Still (Grip #2)(9) read online by Kennedy Ryan
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Still (Grip #2)(9)
Author: Kennedy Ryan

“Virus, by a guy named Israel Hammond.”

“Right.” Rhyson’s face animates. “When I went to Marlon’s show in Paris, he quoted like half a chapter to me back at the hotel.”

“That sounds right.” I smile, my heart swelling a little with pride in Grip’s passion, his convictions. “He says it was life-changing.”

“That’s our boy.” Rhyson chuckles, affection for Grip coloring his smile. “Somebody’s gotta change the world.”

“Yeah, well . . .” I bite my lip, training my eyes on the swirling pattern in the marble countertop. “Dr. Hammond is guest lecturing at NYU this semester.”

It gets quiet enough for me to hear the hum of the shiny appliances in the kitchen.

“He’s going to New York then?” I feel Rhyson’s eyes on my face but don’t look up to meet them quite yet.

“Yeah,” I answer before biting the bullet and looking up to meet his gaze. “And I’m going with him.”

Rhyson nods slowly, turning his mouth down at the corners.

“Never thought I’d see my little sister dropping everything to follow some man across the country.”

I’m too on edge to detect the teasing in his voice, so I’m already poised for battle, mouth locked and loaded with ammo, only to find him laughing at me.

“Bastard,” I mutter, fighting a smile.

“I’m not sure our mother would appreciate that.”

Rhyson’s smile holds, but his face ices over the way it always does when my mother comes up. My relationship with her isn’t nearly as complex and convoluted as his, and overall, on a scale of one to fucked up, my relationship with her has always been pretty fucked up. That said, I’ll never forget how she intervened to get me out of the mess with Parker. I’ll always remember those moments of naked vulnerability she and I shared that day we took him down. Things have continued to slowly thaw between us, even though we’re still not besties. It takes effort and patience and forgiveness—three things Rhyson has never had for our mother.

“You cut Dad some slack, Rhys,” I say, reminding him of the progress he and our father have made over the last few years. “Maybe you could cut her some, too.”

“Maybe you could mind your own damn business.” He shifts his cool stare over my shoulder.

I just keep looking at him because he knows that I, unlike half the people in this town, am not scared of him and can give as good as I get. He also realizes that I know how deeply our mother injured him. She injured me, too. They all did, but I kept on fighting to have them in my life. As hard as it’s been, it’s also been worth it.

“Bris, I’m sorry.” Rhyson runs an agitated hand through his already rumpled hair. “I . . . can we just talk about what you came here to talk about and leave her out of it?”

“Sure.” I lick my lips and set aside my fix-it reflex, that part of me that wants to get to the bottom of everything and make it work properly. Our family has never worked properly, so why I—who spent half my life on a therapist’s couch—think I can fix us, I have no idea, but I never stop trying.

“So you want to go with Marlon to New York, huh?” Rhyson forces a smile, deliberately shifting us to safer ground.

“Yeah.” My smile comes more naturally just because he said Grip’s name. There are two things absolutely right in my life: my career and my man. I would prefer not to ruin one for the other, but if Rhyson forces me to choose, I have every confidence I can find another way to make a living—though I know it won’t come to that.

First of all, I’m his sister.

Second of all, he needs me too badly. I’ve become indispensable. That, even beyond the blood and DNA we share, is my insurance policy.

“Look, I know there’s a lot going on with Prodigy,” I begin, prepared to build my case for why I could work from the moon as long as I have Wi-Fi.

“But nothing you can’t handle from New York,” Rhyson says before I can mount my defense.

“Right.” I sketch a quick frown before continuing. “And I know I need to be on site for certain things.”

“But you can just fly here for those and then go back to New York when you’re done.” Rhyson sips his coffee, regarding me steadily over the rim. “Between video conference, Wi-Fi, and every other technological advance at our disposal, shouldn’t be a problem.”

“I was hoping you’d see that.” Though I thought I would have to be the one to make him see it.

“And it’s just for the semester, right? Next semester you guys would be back in LA?”

“Yeah.” Out of habit I rub at my neck to ease the tension, but there’s no tension there. This conversation is going much better than I had hoped. “We’ll be back in December after finals.”

Rhyson kind of stole my thunder, took some of the wind from my sails. I was fully prepared to persuade, convince, and cajole him to my point of view, but he anticipated everything I had lined up. I do at least have one thing he probably didn’t see coming.

“I was thinking while I’m in New York, I could feel out some Broadway possibilities,” I say nonchalantly.

“Broadway?” Curiosity lights up his eyes. “For who?”

“Well, I know Kai wants to get into acting, and after her album drops, we’ve been talking about movie roles.”

“No nudity,” he cuts in, wearing his I mean it face. “I told you, Bris. Don’t even bring us a script that calls for her to do some fifty shades of fucked up shit with some dickhead actor. If I haven’t been clear—”

“The last time we discussed Kai’s movie career, you asked me to look for nun roles.” I layer my look and my words with sarcasm. “I think you were pretty clear.”

“Good,” Rhyson mutters, either not seeing or not caring how ridiculous he sounds. My sister-in-law will thank me later for saving her from wearing a habit onscreen.

“Kai’s one of those rare talents who can do it all,” I continue. “She sings, dances, acts, and is gorgeous.”

“Yeah, she’s pretty amazing.” Pride and love fill his eyes, and I’m so happy my brother didn’t listen to me when I questioned Kai’s motives, so happy neither of us settled for the matrimonial farce our parents showed us all those years.

“There aren’t many Broadway roles that require nudity.” I shrug and widen my eyes innocently. “Maybe my time in New York could open up a whole new avenue for Kai.”

The cogs are turning so hard in my brother’s head, I think I smell smoke.

“I love that idea, Bris.” He leans over to hook his arm around my neck and pull me closer. “And I think it’s great that you’re putting your relationship with Marlon first.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, and I know it’s your choice. He’s not that guy who would drag you across the country by your hair.”

“I had to force him to tell me he wanted me to go with him.” I smile at the memory. “He’s so concerned with me being happy and doing what I love.”

“Unlike me who would just say Kai, pack your shit, you’re coming with me to New York?” Rhyson laughs, but his voice rings with truth.

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