Rule's Property (The House of Rule Book 2)(10)

By: Lynda Chance

Courtney had made casual friends in St. Louis, but none like the life-long friends she'd left in Florida. Jill and Trish were roommates at The University of Florida. They'd been begging Courtney to apply to the college and come home, and when their third roommate had dropped out of school unexpectedly, leaving an unoccupied bedroom in their apartment, the two girls intensified their campaign to get Courtney to join them.

It had made Courtney feel a sense of belonging again, of having her friends back, and unexpectedly, she found herself becoming excited for the first time since losing her parents. It had taken years, but finally, she began caring about her future. She wanted to go to Florida.

With Justine's blessing and a promise of financial help, Courtney had applied and been accepted as a transfer student. The very next evening after she'd opened the acceptance letter and excitedly told her godmother the good news, she'd overheard an argument coming from the downstairs study. The voices had been so loud that she'd frozen in place.

Justine had been out shopping with friends and evidently, Nick and Damian had arrived before their mother had made it home. Courtney easily recognized their voices, the heated exchange between the brothers halting her in her tracks as she walked past the door that stood only a few inches ajar.

Nick's was the first voice that Courtney recognized and it was filled with such fury that her feet had immediately faltered.


"What the hell is wrong with you, Nick?" Damian had challenged.

"Nothing. There's not a goddamn thing wrong with me. What the fuck is wrong with you that you think it's acceptable for Courtney to go running off across the country?" At the sound of her name, Courtney had given up any pretense of not listening and leaned against the wall with her palms plastered to the wainscoting.

"She's twenty-years old," Damian continued to argue. "We let Erin leave when she was only eighteen."

"Erin stayed in state," Nick all but yelled. "Only a couple of hours away. This is totally different."

"Nick. Calm the fuck down and think this through. Garrett went to school in Texas and you didn't have a problem with that."

"I was too young to care . . . I was still in school myself. Besides, Garrett's a guy. Not the same thing."

As Courtney leaned against the wall, she actually heard Damian's sigh before he spoke. "So this is because she's a girl? It's a double standard?"

"Fuck, yes, it's a double standard."

"How are you going to explain that to her?" Damian demanded to know. "Because I'm sure as shit not going to tell her she can't go."

"I'm not explaining crap," Nick spit out. "I'm telling you that we're not paying for her tuition, not if she wants to go all the way to Florida. Not happening, end of fucking conversation."

There was a long moment of silence before Damian responded, "You're being unreasonable and I'm going to pretend that statement didn't just come from your mouth. The girl has been nothing but miserable for the past three years. You know it's true, it's plain for anyone to see." There was more silence while Courtney held her breath and waited before Damian continued, "This isn't a normal situation, Nick. Courtney wants to go back to Florida to be with her friends. Why in the hell wouldn't you want to give her a chance for happiness? She's a sweet girl, she deserves better in life than what she's been dealt."

"That's right, Damian," Nick hissed. "You think about it. She is a sweet girl."

The flow of words stopped and Courtney heard nothing for a moment.

"What are you doing?" Damian asked.

"I'm doing a search. University of Florida, right? That's the one? In Gainesville?"

"Yeah," Damian bit back.

It took several seconds and Courtney realized that Nick was looking the school up on the Internet. When he next spoke, he sounded even angrier than before. "No fucking way."

"What?" Damian asked resignedly.

"Goddamn fifty-thousand students. Fifty-thousand," Nick reiterated with heat. "You want to tell me how Courtney is going to fit in with so many people when she's used to nothing but a tiny community college and before that, private, all-girls schools?

"Nick. Let's fix a drink and sit down and talk about this more rationally."

"There's nothing to talk about and I don't want a fucking drink."

"What do you want, exactly?" Damian asked. "Mother's not going to believe we don't have enough money for the tuition. It's a trivial amount for us and mom knows it. What are you going to say to her?"

"I'm going to tell her the same damn thing that I'm saying to you. Courtney isn't ready for a school of that size. She's not ready to live that far from home--"

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