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A Valentine Step

Copyright 2018 Gabriel Love



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About This Book:



Lea is having the worst Valentine’s day ever.

Her boyfriend dumped her…

…for her best friend.

Her mother’s getting remarried…

…to a jerk.

Her step brother is insanely hot…

…and an asshole.

Just when she asks if anything else can go wrong…

Her step brother kisses her. In front of their parents.

FML.



A Valentine Step is a standalone novella of about thirty thousand words. No cliffhangers, lots of steam, some dirty language and a HEA.



A Valentine Step



Chapter One

Lea



“I’m sure he’s cheating on me.” I lift the fork to my lips as Jen stares at the waiter’s ass.

“Why are the hot guys always so…” Jen shrugs. Then it’s like my words register; she goes still and stares at me with horror in her eyes. “Wait, did you just say-”

I swallow the bite of greens, lamenting on the evils of Kale. I’m on Jen’s side, all the things that look good are bad for us. Men. Food. Whatever.

“He’s cheating. Were you even listening to me?” I shift in my seat as the waiter walks back over. His cologne washes over me, something nose-ticklingly strong and sharp.

“Anything else for you lovely ladies?” he asks, clasping his hands together.

“Spritz, not bathe, darling,” Jen says, her brilliant smile lighting up.

I feel a stab of jealousy. If I said something so bitchy people would hate me. But she’s got this smile that eases the sting of anything. It helps that she’s drop dead gorgeous. Her sky blue eyes are so light around the pupil they’re almost white. But there’s a deep ring of dark blue around the edge of them that makes staring into them feel like drowning. She’s got beautiful smooth skin and naturally sun streaked buttery blond hair. Gorgeous.

“Huh?” The waiter asks, his mouth dropping open. I watch, fascinated. It’s almost like his brain registered the insult to how much cologne he’s wearing, but her smile overrides the negative and turns it all into good feelings. “Of course. Dessert?”

He’s got a grin now and his handsome face looks slightly dopey. Yep, I call that the Jen effect. The smartest guy turns into an idiot around her.

“Yes, please,” Jen says, gracefully placing her elbows on the table. Rubbing her hands together, she glances at me. “Halfsies on the strawberry cheesecake?”

I nod, knowing she’ll eat more than half. I don’t know how this girl stays so slim. I eat less than she does and I’ve got a good twenty pounds on her. And she’s a few inches taller than I am.

“Right away,” The waiter says and hurries off.

“You gotta stop messing with people’s heads like that,” I tell her. “It’s cruel.”

She shrugs. “Evil is half the fun. Anyway, what makes you so sure?” She leans toward me, lowering her voice to a conspiring murmur, “I mean, did you go all to catch a cheater on him and stalk him?”

The smell of her shampoo is strong, something bright and clean, reminiscent of mouthwatering grapefruit.

“Not really,” I say, feeling annoyed. Since when do I need proof? Jen’s always on my side. She’s my best friend, if I say he’s cheating isn’t she supposed to rally up and offer to hunt him down and bring a shovel? I mean, not that we’d ever actually murder anyone. She just says over the top things like that sometimes. It’s endearing.

The waiter sets the cheesecake in front of us with a flustered grin at Jen, who ignores him.

“Thank you,” I say, but he doesn’t even acknowledge I exist.

Rolling my eyes, I notice Jen is studying me intently. And I know she’s waiting to hear why I think he’s cheating.

“Night before last, he didn’t come home,” I say, the words bringing a flood of relief.

Her eyes widen and I hear her breathe my words. “He didn’t come home…”

She takes a thoughtful bite of the cheesecake, scanning the room for something, or someone. Maybe looking for the waiter who must have Houdini’d that dessert in her mind.

But she does an unexpected one eighty while studying me intently. “Maybe he was at his parent’s house. Did you ask him what he was up to?”

Really? She’s defending him?

She glances at me and seems to see the disbelief in my eyes. Her hand covers mine, her soft fingers warm. “I’m not saying you’re wrong, just that this is serious. Maybe you should talk to him.”

She pulls her hand away and takes another bite of the cheesecake. “Besides,” she says, shaving off a tiny curl of the cheesecake filling, “he’s not a bad guy. Everybody makes mistakes. Maybe he made a mistake.”

I snort. I can’t help it. “Mistake? No, cheating is not an oops. It’s not like dropping something, or slipping on ice. Those are mistakes. This is him trying to deceive me. This is him sneaking around behind my back and screwing some girl.”

Her phone chimes and she picks it up. Her cheeks go a bit pale and she shoves the cheesecake across the table toward me. “Have some, it’s amazing.” She’s quick to respond to the text and shoves her phone back in her purse.

I try a bite of the cheesecake. It’s sweet and tart and wonderful, but when I’m stressing like this, everything seems dulled. I expected Jen of all people to understand. She’s my best friend. She should be leading the charge, pitchfork and torch in hand.

Instead she’s telling me to wait, be sure, and not jump the gun. It’s good advice, but freaking weird coming from her. She’s kind of the queen of overreaction.

Her phone chimes again and I notice she’s turned down the volume. While she checks hers, I check mine. Nothing. But that’s not surprising. Luke, my potentially cheating boyfriend, is at work so I won’t get a text from him until later. I’m here with Jen. And I talked to both halves of my parental unit this morning, so neither of them have a reason to call; barring disaster.

With a sigh, I shove my phone deep in my pocket.

Taking another bite of the cheesecake, I notice the tiny up curve of her lips. Whoever she’s talking to, they’re saying all the right things. “You’re getting some,” I say and she jerks her head up to stare at me.

“What? No, um yeah, kind of.” She seems flustered.

“Who’s the guy?” I ask, grinning. No guy has gotten her so on edge in a long time. I’m a terrible friend. I’m so wrapped up in my own crap I didn’t even notice something’s up with her.

