In all probability, Matt couldn’t care less about the bullying.
Even at nine years old, his intellect was such (and his parents’ lessons were as well) that he was not unaware that the fates had seen fit to grant him more of almost everything than most people received.
The boy had happily married, exceptionally successful, wealthy, loving parents.
Not to mention, if Tom kept honing it, what would be Matt’s version of physical excellence.
Matt Pierce didn’t need anyone, and not only because he already had it all.
That was just him.
He just didn’t.
“Has it occurred to you that your brother doesn’t care?” Corey inquired. “I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your notice that he’s perfectly fine in his own company.”
“It hasn’t, Uncle Corey, but bullies shouldn’t get away with being bullies. One,” Chloe returned.
She had a list.
Corey fought a smile.
“Two,” she continued, “he’s my brother, and no one messes with my brother.”
He nodded and said nothing because he knew there was a three.
“And three,” she went on, “he’s a Pierce. And no one pulls crap with a Pierce.”
“You’re right,” he agreed. “So what are you going to do about it?”
That took her aback.
“What are you going to do about it?” Corey repeated.
“They aren’t bullying me,” she pointed out.
Corey held her gaze in a manner that she did not look away.
Not that she would.
Another thing about the girl he liked.
Then he stated, “Do not ever, Chloe, ever let anyone harm someone you love.”
A feeling welled up in his chest, instantly threatening to overwhelm him.
Used to this sensation, having experienced it for years, with little effort, Corey shoved it back down and kept speaking.
“It doesn’t matter what you have to do, if you think it’s bad, but it stops that harm, you do it. If you think it’s naughty, and it stops that harm, you do it. Even if you think it’s wrong, though it will stop that harm, you do it. No hesitation, no messing about. Just do it.”
Chloe stared at him.
“The same with you,” he carried on. “Do not let anyone walk all over you, Chloe Marilyn Pierce. Don’t you ever allow that to happen.”
She gave it a moment, and then she asked, “So you think I should…do something?”
“I think you’ve already waited too long.”
Corey watched as Chloe considered this.
And he was unsurprised when, after she spent hardly any time in this contemplation, slowly, she smiled.
Nine years later…
“Are you mad?” Pierre asked me.
I stared at him, for the first time wondering why I’d spent a single minute with him.
Was he cute?
Did he have a good body?
Did he give me my very first, not-given-to-myself orgasm?
Was he an asshole?
My voice was ice-cold, and I was pretty pleased with myself at the sound of it, when I noted in return, “You told me you’d never sell it.”
“I’m an artist!” he cried.
In that moment, I made a pact with myself that I vowed to keep.
Only I would bring the drama to a relationship.
I modulated my voice and did not cut the tie between our gazes.
“You said it meant everything to you. You said you’d cease being you without it in your possession. You said you’d be ninety, and you would die in a room where, on the wall, that portrait you painted of me hung.”
“I do need to feed myself, Chloe,” he sniped.
No one, not a soul, disregarded money the way he did (unless not doing it served his purpose, like now), who did not have it in the first place.
Didn’t grow up having it.
I was that person too.
But Mom did a lot of charity work, so did Dad, they made certain we understood that we were very lucky and many, in fact most others, were not.
Pierre and I had never discussed money (because, how gauche), and he didn’t live in a fabulous apartment in a posh part of the city, though it wasn’t rundown or seedy or anything like that.
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