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DANGEROUS

A STEPBROTHER ROMANCE

2014 by Caitlin Daire


**Warning: This novella contains explicit
sexual situations which may be
objectionable to some readers. Not
recommended for anyone under the age of
18.**

COPYRIGHT
Please respect the work of this author. No

part of this book may be reproduced or


copied without permission. This e-book is
licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
This book is a work of fiction. Any
resemblance to persons living or dead is
purely coincidental. Any similarities to
events or situations is also coincidental.
2014 Caitlin Daire
All Rights Reserved
Editing: V. Beckett
Cover design: L. Armstrong
Cover image licensed by Canstockphoto

CHAPTER ONE
LAUREN
Nate Sloane was in my house. Nate frickin Sloane.
What the hell are you doing here?
The words tumbled out of my mouth before I could stop
them, and I immediately regretted it as I saw my mothers
crestfallen face. I was normally polite and reserved, but
coming home and seeing him standing in our lounge room
wasnt exactly normal. Seriously, what was he doing here?
He smirked at me, looking so damned arrogant that I
wanted to march right across the room and slap the
expression right off his face.
Instead I stood and stared, stunned into immobility. His
eyes crinkled with amusement as he gazed back at me;

blue-green eyes that used to make my knees weak. Not


anymore. He was the epitome of sexy tall, tanned, tousled
light brown hair, broadly-muscled shoulders, rippling abs
you get the drift. But after the night at that party my best
friend Cassie had dragged me to, I no longer felt anything
but sheer loathing when I saw him.
He was a smooth-talking prick, a womanizer and
arrogant to boot. I suppose he couldnt help it, what with
girls melting in his presence and practically throwing their
panties at him wherever he went.
Lauren! my mother exclaimed, throwing me a
dangerous look. Sorry, Richard, shes usually not like this.
It was only then that I noticed the tall, distinguishedlooking man next to her. He smiled, his eyes wandering
over to Nate and then back to me. Its fine, dear. Im sure
she was just joking around. After all, they did attend school
together.
Course she was joking, Nate said, taking a step

towards me and slinging an arm around my shoulder. His


voice was deep and gravelly with an air of arrogance - the
product of spending most of his formative years in
exclusive boarding schools. Were old buddies, arent we
Lauren?
The pure sarcasm was lost on our parents, and they
smiled warmly at us. My skin prickled at his touch, and heat
crept up my spine as I remembered the last time Id been
this close to him. The goose bumps creeping all over my

neck and shoulders as he kissed me the feeling of his


warm lips on minethe way he groaned and muttered
sweet nothings as he pressed against me, hard cock
digging into my thigh Pushing the thoughts aside, I
jerked away from the damned prick and mustered up the
politest smile I could as I looked at my mother and the man
with her.
Whats going on? I asked. Why did you need me to
come home early?
My mother hesitated for a moment before speaking.

Lauren, you obviously know Nate from school. This is his


father, Richard.
I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes. Of course I knew
who he was. Richard Sloane, owner and CEO of Scion,
one of the biggest tech companies in the US right now
also the father of Nate Sloane, CEO of being an asshole.
But what the hell was he doing in my house? My mother and
I didnt exactly live in the ghetto, but the neighborhood our
house stood in definitely wasnt the usual haunt of uberwealthy men.

Let me guessNate failed all his exams and his


father wants me to help him study for makeup exams, I
thought. Id been asked by a lot of my fellow students for
tutoring in the past so that wouldnt exactly be out of the
realm of possibility, although considering wed already
graduated a week ago, it seemed a little late now. Maybe
hed failed everything and had to take the year over. The
thought made me dance with glee on the inside.

Well, this may come as a surprise to the both of you.


We wanted to wait until you two graduated before we let
you know, but weve been seeing each other for quite
some time now, Mom continued.
What? I said. The word left my mouth in one breath,
heavy like an exhale. A million possibilities had run through
my head to explain the sudden Sloane presence in our
house, but my Mom being in some sort of relationship with
Richard Sloane? That hadnt even crossed my mind. She
was an underpaid scrub nurse who could only afford to
send me to Oakover Academy because Id received a fullride scholarship due to my consistent 4.0 GPA.
Richard Sloane, on the other hand, could probably
afford to send ten thousand kids to Oakover and still have
some cash left over for twenty houses in the Hamptons.
Lets just say they didnt exactly move in the same social
circles.
Richard smiled and gently squeezed Moms hand. I
went into the hospital for a routine procedure a few months

ago, and your mother was my nurse. She took such


excellent care of me that I wanted to see her again. One
thing led to another and nowwell, show them, dear.

Oh no.
It was like watching a train wreck. I knew exactly what
was coming, and as much as I wanted to turn and run out of
the room, I couldnt. I had to stay, as much I was dreading
what I was about to hear.
My mother smiled and held her left hand out, her brown
eyes sparkling and her face radiant. The biggest diamond
Id ever seen was sitting on her ring finger, and I gasped,
not so much out of excitement but out of horror. In terms of
awful news, this ranked near the top. A million more
thoughts swirled around my mind. Does my mother know

what happened between me and Nate? I wondered. Surely


not. There was no way shed be marrying his father if she
knew about those things that had occurred between us. A
rush of heat between my legs made my heart beat a little

faster as I tried my hardest to push the thoughts aside


again.
It suddenly occurred to me how selfish I was being. I
should be excited for my mother. Shed been abandoned
by my asshole of a biological father when I was only five,
and shed worked her fingers to the bone to raise me
properly all on her own. Shed done everything she could to
ensure I had food, clothes and a decent education. She
deserved to be happy, and if shed just so happened to
have found love with a billionaire, then all the more power to
her.
Wow, I said, forcing a bright smile. Thatsthats
amazing. Im so happy for you!
Mom breathed a sigh of relief, oblivious to the crimson
ribbons creeping over my cheeks. Oh, sweetheart, Im so
glad. I was worried youd be upset. The whole reason we
kept it hidden from the two of you was because we wanted
you both to get through your final year of school without any
more added stress.

I felt Nate stiffen beside me. I thought you said it would


be shocking news, Dad. So whatyoure getting married

again? Good for you. Lets see if this one lasts longer than
five minutes.
Richard barely lost his composure, but I saw a flash of
anger in his crystal-blue eyes. Please dont talk to me like
that, son. Anne and I are very happy together, he said, his
tone clipped.
Nate snorted, and I rolled my eyes in his direction. What
a prick. He couldnt even be happy for our parents for five
seconds. He caught my eye and smirked, and once again I
found myself suppressing the urge to hit him.
Anyway, Richard continued, taking a step towards me
and extending a hand. Ive heard a lot about you, Lauren. I
cant wait to get to know you better and welcome you into
the family. Im glad you and Nate already know each other
from school. That should make the transition a little
smoother.

I took his hand and shook it as my Mom looked on,


beaming with bliss and seemingly ignorant of Nates
disdain. Richards grip was firm, and his expression
seemed genuine. Yes, I choked out. I cant wait to get to
spend some time with you too.
I was careful to leave out any mention of Nate. I sure as
hell didnt want to spend any time with him. My Mom took a
tentative step over to him, and she smiled, her eyes soft
and warm. Nate, Id also like to get to know you too. I
realize this is all very sudden, and it might take some
getting used to. Id never try to replace your mother, but I
would like us all to try and be a family now that your father
and I have decided to take this important step in our lives.
My ears pricked up at the word step. Oh, hell no. Nate
was going to be my stepbrother. Id been so shocked by
their news that it had only just occurred to me what exactly it
would entail.
Nate wordlessly accepted her hand and gingerly shook
it like it was something hed picked up out of the trash. My

Mom saying that this was all very sudden was probably the
understatement of the century. I hadnt even known she was
seeing anyone, and judging by the way Nate was reacting,
he hadnt known about the relationship either.
Soummwhens the wedding going to be? I asked,
trying to defuse the tension in the room. My head was still
spinning like crazy.
Fuck the wedding, Nate said under his breath next to
me.
In six weeks, Richard said, ignoring Nates words but
shooting him a dark look. The venue and catering has
already been organized, and a formal announcement will
run in tomorrows papers. Well be having an engagement
party this weekend in my summer home, and Id love for you
to join us out there.
Oh. Of course Ill come, I replied. I felt slightly sick and
giddy. I was about to be swept into a world where people
felt the need to make formal announcements of their

impending nuptials. But hey, Id handled the last four years


of school at a snobby place like Oakover, and I could
handle thisor so I hoped.
My Mom shot a quick glance at her new fianc and then
back at me. Honeywhat Richard meant was for us to join
him at the summer house until college has started for you.
To stay there.
You want me to live there?
Well, theres no point keeping this little old house now
that were getting married, she said. As wonderful as
Richard is, I dont think hed like living here in Mt.
Hawthorn.
Richard smiled. No, nodont put it like that, dear. Its
just that my summer house has much more space. Itll be
nice for us all to have somewhere to stay together for a few
months without having to be in each others way all the time.
But if you want to stay here, thats fine too. Have a think
about it.

My stomach lurched at the idea of having to pack up


and leave my childhood home, but deep down I knew it was
probably for the best. Like Richard said, wed be able to
spend way more time with each other and get to know one
another if we were living together, and our cramped twobedroom duplex wasnt exactly the right place for that to
happen unless I wanted to share my bedroom with Nate.

No frickin way, I told myself. Summer house it is.


Part of me wanted to laugh at the idea of someone even
owning a summer house. I was willing to bet it was a
mansion on a huge estate; something most people wouldnt
mind living in forever, let alone only using for summer
vacations. Id never even dreamed of owning multiple
homes. Id always just wanted to be comfortable and make
my Mom proud.
Great. Well, Im outta here, Nate rudely interjected
before turning to me. Guess Ill see you out at the summer
housesis.
With that he turned and swept out of the room, and

Richard glowered after him, running a hand through his


greying hair in exasperation. I apologize for his behavior,
he said curtly. My son has always found it difficult to
understand me moving on after his mother died.
Its all right, Mom said, squeezing his hand. I
understand perfectly. Just because youve moved on
doesnt mean you dont still love her and her memory. Hell
understand that one day.
YesI hope so. I suppose I should give you two a
moment alone, he replied. Lauren, it was wonderful to
meet you. Ill see you soon, and thank you for being so
understanding. Itd be nice if Nate could do the same.
A second later he was gone too, and Mom smiled
anxiously at me. Youre mad that I didnt tell you, arent
you? she asked as I sat down on the ratty beige sofa, my
legs suddenly weak. Maybe it was all a dream. I pinched
myself, and the stinging pain told me otherwise. Damn. It
was all really happening.

We shouldnt have sprung it on you like this. We should


have taken you out to a nice dinner or something, she
continued.
I shook my head. No, Mom. Its fine. Im happy for you.
Really. Its just a lot to process.
I gazed at the coffee table, where a prominentlydisplayed photo of my mother and me sat in a silver frame.
It had been taken on a vacation wed been on to California
three years earlier when the hospital had given her a
decent Christmas bonus. It was the first time wed been
able to afford a nice trip, and some of my all-time favorite
memories were from that vacation together.
I picked up the photo, lightly touching my finger to it. It
had always served as a reminder of how it was when it was
just the two of us against the world, like the real life version
of the Gilmore Girls. But now that was all about to change. I
could already picture the photo being replaced by a new
one of the four of us Mom, me, Richard and Nate,
pretending to smile for the camera as one big happy family.

The idea made me feel queasy again. As much as I liked


Richard from my first impressions of him, I didnt know how
easy it was going to be to pretend to get along with Nate.
Want a cup of tea? Mom asked, watching me
carefully.
No thanks, I replied, hastily putting the photo back on
the table. I had a long day at the library. I think Ill head to
bed.
She arched an eyebrow. You do know school is over,
right honey?
I laughed and shook my head. Mom, Im going to be
studying a double degree in engineering and software
development in three months. I need to prepare myself as
much as possible.
I wish Id had your ambition when I was your age, she
said wistfully. I love my job, but sometimes I just want a little
more. Something different.
Well, youre getting more than a little more now, I

said. Apparently youre marrying one of the richest men in


the country. Anyway, Im going to bed. Ill talk to you in the
morning. And Mom? I really am happy for you.
She smiled and hugged me goodnight, and I closed my
eyes and let the familiar floral scent of her perfume wash
over me. I wondered if shed start wearing something more
expensive now that she was marrying a billionaire, and my
heart ached a little as I thought of all the other little details
that might change in the near future. I knew her personality
would always remain the same, but a billionaires wife had
to look a certain way for all the media appearances. Cheap
shoes would likely soon be replaced with Philip Lim
stilettos, and summer dresses shed picked up on sale at
Target would be tossed aside for Valentino gowns. God
forbid she wear anything less to a gala.
Remember to think about the summer house, she
called after me as I disappeared down the hallway.
Truthfully, I wasnt tired at all. It was only seven-thirty, and
I hadnt even had dinner. I just needed to get away from

other people for a while and consider the direction my life


had suddenly just veered in. Crawling under the blankets on
my bed, I lay there and gazed at the ceiling of my small
bedroom.
Id just have to suck it up and get used to having Nate as
a part of my life. It wouldnt be so bad, would it? Id just
finished high school, and in a few months Id be heading off
to college, where hopefully Id never run into him. Nate may
have been wealthy as all hell, but hed never tried hard in
school. There was no way he would have been accepted
into anywhere like MIT, where Id just been offered a place
after studying my ass off for the last few years.
Hed started at Oakover in our senior year after getting
kicked out of an exclusive private boarding school in
another state, and his reputation had preceded him. All the
girls wanted him and all the guys wanted to be him, as
clichd as that sounded. He wasnt just popular because he
was far wealthier than even the richest kids in the school.
He was simply oozing with charisma, and even if hed been

some totally broke nobody, girls would have still fallen over
themselves to be around him.
And be around him they hadI was pretty sure Nate
had gotten into the pants of over half the girls at school
during our final year, not to mention many others who
werent at our school. He reeked of arrogance and
contempt for authority, often showing up at school without
his uniform and smelling of cigarettesand these were just
the most minor of infractions he committed on a regular
basis. Of course Oakover was happy to sweep it all under
the rug in return for substantial donations. It was a highlyregarded school academically-speaking, but they had quite
the reputation for letting the worst of the worst in as long as
they had enough moneyand money was certainly
something Nate had access to. He was a typical
billionaires son in every way an over-privileged playboy
brat.
I couldnt even imagine being like him. Id kept my nose
clean and tried my hardest in school because I wanted to

make my Mom proud, no matter what our background was.


If Id been lucky enough to have been born into a rich family,
then I assumed that would have motivated me to try even
harder. Then again, I had no way of knowing that, seeing as
Id never experienced it. Maybe I would have turned out to
be another spoiled little brat.
I shivered and pulled another blanket over myself,
although I wasnt cold. My skin prickled with goose bumps
just thinking about Nate and the brief dalliance Id had with
him. If you could even call it a dalliance. It was the one time
in my entire life that Id let my guard down and gotten a little
wild and dirty.
My best friend Cassie had invited me to a party a few
months back, and Id initially been reluctant to go. Id never
been one of the cool kids who spent their weekends
drinking and experimenting with whatever designer drug
was all the rage at the time, and I hadnt wanted to start.
Come on, Laurenitll be good for you to blow off some

steam, shed said. Id finally agreed to go on the condition

that she let me help her with her calculus homework. Shed
been struggling with it for a while and always refused my
help.
Cassie had scored an invite to the party courtesy of her
new boyfriend Xander. He was a fairly popular lacrosse
player, and while shed been shocked that hed asked her
out, I wasnt surprised in the slightest. Shed never been a
member of the popular cliques, but she was gorgeous.
Tanned, slim and leggy with shiny blonde hair, Id often
secretly wondered why she didnt just ditch her nerdier
friends, myself included, and hang out with the cool kids.
But she just wasnt like that.
I borrowed a nice blouse and skirt from my Mom and
accompanied her and Xander, and I felt out of place the
minute we stepped into the triple-storied house the party
was hosted in. Everyone in attendance already seemed to
know everyone else there, and they were laughing
raucously and carrying on without a care in the world.
Cassie was almost immediately swept away by Xander

to make out somewhere in a dark corner. She was hesitant


to leave me alone, but I didnt want to wreck her night. I told
her to go have fun and found myself glumly standing by the
food table, attempting to make conversation with a
Burmese cat which I assumed belonged to whomever
owned the house.
Then Nate slid up next to me and flashed me a grin.
Youve got the right idea, Lauren. Partying sure builds up
an appetite, huh?
I almost dropped the cupcake I was holding on the floor.
He actually knew my name? Of course Id been in a few
classes with him at school, but we werent friendly. He could
have any girl he wanted, and from what Id heard, he had.
All he had to do was flash that panty-dropping grin and their
clothes would miraculously fall right off them. And as he
stood next to me, exuding masculine heat and energy, I
knew I was one of those girls.
Damn, he was so tempting with those blue-green eyes

filled with sin. The way his smile invited me over to the dark
side made my breath catch in my throat, and my hands
ached for a single stroke over the hard muscles of his
chest, barely concealed by the snug black T-shirt he was
wearing.
Right then and there, I made an incredibly stupid
impulsive decision that had come to haunt me for the last
few weeks of my high school career. Id just turned eighteen
a few weeks earlier, and soon school would be ending and
college would be beginning. Id worked so hard to make
good grades all my life, and Cassie was right I did need
to blow off steam once in a while. I didnt want to go to
college with my virginity still intact, and Nate Sloane was
the one guy who I knew would probably sleep with
anyoneeven someone like me. Though I couldnt stand
him and his reputation, I knew hed do it.
Yeah, I finally replied slowly, putting the cupcake down.
I think I do have the right idea.
My eyes conveyed an obvious hint to him, and he

smirked at me, his eyes filled with intent. My face turned


pink, and I already felt naked under his gaze as he moved
closer and slid an arm around my waist.
Want a tour of the house? he asked, his warm breath
making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as it
caressed my ear. My best friend lives here, so I know all
the best spots. And all the best rooms...
I nodded, my heart racing. This was it. It was really
happening. Nate grinned and led me away from the table
and down a dim hallway. I could feel several pairs of eyes
on us as we left the main room, and in my heady state I
didnt care. I doubted half of the party attendees would even
know who I was.
I deserved this. Id spent so many years hiding in the
shadows, never taking one wrong step. Now it was my turn
to be wild and reckless, and with Nate, I could be.
Veering off to the right, Nate pushed open a door. I took
a deep breath to calm my nerves and then turned to him as

he gently guided me into the room.


Soare you going to fuck me? I asked boldly.
He looked at me with an incredulous expression, as if
he couldnt believe Id said the word fuck. To him, I was the
goody-two-shoes straight-A princess whod never cross
any lines and never utter a single profanity. Whenever hed
seen me at school, Id always had my nose buried in a
book, occasionally reaching a hand up to brush frizzy
strands of hair away as it fell into my face. A typical geek.
Thats what you want, huh? he replied, lips curling into
a smile. Here I was thinking you just wanted to hang out for
a whileget to know each other.
I nodded, still scarcely able to believe Id said it. Its
what I want.
Then it was too late to back out, because before I could
even try to say anything else, he brought his mouth down on
mine, crushingly hard. His kiss was bruising, tongue
pressing against mine, warring with it in a tangled

embrace.
Id never been kissed before.
Falteringly, I undid the buttons on my blouse as he
roughly slid my skirt down to my ankles, and as I stepped
out of it his eyes lingered on my curves, gaze lascivious
and inviting. Then he slid a condom out of his pocket and
looked into my eyes. Before now, the closest Id ever come
to a condom was in tenth grade health class when wed had
to practice sliding them onto bananas.
You scared, Lauren? he asked. Dont be.
Of course Im not. Ive done this before, I lied.
He thumbed one nipple through the fabric of my bra,
and it immediately stood to attention under his caress. His
eyes remained on mine for a long, lingering moment,
almost as if he didnt entirely believe me when I said Id
done this before. Then he took his shirt and pants off and
wrapped his hand around the base of his cock, sliding the
protection on with his other hand. Id never seen a cock

before, except in movies and biology textbooks. But this


wasnt the same thing. It was real, hard, and right in front of
me.
He pushed me pack onto the bed, and I gasped as he
slid my panties off and pressed against me, his hardness
against my thigh. I grimaced and steeled myself as the very
tip of him lingered just before my entrance. I was wet, oh so
wet, but I was terrified of how much it would hurt. Id heard
horror stories from Cassie when she first lost her virginity. I
was honestly half-expecting to bleed to death, as stupid
and paranoid as that sounded.
You said youd done this before, he said warily as he
saw my expression. Shit, Laurentell me you have.
Of course. I just had a beer, so Im a little lightheaded.
But Im fine, I lied again. Id never touched a drop of alcohol
in my life. My biological father had been a raging alcoholic
when he left my Mom, and I intended on staying well away
from that path.

Put your arms around me, he murmured. His voice


alone made me melt. Why is it that us girls are so turned on
by bad boys? I might not have liked him as a person, but
godright now my body seemed to want him in me more
than my lungs wanted air in them.
He leaned in closer, and I wrapped my arms around his
muscular form, softly stroking the hard contours of his back
and hips. He moved down, burying his head in my cleavage
before pulling me up off the bed so he could unhook my bra
at the back. Instinctively, I wrapped my legs around him as
he threw me back down on the bed, and then his cock was
pushing against my tight entrance.
At the same time, he moved a hand down and stroked
his index finger over my clit in leisurely circles. There was
an aching pain at first as he thrust all the way in, but I was
so overcome with a warm feeling of pleasure soaring
through me that I could scarcely concentrate on the pain. I
thought it may have even intensified whatever I was feeling.
I clung to his back, gasping as he began to drive into

me hard, his thrusts short and insistent. It wasnt slow or


romantic; nothing like Id always pictured my first time. But it
was perfect primal and furious, each thrust taking me
higher and higher. I moaned, not even caring if anyone
outside heard the wanton sounds. Nate was bringing
something out in me that Id kept hidden away. Id never
been like this before. I was a good girl. I wasnt the girl who
threw caution to the wind without caring about
consequences. But tonight I was. With him, I was wild. I was
reckless.
I whimpered as he brought me to the edge, faster and
faster. Oh godyes
Come for me, he insisted, his voice deeper than usual.
His words sent me over the edge, sweet release filling
me as I gasped and moaned. He plunged into me again,
four more times before his own pleasure overtook him.
Ill go deal with this, he said after hed caught his
breath, gesturing towards the condom. You stay right here,

babe. Im not letting you get away that easily


He grinned and quickly slipped back into his clothes
before exiting the room, presumably to go to the bathroom.
His words made me question the nature of what wed just
done. From what Id heard, Nate was the sort of guy that
just hit it and quit it, so to speak. I hadnt been expecting
him to want to keep me around afterwards, and Id been
fine with that. Id wanted this to be a one-time thing, so I
could have one wild night before final exams.
Nownow I wasnt so sure. As soon as the pleasure
faded, I realized what a pathetic life choice Id made,
throwing away my virginity with the school man-whore.
But the way hed said he wasnt letting me get away that
easilywas he saying he wanted more from me than just a
one-time thing? Part of me strangely hoped the answer was
yes, even though that went against all rational thought. As if
the two of us could ever actually work out.
Hed left the door ajar, and it creaked wide open a

moment later. Looking up, I expected to see Nate returning,


but it wasnt him. I recognized the tall blond guy standing in
the doorframe as Eric McNealy, one of Nates minions from
school.
Shit, he said, his eyes traveling over my naked form. I
scrambled to pull up the blanket, my face turning scarlet. He
was holding two beers, and he downed one before tossing
the can aside and opening the other.
Nice job, he said. Guess I owe Sloane a hundred
bucks now.
Huh? Id been half lying down, but I sat bolt upright.
What do you mean?
Ohnothin. Im just drunk and talking shit, he said, a
look of panicked realization in his blue eyes. Hed obviously
just figured out that hed said the wrong thing in his wildly
intoxicated state.
Tell me, I said firmly.
He reclined against the doorframe and sighed. Look,

hes my best friend, okay? So you didnt hear this from me.
We made a sort of bet as a joke. We werent going to do it.
Well, I wasnt going to anyway.
A bet? My heart was rapidly sinking.
We were all talking a few weeks ago, and we figured
there must only be one chick left in school who was still a
virgin. You. Youve never given a single guy the time of day,
and youre always in the library. So as a joke, we all made
a bet to see who could sleep with you first. We were just
drunk and fucking around, Lauren. None of us were actually
going to try.
He crossed the room and tossed me my clothes. Im
sorry, he said. I honestly didnt think hed try to do it.
Youre a nice girl.
You dont even know me, I said through gritted teeth,
unable to believe what I was hearing.
He shrugged. Dont need to know you. Ive seen you
around school, and youre in half my classes. Plus youre

going to be valedictorian, for Christs sake. Everyone


knows who you are.
I awkwardly slipped back into my underwear and
clothes under the sheet, my cheeks flaming with rage. Of
course Nate had just been using me for some sort of joke.
Why else would a guy like him even talk to me at a party?
Goddammit, why was I so frickin stupid?
Part of me told me I deserved it. You were the one

using him to lose your virginity, my inner voice told me.


What did you expect? Not this, that was for sure. What else
could I say? It was a temporary loss of sanity. A shocking
lapse in judgment. A slap in the face by cold, hard reality.
And there was no way I was ever going to let it happen
again.
Now dressed, I crossed the room and exited, shying
away from Eric as he tried to pat my shoulder. He shrugged
again and headed into another room, and I crept back
down the hallway. As I reached the main room again, I saw
Nate the asshole himself heading towards me with a glass

of water.
Hey, where are you going? he asked, grin spreading
across his face. I thought I told you to stay put. Got you
some water.
Thanks! I said, plastering a bright smile across my
face as I took the glass. I immediately threw it in his face,
and as he coughed and spluttered, I hissed through my
teeth at him. Now take this glass and shove it up your ass.
I pressed the glass back into his hands, and he
dropped it, apparently too stunned at my rejection of him to
even figure out how to grasp something. Half the room had
already been staring at our little exchange, and the
shattering glass attracted even more attention.
What the fuck? I heard him exclaim as I dashed out of
the party and headed to the car. I texted Cassie to let her
know I was leaving early. Xander would be able to take her
home, and Id assumed he was going to anyway.
I went home and crawled straight into bed, not even

bothering to shower. Id hoped it was all some sort of


nightmare that I could wake from, but it wasnt. Id gone to
school the next Monday with my reputation in tatters.
Why is it that when a guy sleeps with everyone, hes
some amazing stud, but a girl makes one stupid mistake at
a party and suddenly shes the town bicycle? Id endured
snickers and snide conversations hidden behind hands for
the next two months, and Id been damn lucky Id managed
to sit through any of my exams without crying. Thered even
been giggles and whispers at our graduation ceremony
when I delivered the valedictorians speech.
Nate hadnt bothered trying to speak to me again, and I
knew why. Hed won his bet, collected his winnings, and he
had no need for me anymore other than to brag to the entire
school body about how hed been the one to pop my cherry,
so to speak. I hadnt actually heard him saying anything like
that, but I could safely assume.
I didnt even know why everyone was gossiping about
me so much. Like Eric had said, Id been the only girl in

senior year who was still a virgin before his party, and yet
they thought it was okay to say awful things about me for
having sex just once?
It was strange how it was always the girls who spread
the malicious rumors around. Id read some theory a while
back saying that women like to slut-shame other women to
protect their own status, but Id never thought Id be on the
receiving end. Now thanks to Nate and his assholery, I had
been for weeks. The only thing that got me through was
Cassies support. I could have told my Mom, but then Id
have to admit to her how stupid Id been.
So that was the story of Nate and me. Now our parents
were getting married, and I was going to have to be in the
same family as the gloating prick whod taken my virginity.
Maybe I was a slut. Maybe I deserved it all. Either way, I
was so frickin screwed.

CHAPTER TWO
NATE
That little bitch.
I still couldnt believe Lauren Torres was going to be my
new stepsister. Out of anyone in the whole fucking world, it
was going to be her. I didnt want her around any more than
she wanted me around, so I hoped to god shed stay the
fuck out of my way once she arrived at the summer house.
It had been two days since my father and his new flavor
of the month had announced their engagement, and I was
still fuming as I sat on the balcony outside my bedroom,
sipping at a tumbler of scotch as I looked over the perfectlymanicured grounds.
Who the fuck did that? Who just sprang massive news
on their kids like that, without any warning?

My Dad, thats who. When Id been told to drop


everything and head to some house in an eastern
neighborhood Id never ventured to in our city, Id had a
sneaking suspicion of what was coming. After all, my father
had already been married four times since my mother died.
It was like he just had no respect for her memory at all,
having this constant parade of new Mommies strutting
around.
He was lucky he could afford the most topnotch lawyers
who made the women sign ironclad pre-nups, otherwise
hed have been cleaned out of his fortune years ago.
Lighting a cigarette, I inhaled and reclined on my chair,
looking up at the sky. It was grey, much like my life right
now. Look at me, being all poetic and all.
Bit early to be drinking, dont you think?
I turned to see Yves, our housekeeper, standing on the
balcony, his arms folded and his arms narrowed. I grinned
at him and held my glass up. Wanna join me?

No thank you, he said, shaking his head. Some of us


actually have work to do. And you should stop drinking,
young man. Its only nine A.M., and the rest of the family will
be arriving soon.
I snorted. The rest of the family. Fuck off. Yves was
more like a family member to me than my own Dad, and
Dads new fiance and Lauren sure as shit werent my
family.
Yves had practically raised me after my mother died of
breast cancer when I was ten, because my father had
always been too busy with board meetings and the like. Id
always wondered why I never saw Yves have any
girlfriends, and it had taken me until my teens to figure out
he was gay. I didnt care, though. The way I saw it, people
should be allowed to love whoever the hell they want.
People should be allowed to marry whoever the hell they
want.
Unless the person they wanted to marry was Lauren
Torres mother. Why the fuck was my father even marrying

her? Sure, she seemed like a nice woman, but she and her
daughter werent from our world. Shed more than likely get
sick of dealing with all the bullshit high-class events within
six months and leave him just like the last one had. Like hell
I was gonna bother getting close to her. Or that nasty piece
of work Lauren.
Did I mention I hated Lauren?
The bitch had humiliated me at a party a couple of
months back, and I still hadnt quite gotten past it. Id been
the laughing stock of my friends at school for weeks
afterwards. Nate fuckin Sloane, finally getting rejectedby
the geeky school valedictorian, for Christs sake. Id had a
stellar reputation before that incident, but even now I heard
whispers behind my back. Nate Sloane - Reject. Loser.
Fallen from his pedestal.
Thats what I got for trying to be mature. Id fucked a ton
of girls in my time, but by the end of senior year I was
getting tired of the pussy carousel. When youre a
billionaires son, its seriously that easy to come across

women who are willing to open their legs for you, hoping to
worm their way into your affections. Course, it didnt work
for them. Id never wanted a girlfriend.
But by the time Erics party had rolled around, I was
starting to question that. Half my friends had steady
girlfriends by that stage, and it actually seemed pretty
decent. Someone to talk to and actually get to know,
someone whod be there to support me if I ever needed it
it seemed like an all right idea, even though it made me
sound like a pussy little bitch to even think about it.
I hadnt told any of my friends except Eric, but Id started
seriously considering it and keeping an eye out for potential
girls. There was this one girl in my math class who Id
always noticed out of the corner of my eye, but shed never
seemed to notice me, even though I was pretty well-known
around these parts. She was one of those smart types;
glasses, curly hair that tended to frizz up in winter,
oversized uniform that hid her curves. But she was still hot
as hell with those big brown eyes and smooth caramel skin.