“Nobody.” Her teeth slice her lower lip. She shoves her phone in her purse and folds her hands on the table. I push the cheesecake back toward her and she takes a bite. But her phone chimes again and she picks it up.

And I just have to know.

Grabbing it, I stand up and hold it away from her as she leaps to her feet, trying to stop me. My brain scrambles as I read the name on the screen.

“Why is Luke texting you?” I ask, staring at her in disbelief.

Her shoulders slump, but I look down to read the text. “I don’t care if she finds out.” Looking up at her in horror, I unlock her phone and scroll through the messages, disbelief running like ice water in my veins.

Before I can lose it and throw her phone, I shove it back in her hands. “You were talking to him about me. You were telling him I don’t know about…” Words fail me and pain forms a hard, aching lump in my throat. I push past it as tears sting in my eyes. “You two.”

Pain. All I feel is pain.

She looks like I’ve hit her. But I don’t feel bad for her. Shaking my head, I turn to leave. “Wait,” she says, but I’m out the door. There’s nothing she can say to me. Nothing I want to hear from her.

On the sidewalk, I feel dizzy. Lightheaded. He’s not only cheating on me, he’s cheating with my best friend.

Walking toward home, I decide I’ll get my car later. I’m in no condition to drive right now. A guy walking by slams into me and grabs my shoulders as if to keep me on my feet.

“Damn,” he says in a thick British accent while looking down my shirt, “Nice tits.”



Chapter Two

Wild



Her lip curls and she shoves me away.

It’s a shock. Nobody ever pushes me away. No, women tend to try to get closer, no matter how disgusting the words I hurl at them are. Not what I expected from my first meeting with my soon to be step sister, Lea.

Yep, I’m stalking her.

But not for creep reasons. Or not really. I mean, I’m not trying to get naked pics of her without her permission. If she wanted to share those pics, though, I wouldn’t say no. Or delete them. Now that I’ve seen her up close, I know she’s absolutely fuckable.

My soon to be step sister seems to have no clue how her life is about to change.

I’d worried the whole lot of them were gold diggers, but now that I’ve met her, I’m seriously doubting it. I’ll have to figure out what the hell dad sees in her mom for myself.

I turn and watch her ass in those amazing yoga pants as she stalks off. Nope. She’s not a gold digger. Or she’d know me. Hell, I’m surprised she didn’t anyway.

Her long fawn-colored hair hangs free to her ribs and I watch her move with appreciation. American girls are so delicious. And I can’t get the thought of her light brown eyes out of my mind.

“Ayyy, Wild,” A guy says, squinting at me as he walks by. Ignoring him, I pull the lapels of my jacket straight.

A pretty girl with blue white eyes stops at my elbow and stares up at me. And I recognize her right away. Jen. The girl with the pretty smile and ugly secrets. My soon to be step sister’s best friend… who’s also fucking her boyfriend.

Judging by the look on her face, the whole ugly business just aired in public.

“Walk with me,” I say.

She automatically falls into step beside me as I begin to follow Lea.

“Me?” she asks, looking shocked.

“Yes,” I say. And this one’s supposed to be the one everybody wants? I don’t see it. But Lea. What makes her tick? The moment dad told me he was getting remarried, I’d requested my private investigator find everything there is to know about them.

He’d been unable to find anything suspect. Nothing I could use to block this marriage. No history of anything untoward. Nothing disturbing or potentially business – or life – threatening. Just normal people living ordinary lives.

But Lea.

The first images I got of her just burrowed down deep in my bones. In one, she’d been staring at the camera lens with her lips lightly parted, her eyes wide and bright. The sexy, disheveled look women generally have first thing in the morning after a long night of hot sex. But she’d been running errands. Either she’s ridiculously photogenic or my private eye has some amazing timing.

“I’m not sure why I’m here,” Jen says.

Annoyed she’s broken into my thoughts, I ignore her and focus back on Lea. She’s off limits, but my dick and brain didn’t seem to get the memo. Or they got it loud and clear and that only intensified everything. I’m not sure which. I can’t even explain what it is I feel, much less understand it.

“I know who you are,” Jen says, breaking into my thoughts once more with the obvious observations. Most people know who I am. I’m not surprised she knows. “You own the string of clubs along this side of the state.”

She’s mostly right.

“I love Wild,” she says.

I stop moving and turn to stare down at her. Her cheeks go bright red and she stammers.

“I mean, the club. Not… you.” She looks up at me, her lips parting a little bit. Her tongue traces them and she glances at my lips.

Leaning in, I bring my lips right to her ear and speak in a low voice that seems to melt her. “Tell me everything.”

We fall into step once more and she’s quick to start talking. “My friend caught me with her cheating boyfriend. He was cheating on her with me.”

I nod. I knew this.

“She’s pissed. Ran out on me. She’s my best friend and I hate myself.”

“Best friends don’t hurt each other like that. They don’t fuck significant others. No,” I glance down at her, “this is deeper than that. You’re doing this for a reason. To hurt her?”

Her mouth drops open in shock.

“Don’t lie to me,” I say quickly.

“I, uh,” she stammers.

And I’m bored again.

A slight smile tugs her lips, a seductive smile designed to tease. “Nothing like that. Maybe I haven’t met the right guy is all.” Her fingers close on my wrist and I feel a cold smile cross my lips.

“I feel you’d only want me if I was Lea’s.” It’s a weak jab. Of course she’d want the money, the security she feels I can give her. But the pain in her eyes is a satisfying sensation for me. It’s like vindicating Lea just a little bit.

“What’s the name of this boyfriend, now?” I ask, though I know very well. It never hurts to double check information. And triple check. I won’t make mistakes. Mistakes are messy and time consuming.

“Luke. Luke Davis,” she says.

“Right, then. Perhaps stop fucking your best friend’s boyfriend if you want any chance of fixing things, Miss. Anders?” I glance down at her as we walk.

