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Because of Low (Chapter Seventeen)

Marcus

I'd just had the absolute best week of my life and now I had to end it with a family dinner. One where my father would be present. I wished I hadn't promised my mom I'd bring Will ow. This was the last thing I wanted her to witness.

Will ow came up behind me and wrapped her arms around my shoulders and leaned down to kiss my cheek.

"Almost done with that paper?" She asked standing up and walking around the table to sit across from me. My University of Alabama t-shirt looked good on her. She no longer wore Cage's shirts around the apartment. I wanted her in mine. Maybe it was a little caveman but I didn't care.

And neither did she. I was almost positive she liked it.

"Almost but I could use a distraction," I replied.

She smirked and shook her head no.

"Nope. I've distracted you all week. You need to finish."

"Please," I begged and she giggled.

"I'm going to get ready to meet the folks and you need to finish that paper. We can work out your reward for a job well done later."

I loved how relaxed she'd gotten with me. Her teasing was so incredibly sweet.

"And there's the distraction I need right there. You've given my fantasies some fuel."

Laughing she closed the bathroom door behind her.

Shaking my head to clear the images of Will ow straddling me and crying out my name I studied the screen in front of me again. She was right. I needed to finish this. Like yesterday. But I'd spent every spare minute I had with Will ow and I wouldn't have had it any other way.

The apartment door opened and in walked Cage followed by Preston. They'd been at baseball practice. Both of them were dirty and sweaty.

"Marcus, what up," Preston called out as he came inside and made his way into the kitchen behind Cage.

"Writing a paper," I grumbled knowing I wasn't going to get anything done with these two here.

"I pay smart chics to do those for me," he bragged and I rolled my eyes. He'd been "paying" smart chics to do his homework since middle school. However, his paying normally didn't involve cash.

"Where's Low?" Cage asked before taking a swig of beer.

"Getting a shower. She's going with me to meet my family tonight."

Preston let out a whistle, "The family. That's serious shit right there."

Cage grunted his displeasure and took another drink of beer.

Preston's eyes shifted between the two of us. I could see the curious questions in his eyes. How were we getting along? Did we ever fight? Wasn't it uncomfortable? And the truth was no. Cage was rarely here.

The shower cut off and I jumped up. Both guys stared at me like I was crazy. The idea of Low walking out in her towel thinking it was just me here scared the shit out of me. I ignored them and made my way to the door.

"Low"

"Yes"

"Preston and Cage are out here"

"Okay, um, could you bring me my things. They're on the bed." That's what I'd been afraid of.

"Yep"

I didn't look back at either of them but I could feel their eyes boring into me. No doubt Preston was amused and Cage was pissed off.

A pair of pink silk panties that consisted of very little materiel and a matching bra lay on top of that brown sundress that reminded me of chocolate. Picking them all up I headed back to the bathroom making sure to keep her underclothes hidden from prying eyes.

I knocked, "Got them."

She cracked the door and reached out and took them from my hands. Smiling bashfully up at me I wanted to push my way inside but kept my cool.

She closed the door back and I turned around to face the firing squad.

Preston started up first, "A little possessive there aren't ya bud. Afraid I'm gonna get a peek at Miss Low in her towel." I shot him a warning glare and sat back down.

"I've seen her in a bath towel many, many times," Cage said smugly.

Taking a deep breath I forced myself to remain calm.

"The difference is, she's mine now."

"No, she's just yours, for now," he replied.

I turned and glared at him. He was leaning against the counter looking so damn sure of himself.

"Forever," I corrected him.

Cage shoved off from the counter and raised his eyebrows,

"We'll see."

I started to stand up and Preston grabbed my arm as Cage walked into his bedroom.

"Don't. Just let it go."

I sat back down. Not because Preston told me to. But because Low would want me to.

"He's a jerk. Always has been. Just ignore him." Easier said than done. "She's mine," I repeated mostly for myself than anyone else.

"Got it bro. She's yours," Preston agreed.

Willow

"He's not here," Marcus hissed glaring straight ahead as we sat parked behind an expensive little Mercedes outside his parents house. It was just as big as I had pictured in my head. The pale yellow color of the house was set off by large white hurricane shutters. It was beach front and the main part of the house started on the second floor. The bottom was all garage. Which made sense for the Mercedes King of the Gulf Coast to have a large garage.

The wide staircase was intimidating as it led up to two large front doors.

Marcus let out an angry growl and opened his door.

Something was bothering him but I was almost afraid to ask. Instead of walking around to get my door he slammed his door shut and stood glaring up at those large glass paned doors as if he wanted to rip them off their hinges. As quietly as I could, I opened my door and made my way around the front of his truck. Maybe he was having second thoughts. I knew he was back home due to family issues.

But this was much more intense than I'd expected from the perfect family I pictured him to have. Especially after meeting his bubbly sweet gorgeous sister. He jerked his head toward me when I stopped beside him and the angry scowl melted and he frowned.

"I'm sorry Low. I didn't mean to leave you just sitting in there."

I squeezed his arm, "It's okay. I actually know how to open a car door."

My teasing only brought a hint of a smile to his troubled face.

"My dad was supposed to be here. He's not." Okay. Missing family meals must really rank high on the shit list around here.

