"She's not your cousin." Those were the four words he had been waiting to hear for the past six months. Ever since Ruby came to Florida, claiming that David Gallagher was her father, Jordan Gallagher's life had been turned upside down. As soon as he laid his eyes on her, he knew she was the one for him. Call if love at first sight, call it lust, call it hormones - either way, Ruby had managed to weasel her way into Jordan's heart in a matter of a few months. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Before he was even aware that they were cousins, a picture flooded his mind of wrapping his arms around that beautiful body of hers and tasting those ruby red lips of hers. He found that ironic that her name was Ruby and her lips were ruby red.
Of course, all the blood drained from his face when he was reminded that this was his long lost cousin. She was his cousin. It wasn't only incest, but also illegal to have sexual relations with your cousin. He remembered going to bed that night, mentally cursing karma and the fucked up way things worked out. How could it be that the one girl who actually looked at him was his cousin?
Jordan liked to stretch the truth a bit. He liked claiming that he was a ladies' man and that all the girls were fawning over him when in practicality he was just like every other brooding sixteen year old. Before Ruby came barging into his life abruptly, he had tried doing the whole 'chasing' after the girls. Heck, he even snatched one of his mother's girlish magazines to read up about how to woo a girl. Needless to say, that didn't work out as planned.
Jordan had to be the only sixteen year old who still had not had his first kiss yet. To make matters worse, for the past six months, the only girl he had wanted to kiss was his cousin. Having to deal with the fact that he was attracted to his own cousin had been appalling. However, having to live under the same roof as her had been torturous and painful.
The more he tried to avoid her, the more he seemed to run into her. At first, he thought he would be able to get through it. They rode the bus to school together, smiled at each other in the halls and every once in awhile she would come to his lunch table and eat lunch with him. They would discuss their fathers and their pasts and make small talk. Ruby may not have been aware of the fact, but Jordan was aware that every males' eyes were on them during their lunch period.
Before people knew he was Ruby's cousins, he had been getting death looks from boys across campus. Ruby seemed to be oblivious to the longing looks and the wolfish whistles that seemed to follow her wherever she went. She always had been oblivious to the obvious and she was too nice to think that her 'boy friends' would be dreaming about what was underneath that yellow skirt of hers. She didn't notice that the boys purposely dropped their books and watched her bend down to help them, hoping to get a look down her shirt.
Jordan noticed though. The dirty looks stopped once word got out that they were cousins. Again, that filthy word seemed to come back to bite him in the ass. Now he had jocks who never knew he existed before asking him to set them up with Ruby. If it had been anyone else, Jordan would have gladly pounced at the chance to gain social status in exchange for 'introducing' his cousin to anyone. Though, Ruby was his cousin. And he didn't like the idea of Ruby dating anyone or anyone looking at Ruby in that way - the way he looked at her.
Jordan would have fought to defend her honor in the old gentlemanly way of winning a girl's heart. Though, it didn't ever come down to that since Ruby was oblivious to all the interested guys that followed her around like a bunch of lap dogs. Jordan was extremely grateful that Ruby seemed uninterested in the male population that they went to school with. The only guy she was ever seen talking to was him. He tried not to remind himself that it was only because they were family.
He liked to think that if they had not been cousins, she still would have given him the time of day, but he knew better. She was so out of his league that even if they weren't cousins, he knew he wouldn't have a chance with a girl like her. She wasn't some one night stand or a random hook up. A girl like that was someone you bought home to introduce to your mother. A girl like Ruby was a keeper and should not be used to try to look up her skirt or down her shirt.
His attraction to her had been easy enough to cover up. His younger brother knew of his childish crush, but had been sworn to secrecy unless half his peers would know that he still slept with a nightlight. However, his father quickly caught on when he practically collided with a towel clad Ruby.