Not to mention completely untouchable.


I was used to having chicks throw themselves at me, so
the idea that this girl wouldnt even give me the time of day
got my cock really hard. Like it was some sort of pursuit. I
hadnt expected to see her at Erics party, but as soon as
shed showed up, Id sauntered over to her and turned on
the old Sloane charm.
Suddenly she was throwing herself at me. What the
hell? I figured she was doing it for attention or to try and fit
in like all the other girls, but she hadnt let up. Id taken her
into a bedroom just to test the waters, and lo and behold,
shed asked me to fuck her. Yeah, yeah, a lot of what
initially attracted me to her was her untouchable status, but I
sure as shit wasnt going to turn down an invitation to screw
a smoking hot chick like her, especially when Id wanted her
for weeks. I hadnt been expecting what happened
afterwards, though.
Shed clearly been a virgin, and shed lied about it. Fuck

knows why. Id felt bad about it when I saw the tiny smear of
blood on the condom, but I hadnt wanted to embarrass her,
so Id dealt with it and then got a glass of water for her.
Shed mentioned something about feeling a little lightheaded, so I figured itd do her a bit of good.
Then what did that bitch do? She fucking threw the
water in my face and told me to shove it. Right in front of
everyone. I couldnt fucking believe it. The one time I ever
attempted to forge some sort of connection with a girl, and
it blew up in my face like an atom bomb. Yeah, maybe I
went about it the wrong way by getting her into bed straight
away, but come on!
Then, to top it all off, Eric said hed walked past and
seen her getting dressed that night while I was out of the
room, and he said shed been giggling into her cell phone.
Hed overheard her talking about how shed screwed me
and was planning on running out on me, just for a laugh.
Apparently she thought itd be funny to put me on the
receiving end of a post-coital dash, seeing as Id done it to

so many chicks in my time.


To be fair, I had done it a lot. I was an asshole most of
the time. Her disdain and total lack of respect for my antics
actually kinda made me respect her a little more. It showed
that she was a good judge of character. Still a damned
bitch, though.
I had felt a little bad for her when we went back to
school. All the other girls were bitching and gossiping about
her, calling her a slut. I hadnt told anyone that Id fucked
her, but plenty of people saw us go into that room, so I
guess they all assumed. Those girls were such fucking
hypocrites. The main ones talking all that shit about her
were the ones who spent their weekends on their backs,
stoned out of their minds in the bed of whichever lacrosse
player had picked them up. Bitches.
She may have fucked me over and made me look like a
fool, but Lauren didnt deserve that. That didnt mean I was
going to be nice to her now, though. Shed made it very
clear that she hated me, and that was fine. I could hate her

right back for ruining my rep.


Yves sighed and went back inside, and I put down my
glass and stood up as I saw my fathers sleek silver Lexus
meandering down the winding hedge-lined driveway,
presumably with Anne Torres. At least hed gotten past the
Porsche stage of his life. Seeing him driving around with
the top down with his last wife had made me want to vomit.
Hed been acting like a damned teenager, and the wife in
question had practically been a teenager herself. A
teenager whod been addicted to plastic surgery, that is.
Her pout was so severe that youd think she had collagen
on toast for breakfast every morning with a side of
scrambled allergic reaction.
Another car followed closely behind Dads; a beat-up
old Chevy. As they drew closer, I could see Lauren at the
wheel of the Chevy, with all her crap crammed in the back
in boxes. Rolling my eyes, I stubbed out my smoke in an
ashtray and pretended to scratch my nose with my middle
finger as she stepped out of the car and looked up at me.

She saw what I was actually doing immediately, and I


could practically see the words flashing through her mind as
her big brown eyes flashed at me. Asshole. Prick. Bastard.
She refrained from flipping me the bird in return, seeing as
her mother and my father were right next to her helping her
unload boxes and bags. Christ, my father was actually
doing grunt work? Usually hed have some of the staff down
there doing it all for him. Huh. I guess he really liked this
Anne woman, and he was trying to paint himself as some
kind of family man who always had time to help.
Nate, would you like to come and assist us? Dad
called up, noticing me on the balcony.
Im not dressed, I shouted back.
His bright blue eyes burned into me with a silent
message, and I let out a sigh. Fine. Ill be down in a sec.
I threw on some jeans and an old T-shirt and headed
downstairs and outside.
Hi, Nate! Anne greeted me warmly, and I nodded at

her.
Hey. Nice to see you, I mumbled. Shit, where the hell
did that come from? Shed caught me off guard with her
kind eyes and friendly demeanor. Most of the women I was
used to seeing with my Dad would either ignore me or hit
on me. Maybe Anne wasnt so bad.
Nice to see you, Lauren said in a sing-song voice
under her breath as Anne and my father headed inside, and
I marched over to her.
Whatd you say?
Nothing, she replied. What was she, five years old? I
didnt have time for this kindergarten bullshit, but I couldnt
help pressing her.
Pretty sure I heard you making some smart ass
comment.
Yeah, well Im pretty sure youre only pretending to be
nice to my Mom. I know you dont want us here. Thats fine.
But dont mock my mother.

Who says I was mocking her? Maybe I was actually


being nice.
She put her hands on her hips. Since when are you

nice?
Maybe I think your Moms kinda hot. Maybe Im being
nice so shell sleep with me. After all, it wasnt all that hard
to get you into bed, and you know what they saylike
mother, like daughter.
There was no way in hell I was being serious, but
watching Lauren get all riled up was just too funny. Her
delicate little hands balled up by her sides as her dark eyes
flashed with rage, and I grinned.
Gonna hit me, sweetheart? I asked, cocking an
eyebrow.
Oh, I want to, she said in a sugary sweet voice as my
father returned to grab another suitcase.
You kids okay out here? he asked. Nate, Laurens

going to be in the room next to yours.


What? I replied. Theres tons of other rooms she can
have. The one on the eastern wing of the third floor has a
nice private balcony shed probably like.
He pressed his lips into a thin line. Im well aware of the
layout of my own house, Nate. I just think it would benefit
you two to be close. You can spend more time together and
get to know each other.
We already know each other.
Not as siblings. Shes going to be next door to you, and
thats final.
He marched back inside and I rolled my eyes. From the
look on Laurens face, I could tell she wasnt too happy
about it either.
The room next to mine had an adjoining bathroom, and
now she was probably going to fill it with all her girly crap.
Great. Now I didnt just have to deal with all her mental stuff,
Id have to deal with all her physical stuff too.

My father returned to the house, and Lauren began


hauling a box to the entrance.
Nate, she said weakly. Can youerrrcould you
give me a hand?
Sure. Ive given you way more than a hand in the past,
so it wont be any trouble.
Her face flushed, but she didnt bite back. She clearly
knew better than to make any smart-assed retorts when
she needed my help.
Can I ask you something? she asked as I lifted the box
for her. Jesus. It was chock-full of books. No wonder shed
had trouble with it. Goddamn nerds and their
encyclopedias.
I guess, I replied, watching as her eyes coasted over
the bulge of my muscles.
Did youdid you know about my Mom and your Dad
before weyou know....

Before you begged me to fuck you? Nah.


I didnt beg you, she snapped.
Pretty sure thats how I recall it happening.
Well, your recollection is wrong, she said, practically
spitting venom at me. Look, justdont talk to me, okay?
Hey, you were the one asking questions, I shot back
immediately. Just sayin.
God, you think youre so smart and so cool dont you?
Ooh, I smoke and say fuck after every second word, Im
sooo hardcore, she said, mimicking me like a child.
I rolled my eyes. What are you, twelve? Anyway, you
told me not to talk to you anymore. So stop fuckin talking to
me.
She kept her mouth shut after that and followed me
inside, and I led her upstairs. Yves took the chance to take
the bag she was holding and introduce himself, and they fell
into a deep conversation about metaphysical poetry or
some shit after only two minutes. Goddammit. She could

steal my Dad from me any day, but Yves? No go.


Where do you want these books? I asked, interrupting
their discussion.
Ohover there near the shelf, I suppose, she said.
Her eyes were flashing with excitement, and I could tell
shed never had a room this big all to herself. It was actually
kinda cute how happy she was.
Not that I cared if she was happy.
I lugged the box over and dumped it on the ground.
Okay. Im outta here.
She didnt reply, but I felt her eyes on my back as I left
her new room.
I went into my own room to read on my Kindle for a
while. Yeah, yeah, reading is generally for pussies and
nerds like Lauren, but I didnt mind a decent book once in a
while, and if I was going to pick up tons of chicks once I hit
college, Id need to know a bit about literature anyway.
College chicks were smarter than high school ones, and

they wanted a bit of conversation before theyd spread their


legs.
Fuck the whole having a girlfriend idea. It had been
stupid. I was going to go straight back to playing the field
like I was always meant to.
Lighting another cigarette, I waved the smoke away
from my line of sight as my eyes followed the words of the
story. I couldnt concentrate, though, even with the rush of
nicotine to my bloodstream. Usually reading calmed me
down, mellowed my mood outbut right now I was stuck on
edge.
It was all Laurens fault. Since that night, I hadnt been
able to get her out of my fucking head. I thought Id get over
it as quickly as I got over all the girls Id dropped like
hotcakes in my time, but it didnt happen. I saw her all the
time around school, and I thought about her even more.
After graduation I figured Id be rid of her the old out of
sight, out of mind concept. But then our parents dropped

this goddamned bombshell on us.


Leave it to my father to behave like a shark. He was one
of the best businessmen in the country every move he
made in the real world and the business world was
calculated and smart. He liked to catch people off guard by
presenting them with certain relevant information at the last
possible second, and that threw them off their game and
allowed him to come out on top. Every single time. Bastard.
I was still having trouble believing Lauren was right next
door, setting herself up in our house. The ice queen herself.
Whenever Id seen her around at school, ignoring every
single guy that tried to talk to her, Id thought it was because
she was shy and didnt know how to talk to them. Oh, how
wrong Id been. Shed easily picked me up that party, not
the other way around. Hell, Id been up for it, but stillI
couldnt believe how wrong Id been about her.
Despite all the bullshit shed put me through that night,
she was still different than any other girl Id met. There was
never any of that simpering, suck-up bullshit shed straight

up trade insults with me without caring what I thought. And


now that I thought about itit was actually kinda hot when
shed chucked that water in my face. Embarrassing for me,
but a real turn-on when I replayed the memory and
pretended no one else had seen.
I stared at the wall that separated our rooms, wishing it
was glass so I could see her bending over as she
unpacked all her stuff. Shed been wearing a tent-like
sweater and loose black jeans, but shed still been smoking
hot. Weird. I usually preferred clothing on girls to be skimpy
as hell, but Lauren could wear a garbage bag and still be a
turn-on. Guess my cock had a mind of its own.
When Id first seen her naked and put my mouth on hers,
thered been no other way to describe it other than pure
fucking perfection. Everything about her was amazing her
touch, her scent, her kiss. Until I saw that little blood smear
on the condom, Id honestly thought shed told the truth
about having done it before, because it was just so good.
Id had no idea until that very second that shed chosen me

to swipe her V-card with. Normally virgins are terrible in the


sack; inexperienced and no idea what to do.
But Lauren. Jesus. Pure magic.
Now all she ever did was shoot me looks of pure
contempt. That ship had sailed, and Id probably never have
such a good lay ever again. Oh well. Sex was sex. Even
when it was bad, it was still good. I just needed to get laid
again. Since that night with her, I hadnt been in the mood to
be with any other chicks, which was probably why I was so
hung up on her. Screw her; tonight Id throw myself right
back into the game. Wipe the slate clean.
Itd be easy to forget about her.

No it wont, the primal part of my brain told me.


Oh, shut up, I said out loud.

CHAPTER THREE
LAUREN
Holy crap. This was my room! I threw myself down on
the bed and smoothed the silk sheets with one hand before
rolling over and settling on my back. Id never had
something so nice and so big all to myself. The walls were
a pale robins egg blue, and the furniture was mostly white
and French-inspired. Exactly what Id always wanted;
simple yet elegant and old-fashioned. My Mom must have
told Richard what I liked and had him decorate it for me.
The generosity and wealth was something which I knew
would take a lot of getting used to, but there were definitely
worse options in life.
Sitting up, I looked out the window. From my room, I had

a view of the side terrace below the house and the


expansive gardens filled with hydrangeas. It was all just so
beautiful, and I could barely believe it was really mine to
share in. Id been right about the size of the summer house;
it was an enormous colonial-style mansion on a sprawling
estate, complete with lush gardens, sparkling blue infinity
pool and a full staff to maintain the place.
Id initially thought it would be hard to give up my
childhood home, but when Id considered it a bit more, Id
realized that everything that made it feel like a home could
be moved. My books, my photos, my keepsakesit could
all be transported to a new home. Beyond that, the little
duplex in Mt. Hawthorn was just an empty shell.
There was a knock at the door, and I looked over at it.
Come in! I called, hoping to god it wasnt Nate.
Sorry to disturb you, Lauren, Yves said as he quietly
entered. May I have a moment?
Oh, its fine, I replied. And sure. Whats up?

It was so weird having people be so overly-polite to me


now that I was the future stepdaughter of one of the richest
men in the country. To be honest, I wasnt much of a fan. Id
rather be treated normally. I hadnt done anything to earn
this status.
I just wanted to give you a brief rundown of how things
work around here. One of the maids will come in to clean
the bathroom every day, and shell also vacuum, dust,
change your bed linen and take any dirty washing. She
usually does it around eleven, but if youve had a late night
and want to sleep in, just leave your door locked and shell
come back later.
Oh, Yvesmy room wont need to be cleaned every
single day, surely.
He smiled, his thin mustache quirking up. Youre really
not used to all this, are you?
No, I admitted with a sheepish grin.
Well, all the staff here are paid very well. Its their job to

ensure everything is clean and runs smoothly, so dont feel


bad. Is there anything in particular you want to request? A
certain spot where youd like your clean washing left, for
instance?
Ohnow that I think about it, there is something, I
said. Im pretty neat with everything else, but Im a massive
slob with my studies. I find it easier to spread out on the
floor with all my books and papers, and sometimes I get so
tired I just leave it all on the ground until the next day. But its
all ordered chaos, so itd be good if thats just left for me to
clean up, so I know where everything is and all my papers
stay in order.
He nodded. Ill inform the rest of the staff not to touch
the ordered chaos as you call it, he said.
Thanks, I said with a warm smile.
Well, Ill leave you to whatever you were doing, unless
youd like some help unpacking?
Oh no, Im fine.

He made to leave and then turned back to me. Before I


go, there is something else I wanted to mention. I know you
and young master Nate dont get along well, and I can
understand why. But deep down hes a good boy. Give him
a chance.
You call him young master Nate? I asked, my eyes
widening.
He laughed. Only as a joke. It annoys him, so I keep
doing it. Im probably one of the only people he lets tease
him. Anyway, like I said, just give him a chance. Hes a
good boy.
With that he left, and I pursed my lips together as I
considered his words. What kind of bullshit act did Nate put
on for the staff here if they actually thought he was a good
guy? He wasnt a good guy. No way.
I decided to unpack my toiletries first. It looked like Nate
and I had to share a joint bathroom. There was a door that
led to it from my room, and another one on the opposite

side that I assumed led directly into Nates room. Luckily,


there were locks on both doors that could only be opened
from the inside, so I could prevent him from entering the
bathroom if I was using it.
I didnt mind all that much about sharing, as long as he
stayed the hell away from my nice shampoos and shower
gels. I didnt want to clutter up the bathroom too much
though, so any makeup or hair-styling products I owned
went on my white vanity instead.
As I entered the bathroom to unload some of my things,
I marveled at the pristine tiles, shiny-white bath and
enormous shower. It was one of those showers that had two
showerheads, one on either side of the large enclosure.
Perfect for a couple who wanted to shower together without
having to argue over the water temperature or argue over
whether one of them was hogging all the water and leaving
the other shivering and naked.
Holy crap. The bathroom had switches that could
change the temperate of the entire room, the lighting

schemeeverything! I could even flick a switch that would


turn on some sort of steam mode if I wanted to turn the
room into a sauna. Lifestyles of the rich and the famous,
huh?
I opened a cupboard and moved a few of Nates things
aside to make room for my body lotion and facial
moisturizer. It was filled with his crap; expensive designer
colognes and aftershavesgod, even his razors looked
like they were plated with frickin gold. Of course they
werent really, but it honestly wouldnt have surprised me
that much if they were. Bending down and shoving one
aside, I saw a box ofBiore pore strips. Seriously? I tried
to stifle a giggle and ended up snorting a little, and a deep
voice from behind me startled me.
Nice view. Whats so funny?
I jumped up and turned to Nate. He was shirtless with a
towel wrapped around his waist, and crimson waves of
heat flooded my cheeks as I realized hed been staring at
my ass as I bent over. I might not have liked the guy, but

there was no denying how sexy he was, and the idea of him
checking me out sent my mind into a tailspin of confused
lust.
You use pore strips? I asked, triumphantly holding the
box up.
He shrugged. Yeah, so? Yves got them for me. I use
them when my skin looks a bit manky.
I wrinkled my nose, my expression pure unbridled
disdain. Manky isnt a word.
He rolled his eyes. Okay, Little Miss Genius. What, you
girls are the only ones allowed to take care of your skin
once in a while?
Its just not exactly manly of you.
Hows this for manly?
He pulled the towel away from his waist and dropped it
to the floor, and I gasped and clamped a hand over my
mouth. I couldnt look away, and my eyes were naturally

drawn over his hard abs and down to his cock. His fully
erect cock. God, he was the most disgusting person Id
ever met. I couldnt believe hed just strip off like that right in
front of me.
Nate! I finally choked out, shielding my eyes. Put it
away!
Why? Dont pretend you dont love it.
I dont.
Then why are you staring at it like youre a ravenous
animal and its a goddamned sirloin?
Im not, and youre deluded if you think I am, I snapped,
glaring at him. Seriously, put it away!
Laughing, he wrapped the towel around his waist again.
He inhaled, broad chest rising, and my eyes went to his
lower lip, fixated on it as he bit it and gazed down at me.
Suddenly his lips were crushing down on mine, and I
moaned into his mouth in protest. His tongue met mine, and
his hands reached down and around my waist, groping at

my curves and pulling me closer.


I pressed my palms against his chest and pushed him
away, hard. What...what the hell are you doing?
He grinned. Dunno, you just looked like you wanted me
to kiss you.
You wish, I seethed.
You had that exact same look on your face that night at
Erics, and you sure as shit wanted me to kiss you then.
My face flamed bright red. That was different. If Id
known what I know now, I wouldnt have touched you with a
ten foot mascara wand.
Dont worry, sweetheart, it wasnt that great for me
anyway.
Oh, and you think it was for me?
He grinned. Well yeah, its me, so of course it was
good for you.
God. Youre such an arrogant prick. If you ever wanted

to kill yourself, all youd have to do is climb to the top of your


ego and jump down to your IQ, I hissed.
Ooh, Little Miss Genius strikes again with her brainy
insults.
I resisted the urge to kick him in the nuts and continued
to glare at him instead. Screw you, Nate.
He took a step closer to me.
So, anyway...you want to join me for a shower?
No effin way, I said hotly.
He smirked again. Fine. Just thought Id be polite and
ask. By the way, maybe you should consider borrowing
those pore strips. Your nose is covered in blackheads.
Now, can you get out of the bathroom so I can shower?
Glowering at him, I put the last of my stuff in the
cupboard and stomped back into my room, slamming the
bathroom door behind me. Prick. I didnt have
blackheadsdid I? I leaned in close to my vanity mirror,
carefully inspecting my nose. There was nothing there. Ugh,

he was such an ass, always trying to get a rise out of me.


I spent the next few hours unpacking the rest of my
clothes, books and other miscellaneous items. The
bathroom kiss with Nate was firmly packed away with them.
I was just going to pretend it never happened. Hed only
done it to piss me off.
By the time the early afternoon rolled around, I was
hungry. I knew I could easily summon some of the staff
around here to make me something to eat, but it didnt feel
right.
Making my way downstairs, I almost ran smack-bang
into Richard, who was downing an espresso as he turned
the corner into the kitchen.
Oh, sorry, Lauren! he said, placing his cup on the
spacious kitchen island. Are you hungry? I can have Yves
whip something up for you.
No, its fine, Im just a little peckish.
Well, the fridge, freezer and cupboards are very well-

stocked. Help yourself to anything you want, and make


yourself at home as much as possible.
Okay. Thanks, I said shyly. I liked the man, but he was
one of those people that could be incredibly intimidating
when he got you alone. He was wearing a perfectlypressed dove grey suit over a white shirt with a lavender
tie, and while it might have looked effeminate on anyone
else, on him it strangely had the opposite effect. He looked
positively formidable.
I trust your mother has told you all about the
engagement party tomorrow night? Were having a small
gathering here. A barbecue. Very casual.
Oh. Yeah, she mentioned that the engagement party
was tomorrow. Ill be here.
He nodded. Good.
I was surprised that hed described the party as small
and casual. Id assumed it would be some enormous
extravaganza with hundreds of well-heeled folks, expensive

champagne and pretentious foodnot a barbecue. Id


even picked out a nice dress to wear already. Then again,
my mother had never liked big events. Perhaps Richard
was accounting for that. If so, it was certainly nice of him.
I opened the fridge and found some raspberry yogurt,
and as I located a spoon, Richard cleared his throat and
spoke again. By the way, Lauren. I hope you dont mind. I
took the liberty of looking over your school records and
college applications, and I understand you will be
undertaking a double degree in engineering and software
development at MIT.
I nodded. Yes, Mr. Sloane. Ive always loved the idea of
designing my own programs. I have tons of ideas.
Please, please...call me Richard, he said, holding his
hands up. I dont ever expect you to call me Dad, but Mr.
Sloane makes me feel like your boss. And Im not. Not yet,
anyway.
Um...sorry, I dont follow, I replied, my brows dipping in

confusion.
He smiled. Every year, my company takes fifty students
from colleges all over the country for summer internships.
Its a great experience for them. Several of those interns
have gone on to launch successful start-ups, and another
few are CEOs of major-league companies now. To add to
that, every year I also select one of those interns to work
one-on-one with me. I realize this may seem premature, but
next summer, Id love to have you take that spot. Your
college coursework will certainly help prepare you for it.
I was floored. What a fantastic opportunity, and it was
just being handed to me before Id even started my
freshman year of college. Id always heard the saying its
not what you know, its who you know, but Id never realized
how accurate it truly was until now.
Wowummthanks, Richard, I said. Thatd be
amazing.
Glad to hear it.

He smiled and swept out of the room, and I forgot all


about my yogurt for a good five minutes. Wow. Just...wow.
Id known my life was going to change a lot once my Mom
married Richard, but I just couldnt get used to the idea of
having everything handed to me. Is this what it was like to
be spoiled? It was nice, but it also made me feel guilty. Like
I didnt deserve it all.
***
By nine oclock that night, my room was fully set up.
Everything I owned had a place, and I sighed contentedly
and plopped myself down on the plush carpet with a stack
of books, a sheaf of paper and my ideas notebook. I
carried the notebook with me almost everywhere, so
whenever an idea for a possible program popped into my
head, I could write it down.
Id taught myself a little bit about coding, but Id learn a
lot more at college. As I scrawled down random thoughts on
the papers, I heard a muffled sound coming through the wall
from Nates bedroom. It sounded like someone crying in

pain, but as I cocked my ear towards it, I realized it was a


woman moaning with pleasure.
God, he was such a vulgar man-whore. Trying to ignore
the wanton sounds, I perked up again a few minutes later
when I realized there were two female voices coming from
his room, moaning out of sync with each other. Holy crap.
He was having a threesome? I seethed and stomped over
to my bed, climbing under the blankets and putting the
pillow over my head to drown out the sounds.
It wasnt that I was angry at him for sleeping with
someone else; hell, he could do whatever he wanted. I
certainly wasnt picturing myself as one of those women in
his bed, being held down and kissed roughly as his cock
thrust hard and fast intostop it, I chided myself. Stop

thinking about it.


Nope, I wasnt mad at him for that. I was just angry at
him for disturbing me. Thats all.

CHAPTER FOUR
NATE
I loved fucking with Laurens head. The minute Id
dropped my towel yesterday in the bathroom and seen the
look on her pretty little face, Id known she was still attracted
to me, even if she hated me. She might not have admitted
it, but her body betrayed her. Her face had flushed, and Id
even seen her pupils dilate slightly. Apparently that
happens when youre attracted to someone. See, I did
listen to at least one thing in bio class.
Anyway, just to screw with her, Id gone on my computer
last night and located the filthiest internet porn I could find. I
put the volume just loud enough so that shed hear it through
the walls, and then Id sat there grinning half the night as I
pictured her lying in bed, squirming with jealousy as she

wished she was part of what sounded like an orgy in my


room.
I couldve easily brought some chick around to sleep
with, but Id been too tired and not in the mood. Weak

excuse, Nate, I told myself. I should have been screwing


models and socialites, and instead all Id been doing was
thinking of Lauren. Those wide eyes of hers looking up at
me. The way strands of her dark hair always fell in her face,
and shed tuck them behind her ear only for them to fall
back down a minute later. The way her lips tasted when I
kissed them. Jesus. I needed to stop.
My father and Anne were having their engagement party
tonight, and Id had to try my hardest not to roll my eyes right
out of my head when I heard what they were doing. My Dad,
who preferred to eat at Michelin-star restaurants, was
having a barbecue. A fuckin barbecue. Just like a regular
middle class family. It was so far removed from the sort of
party hed usually host that it made me want to hurl. I was
willing to bet my entire trust fund that he was inviting a

bunch of reporters so they could fawn all over us and write a


heartwarming piece about what a laidback family man hed
become.
Hypocrite. In any other circumstances, he wouldnt be
hosting a casual barbecue unless his life depended on it. I
doubted he even knew how to operate a damned grill.
MeI didnt mind a simple cookout. I might have been
raised by a billionaire, but that didnt mean I wanted to
spend my entire life living like him. Sure, it was nice to be
comfortable and never have to worry about money, but as
they say, money isnt everything. It can buy you pussy,
respect, and even happiness for a while, but those things
are never permanent.
I liked the idea of having a more simple life when I grew
to be my dads age a wife and a couple of kids, having
fun playing football in the backyard, flipping burgers out the
back while the kids played under a hose during summer. Of
course I didnt want those things with anyone in particular,
and especially not right now. Hell no. There wasnt even

anyone on the horizon.except Lauren. And that was never


going to happen. She was going to be my stepsister, and
even thinking about her was a dangerous game.
Id found myself having to admit that in claiming to hate
her, I was so deep in denial that I was practically fending off
Egyptian fishermen. I obviously did have some feelings for
her, otherwise I wouldnt still be thinking of her all the time
and going out of my way to antagonize her. I also probably
wouldnt have suddenly felt the urge to kiss her in the
bathroom like I did.
Jesus, the way shed shoved me away from her and
wiped her mouth off like I had some sort of contagious
illness had really set me straight. She might well be
attracted to me, but she didnt like me. Her words echoed
in my head again. If Id known then what I know now, I

wouldnt have touched you. Strange. I had no idea what


she meant. It wasnt like she hadnt known about my history
of being an asshole when she tried to seduce me that night.
The whole school knew what I was like.

Ah well. It was probably just a crush. They happened to


the best of us, and it was bound to happen to me at some
point. Id get over it. Even if she apologized to me for what
she did to me at that party, nothing could happen between
us. She was going to be my stepsister, for Christs sake.
Imagine the media shit storm if we started up some sort of
relationship and the public got wind of it. Bye-bye trust fund.
I spent the day screwing around in my room, and at
seven I put a button-down shirt on along with a pair of dark
blue jeans, spritzed on some cologne and then headed
down the hall to attend this farce of an engagement
barbecue.
Walking past Laurens door, I peered into her room to
see if shed already gone downstairs. She wasnt in there,
but something else was a giant pile of papers and other
junk all over the floor. My father always insisted on
perfection, and that meant every room in the house had to
be kept spotless at all times or hed go on some massive
tirade. I had no idea how the staff had missed this.

A scuffling sound from my right made me jerk my head


around. I saw the new maid, a redhead in her early
twenties, scurrying down the hall in the opposite direction.
Shed just started today, and Yves had introduced me to
her a few hours ago...what was her name again? Maree?
Marnie?
Hey...erm...Maree? I called out.
She turned and walked back towards me with a shy
smile. Its Mary, Mr. Sloane. Can I do something for you?
Call me Nate. And yeah, you can. I dunno what the
other staff have told you, but my father will have a fit if he
sees Laurens room looking like that, I said, nodding
towards the floor.
Oh...I wasnt responsible for these rooms today, but
Glenda must have missed it. Ill pick it all up right
now...Nate, she replied.
Her voice practically dripped with honey as she said my
name, and I suppressed the urge to roll my eyes. She

wouldnt be the first staff member that had tried to hit on


me, thinking itd get her special treatment.
I thanked her and headed downstairs. The last thing I
needed was another lecture from my Dad. Hed have found
some way to lay the blame on me. Nate, why didnt you tell

Lauren how I prefer my household to operate? I could


practically hear him saying already. Failing that, hed
probably fire all the maids. One time, theyd forgotten to
clean one of the bathrooms in a bedroom that wasnt even
being used, and three of them had lost their jobs over it.
The bullshit barbecue was already in full swing, and I
only recognized about half the people in attendance. There
appeared to be a divide between the attendees; those who
knew my father and fit right in with their casual wear
clothes that cost more than the average persons monthly
mortgage payment, and those who appeared to be Annes
friends. I could tell who they were by their cheap shoes and
the way they were all casting wondrous glances around the
house and estate.

