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My father’s eyes turn a shade of dark I’ve never seen. 

     All these years we have followed his every move, stood tall with his presence in mind and fought for all he taught us to believe in. 

    Family are the ones we chose.

    Loyalty is given where gotten.

    Trust only those who earn it.

    His words were engraved into our bones before we even understood the meaning, and we’ve lived and breathed them ever fucking since.

    Only one free pass was ever given, and without realization.

    To him.

    Instinctively, fully. With every fucking inch of who we are we believe in the man standing in front of us. Bad move on us?

    As if sensing my thoughts, our father’s eyes tighten with his form.

    I swear we stare at each other for a solid five minutes before he so much as blinks. 

    Finally, he speaks.

    “No?” he repeats my last word. Slowly. Cautiously.

    Good, he’s getting it now.

    I don’t bother responding. He said Raven is the end, and no damn doubt about it, she is. 

    But she’s my end. 

    My everything. 

    Above all. Before fucking all. Raven Carver, or shit, Raven Brayshaw will forever be at my side. Period. 

    “I’m afraid this isn’t up for negotiation.” He eyes us carefully.

    “I’m afraid you’re dead fucking wrong.” Royce pushes forward.

    Our dad’s eyes slide to him, only to move directly back to me.

    “You’d go against me, for the girl?” He gives a mask of anger, but we’re his sons, so we see the truth. Nothing but distress and uncertainty stares back.

    He has no fucking clue. None. And, how could he? He hasn’t been here.

    “I don’t know what you expected to happen.” I give a slow shrug, shaking my head. “We feel like you know who we are, you say you do, but if that were true, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” I level him with a hard look. “You may not have known what she became to us, I get none of your watchers could break it down for you in a way to make you understand, it’s some next level shit you have to witness up close to fully comprehend. Thing is, though, you’ve been up close, and you have seen, Dad. I know you have. 

    “You’ve studied, dissected really, our every fucking move with her. You’ve caught all of Captain’s subtle shifts toward her when he senses she needs to feel him. You see how Royce clings to her, how his anger and need for a real connection drives him where she’s concerned, helping him to open parts none of us thought we’d see. We don’t even need to talk about me. You’re just like I am, you know a possessive asshole when you see one.

    “All the shit over the last few months, the way we grew as a unit. Stronger, bolder, fucking braver. She did this. Shecame in and reminded us without even speaking why we want this world. Why this town and lifestyle is important to us. We want what we were born for, Dad, what you groomed us for, the life you earned and promised to us, and we will have it.”

   “We told you.” Cap steps forward. “She’s not just some girl, never was, and now we know she was never meant to be.” He confirms the answer to our dad’s initial question – Raven comes first.

   “There’s a way around this,” I say what I’m one hundred fucking percent sure of. “And I’m bettin’ it’s a lot less messy than the route we’ll take.” I look to my brothers a moment before turning back to him. “Tell us what you know. If you don’t, we’ll find the answers ourselves, even if it means walking through you to do it.”

    “And you think you’re ready to hear it, hm?” he edges, and Royce cuts me a quick glance. “What if it’s more than you can handle?” 

    “We can handle anything,” I answer.

    He nods, his eyes dropping to the floor before slowly returning to ours.

    “There is a way.” He speaks slow, a hint of resentment laced in his words. His features harden. “But I can promise you this, when I tell you, it will not serve as motivation. It will be a knowledge you wish you never asked for. The thought of it alone will haunt you at night, I swear it.”

    The conviction in his voice has the three of us pausing, our eyes briefly meeting before resolve is all that’s left.

    We’re ready.

“Raven stays with us,” Royce declares. “Now, tell us what we need to do to make sure this happens.”

    Our dad pushes to his full height and leisurely walks around his desk. He lowers himself into the leather seat, casually leaning back.

    His eyes hold a hardened glare, but his hands lift as if to say simple. His words that follow are anything but. 

    “Give them Zoey instead.”

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