Lenny sat on the sofa next to me as I fondled the chain around my neck. I eyed the several large plates spread across the table, which held all sorts of treats that he’d made for the party he’d decided to throw for me and him. I rubbed at my empty stomach, wondering if he was attempting to feed the forty thousand. If we hadn’t banished Nathan and Isaac to downstairs, I’d have thought that he’d made food for them too.
I was about to question the need for so much food when the doorbell rang, Lenny shooting off the sofa like a bullet fired from a gun.
“Careful! At that speed you’ll end up falling and breaking your neck,” I called after him.
He fired a quick grin back over his shoulder as he got to the door, looking through the peephole before opening it. My eyes widened as Adam, Richie, Bailey, Sawyer and Theo came into the room, all talking at once.
Adam came straight over to the sofa, dragging me up to give me a hard hug. As each man came over and did the same, a ball of emotion became stuck in my throat.
Their silent support meant everything. It had been several days since the jury had come back with a guilty verdict. Devon hadn’t been sentenced yet, but it was scheduled for the following month. Today had been all about Lenny and me having survived the ordeal, and coming through it as friends. I’d had no idea that he was going to invite other people. But they were people who’d become my friends and stuck by me. My heart skipped a beat as I recalled the lack of response from all the texts I’d sent to Wren. When I’d finally asked Nathan about Wren’s membership, he’d explained that the information was governed by privacy laws and he couldn’t tell me without Wren’s agreement. I’d been left with a strange feeling that although he was telling me the truth, there was something he was withholding from me. I’d talked to Isaac about it and he hadn’t been any better. He’d been evasive, which wasn’t like him. It had left me concerned that he just didn’t want me contacting Wren because of all that had happened. Therefore, I’d texted him in secret, only to get no response.
I sighed, pushing my concern aside as Bailey slung a huge arm across my shoulders.
“This is supposed to be a party, so we’ll have no glum faces here.”
He gave me a gentle squeeze as I stared up at him. There was strain around his mouth. I grinned at him. “Do you remember the last time we partied? If I recall correctly, you looked a little glum afterwards.” I chuckled as his cheeks turned pink.
“Come on, I was hung over”—Bailey glanced at Adam—“and it was all his fault, what with his crazy cocktails!”
Adam lifted the bag he’d put down in order to hug me, the sound of several bottles clinking together coming from inside. “Then be prepared, because I’ve got several new ones to try out,” he said with glee.
Bailey groaned loudly, Richie laughing.
“Now you’ll see what it’s like to be friends with him. He doesn’t need any encouragement, so be warned,” Richie stated in such a dramatic tone that everyone started to laugh.
For the first time in a long time, I felt like my old self, but a new improved version. I grinned at Adam, happy to join in the fun. “There’ll be no betting this time, right?”
His eyes brightened as Richie gave a mournful sigh. “You’ve done it now. Adam loves nothing more than proving you wrong. Did I tell you about the first time he made me go with him to The Playroom?”
Adam’s face lost its colour and he turned to Richie to give him a hard nudge in the ribs.
“Hey, what was that for? I was only going to tell them about the bloody outfit you made me wear, and that big bear that tried to hit on me. All because you managed to persuade me to go with you. Christ! I’d never been so terrified! It took Seb an age to peel me out of the outfit,” he carried on, oblivious to the sudden tension in the room.
The second that he stopped talking, there was a deafening silence. Was he referring to Isaac? I tried to think about the other Doms in the club, but there were very few who could be classed as a big bear. Hadn’t Richie been in the apartment when Isaac had come to collect me after the stag party? My brow furrowed as I recalled him standing by the counter as I’d gone to answer the door.
Richie didn’t frequent the club, but Adam did, and he knew who Isaac was. I scratched my chin. “Are you talking about my Isaac when you’re talking about a big bear?”
Adam’s bag clanged ominously at my question, and I had my answer. I eyed Richie, who was suddenly looking a little peaky.
“Shit! I didn't mean anything by it. I’m sure he was only messing with me and… and… I’ve got a Daddy,” he finished in a rush, starting to sound more than a little weepy.