Out of the corner of my eye I can still see Lea ahead. Her pace hasn’t slowed one bit and her hips still show her anger.

“Um, right. Can I see you again?” she asks, as if sensing my patience with her has run out.

“Afraid not. You’re not quite my type.”

I see the insult in her eyes. She knows she’s exactly my type in body and face. I’d fuck her.

But lately, fucking has gotten a bit boring. Maybe I’m ready to settle down, find a woman with a brain and loyalty. But I doubt it. I think it’s more likely that I’ve seen the worst of this woman and that’s a rather big turn off.

“Why are you so interested in Lea?” she asks. Her eyes and tone are suspicious.

“Have a good day, Miss. Anders.” I take the opportunity to cross the street and keep an eye on Lea as Jen falls behind.



Chapter Three

Lea



“Mom, I don’t think I’m up for it,” I say in protest. At home, I’m pacing. Back and forth, back and forth like I’m trying to wear a path in the tawny carpet.

“It’s important,” mom says, “I’ve got to talk to you about something.”

I hear the wavering note in her voice and latch on. “Mom,” I ask, sitting down on the couch and tucking a leg up under me. “What do you need to talk to me about?” Last time she’d had that tone, I’d learned my parents were getting a divorce. News that devastated my then twelve year old self.

I’d been split between two worlds. And sure, having two of every holiday was awesome… except it reminded me how fractured my life was in every possible way. I hated every bit of it. Even now, my heart pounds in my chest as I remember how scared I’d been back then, how afraid I’d been as everything around me fell apart just when I needed it solid the most.

Tears sting in my eyes and I feel my throat film over with an ache that makes talking painful. “Mom, I need to know,” I say through the pain.

“I’m getting married!” The words pop out of her like a shot.

“What?” How is it possible? She didn’t even tell me she met someone!

She sighs on the other end of the line. “His name is Emmett Wilder.”

Why does that name ring a bell?

“You didn’t even tell me you met someone,” I say, feeling betrayed. The hollow ache in my chest seems to be growing. Can this day get any worse?

“I’m sorry. He asked me not to for now. He’ll explain everything tonight,” Mom sounds hopeful.

It’s my turn to sigh. How can I tell her no now? “Where and what time?” I ask.

When we finally hang up, I stretch out as best I can on my couch and stare up at the ceiling. My whole life is going belly up again and it’s a sickening sensation. My stomach is twisted up in knots and I feel like I’m going to throw up kale salad and cheesecake.

Lifting my phone, I notice my hands are trembling. I pull up Luke’s contact information and scroll through messages sent in happier times. All the I love you’s and the I miss you’s. Did he mean any of them?

But it’s time to send him a message before I lose my nerve. It’s over.

Putting my phone on my belly, I cover both my eyes with my hands. I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to hurt because of him. The phone vibrates and I pick it up.

Luke sent a message that simply says, We need to talk.

There’s nothing to talk about, I shoot back. Leave me alone.

I stand up and walk into my room, tossing the phone on my bed as I dig through my closet. Finding my favorite ripped jeans and black tank top that’s form fitting, I change quickly. Might as well be comfortable for this explanation on mom meeting a guy who told her not to tell me about him. Is there any way this can end that I’ll be okay with?

Shaking my head no, I run my fingers through my hair.

Glancing in the full length mirror, I study my face. My best feature is my cheekbones. They’re high and strong. But the rest of my face isn’t quite on the same page. My chin is too small and pointed, and the heart shape of my face isn’t quite pretty.

My eyes are dull and brown, and so is my hair. Is that why Luke went to Jen? Because she’s prettier? Pressing my wrist to the ache in my chest, I push thoughts of them out of my mind. If I want any chance to survive the night, I need to focus on one betrayal at a time.

Adding a thin layer of gloss to my lips, I fix the corners and grab clean socks from my dresser. When I’m ready, I grab my purse and phone and lock the door behind me.

It’s a long walk to the restaurant, but I don’t mind the fresh air. Walking is a calming activity and I need all the help I can get right now. Taking out my phone, I text mom to let her know I’m here as I pull open the door.

At the door a well-dressed man curls his lip at me a little bit, then tries to disguise his expression. “Can I help you?” he asks.

“Wilder table?” I say, feeling uncomfortable. I guess there’s a dress code here. Oops.

His eyebrows shoot up and his tune changes instantly. “Of course, you’re Miss Lea?”

I nod and he walks me inside. The place is busy and people talk quietly amongst themselves. Women sport elegant dresses and men are in suits. And I know I stand out as people start to stare at me.

Pretending to be focused on my phone, I walk behind the waiter. A familiar perfume tickles my nose and I glance up to see Jen. Kissing Luke. Like, really kissing. Tongues, little noises, gross sloppiness, kissing.

My heart drops to my shoes as I hurry past like I didn’t see them.

At the table, I try not to think about my ex boyfriend and my ex best friend sitting together.

I see mom and she leaps to her feet and pulls me into a hug. “I missed you,” she says in my ear as she kisses me on the cheek.

“Maybe if you weren’t in full Stockholm you’d see me more,” I say.

Her horror shows in her face. “Lea Grace Staten!” She says.

“Sorry,” I say. But I’m not sorry. I know I’m not acting like a twenty three year old woman, but this is stupid. We’re adults, not children playing spy games and not telling each other things. And I swear I can feel Jen’s and Luke’s eyes boring holes in my back.

I need to make this quick. I need to get out of here.

I glance past my mother and thrust my hand at the man behind her who was sitting with her.

“Hi, Lea Staten, the daughter,” I say pointedly.

He takes my hand, but I see him focus on something – or someone – behind me and every hair on the back of my neck stands on end. Oh, god, Luke is right behind me, isn’t he?

I turn around, fully ready to tell Luke off.

But it’s not Luke behind me.

I place him instantly. It’s the jerk who’d slammed into me and told me I have nice tits. “This is your step brother, Trever,” My new step dad says as my heart stops beating in my chest and all the blood drains out of my face.

