The drive to my sister's house goes by slowly. Nick is sitting in one of the booster seats, singing along with the kids' music playing from the speakers. Annie is singing along with him, using her arms to mime the words and motions. I laugh, but I do not join in the singing because I know I am tone-deaf.
"This is fun!" Nick shouts from the back seat.
"This is fun," Annie nods, turning to smile at him. "You have to remember to thank Eric later."
I glance sideways at Annie as she straightens in the seat. Her curls are pulled back in a bun, but I wish she would let it hang loose. I have this weird urge to twist a curl around my finger. I sigh and keep my gaze fixed on the road ahead. When we arrive at my sister's house, I park behind Mom's car in the driveway.
"Here we are," I say softly, mostly to myself. "I'll help Nick out. You can go on in, if you want."
"I'll wait for you," Annie replies, unbuckling her seatbelt before getting out.
I smile to myself and quickly unbuckle my seatbelt to help Nick. Once his feet hit the ground, Nick races to Annie's side and takes her hand. I chuckle and lead the way to the front door. I knock and the door swings wide open.
"Uncle Eric!" Ethan shouts, grabbing hold of my leg. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to get Karissa," I reply, chuckling as Micah appears around the corner with a grin. "Hey Micah!"
"Uncle Eric!" he yells, running to grab my other leg.
"Oh my!" I grunt, pretending my nephews weigh hundreds of pounds as I slowly march towards the living room. "I have been attacked by the miniatures!"
They squeal as I drag my heavy feet along the floor, stopping when my mom, Sabrina and Karissa glance at me with amused smiles.
"Hope you don't mind," I say, motioning for Annie and Nick to join us. "I am accompanied by Annie and her nephew, Nick."
Annie waves shyly, laughing when Nick hides behind her legs. I chuckle and look down at my nephews as I pry them off my legs. Karissa jumps off the couch and starts chatting with Annie, which takes me by surprise. I motion for Nick to come join the fun, but he shakes his head.
"Too many pretty girls?" I ask, gently pushing Ethan and Micah to the floor as I sit down. "Don't worry, Nick, I felt the same way at your age."
I turn and find my mother, and sister, staring at me with arched brows.
"No one would ever think you are not related," I say, shaking my head as I motion between them. "You make the same expressions when you don't know what to think of me."
Sabrina narrows her eyes, but Mom is amused. I smile innocently at my sister before glancing at Karissa and Annie. I look away quickly, not wanting to look at either of them longer than necessary. Ethan and Micah turn their attention to the toy box on the other side of the room.
"Mom," I say, "Annie is the friend I told you about, the one who likes your books. She doesn't have her books with her tonight, but maybe we can work out another day for you to sign them?"
"Eric!" Annie hisses, suddenly sitting on the floor next to me. "No need to put me on the spot."
"She's shy," I whisper, cupping my hands over my mouth. "She doesn't like to be put on the spot. Which is ironic because her super power does just that."
Something hits the back of my head, which makes me look at Annie in surprise. She smiles innocently as Nick sits in her lap. I chuckle and rub the back of my head. Ethan and Micah notice Nick and come to offer him a few of their toys.
"That's a first," Sabrina says when Nick goes to play with them. "They never want to share their toys, not even in play-group. Annie, I am going to be bugging Eric to bring you and Nick here more often."
"I won't complain if you do," Annie laughs, looking over her shoulder at the boys. "Nick and I are the babies in our families, separated by five years difference from the last kid."
"That makes three of us, since Jacks is the older twin," I say with a shrug. "Not quite the same, but I get it."
"I don't mean to be the party-pooper," Karissa says, wincing as she returns to her place on the couch next to my sister. "But I really need to get back to campus."
I nod and push myself up, offering Annie my hand. She hesitates, but takes it and allows me to pull her to her feet.
"You're so tiny!" Sabrina says in amazement. "Eric, you're like five-eleven, right?"
"Yeah?" I say, though it comes out as a question, raising an eyebrow. "What's your point?"
"I'm trying to estimate Annie's height, thank you very much."
"I'm five-five," Annie says, laughing. "Which is not that short."
I grin smugly at my sister and turn to say goodbye to the boys. They cry out that they want me to stay, but then Sabrina tells them to go wake up Gil. Nick drops the toys and comes to take Annie's hand. I suddenly realize that I am still holding her hand, which is probably why Karissa and my mother are staring. I slowly drop Annie's hand, holding out my arms to Mom.
"Hug your favorite son," I say with a hint of teasing.
"You owe me and your dad a visit," she says, standing as I pull her into a hug.
"I'll come by on Saturday and stay through Sunday. We have an out of town game on Friday, or else I would come right afterwards. See ya, Sis."
I hug Sabrina and offer Nick my hand, which he takes willingly. I lead him towards the door, letting Annie and Karissa say their goodbyes.
"Are you Annie's boyfriend?" Nick asks, lowering his voice. "She talked about you a lot the other day, but she would not tell me."
I chuckle, "No," I reply, shaking my head as we head out to the car. "I'm not her boyfriend, just a friend. Did you like playing with Ethan and Micah?"
"Yeah, they were fun."
"Would you like to come and play with them again sometime?"
"That would be fun, but . . . I need to ask Mommy."
I ruffle his sandy-colored hair before opening the door and flipping the seat forward. Nick climbs into the backseat and I help buckle him in. Karissa and Annie approach the car, chatting with each other.
"I'll sit in the back with Nick," Annie says, coming around to where I stand, getting in the back before anyone can say a word.
"I could have sat in the back," Karissa says as she reluctantly gets in the front seat.
I adjust the drivers' seat back to its original position and slowly get into the car. In the rearview, I catch Annie smiling directly at me, which makes me grin softly. I do not think Karissa catches the exchange, because her attention is on her phone. I start the engine and lower the kids' music, unsure if Karissa minds it.
"So," Karissa says, a few minutes later. "Annie, how do you know Eric? I never got around to asking?"
"Online, virtual soccer game," she replies, leaning forward in the middle of our seats. "When freshman year started, so did endless nights of soccer games and innocent banter."
"And what was that Eric mentioned about a super power?"
I glance at Annie in the mirror; we are both clueless to what Karissa is getting at.
"Might as well clue me in, Eric," Karissa goes on, turning her glare at me. "You rarely talk to me anymore, so I have no idea what is going on with you."
"Soccer, classes, babysitting," I say, counting on my fingers. "Not much else."
Karissa sighs, but drops the conversation to answer a text on her phone. I stay quiet; Karissa is right. I stopped talking to her when her relationship with Jacks became more serious. I catch Annie watching me, from the corner of my eye, and she sits back in her seat. I sigh; this is going to be quite an awkward car ride.
YOU ARE READING
Superpower (A Trigger Novel)Romance
Eric Dominguez is a star soccer player at Adelphi University. His twin brother, Jacks, is living his life to the fullest, down to the fact that he is expecting a baby with his girl, Karissa, Eric's high school crush. Eric is still a little bitter to...