Vera led the guys to the living room where Ethan and Bri's dad sat talking and after a short round of introductions, Daniel suggested everyone pitch in and help get dinner ready. Brianna was setting the table when Ethan made his way over and kissed her chastely on the cheek.
"Hey beautiful. I missed you."
"Hey." was all she said back, her mind preoccupied with ten thousand other things.
"Need any help?"
"No, that's okay Ethan. Thank you anyway."
There was a moment of awkwardness as they just stood there looking at each other.
"Something wrong Bri? You've been awfully quiet and distant since we got here."
She shook her head.
"No. I'm just tired." she lied.
The truth was she had been thinking about Nate. She thought she would never see him again and when he had left all of those years ago, he had taken a piece of her heart with him, whether he knew it or not. Seeing him again stirred up all kinds of conflicting emotions inside of her that she needed to work through and get on with her life. Her life that now included Ethan.
Nate and Brianna had known each other since they were very small and in truth she had idolized him and put him on a pedestal. Whenever everyone had fawned all over Zoey, Nate made Bri feel special; wanted. He had been her best friend, her ally, and the man she wanted to marry.
The day they said goodbye was one of the most painful in her life. Brianna had cried and begged him not to leave her.
"Run away with me." sobbed fourteen year old Brianna as he hugged her tightly.
"I can't Bri. Please don't cry." he had told her, tears in his own eyes.
But she had cried. She cried for weeks; refused to eat, did nothing but sleep and mope. Seeing him again replaced that piece of her heart, the one she thought was gone for good; and honestly, it scared the hell out of her. Lost in her thoughts, Brianna finished setting the table, then gave Ethan a peck on the cheek.
"Let's go help out in the kitchen." she suggested, not wanting to be alone with him and her inner guilt.
The kitchen was a flurry of activity as everybody hustled in every direction.
"Brianna darling, you come help Nathan with the pie. Eric, you help Aiden with the vegetables." Vera snapped as they entered. Ethan shot Bri a longing look and she glanced away guiltily.
"He even looks like a pansy boy." Nate commented under his breath as soon as Bri got close enough to hear.
"Stop it!" she hissed, glaring angrily. "I like him, what is so damned wrong with that?"
Nate cocked his brow thoughtfully at her.
Bri sighed in frustration and went to work pounding and kneading the dough for the pie crust.
"Take it easy there slugger. It's only pastry, what'd it ever do to you?" he chuckled, knowing it would raise her ire.
Before she could give a smart ass reply, a sickeningly sweet voice called out form the front door.
"I'm here!" Zoey shouted.
Bri's parents and brother dropped everything in a second and ran from the room like trained puppies, leaving behind Brianna, Ethan and Nate.
"Aren't you going to jump through hoops too?" she grumbled to Nate, pounding the dough a little harder in her frustration.
Ethan stared wide eyed as Nate laughed.
"Have I ever? You know that's not my style Brianna."
Then he leaned close to her ear, so only she could hear and whispered, "Besides, I only have eyes for one Taylor sister."
Ethan cleared his throat loudly, making Bri jump. Her heart beat a mile aminute and she wasn;t sure if it was form Nate's words or Ethans being witness.
"Anything I can help you with?" Ethan asked in a hard, territorial voice.
"Naw, we got it covered Sparky."
Ethan turned crimson with anger at the insult and Bri quickly rushed to douse the flames. Going to his side, she took his hand in hers and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
"He didn't mean anything by it Ethan, really. Come on and I'll introduce you to my sister."
She tugged him out of the kitchen and to the small crowd gathered around Zoey. When Bri saw her sister her heart sunk to her knees. Zoey was an absolute vision of loveliness.
Her petite five foot five frame was clad in ice blue spandex trimmed with white fur. Her porcelain skin positively shone, her long golden hair tousled by the wind and her cheeks and nose bright pink from the cold, making her even more sexy ( if that was even possible) and her ice blue eyes exactly matched her clothes.
Glancing at Ethan, Brianna groaned at his look of enrapturement, almost seeing the drool run down his chin.
"Oh Brianna!" Zoey exclaimed sweetly, pulling her into an embrace. "You look positively fabulous!"
Bri rolled her eyes and muttered a greeting.
"And who is this hottie?" her sister asked, giving Ethan a once over.
"This is my friend..." Bri began but was cut off abruptly.
"Ethan Brindle." he finished for her, charmingly extending his hand. When Zoey took it, he brought her hand to his lips and kissed it.
Anger bubbled inside Bri like a raging cauldron as she watched them blatantly flirt with each other.
"Hey Zo." Nate said, coming behind Bri and laying a tender hand on her shoulder.
"Oh Nate!" Zoey said breathlessly, batting her eyelashes and smiling. "You're so handsome and grown!"
Her tone had dropped a few octaves to sultry with irked Bri beyond comprehension. Having enough, Bri threw her hands up in frustration and stalked out of the room and up to her own. After throwing the lock, she lay on the bed and cried. Damn, she knew she was acting like a baby but she hated the way Zoey had everyone eating out of the palm of her hand. Feeling sorry for herself, she cried herself to sleep. She was awakened a few hours later by a knocking on the door.
"Who is it?" she asked, groggily, trying to grind the sleep form her eyes.
"Are you okay?" Ethan asked from the other side.
"No. Go away."
"Honey, please let me in."
"Go back to ogling my sister and leave me alone!"
"Brianna, that's not fair!"
"I'll tell you what's not fair Ethan," she sobbed, the tears making another unwanted appearance. "Just... go away. I want to be alone."
"Stop this dammit!" he shouted.
She stalked to the door and flung it open like a wild woman.
"Don't you tell me to stop! You have no fucking clue what its like to always be second best!
"Not pretty enough, not good enough, not interesting enough! Well screw you!"
"Quit acting like such a fucking baby Brianna." Ethan shouted back at her.
Before she could stop it, her hand came up and cracked him loudly across the face.
"I said go away." she growled, breathing heavily.
"Bipolar ass." he grumbled, as he stomped away rubbing his cheek where she'd hit him. As Bri went to close the door, Nate stealthily slipped inside.