Two middle-aged women were huddled together


speaking in hushed tones as I wandered past them. And
this is just the summer house! one of them said. Imagine
what the main house looks like.
How long until she quits her job? I give her another
week, the other said in an acidic tone.
Jealous harpies. I strained to hear the rest of their
conversation, but it was drowned out by a shrill cackle from
somewhere to my right. I glanced over and saw Stella
Bowman standing at the newly-set up grill with my father,
giggling as he attempted to turn a steak. Fuck. I couldnt
stand her. Stella was a tabloid journalist, and shed written
more than a few scathing pieces on me in the past, whining
about what an over-privileged, badly-behaved brat I was.
Last time, shed written about my apparent cocaine
addiction after I was allegedly spotted doing lines at a
public caf when I was sixteen. I hadnt really been doing
coke. Truth was, my buddies and I had seen the paparazzi

hanging about, so wed divvied up some lines of powdered


sugar on the table before snorting them. Shock value.
Always got my fathers attention.
The fallout from that incident had been cataclysmic.
Hed had to return early from his honeymoon to his... third
wife? Or fourth? I couldnt remember, but I did remember
how fucking pissed he was at me when he had to come
home and spend the next few weeks paying off
newspapers and internet sites to stop printing stuff about
me and my alleged drug habit. It was the most time hed
spent focused on me in years.
Ah, Nate, there you are! My fathers voice boomed
across the immaculate grass, and I rolled my eyes and
headed over.
Why, hello Nate, Stella said, saccharin smile plastered
on her heavily made-up face.
Hey, Stella. Im pretty sure theres a first aid kit in one
of the bathrooms with a syringe in it. Why dont I stick it in

my arm, and you can take a picture and write about what a
junkie Ive become? I said.
My fathers ice-blue eyes narrowed slightly. As you can
see, my son still has quite the sense of humor.
He gets it from you, she cooed, twirling her curly
blonde hair around a finger. It took all the effort in the world
to stop myself from strangling her. The woman was flirting
with my father at his own engagement party just so she
could get some bullshit story. No shame whatsoever.
You know, she continued. I really do think its fantastic
what youre doing here. A nice, old-fashioned barbecue. No
wait staff, no worries. Its so refreshing...so unpretentious.
I rolled my eyes. She was so full of shit. This party was
the very definition of pretentious, in the sense that my father
was pretending to be someone he wasnt.
Where are the beers? I cut in.
My father pointed behind me. Over there. Now, of
course I dont usually approve of underage drinking, Stella,

but on an occasion like this I think a few drinks are


required.
I snorted with laughter and disguised it as a cough. Hed
been letting me drink since I was thirteen.
Of course, she replied, touching his arm. He politely
pulled away, and I hid my grin behind my hand.
My grin faded as I looked to my left and saw Lauren
standing on the terrace talking to some guy. He looked
familiar. I squinted at them and finally recognized him as
Xander Daniels. Hed been on the Oakover lacrosse team,
but I didnt remember him being friends with Lauren.
I strode over to them. She looked incredible in a midlength cream-colored dress that set off her caramel skin
and flared out from around the waist, and she was wearing
a little more makeup than usual which accentuated her big
chocolate-brown eyes.
What the hell are you doing here? I said to Xander as I
approached.

He arched an eyebrow. Err...good to see you too,


Nate, he replied sarcastically.
Lauren glared at me. Hes here with Cassie. My best
friend. Shes in the bathroom right now.
Oh. Id forgotten that Cassie chick was coming tonight. I
remembered her from school too. Hot blonde with legs for
days. She had nothing on Lauren, though. I took a step
closer and caught a whiff of her perfume. It smelled faintly of
vanilla, which suddenly made me want to lick her and taste
all of it, every part of her. The thought of being between her
legs rendered me speechless for a second, and I finally
snapped back to reality.
Oh, right...yeah, I finally muttered in reply. Hows it
going, man?
Good, good, Xander replied, my earlier transgression
already forgotten. Getting ready to move to Boston. Im
starting at Harvard in the fall.
Cool, same, I said. What are you going to major in?

Laurens eyes widened, and she interrupted in a


haughty tone. Wait a minute. You got into Harvard?
I smirked. Sure did. Jealous?
No, she replied, her cheeks turning slightly pink. I got
into my first choice. I didnt even want to go to Harvard.
I knew the real reason she was pissed. She was going
to MIT, and it wasnt all that far from Harvard. Just down the
road, in fact. She would have much preferred that I attend
college as far away as possible from her, but sorry

sweetheart, that wasnt going to happen.


I was about to say something else when my father called
out to us in his deep, commanding voice. Lauren! Nate!
Please join us for some food.
Lauren smiled, brushed past me and headed over to
the table that my father and Anne were now sitting at along
with Stella and a few other friends of theirs. I rolled my eyes
and joined them. At least there was steak involved in this
charade.

I endured the polite conversation and fielded bullshit


questions from Stella, and overall things werent going too
badly after half an hour. Lauren was ignoring me and talking
to Cassie across the table, and I yawned and leaned back,
patting my stomach.
So, tell me how youre feeling, Stella said, reaching
over and patting Annes hand. Anne smiled politely, but I
could tell she wasnt comfortable with the nosy reporter
poking around her engagement party.
Um...good, I suppose, she said hesitantly. Im very
grateful that our closest friends could join us to celebrate
tonight.
Yes, yes, its lovely what Richard has set up for you
tonight. Usually an engagement party in the elite circles
would have two, maybe three hundred guests. She craned
her neck and looked around as if to illustrate her point of
how few people there were. But theres only what...thirty
people here? And almost everyone knows everyone, I
assume.

Yeah, I cut in. Its practically incestuous.


My father shot me a dark look, and Stella opened her
mouth to reply before jumping at a clattering sound. Lauren
had dropped her fork on her plate, and she blushed and
apologized nervously. Err...sorry. It slipped out of my hand.
The corners of my lips turned up in a triumphant smirk,
and I stared at her. She avoided eye contact with me. God,
I loved screwing with her head.
So, Lauren, Stella simpered, finally turning her
attention away from Anne. Youre going to MIT in the fall.
Thats one of the best colleges in the country. Are you
nervous about it?
Lauren blushed and shrugged. A little bit. But mostly Im
looking forward to learning.
Lovely. And where will you be living while youre at
college?
My father interjected. Ive taken the liberty of buying an

apartment in Beacon Hill for Lauren and Nate to share


while theyre at college.
Oh! How wonderful! Stella trilled, clapping her hands
together. Siblings living together!
I was dumbfounded, and Lauren felt pretty much the
same, judging by the shocked expression on her face.
Neither of us had any idea we were going to be moving out
of the summer house and into a goddamned apartment
together. Trust my Dad to spring an important thing like this
on us at an event in front of other people. He knew there
was no way either of us could react unfavorably or protest.
He gave me a thin smile as I threw him a death stare,
and Stella pressed Lauren for more details about what she
intended on studying. Something to do with engineering
and computers. I wasnt really listening anymore. Rather, I
was wondering how the hell I would survive four years of
college while having to live with my soon-to-be stepsister
who just so happened to be a massive bitch...and also just
so happened to be hot as hell. Fuck.

Yes, and after her freshman year, she will be taking the
coveted one-on-one summer intern position with me at
Scion, I heard my father say. Its a whole year away, but
Im already looking forward to working with her. Shes very
intelligent. Straight As all through school, can you believe
it?
My ears pricked up. Had I heard that right? Surely not.
That intern position had been reserved for me next year,
and every year after that until I graduated with my degree.
Dad had promised it to me as a way of spending more
time together, seeing as we barely got to see each other
these days. In fact, the last few days since he and Anne had
announced their engagement had been the most Id seen of
him in months.
What did you say? I asked, narrowing my eyes. Stella
perked up and readied her pen. The woman could sniff out
family drama like a bloodhound.
My fathers gaze remained unwaveringly cool. I was just

telling Stella about the internship Lauren will be taking with


me after freshman year.
You mean my internship.
He shook his head. The internship is given to whoever I
see fit, given that I am the head of the company, after all.
But you promised it to me.
Lauren knitted her eyebrows together in confusion, and I
scowled at her. She was obviously pretending that shed
had no idea it was my internship, but of course shed
known. She was a fucking genius; she always somehow
knew everything. Once again, the realization that she wasnt
the person Id initially thought she was hit me in the gut like
a sledgehammer.
She was nothing but a scheming bitch.
After how shed treated me at Erics party, why was I
even surprised? Id let my feelings for her cloud my
judgment, but no more.
Nate, I am allowed to change my mind. Its my

company. If you had studied harder in school and shown


even the vaguest interest in what I do, then maybe the
position would still be yours, my father said.
I did study, I said through clenched teeth. I got into
Harvard!
By now, everyone was silent and staring at us, and
Stella was furiously jotting down notes. I was surprised she
didnt have some sort of secret camera pinned to her
blouse, recording all the drama. Either way, she was going
to have a field day with this. My father stared at me for a
moment, and his lips curled up, almost imperceptibly.
You only got into Harvard because I went there. Youre
a legacy student, and the substantial donation I made under
your name didnt hurt either. Without me, you wouldnt have
even made it to a community college.
The party guests tittered nervously among themselves,
turning away and pretending they hadnt heard what hed
just said. My face turned hot. I couldnt believe he was

humiliating me like this in front of everyone.


This is fucking bullshit, I said. Youre just sucking up to
your stupid new fiance by handing everything to her brat
daughter.
He was glaring at me now in a cutthroat manner. Dont
talk about Anne like that. Or your sister.
You two arent even married yet. We only just found out
three days ago, and you expect me to call that bitch my

sister? Shes not even my stepsister yet, I said, abruptly


standing up and knocking my plate to the ground. Fuck
this.
Annes wide brown eyes were welling up with tears, and
I felt a little bad for making a scene and insulting her. She
seemed like a nice lady, and she obviously hadnt known
what she was getting into. But that was too bad. I wasnt
going to sit here and sugarcoat things just to spare her
feelings. Or Laurens.
I turned and strode away towards the house, and my

fathers voice cut through the warm air a moment later.


Nate!
I stopped and faced him. What?
His face was almost purple with rage. How dare you
embarrass me with one of your tantrums in front of my
guests? he hissed.
I rolled my eyes. Dont pretend to care about your
guests. Youre only worried that Stella Bowman is going to
write about this and spoil your precious new reputation as a
man of the people.
He ran a hand through his silvery hair and sighed. Nate,
I know its been hard for you ever since your mother died.
Ive been lenient with you and allowed you to act out
because of that. But no more. You need to grow up, act like
a man and accept my decisions. What would you have me
do, remain alone for the rest of my life? Ill always love your
mother, but shes gone now. She would have wanted me to
love again.

I held up my hands in defeat. Fine. Youre right.


Whatever.
I began to head back towards the house when he called
my name again. I stopped in my tracks, but this time I didnt
turn to face him.
Nate...one more public outburst like this, and Im cutting
off your trust fund.
Seething, I finally turned my head over my shoulder to
see him whirl around and storm back towards the party.
Hed been right about one thing, as much as I hated to
admit it. I needed to let him move on from my mother, and
Anne seemed like the right woman for that, unlike the last
few gold-digging whores hed been through. My anger was
now solely concentrated on one person.
Lauren.
This was all her fault. If she wasnt such a scheming little
harlot, the internship would still be mine, and I wouldnt have
lost my shit at the barbecue in front of everyone. To top it all

off, my trust fund was now in jeopardy. And we all knew


what that meant.
That meant war.

CHAPTER FIVE
LAUREN
Dont worry about Nate, Cassie said, squeezing my
hand tight. Hes just a spoiled, overly-dramatic brat.
I nodded and gave her a half-hearted smile, but I still felt
bad. Id had no idea the internship had initially been
promised to Nate. I wouldnt have accepted the offer if Id
known, because I didnt like to cause trouble, especially the
public kind of trouble that ended up in the gossip columns
courtesy of the smarmy blonde reporter whod been
present at the barbecue.
I wondered what she had even been doing there. Surely
Richard wasnt actually friends with her? I was starting to
feel like the whole thing was some sort of faade, designed
to make him look like a different person than he really was.

Why else would he throw a casual, pedestrian-style shindig


and invite her to come and interview us?
The whole thing reeked of bullshit.
And the way hed informed us about the Beacon Hill
apartment and the internship going to me over Nate right
there in front of the guests...that was a deliberate and
calculated move, designed to shock us into submission. He
probably hadnt been expecting Nate to go into a fit of rage
instead, but he must have somewhat anticipated the effect
it would have on him. Nate probably hardly ever got to
spend time with his father, and now here I was
monopolizing all his time.
Want another drink? Cassie asked. I nodded mutely,
and she returned a moment later with three glasses; one
juice for me, and two champagnes for Xander and herself.
Wed finished eating half an hour ago, and the three of us
were parked on our behinds on the lawn near a garden,
well away from the other stuffy guests.

So has Nate actually said anything to you about...you


knowErics party? Cassie asked.
I shook my head. No, thank god. I think were both just
sort of pretending it never happened.
I left out the part where hed kissed me in the bathroom
yesterday. I couldnt even explain it to myself, let alone
anyone else. As much as I couldnt stand the guy, I could
feel my panties getting wetter and wetter with each and
every thought of him, and my cheeks were burning up at
Cassies mere mention of him. God, how the hell was I
going to pull off being his stepsister if I was already going
this nuts? I could picture the headline in the papers now.

Local Billionaires Stepdaughter Dead After Exposure to


Lethal Amounts of Sexual Tension.
Being in this situation was like being tied to a chair
while someone put all your favorite foods on a table in front
of you. You desperately wanted to eat them all, but you
knew you couldnt touch them no matter what. I mentally
licked my lips at the idea of a big Nate parfait with extra

strawberries and whipped cream before chiding myself yet


again. Stop it! Yes, hes undeniably hot, but nothing is

going to happen again!


Oh. Well, thats probably for the best. Imagine what
your Mom would say if she knew. Hmm...I wonder why he
didnt invite any of his friends tonight, Cassie replied,
glancing around.
I shrugged. Probably because he didnt want to
participate. I assumed hed at least invite Eric, though.
Xander downed his champagne and interjected. Im not
sure if Nate and Eric are even friends anymore.
Oh?
Eric used to be on the lacrosse team with me. Anyway,
he was telling us a few months back that Nate slept with
some girl hed been interested in. He wasnt too happy
about it, but I guess they at least stayed friends till school
ended just so it wouldnt be awkward. But now schools
over, so they dont need to pretend. I ran into Eric

yesterday, and when I mentioned this party to him he said


he didnt even know about it. Hasnt spoken to Nate since
graduation.
Huh. Thats weird, I replied.
Who cares? Nates a douche, Cassie said.
Yeah, I said, nodding my head. Ever-so-briefly, I
touched my finger to my lips, remembering for the billionth
time how hed practically mauled me in the bathroom
yesterday. I could almost feel his mouth on mine, that
bruising kiss lingering even now.
I wondered what it would be like living with him when
college started. Right now it was easy for us to stay out of
each others way on the summer house estate, but an
apartment would be much more confined. Hopefully hed be
out drinking all the time and not bother me. I didnt want him
there, reminding me of the feelings that kiss had awakened
in me; feelings Id been trying my best to deny.
Feelings of lust.

They were wildly inappropriate, not just because he was


a crude, arrogant bastard who couldnt keep his dick in his
pants, but because he was going to become my
stepbrother in just a few short weeks.
You know what I think you might need? Cassie said.
What?
She leaned forward with a conspiratorial smile on her
face. I think you need to get laid.
Cassie! I said, mortified. Her words immediately
made me think of Nate again, and my cheeks flushed pink.
She giggled, and Xander rolled his eyes and flashed
me a rueful smile. Someones had one too many
champagnes, he said, slinging an arm around her
shoulder.
No, Im serious! she said. Think about it. All this shit
with Nate has had you in a funk for ages now. You know
what they say...the best way to get over someone is to get
under someone else.

This is different. Its not like Nate and I were ever


together. Theres nothing to get over. I already cant stand
him.
Cassie gave Xander a knowing look and then returned
her gaze to me. Yeah, well, I might have someone in mind
to set you up with. Hes been asking Xander about you for a
while now. But if youre not interested...
I hesitated. Maybe she was right. Getting out and about
would probably do me a world of good. I might be
interested, I admitted. Who is it?
She giggled again. Youll have to wait and see!
Cassie, Xander and I hung out for a while longer, and by
eleven oclock the barbecue was winding down. Most of the
guests were leaving, and Cassie yawned.
All right. We should probably head off. Ill see you
soon, she said, leaning over and engulfing me in a warm
hug.
Thanks for coming. I wouldnt have survived it without

you, I said. You too, Xander.


Make sure you keep your phone on you. You might be
getting a call from a certain someone soon, Cassie said
breezily as she broke away from the hug.
I watched them walk away together, hand in hand, and a
pang of envy bit at my gut. They were so cute together, and
theyd never had any drama or heartache in their
relationship. It was so unfair how some people just fell into
the perfect love affair, while less lucky people like me were
either alone or dealing with unwanted feelings for Mr.
Wrong.
Oh well. Maybe this mystery guy they were apparently
setting me up with would turn out to be Mr. Right. Or at the
very least, Mr. Right Now.
My Mom had calmed down since Nates outburst, and I
hugged her goodnight before heading inside and upstairs.
Yawning, I pushed my door open, glad to finally get into
bed, but as soon as I saw my room, any semblance of

exhaustion flew out the window. Adrenalin raced through my


veins as I surveyed the floor. It was...clean.
Shit, I muttered, racing over to my bookshelf. All the
books Id had on the floor earlier were there, but the
scattered papers were missing along with my ideas
notebook.
I rummaged through my desk, but the papers and
notebook were nowhere to be seen. The papers I didnt
care all that much about, but the notebook was practically
my life. Anger welled up in the pit of my stomach, and I
knew who was responsible. I stormed out of my room and
hammered on Nates door.
He answered a minute later, wearing only a pair of
boxer briefs. His usually-perfect hair was ruffled like hed
just emerged from bed, and I stared daggers at him.
You bastard, I hissed through my teeth. Where is it?
He rubbed his eyes. Wheres what?
My notebook. Its gone. I know you took it. Give it

back!
He stared down at me, ocean-blue eyes filled with
malice. I dont know what the fuck youre talking about. Are
you talking about the internship I stole from you? Oh wait,
no...you stole it from me.
I didnt even know it was yours, I retorted. Your Dad
offered it to me, and he never mentioned anything about
you.
He leaned down, right in my face, and I almost retched
at the heavy smell of beer on his breath. Bullshit.
Nate, just give me back my fucking notebook!
He gave me a nasty smile. Aww, look who just figured
out how to curse. Youre all grown up!
I wanted to slap him so badly, but I kept my hands glued
to my sides and gritted my teeth. Give. It. Back.
Like I said, I dont know what youre talking about, and I
dont really care, you conniving little bitch, he replied, lips
curled in a sneer.

Oh god. I was so close to exploding.


I left some stuff on my floor earlier. My notebook was
there. It has every idea Ive ever come up with for programs
I want to design. Please just give it back, I said, widening
my eyes in the hopes of appealing to his softer side. If he
even had one.
His broad shoulders sagged slightly. Mustve been the
maids. They know Dad likes the house to be spotless.
My eyes narrowed. Yves said hed talk to the maids
and make sure they never moved any of my books or
papers.
He leaned even closer, towering over me, and I shrank
back.
Yknow, Ive pretty much had it with your childish shit,
Lauren. Youre a snobby, arrogant little know-it-all, and I see
right through you. You manipulate everyone around you into
thinking youre all sweetness and light, when really youre
just a fucking bitch. He spat out that last word before

continuing. I dont give a fuck about your notebook. Im


glad you lost it, because youve taken way more from me.
Now fuck off.
Screw you, I said. I dont have to listen to this crap.
Youre drunk.
Yeah, and youre a raging bitch. At least Ill be sober in
the morning.
With that, he slammed the door in my face, leaving me
fuming in the hall. Oh, how I wanted to kill him right now.
Stomping back to my room, I slammed my own door and
crawled into bed, thinking of all the ways Id like to torture
that bastard right now.
Seriously, why did murder have to be illegal?
My phone buzzed on my desk, and I frowned as I looked
at the number. Unknown caller.
Hello? I answered apprehensively, wondering who on
earth would be calling me this late at night.

Lauren? Its Eric. Eric McNealy.


Well, well. This should be good...

CHAPTER SIX
NATE
I hate her. I hate her.
I chanted the words over and over in my head, but no
matter how many times I said it, I knew it wasnt true. Id
wanted to hate her; fuck, Id mentally declared war on her
after she stole my internship. But as soon as Id seen those
wide brown eyes at my door, begging me to give her
notebook back, part of me had melted.
It was like she had taken control of my brain or
something. No matter what she did, I couldnt hate her for
longer than a few hours. Id practically turned into a fucking
monk having her on my mind all the time. I could get any girl
in the world in my bed on any given night, but Id been
watching TV and jerking off every night instead. Itd been
over two months now since Id had any action, and it was

driving me crazy.
No wonder I was so frustrated. She had me so horny
and aggravated that I was prone to fly off the handle at any
moment, and even when I felt like strangling her, I wanted to
tear her frumpy clothes off and relive that night at Erics.
Sighing heavily, I put some clothes on and slipped out of
my room before heading downstairs and out the back. I
wasnt even quite sure where all the trash went, but after
poking around behind the garden shed I found a green
dumpster, hidden away from plain sight. It reeked of
spoiled food and sour milk, and I pinched my nose and
squinted my eyes as I considered my options.
Surely I wasnt about to go digging through trash just to
find Lauren Torres notebook. Only a pussy would do that
for a girl who hated his guts. But even as the thought
occurred to me, I reached in and pulled out the most recent
trash bags, almost retching at the smell as I ripped it open.
As I sorted through the trash, I shook my head, still

barely able to believe I was out here in the middle of the


night like some sort of dumpster-diver. Me, a billionaires
son whod never even had to take out his own trash
because there were always maids around to do it for me.
Honestly, there was no one else in the world Id do this
for. Not even Yves. It wasnt like I was in love with Lauren or
anything. Of course not. I just knew she was smart and
always had tons of ideas floating around her head for shit
she wanted to do in the future. I didnt want to be the reason
she lost faith in her ability and gave up.
A full hour later, I finally located the notebook under a
pile of receipts stained with some sticky brown substance,
and I wiped it off on my shirt. Bile rose in my throat at the
sheer grossness of it all, and I opened it to make sure it
was the right one. Yep. Her neat, tiny little handwriting was
all over it. On every page there was some sort of idea listed
under a number. Holy shit. There were tons of entries; more
ideas than I could come up with in a lifetime.
I went back inside and tiptoed up to her bedroom door.

Carefully turning the handle, I was pleased to note that


shed left it unlocked. If I was quiet enough, I could slip the
notebook back onto her desk without her knowing, and
when she woke up shed think it had been there all along
and shed just missed it in her search.
Treading as lightly as possible, I made my way over to
her desk, aided by the bright moonlight streaming through
her opened curtains. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I
saw her lying on her side in bed, chest rising and falling
with each deep breath she took. Every so often shed let
out a little snore, and it was actually kinda cute.
Her cell phone was on the pillow next to her, as if shed
gone to sleep just after talking to someone. An unfamiliar
emotion stabbed at my insides as I wondered who she
might have been talking to this late at night. Probably
Cassie.
She moaned in her sleep and rolled onto her back, her
arms splayed out around her. With the curtains and window
open, a breeze was blowing through the room, and it was a

little chilly. She wasnt wearing a bra, and her nipples


stiffened under the satin shirt shed worn to bed. My cock
stiffened in my pants, and I grimaced as I tried to ignore it.
Fuck, why did she have to be so hot? She could steal a
thousand internships from me and Id probably still want to
screw her.
I watched her sleep for a while longer, almost
hypnotized by her rhythmic breathing. Eventually I realized
what a creep shed think I was if she woke up and saw me,
and I headed back to my own room...but not before quickly
scrawling a little something in her notebook.

CHAPTER SEVEN
LAUREN
Chirping birds outside my window woke me early in the
morning, and I stretched luxuriantly under my sheets as I
yawned. For one blissful moment, all my problems were
forgotten, but soon memories of last nights drama rushed
back in. The awkwardness at the barbecue dinner table.
The subsequent fight with Nate.
Groaning, I pushed the sheets off me and slipped out of
bed. I padded over to my desk, trying to remember where
Id left my phone before remembering Id had it in bed with
me. Something familiar caught my eye, and I gasped as I
recognized the brown leather exterior of my notebook. Id
been so sure that Id checked everywhere. How the hell

could I have missed it when it had been sitting here the


whole time?
I picked it up and wrinkled my nose. There was
something sticky on the back, and I took a quick whiff. Ew. It
smelled like it had just come straight out of a garbage can.
Flicking through it to make sure it hadnt been water
damaged, I came across an entry three-quarters of the way
through. Idea Number 74: Sleep with Nate again.
Rolling my eyes, I grabbed a tissue and wiped the back
clean before slipping it in my top desk drawer. It occurred
to me that Nate must have spent the better part of last night
digging through a dumpster looking for it, and my eyebrows
creased together as I considered the concept. It was
almost laughable, the thought of a filthy-rich playboy sorting
through trash.
God, Nate was confusing. One minute he was telling me
he hated me, and the next he was going out of his way to
make sure I got one of my most prized possessions back.
What the hell was wrong with him?

Oh well. It was sweet of him, but knowing him hed be


back to calling me a bitch in no time. It didnt matter
anyway. As of last night, I had a date for tomorrow night with
someone else, someone who had the ability to treat me
with respect.
Id been surprised to hear from Eric, but it had been a
happy surprise. Hed told me he got my number from
Xander, and he wanted to know if I was interested in having
dinner and drinks with him. I barely knew the guy, but I
wasnt going to say no to a hot date with an even hotter guy.
It was just what the doctor had ordered. Well, what Cassie
had ordered, anyway.
After a hot shower, I emerged from my room and
headed downstairs to scrounge up some breakfast. There
was a plate of buttery croissants sitting on the kitchen
island, and I nibbled on one as I waited for the coffee
machine to heat up.
Morning, sweetie.

I turned to see my Mom behind me, yawning as she


pulled her baby blue silk robe tighter around her waist.
Morning, Mom. How are you feeling?
Im feeling like I need a coffee, she said with a rueful
smile. I have work in a couple of hours, and Im dead tired
after last night.
I arched an eyebrow. Oh, youre still working?
Of course I am. Why wouldnt I be?
I shrugged. I dont know. I just kinda thought...
My voice trailed off, and she smiled knowingly. You
thought Id quit the minute I got engaged to Richard?
No, no...I didnt mean it like that. I just thought youd
take some time off to plan the wedding.
Richard has hired a whole bunch of people to do that
for us. All I have to do is show up in a white dress, she said
with a grin. She parked herself on a leather stool near the
bench and sighed. Although, there is something I wanted
to discuss with you regarding work.

Yeah?
She hesitated. I dont want everyone to think Im going
to leave my job just because Im marrying a wealthy man.
Im not like that.
I know, Mom.
Its just that...I like my work, but I havent loved it in a
long time. I want to do something I love again. So Im
thinking of leaving my job at the hospital and going back to
college to study something else.
I took a sip of steaming coffee as I considered her
words. She gazed at me anxiously.
Well? Are you disappointed?
I shook my head. Of course not. You should do what
makes you happy. Honestly, so many women in your
situation would probably just quit working entirely and focus
their lives on socializing and organizing charity balls. Or so
Ive come to assume from watching Gossip Girl re-runs.

She laughed. Well, real life is very different from


television, sweetie. I wouldnt feel right if I just quit and had
nothing to contribute.
Have you spoken to Richard about it?
Yes, after the barbecue last night. Hes happy to
support my ambitions. I know he can come across as
manipulative and abrasive sometimes, but he really does
want whats best for the family. He cares.
I nodded slowly. Yeah, I guess. I just wish hed given me
the whole story about this internship thing. I wouldnt have
taken it if Id known itd cause trouble with Nate.
I know. I think he was hoping it would encourage Nate
to put more effort into finding something he really wants to
do. Hes never cared about business or tech, or anything
Richard does, really.
Mmm.
Anyway, what are your plans for the next few days? By
the way, I have a dress fitting in two weeks for the wedding.

I know I didnt ask, but I just kind of assumed youd be my


bridesmaid. Will you come?
I squealed. Really? Oh my god, Mom! You shouldve
told me sooner! I wouldnt be sitting here filling up on
croissants if Id known Id have to squeeze myself into a
bridesmaids gown.
She smiled and shook her head. Well, who else would I
pick? Besides, dont be silly. You should eat whatever you
want. Youre still growing.
No way, I replied. I think I stopped growing when I was
fourteen. Seriously, Cassie is like eight inches taller than
me.
Yes, well, you got your height from me. Sorry to
disappoint you, she said, reaching over and ruffling my
hair. Anyway, what else do you have going on?
Well, Im going to get on my computer today and start
teaching myself a new programming language. Its called
Ruby On Rails. Then tomorrow night Im going out with a

friend.
She narrowed her eyes. A friend?
Damn, I swore that my Mom could see straight through
concrete sometimes. My cheeks flushed, and I nodded.
Yes. Eric McNealy. We went to school together, and he
called me last night and asked to catch up with me.
Sounds more like a date, she teased, ruffling my hair
again.
Stop! I protested, giggling and pushing her hands
away. Fine. I guess it is a date.
Her eyebrows knitted together. Eric McNealy. Not sure
if I remember him.
Yeah, well we werent exactly friends while we were still
in school, but Cassies boyfriend knows him, and
apparently hes been asking about me.
Just be careful, she replied before finishing her cup of
coffee. Anyway, I better go and start getting ready for work.
Have fun with your ruby train thing.

***
Thirty-two hours later, I was starting to panic. I had a
wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear. Classic
womans dilemma. Eric was picking me up in three hours,
and I rummaged through my cupboard and drawers before
sighing in defeat and throwing myself down on the bed with
my cell phone. It was time to admit I needed help and call in
the big guns.
Hey, whats up? Cassie said, answering her phone on
the second ring.
I need your help. I have nothing to wear, I hate my hair,
and I dont know how to do my makeup for a date!
She laughed. Give me half an hour to drive up there.
See you soon!
True to her word, she arrived half an hour later with an
armful of dresses and a bagful of makeup and hair
products.

All right, I brought everything in my wardrobe that I


thought you might like, she said, throwing the dresses
down on my bed.
I wont fit your stuff.
Of course you will. Now shut up and try something on!
she said, handing me a lavender-colored silk dress.
I slipped into it and did a twirl, and she shook her head.
It looks kinda see-through at the front where your boobs
are.
Maybe if my boobs werent so stupidly big the fabric
wouldnt stretch across them like that, I grumbled, looking
in my full-length mirror and realizing she was right. Okay,
give me another one.
We went through five dresses until she threw me a tiny
little black number.
No way! I protested. I bet I cant even fit my right arm
into this thing!
Just try it.

