Too Close to Risk Chapter 1

Jeremy

“It’s a peanut butter sandwich. Honest. I just toasted it.” Kevin looked too earnest. He sincerely believed he could claim it as a sandwich.

“That’s two slices of chocolate cake with chocolate peanut butter between them.” There was no way in hell I’d let him claim that insanity as a sandwich.

He huffed then walked over to the doorway of the kitchen and called out. “Maddox, what’s the definition of a peanut butter sandwich?”

Laughter floated through the house, but the bastard gave Kevin exactly what he wanted.

“A traditional sandwich means two slices of a bread-type substance and a peanut-based filling. With or without a jelly-ish or sweet substance like honey or a banana.” Maddox’s voice carried through the house as he got closer.

When he finally came into the kitchen, Bryan on his heels, he laughed. “That technically meets the definition.”

“Oh. I want one.” Bryan’s eyes widened as he walked over to the counter.

When he got too close, Kevin narrowed his eyes and pulled the plate out of reach. “This one is mine. But I’ll make you another.”

Nodding, Bryan inched closer again, seemingly unaware of the danger he was in. “I bet it would be good for the coffee shop. You could do different flavors.”

I smelled a taste test marathon just around the corner.

Another step closer had Bryan pressed against Kevin’s side and he rested his head on Kevin’s shoulder. He was learning from the best because it looked almost innocent. “I bet it’s really good. Do you think it’s best when the cake is fresh or the day after you bake it?”

And there was the sigh.

Yep, he was finally learning how to be just as manipulative as his best friend.

A baking marathon and he was getting the first piece.

It was impressive.

“It smells good too.” The brat even rubbed his cheek against Kevin, sighing again and acting like he wanted to cuddle. “You think of the best food.”

Kevin finally huffed. “Fine. We can split this one.”

As Bryan barely managed not to grin, Kevin pouted at Maddox and me. “Then it would just be a snack. A half of a peanut butter sandwich is only a snack.”

Maddox choked on the laughter he was trying to hide and it took him a second to remember how to breathe. “He’s not wrong.”

He was such a sucker.

As he reached for the knife to cut it, Bryan couldn’t seem to resist helping Kevin’s cake insanity. “Is there a jelly that goes with white cake and regular peanut butter?”

Kevin went completely still before nodding slowly. “There has to be. We’ll have to taste it on different flavors of bread-type products and then there was your fresh or day-old question. That’s very good. Yes, we’ll make a chart.”

God. We were going to be eating nothing but cake for a week.

Glaring at Maddox, because this was all his fault, I crossed my arms over my chest. “You had to encourage him? You just had to?”

He nodded, delighted in the chaos he’d helped create. “I just answered him honestly.”

That was not the point.

“That is not a peanut butter sandwich.” I would go to my grave swearing that, but Maddox shrugged.

“I think that’s a you problem.” Maddox’s cheeky response had Kevin and Bryan trying not to laugh and doing a poor job of covering it up. “Yep, now I want one too.”

Kevin perked up, loving that he corrupted Maddox and absolutely loving how everyone was responding to his creation. “I need to make sure I get the right shaped pans, but this one works for now. I’m going to bring some to work tomorrow and show Mrs. Montclair. She’s going to love it.”

Bryan’s eager nod said he had no doubt about it. “Make sure to explain to her about the variations and how easy it’s going to be to put together. She’ll like that.”

She seemed to like everything Kevin came up with, so Bryan was probably right.

“She liked the waffle sandwich idea.” Kevin’s brain had jumped from excited to planning, and that had him studying the mess in front of him with a serious expression that just made me want to kiss him. “It’s versatile and those savory waffles turned out great. But I still think we could come up with some more variations on the spices.”

Cake for one week and waffles for the next.

Great.

We were all going to have to roll to work by the time he actually opened the coffee shop.

Maddox didn’t seem to have a problem with that, though, because he walked over to the boys and wrapped his arms around both of them as he peered at the sandwich they’d created. “You know, different types of chocolate nut spreads have very different flavors. We have to research that too.”

I wasn’t sure if he was right about that or not, but I had a feeling we were going to need more shelves for bakery research supplies.

