Chapter 22

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Anticipation and fear had me in a tight grip, so sleep had been almost nonexistent for me. This meeting was my newest worry and I couldn't help but cycle through all the possibilities of what could happen. This stress couldn't be good for me, so now I stood in front of a stove flipping pancakes to distract me from it all.

The kitchen's island was filled with many plates, all filled to the brim with food. I'd been at this for a few hours now and couldn't decide on one thing, so it made sense to go with it all. When I flipped the last pancake onto my plate, I placed it between the bacon, waffles and fruit bowl. I moved to clean the waffle iron and saw a blur in the corner of my eye. When I looked up, there was Theo heading out back.

"Hey," I called out to him as he was halfway to the back door.

There was a mumble and a moment of hesitation, but then he turned around and gave the fakest of smiles. "Oh, hey. What are you doing up this early?"

"Couldn't sleep too many things going on in my head. So now we have food for twenty." I moved closer to him, hoping he wouldn't try to escape again. After last night he'd disappeared and no one could find him in the house. We'd worried he'd went off and done something stupid, but knew that he wasn't and idiot.

"That's about right." A soft laugh escape him, but the humor behind it was small.

My eyes searched his face and his body language, seeing the tension that still filled him. A frown formed on my lips and I moved closer to him, placing a gentle hand on his arm. At first his eyes avoided mine, but after a moment passed, he met my gaze. His portrayed a tired I sometimes saw in myself.

"You okay? I know yesterday was a lot, to say the least." I squeezed his arm and then released it. When he didn't say anything I spoke up again, "I just wanted to make sure you're doing okay."

A deep sigh escaped him and he pinched the bridge of his nose for a second. He looked at me for a long moment and moved away, taking a seat on a stool at the island "I'm fine, or I will be fine. I just got tired of his stuff. He's been like this my entire life and then he sits and puts all this hate into people who don't deserve it. I'm over this whole superior act, when he makes mistakes just like the rest of the world." He shrugged and let out another deep exhale.

My lips turned down, imagining all of them growing up with him; Jessica having married him. I moved around the table, wrapping his arms around him. "Thank you for that, by the way. It's nice to have someone stand up for you."

My lips turned down in a frown because I felt bad and understood the frustration, to an extent. I had my own father who could be a lot, set in his ways and unwavering for anyone of anything. It had to be worse for them, worse for Jessica who was the one who'd married the jerk. Without a thought I moved closer, wrapping my arms around him in a hug. "Thanks for defending me."

His shoulder lifted in a shrug, but he wrapped his arms around me as well. "Any of us would have done it. Heck, Sam looked ready to do much more."

Pulling away I gave him a mock scowl. "Don't discredit yourself. You were awesome to do it."

Moving away I went to the fridge to grab the orange juice from inside. "Now call everyone down to breakfast. I hope we can make quite the dent in all of this before it gets cold."

Theo laughed, and it seemed like some of the pressure had left him. There was no easy way to remove a crap feeling right away, but I knew that this would be the start for him to feel completely better.

"Breakfast!" The scream made me jump, and I turned to look at him with a raise brow. All I got was a goofy smile.

The sound of people descending the stairs came as I filled glasses of orange juice. Sam came down first, eyes wide as he looked at the spread and then he smiled up at me. Jessica and Hayley came next, giving me the same reaction. What baffled me was they all looked ready for the day and here I stood awake for hours and looking a mess.

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