Trever pulls me into a hug. I don’t have time to react as he lowers his lips to mine.



Chapter Four

Wild



Her lips are cherry flavored and I feel her freeze in my arms. But it does nothing to ease the desperate need flowing through me. Damn it, it’s like tasting the most amazing thing for the first time; I want more.

Trever,” Her mother says and I kick back into gear.

Releasing Lea, I turn to her mother and speak in a lowered voice. “Her best friend is over there with her boyfriend. He’s cheating on her and she’s dumped him, but she’s still debating her friendship with Jen.”

Her mother seems shocked and Lea has the grace to look ashamed. “I didn’t tell you about Luke because it was, um, never that serious.”

“You’ve been sleeping with him for a month, dating him for three.” I say and her eyes narrow.

“How do you know that?”

“He’s… good like that,” Dad says. I nod, eyes locked on Lea. She’s staring up at me suspiciously. “Nobody but he and I know I dumped him.”

“Lucky guess,” I say.

“So you’re making them jealous by kissing her? That’s not very nice,” my soon to be step mother, Rosemary, says.

“Her ex will see she’s kissing someone very much above his stature and will be less likely to make a scene.” It’s all so simple in my mind. Why doesn’t she see it?

Lea’s still staring up at me in shock.

She felt it too, then? That intense jolt as our lips touched? I could feel her heart pounding then and I feel it now. And I see it at the base of her throat. And her pupils are dilated. All sure signs she’s ready for me.

Interesting.

“Sit down,” Dad says and I guide Lea in to her spot. Sitting beside her, I enjoy the frazzled confusion she’s exuding. I rather like her being so off balance.

“Sorry I didn’t tell you about the dress code,” Rosemary says to Lea, who pulls her attention from me with obvious effort and shrugs at her mother.

Dad gives Lea a look that’s strikingly close to revulsion. “Is that the problem, then?” he asks and I feel my blood begin to boil. He knows this family isn’t on par with everything he’s been brought up to enjoy? That I was raised with? He fell in love with Rosemary regardless, he better extend some kindness to her daughter.

Lea squirms. “Sorry,” she says, her cheeks going red.

And while I like seeing her squirm, I don’t like that she’s embarrassed.

“Not the time,” I say to dad, my threat vailed. I know he saw right through me and my explanation for kissing her. And now he’s going to poke. Going to wear at me to see exactly what I’m feeling. He’s a slippery bastard like that. He likes to be right.

“Of course,” he says. All his attention focuses on Lea. “So, tell me about college.”

Rosemary makes a little sound in her throat as the waiter stops by with food. Everyone is quiet as he sets plates before all of us. Only when he’s gone does dad zero in on Lea again. He’s quick to unfold his napkin and place it on his lap while watching her fumble with hers.

“I’m not… um, going to college,” Lea says, staring at the plate in front of her like she can’t quite meet his gaze. She’s very much the child refusing to look at the disappointed parent.

He grunts, picks up his fork and pierces a bite of his lamb salad.

“Dare I ask why?” He pushes.

My fist clenches around my silverware and the sharp sound of the spoons and forks clattering together makes Lea glance over at me in shock. “Sorry,” I say to her while glaring at dad. “Can we talk about something else?”

But Lea stumbles on. “I’m kind of feeling my way through life right now,” she says, her heart in her eyes as she pushes food around her plate with her fork.

Feeling?” Dad says, ignoring me completely.

“The fuck you doing?”

I only feel mild surprise as everyone focuses on something behind me. I hear Jen begging him not to do this, not to make a scene. All around us, conversations hush, but I feel totally at ease.

I stand up, patting my lips with my napkin, a small smile on my lips. I didn’t think he’d do it. But I’m glad he did. He took the bait.

Turning around, I face the little bitch that was fucking around on Lea. “I’m sorry, is there a problem?” I ask.

His face shifts into mockery. “Yeah, you gay little cunt, why were you kissing my girlfriend?”

“Oh, is this your girlfriend?” I ask, putting an arm around Lea. The room gasps and I feel Lea stiffen. “I rather thought the woman you’ve been slobbering all over for the last hour was your girlfriend. My mistake.”

Slipping out of my jacket, I roll up and button my sleeves as the collective hiss and buzz of whispers surrounds us. It doesn’t bother me. Jen, however, looks around and sinks into a chair looking humiliated.

“Mr. Wild, erm, Wilder, is there a problem here?” A waiter steps forward and I see several waiters and busboys behind him. Their biggest guys. They’re anticipating a fight. The gesture, while appreciated, is unnecessary.

“Is there?” I ask Luke, giving him a way out. There’s fear in him. I can smell it. He’s sweating. Beads are forming on his forehead and his shirt is damp. He’s nervous, which means he knows what he’s getting into. He knows who I am and the acute danger he’s getting himself into.

“Yes there is,” he says, taking off his inexpensive suit jacket.

A cruel smile tugs at my lips. Excellent. “I need to step outside a moment,” I say as an apology to my family. Lea is on her feet and beside me.

“What are you doing?” she asks as I walk toward the door.

“My job as your big brother.”

“You’re not my brother,” She says. But the jab doesn’t land.

I stop at the double door. “Then I’m doing it because I want to.” Pressing a quick kiss to her lips, I revel in the evil sensations that follow. I’m sure what I’m feeling isn’t only because she’s off limits, but that does make it more fun.

Outside, I dodge Luke’s right hook. Quickly pulling him into a headlock, I kick the back of his knee. He drops and I fold him right to the ground, holding him tightly.

“You fuck with her again,” I say as he begins to claw at my arm. I’m holding him tight; he can’t breathe right now. “I’ll make sure you don’t fuck anyone, ever again,” I whisper.

He nods and I let him go.

