Play The Game
by J. Bree
Book 3 of the Hannaford Prep series
All of my hard work has paid off and now I have a family to call my own - my best friend Avery and my three boyfriends; Harley, Ash, and Blaise.
But with more people depending on me, the stakes have never been higher.
I’ve stepped out from the shadow of the Jackal. I’ve laid claim on the men I want and I’m not letting anything get in our way.
Easier said than done. We’re being stalked by serial killers and sociopaths at every turn, there’s a history teacher trying to bang my boyfriend, and I can’t forget the nightmare-inducing gifts arriving at my door.
Once a lone Wolf, now I’ll do anything to keep the pack safe.
Snort. Amazing GIF. IYKYK
SO MUCH HAPPENS in Play the Game. I'm feeling way more comfortable - considering the characters are now seventeen - so I was looking forward to the increase in romance, and as we getting closer to graduation, and threats to their family unit getting closer and closer, increasing the stakes.
Asshole students are no longer the biggest issue. Barely a blip on their radar.
No, its all much closer to home now, and I am STOKED.
What didn't I love about this book? Well ... I didn't love all the scoffing. To be fair, there isn't a whole arsenal of other words she could use, and teenagers do scoff a lot ... and 35 year old moms. :P
Besides that, I found myself once again fully immersed in this world. The plot is getting more intense, and dangerous. There is more at stake - on several fronts. Yet while Lips is caught balancing her academic life and her standing in the Twelve, there are still quiet moments with these characters that strengthen the bonds between what is a true family. Nothing felt like filler in this book. It was nothing but delicious, action driven plot, epic friendship goals, and steamy romance.
I'm still obsessed over Avery and Lips friendship. A bond closer than best friends, or even sisters. There is never doubt between them. They have an honest and open repertoire that is nothing but refreshing. I won't pretend Avery's comments on Lips and the boys PDA isn't tiresome, but I'm a sister, and I would probably do the same. Another friendship I am ALL for, is Lips and Illi ... why does my capital i look like a lowercase L? ugh. Anyways, I love their brother/sister dynamic. I mean, they are both totally twisted, but they are ultimately loyal to one another because they recognize underneath their reputations, there is a true human being under there. I need to read those books now, because I need to know his and Odie's story ... and how Lips plays into it.
The romance was top-notch. J. Bree could have had them fornicating from chapter 1 on, considering we are on book 3 in a 4-book reverse harem series. Each relationship Lips has with her boys was able to strengthen, and I feel like the wait was worth it. It was done well, considering they are 17/18 years old. I definitely have my favorites - Harley being number one, with Ash a close second - but I see why Lips like them all so much, and for different reasons.
I think one of the things I like the most about J. Bree's reverse harems, is that the romance and the sizzling sex is only part of the story. She isn't writing reverse harem just because of its sexual appeal. There is a real story in these books. There is character development. While I don't think Hannaford Prep is as strong as her Bonds That Tie series, I can't deny that I couldn't put these books down.
A good guy. He’s a cage fighter, a trained killer, his weapons of choice are his fists or a fucking meat cleaver, he shows no mercy and has no conscience, and, according to my crazy hot girlfriend, he’s a good guy.
I think I’m going to have a fucking stroke. Harley: “I’m keeping you forever. I don’t do this shit for anything but keeps.” I grunt and open my eyes to glare at him.
Lips: “Don’t be a tease.”
Harley: “I’m going slow, Mounty, don’t be greedy.”
It might be the work of his hands, or maybe it’s the decent sleep I’ve finally had after weeks of shit, but I turn my face into his chest and bite him. Not hard, but enough to get his attention.
Harley: “Fuck me, Mounty, you start biting me and I will bite you the fuck back,”
his voice rumbles, and I grin at him. Lips: Ash, please get Avery to start building my alibi. I’m stabbing your cousin.
Harley snorts at me, loud enough that I hear it, and calls out,
Harley: “Your knife is out here, what else would you do it with?”
Lips: “I’m pretty fucking innovative when I need to be, Arbour!” A shiver runs down my spine and he hums under his breath.
