A/N - Just a quick update because it's been a while and anything's better than nothing, right? I spent virtually the whole of today devouring The Muse by Jessie Burton. I closed it after the last page and couldn't not write. Try and get hold of a copy if you can, not least for the beautiful cover :)

All mistakes are mine, this is un-beta'd

Chapter 24

Brady's house is a world away from mine. It's past the main part of town, a stone's throw from the trailer-park, and it's as if the dilapidation has seeped out of the dirty, half-broken mobile homes and infected everything around them. The building is squat and shabby, a single storey affair with scattered piles of scrap metal in the front yard, weeds thriving in clumps around them. A fierce looking black dog barks before I've even fully emerged from my car, and my heart stops for a moment as it runs at me. I'm about to pull my legs back inside and slam the door when it stops short, yanked back by a chain. My eyes follow the now-taut metal along, and I see it anchors the dog to a surprisingly new and clean looking kennel.

"Wolf! Shut the fuck up!" an angry voice calls from the direction of the door. I turn and see Brady exiting the house, letting the screen slam with a ferocity I fear may cause the whole thing to drop off its hinges and to the ground. Nothing here - except the kennel - looks as though it has more than a few months' life left in it.

"Hey," he greets me enthusiastically. I echo his greeting, frustrated at how my reservations about this whole situation shine through in my voice. "Come on in, man." I fight the urge to turn and leave, instead following him as he holds the screen and then the door open for me. Wolf has stopped barking, but the threatening murmur of a growl rolls in his throat, accompanying me all the way over the threshold.

Inside, with the door closed behind us, the house is dim. I expected more of what I'd seen on the outside, but it just goes to show, you should never judge a book by its cover. As my eyes adjust I see the place isn't lavishly furnished, but it's spotless and smells of something delicious and freshly baked. Soft jazz music winds it way through from somewhere I can't see, accompanied by a woman's voice singing faultlessly along. I raise my eyebrows at Brady.

"My mom," he explains with a roll of his eyes. I want to push him against the wall, tell him to show some respect, to be grateful that he has his mom around, but I don't. Instead I nod. Yeah, I get it. Mom's huh?

I trail behind him, into the kitchen. He grabs a plate from off a shelf and the movement draws the woman's attention. She turns and smiles when she sees me.

"Oh, hi," she says, wiping her hands off on an apron tied around her waist. "Brady didn't say he was having anyone over."

"This is Edward," he says through a mouthful of cookie he stole off the cooling rack as he stretches his big fingers wide and grabs a handful more, dropping them onto his plate like one of those grabber machines you see at the fairground. His mom whacks him on the arm with the back of her hand.

"Don't talk with your mouth full. How many times?" He ignores her, turning and walking away, leaving me to smile weakly in apology for someone she raised but I barely know. I expect her to do something, say something to him at least, but she smiles back, a genuine smile that tells me everything I need to know about where Brady's general sense of entitlement originates. Not only is he top of the pack socially, he clearly rules the roost here at home too.

"You want one?" he holds the plate out to me as he spreads out across his bed, leaving me standing awkwardly beside it.

"Sure." I don't really, but I take one anyway, not wanting to offend. I'm not sure why it matters so much to me - I still don't trust the dude.

It becomes clear that he's not going to make the effort to offer me a seat, so I pull out his desk chair, ignoring the sweaters hanging off the back of it as I sit.

"You didn't have any better offers for tonight?" I ask him, taking a bite of my cookie as he picks up the remote and flicks on the TV.

"Yeah, I had better offers. Didn't have any more interesting ones though." He glances away from the screen and winks at me. I smirk and shake my head, the idea of having me over here as 'interesting', amusing me way more than it should.

"You're gonna be disappointed," I tell him.

"I doubt that," he replies. Then without missing a beat, "I half-thought you might be busy banging Bella." It becomes obvious in that short sentence what he meant about not being disappointed. He hasn't invited me over here to provide the entertainment, he's invited me to help him entertain himself. My stomach rolls but I'm determined not to play his games.

"You have to be fucking kidding me," I say, forcing a smile I hope looks genuine. "Dude, I'd be more likely to bang your mom than Bella after the shit she spread around school about me this week." At the mention of his mom, Brady froze and turned to glare at me. For a split second I thought he was going to launch himself at me, but then he threw back his head and laughed loudly. As his laughter died down, he turned to look at me, the ghost of a smile still there on his lips.

"You know, that's just as well, Eddie. Because I'd be more likely to let you bang my mom than I would Bella." He holds my gaze, the unspoken threat sitting heavily in the air between us. I say nothing, just slip the rest of that fucking cookie in my mouth and try not to choke on it, as I turn uncomfortably back to the TV screen.