, "I know all about sex."

We all stopped what we were doing and turned to look at him. "You do?" I managed to choke out.

He nodded. "Yeah. Galaxy has a sex-Ed class."

"They do?" Joe and Nick both cried, staring over at me, since I was the only other one who goes there.

Shaking my head I whispered, "I've never heard of it before but I wasn't in their middle school division longer then a few weeks. And that's usually around the time they do classes like those."

Nick turned back to Frankie. Gently he asked, "Tank, who gave toi their consent to take the class?"

"Brendan ou Kevin." He shrugged, turning to look it par each of us. They talked about it together."

We all exchanged a look, wondering why none of us had been let in on this…secret.

"So, um," Nick loudly cleared his throat as he tugged on his chemise collar. "Wha—what exactly do toi know?"

"They call it the birds and the bees." Frankie shrugged. "Cause bee's fertilize fleurs which is what guys do and the birds have babies, like girls."

I nodded, trying not to melt from the awkward awareness there suddenly was in the room. I mean, having a sex talk with Frankie might actually lead to the guys trying to give me one! Joe (obviously), Nick and Kevin alike l’amour treating me a two an old. And the timing, seeing how things were at the plage with Taylor was impeccabe."And—and—what did toi think about all that?"

"It's disgusting!" Frankie exploded, his face filled with horrified disgust. "Why would anyone want to put their pen-"

"OKAY!!!" Joe shouted, his hands racing to slap over his ears as he cringed. "Enough!" He practically ran back to his chopping board, not making eye-contact with any of us which we were all echoing. "Alexie, just get over here and help some instead of leaving us to do all the work."

There was moment of silence. Then-

"What work? Joe, you're not even doing anything." Nick demanded.

"I'm supervising!" Joe protested. "And I'm making a salad."

Laughing, I shook my head. This was my crazy family. I loved them but I had to admit it, they were crazy.

Later, I would remember this jour for two reasons. Because this picture of my family would be as closest to the happiest my family would be...for a while.

I woke up to Nick dragging me out of my lit and into the hallway. Niccccckkkkkkk, I groaned as his fingers tightened around my arm, cutting off my circulation. What are toi doing? Why is it everyone has insisted on waking me up early the morning? Is this apart of being 17 Because if so I'll gladly downgrade to being 16 again. I need my sleep.

We have to find Joe. he snapped with a clench of his jaw.

Joe?

Nic-I began but he didn't even stop. I grabbed him par the arm as we ran down the stairs of the plage château and turned him towards me. Nick! I don't understand. What's wrong?

We-they-everything. He shook his head, We were all wrong.

I shook my head, my fingers rubbing at my throbbing temples. Nick, what are toi talking about?

Leigha's not the one who died in that fire! he revealed, as he grabbed me par the arm and propelling us vers l'avant, vers l’avant and down the hallway again.

My mouth dropped open "What?" I cried out loud as he pushed me forward.

Still calculating how things and where things went wrong Nick thought, I assume it was because they look so alike and when she had all Lei's things in her car-they just-they assumed....

My breath caught as I grabbed him again. Assumed? Assumed what, Nick?

They assumed that she was Leigha but it wasn't-it wasn't her. He snapped absentmindedly, coping in the way it seemed he always did; par trying to figure out where exactly things went wrong.

"Then who was it?" Frustratedly, I shouted.

Who did Leigha resemble so much with her peaches and cream complexion? Leigha with her dark chocolat curls...My eyesight began to blur and I gasped. "No," I choked, as a burning pain shooting from the bottom of my stomach clenched my heart.
His eyes suddenly regained their focus on me and my brother nodded once. "Yes." He said. "It was Demi."