He had been walking out of his bedroom and Ruby had been exiting the bathroom when she bumped into him, obviously not seeing that he had been in her way. His jaw dropped as he took in her wet, limp ringlets that framed her face and the fact that she was bare except for the thin towel wrapped around her body. His eyes swept over her figure and his pants suddenly became too tight. He would have done anything to have been able to reach out and remove that towel from around her and dragged her back to his bedroom. But he had to remind himself that Ruby was his cousin.
Both were flush faced as they expressed their apologies and practically ran from the hall in opposite directions, desperate to get away from one another. Jordan hadn't realized that his father had witnessed the entire debacle and later that night confronted him about it. "She's your cousin, Jordan," he simply said, shaking his head in disappointment at his son. Jordan had sighed and told his father that he understood that she was off limits. No matter how much he dreamt about kissing her, he knew he would never be able to. His father suggested that perhaps he was turned on by her because it was forbidden.
The last six months had been pure torture for Jordan. Having to be in the same room as her, sitting next to her, sleeping in the room beside her and not being able to touch her and to kiss her drove him insane. The more he saw her, the more he dreamt about her and how he wanted to have his way with her. Little did he know that separated by one thin wall of sheetrock, Ruby was having similar thoughts of her cousin.
Never would she had imagined that she would have been attracted to someone as spunky and rebellious as Jordan. At first, she had thought he was cute and was elated to have a cousin her own age. Though, the more she got to know him, the more she found herself wishing that they weren't related. She wasn't sure when she realized it. Perhaps it was when she heard him singing his song about a girl.
She had wished desperately that the song had been about her, but she knew it was impossible to imagine that. He didn't like her like that - he wouldn't. She was his cousin and he wouldn't see her as anything else. She found herself blatantly ignoring all the other guys at her school. At first, she tried to befriend them and tried to seek potential boyfriends out but she found herself comparing them constantly to Jordan. Either they weren't musically talented enough like Jordan or not funny enough or not cute enough. Jordan had ruined her for other boys - he was the only one she wanted and it was forbidden.
She knew that one day Jordan would bring home a nice girl whom he loved and wanted to spend the rest of his life with. Sure, they were only sixteen now but sixteen would quickly turn into twenty and twenty would quickly turn into a marriage and two kids in a perfect house. Those Friday nights that they spent together on the couch, goofing off and writing songs would quickly turn into a once a year phone call on New Years Day. She hated to think that one day there would be another girl in Jordan's life and she knew she wouldn't be able to handle it, but there was nothing she could have done.
He was her cousin. She was his cousin. That was all they could ever be. They were related by blood. Their fathers were brothers. That was a no-no. It didn't become any more clearer than that. However, things were different when the four words were finally spoken.
"She's not your cousin."
Patrick and David had called a family meeting earlier that evening which should have been a sign of confusion for all three of the Gallagher children. After all - when did David come to family meetings let alone call for them? Ruby thought nothing of the family meeting one Friday night as she perched herself on the arm of the sofa, Jordan seated right next to her. They were so close and she accidentally brushed her knee against his.
Both teenagers immediately went pink and quickly avoided eye contact. "Sorry," they both mustered quietly in unison, both of them completely oblivious to the other's flushing features. However, Ben caught this and merely rolled his eyes at them in disgust. He turned to his father and his uncle and asked in a bored voice, "What's with this family meeting? I was playing a video game." He tapped his foot impatiently.
Both Gallagher brothers looked at one another before turning to Ruby who raised an eyebrow in confusion. Why were they both looking at her? Had she done something wrong? "Ruby, we received a call from your grandmother," Patrick began, unsure of how to exactly explain to her and the rest of their family their recent findings.
Ruby's eyes widened and she shook her head vigorously. "They want me to go back there don't they," she said, a sense of panic in her voice. She didn't want to go back to her grandparents. She loved them but she loved being here in Florida with the Gallaghers even more. "I don't want to go back," she said, biting her lower lip to keep from crying. How could she go back to her normal life there when she had such a good one here? And she was just getting herself situated into school.