Ash: “Good to know you’re still alive, Mounty. Do you want to hear all about what I’m going to do to you when you’re back in the land of the living? All of the things we have to look forward to?” Lips: “Is the lobster going to serve itself to me for that fucking price? I haven’t spent that much on groceries for the entire fucking break.”
Avery smirks at me, but Ash looks confused.
Ash: “How much do groceries cost in the slums?” Ash smirks at me and calls out to his sister,
Ash: “Avery, do we really have to have another conversation about your attitude toward my relationship with the Mounty?”
She shrugs sweetly.
Avery: “If I come back here one day and find you with your dick out, I’ll destroy you. Slowly, and with great pleasure.” Avery: “I’m done asking nicely. Anyone who interferes with my family from this moment onward will be dealt with immediately and with force. I will no longer hold back and there is nothing I could do to any of you little bitches that I couldn’t make disappear from the records. Remember that,”
Avery says, her voice glacial, and I smile at her like she’s my fucking soulmate.
Avery: “Ash, Harley, and Blaise are off limits to you sluts. This is the only warning you’re all getting.”
Harley scoffs and whispers in my ear,
Harley: “Stop looking at her like you want to fuck her; you’ll give us all a complex.”
I quirk an eyebrow at him.
Lips: “If we both swung that way, we’d be fucking married by now. I would have wifed her ass last year.”
He roars with laughter. I lean into him and whisper,
Lips: “Do you want me to take her out?”
Harley smirks back.
Harley: “Stop flirting with me, Mounty.” Avery: “Lips, I’m firmly team Morrison on the v card debate,”
Avery says, her voice too fucking loud as we walk through the halls teeming with students.
Why? Why?! What have I done to deserve this?!
Ash: “You’re my sister; you’re supposed to be on my side!”
Ash hisses back at her, pissy at her supposed betrayal. Avery giggles and shakes her head at him like he’s simple. It’s nice to see it directed somewhere other than at me.
Avery: “We’ve discussed this. It’s a Battle Royale for my affections. Lips is in the lead; massively, you should really start focusing on me more. Morrison is next. Then, you and Harley are joint losers.”
Ash: “What the fuck has Morrison done to get ahead?”
Avery smirks at him and I decide that death is preferable to this conversation.
Avery: “You keep arguing with me over Lips, and Harley keeps shoving his tongue down her throat in my presence. Morrison at least attempts some form of discretion.” Avery looks impressed.
Avery: “Ruthless. I love it.”
Harley’s eyes narrow.
Harley: “You’re not worried about me?”
Lips: “You gonna fuck her? No? Then I’m not worried. If she gets handsy, I’m confident you’ll be able to figure it out. Just don’t accept any drinks from the bitch.” Blaise: “I want to make you come so fucking hard the Jackal hears you screaming my name from his little fortress. I want you so fucking wet that your cum runs down my arm and I can smell you on my skin for days. You’re gonna let me touch you, aren’t you, Star? I want to watch you come.”
Sweet merciful lord. Who fucking taught him to talk like that?! Blaise: “Promise me you won’t let Avery cut my dick off.”
I blink at him, but it’s too dark to really see if he’s being serious.
Blaise: “I sent her a text so she would stay back at our room with Ash and Harley, and we could have the room to ourselves all night. She’s just messaged to say she knew I’d be the one to christen her knife. Mounty, I can’t live without my dick.”
I smother my laugh in his chest and fall asleep. Avery: “The keys are for an emergency! If you don’t stop letting yourself in, I’m going to start walking around naked!”
Harley snorts at her.
Harley: “You’ll only be risking Morrison’s life. I don’t wanna see my cousin’s tits, but it’s not going to scar me for life. Morrison’s the one who’ll get stabbed for looking at you.” Harley: “Grab a bathing suit, we can go for a swim before the Butcher gets here.”
Lips: “I’m shit at swimming.”
Harley: “Well, I’m not. I’ll keep you afloat.” Harley: “We are not having sex for the first time in a pool, but fuck me, it’s tempting. That suit is the work of the devil, and she’s trying to fucking kill me. I need some frigid water to calm my dick down.” Avery: “Which one of them do you have a craving for? I guess I’ll go find a park bench to sleep on for the night. Just don’t fuck any of them in the kitchen, bathroom, or my bed. Or the couch. You know what, just stick to your bed and change the sheets immediately post-coitus.” Avery sighs again, like I’m mortally wounding her, and there’s a pissy thump at the bathroom door before Ash is growling,
Ash: “This is a fucking joke, right? I’m not going to a party in fucking tightie-whities.”
