Too Close to Doubt Chapter 1


“You heard that last night, right?” Bursting into Bryan’s side of the house as soon as he opened the door, I grinned when he groaned.

“And this morning.” He rolled his eyes. “You were deliberately loud this morning.”

“Because I’m the best alarm clock ever and you needed to start getting ready anyway.” We had shopping to do.

All our stuff had finally been moved into the house, but it was surprising how many random things we’d needed with so much extra space.

Especially all the bathrooms.

Heading into their kitchen, I plopped down on my stool by the kitchen counter. The only thing the kitchen had been missing was some kind of island with bar seating. Since the only place to sit in the kitchen had been at the table, I’d just stuck a stool in the corner on both sides.

“Your quickie means we don’t have time for breakfast, so should we grab something while we’re out?” Bryan’s blush said I was right on the money.

Shaking his head, he walked over to the fridge and pretended to look at something. “You’re crazy.”

“And you were quiet too long. There’s only one reason you’d be so absolutely silent for nearly ten minutes.” He’d either been wearing the ball gag or his mouth had been stuffed with something else entirely because we hadn’t heard him orgasm.

Well, I hadn’t heard him.

Jeremy had been being a fuddy-duddy, saying that he needed to get more work done. Which was why he and Maddox weren’t going shopping with us. If the thousand hours a week kept up I was going to say something, but Bryan said they needed to get used to the house first and that I should wait.

He was probably right.

Jeremy and I had walked through the money a thousand times and logically we both knew there was nothing to worry about, but I had a feeling he needed to see that first.

I just wasn’t sure I had the patience to wait that long.

Still looking slightly pink, Bryan shrugged. “Let’s get something later. Did you bring your list?”

“Uh, no. We’re getting stuff for the house. That’s a feel it out as you go project.” He rolled his eyes like I was insane.

“That’s a terrible way to do it. You’re going to end up with all kinds of random things like a dozen soap dishes.” He was starting to sound like Jeremy.

“Then we’ll rotate. I was already going to talk to you about that.” Ignoring his groan, I charged in. “I know we thought regular bathroom decorations would be the most practical for the basement bathroom, but I want at least one that’s fun. So I thought about buying two sets for one of the bathrooms, and I’d just trade them out if someone was going to stay over.”

The bathroom that joined the two sides of the house was going to be very boring and professional-looking since clients would be using that one, but we still had a few others to pick from.

“At first glance, the upstairs bathrooms make the most sense, but then we might end up with both of us buying several sets of fun shower curtains and stuff and that doesn’t make fiscal sense. So how about we do the basement?” Before he could say no, I kept going. “That way if our little friends come over it will already look cute, and if someone else comes over who might wander around the house, we’ll just change things out.”

“I guess…” He was clearly weakening. “We just have to be careful how much we spend or they’ll go nuts.”

I rolled my eyes. “Ugh, don’t say budgets. I’m dreaming about numbers.”

He immediately looked worried. “Is everything okay, I mean—”

I felt bad about making him worry and interrupted him. “No, there’s nothing wrong. I think it’s just the reality of everything setting in and Jeremy’s feeling stressed. He keeps going over the numbers repeatedly even though they’re fine.”

“Really?” Bryan started walking toward me. “It’s all good?”

Nodding, I raised my hand in the Vulcan greeting. “I swear I will answer nothing but the truth.”

His lips quirked. “That’s not the Boy Scout salute or how you swear on a Bible.”

I snorted. “Vulcans are much better to swear on because they take everything very seriously.”

He scoffed, but I could see a faint smile he was trying to hide. “You must have been dropped on your head as a baby.”

Quite possibly.

“There is no definitive information on that, so I cannot Vulcan swear to that.” Bryan finally giggled.

“Come on. Your insanity could last all day and we’ve got stuff to do this afternoon.” He could have meant housework or something fun, but I had a feeling he was talking about studying.
Groaning, I got off the stool and followed him out to their front door. “Don’t say that. I have to start a stupid project.”

He giggled. “Group project?”

I shook my head. “No, thank god he’s letting us decide if we want to do it as a group or on our own. The people in my class are too insane and would have driven me nuts.”

As he closed the door behind us, he gave me a curious expression. “Why?”

“Why are they driving me insane? Or why are they insane to begin with? Oh, or why did I want to do the project by myself?” There were too many options to just randomly guess.

Bryan snorted. “All of the above, smart-ass…and which car are we taking?”

I shrugged. “Yours. I think it has more trunk space.”

He groaned. “Jeremy and Mad are going to kill us.”

I waved that off as I headed over toward the car. “First of all, a blow job will fix a lot of frustration, and second, we just have to stay on budget and they can’t complain.”

