Give Me Grace (Give Me #3) by Kate McCarthy

“All of you be fucking quiet,” Travis hissed. Our mouths snapped shut and we looked his way. “In case you don’t seem to realise, you three are now dead, and guess who’s left standing?”

“Um …” Tim’s dark brown eyes flicked from mine to Evie’s before returning to Travis. “You?”

“And?” he prompted. There was a brief silence after which Travis rolled his eyes. “Mac, buttheads. Mac!” Out of the four Valentine siblings, Mackenzie was the youngest, and the only girl. She was also a beautiful, golden pit bull and a really shitty shot, so the fact that she was one of the last two standing left us in shock. “Do you want her to win?”

Fuck no. We all shook our heads.

“So all of you shut your holes and get the hell off this paintball field so I can take the bitch out.”

Evie promptly whipped off her goggles, turned around, and started puking in the shrubs behind us.

“Evie, honey, you okay?” Freeing one hand from my paintball gun, I rubbed her back in warm, soothing circles.

She shook her head, moaning a loud, “No.”

Her legs were shaking so I handed my gun over to Tim and picked her up, noting her entire face under the war paint was green. She burrowed into my chest, and leaving Travis to deal with Mac, I carried her off the paintball field.

“I can’t be sick or Mac will murder me.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because we have to play at that awards ceremony tomorrow night,” she reminded me.

I brushed the hair out of her eyes with care. Evie and I were close, and she’d always held a little piece of my heart. “You leave Mac to me, sweetheart. I’ll charm her into a good mood.”

She managed a weak nod. “Hey, you’re still coming to our barbecue tomorrow aren’t you?”

Jared’s face lost all colour when he saw me walking off the field with Evie in my arms.

“Sure,” I murmured before he reached us. “I’ll be there.”

Kicking the front door of my loft shut with my foot, I tossed my wallet, phone, and keys on the kitchen counter. Next to that I set a bright yellow plastic bag with the well-known lettering, Naughty But Nice, printed gaily on the side in flowing, pink letters. Thank you very much, sex store, for your casual approach to discretion. There was nothing more liberating than shouting to the members of the public that you were a big, fat pervert.

My business partner and roommate, Coby, sauntered out of the second bedroom in nothing but a pair of boxer-briefs, hair mussed and scratching idly at his chest.

The loft we shared was a converted warehouse slash revolving bachelor pad. The ceilings were high with exposed red brick lining the wall of the open kitchen, living and dining area. Neither of us were cooks, so the stainless steel appliances, marble bench tops and saucepan racks were entirely wasted, but the huge outdoor deck with slight views of Sydney Harbour made it a valuable investment.

The space was owned originally by Jared and Travis, but I bought Jared’s share when he and Evie bought a house in Bondi; Jared was the only one who didn’t think the house should’ve been condemned by the local council. His intention had been for them to live in it while undertaking the renovations, but a year after completion something went wrong every other week. Last week, it was blocked pipes. Jared blamed it on Evie’s long hair clogging the drains but after spending an entire day digging up the front yard, he found a collapsed section of pipe out near the road. That made it a council issue, and there was more likelihood of God stopping by their house for a beer than the council venturing out to fix it. The week before that it was five exploding outlets in two days, the last one almost setting Jared’s laptop on fire. The only advice I could offer was to either cut their losses and move or take out better life insurance.

Then it was Travis’s turn, only he was marginally smarter. Travis and Quinn lived in Coby’s house while they did their renovations and Coby moved into the loft with me. Six months later, their Manly Vale house was beautifully restored and they moved in. Then Travis had the gardens and lawn dug up before finding out it was easier getting a ticket to the moon than getting someone out to do their retaining wall. Combine that with three weeks of torrential rain and their entire yard was now a mud pit, and not the good kind that featured naked women wrestling.

Considering the revolving bachelor pad status of our loft, Coby would be up soon. I smirked as he wandered into the kitchen.