Chapter 3: Invading Boytopia

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"Come here, honey!" called Katherine, so I had no other choice but to join her on the deck. I climbed up the wooden steps hoping that my face wasn't red or puffy from crying and dropped my heavy bag to the ground. Much to my discomfort, everyone went silent.

"Boys," began George, breaking the silence, "this is Jackie and—"

"—and she will be staying with us for a while," finished Katherine, while giving her husband a stern look. A loud breath of air escaped my lungs as I sighed. I hadn't realized how much I didn't want the boys to know why I was really here. I wasn't ready to talk to a bunch of strangers about my family. Besides, if the boys knew, they might treat me like something breakable and that was the last thing I wanted.

At the moment, they were all staring at me like I was a foreigner invading their personal country.

I decided it was time to make peace. Slowly, I raised my hand and shyly waved. "Hi guys. I'm Jackie."

One of the older boys swam forward and pulled himself out of the pool, breaking line with the others. I took one look at him and my pulse stopped. He looked like he had just stepped out of a sports magazine. His pale blond hair was messy and matted down from the pool and I couldn't help but notice that his perfectly toned muscles were lightly misted with water. There were water droplets caught in his dark eyelashes that sparkled in the sunlight, framing his bright blue eyes. Overall, he made me want to melt.

"Why?" he questioned, fixing his bright eyes on me. "Why are you staying with us?"

"Cole!" George scolded. "Don't be so rude. Jackie is our guest."

Cole turned to grin at the other boys and then proceeded to look back to his father. He shrugged. "What? We were all thinking it. I was just the first one to say it."

A few of the other guys nodded in agreement. I felt myself freeze up, afraid that if I told them why I was here, I would break down and start crying again. I definitely didn't want that to happen.

Katherine noticed my panicked look and jumped in to save me. "As you all know, I went to visit Jackie's mother, M-Molly." She stumbled over my mother's name. "There are a few family issues going on right now, so I offered to take Jackie with me." Katherine took a deep breath when she finished. I felt relieved that I wasn't the one who had to lie. Maybe once I settled into the Walter household I could tell them the truth, but not until I knew where I stood with the boys.

"Well, I think I'll just grab the rest of my stuff," I said, wanting to get away from the dozen pair of eyes that were staring at me.

"Oh, right, I forgot. One of you boys needs to help Jackie to her room, while I go make dinner. You all behave yourselves." Katherine pointed a finger at her kids.

When I turned to leave as Katherine and George disappeared into the house, someone caught my arm. I looked up to find myself face to face with one of the boys. He was the tallest of them all, and probably the oldest too. His golden blond hair was pulled back into a short ponytail, and the few strands that weren't held back had curled in the heat. His strong jaw line, thick chin and long straight nose made the glasses he was wearing look rather small. His forearms were very toned, and his hands were rough, most likely from working on the ranch.

"You planning on staying long or do you normally pack this much?" he asked with a smile, looking down at my giant hockey bag. Thinking of home caused my lips to tremble and I felt tears form in my eyes. I didn't want to stay very long at all, but where else could I go? His smile faltered, and the look of concern in his eyes made me feel like somehow he understood. It made me trust him. I wasn't quite sure why, but maybe it was because he looked more like a man than the rest of the boys.

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