Jeremy had been specific about the budget, not about what I’d needed to look for. He’d been wonderfully vague about that, so I could get away with bringing home just about anything as long as at least part of my haul was designed for a bathroom.

Letting out an overly dramatic sigh as he unlocked the door, he frowned at me. “You’re going to end up getting me spanked.”

“Well, you’re welcome and I’m glad to help.” As I beamed and climbed in the car, he stuck his tongue out at me.

When we were seated and buckled, he glanced over. “Where to first?”

“Garage sales.” Rubbing my hands together, I grinned. “We’ll see how much bathroom stuff we can get for a steal, and then we’ll head to the used stores and the consignment shops.”

Jeremy and I had done a great job finding stuff for the apartment for under budget and I wasn’t going to ruin our fabulous streak. From the couch to the house, we’d gotten good deals and I wasn’t going to blow it by buying everything from big box stores.

“Let’s go. We’ve got hunting to do.” Pointing out the windshield, I leaned forward. “Charge!”

“I’m gonna end up going to jail for killing you.” Bryan sighed again. “I don’t look good in orange, and I can’t bring my toys to jail.”

“Then figure out how to hide my body better, genius.” Really, anyone who ended up in jail for killing someone hadn’t watched enough true crime shows.

“Besides, all you’d have to do is call Cody and bribe him with waffles or something and he’d help you.” We had the best friends ever.


“Jackpot.” The first few garage sales we’d found had been crap, but this was a yard full of odd knickknacks and little shelves. “Look. Toward the back. There’s a table full of bathroom stuff.”
Bryan leaned over the passenger seat. “Look in the garage. There’s a ton of toys.”

I started reaching for the door, then stopped and glanced over at Bryan. “What’s the plan again?”

He sighed but started spitting it out, so he knew it’d been a good idea. “If anyone asks about the toys, we say that your parents had a whoops baby and you thought it would be fun to get a few things so they know you’re happy for them.”

“Perfect.” We’d practiced it a few times on the drive around town, but we’d decided it would be my kid sister because I improvised better than he did. If we put him in charge of the lie, the first time someone asked an unplanned question he’d just stare at them with wide eyes and would give the whole thing away.

“And the second thing you have to remember?” I poked him when he tried to get out of the car without repeating the mantra.

“No mercy. Wimps don’t get deals.”

“Very good. Now let’s go.” He’d nearly paid a fortune to the first lady for shit we really didn’t need just because she’d been a good hustler. “And stay close.”

Or fuck knew what we’d bring home.

He started to bitch as he shut the door and walked around the car, but I shook my head. “I have two words for you. Used toiletbrush.”

Bryan stopped. “I think that’s three words. Toilet brush. Used toilet brush.” He kept shaking his head. “No, I’m sure it’s three words.”

“No, it’s one of those compound words.” Waving off the argument I could see in his eyes, I grabbed his hand and dragged him toward the yard. “You’re worrying about the wrong thing. Don’t buy useless shit and let me do the negotiating. Remember. Don’t get too excited. Housewives can smell fear.”

Between dealing with kids and husbands and those mean church ladies, they looked sweet, but they were like sharks.

“You’re insane.” He kept saying that, but we needed to work on his vocabulary because he kept mixing up the words “fabulous” and “interesting” with things like “crazy.”

“Thanks.” Smiling, I headed toward the lawn tools at the edge of the yard.

Bryan shot me a look, whispering quietly, “Why are we looking at tools?”

We’d already purchased stuff to keep the yard looking good, so it was a legitimate question. Kind of. We’d already talked about this, but it was his first time on the hunt so I had to be lenient. “You can’t go right for the good stuff unless there’s already a crowd. We have to wander so we don’t look desperate.”

“I’m starting to think we should have just gone to Walmart.” His mouth said Walmart, but his eyes kept darting toward the garage. “What other toys do you think she has in there?”

And I had him.

“More bathtub toys would be great. I think I see something on that table.” That was just a guess, but it kept him going.

“You think?” He looked back toward the table that had the bathroom stuff on it. “I think that blue set is kind of nice.”

Pointing to some kind of tool that looked like its mommy was a weed eater and its daddy was a chain saw, I nodded. “Sure, we’ll start wandering over there. Just don’t be obvious.”

The lady running it was definitely a shark.

She’d cornered this guy who’d made the mistake of looking at Christmas ornaments too long. He was a goner, but it kept the shark from us, so it was an acceptable sacrifice.

“No eye contact. He’s managed to escape.” Bryan would’ve gotten eaten alive too, but luckily, he had me to save him.

Wandering through the yard full of crazy stuff, we finally made it over to the table with the bathroom stuff like soap dishes and shower curtains. She was either a professional yard saler or hoarder.

