Home > Eye Candy (Fighting for Love #3)

Eye Candy (Fighting for Love #3)
Author: Jiffy Kate


Chapter 1






“Hear, ye! Hear, ye!” Cage bangs his fist on the breakfast table, startling everyone in the room. “The Erickson Family Meeting is now starting. Are all members present?”

Gunnar groans, rolling his eyes. “Dude, it’s too early for all this formality. You can see we’re all here.”

I raise my coffee mug to silently announce my presence, but also in agreement with Gunnar.

Cage has always let the fact he’s the second oldest go to his head. Now that three out of five of us are in Green Valley, he’s assumed the role as oldest in Viggo’s absence. Fortunately, Gunnar and I are used to it and we’re both pretty easygoing, so we usually roll with it, except for when he calls these family meetings at absurd hours, like seven in the morning.

“Where’s Frankie?” Cage asks, glancing around the table.

About that time, Frankie steps into the room and gives us all a wave. “I’m here. I just wasn’t sure if I was supposed to attend or not.” Even though she and Gunnar have been together for a while now, she still seems fairly reserved around us.

I get it. After learning about her backstory with her estranged father and all she’s been through since learning the truth about her past, it’s easy to understand where her reservations come from. However, she has started to come out of her shell a bit in the last month or so, which is good. She’s going to need to learn how to hold her own if she’s going to survive the Ericksons. At some point, all of us will be together and we’re a lot to handle.

“Of course you’re supposed to be here,” Tempest says, smiling at Frankie as she serves her up one of her famous muffins she brought over from Donner Bakery. “You’re family.”

“Told you,” Gunnar says as he pulls his girlfriend onto his lap. “You’re one of us, so you have to put up with these bullshit meetings too.”

Cage started having these weekly meetings last month before Christmas. And he intentionally scheduled them on Wednesdays at seven in the morning so Frankie could come before she leaves to volunteer in Maryville at the women’s shelter and Tempest can be here after she finishes her shift at Donner Bakery.

Even though we’re missing Ozzi and Viggo, our family here in Green Valley is growing.

“Watch it,” Cage warns Gunnar, shoving his head and almost making him spill his smoothie. If that had happened, the fight would probably be on.

“Fucker,” Gunnar mumbles under his breath, bringing his smoothie up to his mouth to cover his smartass remark. Frankie rolls her eyes as he pulls her closer, using her for more of a decoy.

Cage’s hand goes for one of the muffins on the plate in front of him, but Tempest grabs his wrist.

“Don’t even think of using my muffins as weapons, Leif Cage Erickson.”

He looks at her incredulously, acting affronted by her admonishing. “Damn, woman. I was going to eat it, not throw it,” he argues. Tempest doesn’t look convinced and I’m calling bullshit too.

This little display is just one example of how perfect Tempest is for my big brother. I love how she’s not afraid to call him out.

Looking around the table, my heart warms at seeing my brothers so happy and in love, but I can’t help the sting I feel at their displays of affection. I had that once—happiness, love, someone I wanted to spend forever with.

But not anymore.

“So, what’s on our agenda this morning?” I ask, clearing my throat. I’m ready to get this show on the road and I’d like to have something else to think about other than how fucked up my love life is… was.

“You got some hot date we don’t know about or something?” Cage asks.

“The only date Vali has is checking out today’s local gossip column in the paper,” Gunnar says, giving me a shit-eating grin. “Any time his name is mentioned, he cuts the article out and adds it to his spank bank.”

“Spank bank? You mean, like, porn?” Tempest turns to me, looking intrigued.

Pointing to Gunnar, I say, “You, shut the fuck up.” When I look back at Tempest, my tone is a bit softer. “No, I don’t have porn here. That’s what computers are for, anyway. Now, can we move on from my masturbatory details, please? I’m bored.”

When you’re in a small town like Green Valley, Tennessee, you have to find unique ways to keep yourself entertained. So, excuse the fuck out of me if I’ve found a new interest in the local gossip column. But they’re not part of my spank bank.

I have a perfectly good imagination for that, thank you very much.

Cage clears his throat, getting the attention back on him before he begins. “First, I’d like to start by congratulating Gunnar again on his victory against Mikey O’Malley, the Muscle of Memphis, last weekend!” Pointing to Gunnar, he adds, “You keep it up and we’ll be headed for that title belt sooner than you think, my brother.”

The entire table erupts in applause and Gunnar accepts the praise humbly. Well, as humbly as an Erickson prodigy can. At least he isn’t taking a bow and blowing kisses. Instead, he dips his chin in appreciation before burying his face in the crook of Frankie’s neck.

“Also,” Cage continues, pride washing over his features, “it’s time for the grand opening of our brand-new, state-of-the-art ring in the gym expansion downstairs. And we need to decide how we want to celebrate. Do we have an exhibition, something to raise money, or do we just want to host a party and let the public come check it out?”

“State of the art,” I snigger. “It’s a fucking boxing ring, bro. Does it have some special powers I’m not aware of?”

“Yeah, it has a force field around it to keep wannabe fighters, like you, out. No posers allowed.” I swear, Gunnar is gonna get his mouth busted if he keeps this up.

“Listen here, asshole—”

“Enough!” Cage booms. “Both of you are on my last nerve. We’re not kids back in Dallas anymore, so nut up and start acting like adults. Which leads me to the last topic on my agenda…” My older brother turns and looks directly at me before asking, “Vali, why the hell are you still in Green Valley?”

His question catches me off guard, so I just stare him down, casually bringing my coffee cup up to my mouth and taking a drink, buying me time to formulate an answer.

“Cage,” Tempest mutters, rolling her eyes. “Vali, you’re welcome to stay here as long as you want.” Reaching across the table, she places her small hand over mine and squeezes, giving off a motherly vibe. “That goes for you too, Gunnar. And if Ozzi and Viggo want to join in, I’m sure we could find room for them too.”

When she smiles up at Cage, his tough facade finally crumbles a little and he gives her a softer stare, brushing his thumb over her cheek as he cups her face. This more affectionate side of Cage is something I never got the chance to witness until coming to Green Valley.

I know he had a serious relationship when he was at Harvard, but he never brought that girl home. When he left Harvard and came back to Erickson MMA, we all lived the bachelor lifestyle, our doors revolving with the latest flavor of the month… or week… shit, sometimes, night.

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