It would’ve been easier to put my foot down if they’d been wrong. He’d come up with some fun twists on breakfast and lunch ideas, and he really did need to explore what he was going to offer before they finalized the menu.

Fuck.

“Let’s try more vegetables on the sandwiches this time.” Could you die from malnutrition by just eating cake and peanut butter waffles? “The fancy lettuces would probably look pretty.”
And hopefully had more nutrition.

Heads started bobbing as everyone got into the idea of making the waffle sandwiches more visually appealing. As Kevin slowly handed over Bryan’s piece of his monstrosity like he was giving away the crown jewels, Bryan smiled excitedly. “Tomatoes always look pretty in pictures and that guy we always see in the library from somewhere in Europe—I forget where he said—but he always has cucumbers on his sandwich.

Kevin scoffed. “You forgot where he’s from because he keeps changing it with every retelling.”

They knew the weirdest people.

Frowning, Kevin shook his head like he just couldn’t explain it. “I think he’s from Indiana or someplace weird like California.”

Huh?

I wasn’t going to ask.

“We should pick out a variety of vegetables and see which ones are our favorite.” Maddox was thankfully helpful this time instead of an instigator. “Like a taste test bar or something like that. Maybe we should invite people over to help.”

Kevin and Bryan lit up like they’d just won the lottery, which delighted Maddox. He gave both their heads a kiss before giving the idea one more push. “Didn’t you say you bought something that made small waffles? Like bite-size ones? That would be perfect because then everyone could eat a variety of them before they got hungry.”

Wait.

When had he bought that?

Before I could ask, they turned around and gave him slightly sticky kisses on his cheeks as they shoved their monstrosities in their mouths. The exact words were lost as they mumbled around the food in their mouths but Bryan dashed out of the kitchen and Kevin was quick to follow.

“What are they doing?” I looked over at Maddox who was just grinning. “This is your fault. Cake sandwiches, really?”

The instigator rolled his eyes. “Come on. You know it’s going to sell. With coffee, it’s going to be the perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up.”

His brows pulled together as he leaned back against the counter and frowned at the doorway. “But they’d better not take too long because I was promised a sandwich.”

I was surrounded by crazy people.

I was going to tell him that too, but as he turned back to me, his smile came back and it was devious. “And between that and classes, they’re going to be completely distracted and not think about the trip to the club this weekend.”

Okay, I was surrounded by smart crazy people.

“But couldn’t you have found a distraction that was healthier?” Or at least wasn’t so fucking bad for us?

“No.” Reminding me of Kevin as he rolled his eyes again, Maddox gave me a look that said he thought I was crazy. “We had salads every day last week because some idiot convinced him they’d sell well if he found some interesting combinations.”

Me.

I was some idiot.

But I hadn’t realized it would go on for nearly ten days.

Okay, maybe we were due for some cake.

“He found a really good combination with that Southwest salad.” But yeah, the taste testing had gone on for longer than I’d expected. “Fine. I’ll stop complaining.”

Managing not to laugh, Maddox did his best not to say he told me so. “The problem is going to come later this week when they’re running out of reasonable combinations, so you’re going to have to figure out a few ingredients to keep them going. I’m thinking marshmallow fluff and maybe seasonal cake flavors like some kind of spice cake.”

He’d put entirely too much thought into this.

“Which one are we distracting? Is Bryan that worried?” He’d seemed like he was slowly beginning to lose his fear of the idea.

“Both. Kevin was talking a mile a minute last night when they were downstairs. He sounded like some kind of cartoon character as I walked into the basement.” Shaking his head, Maddox sighed. “He kept telling Bryan stuff he’d heard about the club and then in the same sentence promising Bryan he didn’t have to look at it if he wasn’t comfortable.”

Laughing would’ve probably made me a bad Dom, but smiling seemed reasonable. “So tease Bryan with something wonderfully dirty and then take it back and tell him he’s too fragile for it? Yeah, a distraction sounds like a good idea.”

Or Kevin would end up talking Bryan into something ridiculous.

“Yep.” Maddox glanced toward the door, obviously thinking of the two troublemakers. “But I still can’t decide if he was doing it deliberately or not.”