Possibly both, judging by the shelves in her garage.

“She’s a pro. Watch out and don’t pass out when I start to negotiate.” He was definitely the weak link here.

“She’s a hooker?” Thankfully, he asked that quietly enough no one else heard.

“No, moron. Does she look like a hooker?” She was probably somebody’s grandma.


I was still getting a blank look from Bryan, so I carefully gestured around the yard. “She’s doing this as a job. She probably sells stuff online too. That’s why she has so much of it.”

I could almost see the light bulb going off over his head.

“Here she comes. Don’t look too interested.”

Let the games begin.

Seven yard sales, three used furniture stores, and one quick trip to Walmart later, it became clear we might have gone just a little overboard.

“Do you think they’re going to believe that we stayed on budget?” Bryan glanced over to the passenger seat where I was perched on several cushions.

“No. But that’s why we have the receipts organized and ready for inspection.” I shifted and pulled against the seatbelt, trying not to tip over again. “Okay, where were we going to stop for food?”

He narrowed his gaze before focusing back on the road. “We look like we’re living out of my car.”

I snorted. “There isn’t anywhere to even lie down in here. No one will believe you’re living out of it. They’ll think you have a hotel room somewhere.”

Really, he just didn’t think logically sometimes.

His eyes stayed glued to the road, but I could almost feel how much he wanted to roll them. “Fine.”

“Donuts, here we come.” I pointed up ahead. “Take this right. I want donuts.”

He shook his head. “It moved across town. Someone said they needed more space, so they’ve got a new place over in that strip mall next to all those crafty shops.”

Well shit, we’d been over there an hour ago.

“But it’s a great location. Couldn’t they have worked something out?” I glanced down the street as we passed it. It’d been one of the only places within walking distance of campus that sold anything close to what the coffee shop did.

There were probably splitting the customer base, but they were on opposite sides of the campus, so it couldn’t have been too bad considering how busy the coffee shop had been lately.

“I guess McDonald’s?” That didn’t sound fabulous, but it was better than nothing.

As we turned into the parking lot and headed for the drive-thru, Bryan started tapping on the steering wheel. “So did you…I mean…did you want to watch cartoons later?”


“Yes.” Then my excitement came crashing down. “But I have to start that project first.”

Pulling into the absurdly long line, he stopped, then turned to me. “What’s it about?”

“I have to put together a pretend business. One girl wants to do this dinner and movie theater combo idea that has tables and wine like you see in some of the bigger cities. The professor said it’s supposed to be for a local business, but I think she’s overestimating how many people would use something like that every night.”

He nodded. “Yeah, I think you should aim for something people would use more often or some kind of company that has staying power.”

“Yeah.” I shrugged. “But figuring out what will be hard. I know business is supposed to be a flexible degree, but it’s so vague, and this is the first topic that isn’t about corporate businesses.”

He giggled. “Yeah, I can’t see you in some power suit screaming at people.”

“I’m entertaining and loveable and cute, not power suit boring.” That just sounded painful.

Bryan nodded as we waited. “How about looking at your classes and seeing what other majors they could be used for? I mean, if you don’t like business, there’s plenty of time to switch.”
With Dad handing over our college funds, I wasn’t so worried about the wasted money anymore, but that would just mean picking out another major.

“Maybe.” Deciding to change topics, I craned my neck and tried to look around the other cars. “We’re never going to move.”

Bryan thought for a moment. “Waffles at home?”

Oh, that was a better idea. “It’s close enough to lunch that the guys will probably be hungry again.”

Because I was starving and, unless he’d been snacking, Jeremy had only grabbed toast before heading into his office.

Bryan gave me an excited grin. “What about those peanut butter chocolate chip ones you made a few weeks ago?”

“Oh, that will be much better than a biscuit.” Waving my hands toward the exit, I started bouncing on the cushions. “Home, Jeeves.”

He snorted. “Yes, Master.”

I pretended to shiver. “Oh, I like that. Say it again.”

The grumbling under his breath as we aimed for home said there was a distinct possibility that he’d kill me before we arrived.

I loved living dangerously.

Want to read the rest?

Jeremy and Kevin’s house is almost perfect. Along with more room to spread out, it comes with new ways to drive Bryan crazy and playrooms for a little and a middle. But change also comes with new trials for in the brothers.

As Kevin sees their world evolving, he loves knowing that they’ve taken their first steps toward a true grown-up future together, but that brings up more questions. Will it change their relationship? What will the future look like?

When everyone around him has found their passion in life and is sprinting full-steam ahead toward their goals, will he ever figure out what he’s supposed to be doing?

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