Tonio stiffened but forced himself to relax almost immediately. “Neecy’s the kinda woman to do dirt in your face and then smile, expecting you to think she’s sweet.  She’s not someone you need to be hangin’ with, Bekah..”

Bekah scoffed lightly, barely batting an eyelash when his shoulders tensed. “Trust me, the last thing I wanna do is hang out with that…” she paused, searching for an appropriate word to call the thorn in Tamar’s flesh and hers. “Creature.”

“Good,” he said relaxing more completely. “Why do you want to know what I know about her?” The moment he asked the question he remembered Neecy coming to him with concern that Dylan was being “ruined” by Tamar. “She been causing you problems?” he asked with a deceptive calm.

Bekah shook her head, processing everything from Tonio’s reaction to his cryptic words. It seemed Neecy was more than just a harmless pest. “Nothing I can’t handle.”

“That’s a yes. Let me see if I’ve got this right. Neecy’s been causin’ problems and instead of telling somebody, you two decided to move out and Ramsey has no clue?”

Bekah muttered a curse and slanted a glare his way. “And he won’t, if you keep your mouth shut.” She scowled at him. “I don’t want to have to get rid of you.”

“No offense but Ramsey’s a lot scarier than you and he will kill me if he finds out I knew and didn’t tell him.”

Bekah rolled her eyes, unmoved by his concern. “I don’t care if he’s Dylan the Terrible. If you breathe even a letter of this to him, I’ll personally make your life a living nightmare.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “I don’t want any more trouble than is necessary. Involving Dylan or you in a bloodbath between Neecy and I is not necessary. I’m handling this, so back off.”

“Moving out is handling it? If anything you showed her she can get away with it and she’s not gonna back off. He has a right to protect his girl, Bekah. And if whatever it is was bad enough for you to move, he’s definitely got the right to step in.”

She stared at him, her jaw clenched so tight. “Like I said, Yates… Back off.” Visibly annoyed, she pushed off the couch and moved to unpack another box. “Break’s over, you two!” she bellowed impatiently, her movements jerky as she pulled out items from the cardboard box.

Tonio rose to his feet just as quickly and grabbed her arm. “I won’t say anything to him. For now. If she touches either of you, all bets are off. And you will tell me anything that happens. Understood?” Them moving would keep Neecy off their backs a little. Dylan had a right to know but he also knew how his best friend would respond. This wasn’t anything Dylan needed on his plate right then. No, he’d handle it and there would never be a problem.

With one quick glance at his hand gripping her arm, Bekah dragged her eyes to look up at him. Her jaw loosened but she still glared up at him. “If anything happens,” she clipped out and pulled her arm from his grip. “Now get back to work. No lunch until we finish this room.” She glanced over at the empty hallway and frowned. “Guys, come on!”

“Keep frowning like that and you’ll get wrinkles. By the way, I think there’s a labor law or something against that,” he said easily aware of Dylan and Tamar coming down the hallway.

Bekah scoffed. “Stop complaining or no lunch for you, Yates.” She glanced up just as Tamar and Dylan walked in. “It’s about time. Forget we have work to do?”

Tamar frowned slightly even though her face tingled from Dylan’s affection. She noted Bekah’s open scowl and snuck a look at Tonio before returning her gaze back to her cousin. “Is everything alright in here?” she wandered over to one of the boxes.

“Everything’s fine. Let’s get everything unpacked so these guys can go on with their day…” Bekah knew she wasn’t very good at hiding any emotions and at this point, she didn’t care to.

Dylan’s brow furrowed and he shared a look with Tonio over Tamar’s head. Tonio just smirked and shook his head before bending over a box to unpack.  Dylan’s frown only deepened. Bekah was clearly upset and despite his smile, Tonio wasn’t unaffected. He shrugged it off. They’d talk later.

Boxes unpacked and items placed in built-in shelves and closet spaces in the apartment, Bekah’s smile slowly returned. She had already pushed away her concerns that Tonio would tell Dylan about their conversation and focused on making sure Tamar felt secure in their new place. Tugging at Tamar’s frizzy ponytail, she smiled at her cousin. “Everything in its rightful place, Princess?”

Tamar smirked at Bekah and nodded. “Thank you.” She reached down and squeezed Bekah’s hand.

Bekah nodded with a gentle smile before turning to the two young men before them. “Alright, like we promised… Let’s talk payment.” She rubbed her dusty hands together, her eyes focused on Dylan. Since their confrontation earlier in the day, she hadn’t looked Tonio’s way for the entire afternoon.

“I’ll make the sandwiches now, if you two are hungry,” Tamar offered with a sweet smile at the two men.

“Tamar and I have already hashed out my payment plan. You just need to take care of my man here,” Dylan thumped Tonio’s back. “We’ll take sandwiches for the bonus.”

Bekah sniffed, still not looking Tonio’s way. “If you insist.” She walked to the kitchen and quietly gestured Tamar to follow.

Tamar bit back a smile and gave Dylan an apologetic look before shuffling after Bekah. “You okay?” she whispered once they were alone.

“Of course,” Bekah muttered, untwisting the bread wrapper. “You?”

Tamar grinned openly now, reaching inside the paper bag for the pack of turkey slices. “Dylan asked me to be his girlfriend.”

Bekah chuckled lightly, peeking from the corner of her eye to see Tamar’s girlish twinkle. “It’s about time… I thought you already were.”

“It’s official now.” Tamar paused, leaning against the counter. “I don’t know if I’m allowed to be happy like this. It’s kinda scary.”

Her fingers stilled over the slices of bread. “You have a right to be happy, Tamar.” She turned her full attention to her cousin, her brow furrowed in concern. “It’s perfectly okay to be happy. Don’t be scared of it.” In her mind, Bekah resolved to handle Neecy once and for all.

