The atmosphere eases over the next half hour, almost to the point that I think maybe I was being paranoid when I analyzed his reasons for inviting me here. We don't talk much, both keeping our eyes on the TV, laughing at the same times and exchanging flippant remarks about the action on the screen. I make one comment that makes Brady throw back his head and laugh so loudly I half expect his mom to bang on the door and tell him to keep it down. When he finally calms, there's a change in him. The slight narrowing of his eyes when he looks at me has faded, and the smile that lingers seems genuine. He doesn't say anything to me, but he nods his head in a gesture I understand as some kind of tenuous acceptance. It surprises me and my eyebrows raise a little. Brady acts like nothing's up, but he pushes the plate with the last cookie down the bed towards the bottom where I still sit on the chair, my feet up on the edge of the mattress. I stretch out and pick up the cookie as soon as it's within reach.
He replies with a grunt and then we both turn our attention back to the TV.
"Let's get out of here," he says when the next ad break comes on. He's already up and turning the TV off before I can answer.
"Where're we going?"
He smiles conspiratorially as he straightens from pulling on his sneakers.
"Let's hit the girls up."
I cringe, the thought of seeing Bella right now makes me screw up my face like I have a sour taste in my mouth.
Brady laughs and hits me in the chest with the back of his hand. "Relax, B won't be there."
A stab of annoyance shoots through me as he reads my mind and then shows off his knowledge about her. I for one have no fucking clue where she is or what she's doing, and I'm pissed at myself for making it so clear with my reaction.
"Where are you going?" Brady's mom calls as we pass the kitchen doorway.
"Will you be late home?"
He doesn't reply, just lets the door slam behind us as we leave the house. I glance back, swallowing the guilt I feel by association.
"We'll take your car," he says, heading for the curb where it's parked. It's fine by me; at least this way I can leave when I've had enough.
We've only been in the car a couple of minutes when Brady speaks.
"So, you've got a sister…"
I look at him from the corner of my eye.
"Step-sister," I correct.
"She doesn't live with you." It's not a question.
"No, it's just me and my dad." I'm making my responses short and hoping he'll take the hint.
"'Cause she's in jail?"
I huff impatiently. "I really don't want to fucking talk about it."
"Hey, hey." Brady raises his hands in a calming gesture. "It's cool, I get it. I was only asking because, you know, my old man's in jail too and I know what it's like."
I turn my head to glance at him but he's doing a good job of looking like a guy concentrating one hundred per cent on the road ahead. "Make a right here," he says, reinforcing the act.
I say nothing more and neither does he.
"Whose house is this?" I ask, pulling to a stop five minutes later. It's neat, tidy and on the whole pretty average looking.
"Do I know Leah?"
"Probably not." That's all he offers before he opens the door and gets out of the car. I sit with my hands on the steering wheel and watch him walk away towards the house, before huffing and following. The door opens as I walk up behind him, and a tall girl with long, straight dark hair appears, doing a double-take when she lays eyes on Brady. She glances furtively behind her and takes a step forward, pulling the door almost closed behind her.
"Are you crazy? Seth's home," she hisses at Brady.
"He is?" Brady grins.
"It's not funny. Get out of here before he sees you."
"Leah's brother Seth hates me," he tells me without further explanation, still looking amused.
"Please, Brady." She looks desperate, leaning back to listen at the gap in the door for a moment.
"Only if you come with us," he says. Leah appears to consider it for a few seconds, then finally nods.
"Give me a few minutes, I'll meet you round the corner," she says, closing the door.
"Why does he hate you?" I press as soon as we're far enough away from the house to not be overheard.
"Clash of personalities." Brady smiles and climbs back into my car. I guess that's all the explanation I'm getting for now.
"He nearly caught you, you know?" Leah slides into the back seat, closing the door behind her and reaching for the seat belt.
"It's cool, babe. Edward's good with his hands. He's got previous."
I turn and stare at him, my brain racing as I try and figure out a rational reason for how he knows about my rap sheet. I'm sure I never mentioned it to Bella. Brady grins when he sees the look on my face.
"How did you…?" I tilt my head without even managing to finish my sentence.
"Friends in high places, Edward. Now are we getting out of here, or what?"
A/N - Thanks to Choc for reading x