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Those Jeffries Boys (HBTC Novel)

    Bethan was three days old when Rachel had walked out on them, and Mike had panicked. He could barely look after himself, never mind a newborn baby. He'd focused on what he could do - get them both away from the flat, to somewhere safe - but he'd caused so much trouble that Len - his mum's fourth husband - had threatened to do him over if he came anywhere near them again. In desperation, he'd turned up on his brother's doorstep - not Dan's, but Andy's. He'd begged for asylum, and Andy had granted it without question.
    Even now, Mike was amazed - and profoundly grateful - that Andy had taken them in. They'd never got on. Back when they were kids, their mum used to say 'two's company, three's a crowd' to explain why one of them was always left out, and the one that was left out was usually Mike. But then, there was only a year between Andy and Dan; they were more than brothers, they were friends, whereas Mike was just the loser who couldn't keep a job or a relationship. He might've been the eldest, but it didn't guarantee their respect, because respect was earned. He knew that now. And he'd done nothing to earn theirs.

* * *

    With Rosie on one hip and Sorsha lying on the changing mat and kicking her legs in the air, Andy attempted to keep his phone gripped between his chin and shoulder. Nappyless Sorsha gurgled and started to pee. Andy grabbed a wad of tissues to soak it up. His phone slipped and fell with a thunk and a splash, right into the puddle.
    "Crap," he said, hoping his cursing wasn't a prediction of what was coming next. He retrieved his phone and set it to one side. "Dropped my phone," he said loudly by way of explaining to Shaunna on the other end of the line. "Give me a sec."
    Andy grabbed a cushion off the couch, put it on the floor next to the changing mat and laid Rosie on it. Both sisters turned to look at each other and made cooing noises. Andy sighed contentedly - being a real dad had well and truly done for his pretentions of wanting to be free and independent forever - and gave his phone a quick once-over with a baby wipe. He put it to his ear again and felt a dribble run down his cheek. Could be pee, could be baby-wipe juice, he didn't care.

* * *

    If Dan had one great regret, it was letting Tom go through with the wedding, because he'd honestly thought Adele would back out of it before the big day. As was to be expected, Adele's dad had paid for everything, and she'd handed over the planning to Eleanor, so Dan had successfully avoided contact with Adele for months. But as the day drew closer, their paths had crossed more and more frequently, and there was still such animosity between them that Adele had suggested they go out for dinner together, or whatever would give them an opportunity to escape everyone else for an evening so they could clear the air. The result of that evening was sitting in the back seat.
    It was all in the past, and they were happy. They had a healthy almost-four-year-old daughter; in four days' time they'd have a son, and it sounded as if Tom was finally moving on, too. But for all of that, Dan wished he'd stopped the wedding. If he had, then Adele might just have considered marrying him.

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