Screwed (The Original Crew Returns #1) by Jayne Rylon


Joe tapped his fingers on the steering wheel of his truck. He stared at the last red light on the road separating himself from his bed, which hopefully contained his naked wife. He must be getting old—hell, he’d passed forty a couple years back—because the thought of falling asleep with Morgan snuggled in his arms was even more appealing than the thought of keeping her awake half the night.

He’d originally planned to get home before dinner, but drummed up every excuse he could think of to keep from leaving his uncle Tom and his cousin, Eli, and the place they’d built for themselves at Hot Rides in Middletown, a couple states over. Guilt ate at Joe. It wasn’t like he didn’t want to see his immediate family either. Morgan, their kids, and the rest of the crew. He’d missed each and every one of them.

Torn, he felt like no matter what he did lately, he was screwed.

Blinking hard at reality until his negative thoughts dissipated, Joe peered ahead to the apartment he’d shared with Morgan for the past thirteen years. It was perched above her bakery, Sweet Treats, which she’d made from scratch. Annoyed with himself for not arriving before his kids’ bedtime, he studied the window of the room Nathan and Klea shared. Dark. Actually, there weren’t any lights on. Not even the flickering glow of someone watching TV in his own bedroom.

It wasn’t that late yet.

What the hell?

Joe’s stomach cramped. What if something had happened to his family while he’d been away, acting like some confused teenager instead of doing his duty to protect them and provide for them like he should? He snatched his phone from the holder on the dash, where he’d been using it as a GPS, and speed-dialed Morgan.

Thankfully it wasn’t more than a moment before she answered.

“Hey, cupcake. Is everything okay?”

“Yep.” She sighed. “And it’ll be even better when you get back.”

“Thing about that, I’m pretty much here. Looking at the house now, but it doesn’t seem like anyone’s home. Where are you?”

“I’m up at Kayla and Dave’s place. I thought you were heading up to the lake to talk to Mike and the rest of the crew about something?” Morgan asked, the background din of his friends talking and laughing growing fainter, as if she’d stepped onto the porch for some privacy.

“Decided not to tonight. I left later than I planned and I’m beat.” He pinched the bridge of his nose, because it was so much more than the long drive or the manual labor he’d been putting in at his cousin’s place that was causing his bones to feel like they were going to sink through his skin.

“Oh.” Morgan didn’t say so, but he could hear the disappointment in her voice. “Kate and I sort of got an overnight sitter for the kids. We’ve been holding off on eating until you arrived. Well, most of us. You know Dave can’t resist a potluck for very long.”

“Ah, shit. I didn’t realize you had something planned.” Joe kept fucking up. Springing for a babysitter for Nathan, Klea, Abby, and Landry meant the crew had been hoping for more than a simple meal together.

Alone time. Adult time. Sexy time.

They intended to welcome him home properly.

The construction crew made up of him and his five best friends did more than work together. They played together, too. Had for more than twenty years now. What kind of bastard was he that he was thinking about betraying them?

“I know how much you love surprises. So…surprise.” No matter how off Joe was, or how weary, that coy flavor to Morgan’s sugary voice had him perking up.

Fuck it. There was only so much temptation a man could resist. Even if he knew it wasn’t the right thing to indulge in.

Joe checked his side and rearview mirrors to verify there was no one about but him before swinging his truck around in a U-turn. He accelerated toward the mountains and the place he belonged. He should have known better than to doubt it even for a moment. This was who he was and he couldn’t change it. Not even if he wanted to. “Okay. I’m on my way.”

“If you’re not up for it—“

“I am. I always am.” Whether Joe was trying to convince her or himself was debatable.

“There’s my guy.” Morgan laughed. He could picture her bright eyes as she did. “Hurry home, okay?”

Home. It wasn’t their house she was waiting at. It was one of their best friends’ places. But that didn’t mean shit, because when you were part of the crew, home was where they were. And they all knew it.