Black Jack tightens his hold around my shoulders as Amy snaps around; glaring at the girl; "Willow Lynn Grayson, that is more than enough; Liam cannot help his stutter and you are being rude!"
Clamping my mouth shut at their arguing that is going full force now; remembering my parents yelling at me for my stutter too. I do not want to talk around any of them any longer with the exception of Black Jack; dropping my head, allowing my chin to touch my chest as tears prick my eyes.
"Liam come over here please?" Riley gently demands.
Before I can fully register his command, my feet are walking me away from Black Jack after he gives me a quiet 'go on' and I stop of Julia and Riley but with my gaze direct to the floor.
"Liam look at me please," Riley's smooth British accented voice commands.
Lifting my head to meet his gaze with tear-filled eyes without a word; "You don't have to stop speaking around here or us; and you will be staying until you are at least 18 years old alright?"
I nod at him without speaking that is until Riley demands; "Words Liam."
I inhale deeply before quietly saying; "Y-yes s-s-sir."
Riley curtly nods as he and Julia take in my appearance or something before he taps Julia's thigh making her stand to allow him to stand to his towering 6 feet 1 inch height; "Time for breakfast and for you to answer some more questions, too," he directs the last part at me.
Hanging back as the others fill out of the room into the kitchen/dining room until Black Jack and I are the last two; "Come on kid, let's fatten you up some you're too damn skinny for my liking."
Black Jack and I fill our plates and sit at the table, once I'm settled, the questions start and Riley is the first to ask; "How old are you and where are you from?"
"I-I'm 17 y-years o-old and I-I'm f-f-from P-p-provo, U-utah," I answer as I stare with wide eyes at my plate; terrified to eat for the fear of throwing it back up and that they'll try and find my family and make me live with them again.
"When is your birthday and where are your parents?" Phillip asks as he eats his food.
Glancing between Amy, Phillip, Riley and Willow, I'm struck at how much they look alike; "My b-birthday is O-o-october 31, 2002. U-um m-my p-p-parents are s-stil at h-h-home."
"Are you gay?" William demands with a glare.
"I-I'm b-bi a-actually," I admit without shame this time starring her down.
"I refuse to be around a fag," Willow seethes and I swear I can see the anger dripping off her entire being.
Placing my fork down onto my plate as I stand from the chair before heading toward the door without a word; I shouldn't have expected this place or people to be any different than home or the other places I've stopped along the way. Quickly running out the door, I'm halfway down the long paved drive toward the fifteen foot tall black iron gate when strong arms wrap around my waist; pulling me into their rock hard chest.
"You're not leaving this home until you are ready but even then I'm not letting you leave kid," Black Jack's deep voice whispers into my ear with no argument.
"I-I'm s-s-scared to let p-p-people in," I admit as tears race down my cheeks as he turns me around into his chest; where I bury my face in his shirt and sob as I tightly hold onto the material of his shirt as he holds me tightly.
By the time Black Jack and I enter the house, Willow, Amy and Phillip are nowhere to be found; everyone but Riley are in the living room watching the television.
"Black Jack, Riley wants you and the kid in the kitchen," Axel tells us as his eyes linger on mine; his eyes are soft and full of understanding as Black Jack and I walk off toward the kitchen. He makes me wonder what his life he's had or has.
"Thanks Axel," Black Jack calls back over his shoulder to his friend.
Entering the kitchen, we find Riley sitting at the head of the table sipping a steaming cup of coffee; his eyes flick to ours and he smiles. "Come sit please," he says gesturing toward the empty chairs to the left and right of him.
Sitting down on Riley's left as Black Jack sits on his right; "Willow will no longer be bothering you, Liam, and I apologize for her rude behavior and words earlier."
"I-I'm u-used to it s-sir," I murmur avoiding his eyes; not wanting to see the pity that most people give me when I talk or they see me living on the streets.
"Do you realize you're stuttering less right now?" Riley asks with a raised eyebrow once I look at him again.
"I-I s-stutter less if I t-try r-really hard or am c-comfortable, s-sir," I admit with slightly tinted cheeks.
"So which is it now, kid?" Black Jack asks as he stands to pour himself a cup of coffee.
"Um, b-both," I admit as my cheeks darken in color.
"Liam, you don't have to try to not stutter around us and I'm glad you're comfortable with us," Riley smirks as his eyes flash to Black Jack before settling back on mine; causing me to squirm under his stare.
"How would you like to live here with Black Jack and have him become your legal guardian until you're of age?" Riley asks seriously as he intertwines his fingers together on top of the table.
Flicking my eyes to Black Jack, who smiles broadly as he nods quickly before landing my gaze back onto Riley, with a slack jaw and wide eyes as I holler out; "Of c-course!"