Jordan's eyes widened in panic as he noticed the day Ruby was reacting. She was going to go back? But she couldn't! "Ruby can't go back," he found himself nearly screaming, jumping up to defend his cousin. He winced inwardly at the word 'cousin'. It was a word he had come to despise these past six months. "She can't go," he repeated, looking back at Ruby whose eyes were tearing up. "We need her." He added silently 'I need her'.
David sighed deeply. "She's not your cousin."
That caught everyone's attention. Four heads snapped to David at that. "Excuse me," Ruby repeated, trying to make sense of what she had just heard. "My grandparents lied to you," she said, standing up now, standing right beside Jordan. "Your name is on my birth certificated, Dad. This is ridiculous," she said, looking at her aunt to defend her.
Audie looked from David and Patrick and then back to Ruby. "What do you mean she isn't your daughter, David," she said, trying to make sense of the whole situation. So much for having a normal evening for once in a lifetime.
Patrick noticed the troubled look on his brother's face, so he looked at Ruby, frowning lightly. "Ruby, honey. Your mother was dating two guys at the same time. David and your real father. She found out who the real father was and put David's name on the birth certificate instead. She didn't want you to think your father was a good for nothing drunk. So instead she wanted you to believe that David was your father."
Audie raised an eyebrow at that. "As if David is a better choice than a drunk."
David and Patrick both shot her a look. David quickly closed the gap between Ruby and himself. "Ruby, honey. I'm not your real father."
Jordan recovered from this fact first and he smiled brightly at this. "This is awesome," he exclaimed, earning a glare from his mother and his father. He looked at Ruby, expecting her to be happy that she now knew the truth, but she was standing there like a fish out of water, her jaw dropped. "What does this mean," she said, trying to ignore the pain she was feeling from Jordan's burst of joy. Apparently he was glad that he didn't have to be tied to her anymore.
Patrick bit his lip and looked at Audie. "Well, honey, we still love you like a part of our family. You've settled here so we'd love it if you stayed with us. We're not about to kick you out. Your grandparents understand that you're a part of our family now and you have a life here. They don't want to uproot you and since your mother has passed on, we'd love to still have you." Audie nodded in agreement, adding, "We love you like a daughter, sweetie. Even if you're not really our family." Her husband shot her a look since she always had to correct his speech.
"You forgot to tell her we love her," she said pointedly, turning back to her not-so-niece. "Are you alright, Ruby," she asked gently for the girl hadn't spoken a word other than a few sentences here and there.
"I don't know," she said uncertainly, unsure of what to make of the situation. She wasn't related to the Gallaghers. She wasn't Ruby Gallagher. David wasn't her father, Patrick wasn't her uncle, Audie wasn't her aunt, Ben wasn't her cousin and Jordan - Jordan wasn't her cousin. At that last fact, she quickly glanced at Jordan and saw he was looking at her.
They weren't cousins.
Jordan wasn't her cousin.
She wasn't his cousin.
They weren't related.
"I need time to think, if you'll excuse me," she said, quickly excusing herself from the diastral family meeting. She climbed the stairs two at a time, almost falling and hitting the wall in her rush to get out of there as fast as she could. She quickly entered her room and closed the door, throwing herself on the bed and just sitting there, staring into space. It had taken time to get used to actually having a family but she had settled in and felt like she belonged.
Now she didn't have a family again. She didn't have a father anymore. She didn't belong here anymore. She knew that they had offered to let her stay there still, but that wouldn't be right. They weren't her family. Tears welled up in her eyes. She would have to pack all her things up again and move back home with her grandparents. She would have to say goodbye to David and all of them. She would say goodbye to Jordan.
Back down in the living room, Jordan frowned deeply when Ruby made her quick escape. "Ruby wait," he exclaimed, quickly going up the stairs after her. He knew that look on her face - the look of rejection. She was going to try to flee and to leave them. He couldn't let her leave - he couldn't let her walk out of his life forever.
