“Are you sure this is necessary?” I ask Evie for the tenth time in the last five minutes.
“Why are you against this so much? You should be excited. Passing the torch is a big deal. You’ve seen it happen three other times and now it’s your turn. Plus, Max was excited he was able to come and witness the event.”
No, Max is coming to make sure I don’t screw it up.
The same way he showed up last year when I was elected president of the Kappa house. He came to give me a lecture on what makes a good president. How to act. How to lead.
All things I learned from watching him my first year as a Kappa. He liked to keep me close, for obvious reasons. He still didn’t trust me, didn’t like the fact I was dating Evie, but my feisty girl put him in his place.
Time and time again.
She still does.
And the fact we’re moving closer to him next month has me on edge. But that’s what Evie wants, and I want to give her the world.
Which is the other reason I’m on edge. Because I know Max is going to want to punch me. Hard. Over and over again after I ask him for permission to marry his baby sister.
Mrs. Palmer and I sat down last time we visited her. She was over the moon. I knew she would be. She’s been dropping hints for a while now. It started after Max had a surprise wedding before moving away. She was less subtle after Willow and Finn’s big ceremony. But her hints became more of questions once both of them started having kids of their own.
I can’t even fathom a little version of myself running around yet. Maybe someday.
My parents have been a little more subtle about things. It took my mom some time to get over what really happened between me and Tandy, to accept that I had moved on, and to welcome Evie into our lives. Too long if you ask me. Especially after what Tandy put me through, but that’s water under the bridge now. My dad, on the other hand, fell in love with Evie the moment he met her. He knew she was it for me.
And told me as much one night after my mom and Evie fell asleep. He made me promise to always treat her well, to put her needs first, and to treasure every moment we share. Unlike Max, there were no threats, only advice and wisdom pouring out of him.
Which is why I warned him that I might have a few bruises at graduation this weekend. Because I know that part of respecting and treasuring Evie, means I need Max’s blessing.
Well, not really need so much as want.
“There’s the man of the hour!” Max announces as he walks into the kitchen of the Kappa house where Evie and I are seated at the island.
“Maxy!” Evie bounces off her seat and rushes into her brother’s waiting arms.
It took a while for things to get back to normal between them. In fact, if it weren’t for Max’s wife, I’m not sure they would have the relationship they do today. She’s softened him, in a good way. Love does that to people, and he loved her in secret for four years. Three and a half of which he spent miserable without her by his side.
I’m actually surprised she’s not with him today. Though, with two kids at home, I’m sure it’s hard to travel together.
“Baby sister,” he states, knowing he’s going to get a rise out of her.
“I’m not a baby anymore, Max, and you know it. I’m graduating for fucks sake.”
“And I see you still talk like a sailor when you get angry.”
“I get that from you.”
Their witty banter continues while I sit there, watching silently. It’s the same every time they get together. It’s’ worse when Willow is with them. She antagonizes both sides just to rile them up.
“Get over here, Leo, and give me a hug.”
Rising, I meet Max halfway and slap him on the back. He mimics my actions before pulling me in for a real hug.
“How did things go this year?” he asks as he releases me.
Things went better than I anticipated. The first year after Max and his crew left was challenging. The house survived but a lot of the members left because the leadership was lacking. The guy chosen to succeed Max as president didn’t follow through on his promises. He wanted to party so that’s what he did.
But we pulled it back together and have regained our status on campus as one of the best fraternities to be a part of. Our brotherhood is stronger than it’s ever been and I’m confident I’m leaving them in capable hands.
“I’ve heard good things. I’m proud of you.”
Proud of me.
I never thought I’d hear Max utter those words. Not to me at least. Though, I have to admit, when it comes to anything Kappa-related, I’ve tried to make decisions based on what I thought Max might do. Because deep down, I do want him to be proud of me.
Because I need him to accept me.
Not only as a Kappa brother, and fellow presidential legacy, but also as his own brother.
“I’m happy to hear that.”
