“Mom, no,” I whined. “This is so unfair.”
“Don’t be like that,” my mom said, shoving individually packaged snacks into her lunchbox at random. She started to close the bag until I handed her a bottle of juice. “Thanks,” she said. “Look, I know you are about to be in high school, and you think he is just an annoying brat, but he is your brother, and you love him. Just this afternoon, help me out and take him to the pool. I will make it up to you, I promise.”
I held up two fingers. “Two,” I said. My mom rolled her eyes.
“You have to be the only kid I know that blows through summer reading and keeps going,” she complained. “Fine. We will go to the book store tomorrow night. You better come back with a tan.” Now I knew she was kidding.
“Burn lines it is,” I said, pulling out my phone. I had to let my friends know I was now on babysitter duty with my little brother. My mom kissed my cheek and rushed out of the house to get to yet another unexpected extra shift at her job. I slumped down on the couch, messaging my friends. In less than 20 minutes, they all had an excuse about meeting me at the pool.
My phone buzzed with one last message, and my eyes went wide. Brandon said he could swing by later. I jumped up, cheering to myself. Today wouldn’t be a total waste if I got to hang out with my crush. Brandon was sweet and cool, even if he wasn’t the sharpest. He didn’t seem bothered by girls smarter than him, though.
I ran upstairs to get changed. When I got back downstairs and grabbed my bag from the hook, my brother stood at the kitchen table, shoving his own things into his backpack.
“Let’s go, brat. Can you even go that far on your bike?” I asked.
“Don’t be mean! Mom said you have to be nice to me,” Kent taunted. I rolled my eyes.
“Just hurry up,” I said. I grabbed my house key from its little hook next to the back door and headed out to get my bike. Kent followed behind me quickly. While he grabbed his bike, I locked up the house then we headed to the pool. We could have gone to the packhouse, but my friends didn’t like going there because the Alpha’s kid and his buddies were supposed to be jerks. I had never met him and hoped just to stay away from that kind of drama when I started high school in the fall.
It took twice as long as usual to get to the pool because my brother was so slow. When we finally got there, I pulled my phone out of my bag and saw a message from Brandon. He would be meeting me in less than an hour, and my stomach did a flip.
After locking our bikes up, I bought our passes, and we headed inside. I scanned the crowd, looking for anyone I knew but didn’t see anyone. We found a couple of chairs to drop our stuff onto, and Kent took off into the water. “Don’t drown!” I called to his back.
I sat down in my chair and pulled out a book to read; I had no interest in following him around in the water. I was happy to sit back and read while I waited for someone I did care about to arrive. I only got one chapter into my book before the lifeguards blew the whistle to signal break time. Kent came ambling over to grab his towel.
“Can I go hang out with Tyler?” he asked.
“I don’t care what you do,” I told him, trying to ignore him.
“You could like swim or something,” he said in a bored voice. I just shrugged, not removing my gaze from the page in front of me.
“I’ll do me, and you do you. We just have to be back for dinner, and my obligation is fulfilled,” I told him.
“Nerd,” he said before leaving me alone again.
I let myself get lost in my book for a little while longer before I realized I was starting to burn. I skipped right to the pink stage before the burn started to hurt in no time at all when I spent time outside. My stupid pale skin never figured out how to tan; it was a special skill at this point. On the other hand, Kent could walk out into the sun and have a beautiful bronze glow in minutes. I stuffed my book back into my bag and checked my phone for another message; nothing.
I decided to get in the water and at least check on Kent. The sun was hot today, and there weren’t many clouds providing shade. I also never met this Tyler kid, so I wasn’t sure who he was even with. I went to the steps and slowly treaded into the water. The pool wasn’t too busy today. I found Kent in the corner where the water turns from medium depth to the deep end; that was the area I liked to stay in any way being only slightly under five foot tall at age 14.
“Hey!” I called out to my brother as I got closer. Kent and his friend turned to me.
“Is that your sister?” the other kid asked; that had to be Tyler.
“Yea,” Kent said. He looked sideways at his friend.
“Keep her away from my brother,” Tyler told my brother.
“Who is your brother?” I asked, stopping in front of them. Before Tyler could answer that question, someone jumped in the water next to us. Water splashed up wildly, drenching me completely.
“That is my brother,” Tyler said with disdain as we all wiped the water from our faces. I turned around to see the culprit coming up from beneath the water’s surface. I had to swallow the immediate lump in my throat. He was hot.
He laughed as beads of water ran down his deeply tan torso. He pushed his fingers back through his wet hair that was just long enough to flop messily over his forehead. He had a cocky smile on his face, but judging by his physique, it was probably well earned.
“Michael,” he said. “The brother you should stay away from.”
“Quinn,” I replied. I started to wring my hair out, trying to ignore how good-looking he was.
