Chadara wasn’t quite sure how she got conned into joining Duro at his family’s weekend barbecue. There was something about her violating the rules of lunchroom etiquette, another about her abusing the stapler privileges, and a moment of weakness when she promised Duro whatever he fucking wanted if he’d just stop singing Katy Perry’s Greatest Hits.
Ray Person and tequila were also involved, but that was pretty much her Friday night norm.
The Metzger’s street was packed with cars, at least one bearing the tags of a foreign embassy, and she could hear voices yelling from the backyard through her closed car door. Duro had warned her to bring earplugs; apparently that wasn’t just a joke. She reached over to grab the box of Heineken, not the classiest gift in the world but she knew Duro’s taste, and braced herself for what was to come.
It took ten minutes to work up the courage to get out of the car. She could stare down the Director of NCIS without pause but a little house party made her want to run. She just had no idea what Duro expected of her. They were work friends who spent far too much time together outside of the job. She felt absolutely no sexual attraction towards him, he’d never seriously hit on her (that she knew of, it was hard to tell with Duro sometimes), and besides that, she’d made it pretty damn clear that her relationship preference leaned towards women.
The Metzger’s manicured lawn and three little duckling statues made it look quaint. An American and POW/MIA flags hung on either side of the front door. If it wasn’t for the fact Chadara knew how warped Duro and his brother Agron truly were, she’d think this was an average suburban home. No normal family could’ve produced those two. The door opened before she could knock, a short but extremely built man immediately pulling her into a hug.
“Chadara,” he yelled in her ear, “Duro told us much about you. Welcome home.”
Chadara heard a clinking sound and for a second she wondered if it was the beer or her ribs about to break.
“Uh, thank you, tiny strange man,” she said, trying to free herself. She doubted breaking a guest’s nose was a good way to start her visit. “I, um, I’m not sure we’ve met.”
The man pulled back long enough to greet her with a quick kiss. “We are all family,” he declared before leaving her alone and bewildered in the living room.
She was going to find Duro and kill him. First, though, she needed one of the beers.
Fifteen overly-friendly greetings, thirty kisses, three gropes, and two beers later, Chadara finally found Duro. He was hanging on to a ridiculously gorgeous blonde woman and belting out Kelly Clarkson’s My Life Would Suck Without You. The woman raised her head and laughed, showing a wide smile and a beautiful face.
Saxa was the youngest Metzger and the only one still serving in the military. Chadara had only seen pictures and heard stories about the young woman with the bad luck to be Agron and Duro Metzger’s baby sister and have the Secretary of the Navy as her godfather. She was a pilot, if Chadara remembered correctly, and well known for putting any man who doubted her in their place, be it with words or fists. Duro happily proclaimed Saxa had more disciplinary Letters of Admonition on her file than either of her brothers.
“I’m here, jackass,” she greeted Duro, setting the now opened box of beer down. “Chill out with pop superhits, okay?”
“I don’t think you’re supposed to drink the gift before you show up.”
“I consider it hazard pay for being accosted by the member of a hobbit shot-put team.”
Duro looked confused but Saxa cackled. “Uncle Lugo?” she asked.
“Does he yell instead speak like a normal person? If so, then yes. He doesn’t respect personal space either. In fact, none of your family does.”
“It explains so much about them,” Nasir said, suddenly appearing at her side.
Chadara almost clung to him, glad to find someone half-sane. Though Nasir willingly married into this family so she had no idea if that made him better or worse.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Nasir said, clearly guessing her thoughts. “I was bribed into this family by puppy dog looks and really good food.”
“And insanely hot sex,” Agron yelled from his place at the grill.
Everyone Chadara could see took a drink.
“Inappropriate Agron Drinking Game?” she guessed.
“I switched to water an hour ago,” Nasir said. He tugged her forward. “Let me formally introduce you, since Duro has the brain size and manner of a hamster.”
“Your mother was a—”
“Don’t even,” Nasir yelled before Duro could finish.
Saxa pulled away from her brother, laughing as he fell to the grass. She stood up straight and pulled back the unruly mass of her hair. “Chadara, I take it.” She held out her hand. “I’m Saxa. My brothers have told me all about you.”
Chadara took her hand, surprised at how soft it felt with all the muscle tone clear in Saxa’s arms. Saxa pulled her into a hug, the apparent standard Metzger greeting, and Chadara had to fight back a smile. Slightly taller than Chadara, she fit comfortably in Saxa’s arms, and greedily took in her scent of linen and lavender.
“Isn’t this the start of something beautiful,” Duro said, dusting the grass off his pants.
Saxa pulled back and smiled wickedly at Chadara before turning around and slamming her brother to the ground.
“On your back, right where you belong,” she yelled at him.
Chadara watched them, almost stunned and utterly charmed. She jumped when Nasir patted her back.
“Yeah, that’s how it starts. Get used to it. Once a Metzger claims you, there’s no getting away.”
“You’re still here,” she said.
Nasir turned to watch Agron, fingers twisting around his wedding band. “They make it so you never want to leave.”
Watching Saxa chase her brother into the kiddie pool all while declaring herself queen of the backyard, she could understand why. This family, big, brash, and loud, clearly knew how to live.
“Can’t wait to see what’s next,” she said.
Nasir chuckled. “I know that look.” He clinked his water bottle with her beer. “Welcome to the family, Chadara.”