Audie opened her mouth to tell Jordan to leave her alone but Patrick shook his head at her, giving her a knowing look. "They're not cousins anymore, sweetie," he said. His tone caused Audie to snap her mouth shut as she understood. All the awkward looks shared between the two hormonal teenagers. The blushing and the giggling. She paled visibly. But they weren't cousins anymore…that meant that ground rules would have to be set.
Back upstairs, Jordan threw Ruby's door opened and stopped when he saw no boxes were packed. Her belongings weren't strewn across the room as he had imagined and she was still there, perched on her bed. "Rubes," he said gently, taking a cautious step closer to her. "Are you alright?"
She glanced up at him and sighed deeply. "Jordan…I don't have a family anymore."
He frowned, sitting next to her on the bed, being sure to give her enough space so that they weren't touching. He needed to think clearly and he didn't want to take advantage of her in her moment of weakness. "What are you talking about, Ruby," he said gently, trying to comfort her. "You may not be blood but you're still a member of the family. Blood doesn't change anything. Just because we found this out doesn't change the past six months," he said and it ached to have to say it out loud. This changed nothing. She would still see him as her goofy cousin that wasn't worth her time.
She smiled lightly at him. "You always say the right things."
He raised an eyebrow at her and she laughed through her tears. "Alright, not always, but sometimes." He smiled at her in return, glad to see that he had bought that beautiful smile on her face once more. He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and hugged her to him. "You'll always be a member of the family, Rubes, no matter what happens," he assured her. Without realizing it, he leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. "I love you," he told her seriously, though he knew she probably would take it as a 'family' or 'cousinly' type of love.
She took a sharp intake of breath and she closed her eyes, trying to imagine that he actually meant it in the way she wanted him to. "I love you too, Jordan," she told him, glancing up at him and she could have sworn she saw his smile widen. 'More than you will ever know', she added silently.
Neither of them would know who initiated it. Both hormonal teenagers were alone in her bedroom - something was bound to happen, especially since they had just found out that they weren't related. He moved a little closer to her, his arm still wrapped around her. She leaned into him, breathing in his scent. He rested his head on top of hers and she glanced up at him.
"You were always more than a cousin to me," she whispered to him, looking up at him expectantly. His eyes widened at her words and it slowly dawned on him what she was saying exactly. "Same here," he breathed out and he wasn't sure if she heard his words because as soon as the words left his mouth, his lips crushed against hers.
Ruby heard everything. All this time both of them had been oblivious to the other's growing feelings for one another. Of course, neither could have said anything about it since they had been cousins then. Well, technically they hadn't been cousins but they had thought themselves to be cousins. Now, now they were free to do whatever they pleased.
In the living room, it suddenly dawned on the three adults that there were two emotional, hormonal teenagers under the legal age alone in a bedroom together with a bed. Patrick realized it first as his eyes widened to the point that they were as wide as medallions. "Jordan," he bellowed, quickly climbing the stairs, a baffled David at his feet. "Ruby," Audie shrieked, suddenly understanding what her husband and brother in law were rushing about.
Three adults blinked in shock when they saw the two former cousins wrapped in a passionate embrace, the two of them locked at the lips. For a quick moment, neither adult knew what to do before David grinned. "That's my girl," he exclaimed, forcing Audie to clear her throat.
The two teenagers finally realized that they were no longer alone and jumped a mile a part. Within seconds, both were off the bed and on opposite sides of the room. Both wore a deep crimson color on their flushed faces. Though, Jordan had a goofy grin on his face. He just had his first kiss - with Ruby!
Ruby blushed fiercely. "Err, I guess I'll be taking that offer to stay then," she said, trying not to laugh at the baffled expressions on her former father, aunt and uncle. She shared a knowing look with Jordan. Things were about to get interesting around the Gallagher household.