Her eyes turn into saucers. We both shove bathrobes on and then I fling open the door. Ash is scowling at us both and he’s dressed in the ‘clothes’ I left for him. They’re definitely not tightie-whities, but they are underwear. He’s standing there in a simple pair of white boxer briefs that I cannot help but look down at because holy shit, there’s his fabled giant dick. Even without an erection, it’s huge. Fuck. Fuuuuuuuuuuck. I gulp.
Avery: “Are you fucking kidding me, Mounty?”
Avery hisses, and then I remember that I’m literally just standing here staring at my hot-ass boyfriend’s dick while his sister watches my brain melt out of my ears. I clear my throat and try to ignore my blush.
Lips: “I told you I could go by myself. You all insisted on coming. This is what it takes to get in.”
Ash snorts under his breath, and tugs me until I’m tucked under one of his arms. I start to sweat because I’m too close to his giant dick. He doesn’t notice.
Ash: “Like we’d let you traipse around in your fucking panties by yourself. How much therapy am I going to need when I see what you’ve put my sister in?”
Avery grabs her phone and then frowns when she realizes she doesn’t have anywhere under the bathrobe to stash it.
Avery: “I’m not sure we can afford the extent you’ll require. We certainly can’t afford the amount I now need.” Avery: “Get the fuck off of her in my presence, Morrison! I know what she’s just shown you and if you’re now sporting a boner, I’ll cut it the fuck off!” Lips: “Not a fan?”
I gripe as he turns away from me.
Harley: “I’m walking around the fucking docks in the slums of the Bay, in nothing but boxers, and now I can’t even enjoy seeing you in whatever the hell you call that because Avery will actually fucking castrate me if she sees how much of a fan I am.”
croaks Ash from behind us, and I startle out of the daze Harley’s words have put me in. Avery is smirking evilly with her hands on her hips, coat off and her phone in her hand. Ash’s face settles into his cold mask as he takes a step backward.
Ash: “No. No, Avery, go on ahead,”
he snaps, and Avery groans like she’s being murdered. Blaise roars with laughter, completely at ease with the whole situation.
Blaise: “Good, isn’t it? Aves, I don’t mind you seeing what the Mounty does to my dick; we can walk together.”
Avery: “Fuck. Off,”
she hisses at him, and grabs my arm.
Avery: “You three can walk behind us until you learn to curb your fucking hormones. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before.”
I smirk at them and turn to walk with Avery, flashing them the back of the teddy. I hear groans and give my ass a little wiggle for good measure. I lift a brow at him as the guy squeals like the stuck pig he is.
Illi: “What? He’ll live! You said no one insults your little bestie so I’m making sure it never happens again. You’re welcome! I’d hug you but, honestly, seeing you in that thing is like seeing my sister naked. It’s fucking disturbing and let’s never do this again.” Illi snickers at us both and tucks the box under his arm without a care in the world of its contents.
Illi: “I’ll deal with this. If the rest of it shows up, we might have more of an idea of who’s behind it. Stay safe, kids!” Ash’s eyes flare and he fixes them on me. Fuck, what next?
Ash: “Oh, Mounty, how could I forget? Your name was on that box.”
I tense up and throw him a stern look. His answering smile is a taunt. Fuck, I should’ve gone with a pleading look, but it’s just not my style.
Avery: “Yes, Ash, we’ve just spent the last hour discussing her crazed stalker. Have you suffered some sort of brain damage I’m unaware of?”
Avery hisses, and he smirks at her.
Ash: “I was referring to Lips’ middle name.”
Fuck. I glare at him and Blaise bursts out laughing. Harley looks between them and then frowns at me like this is my fucking fault. Nope, I will not feel bad that he’s practically pouting at me. No. Stay strong, Lips. Fuck.