Standing up straight, I straighten my shirt collar. Staring down at him, I wonder what his game plan was, exactly. Why did he push? False bravado? Perhaps he thinks the rumors about me are over exaggerated?

No, he’s still got feelings for Lea. Why cheat on her then? What am I missing?

He’s clutching his throat, glaring at me. Lea stands beside me, staring up at me in shock.

“Who are you?” she asks, her eyes narrowing.

“Trever Wild Wilder, at your service.”

She glances down at my hand, up at my devilish grin, and turns to leave. And it hits me. She’s perplexing. I can generally figure people out. This girl, though, she’s shut me down and surprised me at every turn.

Interesting.



Chapter Five

Lea



I’m walking toward my mom’s house, seething after that little fiasco.

I’ve never been so humiliated in my whole life. What the heck kind of person is my mother marrying? And his son, oh my god. He’s insanely good looking, but what a snobby, know it all jerk!

Still, watching him drop Luke like that, like he was nothing, it was kind of thrilling. Luke wasn’t in control for a few seconds. And I bet it was a good experience for him.

As I walk the back of my neck prickles and I rub a hand over the skin.

Why did I agree to come here? I should be at home, trying to figure out what the hell to do now that my life is a wreck. One conclusion; guys suck. I’m better off without them. I’m going to focus on making my life better. Maybe I’ll look into trade school or something.

I’ve just always agonized over life choices. I don’t love any one idea of a job over another. Nothing gets me all excited. I don’t even have a hobby that I love enough to try to turn it into a permanent thing or job. So college has always been a rough idea for me. I don’t want to go into debt for something I’ll get bored of or downright hate before I even earn a degree for it.

With a sigh, I open the front door and mom pulls me into a hug. “How was your walk, dear?” She asks, and I shrug.

“Didn’t fix anything.” But I do feel a little bit better. I’ve got a plan. A difficult one, but a plan nonetheless. I walk inside and find Emmett sitting at the table, a newspaper in hand.

People still read physical newspapers?

“I’m sorry for Trever’s actions,” Emmett says, carefully folding the newspaper. “He’s rather tempestuous and hot headed.”

“It’s fine,” I mumble, inching toward the door. Mom grabs my arm, though, and gives a little shake of her head.

“You’re not leaving. Sit down and talk to me.”

The door closes and I glance over my shoulder. It’s Trever. Of course it is. His incredible steel blue eyes are locked on me and his dark hair is shining blue black like it started to rain outside. His powerful cheekbones are damp and I notice the shadow of his stubble enhancing the square shape of his jaw. There’s power to him, a quiet strength tucked behind an air of privilege.

I want to hate him and everything he stands for. A rich boy who always gets his way. Gets the woman. Gets the thing. Life just falls into place for pretty people; Jen’s living proof of that. She’s got an amazing job, my boyfriend, and like Trever so astutely pointed out, I’m still considering being her friend.

“I don’t want to talk, mom,” I say, pulling out of her grasp.

Walking toward Trever, I see him straighten up and zero in on me. But there’s a bit of uncertainty behind his incredible blue eyes. It surprises me. Grabbing his arm, I push him back out the door so we’ll have some semblance of privacy.

“Didn’t expect you to try to drag me home so quickly,” he says. I stare up at him, wondering if he’s joking or seriously thinks I want him so bad I have to jump his bones here and now on my mother’s porch.

That… sounded wrong.

“You’re disgusting,” I say.

“Thank you.” He seems pleased with the insult.

“Why did you kiss me, really?” I ask, wanting answers. I cross my arms and he glances down. I drop my arms quickly, but he’s not looking away.

“I never pass up the opportunity to kiss a sexy woman,” he says, his eyes finally meeting mine. “Especially one with such amazing tits.” He steps forward and I back up a step into the house.

“What is wrong with you?” I demand.

His eyes sparkle a little bit as he advances another step. I jump back a bit.

“It was sweet of him to help with your ex,” Mom says. “It was a good idea.”

“No, he convinced you it was a good idea. I’m going to be his step sister, mom.” I say, unable to believe what she’s trying to say.

“Oh, it wasn’t like that,” Mom says, dismissing me completely as she walks into the kitchen, asking if anyone would like anything.

“It was like that,” Trever mouths.

I shake my head at him and hurry to follow mom into the kitchen. “Does it matter what it was like, mom?” I ask, cornering her by the dishwasher. With a hand on the counter and one on the island, I block one escape route as she grabs a bottle of wine and a glass.

She pours a glass and I notice Trever standing quietly, watching us both very closely.

Mom!” I say, angry that she’s not hearing me.

She turns. “Emmett is the best thing to happen to me in the last twenty years, Lea. The best thing since you. So if you could calm down and stop acting like a child, I’d appreciate it.”

Stopped dead in my tracks, I feel the fight drain out of my spine. She takes a sip of her wine and her eyes meet mine, confirming everything she’s said.

“I’m sorry,” I say. I’m a terrible daughter. This is supposed to be the happiest time in my mom’s life and I’m making it all about me. Walking around the island, I sit in one of the bar seats and stare at my hands, folded neatly on the granite counter before me.

I wonder if I should talk to her. Or leave her alone.

We stay in silence. She’s sipping her wine, still frozen in place. Trever is standing near the door. And I’m sitting here feeling like the world is crushing down on my shoulders.

After a moment, I push off the stool. “Well, happy engagement, and um, talk to you tonight.” Because I’ll wind up calling her before bed. It’s just a ritual. She calls me every morning, I call her at night.

I need to get home. And nurse my heart.

“We’re not engaged yet,” Mom says softly.

“I’m proposing tomorrow,” Emmett says and I jolt, surprised by his sudden presence. “I wanted to meet you first.”

Oh, god. Did I ruin everything for mom? Was this whole meeting proof that this family won’t blend? My heart aches. I have to go home. I need out. “I’m sorry,” I whisper at mom. Heading for the door, I can hardly see through my tears as I hurry toward home.



