Home > Model Behavior (Wrecked Roommates, #1)(3)

Model Behavior (Wrecked Roommates, #1)(3)
Author: Kelsie Rae

Eyes widening, the surprised bartender looks me up and down. “Which means Milo or Jake is your older brother.”

I wave my finger through the air like a miniature celebratory flag. “Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.”

“So, you’re not sleeping with either of them?” he clarifies, his tone still laced with disbelief.

My face scrunches as I picture either of them touching me in a non-platonic way.

I shiver. “Why does everyone keep jumping to that conclusion?”

“Everyone?” he challenges.

“Hey! I need two rum and Cokes, please,” a voice orders from behind me. I turn to see a pair of beautiful girls dressed in tank tops and leather skirts with sky-high heels that make their legs go on for miles.

Day-um. I am so underdressed.

“Yeah, they’ll be right up,” Hot Bartender answers them before lowering his voice and adding, “I’ll be right back.”

“Take your time.”

The band starts a new song, and I watch the singer hum into the microphone before diving right into the first verse a few counts later. This one is an original, or at least I think it is. It’s soft and smooth with a haunting edge that makes me want to give the entire band a giant bear hug. Closing my eyes, I let the harmony wash over me and get lost in its lullaby while feeling more at home in a strange bar than I’ve felt in my apartment with Ian in a long time.

“All right. Big brother, it is,” the bartender announces, shaking me from my reverie while reminding me of our unfinished conversation. “The question is…which one fits the bill?”

“Ooo, I like this game.” Apparently, the alcohol’s making me way more intrigued in the current conversation than finding my asshole brother who has yet to make an appearance. I rest my elbows on the hard surface and lean closer. “Guess.”

Tapping his forefinger against his cleft chin, he considers his options. “Well…you have virgin skin, which immediately puts you in the Jake category, and you’re tiny as hell, which would also put you in the Jake category.”

I chew the inside of my cheek to keep from cracking up and giving the answer away because he’s so freaking far off with his investigative skills.

Detective, you are not, Sexy Bartender.

With a look of triumph, the guy wags his finger at my face. “Aaand there’s my answer.”

I pull back. “Excuse me?”

“The nervous tick.” He motions to me again. “Not only is it exactly like a certain tattoo artist I’m friends with, but the dimple etched into your cheek is a dead giveaway. Sorry, Drinks Anything Girl. But I think you just handed me the key to crack the code without even knowing it. I’m Gibbs, by the way.”

“Reese,” I return, offering my hand across the bar top for him to take. His calloused grip is warm and strong. But there isn’t a zing that I’d initially expected. Probably because my asshole ex has ruined me for all healthy relationships, but what do I know? With our palms still touching, I dip my chin to a freshly-inked skull tattoo along the back of his hand. “So, is that how you know my brother?”

Following my gaze, he inspects the piece of art before shrugging. “Nah. I knew him way before he ever started tattooing. But yeah, this is his work.”

“You knew him before he started tattooing?” I ask before ending our handshake to toy with the rim of my empty shot glass. “You sure about that? I feel like I’d remember you.”

“I’m not exactly someone you bring home to meet the folks.”

I want to laugh at the irony but push it aside as I divulge a family secret that I’m sure he’s already privy to if he knows my brother as well as he says he does. “We didn’t have folks at our house. We had a pair of alcoholic toddlers who expected us to clean up their vomit.”

“Touché.” There’s an intensity in his hazel eyes as he pins me in place, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it means or why I want to lean closer. Sensing my hesitation, he adds, “Maybe it was you he was keeping me from.”

A shy smile makes my mouth curve up on one side. “Maybe.”

“Hey, asshole. What are you doing talking to my baby sister?” a familiar voice growls from across the bar.

My neck snaps toward the culprit.

Why hello, Milo.

 

 

2

 

 

Reese

 

 

The sea of people part as my big brother stalks closer to me. He’s flanked by his friend and exact opposite, Jake Jensen. My pulse spikes. The combination has always reminded me of a pair of overprotective dogs determined to keep me safe. And it seems tonight isn’t any different, no matter how unnecessary it is.

Sliding off my stool in an attempt to diffuse the situation, I meet them in the middle of the room before they can get too close to the innocent bartender who has no idea how overbearing they can be. Then, I pull Jake into a quick hug.

“Hey, Jake,” I murmur as I peek over his shoulder toward Gibbs. When our gazes connect, he lifts his chin then disappears to help another customer at the opposite end of the bar.

Coincidence that he just ditched me? I think not.

It’s not like I blame him, though. Jake’s a teddy bear, but Milo’s a scary dude. He might not be a massive sledgehammer, but there’s always been something simmering just beneath the surface with him. Even in middle school, the kids would give him a wide berth. Like he might go off at any minute. And he has––more times than I can count.

He’s always been that way, though. But never with me. He loves me too much.

“Hey, Reese,” Jake returns before letting me go. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s…complicated,” I answer vaguely. Tilting my chin up, I look my big brother in the eye then wrap my arms around him in hopes of softening his rigid posture. Unfortunately, it’s like hugging a flagpole.

“Hey, Milo,” I say, keeping my tone light and easy.

“You,” he grits out. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”

“Milo––”

Jake wraps his arms around my waist a second time, pinning my back to his front. “You heard your brother. Give him a minute.”

Turning around in his arms, I poke Jake in the chest.

“To what?” I accuse. “Rip off an innocent guy’s head all because he talked to me? Uh-uh. No deal. I thought we’d moved past the overprotective brother crap––”

“Just give him a second, Reese. You don’t want to get in the way of…that.”

I pause and turn back to watch Milo stalk closer to Gibbs like a man on a mission. “Of what, exactly?”

“History,” Jake answers with a shrug. “They’re friends, though. It’ll be fine. Milo just needs to set a few boundaries. That’s all.”

“He always needs to set a few boundaries,” I huff, crossing my arms over my chest. “Maybe he should just tattoo a giant do not touch sign on my forehead. Do you think that would keep the boys away? Not like they’re interested in that kind of way in the first place, but you know what I mean,” I mutter under my breath.

Jake’s mouth quirks up on one side, but he doesn’t comment.

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