Grip (Grip #1)(8)

By: Kennedy Ryan


It’s quiet for a moment. At first I think I’ve already lost him to whatever song he’s working on.

“Bris.”

Rhyson says my name the way he used to in those rare moments when we were just brother and sister, when we would play I Declare War on rainy days. When he wasn’t closeted away rehearsing for a concert or a tour. When he was just Rhys and I was his sister, and he called me “Bris.”

“I know it looks bad,” he continues. “I know it took a lot for you to come out here like this to see us, to see me. It must feel like we don’t care or we don’t want you here, but we do.”

Another pause.

“I do,” he says. “Just let me get through this project, and we can talk, okay? I’ll be home tonight.”

“When are you getting your own place?” I ask the first question that comes to mind because I’m not sure how else to respond to his unexpected candor. “I’m surprised you’re still under Grady’s roof.”

“Yeah, well after I came back from Full Sail, I just crashed at home and haven’t seen a reason to leave yet. Grady gives me a pretty wide berth. And hey, it’s free.”

Home.

The ease with which he speaks of Grady’s place here in LA as home tells me all I need to know. Rhyson doesn’t need anything “free.” He earned more money before he was fifteen than most will in a lifetime. He just loved it here so much, loved Grady so much, he came back after graduating from the storied production school in Florida.

I try not to resent my uncle for “taking” Rhyson from us. My parents, Mother especially, pour a steady stream of bitterness down my throat about Grady “interfering” with Rhyson. To hear Rhys tell it, which I did in court, Grady saved him. I didn’t know what to believe at the time, and I don’t much care. I love my parents, though even I recognize they’re insane, and I love my brother. I shouldn’t have to choose between them, which is why I’m here.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you at Grady’s place . . . your place . . . tonight,” I finally say.

“Great. Can I speak to Marlon?”

“Marlon?” I frown, wondering if I really should have been more cautious before getting in the car. “Um . . . someone named Grip picked me up.”

Rhyson chuckles, and I notice Grip’s mouth hitch to the side, even though he doesn’t turn his head.

“Marlon is his real name. You think his mom named him Grip?”

“How would I know what his mom named him?” I laugh and meet Grip’s eyes briefly, finding them smiling back at me. “Here ya go.”

I proffer my phone.

“For you, Marlon.”

He stops my heart for a beat with a stretch of white teeth and full lips.

Wow. That’s just not fair.

“’Sup, Rhys.” He nods, his smile melting a little every few seconds and a small pull of his brows making me wonder what Rhyson’s saying. “All right. Yeah. We’ll grab something to eat. I got you.”

He offers one more grunt and a mumbled “peace” before handing the phone back to me.

“Hey,” I say once I have the phone back.

“Yeah. Hey,” Rhyson says. “I actually did have dinner planned for us. You still like Mexican?”

“I love Mexican.” I’m pleasantly surprised that he remembers.

“Well, maybe we’ll get to try this place before you go back, but with the emergency on this project . . .” He sighs heavily. “Anyway Marlon will take you to eat and then bring you to Grady’s and stay with you ’til I get home.”

“He doesn’t need to do that.” I hate feeling like a burden to anyone, and right now, I feel like the egg baby project Grip has to keep alive. “I’ll be fine on my own.”

“Marlon doesn’t mind,” Rhyson assures me. “He has stuff to do for Grady anyway. He helps with one of his music classes.”

I just bet he does. Lies. I glance at Grip’s profile, a study in impassivity.

“Gotta go,” Rhyson says. “See you later if you’re still awake when I get home. I’m sure you’re exhausted.”

“Yeah. More hungry than anything.”

“Marlon will take care of you.” A voice in the background interrupts Rhyson. “Hey, I need to go. See you tonight.”

“Okay. Tonight.” I hold the phone to my ear for a few seconds after he’s gone just because I don’t want to talk.

I finally drop the phone to my lap, processing the longest conversation I’ve had with my twin brother in five years. I have no idea what’s going through Grip’s mind. It’s too quiet, so I break the silence with the lightest question I can think of.