Chapter Six

Wild



She’s driving me mad. The look of pure agony in her eyes last night, it’s haunting. And now, today, she’s facing knowledge of her mother’s upcoming engagement, her best friend’s betrayal, and her boyfriend’s unfaithfulness.

Her day has got to be going terribly.

I pick up my phone and send a few texts. I’ve got an idea. One that will either make her really, really mad, or really, really mine.



***



“I wanted to apologize,” I tell her. I’m parked beside her as she’s walking toward her cozy little place.

“Okay, you’re sorry,” she says. I recognize the dismissal, but I don’t accept it. I keep moving as she walks on. Despite the light rain this morning, she’s not using an umbrella. She either likes the rain or was caught unaware. Unaware, I think, she’s not using a weather app on her phone. Maybe that was something he did that she hasn’t gotten back into the habit of doing now that he’s gone.

“Please get in the car,” I say, but she shakes her head again.

This woman is so contrary. Parking my car, I get out and hurry to follow her. She glances over her shoulder at me. “Are you going to follow me now?” she asks.

“Yes, until you’re ready to follow me,” I say, falling into step beside her.

She pulls out her phone. “I could just call the cops on you,” she says.

“Worth the risk,” I say, tucking my hands into my pockets. There’s a bitter chill in the air even though the sun is shining down on us.

She seems taken aback. Her silence is surprising, since she always seems on her toes and ready to pop back at everything I say. She stops and turns to face me. Face to face, I watch her bring her hand up to shade her honey-colored eyes from the sun. There’s a sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of her pert little nose.

“What do you really want?” she demands.

“I told you, I wanted to apologize.”

“Okay, so you’re sorry. What else?” She seems impatient, but I sense the dance in her feet isn’t because she has anywhere to be. No, I think I make her nervous. Which is good to know. Because she gets me the closest to nervous I think I’ve ever been.

“You misunderstand,” I tell her, “I want to show it, not just say it.”

“Oh,” she says, nibbling on her lower lip. She seems to be struggling with herself before she finally nods my direction. “Fine. Because mom seems really happy and I want to keep the peace. I’ll go.”

I stop on the sidewalk and turn to look down at her. “Not good enough,” I say.

She faces me, her head tilted back to look up at me. She really is a petite little thing.

“What do you mean not good enough?” she asks, her eyes narrowing.

“I want you to come with me because you want to,” I say.

She gives a tiny nod. “Fine. I want to go with you.”

“Why?” I ask, interested in her answer.

She seems surprised I asked. “I’m curious what you’re going to do,” she says and it’s like looking in a mirror. She doesn’t understand me. I don’t understand her. Fascinating.

We start walking toward my car and I thank my lucky stars I had a few favors to call in. I can only hope my shots in the dark were accurate. I admit some pandering. But I put more thought into this than any that have come before her, so perhaps that means something.

Twenty minutes later, her hand is in mine and she’s squeezing.

“I’ve never been in a helicopter,” she says.

But she seems fine, excited even, on the flight. When we touch down, she seems surprised. “The beach?” she asks as we set down at the coast guard’s pad, “I haven’t been here in ages!”

Which is a shame, really. It’s only an hour and a half drive.

I thank the guys and we head out. We’re instantly led away and I feel her staring up at me as the coast guard march us toward the lighthouse.

Four hundred and twenty nine steps later, we’re at the top of the lighthouse, alone.

“How did you…?” she asks me.

I gesture toward the little table. “A friend owed me a favor. I collected.”

On the table is an assortment of fruit and cheeses and several bottles of wine to pair. I open a bottle of wine and pour her a glass. Pouring one for myself, I glance out over the ocean.

“I never knew you could come up here,” She says, her voice a breath of wonder as she steps forward and stares out over the water.

“You can’t,” I say. The lighthouse is closed to the general public. I’d done a favor, though, for the Captain and he owed me one.

“This feels suspiciously like a date,” she says, she skirt swirling a little as she turns to face me.

The cute little sun dress she’s wearing has red lips and hearts on it, and I wonder why she chose that particular outfit. It’s obviously a Valentine dress. It’s new, I can still see a bit of the plastic where the tag had been attached. Is this an effort to seduce? It’s working, if yes. Then again, Lea never seems to be obvious. Perhaps she’s wearing this dress for herself. Because she feels pretty in it and needs to feel pretty after that ugly business with her ex.

“Perhaps. How about a game, Lea?” I say.

Her eyes narrow. “What kind of game?”

“A guessing game.”

“You’re trying to get my clothes off, aren’t you?” She asks, arching an eyebrow at me.

“I wasn’t. However, now that’s part of the plan. I ask a question, you ask a question.” I take a sip of my wine as she stares down into hers. “No avoiding questions. You’re about to be part of my business and that’s difficult for me.”

“You mean family, not business,” she says softly.

I shake my head. “No, my business.”

She lifts her head and I step close to her.

My fingers graze her chin and she stares up at me. “Everything and everyone in my life affects business,” I say.

“Okay. Why did you really kiss me?” She asks.

“Off with something,” I say, fingering the sleeve of her sundress.

She rolls her eyes and slips off a shoe.

“Because I wanted to kiss you. You wanted it,” I say.

“Was that a question?” she asks, giving me a sly smile.

I shake my head. I know the answer. I was merely stating a fact. “Remove something,” I say, since she asked another question.

She shakes her head. “Doesn’t count, I was asking for clarification.”

“I’ll let this one slide. Don’t make that mistake again.”

“Why do you want me so much?” She asks, and I’m shaken by her perceptive question. “Because you can’t have me?”

Remove two things,” I say and she sighs.

Slipping off her other shoe she makes a face at me as I shake my head at her.

“Not good enough,” I say.

“You haven’t removed anything,” she says in protest.

“I haven’t asked any questions,” I tell her.