I wriggled my way into it, and Cassie clapped her hands


together. Thats the one. It looks fucking hot. Look in the
mirror!
I turned my attention back to the mirror. I had to admit, it
did look good. The dress hugged my curves perfectly and
accentuated my cleavage without being too skanky. Shes

right, I told myself. I knew she was. It was just that I always
got all self-conscious being so exposed. I wasnt used to it.
Tucking my hair behind my ear, I turned around and
looked over my shoulder, assessing my curvaceous
backside. I was pleased with what I saw, but I didnt want to
seem conceited.
Are you absolutely sure? I asked.
Cassie rolled her eyes. Damn right I am. Youre going
to have Eric drooling.
I grinned at her. I guess this is the one, then. Ill try to get
it back to you in one piece.

All right. Now its time for the rest.


She spent the next hour fussing over my hair and
makeup, and by six-thirty I was all dressed up and ready to
go. Shed dusted bronze eyeshadow on my eyelids and
coated my lashes with black mascara, and my lips were
stained a crimson red. My hair hung around my face in soft
tendrils, and she smiled gleefully as I slid into a pair of
black stilettos.
My work here is done! Whens he getting here?
At seven. I still cant believe he asked me out.
I can. Youre so blind sometimes, I swear. Guys always
used to check you out at school.
Why didnt you tell me?
I did! You never listened! she said. Anyway, it doesnt
matter now. Does Nate know youre going out with Eric?
I shrugged. Dont think so, unless Eric told him. But like
Xander said the other night, they dont seem to be friends
anymore. I actually havent even seen Nate since the night

of the barbecue.
Hmm. Oh well. Ill get out of your hair now. Good luck!
she said, wrapping her arms around me in a tight squeeze.
Call me when its over. I want to hear every detail.
I will.
Once she was gone, I gave myself another once-over in
the mirror and smiled. I really did look rather nice. My phone
buzzed fifteen minutes later, and I held it up to my ear.
Hello?
Its me. Im at your house. Come downstairs. Erics
deep, smooth voice sent a shiver down my spine, and I
grabbed my purse and met him out the front.
Youre early, I said, smiling as I slid into the passenger
seat of his car.
I like to be early, he said with a grin. My Dad always
taught me that if youre not ten minutes early, youre late.
You look great, by the way.

Thank you, I replied, smiling shyly. So where are we


headed?
Theres a great place not far from here called
Catalanos. You like Italian food?
Who doesnt?
He laughed. Good. Then after that I was thinking Id
show you my Dads new club on Lisbon Street. Its pretty
cool. Live music, young crowd.
Wont they card us?
Nope. They all know Im the owners son, he said.
Anyway, you happy with that?
Um...yeah, sounds good.
Eric was right about the restaurant. It was beautifully
decorated to look like an old Italian trattoria, complete with
checked red and white tablecloths and candles. The perfect
romantic location.
Can I ask you something? I said as we sipped on

minestrone soup for our entrees. Wed made some generic


small talk, and I felt comfortable enough with him now to
open up.
Sure.
I put my spoon down and looked him in the eyes. Why
did you ask me out? I mean...you dont really know me.
He ran a hand through his blond hair and smiled, blue
eyes flashing. Well, Id always noticed you around school,
but you were so busy with your nose in a book all the time. I
figured Id wait until we graduated.
Oh. Does Nate know?
He shook his head. Nah. We havent really spoken
much since graduation.
Any particular reason?
His shoulders sagged slightly. I dunno...I guess we just
sort of drifted apart. Especially after that night at my party. I
couldnt have any respect for him anymore after what he did
to you.

I pursed my lips, a slow sliver of anger running down my


spine at the memory. Yeah, well...he wasnt the only one. I
seem to remember you saying something about a whole
bunch of guys being in on that bet, including you.
I know. But you gotta understand, Lauren. Guys just like
to talk all kinds of shit when were drunk. We used to say
crap about girls and pretend to make bets like that all the
time, but we all knew it wasnt serious. Nate took it too far.
Im sorry, though. Really. We shouldnt ever have said
anything about you.
Its okay, I said with a sigh. Its all high school drama
crap. Its in the past now. Lets just forget about it.
Good call, he said, holding up his wine glass. To a
new start.
I touched my glass of water against his and giggled. To
a new start.
So why arent you drinking? he asked a moment later,
furrowing his brows. The merlot here is amazing.

I dont drink, I admitted. Ive never really wanted to.


Thats cool. My Dads club has tons of mocktails, he
replied. Ill get the bartender to make you some when we
get there. Theres this really nice Toblerone flavored one.
Awesome.
After an amazing main meal which consisted of chicken
stuffed with spinach, ham and some sort of cheese served
with roasted vegetables, I leaned back and groaned. I am
so full.
Dont even have a little room left for dessert? he
asked, eyes flashing with mirth.
Nope, not if I want to try any of these mocktail things
later.
He grinned and paid the check. I offered to give him
some money for my share of the meal, but he waved my
hand away. Dont be ridiculous, he said. My treat. I feel
like I owe you after what went down at my party.

Hey, we said we were going to forget everything that


happened while we were in high school, I replied. You
dont owe me anything.
He shook his head. Just let a man buy you dinner,
Lauren, jeez.
We laughed together, and he escorted me out to his
car. Turning the radio on, he pulled the car onto the main
road and then turned off ten minutes later at Lisbon Street,
a popular nightlife strip that included late night cafs, bars
and clubs. One in particular stood out with its tall pillars and
flashing lights in every color of the rainbow, and Eric
pointed to it.
Thats Club Matisse. My Dad bought it a few months
back. Still keen to go in?
Sure.
After parking behind the club in a reserved spot, Eric
put his arm around me and led me to the main entrance,
where excited partygoers waited anxiously in line for the

bouncer to let them in. The tall, sturdy man behind the
roped-off entrance nodded as he spotted us, and he smiled
and let us inside.
Evening, Mr. McNealy, he said. Have a good night.
Hey! They didnt wait in line! A drunk-sounding girl
protested our easy entrance, but her whiny voice faded into
oblivion a second later, masked by the thumping bass of
the clubs music.
I glanced around in wonder, taking in the young,
beautiful crowd and the flickering strobe lights. It all looked
so surreal. This was my first time in any type of club, and
Eric must have sensed my nervousness because he
squeezed my hand and leaned in close.
Dont worry, he said. Its just a club. Perfectly safe.
He led me over to a VIP booth set at the back of the
main room. Ill go sort out those drinks. You sit here. Back
in a few, he said.
He returned with a tumbler of scotch for himself and a

tall, elaborately-decorated drink for me. Heres that


chocolate mocktail I told you about, he said, sliding the
drink over to me. Have a taste.
I sipped on it through the pink straw, and I had to admit,
it tasted great. There was a little bit of a tang in the
aftertaste, but I assumed it was due to the overabundance
of sugar in the drink. I remembered the bridesmaids dress
fitting in a week and almost groaned. Id be lucky if I even fit
in this dress by the end of tonight given everything Id
consumed.
Good, huh? Eric asked, nodding towards the drink.
Yeah, its great, I replied.
He grinned and sipped on his scotch, following my
anxious gaze to the dancefloor. You want to dance?
Ohnot right now, I said.
Its cool. Im a terrible dancer anyway, he said. Youll
have to wait and see.
It was hard to hear much over the music, but we

managed to have a semblance of a conversation for an


hour.
So, I heard you got into MIT? he said.
Yeah. What about you?
Im going to NYU, he replied. But dont worry, New
York isnt all that far from Boston. Ill still be able to see you.
Doesnt hurt to have a private plane.
You have a private plane? I asked, my eyebrows
practically shooting to the ceiling.
Yeah. I mean, who doesnt have one these days?
Erninety-nine percent of the population? I said.
He stared at me for a second and then laughed. Youre
funny.
I didnt bother attempting to explain that I hadnt been
joking. Hed seemed so nice and sweet at first, but with
every sip of the scotch he took, he seemed to be becoming
more and more of a douche. I guess it took alcohol to

reveal peoples true natures sometimes. Oh well. It had still


been a fun night, even if it didnt work out between Eric and
me.
I looked back out onto the dancefloor, and my vision
seemed to blur for a second as the lights flashed back and
forth. My head was beginning to pound, and I remembered I
had some painkillers in my purse.
Ill be back in a sec, I said. Just need the bathroom.
Cool. Its over there, Eric said, pointing to the right. Ill
go get us some more drinks.
I stood up and made my way over to the side of the club,
almost tripping over my own feet as I reached the door to
the ladies room.
Hey, watch out, drunkie! A petite Asian girl grabbed
me by the arm to steady me, and I smiled weakly.
Im not used to walking in stilettos, I explained.
She nodded and opened the door for me. There you
go.

Then she was gone, and I walked up to the mirror,


wondering what the hell was wrong with me. My mind was
buzzing, and I knew it wasnt because of the shoes that Id
almost fallen over. It was like my mind had suddenly gone
blank and the world had turned black just for a second.
Pulling an Advil out of my bag, I swallowed it and leaned
forward, gazing at my reflection in the mirror. My pupils
were so dilated that I could barely see my irises, and I
rubbed my head. Usually Id know exactly what it meant to
have overly-dilated pupils, but right now I felt like every bit of
knowledge Id ever had was just seeping out of my mind
and onto the floor.
The floorthat seemed like a good idea.
I sank down to the cool tiles with my back against the
wall, and my phone buzzed in my purse. Assuming it was
Cassie calling to see how our date was going, I pulled it out
and answered.
Hello?

At least thats what Id tried to say. It came out sounding


more like, mmlllooo?
Lauren? Its Nate. Where the hell are you?
Nate? Howd you get my number? I mumbled.
Are you serious? Youre going to be my stepsister in a
month; you think I dont have your number? Besides, Im
Nate fucking Sloane I can get anyones number.
Arrogant prick as usual, I said before coughing
violently. I feel kinda sick.
Lauren, youre slurring your words. Have you been
drinking?
No. I just dont feel well.
Your Mom told me youre out with Eric. Is that true?
Its none of your business, I replied. It sounded more
like, itsh none of your bushness, and I slapped my
forehead, wondering what the hell was wrong with my brain.
I couldnt focus, I couldnt thinkI couldnt even speak

coherently.
Im coming to get you, he said. Tell me where you
are.
Im in the bathroom, I replied.
Wow, thats fucking helpful. Care to narrow that down
for me a bit?
Shut up, I mumbled. I dont need you to come get me.
Youre just jealous that Im on a date with your ex-friend.
Maybe if you didnt make nasty bets about screwing me
then hed still like you. Maybe Id still like you.
Lauren, I have no fucking clue what youre talking
about, but Im coming to get you right now. You need to tell
me where you are.
The phone dropped from my hand, and I could hear him
calling out to me as my head dropped forward. I had no
idea how long I was out for, but the clattering of stiletto
heels on the tiled floor woke me up, and the pretty Asian girl
from earlier peered down at me.

Heyare you okay?


I...I dont know, I muttered.
I think youve had a little too much to drink, she said.
Come on, Ill help you up and get you back to your friends.
Where are they sitting?
Eric was all I managed to get out, and the girl
sighed as she put my phone back in my purse for me and
then locked her slim right arm around one of mine.
All right. Come on, she said, dragging me towards the
door. I was practically a dead weight at this point, and I
blearily looked around and rubbed my eyes as she led me
back out to the main club area.
Oh, thank god, a familiar masculine voice echoed in
my ear a moment later. She went to the bathroom and
didnt come back. I was just about to come looking for her.
Yeah, shes pretty out of it, the girl helping me said.
Are you Eric? She mentioned that name earlier.

Yep. Thanks for taking care of her. Shes had way too
many vodka shots. Ill get her home.
My head whirled, and my stomach roiled. I didnt have
any vodka shots, I tried to say, but it just came out as an
incomprehensible grumble.
The girl threw me an odd look, and I reached for her
arm, hoping that shed realize how much trouble I was in.
She was distracted by a guy sidling up behind her, and she
giggled as he slid a hand over her stomach and up her
skimpy black top. He pulled her around and cupped her
face, and they were immediately lost to the rest of the world
as their tongues entwined in a passionate embrace.
I teetered on my heels, and Eric laughed and grabbed
me under my right arm, pulling me upright. Come on,
babe, he said. Lets get you home. Ill take care of you.
I moaned and tried to keep my eyes open as he yanked
me towards the entrance, where intoxicated people were
still waiting in a haphazard line, hoping for a chance to get

in.
Mr. McNealy, the bouncer said in his baritone voice.
Would you like me to arrange a car for you and your
companion?
Thanks, Tyler, but my cars out the back, he said.
I wanted to tell him that he couldnt drive drunk, and I
wanted to tell the bouncer that something was very wrong
with me, but the words died as soon as they bubbled to my
lips and I was left mute, still being dragged along on Erics
arm. He pulled me around to the parking lot out the back,
and I moaned again, touching a hand to my forehead.
My head I mumbled.
Shh, babe. Its okay, he replied.
No, its not fucking okay. Get the hell away from her!
Another familiar masculine voice sounded from
somewhere up ahead, and I groggily looked up to see Nate
standing next to Erics sleek black car.

What the fuck are you doing here? Eric asked. Shes
with me, man.
Not anymore. Walk away, Eric, Nate said, edging
closer towards us.
Eric sneered and dropped my arm, and I collapsed
against the side of someone elses car, my mind still
spinning like crazy.
Mind your own fucking business, Eric said as Nate
approached.
This is my business. Laurens safety is my business.
Now get the hell away from her.
What are you gonna do about it, man? Eric replied,
spitting at Nates feet.
Nate suddenly charged at him, his fists colliding with
Erics chest and face in a flurry of rage. Eric shouted and
fought back, getting in a sucker punch to Nates jaw, and I
screamed as I watched.
Stop!

Nate knocked Eric to the ground with a heavy hit to the


solar plexus, and he went down with a grunt, too drunk to
even make an attempt to keep his balance. Nates fist
connected with Erics face again, and skin tore. Blood
gushed.
Eric wiped his bleeding nose and groaned, and I
cringed at the awful cracking sound of Nates fist colliding
with his chest once more.
Nate, youre going to kill him! I managed to scream
before keeling over and sinking to the asphalt beside the
car. Stop!
If I could see through his eyes right now, I knew all I
would see was a red haze of anger. He knew that Eric had
intended on harming me, and he needed to pay.
Stopplease I mumbled again, using all of my
strength to drag myself back to my feet.
Nate looked up at me, panting, knuckles covered in
blood. Eric stirred underneath him, but his struggles

diminished as Nate leaned down and placed two hands


around his throat.
Youre lucky Laurens here. Stay the fuck away from her
from now on, he hissed. If I ever catch you near her again,
you wont be so lucky.
My mind went blank again, and then I was falling,
downdowndown. But I never hit the ground.

CHAPTER EIGHT
NATE
I caught Lauren in my arms just as she was about to hit
the asphalt, and I stroked her hair as I gazed down at her.
She looked terrible. Her eye makeup was smudged around
her eyes, giving her the appearance of a panda, albeit a
gorgeous panda, and her hair was mussed up and frizzy.
Come on, I murmured, carrying her over to my car.
Lets get you home.
I lay her down in the backseat, and she stirred and
moaned as I pulled my jacket off and rolled it up, sliding it
under her head for some extra cushioning.
Eric. That fucking asshole. Hed been acting weird for
months now, but Id put it down to stress over senior year
and a disagreement wed had a few months back. I hadnt

spoken with him since graduation, but that didnt seem too
strange. We all had busy lives, and it hadnt even been two
weeks since the ceremony.
I knew better now, though.
Id wanted to get away from the summer house for a
while, so Id spent the last couple of days hanging out with
some old buddies of mine, and one of them had brought his
twin sister along earlier today while we were playing pool in
some back alley bar downtown. She was some skinny
brunette chick who I vaguely remembered from my English
class back in school. Shed been drunk off her ass, and as
soon as she saw me, she poked me in the chest.
Hey! Nateyou look sexy, she said. Yknow, I used to
think Eric was hotter than you, but I changed my mind.
My buddy Andrew pulled her away from me and told her
to sit down and keep her mouth shut.
Sorry, man. Shes wrecked. Anyway, speaking of Eric,
where the hell is he? I thought he wouldve come with you.

I shrugged. Nah. Havent really spoken to him lately.


Weve both been busy, I guess.
His sister started to giggle, and we both turned to her.
Whats so funny? Andrew asked.
Nothing, she said. Its justisnt your Dad marrying
Lauren Torres mom? You know, that short nerdy girl from
school.
Yeah, what about it?
I heard Eric asked her out. Shouldnt you be getting all
protective, seeing as shes gonna be your new sister?
She giggled to herself again, and I creased my
eyebrows together and looked back at Andrew. Shes
talking shit, right? Lauren and Eric dont even know each
other.
I dunno, man. Call him and ask.
I tried doing exactly that, but he didnt answer any of my
calls or texts. My stomach began to twist and turn, and I
excused myself from the pool sesh with my buddies and

headed home. I knew exactly why I was nervous. Eric and I


had gotten into a bit of an argument a few months back
when hed started making jokes at a party about slipping
Roofies into some girls drink to make it easier for him to
get laid.
Id thought he was just kidding at first, but something
about his expression and tone had told me he was being
serious. Id told him to stop talking shit and then dropped it
when hed started yelling at me about apparently fucking
some girl that hed been after. Some blonde chick from
another school wed met ages back.
Yeah, Id screwed her, but how the hell was I supposed
to know Eric wanted her? Hed never said a thing to me
about it, but that didnt stop him from getting all shitty at me.
Hed launched himself at me, trying to start a fight, and my
other friends had dragged him away. Id put the whole thing
down to him just being wasted. After that, the incident had
been forgotten, and I thought wed sorted things out and
gone back to being friends as usual.

But now I wasnt so sure, and if he was really out with


Lauren, I had to make sure she was one-hundred percent
safe. Anne had confirmed that she was definitely out on a
date with a boy called Eric McNealy, but she hadnt known
where exactly he was taking her.
As soon as I called Lauren, I knew some shit was going
down. She was slurring her words and didnt sound like
herself at all. She couldnt even tell me where she was, and
then a crashing sound in my ear told me shed dropped her
phone and probably passed out. Shed said she hadnt had
anything to drink, and I believed her. Eric must have slipped
her something.
I shook my head as I drove home, checking in the rear
view mirror every few minutes to make sure Lauren was still
breathing. You just couldnt trust anyone these days,
especially in the world of the upper class. Everyone was out
for themselves, and they didnt give a shit who they hurt to
make their ends. But EricId really thought he was
different. Wed bonded years ago over our mutual dislike of

our fathers, and when Id started at Oakover, wed become


even closer.
Id shared everything with him, including my desire for
Lauren when Id first had my eye on her. Now the bastard
was using her just to get to me, all because of a stupid
argument. How childish and fucked up did someone have
to be to think this shit was justified? Sure, we were only
eighteen, but stillit was pathetic.
I took a deep breath as I turned my car onto the road to
the summer house, still relieved that Id arrived at Club
Matisse in time to help her. Id figured that was where he
would probably take her. He was always bragging about his
Dads shitty new club and how chicks would cream their
panties when he took them there. It wasnt hard to please
most eighteen year old chicks. Take them to some upscale
club that doesnt card and show them to a VIP booth, and
theyd be frothing at the mouth to screw you later that night.
Lauren was different, though. Eric must have known she

wouldnt be too impressed with drunk people, flashing lights


and thumping bass, so hed slipped something into her
drink to make her a little easier to get. Fucking prick. The
stinging on my grazed knuckles felt strangely satisfying as it
reminded me of how Id laid into him, and I clenched my
teeth and turned around, looking at Lauren in the backseat.
You okay?
She moaned again, and I exited the car and opened the
back door. Come on, Ill get you upstairs.
Id had to deal with a close friend of mine having a drink
spiked once, so I knew what to do. There was no point
taking her to the hospital; theyd just give her fluids and
make her wait hours before declaring her healthy and
sending her away. I just needed to be there for her until it
passed.
After sweeping her into my arms and taking her
upstairs, I lay her down on her bed and yanked her shoes
off, tossing them aside. She groaned again, slightly more

alert now.
Im gonna throw up.
Thats okay. Lets go to the bathroom.
Helping her up, I guided her to our joint bathroom. Her
gait was unsteady, and I slid an arm around her waist and
gently helped her onto her knees next to the toilet. Her dark
hair fell all around her face as she leaned forward, and I
pulled it back and held it away just in time. Two seconds
later, she was puking her guts up, and I rubbed her back
with my free hand and tried to make soothing sounds as
she heaved.
Oh my god she murmured, pulling her head up from
the porcelain bowl. Some vomit dripped off her chin and
onto her dress. This is so gross.
Nah, Ive seen worse. Come on, lets rinse your mouth
out.
I filled a glass with water and mixed a little mouthwash
into it. Hereswirl this around your mouth and then spit it

back into the cup.


She did as I said, and I grabbed a tissue and wiped her
face when she was done. Then I held another glass of water
to her mouth and tilted her chin back, making her drink it
slowly. Her arms were way too weak to hold the glass
herself.
Thanks, she murmured, her eyes falling shut again.
Sighing, I picked her up and carried her back into her
room, carefully placing her back down on the bed. I couldnt
leave her alone. I also couldnt let her sleep in a vomitstained dress. I rolled her over, located the zipper, and
pulled the dress over her head. She was so out of it that
she didnt notice, and she lay flat on her back a moment
later, legs splayed out at an awkward angle.
Looking at her in only her bra and panties, I knew
exactly what Id be thinking if she was sober and hadnt had
such a rough night. Id want to grab her thighs, put my mouth
all over those luscious tits, roll her over and pull that perfect

ass up to spank it. But this was different. I didnt feel any
sort of arousal at all, only concern for her wellbeing.
After pulling the silken sheets over her and tucking her
in, I lay next to her and listened to her breathing. It seemed
steady. Shed be fine in the morning. She might have a
killer headache, but she was safe and alive.
Nate
I got up on one elbow and looked down at her. Yeah?
But she was already unconscious again, snoring away.

CHAPTER NINE
LAUREN
Ugh.
My head was killing me.
I struggled to open my eyes as the early morning rays of
sunlight crept into my room, and I stretched my arms out,
trying to remember what the hell had happened the
previous night. My arm immediately hit warm flesh, and I
jerked it back and sat bolt upright.
What the hell? Nate was in my bed, snoring gently next
to me. Holy shit. I was only in my underwear. Oh no
Nate, I said, grabbing his shoulder and shaking him
awake.
He opened his eyes and grinned. Youre awake.

Yeah, and youre in my bed. What the hell happened?


Did we?
He shook his head and sighed. You dont remember
anything?
No! Please tell me we didntyou know
No, we didnt you know anything. I was taking care of
you. You had a rough night. Eric spiked your drink at that
club, and I came to get you. I needed to make sure you
were okay so I stayed here with you.
Oh.
Hugging the sheets around my knees, I tried my hardest
to remember what had happened, but it was all still one
massive blank.
Eric seriously did that? I asked.
Yep. I almost fucking murdered him.
Why am I half naked?
You threw up and some of it got on your dress. Sorry. I

didnt know where you kept your pajamas or anything.


I was mortified, and snippets of memories slowly began
to crawl back into my head. I vaguely remembered
crouching in the bathroom and heaving into the toilet, and
hed been there to hold me. Hed seen me at my very worst,
and he wasnt even complaining.
Natethanks, I murmured.
He shrugged. Dont sweat it. I just wanted you to be
okay.
I thought you hated me.
Nah.
I really didnt mean to take your internship. Seriously,
you can have it back. Ill tell your Dad.
He shook his head. Thats what youre thinking about
right now? You should take it. Its a tech company and
youre into all that shit. Id just be wasting everyones time. It
was stupid of me to even react the way I did. Its just a
fucking internship, after all.

I stretched and yawned, and my head felt like it was


about to explode. I still cant believe Eric did this.
Neither. Hes an asshole.
He just seemed so nice.
They always do at first. Trust me, I know all about how
so-called nice guys operate.
Not from experience. Youre always an asshole to
everyone from the word go, I said with a mischievous
smirk, sense of humor gradually returning.
He laughed and pulled himself up into a sitting position,
and we sat in silence for a moment.
Hey, I was gonna ask you something. Last night when
you were totally out of it, you said something about a bet.
What the hell was that about? he asked.
It doesnt matter. Its in the past, I mumbled.
He gently touched my shoulder and pulled me to face
him. Tell me.

Fine. I know all about the bet you had going to try and
sleep with me that night at Erics party, okay? But it doesnt
matter. Im over it.
I tried to get up, but he kept me down. What? What the
hell are you talking about?
That night, after weafter we slept together, Eric came
in while you were out of the room. He told me a group of
guys had made some bet to try and sleep with me seeing
as I was the last virgin left in senior year.
Nates face was aghast. You serious? Thats fucking
bullshit. There was never any bet. All I ever told him about
you was that I was into you. Thats it. In fact, he told me a
whole different story about that night. He said he walked
past and overheard you laughing on the phone to some
friend of yours about how youd just fucked me and were
going to run out on me and reject me to make me look like
a moron.
I shook my head slowly as Erics web of lies slowly

unraveled around us. Do I seem like the kind of girl that


would do that?
He shrugged. I dunno. I didnt think so, but I didnt think
hed lie to me. And when you were such a bitch to me
afterwards, I figured hed told me the truth.
Suddenly I couldnt stop myself from bursting into a fit of
hysterical giggles. Maybe it was the pressure from
everything that had been going on lately, or maybe I was
simply going nuts.
Whats so funny? Nate asked curiously as I practically
shrieked with laughter, tears running down my cheeks.
Lauren, something really bad almost happened to you last
night, all because of that lying little fuck Eric. Its not funny.
Oh, but it is, I replied, catching my breath for a second.
Its likeyou know how in all those stupid romantic
comedy movies, theres always some big
misunderstanding that prevents them from being together,
and it takes them the whole movie to figure it out even

though it would have been fine if theyd just talked about it


for five frickin minutes?
Yeah?
If wed just talked for a few minutes after that party we
would have both known Eric was full of shit! We couldve
spared ourselves from all this drama of hating each other
for the last few weeks. Weve been acting like childish
idiots.
I burst into another fit of giggles. He shook his head and
then began to laugh too, like it was contagious.
I fucking hate those movies, he said through peals of
laughter.
Same!
I guess we have at least one thing in common, then.
That were both immature idiots?
Well, that too. Two things.
I calmed down a moment later and almost jumped out of

my skin as someone knocked on the door.


Lauren? Is Nate in there with you?
Yves voice echoed out to us from the other side of the
door, and my eyes widened. Shit. What if he sees us like
this? Hell think were likehooking up or something.
Nah, Yves is cool, Nate replied before calling out
towards the door. Yeah, Im in here!
The door opened, and Yves head poked around,
staring at us curiously. A little half-smile played around his
lips as he saw us happily sitting on the bed together, and
he raised his eyebrows.
Everything okay in here? I thought I may have heard
someone crying.
We were laughing, I said, pulling the sheet further up
around me so he wouldnt see that I was clad only in
underwear.
Ah. I see. Glad to see you two getting along now. Can I
get either of you breakfast or coffee?

Coffee sounds great, I replied.


No, wait, Nate interjected. Yves, can you book a table
at Jean Pierre Sancho? They do the best breakfasts.
Yes, I recall that they do an excellent eggs Benedict
with smoked salmon. For yourself, or for the both of you?
Both of us, Nate replied. He turned to me and spoke in
a low voice. Let me take you out to breakfast. We can put
all this shit behind us andI dunno, maybe we can try to be
friends or something.

Or something. Two words lingering in the air, pregnant


with meaning.
I smiled. Sure. But Im paying. I owe you for rescuing
me last night.
Yves lingered in the doorway a moment longer, and then
he turned and bustled back down the hall.
You should go take a shower, Nate said. You look like
a fucking panda.

I grabbed a pillow and smacked him with it. Shut up.


He grinned. Glad to see youve made a full recovery
and are back to your usual mean, bossy self.
Laughing, I slipped out of bed with the sheet still around
me and padded into the bathroom to take a long and
leisurely shower. God, how I needed this. The warm water
invigorated me, and I closed my eyes and let it wash over
me as I considered everything that had happened since Id
moved into the summer house. All Nate and I had done was
fight like cats and dogs, and it was all for nothing; all
because that smarmy little bastard Eric had decided to
screw with our heads for no reason other than that he was
an asshole.
A cold shiver ran down my spine as I realized just how
close Id come to being attacked last night, and I stepped
out of the shower and dried myself off, trying to put it out of
my mind. Nate really wasnt the bad guy Id thought he was.
Yes, he was a rude, caustic prick sometimes, but Yves had
been right about him. Deep down, he had a good heart.

***
Nate met me downstairs half an hour later. He was
wearing jeans and a grey T-shirt that had been designed to
look all faded and weathered but probably cost more than
the average persons weekly rent. It had a texture that made
me want to reach out and touch it, but I kept my hands to
myself like a good girl.
Ready to head out? he asked.
Sure.
We drove in silence to the breakfast caf under the
pretense of listening to the news on the radio. Truthfully, I
just didnt know where to begin talking to him. It had been
fine while we were in my room, but now we were actually
going somewhere together in public. As friends. The idea
of being friends with Nate seemed so foreign to me that I
literally had no idea where to begin.
The waiter at Jean Pierre Sancho showed us to an al

fresco table and poured us some water before giving us


time to choose our meals.
So Nate said, picking up a menu and looking at me.
So I repeated.
This is weird, he said. Normally by this stage Id be
yelling and youd be throwing one of your brainiac insults in
my face.
I smiled, glad I wasnt the only one who thought it was
slightly awkward. Well, hows this? I refuse to fight a battle
of wits against an unarmed man.
He snorted. Thats a good one. Surprised I havent
heard it yet.
The waiter returned, and I selected an omelet with
roasted vegetables from the menu along with a
cappuccino. Nate ordered the eggs Benedict and a
macchiato, and we made small talk about the caf before
lapsing into silence again.
Sorry I was such a dick to you at the barbecue. And

your Mom too. I actually kinda like her, he finally said.