Realizing that I've just shouted my answer, I clear my throat as the two men chuckle good-naturally at me; "I m-mean y-yes s-sir, I w-would l-like t-that; t-thank you s-sir."
"Now that's settled, I'll contact my friend and set this in motion; although this does mean you will have to speak to a social worker about your parents and how you ended up to states from your home."
Nodding at him in response since my voice seems to be failing me at the moment at the thought of having to explain everything about my family. I've managed to forget my past for the most part and I don't want to relieve that; a little amount of fear seeps into my entire body.
"Liam, everything will be fine, you won't have to speak to your parents at all unless you choose too," Riley assures me as he takes my left hand in his right hand with a gentle squeeze and a reassuring smile.
"Now finish your breakfast," Riley instructs with a wink as he sips from his mug as I'm handed a plate by Black Jack.
"Y-yes s-sir," I say with the happiest smile I can manage scooping a forkful of scrambled eggs into my mouth and slowly chewing.
I can only manage to finish half of my food before I'm full; "Eat more kid."
Starring at him with a tinge of worry; "I-if I-I do, I-I m-might v-vomit."
Black Jack and Riley have a silent conversation with their eyes before Riley comments. "That's fine Liam but we're planning on fattening you up; my mum was correct in her comment earlier, you are far too small for your size and age."
Riley stands then and exits the room causing me to tear up and say to Black Jack with an upset stomach; "I-I'm s-sorry."
"Kid, you're fine, Riley understands," Black Jack assures. "But we expect you to gain some weight and we're going to have our doctor examine you as well to make sure there isn't anything else wrong with you besides your weight."
Nodding with a tentative smile at him; I hate doctors and don't want to go but if I want to stay with him, I have to do as they say; "S-sure B-black J-Jack. W-what's g-going to h-happen with W-w-willow?" I ask needing to know the answer but afraid of his answer at the same time.
"She's going tobe spoken too, nothing to worry about."
Nodding at him, he's right, this isn't any of my business and don't need to worry about it; "W-what do you d-do f-for a l-living?"
"I'm a mechanic," he responds with a satisfied grin.
Black Jack and I make our way into the living room, spending time with the others as they watch the telly and chatting. Several hours later, Riley, Amy and Phillip join us in the living room with the tiniest of smiles.
"Liam," Phillip states pulling my attention away from the telly to him.
"Y-yes s-sir," I question quietly sitting straighter against the back of the couch.
Phillip's smile brightens slightly at me; "Our lawyer friend is processing the paperwork but he and Karyn are arriving in an hour to talk with you."
Blanching at his words and the prospect of being sent to a foster home or a group home scares the hell out of me despite not knowing these people one damn bit, I would rather stay here with them; "O-o-okay s-s-sir."
"Hey you're not going anywhere and you will be fine," Riley assures fiercely as if he can read my mind and predict the future.
Biting my lip harshly and tasting blood, I nod trying to calm my racing heart and mind; "M-m-may I l-l-lie d-d-down u-u-until t-t-then p-p-please?"
"Sure, come on, I'll show you where you can sleep," Riley allows and I stand to follow him to wherever I'm allowed to sleep.
"T-t-thank y-y-you s-s-sir," I murmur as I lie on top of the bed; already falling asleep.
"You're welcome Liam; someone will wake you when they arrive," Riley tells me before he shuts the door behind himself.
Sometime later I'm being shook awake as a male voice says; "Liam, it's time to wake up."
Groggily opening my eyes, rubbing the sleep from them to find Axel is the one waking me; "U-ugh, o-okay, I-I'm up."
Sitting upright, swinging my legs off the side of the bed before standing and stretching my arms over my head with a huge yawn that cracks my jaw in the process. From the corner of my eye I see Axel starring at me causing my cheeks to tinge a light pink color from the intensity of his stare; "W-w-what?"
"Nothing, you're just too damn skinny; we need to fatten you up some along with bulking you up; once you're cleared by the doctor, you and I are hitting the gym and working out together."
Axel leaves the room with me following close behind him as I shake my head fondly at the hulking man in front of me; who has a shit ton of noticeable tattoos from just under his prominent jaw down to every exposed inch of his muscular body.
Curious as to how many tattoos he has, I ask bluntly; "Hey Axel, how many tattoos do you have and does it hurt when you get them done?"
Axel chuckles loudly at me; "I'm covered from the neck down with very little skin empty and no having them done doesn't hurt." He looks back at me questionably as we enter the living room; "Why do you want a tattoo?"
Nodding at him eagerly with a hopeful smile that makes him chuckle lightly; "We'll discuss this with Riley and Black Jack later."
I didn't think my smile could become any wider but it does; "T-thank y-you, A-axel!"
He nods as I realize there are two extra people in the the living room, instantly shutting me up; "Come sit down kid." Black Jack motions me over to an empty spot next to him on the couch.