Breaking the Rules

By: Ali Parker

Chapter 1


Kendal





I took a deep breath and reached up to knock on the door, my heart aching at the thought of having to spend the night in the presence of my friends. They would all know that I was faking the calm I wore. It was more like being numb than calm. A facade I'd been practicing for a while. It served me many times over my long life.

Two weeks of dragging my ass through life, wondering what cosmic genie I'd pissed off and how I'd done it. Not only was the last member of my family gone, but any hope for a torrid love affair with Dana was over.

"Dude. Good to see you!" Matthew Bryant, my best friend's little brother smiled like a tom-cat and reached for me, pulling me into a warm hug.

I wrapped my arms around him and patted his back. "Hey, man. Good to see you. Seattle treating you okay?"

"Better than you." He moved back and gripped my shoulders. "Damon said that out of all of the women in Dallas you ended up with Ana's sister? That's just so far beyond fucked up. I'm mind-blown."

"Matt! Really?" Bethany moved up beside him and reached for my hand, pulling me into the foyer of the Bryant mansion. "I swear you have no filter what-so-ever."

Why I let Damon talk me into dinner with everyone was beyond me.

"I'm good. He's right." I reached up and ran my hand through my hair as Bethany released my wrist and moved into the kitchen. "It's pretty fucked up."

"How did you not put two and two together?" Damon walked in behind me, brushing his shoulder by mine as he made his way toward Bethany. He brushed his fingers over the curve of her ass, and I turned my attention the other way.

"I don't know. How could I have?" I walked toward the fridge and pulled out a beer. "Anyone want a drink?"

"Yeah. Toss me one." Matt took a seat at the breakfast nook, lifting his hands as if he were ready to catch a football.

I chucked it at him and glanced over at Damon. "You and Bethany want one?"

"No. We're holding out for wine." Damon turned and leaned against the counter, crossing his arms over his chest as his dark eyes narrowed. "Is there a reason why you've been avoiding me along with the rest of the world?"

Bethany popped him in the chest and then went back to cooking something over the stove. "Leave him alone."

"Yeah. Leave me alone." I popped the top on the beer and walked over to take a spot next to Matt. "I'm still trying to figure it out, to be honest. How in the fuck did Dana end up being Ana's sister? They don't even look alike."

"Mixed family?" Damon offered up and moved to stand in front of us. "You guys want all the fixings for your burgers or what?"

"Where's your Mom and Dad?" I glanced around, suddenly aware that I hadn't seen or heard Kent or Karen.

"They're out of town. Spending quality time together." Matt took a long drink of his beer.

Damon made a gagging sound that caused my lip to lift. "Anyway. Jeez." He rolled his eyes and turned his attention fully on me. "You know this isn't that big of a deal."

"Hey." Bethany moved up beside him, wrapping her arms around him and glancing up.

My heart ached. She looked at him the way Dana looked at me before things went to shit - again.

"Hey what, pretty girl?" He turned in her arms and leaned down, nipping at her lips.

"Gross. And you think Mom and Dad going off for some quality time together is disturbing? At least they keep that shit in the bedroom." Matt moved off his stool and walked toward the living room. "Call me when dinner's done."

"Hey! Damon asked if you guys want the fixings?" Bethany gave Damon an incredulous look before turning to me. "Lettuce, tomatoes and pickles?"

"Whatever is easy." I took another drink of the beer and got up. "I can help with that stuff."

"No. Sit down. Damon's got it." Bethany gave my best friend a stern look which quickly bled into a sweet smile. It was good to see them back together. At least something was going right in the world.

"What are you going to do to fix this?" Damon turned and walked to the fridge as I let my eyes move along my beer bottle, my mind a mess.

"I don't know, man. She's not returning my calls. I should have stayed for dinner that night, but I freaked out."

Bethany turned from the stove. "So, can I ask what happened after Ana showed up? If you don't want to talk about it, you-"

"No. It's fine." I took another quick swig of the beer, wishing it was a bottle of Tequila instead. Anything to burn away the same memory that played in my mind over and over.