Yeah, I kinda like her too, I said with a grin.
Youre lucky, you know that? You and your Mom seem
so close. I wish I had that with my Dad.
I know, I replied, smiling at the waiter as he speedily
delivered our breakfasts. Im really lucky. But your Dad
cares about you in his own way.
I sound like such a clich, dont I? Rich boy filled with
angst.
No, I understand.
Do you? Its likehe was always around when my
Mom was alive. Then she died and it was like he didnt
exist. Or rather, like I didnt exist. He was suddenly hardly
ever around, except for when he wanted me to attend the
wedding of whatever socialite hed picked up on a
business trip.
He paused for a second and then continued. I know

hes given me everything. Ive always had anything I wanted


or needed. But sometimes itd be nice to just go on a
fishing trip with my Dad, yknow?
You fish?
He smiled ruefully. No. But you know what I mean.
Yeah. I get you.
There was a long pause in the conversation as we
sipped on our coffees and tucked into our breakfasts.
What happened to your Mom? If you dont mind my
asking, I said a while later, peering at him over my mug.
Breast cancer. I was ten. She didnt even know she
was sick. She wasnt happy with the way she looked after
breastfeeding and being a mother, and she went in for a
consultation with a plastic surgeon in L.A. for a breast
augmentation, or whatever its called. They found a lump,
and six months later she was dead. It was too late to really
do anything even with the best oncologists in the country.
Im sorry. Really. I cant even imagine what thats like

losing a parent.
He nodded slowly. Yeah, well Im not gonna lie. Its not
great. So what about your Dad? I take it hes still alive?
Yeah, I think so. I dont remember much of him, though,
so its never really felt like I lost a parent. He left my Mom
when I was young. He wasnt exactly a very nice guy.
Oh?
Alcoholic. Abusive. You get the picture. I know its
awful, but Im glad he left. Whenever my Mom tells me about
the things he did when they were together, I just wish shed
never met him so shed never have to have gone through all
that.
Yeah, but then you wouldnt be here. Silver linings,
yknow?
I shrugged. I guess. You know, if it wasnt for this Id
probably barely remember what he looked like.
I reached into my purse and pulled out an old faded

photo that I always kept there. It was me as a newborn,


cradled in my Moms arms as she lay in a hospital bed. My
father was off to the side, smiling at the camera, and I knew
from that picture that Id inherited his eyes and nose. Mom
had wanted to throw out the photo years ago because it
had him in it and she had plenty of other baby pictures of
me, but Id wanted to keep it purely because she looked so
happy in it.
I passed the photo to Nate. See? Thats them, before
he turned into a complete asshole.
He gazed at it for a moment.
He actually looks like an all right guy here. Was he
always so bad?
He left when I was about five, so I dont remember
much. But he wasnt always bad. I remember he used to
take me on these picnics by the river. You know the Avon
River?
Yeah, it runs along the highway heading east out of the

city, right?
Yeah, thats the one. Anyway, if you turn off the highway
onto this roadEastgate Road, I think, theres a few old
cabins down the end. Way out in the sticks. One of them
was his. It used to belong to his uncle. So every few months
hed take us down there. Wed have a picnic, hed do some
fishing, Mom would take photosit was nice. Really nice.
But then he started drinking heaps
My voice trailed off and I shrugged before continuing.
The rest is history, I guess. He turned into a different
person, and then he just left.
Nate stared at me for a moment and then held up his
coffee cup. I know this isnt alcoholic and its breakfast, but
so what? Cheers to your shitty father. If your Mom hadnt
met him, we wouldnt have you around to be smart and
boss us all around.
I smiled and raised my mug to his. I dont boss anyone
around!

Well, you will one day. Youre smart as hell. Youll


probably be my boss one day.
I shook my head with mirth, and Nate jabbed his fork
towards my toast. You gonna eat that?
I dont know. I want to, but I feel kinda fat after
everything Ive eaten lately.
He rolled his eyes. What the fuck is with all you women
these days calling yourself fat?
I shrugged. I dont know, I admitted.
Well, you need to stop it. Theres nothing wrong with
you, and you can be confident without being arrogant.
Oh yeah? What would you know about not being
arrogant?
He chuckled. Im gonna throw the rest of my eggs in
your face if you arent careful!
We finished our breakfasts and coffees, and I took care
of the check as promised. It hadnt been a particularly

eventful outing, but it had still been good. Nate and I were
finally getting along and starting to get to know one another,
and that was better than anything I could have hoped for
considering our rocky beginnings.
My phone buzzed in my purse, and I looked at the
screen before gasping. Oh shit! Cassie! I was supposed
to let her know how last night went.
Nate nodded at me to answer it as we exited Jean
Pierre Sancho, and I felt the tiniest bolt of electricity shoot
through me as his hand rested on my back, guiding me
towards the car. It was just a small protective gesture, but it
was enough to send my mind whirling back to the night of
the party when his big hands had been all over me,
touching, groping, caressing
You didnt call me! Cassie said on the other end of the
line, interrupting my train of thought.
I know, I know. Im a terrible friend. A lot happened last
night.

Oh?
I filled her in on the situation with Eric, and she gasped.
Holy shit! He did that? Oh man. This is all my fault. Xander
and I pushed for you to go out with him.
I shook my head, then realized she couldnt see me. Its
not your fault, Cass. Its his fault for being a repulsive
douche.
What are you doing right now? Whatever it is, you need
to drop everything because Im coming over with some
movies, popcorn and candy, and Im not leaving till
tomorrow. How do you feel about watching Clueless first?
Sounds good. Im just leaving this little caf downtown.
Nate and I had breakfast. Ill be home soon, though.
She paused. Oh. Well, hurry up. Ill be up at your place
in an hour, kay? Just gotta help my Mom out with some
stuff first.
By the time we got off the phone, Nate was pulling into
the main entrance to the summer house, and I yawned and

stretched my legs as I got out of the car.


That was a great breakfast, I said.
Yeah, it was. Maybe we should do it every Sunday, he
said. Make a new family tradition.
Umyeah, Id like that, I replied, trying to ignore the
heat creeping into my cheeks. He had to be kidding about
the family tradition part.
Any plans for the rest of the day? he asked.
Yeah. Cassie wants to have a girly day and sleep
over, I said. Shes coming over soon, actually.
His face fell slightly. Oh. Yeah, thats a good idea. After
everything that happened last night, itll be good for you to
see a friend. A real friend. Anyway, I better go. Need to call
a buddy of mine about something. Have fun.
Nate I tried to say something, but my voice trailed
off. Hed already disappeared into the house. Id wanted to
say that despite all the drama wed put each other through,
he was my friend. A real friend, as he said. Who else would

hunt me down in the middle of the night to rescue me from a


would-be date rapist? Not an enemy, thats for sure.

CHAPTER TEN
LAUREN
It had been almost a week since Nate and I had
decided to become friends, and things were getting better
to say the least. The awkwardness was mostly gone, and
our parents seemed happy to see us getting along.
It was a Friday afternoon, and I was lounging around on
my bed, laptop propped up on the pillows. I was still trying
to teach myself the new programming language, but it was
difficult when Nate kept creeping into my thoughts. I knew
we were just being friends, but holy hell it was hard to be
friends with someone so hot. Memories of his warm
caresses and rough kisses tortured me, and part of me
wondered if there was something more to my feelings
toward him. Something romantic.
Maybe I cared about him way more than I cared to

admit.
But what did I really know about things like love at my
age? At eighteen, so many people think they have it all
figured out. They think that they know everything and dont
need to be told what to do, but as they grow older and wiser
they realize they dont know squat. My Mom must have told
me that a hundred times. When it came to matters of the
heart, there was no way I was mature enough to really tell
the difference between love and lust. Nate and I had shared
one night together; one glorious, steamy night.
But that didnt make it love. It was pure, unadulterated
lust. We had a lot of growing up to do, and in twenty years
Id probably cringe at the memory and wonder how I could
have been so stupid, developing feelings for my soon-to-be
stepbrother. Maybe Id even be able to laugh about it.
Hey, Lauren.
Nates voice at my semi-open bedroom door startled
me, and I jumped, sending two silk-encased pillows flying.

Ohumhey, whats up? I replied, hoping my voice


wouldnt betray my true feelings as I looked him up and
down. In faded blue jeans and a white shirt, he was the
epitome of casual sexiness, and my breath hitched as his
ocean-blue eyes focused on mine.
Just came to see whats up. I just got home. Had a
bachelor thing to go to last night and ended up hanging with
them at the hotel all day, he said with a chuckle. Can you
believe Ricky Morris and Amy Gilmore are getting
married? Were all only eighteen, for Christs sake.
Ricky and Amy had been in our graduating class. They
were one of those incredibly rare couples that had been
best friends growing up, and that friendship had
transformed into a relationship as soon as puberty struck.
At eighteen, theyd already been together for five years.
Well, if it makes them happy, I said, secretly
wondering if there had been strippers at this bachelor party
before quashing the thought. What Nate got up to in his
spare time was none of my business, as much as the

thought of scantily-clad hotties draping themselves over him


made my blood boil.
Yeah, I guess. Just seems young, he replied.
Mm. So what are you doing tonight? Relaxing after the
big night last night? I asked, keeping my voice light and
airy. Please dont say you have a date, please dont say

you have a date, my inner voice chanted. Shut it, I told


myself. So what if he does?
I was meant to be going to a bar with my friend
Andrew, but that fell through. He has to help his Dad with
something at their company. Im too tired for another bar
anyway. We basically all spent the day lounging around the
hotel room like a terrarium of hungover lizards. Cant be
fucked doing that again tomorrow.
Oh. I couldnt help but smile at his creative analogy.
I was thinking we could maybe grab a quiet dinner? I
havent had a chance to show you all the nice places
around here. Theres this French bistro that youd like.

Sure, Id love to, I said a little too enthusiastically.


Crap. Now hed think I was desperate to spend time with
him. I mean, Im really hungry, soyeah, I added.
I turned my head away and pretended to be locking my
computer before he realized I was staring at his perfect
face, slack-jawed with admiration. As much as my
hormones told me otherwise, he wasnt the one for me.
That was just my DNA talking, trying to line up a decent
sperm donor for any future children. I was way too young to
be letting biology dictate who I was attracted to. Not to
mention the fact that hed soon be my stepbrother.
Well, Ill meet you downstairs at seven. See ya later.
With that he was gone, and I stared wistfully at the spot
hed been standing. Snap out of it, I told myself yet again.
We were supposed to just be friends, and yet I couldnt get
him out of my head.
The French bistro was as nice as hed promised, and
we chatted over coq au vin, crme brulee and coffee, faces

lit by glimmering candlelight. I couldnt help but think this


night was more in the vein of a romantic evening,
considering the location and ambience. But it couldnt be.
We were just here in a platonic way.
Sotheres something I wanted to ask you, Nate said
as our evening drew to an end, putting his glass down.
Oh? I replied. The hairs on my arms suddenly stood up
in anticipation.
Yeah. You dont have to answer this if you dont want to,
but I was wondering. At Erics party all that time agowhy
did you hook up with me?
My cheeks flushed, and I avoided his eyes. It had only
been a matter of time before he asked me something like
this, as much as we were trying to remain friendly.
UmI dont know, I mumbled.
His eyebrows dipped in a frown. You dont know?
I finally jerked my head back up and looked at him. I do
know. Im just not sure youd understand. It was like my

whole life Ive lived by all these rules. Ive always been the
good girl. And for just one night I wanted to be bad like
everyone else. And you were the school bad boy. I figured I
could be bad with you.
He arched an eyebrow.
And was it bad?
I shook my head in silence. Of course it hadnt been
bad, because it felt so good. And if something feels that
incredible, it cant be badright?
We sat in silence for a long time.
Im sorry, he finally said. I shouldnt have taken
advantage of you.
What? You didnt take advantage of
He cut me off. I feel like I did. You were feeling
vulnerable and wanted to change the very essence of who
you were for a night just to fit in, and I was there. I took
advantage of it.

No. Its all on me. I wanted to do it. I was the one who
suggested it, for gods sake.
Yeah, but I let it happen, even though I knew you were a
good girl who didnt sleep around at parties. I shouldve
said no.
Well, its a bit late now. And like I saidyou couldnt
have known what was going on in my head. I practically

asked you to.to fuck me.


My voice was scarcely above a whisper as I said that
last part.
And then I kissed you, he said, eyes never leaving
mine for a second.
And I took off my clothes, I replied slowly.
It was clear now. Wed both wanted what had
happened. No one had taken advantage of anyone. I still
wanted him, and judging by the blazing look in his
unwavering eyes, he still wanted me just as bad.
Do you want some more coffee? he asked.

No.
More dessert?
No, I said, shaking my head slowly.
Moreanything?
Nope.
In that moment, we both knew exactly what I wanted.
What he wanted. It was no use pretending to care about the
fact that our parents were about to get married. We wanted
each other. No, needed each other. Our chemistry was
undeniable. It didnt matter that we seemed to come from
different worlds and had opposing personalities. All that
mattered was how we felt in this moment.
Ill get the check, then, he said.
We barely made it out to the car before his mouth came
down on mine, crushing my lips against his. His strong
arms wrapped around me, and lightning bolts seemed to
blast through me as he broke away only seconds later.

Whywhyd you stop? I asked breathlessly.


He grinned and opened the passenger door for me.
Get in, he demanded. I want to take you somewhere.
Ten minutes later we were cruising up the windy
mountain road that led out of the city.
Where are we going? I asked, squirming at the heat
between my legs. It was almost unbearable.
It was dark now, despite the late summer sunsets, and I
could barely make out the signs on the road as we
ascended the steep drive.
One of my favorite spots, he said. Just wait. Youll
see.
He took a sharp turn into a small parking lot a moment
later, and I drew in a sharp breath at the sight before us. It
was beautiful. The whole city was just specks of light, and it
looked almost magical. From this far away, it was easy to
pretend that nothing down there was keeping us apart. It
was just a city.

I really feel like a teenager now, I said, glancing over at


him. Hanging out with a guy at a lookout.
Maybe we should act our age then, he replied, arching
an eyebrow.
My heart practically shot out of my chest. Hell yes, I
wanted to sleep with him again, but herein the backseat
of a car? We were quickly heading into dangerous territory.
Part of me wondered how many other girls hed brought up
to this very spot.
Really? Here?
Why not? he said, leaning across the gearstick and
brushing his lips across mine.
I giggled at the idea as my thighs quivered, and Nate
nodded towards the backseat. Come on. Itll be fun he
murmured, his lips grazing my neck now. Oh god. I couldnt
resist him even if I tried, and I wondered if any girl in the
world ever had been able to resist him. Probably not.

We moved into the backseat, and our clothes


disappeared in a fevered sweep of hands. I was already
wet at the thought of how bad we were being, and I
straddled him as he sat back, stroking my slick pussy over
his cock in slow glides.
He grabbed my breasts and fondled them, tweaking my
nipples with his thumb and forefinger. Bolts of electricity
shot through my system at his touch, and I moaned.
Ohgod
I heard the rip of a foil packet as he opened a condom
and slid it down over himself. I curved my body into his
hands, moving myself closer still to where we both wanted
me the most, and a heavy need ached in my chest, burning
through my veins as I lifted my hips and grabbed his rock
hard cock with one hand.
I placed him at my entrance, and he pulsed in my hand,
hot and already slick with my arousal. Looking straight into
his eyes, I pressed down, and I let out a gasp as he

groaned. With every inch of him that slid into me, my body
burned even hotter, and I dug my nails into his shoulders as
I clung to him, using his strong body for leverage.
He matched my gaze, and a whole world of
communication echoed between us without a single word.
His hands slid down from my breasts to the curve of my
hips, and he held me as I bounced up and down on his
cock, crying out from the delicious fullness. The feeling of
being stretched overwhelmed all my senses, and Nates
eyes burned with passion as he choked out a few words a
moment later.
I cant do this slow anymore, he groaned. You feel so
fucking good.
Suddenly I was on my back, stretched out along the
backseat, and Nate slammed deep into me from above. I
gasped as he pumped his cock further and further, and I
swore he was hitting areas inside me that I hadnt even
known I had the first time wed hooked up at Erics party, as
amazing as that had been.

He groaned and then pressed his lips down to the side


of my neck, kissing and lapping at my delicate skin before
pulling back. The hard thrust that followed left me
whimpering breathlessly, and I gripped his bulky arms,
digging my nails in again. He nipped at my collarbone,
grazing his hot mouth over my cool skin.
Mmyes, I groaned. More!
He drove back in and propelled back, deeper and
deeper, harder and harder. Faster and faster. With each
movement, his groin rubbed against my swollen clit, and
harsh, short breaths burst from my lips.
Nate lowered his head to kiss me again, his tongue
brushing over my lips before sliding into my mouth and
entwining with mine. My core ached with a need for
release, and I moved my hips up and down as much as I
could in the cramped backseat, in tandem with each plunge
of his thick cock inside me.
I needed to come so badly. Nate seemed to read my

mind, and his pounding movements turned harsher and


faster. I was lost in a hazy world of heated lust, and
suddenly it was exploding out of me, making a white hot
light seemingly flash across my eyes as my climax hit.
His hands skimmed to the side of my head, holding me
and kissing me as I screamed, and my muscles tightened
around his cock, making him pull away and growl.
Oh, fuck, he groaned. A loud moan rushed up my
throat in response as the waves of pleasure flooded
through me, and the whole world seemed to slow to a crawl
around me as I rode out my orgasm.
His thrusts began to slow, and every muscle in his body
tensed above mine. My eyes met his, and then he threw his
head back and groaned as his cock pulsed deep inside
me. Then he collapsed onto me, and we stayed that way for
what seemed like hours, trying to catch our breath.
A light from somewhere behind the car finally snapped
us out of our orgasmic bliss.

I think someones coming up here, he said, reaching


for his clothes. I couldnt help but laugh as we hurriedly
dressed and climbed back into the front. Wed been acting
our age just as hed suggested, and damn it had felt good.
We were hormonal teenagers after all.
It had been just the release I needed. I still felt the guilt of
hooking up with my soon-to-be stepbrother hanging over
my head, but it was dulled by the warm tingling between my
legs.
We headed home and ran right into my Mom and
Richard, whod just arrived home from a dinner party.
Where have you kids been? Richard asked, gazing
suspiciously at my mussed-up hair. My cheeks turned pink.
We went out to dinner, Nate said, rolling his eyes at
his father and quickly falling back into his old self. Thought
Id show Lauren around the area a bit more. Anyway, night,
guys.
He headed upstairs without so much as a glance in my

direction, and Mom and Richard looked at me, their


expressions satisfied. You two are really getting to be just
like brother and sister, Mom said. Hanging out together,
going to dinner. Its great.
Erryeah, I agreed, hoping she wouldnt notice how
red-hot my face was. How could I possibly tell her that Id
just screwed the brains out of her fiancs son in the
backseat of his car? I couldnt, thats how.
Anyway, I added hastily. Im really tired too. Food
coma. Im going to bed.
I took a long, relaxing shower, only to find Nate in my
bed as I emerged from the bathroom. Oh god. He was only
wearing boxer shorts, and he grinned at me as he reclined
on the blankets.
All it would take was my Mom coming up to my room to
say goodnight and we were both screwed.
And speaking of screwednothing was more
appealing to me right now than jumping into bed with Nate

and forgetting all about the risk. But that was a bad idea
right? My inner voice fought a war with my rabidly-horny
side, and it was fast losing. Down, hormones! I told myself.
Nate I said in a stage whisper, taking a hesitant
step towards him. Our parents are right downstairs.
He cocked his head to the side. Oh, please. This place
is massive. They wont hear anything. Besides, they hardly
ever come up here anyway.
I sat on the edge of the bed, facing him. I know this is
obviously something we both want to keep doing, butdo
you really think its a good idea?
He reached over and pulled me down, and I collapsed
next to him, basking in the heat radiating from his hard,
sexy body. Probably not, but I thought you liked being a
bad girl these days, he murmured, nibbling on my ear.
And then the magic started all over again

CHAPTER ELEVEN
NATE
Well, it was official. Lauren and I had finally dropped all
pretenses of being friends and were now spending
practically every spare moment we got alone screwing our
brains out like horny rabbits.
Fuck the consequences. We hadnt been caught by
anyone yet, and if we ever did get caught, wellwed cross
that bridge when we came to it.
Id honestly thought we could be platonic friends after
the shitty night shed had with Eric, but when wed both
realized we still wanted each other, all bets were off. She
was concerned our parents would find out, and I was too
but not enough to keep my hands off her luscious body.
Today she had to go to some dress fitting for the

wedding, and my Dad had arranged a limo to come and


pick her up probably because he didnt want his future
stepdaughter to be seen in public driving that beat up old
Chevy around anymore.
I ran into her at the end of the hallway, and I grabbed her
around the waist, laughing as she tried to squirm out of my
grip.
Stop it! she said. I just saw Mary go around the
corner. She could come back any minute!
Mary?
The maid. The younger one.
Oh, that Mary. The new redheaded maid who had spent
the better part of the last couple of weeks staring at me like
I was a succulent lobster dinner.
Forget about her, I said, pushing her up against the
wall and grabbing her wrists, securing her in place. She
struggled against me, but the half-smile turning the corners
of her lips up told me she didnt really mean it. I trailed my

hand down her cleavage, the fabric of her top barely


covering it. She sighed and relaxed, biting her lower lip.
Dragging her hand down, I placed it on my crotch, and
she gasped as she felt the hardness through my pants.
Nate! We only justare you some sort of robot?
She was referring to an incident not even twenty
minutes ago, when Id slipped into the shower behind her.
Id pressed her up against the marble tiles and fucked her
hard and fast, her moans and whimpers drowned out by the
flowing water. My cock ached at the mere memory; the
absence of her tight walls around me making my legs feel
numb.
I could get it up for you any time, I murmured in her ear.
Time doesnt make a difference.
Well, it does now, she said, finally squirming out of my
grip. The limo will be here any second to take me to my
Moms fitting. Shes expecting me there in half an hour.
I held my hands up in mock defeat. Fine, fine. Ill catch

up with you later.


She scurried down the hall, casting one last
apprehensive look at me before disappearing down the
stairs, and I grinned. She was right to be suspicious. I never
gave up that quickly, and she definitely wasnt getting away
that easily.
Peering out the terrace window a moment later, I waved
as I watched her slip into the black limo, and then I whipped
my phone out. She picked up on the first ring.
What now? she asked.
I chuckled. Youre being a bit rude and feisty today.
Youre alone in the car, right?
No, theres the driver up front.
Theres a little console on the side, near the door. A
little button. Thatll make the privacy divider go up.
And why would I do that? she asked haughtily,
although I heard a little interest creeping into her voice.

Because like I said, youre being a little rude. Rude


girls need to be taught lessons, I said, smug smile
spreading over my face even though I knew she couldnt
see it.
She paused for a moment.
II need to go to the fitting, she finally replied. I could
practically hear her squirming already.
Oh, I know, and Ill make sure were done by the time
you get to the dress place. Now do as I say. Slide the
divider up. Take your panties off. Close your eyes.
Why? she asked. I could hear the strain in her voice,
and I knew she was already getting wet.
Because I cant stop thinking about you. I want to touch
you againstroke your hairkiss those perfect tits of
yours.
My voice was like a soft caress, wheedling her into
going against all her good girl tendencies to bend my way.
Even though I couldnt be with her in the limo, I wanted to be

the voice in her head; give her the fantasy of my hands all
over her smooth curves. I could make that happen, and I
was sure as shit gonna do it.
I hate you so much for doing this, she hissed, but I
heard the divider go up.
Awyou hate me? Just when I thought wed become
friends, I replied, my tone mocking her with each word.
Dont worry, babeyou wont hate me in a few minutes.
Promise.
I will if Im late and my Mom figures out why.
Are your panties off yet?
I heard a slight scuffling sound in the background before
her breathy voice returned. Uh-huh.
Are your eyes closed?
Uh-huh.
Good. Are you touching yourself?
Umno.

I chuckled softly. Liar. I bet you couldnt resist, and I


dont blame you. You know what I love about your pussy,
Lauren? Its so warm and slickso damn tight, the way it
grips my cock. Its perfect. Spread your legs and rub your
clit for me. Then take your hand down a little further. Tell me
how wet you are.
She let out a little whimper of satisfaction at my words,
and the sound delighted me. My cock stirred in my pants,
and I went back inside and into my room. A little privacy
never hurt.
Well? I said, still waiting on a response.
IIm wet. Really wet, she said breathlessly. God,
Nate if anyone sees me.
No ones gonna see you, babe. Except me, in my
head.
I thought about what Id do if she were right here with
me. My hands would slide under her ass, Id tear her
clothes off, and then Id take her to my room and plunge my

cock into her willing pussy, just like I had so many times
now. It wasnt something I could imagine getting sick of
anytime soon. Or ever.
Now, I said. Your eyes are closed. Pretend its me in
there with you. Pretend its my hand between your legs.
Slide one finger just inside your pussy, right at the
entrance.
She didnt reply, but she was breathing heavily. Good
sign.
Now slip it in a little further, in and out, in and out. Its
me there, remember? I want you to come on my hands, just
like you have so many other times.
Ohh she moaned. I dont want to comenot yet.
Press your palm against your clit, I ordered. Grind
yourself against it. Now.
She whimpered, and I continued to murmur in her ear.
God, youre beautiful. Keep moving your hand against your
clit. Gentle, babereal gentle. Do you want me, Lauren?

Uhyesgod, yes, she replied.


I could hear the surrender in her voice, giving herself
entirely to me as I growled commands down the phone.
Touch your breasts now. Use your other hand. Are your
nipples hard?
Yes.
Stroke them. Just a tease. Is it making you wetter?
She mumbled a response in the affirmative. I could hear
her squirming around on the leather seat of the limo, and I
unzipped my jeans before reaching in and grabbing my
cock, stroking up and down the shaft with a firm grip,
spurred on by her soft moans and whimpers.
Fuck, Im so hard, Lauren. I want to touch you so bad.
You are touching me, remember? she replied
breathily.
Yes. Yes I am. I want to be inside you. Slide two fingers
in now.

I could almost feel her muscles contracting, drawing the


fingers in further, all hot and slippery around them. Christ,
she was so sexy. My hand pumped up and down my cock
faster now, and I heard her arch against the back of the
seat.
Should we stop? I asked, teasing her. You were rude
to me. Maybe I should leave you hanging
No!
Her high-pitched moan brought me close to the edge
myself, and I slowed down my stroking hand. MmmIm
not sure. Beg for it.
Please, Nate, she said. Make me come. Please.
The urgency in her voice spurred me on further, and I
tightened my grip around my cock as warm pleasure built in
the base of it.
Im right there with you, Lauren. Im kneeling right in
between your legs. Can you feel me? My tongue is all over
your clit, tasting you, touching you.

Mmmyes.
You taste so good. But I need more now. I need you to
come for me. Now, Lauren.
She did.
I heard her arch and moan again, louder this time,
before slumping back on the seat, panting heavily as she
tried to regain her breath. Her gasps dissolved into long
whimpers of bliss, and the sound alone was enough to
send me over the edge too, my climax rushing up my cock
in a warm torrent.
Oh, fuck, Lauren, I groaned, closing my eyes and lying
back on the bed. A sheen of sweat coated my face, and I
wondered what Lauren looked like right now. Probably the
same as me. Sweaty. Messy. Hot. Completely and utterly
spent.
A noise from somewhere in the room startled me, and I
sat bolt upright only to come face to face with Mary the
maid.

Gotta go, I muttered into the phone before ending the


call. Talk about bad timing. Lauren was probably sitting
there fuming as she realized Id hung up without letting her
say goodbye. Id pay for that laterhopefully in a good way.
Angry sex was always the best sex.
Im so sorry, Nate, Mary said, her hand half covering
her mouth. I came in to change your sheets, and uhI
didnt realize you were in here.
Shit. In my haste to jerk off over the phone, I hadnt
locked my door. Pulling my jeans back on, I gave her a tight
smile. Its fine. I shouldve locked up.
Do youdo you still want me to change your sheets?
she asked, still looking like a deer caught in the headlights.
Nah, dont worry about it.
She hurried away with a quick glance over her shoulder,
her lips slightly parted. Weird. It almost looked like she was
a little turned on by what shed seen. I yawned and leaned
back, and she returned a moment later, knocking softly on

the door.
Uhyou need something? I asked. Seriously, you
can do my sheets later. Its cool.
Actually, she said, taking a slow step towards me. I
was wondering if maybe there was something you need
from me.
It was then that I noticed shed undone the first few
buttons on her work blouse. She winked. A sensuous move
meant to entice. Bold pink lips tipped up at the corners as
she smiled, and she leaned forward, her cleavage on full
display in her black blouse.
Errno thanks, Mary. Im not interested.
She pouted for a second and straightened up before
leaving with a mumbled apology, and I locked the door
behind her this time. Jesus. Some women had no shame
whatsoever.
I thought about calling Lauren back and explaining why
Id suddenly hung up, but there was no point. She would

have arrived at the dress fitting by now, and Mary walking in


here like that hadnt meant anything. I was used to younger
staff members hitting on meand sometimes older ones.
Nothing had happened, so she didnt need to know.

CHAPTER TWELVE
LAUREN
The dress fitting was boring as hell compared to the
limo ride on the way there. Frickin Nate and his sexfiendishness. He just had to tease me and drive me crazy
and it had been incredible.
Aside from the part where hed hung up in my ear just
as I was coming.
Id just managed to slide my panties back on and pat
my hair down before the driver stopped and opened the
door for me, and my Mom had noticed my flushed cheeks

as she greeted me at the entrance to the upscale boutique


we were being fitted for dresses at.
Sweetie, you look like you ran all the way here, she
said, ruffling my hair.
It was kinda warm in the limo, I said. Lame
explanation, but it was the first excuse that popped into my
head. Is your dress all done?
She smiled widely. Yes. But you cant see it until the
day of the wedding.
I thought it was only the groom who wasnt allowed to
see it.
Usually, yes, but I want everyone to be thrilled when
they see me on the day.
Mom, Id be thrilled if you wore a paper bag, I said as
two assistants ran measuring tapes up and down my sides.
One of them wrapped the tape around my waist before
noting down my measurements on a tablet computer, and I
cringed as I imagined what they must be. Nates speech to

me on all my self-deprecation suddenly popped into my


head, and I pushed the negative thoughts aside. Who cared
what my waist measurement was? It was just a number. If
he thought I looked great, then I felt great.
Ms. Torres, you wanted your daughters dress to be a
quartz color, didnt you? the other assistant said. Her
nametag said Amy.
Mom nodded.
Quartz? I interjected. Isnt that some sort of rock?
Amy smiled. Ill show you.
She returned a moment later with a selection of gowns,
all in a dusky purplish-pink color. Lets try this one first,
she said, hanging all the gowns up on a rack except one.
The dress was too long, too tight around the chest and
too loose around the waist, and Amy hummed as she stuck
pins all over me, eyebrows furrowed as she worked away.
I feel like a human pincushion, I said. Mom laughed.

