Just a Bit Confusing

By: Alessandra Hazard

By contrast, the Hardaway kids had lived in a small flat and there hadn’t been enough money to spoil any of them. It didn’t help that Ryan’s father had died shortly before James met Ryan, and that Ryan’s mother ’s health wasn’t good. The entire family had basically depended on Ryan’s eldest brother, who had become the de facto head of the family at the age of sixteen. James knew Zach had done his best, working overtime to make sure his younger siblings didn’t need anything. He succeeded for the most part, but for years, things had been difficult for the Hardaways, and all of them had grown up fast—because they had to. James still remembered how embarrassed and ashamed he felt for having it so easy when he saw Ryan’s home for the first time.

But money couldn’t buy everything. James would have given anything to have such a boisterous and close-knit family as Ryan did. James loved the Hardaways. By now they were a second family to him. Sometimes he actually felt more comfortable with Ryan’s family than with his own.

It wasn’t that he didn’t love his own family. He did. He was grateful for what he had. Their family may not be as warm and close-knit as the Hardaways, but his parents loved him; he knew it.

They weren’t the problem; the family name was—or rather, what being a Grayson entailed. The Graysons were one of the oldest noble families in Britain. Kings died, wars were fought, political systems changed, but the Graysons stayed, unchanged and proud, rich and influential, close advisers of prime ministers and the Royal Family. They were actually related to the Royal Family—his dad was eleventh in the line of succession. One who wasn’t born a Grayson couldn’t understand what it meant. Not even Ryan, who was as close to him as a twin, could. Maybe especially Ryan.

“Dad isn’t forcing me into anything,” James said. “He’s not as bad as you think.”

The expression on Ryan’s face remained hard and unimpressed. “Sure,” he said. “He’s just fed you bullshit about duty to the family since you were a kid.”

“I like Megan,” James said. It wasn’t a lie. He didn’t like her any less than any other girl. James grinned. “And she doesn’t act silly around you, which is nice for a change. I don’t know what they all see in your ugly mug.”

Ryan was supposed to grin and fall back into their usual, easy banter.

But Ryan didn’t. His expression didn’t change. “You deserve better than an arranged marriage to a girl you ‘like.’”

“My parents’ marriage was arranged by my grandparents, too.”

Ryan chuckled harshly. “I wouldn’t exactly call your parents’ marriage happy.”

James glared at him.

Ryan’s eyes softened. “Sorry,” he said, squeezing James’s nape lightly. “It was a low blow.”

James looked down at the table. “They used to be happy.” Okay, maybe that was a stretch. “At least I remember them getting along when I was a kid. But then something happened. I don’t know what. But my point is, the arranged marriage isn’t the reason they are like that now. I like Megan well enough. Don’t you like her?”

Making a frustrated noise, Ryan tapped James’s neck, another silent order to look at him, and James did.

Ryan said, “You know I hate that Arthur is pressuring you into this—it’s none of his business when and who you marry—but you sure as hell don’t need my approval, either. You shouldn’t give a shit about it as long as you want her. Arthur ’s opinion doesn’t matter, but neither does mine, you tosser.”

“Of course your opinion matters,” James said with a laugh. “It would be awkward if you hate her, because you’ll be around all the time.” He hated how the last part of the sentence sounded more like a question. Ryan, who knew him better than anyone, didn’t miss it, of course.

Ryan’s eyes narrowed.

Shit. Sloppy. He was getting sloppy.


“Here you two are!” a familiar voice interrupted whatever Ryan was going to say.

Partly relieved, partly annoyed by the interruption— intrusion, his inner voice couldn’t help but whisper—James turned to Ryan’s girlfriend. Ryan let go of his neck.

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