She sets her wine glass down on the ledge. “This is silly. Why don’t we just talk like adults?” she sits down at the table, tucking her shoeless feet under her. “I’ll even let you off the hook for the last two.”

I sit beside her. “This is supposed to be a date, but you’re quite unlike my usual partners.”

I see her expression shift as she interprets my compliment as an insult. And I instantly diffuse the situation. “I don’t usually talk with dates. We generally get to the other parts rather quickly.”

Her expression shows her distaste. “Charming,” she says in a flat voice.

“I’ll never be dishonest with you, Lea,” I say.

Her whole body stiffens. I’ve hit a nerve. Of course, she’s just broken up with someone who’s been dishonest. That might feel like a jab.

“It’s a compliment,” I say, leaning in close to her. Tucking a tawny lock of hair behind her ear, I study her soft brown eyes. “You don’t want to be like the others.”



Chapter Seven

Lea



Spending an entire day with Trever Wilder hasn’t helped me understand him anymore. Sure, he’s a snob, but he’s also totally different than any guy I’ve ever spent time with.

“I’m not sure what to do with you, Lea,” he says, finishing his glass of wine. His blue eyes are locked on me and I feel my cheeks sting.

“Well, you should be brotherly,” I say. It’s the truth. Maybe it’s not what I want, but it’s what I have to do. What we have to do.

He takes a breath. “Well, see, that’s going to be a problem.”

I feel the heat of him as he leans toward me. We’re so close now I can feel his breath on my lips. “You make me feel anything but brotherly,” he says softly.

Then his lips are on mine.

His hand comes up and finds my shoulder. I’m not sure if he’s pulling me closer, pushing me away, or keeping me in place.

Frozen, I feel his tongue press to my lips, seeking entrance. His hands drop to my hips and he pulls me into his lap. My lips part for him and he kisses me deeply. Every cell in my body is begging for more, but my brain is talking too loud.

Reminding me he’s my step brother.

Reminding me that this can’t happen.

But my body seems to be forgetting that fact. Giving in, I kiss him back and our tongues battle. As if all he needed was my cooperation, he picks me up and places me on the table. I feel faint with excitement and my heart begins to thump painfully.

His hands haul the front of my dress down around my waist. Cool air and the thrill of how rough he’s being makes me moan in pleasure. His lips leave mine to suckle deeply at one nipple, then the other as I toss my head back in shock at the sensations.

His lips meet mine again, hungry, desperate and in control. I surrender to him, loving the need I feel in his motions, his kiss.

Grabbing his shirt, I pull it up, hating the moment he pulls away to yank it over his head. Under his clothes, he’s got lean strong lines. It’s the body of a runner and so fucking sexy. His lips find mine again and the kiss is savage.

My heart pounds so hard it feels like it’s trying to hammer right out of my chest. His tongue meets mine and dances as I whimper into his mouth. The air is cold on my damp nipples, so I bring my hands up to touch his face and press my arms to the sides of my breasts.

“Sexy bitch,” he growls.

The words startle me and the hum in my core intensifies. His hands drop to the skirt of my dress and he hauls it up. He gives a delightful growl as he realizes I’m not wearing any underwear.

“Naughty girl,” he growls in my ear.

I shiver, goose bumps racing down my arms and across my chest. My loose hair tickles my ribs as he kisses me harder and we lean back a bit. His fingers find the bundle of nerves at the center of me and he begins a long stroking motion that’s incredible.

Suddenly, he drops to his knees and I cry out as his lips touch me. Pressing both palms to the table, I brace myself as his lips and tongue tease my clit. Here, in this lighthouse that nobody is allowed in, he’s kissing my intimately, deeply, and it’s so damned sexy I can’t see straight.

His tongue works circles around my clit and I whimper. Looking down at him, I see his eyes meet mine and I’m trapped in the depths of his hungry gaze. My head falls back as the pleasure overwhelms me. His hands grip my hips as if to keep me from escaping, but running away is the last thing on my mind.

I cry out as he pulls me into him better. Suddenly, his tongue is working hard on my clit and my stomach is tensing up. Every stroke sends my heart slamming harder, my breathing becomes more erratic, little white dots are dancing before my eyes.

I’m teetering on the edge.

One of his hands leaves my hip and I feel his fingers press into me. Then he’s touching a spot that sends me into a tailspin. It’s over.

I cry out as the first spasm rocks my body. Ripple by ripple, they spread out and bring warmth and relief with them. Biting down on my lip to keep quiet, I let the spasms overtake me and relax back onto the table.

He stands and I’m suddenly desperate for more. Wiggling down a little, I grab the front of his pants. I unbutton them as he pulls a little foil pouch out of his pocket.

“Good thinking,” I say, grabbing it from him.

He grins wickedly and unzips his pants.

“Hurry up,” I urge.

“So impatient,” he growls.

I tear open the foil ouch and grab him. The second my fingers close around him, his eyes close and his jaw clenches. “Fuck, Lea.”

“Yeah, that’s what I had in mind,” I say, wrapping my legs around his hips.

He presses into me and I moan, a sound that’s low in my belly that I have no control over. He’s blazing hot and I can feel my body stretching around him. It’s incredible. When he finally comes to a full stop, I glance up at him.

“I’m not sure I can go slow,” he whispers, kissing my shoulder.

“I don’t want slow,” I whisper. I had mine. I’m going for his now, because oh, my gosh, I want to feel it.

With a growl, he pulls out of me. There’s nothing sweet in the rhythm he picks up. It’s a punishing pace. With every thrust home, my breasts bounce. His hand leaves my hips to grab a handful of breast.

“Fucking beautiful tits,” he says, the pad of his thumb teasing over the point of my nipple.

“So you’ve said,” I gasp.

He pulls back and slams into me again. The sensation of being empty and then filled so roughly feels like it’s driving me right toward orgasm again. But this isn’t a position that gets me off. I don’t think.

As he pushes home again, I focus on the feeling and realize I am getting closer. Oh, god.

