Wolf with Benefits

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Authors: Shelly Laurenston
pups at one time, schedules were critical to managing the insanity. This, of course, applied to any large family. But a family of focused, driven little nightmares needed schedules the way breathing beings needed air. It was the only way to survive without unnecessary bloodshed or jail time.
    And that was what Toni did best, wasn’t it? She managed the schedules of her family, negotiating agreements and timelines, while threatening important body parts when necessary.
    For instance, she already had figured out how she was going to end the argument, but Cherise suddenly charged past her on the stairs. “I’ll handle it,” the twenty-year-old cellist promised as she ran by. “I’ll handle it!”
    Although she probably wouldn’t handle it well. Cherise, the sweetest of their brood, was also the most sensitive next to Freddy. As it was, she was a borderline agoraphobic. Getting her out of the house was an unbelievable task. Funny thing was, those who booked her into concert halls all over the world thought her reluctance to travel was a negotiation tactic. It wasn’t, but her agoraphobia at the very least paid well.
    Still, if Cherise wanted to try managing their siblings, Toni wouldn’t stop her. The way to learn was to do. Toni knew getting everyone handled today with little to no drama would not be easy, but she was ready and alert.
    “Morning, sis,” Coop said as he fell into step beside her.
    “Hey, Coop. Did you get any sleep?”
    “A little. Jet lag is kicking my butt. But you know me. I do love a nap, so I’ll just sleep later.”
    “Great rooms, though, right?” Toni asked. “I love my bed.”
    Together they headed down the second-floor hallway to the last set of stairs.
    “Me, too. But I have to admit,” Coop continued, “I expected to find Livy asleep under my bed last night. I think I was a little disappointed when she wasn’t.”
    Toni stopped in the middle of the hallway and focused on her brother. “Why would Livy be under your bed?”
    It wasn’t a question Toni asked because she was concerned that her best friend, Olivia Kowalski, was found under her brother’s bed. Livy was nearly as close to Coop as she was to Toni. So Toni didn’t care if Livy was asleep under Coop’s bed or hers or Cherise’s. It wouldn’t be the first time that happened, and it wouldn’t be the last. No. That wasn’t why Toni was asking the question.
    “Is that little bitch in Manhattan?” Toni demanded.
    “You know,” Coop said, turning to face her, “she’d probably be more likely to keep you up to date on her current locations if you didn’t call her ‘that little bitch.’ ”
    “I only call her that when she’s clearly avoiding me. I texted her last night and told her what was going on. She didn’t even call me back.”
    “Livy hates talking on the phone. You know she’s not good at it.”
    “Of course I know that. I know all of her quirks and foibles better than anyone else. But if she’s in Manhattan—”
    “She won’t tell you that if you’re just going to yell at her for not having an actual place to live while she’s here.”
    Toni stamped her foot. Three times. “It is not okay to just crash at someone’s house because they make the mistake of leaving the window cracked when they leave for a vacation. Who does that?”
    “Livy does that. Livy’s mother does that. Livy’s entire family does that. All of Livy’s kind does that. If there’s one thing we can all agree on, sis, it’s that her people are not like our people. So instead of ranting about it—”
    “Oh, forget it! I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” Toni pushed past her brother and continued down the hallway. Coop, taller than Toni, quickly caught up.
    “Are you pissed at me now?” he asked.
    “I’m pissed at the world right now. I should be back in Washington, starting a boring office job while I worry about what temporarily abandoned home my best friend has recently placed her camera bag in. I

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