Publication date: October 11, 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
I’ve always hated Hunter Altman.
I hated him at first sight, in my teens, when my mother met his worthless father.
I hated when Bill moved in with us, dragging Hunter like bad baggage.
I hated when Mom and Bill made it official, turning the delinquent a-hole in the next room into my brand-new stepbrother.
I hated when I fell for Hunter, and Hunter fell for me.
It killed me when he left us behind, shed like dead skin on his way to the top. And now that Hunter is a hotshot music producer on every magazine cover, I hate him even more.
I hate his money. I hate his fancy toys. I hate that he thinks he owns me … or worse, that he OWES me.
I hate that he’s back. That he’s soiled our ghetto with his pristine suit, his fancy black limousine.
My heart hurts, I hate him so much. And it scares me that my heart might keep loving him in the end, beneath it all.
“I guess we should talk,” Angela says.
I’m still wearing my tux shirt and pants, because going into the other room to change when she has nothing to swap seems rude. But at least I’ve ditched the jacket and tie. My sleeves are rolled up. She touches my forearm and gives me a chill I haven’t felt in forever.
“About what?” I ask.
I run a multibillion-dollar empire. I could buy and sell countries. People practically bow when I walk down the street. Still, those two words flutter my stomach.
“Okay. In what way?”
She doesn’t answer immediately. Her hand makes firmer contact with my arm, her fingers soft and splayed. She’s already turned toward me, and as juvenile as it seems, I keep wanting to look at her cleavage.
This is so messed up. She’s my stepsister. Has been forever. And we’ve been through all this before, a thousand years ago.
“You know what way,” she says.
“What happened,” she says, “I won’t lie. I wanted it.”
I nod. I wanted it, too. But right now I can’t breathe a word and risk breaking the spell between us.
“But Hunter … it was wrong. We grew up together.”
I think that’s stretching it. We spent two years in adjacent rooms, and I was gone most of the time. I never wanted to be there at all.
I say none of that.
“At the time,” she says, “I was just a kid.”
“Me too.” I don’t like how I say it—almost like begging, as if I’m waiting for Angela to feel sorry for me.
“I didn’t know what was going on back then. You remember how I was, kind of in my shell. I guess you’d say I was a late bloomer. We happened to become … closer … right around the time I finally started to bloom.”
I don’t like this talk of blooming. I remember how she’d bloomed. I remember how she felt to the touch.
I’ve seen countless tits since leaving home. I’ve licked whipped cream and snorted coke off an endless parade of nipples. Breasts are two blobs of fat capped with tiny hats, and yet one of my most vivid, most sepia-tinged memories is of that day under the pier. There was something about the first time I saw her like that. She looked vulnerable — but at the same time, I could see her as a sexual being in a way I’d never been able to before. At first, she’d seemed childish, and later she’d seemed full of herself, prudish, naive.
But that day she’d been … Angela. Someone new. Someone who’d bloomed open from a closed bud, and I was there when it happened, tempted by forbidden fruit.
“But it was just hormones,” she says. “We’re older now. Wiser.”
I try to smile. It probably comes off sideways, maybe obnoxious—the jaded grin I’m afraid will convince her that I’m the asshole she’s always imagined I was. But it’s meant to soften the blow as I say, “Stop it. I already feel old at thirty, and you’re making me feel older.”
“You know what I mean, don’t you?” Her hand is still on my arm. If she’s trying to make a platonic point, her touch is driving me in the wrong direction.
“Have you thought about me while you’ve been gone? You know … in that way?”
Which answer should I give her?
Nobody could ever quite compare, and I may have gone through an entire modeling agency, like yanking tissues from a box, searching for something that felt the same.
Instead, I keep my face neutral. “I guess. Sometimes.”
Angela looks like she’s blunting her reply. “Me, too. Sometimes.”
I love to write stories with characters that feel real enough to friend on Facebook, or slap across the face. I write to make you feel, think, and burn with the thrill that can only come from getting lost in the pages. I love to write unforgettable characters who wrestle with life's largest problems. My books may always end with a Happily Ever After, but there will always be drama on the way there.
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