Okay, now this one, Amy said, holding up another


dress.
The next one fit a little better, but she still needed to
stick twenty or so pins in it and note down any adjustments
thatd have to be made if we chose this dress. After three
hours of trying on different gowns, I yawned. Standing still
while someone poked pins in me wasnt exactly my idea of
great fun.
The only thing that got me through the fitting without
being bored out of my skull was my Moms joyous
expression as she watched and thoughts of Nate. I still
couldnt believe what hed done while I was in the limo. Id
heard of people having phone sex on TV shows, but I didnt
think it was actually something people did. Why not,
though? It certainly worked for me, although I had to admit
the real deal was a million times better.
I hated being a clich, but in the last week or so Id
come to wonder what exactly Nate and I were doing. Were
we dating? Just sleeping together? Was he seeing other

girls as well? I wanted to ask, but I knew how pathetic and


needy itd make me sound. I didnt want to be that girl. No
one wanted to be that girl.
Besides, where could this realistically go? Our parents
would be married in a month, and we couldnt sneak around
forever. It was thus far unspoken, but we both knew that itd
have to end sometime.
Neither of us wanted to be the one who said it, though.
That much was clear.
Mom and I finally left the boutique in the late afternoon.
My dress had been picked and sent off for alterations, and
now all we had to do was find shoes. Neither of us could be
bothered doing any more shopping today, though, so we
planned to have a girly day later on in the week. Failing that,
Richard had apparently offered for one of his personal
stylists to come and visit us at the summer house if we
hadnt found anything soon.
We were met outside by Nate, reclining against another

limo. He stood up straight when he saw us and waved.


Hey, Anne. Hey, Lauren. Dad mentioned you guys were
down here, so I figured Id come pick you up. Hop in.
My Mom smiled and patted his arm. So thoughtful of
you. I was just about to call for a cab.
Youre marrying a billionaire. Gotta get used to riding in
style, he said, flashing a smirk at me. Besides, Lauren
enjoyed the limo ride over here so much I figured she
wouldnt mind another one.
I glared daggers at him, and he elaborated for my Mom.
Untruthfully, thank god.
She was texting me while she was on her way here
earlier, he said.
Ah, I see. Well, lets go home.
Anne, I was actually thinking that Lauren and I could go
grab some early dinner. I wanted to talk to her about our
college apartment situation. Figure out who gets which
room and so on. So well drop you off at the summer house

and then head back out in my car.


Oh, that sounds great. I suppose college isnt even that
far away; its good that youre both getting excited, she
replied, and I rolled my eyes. We didnt even know what the
Boston apartment looked like yet, let alone need to argue
over who got which room. Nate threw me a beatific smile,
and I couldnt help mirroring the grin as we climbed into the
car. Cheeky bastard.
An hour later we were at the French bistro again. The
restaurant had quickly become our place for meals, and I
ordered the beef bourguignon before narrowing my eyes at
Nate across the table.
Youre in so much trouble, Mister.
Oh? For what?
He widened his eyes, playing innocent.
You know what. I honestly thought you were about to tell
my Mom what I did in the car earlier!

He shook his head and chuckled. Oh, come on. You


know I wouldnt do that. I was just screwing with you.
I can think of better ways for you to screw with me.
His eyebrows practically shot to the ceiling. And you
call me the insatiable one?
I giggled and spooned more of the rich beef stew into
my mouth before wiping my lips with a napkin. Hey, I
wanted to ask you. Are you really one-hundred percent sure
youre okay with me taking the whole internship thing next
year? I know you already said its fine, but I just want to
make sure.
Yeah, he replied. Its fine. Honestly, Ive never really
been interested in anything my Dad does.
Well, what are you interested in?
He shrugged. I dunno. I guess I always thought itd be
cool to make documentaries. Ive had this idea in my head
for one for a while now.
Oh?

Kinda like an expos on the lives of the super-wealthy


compared to the middle and lower classes. You know, the
whole one percent versus the ninety-nine.
So a documentary about yourself, then?
He chuckled. Nah, not just me. About all of the people
in the top income brackets. How they live, how they keep
getting richer while everyone else gets poorer. I never really
thought about it much until recently.
What made you think of it?
He looked uncomfortable for a second. Errhonestly?
You and your Mom. You guys just seemed so amazed at
everything I was used to, and it occurred to me that Id
never known what it was like to not be like this. But so many
people are. It doesnt seem fair.
He hesitated for a second before continuing. It really is
bullshit. Like at this old boarding school I went to. This kid
was pissing my friend off. And hes from some shit town in
Ohio and hes there on a scholarship. So my friend was

like, fuck you, Im from the Jordane family, I can buy your
whole family, so piss off. At the time I thought it was
hilarious, but now I just think its sad that kids can actually
say stuff like that and not realize how problematic it is.
Pretty deep thoughts for an eighteen year old playboy,
I said, my eyes crinkling up around the sides. But Im
flattered my Mom and I helped you think of something.
He shrugged. I dont know if I could really do it.
Well, what degree are you enrolled in?
Business.
College doesnt start for like, two months. Im pretty
sure you can change your preferences.
Its not that Im worried about. Its my Dad. Can you
imagine his reaction if I told him I wanted to study some sort
of artistic bullshit like filmmaking?
Dont call it bullshit. Its not. Its something you want to
do. I think hed be happy to know that theres something you

actually want to learn, I said.


He shrugged again. Yeah, I dunno.
Heres a thought. When we get home, Ill help you talk
to him about it if hes there. He thinks Im all smart and
responsible, so if he sees that you have me on your side,
hell be less likely to shoot you down.
True. He grinned at me. What would I do without you,
huh?
I bit my lip, trying to keep my wild side at bay. God, how
did Nate have this effect on me? One smile and I was
seriously considering dragging him off to the restaurant
bathroom so he could screw me up against the wall. I was
basically the female version of him now; totally preoccupied
with sex.
Come on, I said. Lets go home and talk to him now.
If were lucky, Dad wont even be there and we can
His words were left hanging as the waiter brought us the
check, and I hid my smile behind my hand as he paid it. We

headed back to the summer house, and I could barely keep


my eyes or my hands off Nate as he steered the car along
the meandering roads.
Hey, he protested. Why are you always sleazing onto
me? Dirty girl.
Shut up, I murmured, nuzzling his neck.
We were nearing the driveway now, so I did need to
stop. I sat up straight when I saw Yves standing at the main
entrance to the house, his face impassive.
Whats up, Yves? Nate said, swinging his hand up for
a high five as we approached him.
Yves didnt reciprocate the gesture. Nate, your father is
inside. You need to talk to him.
Yeah, we were actually hoping hed be here, Nate
replied. Lauren and I wanted to talk to him about college.
This isnt about college, Yves replied. Whatever
happens in there, just know that I support you.

Nates eyebrows furrowed. Huh? Whats going on?


Yves shook his head. I cant say anymore. Please, just
go inside.
I threw Nate a confused glance, and his expression
mirrored mine. We headed inside and followed the sound
of voices to the main downstairs sitting room, and
everything went silent as we walked in. My Mom and
Richard were standing behind one of the chaise sofas, and
on the sofa sat Mary the maid.
Good. You two are back. Theres something very
serious I need to discuss with the both of you, Richard
said.
A million thoughts whirled around my head, but as I took
in their stony expressions, I could only think of one real
explanation for what was happening. Mary must have seen
or heard Nate and me hooking up, and she must have
reported it to our parents.
Oh shit.

Chapter THIRTEEN
NATE
Fuck.
I had no idea what exactly was going on, but if my Dad
wanted to talk to both me and Lauren about it, then I had a
pretty good feeling I knew what it was. Mary must have
accidentally walked into my room a lot earlier than I thought
she had, and she must have overheard my whole phone
sex conversation. Id said Laurens name a few times, so
shed probably correctly assessed that we were screwing
like bunnies and decided to tell my father.
That bitch. She was probably mad that Id rejected her
advances, and now she wanted to get me in as much
trouble as she could.
My fathers expression softened as he saw Laurens
face. Dont worry, Lauren, you havent done anything

wrong. I just thought that seeing as you will soon be an


official part of this family, you should know what youre
getting involved with. Please, sit down.
She slowly lowered herself to a chair, and I went to
follow.
Nate, you can stay standing.
Errokay, then. Mind telling me what the hell is going
on? I replied.
Cold seeped into his sapphire eyes. His lips pressed
into a thin line. I think you know exactly what this is about.
Nope.
Well, let me refresh your memory. You sexually
assaulted one of our maids. Is it coming back now?
Mary sniffed and lowered her gaze to the carpeted floor,
and my eyes widened with incredulity. Are you fucking
serious? I didnt do shit!
Lauren spoke up, her eyes just as wide. Richard, Nate

was with me all night. We just got back from dinner. He


hasnt done anything.
This incident occurred earlier this afternoon, my father
replied.
She shook her head. No. Nate wouldnt do that.
My heart soared a little at her support of me. So many
other people would have just automatically believed I was
guilty of whatever I was accused of. Nate Sloane.

Scumbag. Over-privileged little bastard who thinks he can


get away with anything. But not her. Not Lauren.
My father shook his head. Lauren, I know that you and
Nate have been spending a lot of time together, and I know
that you have grown close. I was actually very happy to see
it happening, seeing as well all be family soon. But you
dont know my son the way I do. You havent dealt with
years of smoking, cursing, drinkingphone calls from the
police when hes been kicked out of bars for starting fights.
Not to mention everything he got up to in school. Kicked out

of five boarding schools before he went to Oakover.


He paused for a second and glanced at me, his eyes
filled with malice. But thisI didnt think even you would do
this, Nate.
I didnt do anything! I replied, hands balling into fists by
my side.
He didnt, Lauren said, her expression adamant. I
know Nate and I havent been close for very long, but I know
he didnt do this!
It turned into a staring match between her and my father.
She held his gaze for a full minute. The intensity of his stare,
pure dominance, proved too much for her to handle, and
her gaze dropped into her lap.
He didnt do anything, she mumbled again.
See? I said. At least someone believes me. So what
is it that I apparently did, huh? Go on, gimme all the details.
My father put his hand on Marys shoulder. Mary, would
you like to speak? Youre safe now. You can say whatever

you like.
She shook her head and wiped her crocodile tears
away, and he nodded curtly. Thats all right. Ill repeat what
you told me earlier for you. Lauren, while you were heading
to your dress fitting earlier on, Mary walked in on Nate on
the phone. She said he was partly undressed and in a
errstate of arousal. He was clearly engaging in some sort
of phone sex or whatever you call it, but he hung up when
she walked in. He approached her and told her that part of
her job is to satisfy him, and when she resisted he became
aggressive and pinned her against the wall. He threatened
her by telling her he would make sure she lost her job if she
didntfinish him off, so to speak. He forced her to perform
certain sexual acts on him.
Fucking bullshit! I said.
Laurens face paled, and she visibly crumpled. Up until
now, shed been on my side, but the mention of the phone
sex while she was on her way to the boutique had clearly

thrown a spanner in the works. How else would Mary have


known about it unless she was there? Fuck, this was all
getting so convoluted.
I should have just told Lauren what had happenedhow
Mary had accidentally walked in, how shed hit on me, how
Id rejected her because there was no one else in the world
who I wanted more than Lauren. But Id kept it from her, and
now it was coming back to bite me in the ass.
Nate, my father continued. I have put up with your
antics for years, and youve been treading on very thin ice
for the last few weeks. But this is the final straw. I knew Id
raised a brat, but I had no idea Id been raising a predator.
I didnt do it! I said, my face almost purple with anger.
Shes lying!
The bitch really had me over a barrel. I could tell the truth
about what had really happened, but that would involve
telling the whole truth. It would mean revealing who Id been
on the phone to before I hung up, and then Lauren would be

in just as much trouble. Even then, who would believe my


side of the story? Lauren would be able to back me up in
saying we were on the phone together, but she had no way
of knowing what happened after I hung up on her. Fuck, why
hadnt I just told her? Hindsight was twenty-twenty, as they
say.
My fathers gaze remained steely. Normally I might
think that this sort of claim was some sort of attempt at
extorting money out of me, but when Mary first told me, all
she said was that she was going to the police to make a
statement. She was merely letting me know as a courtesy
so Id know what to expect. However, I have spoken with
her at length about it, and we have come to an agreement.
I rolled my eyes to the ceiling. Wow. The bitch was
playing my Dad hard, and he couldnt even see it. Let me
guess, this agreement involves cold hard cash?
Thats none of your business, he replied. But lets just
say I am not doing this for you. I am doing this for me, and
for Anne and Lauren. The last thing we need is a media

storm over my sexual maniac son when we are just about to


become a family. Mary has agreed to stay away from the
media. And you...your trust fund has been frozen, and you
will no longer have access to any of my homes or cars,
other than your car.
Youre cutting me off? I said, my cheeks flaming with
rage. I didnt even do this! Youre just going to believe
some lying bitch over your own son?
No son of mine would do this, he replied, each word
careful and measured.
I looked at Lauren, and she avoided my gaze. Her face
was stricken, and she finally leapt to her feet and raced
upstairs. Her Mom jumped a little at the far-off sound of
Laurens bedroom door slamming, and I avoided making
eye contact with her. She must have thought I was a
monster, and I wondered if she was having second
thoughts about marrying the father of an alleged sexual
predator.

Take your car, he continued. And get out. I dont care


what you do. I dont care where you go. Just leave. I dont
want to see you darkening my door ever again.
I slowly rose to my feet, my eyes never leaving his once.
Youre going to regret this, I said.
Is that a threat, Nate? he replied, his eyes boring into
me.
No. Its just a fact. Youre eventually gonna find out that
shes lying, and youll regret what youve donedisowning
your own son. Youll regret it.
With that, I turned and strode out of the house. Yves was
no longer there, and my stomach twisted. He was the one
person who might have helped me, and from what hed
said earlier, he was probably the one and only person who
believed that I hadnt done anything wrong.
Sure, Id slept with a lot of girls in my time, but I had
never once coerced any of them. Theyd all been very
eager to jump on my dick, and it wasnt my style to beg. The

only woman Id even felt remotely hung up on enough to


actually make an effort for was Laurenand I assumed that
was out the window now. She believed Marys accusations,
and I couldnt blame her for that.
Nate!
A feminine voice called out to me, and I turned around
to see Anne hurrying behind me. She kept glancing over
her shoulder as if she were afraid of being seen talking to
me.
What? I said. Come to call me a filthy rapist and tell
me to stay away from your daughter?
No, she replied. IumI dont know how to put this,
but
Spit it out, Anne, I said, reaching into my pocket for a
cigarette. I lit the end and inhaled deeply, the nicotine
immediately hitting my bloodstream. Id been considering
quitting smoking, but any rush I could get right now was
worth it.

Your father cant know about this, she said. Hes very
set in his ways, and hes convinced that girl is telling the
truth. But meIm not so sure. Ive seen the way youve
been with Lauren for the last few weeks. Youre a good kid.
I can tell because I raised one. Youre more similar to her
than you know.
If only she knew what Lauren and I had really been up to.
Bet she wouldnt be calling either of us good kids then.
So you believe me?
She hesitated. I really want to, Nate. I tried talking to
your father about it but he shot me down. Hes convinced
you did this. ButI just cant watch him throw his own son
out like this. Here.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a key. My
old house still hasnt sold yet. It isnt much, and its certainly
not what youre used to, but you can stay there for now if
you need to.
I narrowed my eyes. Surely this was a trick. Some sort

of way for my father to keep tabs on me. Really?


She nodded. Yes. Believe me, your Dad doesnt know.
I already sent Yves around there with some of your clothes
and bathroom toiletries. I figured without access to money
you wouldnt be able to get a hotel room or anything.
I stared at her for a long moment. Jesus, how had my
father found her? At first Id been against them getting
married, but now, even as much as I hated him, I was happy
for him. Anne was a good woman. Theyd make a nice
family together. Him, her, and Lauren.
Thanks, I finally said. There wasnt much else I could
say.
She nodded and gave me a half smile before rushing
back inside, and I stubbed my cigarette out on the ground
before getting in my car and starting it up. This was it. This
was probably the last time Id be on these grounds; the last
time Id be in close proximity with this kind of wealth. I
wasnt my father. There was no way Id be able to build

myself up the way he had. I probably wouldnt even be able


to go to college now.

Fuck.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
LAUREN
Youre never ready for a traumatic event. No amount of
planning or thinking about it can stave off the shock and
sorrow when something bad happens. You just have to let it
wash over you, let it happen, let it get to youlet yourself
grieve. I hadnt been ready to hear what Nate had done,
and I was still numb even though two weeks had since
passed.
Part of me thought he couldnt possibly have done what
Mary said, but another part told me I had to be wrong. Why
would she make it up? How could someone fake such
genuine emotion? My Mom seemed to think that she might
be lying, but she didnt know what I knew. I knew that Nate
really had been jerking off while he was on the phone to me
while I was on my way to the fitting, so how else would Mary

have known he was on the phone half-naked at that exact


time unless she really had been there in the room at some
point? Her story had been way too specific to be made up.
Sure, she could have accidentally walked in on him and
lied about the rest, but if that had happened and there was
nothing more to it, why wouldnt Nate have told me about it?
If someone walked in on me in an embarrassing situation
like that, he would have been the first person I told about it
so we could share a laugh over the awkwardness.
To add to all of that, Nate did have a reputation. Manwhore. Sleaze. Asshole.
Jesus, how could I have been so stupid? So blinded
with feelings that Id missed the fact Id fallen for such a
broken boy? Thats what he was. Broken. And not a man
a boy. Hed grown up spoiled like a prince, and somewhere
along the way it must have spoiled his mind. Women were
nothing but numbers; a prize for the taking.
I was one of those numbers. I was just another girl hed

banged.
Hed tried to call me a few times, but Id ignored it and
blocked his number. He could still text me, but they went
unread before I deleted them. Id even blocked him on all
my social media accounts. Id fallen for his crap once, and I
wasnt going to do it again, no matter how I felt about him.
After hed rescued me from the situation with Eric, Id
honestly thought there was some good in him. Now I
couldnt help but think hed only done it to get what he
wanted - me in his bedagain. As if once at that party
hadnt been enough. Id rejected him after that and sullied
his reputation, and hed obviously wanted to prove that he
could still have me the same way he could have anyone
else.
God, why was I so frickin stupid?
So, you and Nate, Cassie said. Tell me what
happened.
We were sitting cross-legged by the pool, watching as

party planners set up marquees and tables. The wedding


wasnt for another couple of weeks, and Mom and Richard
had already had their engagement party, but now they were
hosting another party for all the people who hadnt been
invited to the close-knit barbecue the first time around. It
was also a joint celebration for the fact that Richard had just
closed some deal that would probably earn his company
another ten billion dollars a year on top of what they already
made. The numbers alone made my head spin. I knew the
money went to the company, not directly to him, but he was
still going to pocket a fair chunk of change from that deal.
This time, he was going all out and planning a party far
closer to what I assumed he was used to. Lets just say
minimalism wasnt exactly his style. The estate was being
transformed with white lights and candles everywhere, and
soon thered be hundreds of guests swarming around the
place, champagne fountains, staff waiting on every guests
whimthe whole nine yards. Apparently it was going to be
some sort of masquerade party, which actually seemed

quite tacky to me, but it was flashy all the same.


I told you, nothing happened. He assaulted a maid, and
now hes gone, I replied, looking away from Cassie so she
wouldnt see the truth in my eyes.
Bullshit. I know you guys sort of became friends after
what happened with Eric, but theres no way youd be this
mopey for this long if there wasnt something else. Now
dish.
I felt bad for lying to my best friend, but I didnt know how
to explain any of it to her. How could I tell her Id gone from
hating Nate to sleeping with him at every opportunity and
then back to hating him? It had all been so sudden; wed
gone from zero to a hundred in what felt like mere seconds,
and then my whole world had been turned upside down.
Images of him still flashed in my head every second of
the day. Nate behind me in the shower, thrusting hard. Nate
on top of me, pinning me to my bed. Nate bending me over
my desk. Nates head between my legs, his tongue swirling

around my clit.
I kicked the water in the pool and sighed. Maybe it was
time to come clean.
I haltingly filled Cassie in on everything that had
happened between us, punctuating each sentence with, I

know, Im a frickin idiot.


Im sorry I didnt tell you. Im a horrible friend, I finished.
Telling anyone would have just made it all so real.
She bit her lip and stared at me for a long time, and
then she slung an arm around my shoulder.
Oh god, Lauren. Its not your fault, she said. Youre
smart as hell academically, but you havent had much
experience with guys. Im not surprised you ended up falling
for his bullshit. I wish youd told me, though.
I should have known. I should have known I wasnt the
only girl he was trying to hook up with. Its Nate Sloane, for
gods sake. Of course he was trying to bang the maid at the
same time he was on the phone to me, saying all those

things.
She shook her head. No. He was spending so much
time with you. Any other girl would have thought you guys
were actually going somewhere. Exclusively.
She joined me in kicking the water and then sighed.
Then again, I guess you have a point. Its Nate. I cant
believe he actually did that to the maid, though. I know hes
a prick, but jeez.
I know.
Think about it this way, she said. Your Mom is about
to marry his Dad. You guys would be stepsiblings. It
couldnt have gone anywhere because of that anyway,
yknow? Thats why you didnt want anyone to know about
you two hooking up in the first place, right?
I nodded slowly. Yeah.
I mean, I know you arent actually related or grew up
together or whateverbut still. People wouldnt be too
pleased to find out. Its probably for the best that this

happened, as horrible as that sounds. You can move on


from him, forget he ever existed. Richards pretty much
kicked him out of the family, right?
Yeah.
Well, there you go. Pretty soon youll go to college and
meet a whole bunch of other actually decent guys, and Nate
will just be a shitty distant memory.
Mm.
She had a point, but I wasnt sure how long it would take
to forget Nate. Id really been convinced that we shared
something special. Hed opened up to me and told me
things he hadnt told anyone before, as far as I knew. He
didnt seem like the kind of guy who went around feeling
sorry for himself and telling all his friends about his mothers
death and how it had affected him, or how his fathers
chronic absence bothered him so much.
Then again, he also hadnt seemed like the kind of guy
who would force a maid to perform sexual favors in return

for job safety. So what did I know?


Come on, Cassie said, patting my shoulder. Lets go
get ready for this party.
***
Taking a deep breath, I stepped outside with Cassie,
surveying the party. Balding, portly men in tuxedos with their
trophy wives were everywhere, along with a sprinkling of
photographers and reporters, who were busily snapping
photographs and taking quotes from people for the society
section of the papers. Cassie went to feast on some
canaps, and I smoothed down my black dress and gazed
around at the sea of masked guests.
Lauren!
Richard gestured to me, my Mom on his arm. They were
standing with an elegantly-dressed couple who apparently
hadnt received the memo to wear masks. They both had
that look about them that suggested one too many
champagnes, and I grudgingly plastered on a smile and

headed towards them.


Id like to introduce you to my good friends Keith and
Bitsy French. They used to own the apartment I bought for
you in Boston, Richard said before glancing at the couple.
This is Lauren, who Ive told you so much about.
What the hell kind of name was Bitsy? Surely it was a
nickname.
Ooh, of course, Bitsy said, offering her hand to me the
same way a queen would offer her hand to a loyal subject.
We gave your new stepfather a great price for it, seeing as
were all old friends. Youll love it. Our eldest son stayed
there while he was at Harvard. Richard tells me youre
going to Boston tomorrow to take a look around?
Yes, I said, lifting my mask and shaking their hands
while offering them polite smiles. Im leaving tomorrow
morning. Im going to spend a few days there just getting a
feel for the place.
Wonderful, Keiths voice boomed. Heading to MIT, I

hear. Why, thats a fantastic college. I myself went to


Harvard with Richard, and our other son is headed to Yale
this fall. He was also accepted into
His monologue on all the different colleges his various
family members had either been to or been accepted into
was interrupted by Yves. He wasnt working tonight. Rather,
hed been invited to the party as a guest by Richard, seeing
as he had worked for him for so long.
Sorry to interrupt, he said. I was wondering if I might
borrow Lauren for a few minutes. Ive met a fascinating
young man whos headed to MIT just like her. I thought they
might like to have a chat.
Oh, that sounds lovely, Bitsy trilled. Have fun, dear.
My Mom smiled apologetically at me, and Yves whisked
me away on his arm. He led me over to a dark corner of the
garden where a tall young man stood in the shadows, his
face covered by an ornate black and silver mask. His suit
was cut to perfection, emphasizing his broad shoulders and

tapering to his narrow hips in a perfect mirror of the body


underneath. The very familiar-looking body underneath. Oh
no.
Lauren, Nate said, stepping towards me and lifting up
his mask. Dont be mad at Yves. I just need five minutes.
No, I hissed as Yves quickly left the scene. I dont
know how he managed to sneak you in here, but Im not
talking to you.
I turned on my heel and made to storm away, and he
called out to me. Lauren! Remember how you said you
hate all those movies where a simple misunderstanding
could be cleared up if they just spoke for five minutes?
I stopped but didnt turn around. What about it?
Give me that five minutes. Let me explain.
My shoulders sagged, and I turned to face him. Fine.
You can have your five minutes if you promise to leave me
alone after that.
Okay. If thats what you want.

He exhaled deeply and beckoned me back over to the


darkened corner near the hedges so no one would notice
his presence. I sighed and nodded for him to begin.
Look, Lauren, I know you dont believe me, but I didnt
do anything to Mary. Remember how I hung up on you all of
a sudden that day? It was because she walked in on me.
She saw what I was doing and ended up trying to hit on me.
I said I wasnt interested and that was that. Shes making
up all the rest.
I narrowed my eyes and folded my arms. Why would
she do that?
Why do you think? Money, of course. At least thats
what Im assuming. Shit like this happens all the time.
Then why didnt you tell me she walked in on you? You
had plenty of time to mention it.
I didnt think I needed to. Nothing happened. The way I
saw it, it was just an awkward moment and there was no
need to tell you about it. I also didnt want to make you feel

all insecure knowing that maids and other chicks are hitting
on me when you arent around. Its you I want, and they can
all fuck off. Its only you.
I shook my head. I know you, Nate. Theres no way Im
the only girl. I know we never spoke about it, but
My voice trailed off. It was too late for the whole
exclusivity talk. Too much had happened, and it didnt
matter anymore.
Its the truth. Since Erics party, its only been you, he
said.
He reached down with one hand and trailed a finger
down the front of my dress, and I looked at my feet, mind
whirling with possibilities as my skin tingled where he was
touching me. He seemed so genuine, so sinceremaybe
he was being honest. Yves certainly seemed to believe him.
So did my Mom. Id heard her arguing with Richard, trying
to convince him to give Nate a chance, but he wouldnt
budge. Id even begun to worry that theyd call the wedding

off from all the arguments.


Why cant you just tell your Dad all that? About Mary
lying, that is. If thats really the case, I finally ventured.
He ran his hands through his hair in exasperation. You
think I havent fucking tried talking to him again since he
kicked me out? He wont answer my calls. No one will. You
could always go to him and back me up, but then hed know
it was you I was on the phone to that day. Mary obviously
knows that. She mustve heard me say your name. If you
came forward to try and help me, wed both be fucked. I
cant do that to you.
So? Itd be better than having him think youre some
sort of sex offender.
No. They cant know about us, he replied. Trust me,
itll only make things worse. Besides, I hung up on you when
she came in. You have no way of knowing for sure what
happened in that room after that, and hell use that against
you. Its my word against hers no matter what.

I was silent for a long time.


Laurendo you believe me? he asked, eyes wide.
I dont know who to believe, I replied. Like you said,
its your word against hers. Only two people were in that
room, and Im not one of them.
Look, I know Ive done a lot of fucked up stuff in the
past. I dont blame you for not trusting me after all this. But
you have to. I swear I didnt do what Mary said I did.
I stared straight into his eyes for a full thirty seconds
before I spoke again. I knew what had to be said.
Nateeven if you are telling the truth, I cant be
involved with this anymore. Ill try to talk to your Dad and get
him to listen to your side of the story properly, but I cant do
this anymore.
What do you mean? he asked.
I mean that ever since you came into my life, its been
nothing but one drama after the other. None of the things
thatve happened recently would have happened if youd

just left me alone. The last few weeks of school wouldnt


have been hell for me, Eric wouldnt have gone after me
all of that.
His face darkened.
So its my fault all that happened? In case you dont
remember, youre the one who actively went after me at that
party. If you hadnt done that, no one at school would have
talked shit about you. And none of the shit with Eric would
have gone down. Im not saying its your fault he did all that;
its his fault. But you cant fucking blame all this shit on me.
I looked back down at my feet. Part of me knew he was
right. I was being childish. It wasnt Nates fault. I had to take
responsibility for my own actions, but at the same time,
another part of me knew I had to do it away from him. No
matter whose fault everything was, he invited chaos into my
life with every look he gave me, every kiss he planted on my
lips. I was starting college soon, and I didnt need all the
bullshit high school drama still seeping into my life.