“You ready to pass the torch?”
I am. More than ready. I want to get this out of the way, get through finals weeks, graduate, then ask Evie to be my wife. And if I have to do all that with bruises, so be it.
It’s now or never.
“I am but can we talk first?”
Max raises his eyebrow but nods his head in agreement. After kissing Evie on the head, and promising we’ll be back in a few minutes, I lead Max downstairs to his old bedroom, the room that’s now mine.
“Looks better than when I stayed here,” he says, motioning around the room.
“That’s because you only slept here when you were too drunk to drive. I had to look at the walls every day, so I spruced the place up a bit.”
New carpeting, fresh paint, and all new furniture changed the entire vibe. Not to mention, it was all necessary after the beating this room took the last few years.
“So what’s on your mind? Need help with the speech?”
“No, actually this has nothing to do with the house.” I clear my throat to continue but the set of Max’s jaw has me pausing a beat. Chancing a quick glance at his hands I’m happy to find them resting casually at his side and not clenched into fists. Yet. “I want to talk to you about Evie.”
“Are you sure you want to do this without any witnesses?”
“Brave man. Continue.”
“I love your sister.” He nods. “And I’d like to ask for your blessing to marry her.”
His hands are still relaxed but his face is a different story. If looks could kill, I’d be bleeding out on the floor right now.
“You want my blessing?” The surprise in his voice has me lifting my eyes to meet his. “Why?”
That’s a good question but I wasn’t prepared for him to ask me that. I just assumed I needed his blessing.
“You’re her brother. Her protector.”
“That’s where you have it wrong, Leo. You’re her protector. You have been for years. But yes, I will always be there for her and beat the shit out of you if you ever hurt her. Still, you don’t need my permission. I’m not her father.”
His words startle me. Mr. Palmer died before I had the chance to meet him. Max has always acted like a father figure, much to Evie’s dismay, so to hear him admit that’s not his role is a bit of a shock.
“If you want my blessing, you have it, but you don’t need it. My sister loves you. I may not understand it, but it’s the truth. And I already know you asked my mom, who was more than likely ecstatic.”
“Then welcome to the family, kid.”
This was too easy.
“Did you think I was going to punch you?”
Shit! I said that out loud.
“That does seem to be how you express yourself.”
“Not anymore. I have two little girls who watch my every move. I can’t be throwing punches every time the mood strikes. Plus, the misses may have threatened to not have sex with me if punched you.”
“So you knew I was planning on asking you?”
“I had an idea.”
Of course, he did.
“When are you asking her?”
“I was thinking about graduation night.”
“Max, you realize we’ve been together for almost four years now, right? That’s not exactly soon. If I thought she would have said yes three years ago, I would have asked her then.”
“And I would have kicked your ass that night to prevent it from happening.” His voice is light, but his words are clearly not meant to be a joke. “She won’t expect it on graduation night, you know.”
“And all our friends and family will be there.”
“And I’m not the only one that loves her like a sister.”
Should I have asked everyone for permission? Am I going to get my ass beat?
“And you’re willing to take the chance that no one is going to beat you to a bloody pulp?”
“For your sister, I’d let everyone get their shots in and I wouldn’t even fight back. If that’s what it takes to prove I’m worthy of her.”
“That’s what you did the first time I hit you. You took the punch.” I nod, the memory of the day Evie and I announced our relationship flooding my mind. It feels like a lifetime ago. “I knew you were worthy then, Leo. So did everyone else.”
Max pats me on the back as he passes me.
“The only person you have to worry about now is Evie.”
Oh, my angel knows I’m worthy. And I can’t wait to make her officially mine for the rest of my life.
Will Max ever stop being so overprotective of the women he loves? My guess would be no. And ***spoiler*** he’s probably going to lose his mind when he starts having kids. But before we get to that, you’re going to want to pick up Torrid Little Passion. Brady’s love story is epic! And you get to find out where he disappears to all the time, and most importantly, why.