“I’ve got a Daddy too, and he loves me.” As I stepped closer to Richie, everyone seemed to freeze in place. “We’ll need to compare stories because I bet that my Daddy is better than yours.” I gave him a saucy wink, everyone in the room seeming to release a collective sigh of relief.
Then Adam started to laugh, as did Sawyer.
“A Daddy comparison? Oh, now this requires lots and lots of cocktails to make sure that we get all the juicy details,” Adam crowed in delight as he heaved the bag onto the counter. “Lenny, we need glasses and ice. Oh, and whatever fruit you’ve got in the fridge.”
Lenny hesitated, his brows rising as he stared at me.
I walked past Richie, giving his arm a squeeze before going over to Lenny and giving him a hard hug. “I’m good, I swear. Now let’s party.”
Everyone seemed to move at the same time and it became a little chaotic as Adam assigned everyone tasks to do. I listened to the sound of cheerful chatter as I chopped fruit, suddenly remembering that it was Sam’s day off. “Lenny, do you mind if I invite someone? The new guy that’s been employed to run Flamingo Bar is fun and would fit in with our group.” I got a small thrill from saying our group as Lenny nodded.
“Heck, the more the merrier. I got a little carried away with the food,” he stated, glancing across the room at the fully laden table.
“Hey, not too many folks, I’ve got a very healthy appetite,” Bailey said, his gaze firmly fixed on the food.
“I’m sure that one more person won’t stop you from having your fill. Anyway, I think you’ll like this guy.” I went over to the sink to wash my hands. Once my hands were dry, I dug out my phone, walking across the room to escape the raised voices and laughter. After finding Sam’s number, I hit dial.
It only rang twice before he answered. “Yo, Ferron.”
“Hey, I know it’s your day off. Are you up for a party? Lenny’s invited a few friends around for drinks and food and I wondered if you want to join us?”
“Yeah, that would be cool. I’m not far from the club. I’ll see you in twenty.”
I ended the call, returning to where the men were gathered at the kitchen counter.
“He’s coming, and he says he’s only twenty minutes away, so he won’t have much catching up to do.” I chuckled, pointing to Adam who’d just taken a big sip out of a glass of frothy pink liquid.
He swallowed and then gave an indignant snort. “I’m just testing it.”
“Well, maybe we could all test it,” Richie piped up.
“I’m sure I’ve heard Carl complain about how greedy Adam is when they’re in the locker room with the door locked,” Sawyer added in a mock whisper. Adam coughed, alcohol spraying across the counter, and Sawyer spoiling his comment by laughing.
Lenny jerked backwards into Bailey, who barely managed to stay standing, causing Theo to giggle.
“Look at the mess you’ve made,” Lenny complained before glancing Bailey’s way to apologise. “Sorry about that, but I didn’t want to be covered in second-hand alcohol.” He shuddered for effect.
Bailey shook his head with a smile on his face. “It’s all good. I’m made of stern stuff.”
The banter continued as Lenny cleaned up the mess Adam had made and more drinks were poured.
Everyone was seated with a drink when the doorbell rang. Lenny moved to get it, but I stopped him. “I’ll go.” Lenny sat back, continuing his conversation with Richie as I placed my drink down and went to answer the door.
I checked that it was Sam using the peephole, a welcoming smile spreading across my face as I opened the door to him. His hair was windswept and he was flushed as he grinned at me. His denim jacket hung open to reveal one of the standard band T-shirts he tended to wear. The jeans he wore were ripped at the knee and I could see a flash of metal from his prosthetic leg.
As he shifted, my gaze went to the hand holding a bulging carrier bag. “You didn’t need to bring anything. I should have said that Lenny has enough food to feed the forty thousand.”
“No, he doesn’t,” came Bailey’s shout from somewhere behind me.
I twisted to face the room, shouting back playfully, “give over Bailey. You’ll give Sam the wrong impression about us.”
There was laughter as I returned my gaze to Sam. Oh fuck. What the hell was wrong with him?
His face was no longer flushed. In fact, he looked deathly pale. “Shit! Are you okay? Is it your leg?”
Panic flared inside my chest.
His mouth opened and closed, his gaze travelling to somewhere behind me. There was a flash of pain in their depths before he schooled his face. “Hello Bailey. It’s… good to see you.”