Tamar nodded and opened the packet, placing turkey slices onto the bread. “I won’t. Dylan is good to me. I’m happy.”

“And that’s good.” Bekah released a sigh and the two reverted to silence, occupied with their own private thoughts.

Once the sandwiches were stacked and wrapped, the two returned to the living room and Tamar smiled at the two of them. “Thanks for helping us move in. Really, we appreciate it.” She placed a wrapped sandwich in Dylan’s hand and remained by his side.

Bekah held out Tonio’s sandwich to him. “Thanks,” she said quietly.

“You know it was my pleasure, pretty girl,” Dylan assured with a quick kiss to her temple.

Tonio tipped Bekah’s chin with a finger. The thanks was for more than moving in and a part of him warned he would live to regret his agreement. Even with that warning in his mind, he met her eyes and let their fingers brush as he took the sandwich from her. “You’re welcome.”

Tamar noticed the exchange between Tonio and Bekah and tucked in a smile. She’d have to talk to her cousin once the two guys left. Snuggling in Dylan’s side, Tamar allowed herself to relax in his arms. Today was a good day.

Bekah stepped back and walked back to the kitchen to clean up the mess made from prepping the sandwiches. She refused to think about the tingles that ran up her arms when Tonio’s fingers brushed hers.

Tonio turned to Dylan and Tamar with his usual grin. “I’ll give you a minute or twenty to say goodbye to the missus,” he teased saluting Dylan with his sandwich. “Maybe you should’ve taken notes just now.”

Tamar laughed softly and nudged Dylan. “We’ll do better.” She lifted her face to him and placed a soft kiss against his chin. “Goodnight.” Then she moved away from him, her eyes glistening with mischief.

“She’s lying. We’ve already settled for failing this one.” He reached out to wrap an arm around her waist and draw her back to him. “That was not a proper goodnight.”

Tonio just laughed as he started for the door. “Don’t take all night. See you later, Tamar.”

Tamar waved at him before settling back against Dylan’s chest. “Don’t keep your friend out. I’ll see you soon.” She framed his face with her hands and reached on her tiptoes to kiss his lips.

“If you knew how many times he’s kept me out, you wouldn’t be on his side.” His hands rested on her hips, drawing her up that intimate inch. “Much better,” he praised against her lips.

Her breath hitched as he pulled her in and her arms inched up his shoulders, hooking her fingers around his neck. Tamar angled her mouth under his, closing her eyes to revel in the feel of him.

He felt it when she let go and abandoned herself to the kiss. He groaned softly and tried to remember that Tonio was waiting on him as he took the kiss deeper.

She shifted closer, loving the warmth exuding from him and smiled against his lips. Then she slowly eased back, gazing up at him. “I’m going to love being your girlfriend…” she whispered gently before placing a series of fleeting kisses against his mouth.

Her words drew a genuine smile from him. He didn’t even complain when she drew back. “I’m glad you’re prepared.”

Tamar shrugged, sliding her hands along his arms. “I wouldn’t have said yes if I wasn’t.”

His smile faded. “I didn’t mean that way. We’ll keep it as drama free as possible.”

She nodded solemnly. “I know.” Lifting a hand to curve against his cheek, Tamar smiled encouragingly at him. “What did you mean by prepared?”

He covered her hand with his. “I was thinking about you being prepared to be spoiled, have a good time. That kinda thing.”

Tamar giggled softly. “Hmm, I can live with that. Will you let me spoil you too?”

The question gave him pause. He hadn’t really thought about it in reverse. “I guess you’re going to insist?”

She moved back into his arms and nipped at his bottom lip before leaning back. “I have my ways of convincing you.”

“And somehow everybody thinks I’m the Casanova. I’m onto your game you know.”

“I learn from the best,” Tamar answered cheekily and patted his muscled chest. Her fingers still itched to touch him but Tonio and Bekah were within hearing range so she stepped back fully. “Alright, get going.”

“I have to?” he asked playfully before leaning in to place one last peck on her lips. “Enjoy the new place. We’ll start payments soon.” And then he headed for the door before he could prolong the goodbye any further.

“Looking forward to it,” Tamar said quietly, watching Dylan’s broad shoulders and narrow hips as he strode to the door. She pushed herself forward to walk behind him, restraining herself from reaching for him again. He’d barely stepped away from her arms and she already missed him. “Bye…” she said, watching as he jogged down the steps and to the truck where Tonio waited. “Bye Tonio!” she called, waving with a wide smile.

“Ten minutes. I give it a C-,” Tonio greeted even as he waved at Tamar.

“It’s passing. I’ll take it.” They laughed as they climbed in the truck. As the laughter subsided, Dylan asked the question on his mind. “So what was that?”

Tonio would’ve played dumb with anyone else but he and Dylan had been through too much. “We know how to push each other’s buttons.”

Dylan was grateful for the red light as he shot Tonio a questioning look. Tonio wouldn’t even admit to having buttons and Bekah was pushing them? “Good buttons? Bad buttons? You gotta give me somethin’ here man.”

“Both. I don’t know. Not really planning to figure it out. We aren’t going to be around each other enough to bother.”

“Never heard you admit a girl gets to you.”

“I didn’t say that.” Dylan gave him a pointed look and he turned to look out the window. “I know you and Tamar have the whole couple thing going on but not everybody wants that so don’t start, alright?”

“Hey, I was the one who told you not to mess with her, remember?”

“Yeah, make sure you remember,” Tonio muttered, hoping that would be the end of all conversations about Bekah even though he knew it wasn’t.

 <<Chapter 22 || Chapter 24>>