Lips: “Ash, I would appreciate your discretion,”
I grit out, overly polite because I don’t want to rage blackout and stab him for digging this hole for me. For the record, it would be justified.
Avery: “How does Blaise know it?”
Avery asks sweetly, and it’s a total ruse. She might slit my throat while I’m sleeping for not telling her.
Blaise: “She loves me the most!”
Blaise sings and shakes his ass as he heads toward the balcony for a smoke. I stare at his ass for a second too long but, damn, he can move those hips of his. When I look back at the others, Harley is staring at Blaise like he’s planning exactly where he’s going to stab the fucker. I hold out my hands as Avery scowls at me.
Lips: “He found out while I was off my head on those pain pills you gave me. I made him swear not to tell anyone because it’s fucking embarrassing, and I’d rather die than ever hear it said out loud.”
Avery rolls her eyes at my dramatics, but Ash stares at me for a second longer. Something in my eyes makes him shrug.
Ash: “Fine, I’ll keep it to myself.”
Avery also shrugs and smiles at Harley.
Avery: “Mounty will tell me when we get home. She loves me the most.”
I squeeze my eyes shut so I don’t have to see his reaction to potentially being the only one not knowing the damn name and snap,
Lips: “It’s Starbright, okay? My name is Eclipse Starbright Anderson. My mom was high and thought the moon was fucking cool and just ran with it. She didn’t give a fuck about how it would affect me for the rest of my life. Fuck, she couldn’t even stay sober long enough to get through her pregnancy or my birth, for fuck’s sake. Okay? Cool. Glad everyone is on the same fucking page. Where’s the fucking whiskey; I’m going to drink myself to death, or until I forget about it. Whichever happens first.” Avery: “Don’t be dense, Mounty. I’m coming with you and we’ll tell the boys we’re having some girl time. That way they won’t try to jump in, as if you’re some kind of damsel that needs saving, to mess this up for you, and I’ll get to watch you work. There is nothing quite as satisfying as watching you destroy the male population one by one,” Avery: “She has three cocks waiting at home; she doesn’t have any more vacancies to fill.”
Good lord. Avery: “Go there during the day while they’re gone. Eat their food, smoke Blaise’s stash, get comfortable in one of their beds. By the time they get home, you’ll be calm and less twitchy about it. I’ll get you a key. It’s only fair you have one since they all have copies of ours. If it turns into an orgy please put sheets down, because I do spend time over there. I don’t need to find myself sitting in Morrison’s DNA.” Harley: “I guess I’m going to have to thank Illi now, aren’t I?”
he says, a little wryly. I fight the smile threatening to break out over my face and say,
Lips: “He loves a good muffin basket. Even better if there’s blueberry.” Illi: “What the fuck is a study of peas? They’re vegetables; they can’t go to fucking college!” I smirk at him.
Lips: “Your siblings are under my protection and you can tell your father that. If either of you attempt to harm them in any way you answer to the Wolf of Mounts Bay.”
Joey’s eyes narrow, the knife in his hands still pointing in my direction.
Joey: “Are you fucking him too?”
Illi: “How the fuck are you still alive? Go back to the children’s table, dickhead. The crack has set you back a few years if you can’t figure it out.” Joey laughs, throwing his head back and sounding like a fucking loon.
Joey: “You’ll always be fucking weak if you’re taking orders from pussy.”
Ash smirks and points the knife at Joey.
Ash: “That’s your problem, Joey. You’re too fucking stupid to notice when you’re outmatched, and, brother, you’re so far out of your league now you can’t even see it.” Blaise grins at me and blows me a kiss, breaking the awed tension in the room.
Blaise: “Aw, you want to start your own gang. Do I have to start calling you boss?” Harley: “I’m not angry, babe. I’m hungry. I’m fucking starving and you’re the only thing on the menu I want. One taste of what you’ve got and now I’m fucking addicted. Spread those legs for me.” I bump her shoulder with mine.
Lips: “I’ll gut her for you the second she looks sideways at you. Or tries to touch one of the guys.”
Avery: “And what about you? I want her in the ground so she stops spreading bullshit about you.”
I grin at her.