"Mom was expecting him. She was excited," he let out a sigh and reached down to clasp my hand in his.

"If she seems odd or upset just overlook it. Nothing that happens tonight has anything to do with your presence.

Everything is really screwed up right now."

"Trust me, I wrote the book on screwed up families. I can handle it."

Marcus brought my hand to his mouth and kissed it.

"Let's go see what we're in for tonight," he muttered and we headed up those massive stairs.

Marcus doesn't knock. We walk right in. I guess he still thinks of this as his home. Must be nice. I have to knock at Tawny's. The door is normally locked up tight anyway and I haven't been given a key.

"hello," Marcus called out as he closed the door behind us.

Amanda immediately appeared, stepping out of a room up Amanda immediately appeared, stepping out of a room up ahead. Her smile falters and I can tell she is forcing it. I've done that enough to know it when I see it.

"Manda," Marcus replied in a cautious tone, "everything good?"

She shrugged and her gaze flickered to me then back to him. They need a moment. I could tell by the pleading in her eyes.

"Could you point me to the restroom?" I asked Marcus interrupting their silent conversation.

"Yeah, of course," he pointed to a door straight ahead and to the left, "Just use the powder room." The powder room? What the crap is a powder room?

"Okay"

Once inside, I sighed and sagged against the wall. Jeez the tension in this place was thick. I was in the way. Marcus wanting me here was sweet but now I think he made a mistake. Amanda obviously needed him and he's saddled with me. And I know nothing. It bothers me some that he hasn't opened up to me but then I haven't opened up to him either about my family issues. No matter what is going on in this family it can't be worse than what my sister has done.

My family issues are not the kind you share, ever. I needed to kill some time and give them a chance to talk privately.

Looking around the small room I noticed the sink wasn't a normal sink. It was a fancy cracked glass bowl that sits on top of a marble stand. The faucet looked like a copper spout from a pump. Turning the water on I was instantly fascinated with the way it worked. Smiling at my childlike fascination with a bathroom sink I turned the water off and turn my attention to the rest of the room. There's no bath tub or shower. A toilet sat on the other side of me and a chandelier hung from the tall ceiling. Who the heck puts a chandelier in a tiny room with nothing but a toilet and a sink.

A knock at the door startled me.

"Low, you okay?" Marcus's voice sounded concerned.

I reached and opened the door then grabbed his arm to pull him inside with me. His shocked expression made me want to laugh out loud but I didn't. The worry lines across his forehead tell me he has too much on his mind for fun and games.

"What," he asked as I close the door behind him. Turning I gaze up at his beautiful green eyes. God he is gorgeous.

"I'm giving you a chance to talk to Amanda alone. She seemed upset," I explained.

He let out a frustrated sigh and nodded.

"I'm sorry about all this," he began and I put my finger over his mouth to stop him.

"Hush. I know you're having family problems and your dad not showing up has caused a major hitch in making things better. If my being here makes everyone uncomfortable because they feel as if they have to act happy and as if nothing is wrong I need to leave. I can call," Marcus grabbed my finger gently and shook his head.

"No. You aren't calling," he pauses, "anyone. You're staying here with me. I need you here Low. I'm sorry it's all gone to shit but I need you here. Please stay with me." The pleading look in his eyes was my undoing. Of course I would stay with him. I closed the small distance between us and stood up on my tiptoes to kiss him chastely before nodding.

"Then let's go do this."

He grinned for the first time since we'd drove up.

As we walked out of the powder room, Amanda was standing there waiting for us with an amused smirk on her face.

"Did ya need to go in there and help her out Marcus?" She asked with a teasing lilt to her voice.

"Shut up Manda," he replied and slipped his arm around my back. She winked at me before turning around to lead us to the dinning room. The table was huge and covered in food.

They really did family dinners up right around here. A tall elegant woman walked out of the kitchen. Her blond hair was almost white. Maybe platinum would be the best way to describe it. It was cut in a short pageboy style that suited her classic appearance. Her slender figure reminded me of Amanda. The white apron tied around her waist was so white it looked as if it had never been used. Underneath the apron she had on what appeared to be a black halter dress complete with black pumps on her feet. When you look at her one word comes to mind, rich.

"Marcus," she beamed at the sight of her son.

"Mama, this is Will ow," his hand tightened on my waist,

"Low, this is my mom, Margaret."

Margaret set the basket of bread down on the table and made her way to me smiling brightly. A little too brightly.

The pain in her eyes is impossible to mask.

"It's so nice to meet you Will ow. I've heard so much about you and you're just as beautiful as Marcus promised you were."

" It's a pleasure to meet you too. Thank you so much for inviting me to dinner." Her smile appeared to relax and become more genuine.

"I'm thrilled you came. Marcus never brings girls to dinner.

Your presence is very welcome."

"Can I help you with anything Mama?"

He called her Mama. How freaking cute was that?

"No honey, you and Will ow have a seat. Amanda is bringing the pitcher of tea and then we'll be ready." Marcus pulled out a chair for me and I sat down while he pushed it back in. Then he walked over and did the same thing for his mother. "Here you go," he said, smiling down at her. The love in her eyes as she gazed at him was unmistakable. Marcus was very well loved. No matter what his family issues were, his mother and his sister adored him. But then, how could they not.

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