“You’re so fucking sexy,” he grinds out, his cheek working as he grits his teeth. I feel him growing within me and my body reacts by tightening around him again. He groans his pleasure and I feel everything implode in a ripple of pure pleasure.

The world goes white and I hear myself cry out. “Good girl,” he murmurs, his thumb teasing my nipple once more as my belly spasms. The fluttering deep within me eases up and I can breathe again as he shudders.

He gathers me close and his lips meet mine as he begins to slow. Tangled up in his arms, I breathe a sigh of relief.

When he stops moving entirely, I feel every last reserve of energy drain right out of my being and I’m more relaxed than I’ve ever been.



Chapter Eight

Wild



I glance down at her. She’s sleeping so peacefully. There’s such an air of innocence about her I feel bad for fucking her like I did. But then again, she really seemed to enjoy it. Fuck, I’m hard again just thinking about it.

She blew my damn mind. The sex was incredible.

I press a kiss to her temple. She stirs a little bit, then bolts upright. There’s horror in her expression, a stunned acceptance of what we’d done. And when she sees I’m fully dressed, she looks hurt, confused, then her expression goes flat.

She pulls on her dress really quickly as I offer words to diffuse the situation. “Good morning, love. How are you feeling?”

“Don’t talk to me,” she says, turning her back to me as she pulls her dress back on. “It was a mistake. All of it. I need to go home.” Her fingers comb through her hair like she can tame the pretty mass.

“Not the reaction I’m used to,” I observe, but she snorts.

“Well, I’m not the girl you’re used to. God, I can’t believe I fell for that line.” She sounds disappointed in herself and I fight back a flash of anger.

“It wasn’t a line.”

She turns to face me. “Oh, right, you’d never be dishonest with me, right? So instead of Hey, you’re going to be my step sister, I’ve been following you for months and learning all your secrets, your first words to me were nice tits.”

I understand what she’s saying, but her argument is fatally flawed. “I didn’t lie. You have amazing tits. But I believe you’re angry over more than just my first words to you.”

“Oh, you think?” She asks, stalking over to me. She stands before me, a little ball of fire and fury and totally sexy. “Let me tell you, Mr. I know more than you peasants, I am mad. At myself. Not you. I knew you were a slimy bastard.” Her shoulders slump a little in defeat. “I’m mad I fell for your bullshit and wound up in bed with you. I’m an idiot.”

With that she storms out of the room and I follow her.

“What is your plan?” I ask her.

She stops on the stairwell and glares up at me. “My plan is to tell you to take me home right now.”

I study her carefully before speaking. “I’m a rather tolerant man, but I won’t take orders from you or anyone else.”

“Are you refusing to take me home?” she asks, an incredulous look on her face.

“Not at all,” I say tightly. “I’m warning you I don’t take orders from you or anyone else.”

She looks away from me, a sigh leaving her looking more slumped and defeated than before. “Fine. Please take me home,” she says, refusing to meet my stare.

Despite the anger in her, I see how she mirrors my body language, how she’s leaning in closer to me, the damp scent of her that tells me if she was wearing panties right now, they’d be wet. The subtle sexiness of her is more intoxicating than any seductive come on from any woman I’ve ever met.

“Of course,” I say, offering her my arm.

She glares up at me like there’s nothing she’d like less than to touch me again. What a pity. I’ll have to get her past that feeling. Because now that I’ve had a taste of her, I’m addicted. I have to have more.

Arching an eyebrow at her, I speak in a calm, measured tone. “Appearances, love. We’re soon to be step brother and step sister, right? Let’s give a nice show to whomever might be watching.”

All the color drains from her cheeks and she seems to consider my words. Then, without a word, she places her hand on my arm as we continue our walk down the stairs.

Of course, no one is watching. I picked this place in part for the privacy I was assured. But she doesn’t know that. I’ll find out what makes her tick, one way or another.

Even now, while I’m hungry for her body again, I’m equally fascinated by her.

It’s a short trip to the helipad. Once there, we both get into my car.

She’s quiet on the drive, refusing to even look over at me. I let her have her silence, though thoughts are hurtling a million miles per second through my mind. She seems to hesitate as she opens the door, her body turned partially toward me like she’s going to say something. But she decides against it and gets out of the car.

Closing the door behind her, she stalks toward her front door without a backward glance at me.

I drive off, but not very far. My gut says I need to observe. So I’m going to wait. Going to see what she does next. Because that’ll likely shed some light on what’s going through her mind.

I don’t have to wait long.

Twenty minutes later, she’s locking up the door of her home looking freshly showered and wearing clean jeans and a tee shirt. Casual. Seems to be her usual. I rather like it. It’s a fresh change from all the snobbery and decadence I’m used to. Not that I’d trade in my labels for anything casual.

She turns to walk and I wonder why, a woman with a car, still seems to favor walking. It tells me that she likes to be active. Or when things are on her mind, perhaps, walking helps her think it out.

Admiring her ass, I think about how incredible it felt to be inside her. And my cock pulses at the mere memory. Instead of bored as I usually am after a romp with a woman, I’m more interested than ever in this one.

She turns a corner and I keep enough distance between us to not catch her attention. But as she turns another corner and hurries to cross a busy street while the walk light is green, I know exactly where she’s going. And I feel a stab of jealousy. And anger.

Why is she going to her ex’s house?



Chapter Nine

Lea



My whole life is a mess right now. Everything. I was a jerk to Trever and I feel bad for my outbursts. Maybe lashing out at the other people I’m mad at will help.

I don’t actually think Trever used a line to get me into bed. I don’t think he lied to me at all. I’m just a jerk who’s going through a rough patch. I don’t know how else to push him away. What he’d done, the date, the sex, it was all amazing. That’s freaking terrifying right now. The last guy in my life did the worst possible things to me. I’m not ready to be with another, no matter how amazing he is.


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