Lips: “Aw. That’s why you’re my favorite.” Ash: “I have had the patience of a fucking saint,”
he says, and I gape at him.
Lips: “Do you want a fucking medal?”
I sputter, and he steps forward until he’s crowding me back into the bathroom sink.
Ash: “No, I want you to trust me and trust that there’s nothing that trashy whore could do that I couldn’t fix for you. They want to kick you out? I’ll fix it. They want to bad mouth you? I’ll fix it. They want to hurt you in any way? I’ll fucking fix it.” I can’t even focus on anything but the tattoo.
Lips: “Are you serious right now?”
Ash: “Yes, I’m serious, that is my dick. I appreciate the awed tones though, Mounty,”
he drawls out, all fucking smug and I can’t. I just fucking can’t.
Lips: “No, I mean, do you seriously have the words ‘you’re welcome’ tattooed above your dick? I changed my mind, I’m not doing this.” Lips: “You’re going to have to make do with blowjobs for a while. That is not going to fit in me. I’m half the fucking size of you as is.”
He laughs at me, completely unconcerned by my stern warnings, and walks over to climb into my bed. Fuck, his ass is all toned muscle. Perfect to sink your teeth into.
Ash: “Get in here. I need a nap.”
Ugh, bossy asshole.
But I do exactly what he says. On Sunday, after a long day of studying and trying to catch up on sleep, Ash texts me a demand to meet him in the boys’ room and when I try to get him to come to my room instead, he calls me a coward.
The manipulative asshole, except it’s effective and I stomp over to rant at him in person.
When I unlock the door and fling it open, the words die in my throat at the arrogant fucking smirk on his face and the fact that he’s lounging on his bed in his fucking boxers. Dammit. His nipples are like my kryptonite and I think somehow he’s figured it out!
Ash: “Do you want to argue, Mounty? I’d rather we go for round two but I’ll fight if you need the foreplay.”
I cut him a look, but I lose the higher ground by drooling all over myself as I climb up onto his bed to get to him.
Lips: “Shut up and kiss me, asshole.” He snatches the phone away from me and hisses,
Ash: “You are not going on a date with that spineless fuck Atticus! Over my dead fucking body, Avery.”
She screeches at him so ear-piercingly that I hear every word.
Avery: “Well I guess you’re dead then, asshole!” Lips: “I can show you the best places to stab without making too much of a mess. DNA can be hard to completely clean off.”
Harley smirks and shrugs at me.
Harley: “Do tell, babe. I love hearing about your life skills. The Bay does teach girls valuable lessons.”
I quirk an eyebrow at him and Blaise cackles at us both.
Blaise: “You two flirt like fucking serial killers, it’s fucking hilarious. Lips: "It goes so far beyond having my heart. Hearts can be broken, torn out, fucking burned. Harley owns a part of my soul and, if he wanted to, he could destroy me in ways Matteo never fucking could. They all do, Aves. It’s why I couldn’t fucking choose in that bathroom back when you asked me because how do I choose between the parts of my soul?” Blaise: “Calm down, I’m good with kids. I’m surprised you’re not,”
he says, and I roll my eyes at him.
Lips: “I have enough on my plate keeping you lot alive, I don’t have time to… hold those things.” Avery will not stop laughing over the photo.
Avery: “I’m framing it and hanging it above your bed, so you remember even during coitus that you shouldn’t ever get pregnant.”
I side-eye her but nod, because I should never, ever have a baby. Blaise: “What the hell is in this thing to make it so fucking heavy?”
Blaise grouses, and Harley shakes his head at him. Ash snarks,
Ash: “I’ve seen your exam marks, so I know you’re not that fucking stupid.”
Blaise blinks at him and then at me. I sigh.
Lips: “We have to get rid of the… problem somehow. Rolling her up in a rug would have us all in juvie in a second.”
Blaise: “Avery would never let that happen… fuck, is the cougar in here? Disgusting! How the fuck did you bend her into it?”
Harley bursts out laughing, but it’s more of an are-you-fucking-kidding-me sort of sound.
Harley: “She didn’t bend her. She hacked the cunt into pieces. You wanna fuck a member of the Twelve then you should know your girlfriend isn’t scared of getting her hands dirty.”