Ana, standing in the doorway at her mother's house, looking like a goddamn model. She was everything I thought I ever wanted, but in that moment... I realized clearly that she wasn't. Dana was.

"Kendal? You still with us, dude?" Damon's voice brought me from my reverie.

"Hmm? Oh, yeah. Sorry." I brushed my hand down my face and let out a low groan. "I gave Ana a quick hug, pulled out my phone and told them that I needed to run. Emergency."

"What kind of emergency?" Bethany tilted her head to the side.

There was no one in my life that would have called with an emergency. We both knew that, hell, Ana and Dana knew that. With my sister, Mandy gone, there was no one left in my life.

"I told them it was Damon." I shrugged. "Dana followed me to the car and wanted to know how I knew her sister. She put two and two together before I could answer her."

I paused and took a shaky breath as Damon moved toward me.

"Hey. You don't have to-"

"Shut the fuck up!?I barked at him and pressed my fingers to the bridge of my nose. "I'm so in love with her that it feels like another death to lose her. I just keep wondering who the fuck I pissed off. How can I make up for whatever I've done so that maybe-" My voice broke and I got off the chair, moving past Damon and walking toward the front door. "I'll catch you guys later. I can't do this right now."

Neither of them tried to stop me. They knew me too well to get in my way. I hadn't cried too many times in my life, but losing Mandy a few weeks early had me scared, raw. Now Dana was gone too.

I drove home in silence, my heart pounding in my chest, my stomach tight, and a million regrets running through my mind.

One decision to date a student six years before and I was still living the after effects of fucking up.

Damon had been wrong. Sneaking around with Dana until she graduated wasn't a great idea. It was shit. It caused me to dream again, to believe in love and security, to see a future with someone.

The sound of her laughter filled my ears, the sweetness of it causing my throat to burn and more tears to blur my vision. How badly I needed her to forgive me for something I had no control over.

Ana's sister. I'd fallen in love with Ana's sister.

And the worst part... she'd fallen in love with me.



*



"You sure you're okay, man? We're worried about you." Damon's voice filled up the living room as I had him on speaker phone.

"Yeah. I'll get it over it, man. I just thought this was my turn. That it was time to breathe again."

"Kendal. It is time. Go after her and explain yourself. You didn't set this shit up. You didn't know-"

"Stop, okay? I love that you care about me, but I'll be okay. Someone else will come along in a few years and she'll be the right person." My words got lodged in my throat. Dana was the right person. She was my woman, the one I wanted to make love to every night and hold until we grew old together.

I could see us building a house and having kids. Becoming the type of couple that other's would become jealous over. We'd have something they didn't have. We'd have what they all wanted.

What I wanted. Deep, intense love.

"What can I do to fix this for you? I'll go talk to her."

"No, Damon. We've been friends for a long-time man, and you're all I've got. Please stay out of this and let it die. I'll be okay. Just give me time to heal." I rubbed my chest over my t-shirt and walked toward my liquor cabinet. "I'm going to figure out what to do about Heather and Mark at work and then we'll see where we go from there."

"You always have a job with me. Any type of job you want. I'll create it for you, man."

"Now who's being the pussy?" I smirked and knelt down in front of the cabinet. I had a few old bottles of liquor tucked away.

"Call me what you like, but let me fix this shit. I hated seeing you torn up at Mandy's funeral and now this? You deserve a break."

"Yeah, maybe." I pulled out a bottle of Jack. "I'm going to let you go. Jack and I have a date for the evening. He's pretty good about helping me forget anything and everything."

"Stay at home if you're going to drink."

"Thank you, Mother." I snorted and dropped the call. Damon was rarely over protective or up in my business, but I understood why he was now.

I mean, shit... what else could go wrong?

I could lose my job, but that didn't seem to matter too much at the moment.

I could die in a house fire.

"Yup." I dropped down on my couch and opened the bottle, taking a long drink and growling as it burned its way down my throat.

Ana Young. Why hadn't I put that shit together? I could have saved both me and Dana a ton of heartache.

"Are you okay, baby?" I whispered to the air as I closed my eyes. "Are you hurting like I am? Broken by how fucked up this is?"

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