ONLY PROCEED IF YOU ARE UP TO DATE ON RNOLA 1-3
Algiers Point, New Orleans
I shoved away from the counter and marched toward the living room, pausing to pivot and address Scott and Ophelia one more time. “I am the fucking guy this time.”
Scott smirked at the bowl of remoulade. “See that you are, kiddo.”
“I am not a—”
“Luke,” Ophelia said patiently and with that warm yet solid, motherly smile of hers. “You’re a good guy. You have a good heart. You just have to avoid being hasty. Don’t panic. Pick your battles. Look at the long-run and what’s really best for that.”
I offered a single nod. “Yes, ma’am.”
Back in the living room, I walked in on a speaker-phone conversation between Connor and Liza.[KLE1]
“Oh yeah, she’s loving it,” Liza was saying. “I feel like we have a fishbowl in our near future because she wants to take all these sea creatures home with her.”
Connor chuckled. “Yeah, well, whatever she wants, but I don’t know shit about cleaning a fish tank.”
“That’s why you get to learn, baby.” Liza made a couple of kissing noises over the line. “How’s it going over there? Is Brennan still pouting?”
“No, L., I am not,” Brennan piped up.
“Oh, you’re not?” Liza teased. “Because you totally sound like you are. Severely.”
“Yeah, well.” Brennan scoffed under his breath and rapidly flapped his eyelashes. “We all know every goddamn thing you say is gospel, so…”
Connor rolled his eyes, groaning in the back of his throat and wiping his hand down his face.
“Okay, honestly, this is getting really old,” Liza snapped in her tiny voice over the speaker. “You have about ten seconds to explain what your actual problem is with me lately before I cut this aquarium trip and y’all’s bro-football-Saturday-male-bonding short so we can sort through this completely unnecessary obnoxiousness that you’re bringing all of a sudden.”
“I don’t have a problem,” Brennan snapped back at her, and Connor immediately reached to grip the back of his neck as though tapping the temper brakes on Brennan’s behalf.
“Yes, you do,” Liza retorted. “You have been blaming me for everything for the past week, and I—”
“I have not blamed anyone for anything. However, I have pointed out the source of a number of problems.”
“Oh, and I’m the source of the problems now—”
“Okay, you two,” Connor cut in, still squeezing the back of Brennan’s neck, “need to chill the fuck out. This is getting downright stupid.”
“Oh, okay,” Liza said sarcastically. “I see how it is, babe. Go ahead and take his side when he’s being absolutely absurd—”
Connor hastily smashed his thumb on the speaker button and put the phone to his ear. “Baby…baby…babe…I know that, and I’m not…Okay, okay-okay-okay-okay-okay, just hang on, sweetheart…” He exhaled loudly, rubbing his forehead. “Okay, y’all go do that and then call me back. I love you…hey.” He paused for a couple of seconds. “I love you. I’ll deal with him. Y’all just have fun.” Connor tossed his phone onto the coffee table and looked at Brennan. “Will you please get your goddamn shit together so I don’t wind up in the fucking doghouse just for trying to referee this bullshit you’re starting lately?”
Brennan’s jaw was pulsing rapidly. “I am just trying to take care of my own fucking house, Sarge.”
“Nothing is wrong with your fucking house except for the stuff you’re fucking with.” Connor pointed at the door. “So maybe you need to go handle your shit and come back when you’re feeling better. And then, you’re gonna call Liza back and apologize, because not a goddamn part of this is her fault, and you’re not going to take that tone with her again.”
Brennan stared at the space in front of his eyes for a second before he leaned forward, hunching over his lap and rubbing his forehead. “Yeah Sarge.” He stood up and turned to Connor. “When she calls back, tell her I’m sorry.”
“I will, but then you’re going to.” Connor cocked an eyebrow. “We’ve got a good thing, Riley. All of us. Don’t fuck it up.”
“I know that. I’m not trying to. I’ll call her a little later when everyone cools off.” With that, Brennan pivoted and unleashed a quick, high-pitched whistle. “Come with me, Carson. I’ll wingman it up for you at the Old Point.” He haphazardly waved at me. “I’ll see you later, Corporal.”
I just squinted at how foreign the entire exchange was. “’kay. Later, bruh.”
Carson tilted his head amiably from where he was seated on the opposite end of the couch. “Sounds like a fun challenge.” He stood up and followed Brennan out the front door.
Connor groaned as the door clicked shut and then turned to Caroline, who was obliviously watching the TV screen and tapping her shoes together, her spindly legs dangling off the couch. “Yo, sis.”
“Yeah.” Caroline continued to stare at the screen and tap her shoes together.
“If you’re ever wrong about something, just own it and go cool off.” He haphazardly pointed at the front door. “Like he just did. That takes real character. You got me?”
Tap-tap-tap went Caroline’s shoes. “I got you.”
Connor looked at me. “Has he been acting weird when you’ve been following him around while he’s training you?”
I hitched my shoulders, at a loss for what the hell was going on between my friends. “He’s been acting like something, but I don’t know what, so yeah. Weird. But he hasn’t said anything about Liza.” I paused, still digesting the exchange I just witnessed. “It keeps sounding to me like he and Skye are bickering because they’re too friggin’ stressed about everything on their plate.”
Connor reached forward to grab the phone and then stood up. “I’m going to go out back and call her.”
He slipped out of the room, and Caroline looked at me. “Why’s Brennan being so rude?”
I gestured at her with both hands, my beer bottle hanging from my hooked index finger. “It’s weird, right? I don’t even know.”