Im sorry, I said, not daring to look at him. Ill talk to


your Dad and try to help with the Mary thing, but I cant see
you again.
With that I whirled around and rushed away, not even
turning my head once to see if he had followed. Mostly
because I wasnt entirely sure he would. He cared about
me; that much was clear. But in telling him to stay out of my
life, I was betraying him. I felt awful, but I needed to do it for
myself or else Id become one of those girls who let her life
revolve around a man.
I ran into Cassie by the fountain, and her eyebrows shot
skywards as she saw the look on my face.
Lauren! Why dont you have your mask on? What
happened? You look like youve seen a ghost, she asked,
grabbing my arm and falling into step with me.
Im going inside, I said, only pausing for a second as I
looked at her. As far as Im concerned, this party is over.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
NATE
Good job, buddy. You can go.
My boss Eddie patted me on the back, and I nodded at
him before removing my work shirt and slipping back into a
T-shirt. What a fall from grace. Nate Sloane, working at a
catering company and serving the very people I used to
mingle with. Who would have fuckin believed that in a
million years?
Since being cut off from all my funds, Id needed to get a
job. All Id had on me when my Dad kicked me out was a
hundred bucks in my wallet, and that wasnt enough to live
on. I was damned lucky Anne was letting me crash at her
old place or Id have been really screwed. Id made dozens
of calls to my friends parents who owned companies and

other connections I had, looking for work, but theyd all been
unable to help as theyd so delicately put it.
My father had blacklisted me. No one in the business
world would hire me, and besides, why would they? All I had
was a high school diploma and zero references. To add to
all of that, my so-called friends hadnt even offered to help
me out in any way.
Yves had made some calls and gotten me the catering
gig, and while it was a crappy job with even crappier pay, I
was still grateful to him. It was something, even if it wasnt
much. I was basically a glorified waiter or kitchen-hand - I
served trays of food at parties, cleared away dishes,
cleaned those dirty dishesyou get the drift. Id never really
known how hard it was to be on my feet working all the time
until now, and never before had I appreciated all the staff Id
always had at my disposal so much.
My coworkers were okay. Not the most ambitious
bunch, but at least they treated me with respect. Some of
them knew who I was, and they thought I was working the

job as some sort of joke at first, but it didnt take them long
to realize I was pretty serious about needing the work. I
kept my head down, did whatever tasks I was told to, and I
never complained. At least not out loud. I hated the situation
I was in, but it wasnt like I had much choice at the moment
unless I wanted to starve and live on the streets.
The idea of going to college and making socially-aware
documentary films was slowly fading before my eyes with
each plate I scrubbed clean. I didnt need to make a
documentary about class differences and how those
considered lower on the food chain were treated by others;
hell, I was living it. Like I said, my coworkers treated me
with respect, but holy shit, the clients could be such
assholes.
Some of them talked down to us, as if we were stupid
just because we worked a low-paying job, and the rest just
ignored us and acted like we werent there. Like we werent
even worthy of a simple smile or a thank you. Every so
often a polite guest at an event would actually say thanks,

and Id be so shocked Id forget what I was doing for a


second. It was unbelievable.
The worst part was the people that recognized me. Old
friends, old business associates of my fathersthey were
nice to my face but sneered behind my back when they
thought I couldnt hear. By now theyd all heard that Id been
turfed out of the family, and they all seemed to think it was
pretty hilarious to see me serving canaps and champagne
rather than eating and drinking it myself.
So yeah, that was my life now. Earning minimum wage
and stressing over whether Id make enough to pay for
anything. Anne had said I could have her place for free for
however long I needed, but it didnt feel right to take
advantage of that for too long, so as soon as Id saved
enough, I was planning on getting my own place to rent.
Id only been doing it for a couple of weeks, and it was
hard for me to believe that so many people lived like this
their whole lives. How the hell did they put up with being
treated so horribly by those who considered themselves

above them? It took all the effort I had to not punch the
snobby pricks who talked down to us at work. But this was
my life now, and I had to get used to it.
I waved to Eddie and yawned before sliding on my
sunglasses and heading across the street to my car. After
sneaking into my Dads party last night so I could talk to
Lauren, Id had to head straight to work at a massive gala
that ended up going till the early hours of the morning. The
cleanup had taken hours, and now it was already seven
A.M. and I still hadnt slept yet.
A familiar red head popped into my vision, and I
squinted up ahead of me. No way. It was Mary. That bitch.
She was the reason Id lost everything. My father, my trust
fundand Lauren. After everything that had happened,
shed made it pretty clear she wanted nothing to do with
me, even if she believed that I hadnt done anything.
Rage boiled up in me, and I strode towards Mary,
fuming. I would never hit a woman, and she was fucking

lucky for that. A lot of other guys wouldnt have cared


whether she was male or female; theyd punch her the fuck
out for wrecking their life. But not me. She was simply going
to get a piece of my mind. Maybe itd be enough to scare
her into telling the truth and giving me my old life back.
After checking her watch, she turned and entered a
caf. She hadnt seen me yet, and I entered the place
behind her and watched as she sat down across from
shit. It couldnt be.
No fucking way.
After Lauren had showed me that baby picture of hers,
Id have recognized the guy anywhere. It was her father, the
abusive asshole whod left her and her Mom when she was
a kid. It was thirteen years on, but the nose, eyes and thin
mouth were the same. Especially the eyes. They were the
same as Laurens, and Id recognize them a mile off.
What the hell was Mary doing meeting up with him?
I still had my sunglasses on, so they hadnt noticed me

yet, and I immediately turned away and slid into a booth


near them, careful to keep my head down. I was wearing a
faded old shirt and jeans, and this was a shitty
neighborhood, so there was no way theyd suspect it was
me unless I turned around and showed them my face.
Bout time you showed up, he said. Something about
his hoarse voice make my skin crawl.
Sorry. I didnt get much sleep, Mary replied. I switched
my hours with Glenda at the summer house so I wouldnt
have to work during the day today. I worked last night
instead. After the Sloanes party, there was a lot of cleaning
up to do.
Bitch. She was still working for my father even after
shed played him for all that cash, pretending she was just a
poor innocent maid who still wanted to work for a living
despite the payout shed received for being assaulted.
The sheer audacity of the woman made my blood boil. I
strained to hear the rest of their hushed conversation, and a
perky-looking waitress approached my table.

Hey, how are you today? she asked, sliding a menu


across from me. What can I get for you?
I smiled at her but didnt reply. One word from my mouth
would ensure Mary would realize I was in here. Instead, I
gestured towards my throat and mouth and mimed a cough,
pretending Id lost my voice from a cold. The waitress
nodded at me sympathetically.
Poor thing. My sons down with one of those summer
flus at the moment. Weird, hey? Youd think theyd be worse
in winter. How about a coffee to start you off?
I nodded, and she bustled away.
Its not enough, I could hear Laurens father saying in a
low voice. Two hundred grand is a drop in the fuckin
bucket for that rich old cunt. You shouldve tried to squeeze
him for more.
I could feel my blood pressure rising just listening to his
voice. Two hundred grand. That must have been what my
father had paid Mary for her silence. So thats what this

meeting was about. Obviously Laurens father and Mary


had conspired together to screw me over to get a big fat
paycheck from my father, and that had taken some level of
ingenuity. But why?
Maybe her father had seen in the papers that Anne was
now marrying a billionaire, and hed decided to try and
somehow cash in on his exs new fortune, using Mary to get
information on us. Anne and my fathers engagement
announcement was practically still fresh ink on the society
papers when Mary had started at the summer house, which
meant they had worked damn fast. Going after me first was
probably just an easy way to get money, given my
reputation.
I couldnt, Mary protested. I told you that last week. Itd
look suspicious if I asked for more. We needed to make it
look real, Mark. Like it was him offering, not me
demanding.
He slammed a hand down on the table. I just saw on
the news that hes made some new deal for his company.

Another ten billion a year to their revenue, theyre sayin.


We need to do more.
The waitress delivered my coffee and stared over at
them at the sound of his hand hitting the table, and Mary
shushed him. Keep quiet, she said. Last thing we need is
for someone to hear us.
I shook my head slowly. Fucking idiots. They were trying
to talk quietly, but Id still heard nearly every word so far. I
guess you cant expect much intelligence from dirty scam
artists.
Im just sayin, he continued. Lets just take the little
brat. Shes my kid, after all. When did you say she was
leaving for Boston?
Their voices became too hushed for me to hear any
more, no matter how much I strained myself. What the hell
did he mean take the little brat? Surely they werent
actually planning on doing something as brazen as
kidnapping Lauren in order to extort more cash out of my

father.
I drained my coffee cup, left some cash on the table for
the waitress and then left, keeping my shoulders hunched
forward and my head down so Mary and Laurens father
wouldnt notice me. I could have confronted them, but like
hell they were going to tell me anything. If anything, itd
make things worse. Who knew what they were capable of?
As I headed towards my car, the conversation Id
overheard played in my mind, over and over. I still couldnt
figure out how theyd worked so fast at installing Mary as a
maid at the summer house. Perhaps Laurens father had
somehow seduced Mary after shed started, targeting her
because she was young and dumb. He could have put the
idea in her head to accuse me of sexual assault, and shed
split the cash with him in return for his advice. Hed
probably also coached her into being able to produce fake
tears on command to make her story believable. But now
now it sounded like they were plotting something far more
sinister. Now it seemed like they were going after Lauren.

And that was a million times worse than anything they


could do to me.
I didnt know how, and I didnt know when, but there was
no way I was letting them get away with this shit, whatever it
was they had planned. But what the hell could I do? I
couldnt just show up at a police department and say, Oh
hey, I was eavesdropping on some people in a caf today
and think they might be planning a kidnapping. Id be
laughed out of the building, especially with my history. No
one would take that seriously.
There was only one thing I could do. I had to go back to
the summer house and warn my father, Anne and Lauren
before it was too late.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
LAUREN
I yawned as I steered my car out of the driveway,
covering my mouth with one hand. God, I was tired as hell.
After Cassie and I had abandoned the masquerade party
last night, wed chatted inside for a while and then gone to
bed, but the raucous laughter from party guests outside had
drifted in the window all night, ensuring I only slept properly
for about three hours.
The staff had spent all night cleaning up after the last
guests had departed, and when Id woken up at six, it was
like the party had never happened. Like magic, everything
was neat and spotless again.
I would have slept in past six, but I needed to be ready
and at the train station by seven-thirty so I could catch the
train into Boston. As I drove, I thought about my encounter

with Nate last night, and I winced as the cold harsh light of
day hit me with a dose of reality. God, Id been a bitch to
him. I just couldnt help it. The last few weeks had been a
damn emotional rollercoaster. Id gone from believing and
defending him to not believing him, and after our talk last
night I was back to believing him again. The whole thing
was doing a number on my sanity levels, and while Id felt
like I really needed to tell him to stay away from me before I
lost my mind, I still felt bad. I hadnt even asked him how he
was doing ever since being cut off from his money.
I shouldve asked. I shouldve offered help. Maybe I had
changed. Maybe living in the upscale world of elites was
turning me into a selfish monster. Cringing at the thought of
turning into one of those people I hated, I vowed to call Nate
as soon as I got to Boston and apologize for what Id said
the night before. If he really hadnt done anything to Mary,
then he needed all the help and support he could get,
regardless of the drama it might bring into my life.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized he was

right about Mary. There was just something off about her,
and shed been acting strangely for a while now. Every time
I happened to glance at her in the summer house, Id catch
her looking at me, and shed abruptly turn away as if to
pretend like she hadnt been staring. Why was she so
interested in me?
Not only that, shed said something weird last night
when Cassie and I were on our way upstairs. I couldnt quite
put my finger on it, but there was just something off about
what shed asked me. I replayed the conversation in my
head, chewing on my lip as I tried to figure out exactly what
was bothering me.

Oh, Miss Torres, there you are. I was wondering if I


could ask you something about your little trip to Boston
tomorrow, she said as Cassie and I passed her on the
stairs.
Ermsure, I replied.
She smiled. Well, you see, Glenda usually cleans

your room at eleven, but she was saying she wanted to get
everything done a few hours earlier tomorrow. What time
will you be leaving in the morning? I figured if youre gone
early enough, shell be able to do it without disturbing
you.
Ohumwell, my train leaves at seven-thirty, so Ill
probably leave here at around seven. So she can
definitely do my room early if she wants. I wont be
around.
All right. Ill let Glenda know.
After that, shed given me another smile and hurried
downstairs. I hadnt thought much about it at the time
because Id been with Cassie, but something about Marys
line of questioning bothered me. Glenda always did my
room at the exact same time, so why would she suddenly
need to do everything earlier? Maybe she had to leave
work early or something, but why wouldnt she have just
asked me herself if that was the case? Not only that, Mary
just seemed so fake when she talked to me. Overly-

saccharin voice, plastered on smilelike she was trying


her hardest to seem like a sweet, innocent young maid with
nothing to hide.
It was weird, but it certainly wasnt enough to prove that
shed lied about Nate assaulting her.
Pulling into the train station parking lot ten fifteen
minutes later, I checked my purse to make sure I had
everything I needed and exited the car. I opened the back
door to pull out my little suitcase, and a raspy male voice
spoke from behind me a second later.
Hey, little girl.
I turned around, and at the sight of the man before me,
time seemed to slow to an excruciatingly slow pace. The
earth seemed to stop spinning the way it ought to and went
the other way, and I blinked several times, a stark
realization dawning on me as fragmented memories
flashed in the front of my mind.
It was my father.

Whatwhat are you. I faltered my words, not quite


sure if this was all a dream. Or a nightmare.
So you do remember me, he said with a smirk. He
took a step closer to me, and my body went rigid, frozen to
the spot in fear. After all the horrible stories my Mom had
told me about the things hed done to her, I knew to be
afraid of him.
Youre all grown up, he continued, reaching out and
tucking a wayward strand of hair behind my ear.
What do you want? I asked, my voice barely above a
whisper.
He smiled, lips pressed into a thin line. Youre my
daughter, he replied. I want to spend some time with you.
Only fair, dont-cha think?
I have somewhere to be, I said, finally finding the
strength to move. I attempted to press past him, and he
grabbed me by the arm. I opened my mouth to scream, and
it was then that I noticed the outline of a gun in his front

pocket.
He pressed a finger to my lips. Dont you scream now,
Lauren. Like I said, Daddy just wants to spend some time
with his little girl. You understand?
I nodded dumbly, tears pricking at the back of my eyes.
Well, lets not stand around, he said, smile still intact. It
didnt meet his eyes, and my stomach lurched. Get in.
He motioned to a car near mine; a silver SUV, and I
cast my eyes helplessly around the parking lot. If I could just
catch one persons eye and signal that I was in trouble,
maybe theyd help me. But there was no one around, and
besides, the gun in my fathers pocket was enough to stop
me. I had no idea what he was capable of.
I said get in the car, he hissed, roughly shoving me
towards the back passenger door.
My entire body trembled as I climbed in, and as soon as
he was in the drivers seat, he activated the child locks on
the doors. I was trapped.

Where are you taking me? I asked. He turned to me


and held out his hand, ignoring my question.
Gimme your phone.
I hesitated, and he pulled out his gun and made a big
show of checking it to see if the safety was on. I wordlessly
handed over my phone, hands shaking even more now, and
he smiled and started up the car.
I heard about your mother, he said, glancing over at
me before turning back to face the road. Hitching herself to
that big shot Sloane cunt.
Hes not a c. I couldnt even get the word out.
He chuckled at my seeming inability to use curse words
in front of him.
Cute. You always were a cute little kid. Now, heres
what were going to do, little girl. In a few hours, youre
going to call your new daddy and tell him youve decided to
reconnect with me. You want to live with me and go
traveling all around the world, but youre gonna need some

cash to do that. Lets say five hundred grand, maybe a


million. As soon as he sends the money through, youre
gonna give it to me, and then well see what happens.
My mind raced as it comprehended his utterly ridiculous
plan. He wont just send me money, I said, voice as
defiant as I could muster up. He isnt that stupid.
Youd be surprised, he said. He probably wants your
Mom all to himself. Men like him are selfish, and they
always get their own way.
No, I replied. Richard cares about me. If I suddenly
ask him for money hell know something is up. Hell have
the whole world looking for me, and believe me, theyll find
me before you get a cent.
Well, then, he said softly. I guess well have to do this
the old fashioned way. Well call him and tell him if I dont
get my money in forty-eight hours, well have a problem. If
he cares about you so much, he wont want to see you hurt.
I bet hed be willing to put up at least ten million for you, so

that actually works out even better for me.


I shook my head. Do you hear yourself? You cant try to
ransom me out. Hell have the cops onto you so fast you
wont know what hit you.
Bullshit, he sneered. No one knows Ive taken you
except you. It could be anyone as far as he knows. Ill get
him to drop the money somewhere, and then Ill be gone
before he knows it. Hell know the drill. Involve the cops or
anyone else, and you get hurt.
But Ill tell the police as soon as you let me go.
Who says Im actually gonna let you go? he asked,
turning to me again. Like I said, I think you need to spend
some time with me. Annes had you to herself for fifteen
years now. I think its about time I got my share.
I gritted my teeth. You gave up your share of my time
when you walked out, I said. And even if you take me with
you, theyll figure out it was you eventually.
By the time they do, Ill be out of the country, he

replied, as if it were really all that simple. And youll be with


me, and youll be keeping your little mouth shut or else.
Youd be surprised how easy it is to get away with shit as
long as you have money. Ive worked for rich cunts like him
for years. You wouldnt believe some of the shit they get
away with.
I sat back and stared out the window, wondering if I
could signal to a nearby car from the window to let them
know I was in danger. Unfortunately, he was taking a lot of
small back streets, and there were no other cars near us.
My fathers plan was seriously ridiculous. Clearly, I
hadnt inherited my brains from him. Even if Richard paid
up, there was no way hed get away with it for long. He
couldnt keep me trapped with him forever, unless he
intended on imprisoning me in a dungeon in Mexico for the
rest of my life, or whatever country it was he intended on
escaping to. Sure, he could let me go once hed made his
escape from the country, but he wouldnt get away with it for
long.

He pulled onto the highway, and I cleared my throat and


spoke again. Howd you know Id be at the train station at
that exact time? I asked.
He looked in the rear view mirror and smirked. Lets
just say I have connections.
The truth hit me like a ton of bricks. Mary. That was why
shed asked me when I was leaving.
Youre working with Mary, I said. Youre the one who
got her to set up Nate, arent you? Richard paid her a fair
amount for that. Isnt that enough for the two of you?
Thats none of your business, he replied. But lets just
say taking down that little shit Nate Sloane was our way of
warming up to bigger things.
What is she, your girlfriend?
Like I said, none of your business, he replied. He
looked at me in the mirror again. Then again, youre my
kid. I guess I can share some things with you. Shes not my
girlfriend. She certainly thinks she is, though. I used to work

with her, and when I heard she was starting work for
Richard Sloane, I figured Id take the opportunity to exploit
things a little. Just so happened to be a stellar coincidence
that your mother was about to marry the guy. Wasnt hard to
get Mary on board. I was always good at seducing little
whores. Your mother was one of em.
Dont call her that, I said, heat rising in my cheeks.
He chuckled again. Its true. And look at her now,
whoring herself out for a billionaire. I think theres a term for
that. Gold-digger.
I ignored him. There was no point arguing. He was
clearly a psychopathic narcissist, and there was no
reasoning with people like him.
I did some mental calculations to figure out how long it
would take for anyone to even notice I was missing, and my
whole body went cold. As far as everyone knew, I was
going to be in Boston for the next three days. Three days
was a long time. My father could have taken me anywhere

by that point, and I was willing to bet he had some dodgy


cronies to pick up the ransom money for him and deliver it
to wherever we were in return for a tidy sum. Maybe he was
smarter than he seemed. Maybe he really was going to get
away with this.
No.
I had to believe that someone would find me before it
was too late. It was all I had right now.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN
NATE
I tried calling my father, but as usual, he refused to take
my calls. Then I tried Lauren. No answer. I tried Anne as
well, but her phone was off. Finally, I called Yves, and
thankfully he answered.
Yves, I need to speak to either my Dad or Anne. Or
Lauren. Are they at the summer house? Ive been trying to
call them but no one is picking up, I said.
No, he said. Your father is out playing golf, and Anne
is sleeping. She wasnt feeling very well after the party last
night. And you know very well that your father wouldnt
answer your calls anyway.
What about Lauren?
Shes headed to Boston for a few days to visit the

apartment.
He paused for a moment, obviously just registering the
urgency in my voice. Nate, what is this about?
I cant explain over the phone. Youll think Im crazy. Im
coming up there.
I dont think
His voice was cut off as I hung up, and I gunned the
engine to my car and sped all the way up to the summer
house. Lucky it was still early so no cops were around to
pull me over at the speed I was going.
Yves heard me pull into the driveway, and he came
outside and walked towards my car, frown on his face.
Nate, what are you doing here? You know what your
father said. You cant let him see you here.
I dont care, I said, striding past him and into the
house. He hurried after me and watched as I took a seat in
the downstairs sitting room. The same room where my
father had cut me off just a couple of weeks ago.

What is this about? he asked, his eyebrows creased


in a concerned expression.
Its Lauren, I said. I think she might be in trouble.
Lauren is fine, he replied. I saw her leave this
morning. She should be on the train to Boston by now.
I shook my head. Im worried. When will Dad be back?
He opened his mouth to answer, but my fathers voice
boomed through the door a moment later and answered my
question for him.
Yves, would you mind unloading my gear from the car?
That damned Vanderbilt cancelled at the last minute, so no
golf for me today. Also, would you
He stopped dead when he saw me, and his eyes
narrowed. Nate, what the hell are you doing here? I thought
I made myself quite clear a few weeks ago.
Laurens in trouble, I said. You need to listen to me. I
was

He waved his hands and cut me off. Oh, nonsense.


Lauren is fine. This is just another one of your pathetic little
games to try and get my attention. You need to grow up,
Nate. You also need to leave my house right now.
Dad, I swear Im not making this up. I think Laurens
father is planning on kidnapping her to get money out of
you. You have to listen.
He sighed. Oh really? A kidnapping, you say? I wasnt
aware that we were living in the plot of a B-grade thriller
film.
Yves saw the ashen look on my face, and he
interrupted. Sir, with all due respect, I think you should
listen to your son. He really seems to think Lauren may be
in danger.
Stay out of it, my father snapped. And please escort
my son off the property, or Ill be forced to call the police.
Yves folded his arms across his chest and took a step
closer to him. No, he said.

My fathers eyebrows shot up. What do you mean, no?


Who the hell do you think you are? Ive paid your salary for
nearly ten years now, and I damned well deserve some
respect
Yves cut him off and squared his shoulders, rising to his
full height. Sir, you need to shut your mouth and listen to
Nate. Right now. He is your son, but Im the one whos
looked after him all these years, and I know him. Hes a
good kid, as much as you refuse to see that.
My father was so shocked at Yves subordination that
he didnt even speak for a full minute. Finally he shook his
head and sat down, lips pressed into a thin line.
Fine. Tell me your little story, Nate. And when youre
done, you can leave and take Yves with you, as I will no
longer be requiring his service.
He was talking to me in a tone of voice that most people
reserved for small children and the mentally disabled.
Asshole. I gritted my teeth and filled him in on what Id

heard at the caf earlier, and he arched an eyebrow in


disdain. What were you doing at a caf in Chelmscott?
I work in Chelmscott now. Its where the main office and
kitchen for the catering company that I work for is. But that
doesnt matter. Lauren is in danger, and you need to listen!
My father smiled and stood up. Im not sure whats
more ridiculous. Your little story about Laurens father and
Mary, or the fact that youre claiming you now have a job.
As a cater waiter, no less.
Ask your associates Lowan and Schmitt, I retorted. I
saw them at a party last week while I was working. Oh, and
while youre at it, tell them theyre assholes.
He sighed. All right, youve had your fun. Im going to
call Lauren right now and confirm that she is fine. Then Id
like you to leave.
He pulled out his phone and pressed a few buttons
before holding it to his ear. I heard a faint ringing coming
from the other end, but no one picked up.

No answer, he said. She must be on the train and


didnt hear it.
Or maybe hes already taken her, I replied, my hands
curling into fists by my side. Jesus, why couldnt he just
listen for once?
He rolled his eyes, and his phone beeped a second
later. Oh look, he said, lips curling into a thin smile again.
She just texted me this: Sorry, Richard, cant talk at the
moment. Lots of loud people on the train. Talk later. See?
Shes fine.
I snatched the phone from his hand and looked at the
text. It was written in typical teen text-speak. Sry Richard.

Cnt tlk atm. Lots of loud ppl on the train. Tlk l8a.
Bullshit, I said. This isnt Lauren. She doesnt text like
this. She always writes things out properly, even texts.
Someone must have her phone and theyre replying to
messages pretending to be her.
My fathers smile faltered, just for a second. Nate, she

was probably just busy and wanted to send a quick text.


This doesnt prove anything. Your kidnapping story is
outlandish at best, and I want you out of here.
Dad! I said. Please! Im not making any of this up!
Like I said, Mary has been working with her father for ages
now. Theyre playing you, and theyre going to hurt Lauren. I
just know it!
Whats going on?
A familiar feminine voice echoed in our ears, and we all
looked up to see Anne standing in the doorway. Well? she
continued. Did I hear someone saying something about
Laurens father?
My father crossed the room and patted her on the
shoulder. Never mind, dear. Nate has some wild theory
about Laurens father coming to kidnap her. Hes just
looking for attention. Go back to bed.
Anne pulled her satin robe tighter around her waist, her
eyes wide. Richard, this is my child were talking about. If

Nate thinks something might happen to her, we need to do


something about it!
Does kidnapping really seem like something your expartner would do? he asked, his voice low.
I put up with him for years. I think hes capable of
anything, she said. We need to make sure Lauren is okay
right now, and dont you dare try to bully me or anyone else
out of it!
It was the second time in only ten minutes that my father
had been put in his place by someone who was normally
reserved and polite to him, and his mouth dropped open.
He looked like he was about to say something nasty but
changed his mind when he saw the look on Annes face.
Ill make some calls, he said before striding out of the
room.
Anne hurried over to me and sat down. Nate, tell me
everything. What do you know about Mark?
I filled her in on everything Id told my father, and her

face paled. What if you hadnt been there? Wed never


have known until it was too late Oh god, what if hes
already taken her? You said she wasnt answering her
phone
I shrugged. I only heard them hinting at it. I dont know
when they were planning on doing it, or if theyd even
decided they were definitely going to. But I figured you
needed to be warned so you could keep Lauren safe and
make sure theres always someone around to look out for
her.
I slung a comforting arm around her shoulder. Look,
Anne, theres a chance Im wrong about all of this. Maybe I
misinterpreted what I heard. She could be just fine. Lets try
calling her again.
I didnt believe my own words. A gnawing feeling in my
gut told me something was very wrong, but I had to keep
Anne calm. I gave her my phone, and she tried calling
Lauren five more times. It rang out each time. She twisted
her hands and stared at the floor anxiously until my father

returned after what felt like an eternity. His expression was


grim.
Laurens car is at the train station, but she never
boarded the train. Surveillance cameras in the parking lot
were smashed earlier this morning, so theres no CCTV
footage to show what might have happened.
Anne put her head in her hands and began to sob
quietly, and I glared back at my father. I told you something
was wrong. Guess you arent so smart and savvy in your old
age.
Ive alerted the proper authorities, he said, ignoring my
jab. Theyll track down Mary and question her, and theyll
also be looking for Mark.
He pushed in between me and Anne on the chaise sofa
and squeezed her hand. Honey, itll all be okay. Thanks to
Nate, weve caught this early, and theyll be able to catch
Mark before he does anything. He must have only taken her
an hour or so ago. Hes probably still on the road. Every

police officer in the state is on the lookout for his vehicle,


and his house is being searched as we speak.
Part of me wondered how fast the police would be
dealing with this matter if it had been someone like one of
my workmates who went missing. They were just your
average person, not the soon-to-be stepdaughter of a
billionaire. I doubted the authorities would bother to put
much effort in if it was one of them. Money really could buy
you everything in some cases, as fucked up as it seemed.
Another part of me was numb as it considered how
scared Lauren must have been when she encountered her
father. My instincts had been right, but I hadnt been fast
enough. He must have headed to the train station only
minutes after Id left the caf. Mary probably knew Laurens
schedule, so it wouldnt have been too hard for him to track
her down based on that. Bastard.
An old fragment of a memory popped into my head as I
considered all the places he might be taking her - Lauren
and me, sitting at breakfast together the morning after Id

saved her from Eric. Shed opened up to me and told me


all about what her father had been like before he became
an abusive alcoholic. What was it shed said? Something
about a cabin near the Avon River where hed take them for
picnics.
Anne, I said, jumping to my feet. Lauren told me about
some cabin Mark owned years ago. Was it off Eastgate
Road? I think thats what she said.
Anne nodded and wiped her eyes. It was his uncles
cabin originally. Why?
That end of the highway is pretty desolate, especially
up near that part of the river. Itd be a decent place to hide
out for a while. Do you think hed take her there?
My father held up his hand. Nate, I know youre trying to
help, but the police are already searching everything that he
owns. If he still owns that cabin, then theyre probably
already on their way.
My eyes narrowed. What if he doesnt own it anymore?

He could still take her there anyway.


He held his hands up to appease me. Youre right. Ill
make a call and let them to know to add it to their list of
places to search, he said. But theres nothing we can do.
We just have to wait and pray for the best.
Fuck this, I replied. Who knows how long that could
take? Im going out there.
Nate, dont you dare! Its the polices job. You have no
idea what could
But I was already out the door.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN
NATE
All I could think of as I sped down the highway was
Lauren. The way her hair smelled, the way her skin felt
against mine, the way her brown eyes sparkled whenever
she was happy. I knew that the cabin was where her father
would be hiding her. I didnt know how I knew it, but I just
did. Instinct again.
Id already come so close to losing her, and there was
no way I was going to let that happen again. She was mine,
and if I had it my way she always would be. No crazy
fathers, maids or ex-friends of mine were going to get in the
way of that. My heart hammered in my chest as I drove, and
I knew it wouldnt stop until she was safe in my arms again.

The turnoff for Eastgate Road was right out in the


middle of nowhere, way beyond the city boundaries. I drove
in a tense silence for another forty-five minutes before I saw
the sign and then took a sharp turn onto the narrow gravel
road. It was lined with thick trees on one side and acres of
fields on the other, and I drove a short distance up it before
parking up on the side and walking the rest of the way. If
Mark heard a car coming, there was no telling what hed
do. It was better that I get him with the element of surprise.
Like Lauren had said, there were a few cabins in the
distance, right at the end of the road. I knew she was close.
I honestly felt like I could somehow sense her. Jesus, she
must have been scared out of her mind. Out here we were
surrounded by nothing but trees and grass; there was no
one to see or help her.
Yet.
But Id be there soon.
The wind rustled. Cool air slid over my feverish skin in a

soft caress, but it did nothing to calm my nerves. I cast my


eyes around as I approached the cabins, and I caught a
glimpse of a silver SUV up at the end one on the left.
Come on, I heard a familiar hoarse voice coming from
near the car, and I ducked behind a tree so I wouldnt be
seen just yet. It was definitely Mark, and he was pushing
Lauren towards the cabin with a gun pressed against her
back. Shit. It was now or never.
Hey, Mark! I called out, affecting a casual tone and
strutting towards him as if I didnt have a care in the world.
What the He whirled around, dragging Lauren with
him and holding her in front of him. His eyes narrowed as
he recognized me.
Youre that kid. Nate Sloane. How are you enjoying
those rape charges, son? Oh wait, your Daddy paid to
make it go away, didnt he?
You and I both know I never touched Mary, I said
coolly. I know youre working with her. But I dont care

about that. I came to offer you a deal.


He arched an eyebrow, and Lauren stared at me, her
eyes wide. She didnt say a word.
A deal? he said before hacking up some phlegm and
spitting it on the ground. What the fuck are you talking
about? Howd you even find me?
I held my hands up and smiled, lying through my teeth.
Doesnt matter. But if I found you, that means anyone else
could find you too if they tried. But dont worry. Right now
theres no one looking for you. Hell, no one even knows
Laurens missing yet. So heres the deal. You let her go.
You keep me instead. Im Richards biological sonhell
pay way more for me than he would for her.
He narrowed his eyes in suspicion, and I kept going.
My Dad doesnt even like Lauren. He just wants to get rid
of her so he can have Anne all to himself. But if you take
me, youll really piss him off. I reckon hed give anything to
get me back. Twenty mil, fifty even. Name your price. But let

her go.
I jerked my head towards Lauren, and Mark scoffed.
You think Im fuckin stupid? The minute I let her go,
shell go running to the cops and tell em where I am.
I shook my head. Were in the middle of nowhere. Itll
take her hours to walk back into the city. By the time shes
told anyone, you and I are outta here. I have a lot of
contacts, man. My Dad and I have a house down in
southern California, and I know some guys just across the
border in TJ. They can help you get out of the country once
my old mans coughed up. Fake passports, fake ID cards.
You know the drill.
Why the fuck would you help me? he spat. He jabbed
the gun into Lauren again, harder this time, and she
moaned in pain.
Because, I said, staring straight at her. I love her.
Mark laughed. How fucking sweet. You love her, huh?
Yes.