“I don’t think we’ve met before. What grade are you in?” he asked.
“I start as a freshman in the fall,” I told him.
“I can’t watch this,” Kent said.
“My brother will try to get in her pants….” Tyler told him. I turned and looked at him with an outraged expression. These kids were in sixth grade!
Kent shrugged. “My sister is a prude. Won’t happen,” he said. They both turned and started swimming away to the deeper water. My cheeks heated up, and I felt eyes on me, making me self-conscious for the first time.
“Freshman, eh?” Michael said, getting my attention again.
“Yea,” I said. “Do I know you?” Looking at him again, he looked a bit familiar, but I couldn’t place where I had seen him. He just casually shrugged as he moved toward me.
“It’s possible,” he said. I froze as he got closer. As he approached, he turned and went around me, still facing me. He backed his way to the wall behind us and leaned against it. “How did you end up here all alone?”
“I’m not,” I said quickly. Michael raised an eyebrow. “I’m waiting for someone. Plus, my mom said I had to bring my brother.”
“How funny,” he said. “My mom made me bring my brother as well. I was waiting for someone, but they aren’t coming, so now I am bored.”
“Well, that is unfortunate,” I said. Michael gave me a weird look that made me uncomfortably warm in the cool water. “I was just coming over to check on my brother, so I am going to go….”
Michael’s face fell. He was pouting, but it was practiced and adorable. “You’re just going to leave me all alone? What if I drown?” He knew what his charm was and exactly how to use it.
It was my turn to raise an eyebrow. “I think that is the life guard’s job,” I said.
“Just keep me company until your friend gets here,” he bartered. I looked around, hoping for some way to get out of this politely. This guy was dangerous. I could just tell that he was the kind of guy that girls fell over themselves for. He knew he was good-looking, and that just made him more confident.
To my relief, I saw Brandon coming through the gate. “Sorry, my friend just got here. See you around,” I said, waving goodbye. I pushed my way out of the water as quickly as I could manage, heading toward Brandon.
“Just take your brother swimming. He is bored, and I am busy, Michael,” my mom argued.
“Of all the days the pump had to break,” I groaned. “Doesn’t he have friends somewhere?”
“He isn’t as sociable as you are. Just do it,” Mom demanded. “And I better not find out your flavor of the week was with you, and you ignored him the whole time!”
“Andi is not the flavor of the week!” I shot at her.
“Not a good one anyway….” Eros added.
“Go, Michael, now!” Mom instructed as she walked away to deal with who knows what. I sighed and headed to my room to find trunks.
When we got to the pool across pack territory, my brother immediately found a friend to play with. That was fine with me because I did convince Andi to come meet me, although she wasn’t happy that it wasn’t the packhouse.
I messed around on my phone, waiting for Andi to arrive. After waiting forever for her to show up, I was irritated when she sent a message saying she couldn’t come after all.
Without my girlfriend to entertain me, I decided it would be an opportune time to mess with my brother. I scanned the pool looking for Tyler. I found him off in the corner with another kid. A girl was coming near them, and it piqued my interest.
“Is that your sister?” Tyler asked his buddy.
“Yea,” the kid answered. I smirked as I got closer.
“Keep her away from my brother,” Tyler told him. Oh? That could be interesting. I got a better look at the girl talking to them and stopped. She was cute. Really cute.
“Who is your brother?” she asked. I didn’t give Tyler a chance to answer. I ran the last couple of steps to the pool and jumped in, splashing all of them. I laughed as I surfaced from the water.
There was no way she was just a freshman. I watched as Quinn waded out of the water. Her blue hair sort of shimmered in the sunlight. I didn’t recall seeing anyone with blue hair in our pack before. Did she really not know who I was? I didn’t think that was possible unless you lived under a rock.
I was enjoying the view when my wolf decided to pipe up. “She uh… fills out that bikini,” Eros said. I had to agree. She was kind of short but very well developed.
I pushed myself up out of the water and sat on the edge of the pool as I watched her wade toward the stairs. She rushed out of the water and over to some guy. I left out an annoyed huff.
“Competition,” my wolf said. “Let’s go take her; he can see a man gets what he wants.”
“Tempting, but I think I need to play this one smarter,” I told him confidently. Eros underestimated me. Rarely did I decide something was mine and let it slip away from me. Quinn intrigued me; she was interesting and not falling all over me. All her little escape act did was cement the fact that I wanted her.
“Time to break up with Andi,” Eros said. He was not at all upset about that. I was more annoyed he was bringing her up right now while I thought about getting Quinn’s attention.
“I’ll text her later,” I waved him off. My mind was spinning with all the ways I could interrupt little Quinn’s playdate with that guy. I was never so happy that the packhouse pool’s pump was broken.