That was always the million-dollar question.

“Well, if we run out of cake ideas there’s always pies for Thanksgiving.” Kevin had already started planning what seemed to be a feast big enough for a king. “We’ve got a few more weeks but he’s debating flavors and recipes and how many people we can fit in the house.”

Maddox laughed, doing his best to keep it quiet. “That sounds perfect.”

“Just be judicious how you use it. He gets worked up and starts going off on weird tangents about pumpkin pie spices. It’s scary.” I’d gotten stuck nodding for ten minutes the other day when I’d accidentally triggered a recipe meltdown over ginger.

Wincing, Maddox crossed himself. “That sounds dangerous.”

Before I could point out that it really was, his whole expression perked up and the grin he flashed me was wicked. “Oh, did Kevin tell you that Bryan explained he didn’t want us to do anything naughty while his mother was here for Thanksgiving?”

I wasn’t sure why Kevin would’ve known about that, but I nodded when I realized he was probably the one that’d instilled the fear in Bryan to begin with.

Still grinning, Maddox chuckled. “I made a very clear promise that I would not try and talk him out of his worries, and I wouldn’t do anything to tempt him until after Thanksgiving.”

It took me a second to see the catch and I was honestly surprised Kevin hadn’t pointed it out already. “How are you defining after Thanksgiving?”

Maddox beamed at me, looking like he was one of the boys. “Bingo. I’m defining Thanksgiving as being over once the desserts for that meal have been eaten and everyone has said they’re stuffed. I think that’s very fair.”

Nodding slowly, I turned the definition over in my head. “There might be something you could include about sundown. It’ll sound more scientific.”

And Michelle wasn’t planning on leaving until the day after because she wanted plenty of time to hang out with her boys as she kept calling us.

“You’re going to give Bryan a heart attack.”

My response had the bad influence nearly giggling. “Nope, I have a plan to distract him.”

Kevin was contagious.

“What are you going to do?” Realizing he probably shouldn’t explain where our voices could carry, I nodded toward the door. “Let’s go into my office.”

Maddox sighed, pouting. “But I haven’t gotten my sandwich yet.”

Snorting as I headed toward the doorway, I rolled my eyes. “I’ll give you something sweet if Kevin doesn’t put out.”

Maddox barked out a laugh as he pushed away from the counter and bounded across the room. “Deal.”

But before I could cross the threshold into the living room, he had me pinned against the doorframe. As his eyes sparkled, he waggled his eyebrows like an old-fashioned villain who was tying me to train tracks. “But since you two can’t be trusted to follow through, I’m going to take my sweetness now.”

His kiss was soft and short, but he seemed very pleased with himself as he pulled away. “Now let’s go.”

Brat.

But he was a much more confident brat than the first time he’d asked to tie me up, worried that we’d cross boundaries that would be too much for our friendship to handle.

It was crazy.

Nothing we could do would hurt our friendship unless Kevin managed to get Bryan in the tub before the nervous little was actually ready for it, but it’d made for an interesting turning point.

“Stealing kisses because you don’t trust me, huh?” Pretending to glare as he laughed, I shook my head and pushed him back with a finger. “Now I have to figure out how you’re going to pay me back. I was going to pay up, but now…”

Now I was going to have to get devious.

Want to read the rest?

Jumping in headfirst is something Kevin excels at, but now he’s not the only troublemaker in the family.

As the club visit gets closer and questions get more interesting, Kevin, Jeremy, Bryan, and Maddox are ready to take the next step in bringing their family closer together. Hopefully. Probably. Maybe? With Jeremy praying those steps don’t kill Bryan, and Kevin and Maddox giggling all the way, the holiday season has never been more interesting or more filled with love.

With a club visit to plan and the holidays to survive, four friends have to decide how big of a risk they’re willing to take to make the perfect family.

Author's Note:

This book contains the three bonus chapters that were included in Our Too Close Christmas which came out as a bonus freebie in 2021. Too Close to Risk starts before the holidays and ends on Christmas Eve. Too Close to Deny (book 9) will finish Christmas and lead into more sexy shenanigans.

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