He rubbed his chin with his spare hand and nodded. All
right, then. Why dont you get over here so I can take a
proper look at you?
I slowly stepped towards him, keeping my eyes trained
on the gun. I knew he was full of shit. He had no intention of
letting Lauren go, and he was playing along with me so he
could get close enough to either seriously hurt me or
straight up shoot me. Right now I was too far away for him
to get in a decent shot while holding Lauren in front of him. It
was throwing off his balance.
Lauren stared at me anxiously, a question in her eyes.
She had to be wondering what the hell I was doing. I barely
knew what I was doing myself. A semblance of a plan was
forming in my head, but itd only work if she immediately
realized what I was doing and helped out. She will, I told
myself. Shes the smartest person you know.
As I took another step, my eyes briefly flickered up and
to the side over Marks shoulder, as if Id seen something

or someone behind him. He turned his head over his


shoulder in a reflexive move, and Lauren caught on to what I
was doing straight away. She bit down on his arm while he
was distracted, hard, and Mark shouted and dropped the
gun.
I dived towards the ground and landed right on top it,
and Mark let Lauren go and tried to kick me out of the way
as he lunged towards me. Too late. The gun was firmly in
my grip now, and I leapt to my feet and aimed it at him. Id
never held a gun before, let alone fired one. But he didnt
need to know that. As long as I concentrated all my rage
into my gaze, hed think I was crazy enough to actually
shoot him dead.
Get on the ground. Lie flat on your stomach, I hissed.
He did as I said, muttering curse words under his breath.
Lauren, I continued. Take off your cardigan. Tie his
arms.
Thank god she was always wearing those dowdy old

cardigans. Mark knew we had him, and he didnt even


bother to struggle as she tied his arms behind his back,
keeping her knee planted firmly in the small of his back.
You came, she said when she was done, standing up
and looking at me with wonder. Youre always saving me.
Youre worth saving, I replied.
Nate, Im so sorry. Everything I said last night
Forget it, I said, adrenalin still pumping through my
veins as I gazed down at her. It doesnt matter. As long as
youre safe.
What you said a few minutes ago, she replied, big
brown eyes shining with emotion. II lo
Her words were cut off by the whirring of chopper
blades in the air above us along with the shrill sound of
police sirens. A car skidded along the gravel behind us,
and my fathers voice called out to me only seconds later.
Nate! What the hell happened? I told you to stay

He saw Mark on the ground, arms tied behind him, and


then his eyes dropped to the gun in my hand. You could
have been killed. You could have gotten Lauren killed, he
said, his eyes flashing. You thoughtless, irresponsible
little
His words trailed off into nothing, and he engulfed me in
a tight hug. This your way of saying thanks, Dad? I asked,
my voice muffled as my head pressed into his chest.
Anne emerged from the car a moment later, and she
screamed with joy as she saw Lauren. Baby! Youre okay!
Oh god, I thought wed lost you. You have no idea what I
Her words trailed off too as she burst into a fresh set of
tears, and mother and daughter embraced as police began
to swarm the area. Mark was brought to his feet and
handcuffed before having his rights read to him, and then
he was hauled off and pushed into the back of a police
cruiser.
My father let me go a moment later and looked me

dead in the eyes. Nate. I just want to say Im sorry. I should


have listened to you. You didnt do anything to that woman,
and I should have trusted you when you said that. Ive been
a terrible father. I dont even deserve to be a father after
what Ive done to you.
I shook my head. I probably wouldnt have believed me
either, given my history, I replied. Lets just move on.
I held my hand out, and he took it in a firm handshake.
Marys been arrested, he remarked. And I dare say this
Mark character will be behind bars for a long time after
this.
He shouldve known better than to fuck with us
Sloanes, I replied.
He grinned, eyes crinkling up around the corners. It was
the first time hed given me a real smile in years. Anne
joined us a moment later, and she wiped her eyes before
throwing her arms around me.
Nateif it wasnt for you, I dont know what would have

happened, she murmured.


I patted her on the back and looked over her shoulder at
Lauren, who was standing to the side and watching my
every move. There was nothing I wanted more on gods
green earth than to feel those sweet lips on mine right now.
I knew what shed been about to say to me before everyone
arrived, but there was no way she could say it now, right in
front of everyone.
Even hearing the first syllable was music to my ears,
though; the sweetest sound in the world.
I loved her, and she loved me right back.

CHAPTER NINETEEN
LAUREN
I watched my Mom leave my room after hugging and
kissing me goodnight for what felt like the millionth time
since wed finally arrived home. The door closed with a soft
click behind her, and a hunger grew in me by leaps and
bounds. I seriously needed help. Therapy might be a nice
start, and after my biological father had tried to kidnap me,
Mom and Richard were insisting I get some. But that wasnt
why I needed help. Despite the crazy, terrifying nightmare
Id just been through, all I could think about was getting laid.
Yep, I had sex on the brain.
Seeing Nate come charging in to my rescue like that
while declaring his love for me had made my stomach do
somersaults and my heart do backflips. If Id ever had any

reason to doubt him and his feelings towards me, those


reasons were all dead and buried now. He loved me. Hed
faced a gun-toting madman just to save me. And what was
hotter than that?
I hadnt managed to get a moment alone with him since.
Id been taken to the hospital just so they could make sure I
was one hundred percent unharmed, and then Id spent
hours giving statements to the police about my fathers
botched kidnapping attempt. I could still barely believe it
had all happened. Just this morning Id been on my way to
Boston, and then my life had become a nightmare in just a
few short hours. Along came Nate, and my life had turned
back into a blissful dream all over again.
Talk about an emotional day. This was like the biggest,
baddest theme park ride of emotional rollercoasters.
A soft knock on my door drew my attention. Come in, I
called.
The door slowly opened, and I smiled as I saw Nate

standing there.
Thought Id come say goodnight and see how youre
feeling, he said, eyes twinkling.
I sighed and beckoned him over. I dont know. I feel
strangely fine. Shouldnt I be traumatized or something?
Shouldnt I be sitting in a corner balled up and crying?
He padded over to me and sat down. Youre probably
in shock or something. Right now you just look tired. Or like
you need a nice hot bath.
His last sentence sounded more like an invitation than a
suggestion, and I blushed. As much as I was craving sex
right now, it was such a bad time. Wed both had the
wildest, most dangerous experience of our lives today, and
not in a good way. The best thing for us to do now was rest
and try to process everything that had happened.
NateI know you told me to forget it, but I cant. Ive
been horrible to you. I should have believed you the other
week. Instead I cut you out. Im sorry. Ive been selfish, and I

dont want to be that kind of person, I said in a soft voice.


He grabbed my hand and squeezed it. Well, so have I,
so I guess were about even.
How have you been selfish?
He arched an eyebrow. You serious? I drove all the way
out there by myself and confronted your crazy dad without
even considering the consequences. I couldve gotten us
both seriously hurt. Or killed. But I went and did it anyway
because I wanted you back. Thats pretty selfish, right?
I gave him a rueful smile. So were both just as bad as
each other.
Yep. Except now everyones calling me a hero. Thats
what I get for being a selfish prick, apparently.
I laughed and then bit my lip, unsure if I really had the
right to ask him what I wanted to know now. Oh, hell. I
shouldnt be scared to ask him anything anymore,
considering what wed been through.
Nate, you dont have to answer this if you dont want to,

butsince youve been gone, have you beenyou know


seeing anyone else?
He wrinkled his nose and feigned an expression of
deep thought. Hmmyeah, about twenty or so chicks, I
think? Not counting all the one night stands.
I smiled and playfully punched his shoulder. You have
not.
No, I havent. Honestly, all I could think about was you.
Besides, it was only two weeks. What sort of animal do you
think I am?
A pretty sexy animal.
He smirked and pounced on me, and I squealed. Wait,
I said breathlessly. Thisthis thing between us. We have
to tell everyone eventually.
Lets not worry about that right now, he replied, his
mouth only inches from mine. Weve been through enough
for today.

His voice was husky with need, and he grazed my


cheek with his hand. Part of me wanted to cry for some
reason, and another part wanted to scream with elated
excitement. My pussy was practically throbbing in my
panties, and lightning bolts seemed to streak through every
vein. I bit my lip, trying my hardest to push away the
primitive urges that were growing in my mind and failing
miserably as the wanton heat burned deep in my core. I
couldnt just give in to the wild demands that were pouring
through my system; couldnt give in to the need for sex that
was sweeping through me more and more with each
passing second could I? Id just been through the most
harrowing experience of my life, for gods sake. This was
so inappropriatebut so damn good.
I couldnt resist.
Yes, I finally whispered breathlessly with a nod. Youre
right.
Nate leaned down and kissed me with all the
desperation we had both been keeping locked inside for

weeks now, and heat pooled in my core until the dam of


wanton need exploded within me. He tasted of an
intoxicating combination of mint, spices and sheer
maleness that made bolts of pleasure ripple through me as
we deepened the kiss, and my fingers itched with the need
to touch him again.
His kiss became harsher, more demanding, and I could
no longer fight the urge to run my fingers over his skin,
reaching up and inside his shirt and over his hard muscular
frame. Sliding his tongue into my mouth, we stayed locked
together in our embrace, and I furiously kissed him back. I
slid my tongue along his and then gently nipped at his lips
as I pulled back slightly, and he let out a groan.
Fuck, you drive me crazy, he muttered, and I
murmured something incoherently back to him that clearly
meant, yes, me too.
I let out a ragged moan a second later, and he moved
his mouth down to the curve of my cheek and then up to my
ear lobe, licking and nibbling it until I groaned at his

tongues velvet touch. Fireworks were rapidly going off in


my stomach, and I pressed myself even harder against him,
inwardly cursing the fact that we were both still clothed.
I desperately craved that warm skin-on-skin contact that
Id missed so much, and my hands were almost lost in the
pleasure of feeling the tensing muscles of his arms and the
hard contours of his chest and abs. Below that, I could feel
something hard digging into me through his pants, and I
almost lost my mind.
His tongue continued to leave wet trails over my neck
and ears, and goose bumps broke out all over me. His
hands were all over me now, touching, caressing, and
squeezing my curves over the fabric of my shirt and pants.
As he squeezed my ass and began to grind himself against
me, I let out a cry of need, and he ripped my top off without
a second thought.
Clothes flew off the both of us in a frenzied fever of
hands. His head swooped down, claiming one of my full

breasts, and his teeth grazed against my nipple, making


me cry out and moan again. One of his hands massaged
my other breast, and I began to wonder how much of this
sweet torture I could endure.
Whimpering words of encouragement, my nails dug into
his biceps, and unable to keep still, I moved them upwards
and across, tracing the smooth contours of his chest again
and slowly moving them down, down, down. He let out a
muffled groan as I reached the waistband of his boxer
briefs.
Youre so fucking sexy, he murmured, his voice
deepening to a lower timbre. The sound of that alone made
my panties flood all over again.
Please, I begged, my own voice barely above a
whisper. Fuck me, Natenow.
Oh, I will, he growled. Im going to fuck you over and
over and make you come again and again. Youre mine,
Lauren. Youre finally all mine.

His fingers knotted in my dark curls, and then he pulled


me back so he could have access to my throat. As he
planted warm kisses up and down my neck, I took the
opportunity to slide out of my panties, leaving myself
completely naked and vulnerable before him. My smooth
skin was already coated in a thin sheen of sweat, and
Nates hands slid all over me, relishing the dip of my waist
and the curve of my hips.
Finally his hands reached below my waist, and he
stroked a finger against that sensitive line where my thighs
met my nether regions. His delicate touches made a low
moan fall from my lips as he grazed my sensitive flesh, and
I saw the same burning look of desire in his eyes that I
knew was reflected in my own. I squirmed, feeling the
growing wetness between my legs. His blue eyes stared
straight up at me as his teeth nipped at my bare belly and
thighs. He was only biting me softly, and the sensation was
a strange and unfamiliar one. It slightly hurt, but each nip
sent electrifying thrills through my veins at the same time,

arousing me even further until I was in an almost frenzied


state of bliss.
I threw my head back and enjoyed the thrilling mixture of
pain and pleasure as desire continued to tightly coil in my
belly, and a moment later I raised my head and looked
down as Nate slid himself further down the bed and parted
my legs before burying his handsome face between my
thighs.
His warm tongue slid up and down my slick folds,
adding to the wetness between my legs as he licked up
and down and around in slow yet firm motions, and shivers
of pleasure rippled through me as I was overcome with
feverish desire. The heated pleasure made rational thought
almost impossible, but god he had a tongue that worked
absolute magic. It was already driving me crazy as it
worked away between my legs, and seconds later he slid
one finger inside my pussy, probing my hot tightness and
groaning as he did so. God, Id missed this.
The vibrations from his mouth against my throbbing clit

made me squirm with bliss, and Nate groaned again


before withdrawing the finger. Then he plunged two fingers
inside my silky wetness, making me gasp and whimper
with wanton need, and ardent heat blazed through me as I
instinctively bucked my hips upwards, thrusting myself
against his swirling tongue.
As I writhed against him, a pressure began to build
deep in my belly, and mere moments later it was exploding
out of me, flooding me with an intense heat that I had never
experienced the likes of before. Sure, I could easily make
myself come with my hands when I touched myself, but
never like this something about Nates touch was so
magical, and orgasmic aftershocks rippled through me as I
moaned, legs trembling uncontrollably as he tried to hold
me down.
The mattress was starting to squeak underneath me as I
squirmed, but I barely registered the sound. All I could hear
were the helpless sounds of pleasure falling from my lips
and the guttural panting sound that Nate had started to

make as he pulled himself back up the bed, settling his


weight over me before urgently grinding his hips against
mine.
I reached down and grabbed his cock, and gasped as I
felt just how hard it was. I wrapped my hand around it and
began to stroke up and down, feeling every ridge and bump
of his length as I did so, and Nate groaned against my ear
before nipping at my neck and earlobe. Every inch of his
shaft responded to my touch, throbbing against me and
seemingly expanding even more with each passing
second, and before long I was more than desperate to feel
it inside me, stroking against the walls of my pussy as I
sighed and whimpered beneath him.
Nate had other ideas, though. He growled a command
for me to turn over, and I obliged and got onto my hands
and knees. My nipples were stiff as they hung in front of me,
and he reached around and grabbed my breasts from
behind, squeezing and rolling them in one hand as his other
hand stroked up and down my slick folds and brushed

against my clit.
He pulled away for a moment as another groan rumbled
from deep in his chest, and then he was plunging into me,
stretching me until I thought I might scream. He began to
punctuate each movement with a low groan, and he was so
hot and hard that I couldnt resist letting out a howl of
pleasure as he sank into me, again and again. Stroke after
stroke and thrust after thrust, he filled me with pulsating
pleasure until I felt another pressure building deep within,
and soon I was on the edge of release again.
Oh, god! I cried. Yes! Fuck me fuck me harder!
God, I hoped no one could hear us.
My back arched with pleasure as waves of warmth
began to crash down over me, and I pumped my body back
onto his cock as much as I could, my hips pulsing and
grinding with each motion. Bliss built in every muscle of my
body as stars seemed to explode in front of my hazy eyes,
and a low animal sound escaped my mouth as his cock slid

in and out of my silky tight pussy.


I could hear how wet I was as he withdrew his cock and
then plunged it back inside, and the sound drove me even
wilder, spurring me on as wave after wave of sensual
pleasure burst through my veins, making me gasp and cry
out. Even though he had already brought me to new heights
of pleasure, I ached for more. I ached for release for his
thick cock to continue filling me, and for his hands to roam
freely over me as we joined in our animalistic lust.
Nate gave into his baser instincts and picked up the
pace as I bucked wildly against him, harsh and desperate
sounds falling from his lips as he gripped my hips and
pounded into me. His movements against me were
relentlessly hard, and every inch of his cock made me
quiver with delight as his thighs slapped against my ass.
I felt so full; so stretched and yet so desperate for more.
Sweat trickled down my back in rivulets as my lover
slammed into me, and each of his growls was met with a
moan from me. I swore I could see stars in front of my eyes

again as I lost my breath, another orgasm already building


deep in my core. As I came again, Nate withdrew from me
for a second and then reached across to my head, pulling
me around to face him while he kissed me, tasting me and
exploring my mouth with an animal-like hunger. Then he
was inside me again, thrusting deeply, and shockwave
after shockwave rippled throughout my body, making me
cry out with delight as my blood seemed to become molten
in my veins.
As I was swept over my peak, everything seemed to fall
away around me, and all I could hear and feel was Nate, still
pumping in and out of me with wild abandon. My inner
muscles contracted and tightened around his cock as my
heart thumped wildly in my chest, and then I was falling
again, falling into nothingness as the intense pleasure took
control of all my senses.
My body shook violently as I was wracked with burning
ecstasy that radiated from my pussy and then from head to
toe, and our voices came together in frantic moans as his

cock twitched inside me. Finally, he was coming too, and


he let out a loud, deep groan as he came.
At last the final spasms of pleasure faded from our
bodies, and I felt myself drifting into sleep, exhausted from
the passionate, primal sex we had just had. I wanted to
savor the incredible feeling forever, but it was getting too
hard to keep my eyes open.
I love you, he murmured, wrapping his arms around
me.
I rolled over, curling my body into his embrace. I love
you too.
Id finally managed to say it.

CHAPTER TWENTY
LAUREN
Rays of early morning sunlight peeked through the
curtains, and my hands tunneled through Nates hair,
bringing him close to me for a hard wake up kiss. It was the
third morning in a row that Id woken up to him in my bed.
He responded in kind, and we writhed and twisted
together under the sheets. I wrapped my legs around his
waist and rubbed my swollen pussy on his cock, and he
groaned.
Fuck. Its six A.M., Lauren. Youre killing me.
I giggled, and after grabbing a condom he rolled his
hips and drove his cock straight into me, sinking into my
pussy like an anchor. All thoughts of anything else went out

the window; my insane father, my Moms upcoming


wedding to Nates fatherall of it, just gone from my mind
in an instant. His shaft stretched me until I held him deep
inside me, my muscles working to suction him against my
walls, and he grew thicker and harder with each movement
against me.
I swore I could actually feel his cock pulsing within me
as he thrust, and I moaned at the delicious feeling of utter
fullness. I watched him clench his jaw at the effort he was
making to restrain himself, fighting the urge to pound me
hard before my body had a chance to get used to it. Again.
My inner walls parted and stretched further for him, and
when he was all the way in, he began to thrust long and
deep inside, making me cry out over and over as he hit that
little spot on my front wall. I gazed into his eyes, pupils so
dilated that I could barely see the blue in them.
Oh godfuck me harder, Nate, I groaned. However
you want, just do it!

He kissed me deeply and drew himself in and out of


mehard.fastharder, faster. My body gripped his cock
tightly, the first flutters of an orgasm upon me.
Youre mine, he growled.
Yes, I moaned in response. All yours.
My breath suddenly hitched, and I groaned his name as
I came, muscles convulsing in ecstasy. He pulled out of me
suddenly, and I lay already spent on the sheets, wondering
if he was done too. Of course not. This was Nate. He
flipped me onto my stomach and lifted my ass in the air,
giving me a quick slap on my cheeks.
Hey! I grumbled, but then I laughed.
Holding my hips up, he shoved himself into my pussy
from behind, and gripping the pillow, I cried out and pushed
myself back to meet his hard thrusts. He grunted with
appreciation as my body swallowed up every inch of him.
Our skin, coated in a light sheen of perspiration, allowed for
a smooth glide as our bodies joined, and I could feel his

balls slapping against my sensitive lips with each hard


thrust into me. For a moment all that could be heard was
the sound of skin slapping against skin from our hard,
grinding contact, until he leaned down and whispered in my
ear.
Mine.
With that solitary word, he knotted a hand through my
hair, pulling my head to the side to reveal the curve of my
neck. Everything within me heightened until all I could feel
was his domineering presence all around me, and I
whimpered as he kissed my neck, my bodys keen hunger
for him ever growing.
He continued to fuck me hard and forcefully until my
pussy shuddered and contracted with pleasurable spasms
around his cock, and he held me in place as I came,
practically screaming. I barely even registered him coming
too.
Holy crap, I said a moment later, catching my breath.

What a way to wake up.


No shit, he replied with a grin. I better sneak back to
my room through the bathroom before someone catches
us, though.
It had become a ritual. Hed sneak into my room at
night, wed spend the night together, and then hed sneak
back into his room. Each time we did it, we knew our secret
was going to be found out eventually, but somehow the thrill
made it all oh-so-much hotter. It was a nice distraction from
reality, too.
Dont forget about the media breakfast thing, I called
after him as he padded through the bathroom to his own
room, wearing nothing at all.
Since Nate had saved me from my father, the media
had gone absolutely nuts over the case. While the tabloids
usually painted him as some sort of spoiled rich boy, they
were now calling him a hero and talking about what an
amazing young gentleman he was. Stella Bowman

especially. Ugh. Her article on the whole issue had been


titled BROTHERLY LOVE Billionaires Son Saves Sister
From Kidnapping Attempt At Gunpoint in massive black
letters, and it had completely failed to acknowledge that our
parents werent quite married yet, meaning Nate wasnt
even my stepbrother, let alone my brother.
As you could imagine, the media had been hounding us
like crazy, practically trying to break down the summer
house gates just to get a picture or an exclusive interview.
Richard had finally relented and organized a media
breakfast outside the house for this morning, where a
select few journalists and photographers had been invited.
Id been expressly told that I didnt have to attend it or
speak to anyone if I didnt want to, but I actually wanted to
do it. I wanted the world to know what a hero Nate was.
Even though Id been a complete bitch to him at the time,
hed still dropped everything and risked his own life to save
me.
Two hours later, we were all sitting around a large table

underneath a marquee that the staff had set up earlier this


morning. Richard sat at the head of the table with Mom
diagonally across from him, and Nate and I were next to
each other further down. The rest of the seats were taken
up by the few journalists whod been invited. Unfortunately,
Stella Bowman was one of them. She was one of the most
famous tabloid journalists in the state, so I supposed it
wasnt all that surprising she was here. Just annoying.
I speared a piece of honeydew melon and looked over
at Nate, who already had a mouthful of food. It was so
strange acting like this was just another regular breakfast,
when in fact we were eating breakfast in front of camera
crews and reporters. The reporters threw out questions for
us now and then, but most of them were being directed at
Richard for the time being.
So, Richard. I understand you and Anne have decided
to push the wedding back in order to give the children more
time to adjust to what has happened? Stella said, her
shark-like eyes focused directly on him.

Richard had a mouthful of pancake, so my Mom spoke


for him. Stellas eyes widened. The last time shed spoken
to my Mom had been at the engagement barbecue. Back
then Mom had been timid as a mouse, but now she didnt
seem to have a problem answering for her fianc at all.
Were pushing the wedding back a few months, yes. It
was meant to be in just a week and a half from now, and we
feel that thats not enough time for Lauren and Nate to really
deal with what happened a few days ago. Not only that,
theyre both starting college soon, so we need to give them
time to adjust to that too.
I see, Stella replied, her blood-red lips curled into a
fake smile as she faced Richard again. And what do you
have to say about all the recent rumors surrounding the
family? Lots of sources were reporting that you and Nate
have been feuding.
She conveniently failed to mention that she was the
main source exposing their recent problems, and I
suppressed the urge to roll my eyes in her direction. I half-

expected Richard to lie and say that there had never been
any issues between him and Nate, but instead he
swallowed his mouthful of food and answered honestly,
albeit delicately.
Its true that my son and I have had some problems
recently. But weve talked through them and resolved them
now, as all families should when they encounter problems.
How wonderful, Stella said. Now, to our real man of
the hour.Nate, darling, how does it feel to be a hero?
What made you go and rescue Lauren like that?
She was practically purring at him, and I caught my
Moms eye and gave her a tight smile. The whole thing was
so ridiculous. Nate cleared his throat.
Well, I dont know if Id really call what I did heroic. I
realized she was in danger and I did what I thought I should
do. I couldnt let anything happen. I love her.
I almost dropped my cutlery. Had he really just said
that? Stella arched an eyebrow.

Youlove her? she asked.


Well, yeah, of course. Shes going to be my family
soon. Weve gotten really close lately, and I care about her
the same way I care about my Dad or any other family
member, he said, hastily covering his slip-up.
Stella smiled. So brave. So admirable. Rescuing the
girl wholl soon be your sister from the very clutches of evil.
Now Lauren, how about you? How are you feeling since
youve been home?
She thrust a recording device under my nose, and I
almost jumped as I felt the unbelievable Nates hand on
my thigh under the table. Jesus, he was brazen. His touch
sent warmth running through my body like an electric
current, and I did my best to play it cool. Dabbing my lips
with a napkin, I forced a polite smile and answered Stellas
question.
Im feeling much better now that Im home and safe. I
think Im very lucky to have so many people who care about

me.
Do you think youll need some sort of counselling after
what you went through? Post-traumatic stress is a real
thing, you know.
Richard held his hand up. Excuse me, Stella. Lauren
doesnt have to answer anything like that.
Oh, of course, she replied with a simpering smile. Im
sorry for overstepping. Now, Im going to want some photos
of the four of you together, and also a few of just Nate and
Lauren together. But that can wait until were all finished
eating, of course.
I stood up abruptly, throwing my napkin down on my
plate. Please excuse me for a moment.
I turned and walked inside as fast as I could without
looking like I was running away from the media breakfast. I
didnt actually need to use the bathroom, but I stepped into
the nearest one I could find; a small marble-interior room
just beyond the kitchen. My hands shook as I ran the water

and splashed my face with it.


It was like everything that had happened was finally
hitting me all at once. Nate had been right. I must have
been in shock for the last few days, and now my brain was
finally comprehending just how close Id come to being
seriously hurt. Apparently when my father had been taken
in, theyd found traces of methamphetamine in his system.
That explained why he had come up with a stupid
kidnapping plan and been unafraid to carry it out. He was
high as a frickin kite at the time, and people like that were
the most dangerous. They were completely unpredictable,
and things could have turned out very badly for everyone
involved.
The door creaked open a moment later.
There you are, Nate said, masculine voice sending
shivers down my spine. I was wondering where you got to.
You okay?
He shut the door behind him, and I turned around and

wiped my hands on a white towel. I think so. I just needed


to get away from all that for a minute. I thought I was okay
with answering questions about my father, but I dont want
to anymore.
Understandable. You dont have to go back out there if
you dont want to. Ill tell them youre feeling sick.
I sighed. No, just give me a minute. Ill be fine. Ill go
back out soon.
He suddenly hoisted me up onto the marble counter
surrounding the basin, and he pressed a hand over my
mouth as I squealed in surprise.
Hey! I protested. What are you doing?
Giving you a minute, he said, leaning down and
planting a soft kiss on my neck. You didnt specify exactly
what you wanted in that minute, so I just kinda assumed
I giggled and wrapped my legs around his back, and his
lips trailed in a soft brush below my ear. My breath hitched
and my nails dug into his shoulders as I clung to him, and

electricity shot down between my legs, making me tingle


like crazy. Lust twined into a ball that expanded with every
breath, and I slid my hands into his hair, gripping hard and
tugging his head towards me for a kiss. God, it was so
easy to forget all my problems and stresses when his hot
lips were on mine.
He groaned and drove a hand into my hair at the same
time his mouth possessed mine. His firm lips opened as
his tongue slid into my mouth, and a dark need bubbled in
my veins, making me overflow with desperation. This was
so bad. So wrong. Almost obscene. Everyone was right
outside praising Nate as a heroic young man for rescuing
his stepsister, and here we were going crazy in the
bathroom like we didnt care, hands all over each other,
gropingcaressingfeeling.
Swipe after swipe, his tongue drove me to the edge of
sanity. Hot. Demanding. Dangerous. I didnt even hear the
bathroom door creak open again, but I did hear the click of
a camera shutter.

Nate and I sprang apart, but it was too late. Stella


Bowman stood in the doorway, practically salivating at what
shed seen and captured on her little camera. She licked
her red lips and smirked, eyes even more devious than
usual as she spoke.
Well, wellwhat do we have here?

CHAPTER TWENTY-One
NATE
Lauren sat across from me in the sitting room, her face
pale. Anne was standing, her body rigid and her face even
paler. My father paced about the room, his knuckles white
as he gripped the newspaper before slamming it down on
the coffee table before us. The front page article today was
by Stella Bowman surprise, surprise and it was titled
BROTHERLY LOVE INDEED Candid Pictures Capture
A Sordid Affair.
Right there on the front page was the photo of me and
Lauren making out in the bathroom during the media
breakfast yesterday morning. Lauren turned her face away
and then looked at her feet. This must have been hell for

her. I was used to disappointing my father, but shed never


disappointed her mother. Not once.
Wed both known wed be found out eventually, but wed
never imagined itd be like this. Wed briefly discussed it in
the last few days and come to the conclusion that wed wait
until all this other shit had blown over, and then come clean
to our parents. But now our secret affair had been
announced to the world for us. That damned bitch Stella.
She just couldnt help herself. Hell, I couldnt really blame
her. It was a good story. People loved reading trashy shit
about clandestine affairs, and when it involved the son of a
local billionaire they loved it even more.
The silent tension in the room was so thick it could have
been cut with a knife, and finally my father spoke.
How long has this been going on for?
Neither of us answered for a moment, and I glanced at
Lauren. Her face was ashen, and there was no way she
was going to speak anytime soon.

Since before we knew you two were getting married, I


said. The whole thing started at a party my friend threw in
our last semester of school.
And neither of you thought to tell us when we informed
you we were engaged?
My fathers face was like thunder by this stage.
I shrugged. I dunno. We didnt really know what was
going to happen. We both thought it was over for a while,
and then it wasnt.
Do you have any idea what this sort of publicity might
do to my company? Do you think shareholders want to be
invested in a company headed up by a man whose son is
involved in some pseudo-incestuous relationship with the
daughter of the woman Im about to marry?
I glowered at him but didnt reply. It wasnt incestuous,
for Christs sake. Everyone was acting like us being
together was so fucking shocking and terrible, but we
werent even related. It wasnt that big of a deal.

Anne finally sat down and squeezed Laurens hand.


Sweetie, Im not angry. Im just disappointed.
Ah, the classic parenting line, designed to elicit as
much guilt as possible.
Actually, no. You know what? I am angry, she
continued, cocking her head to the side. Richard and I both
are. How could you let this happen? Youve always been so
good. And now
Lauren jerked her head up. Now what? Now Im
suddenly a terrible person because I found someone to
love?
My father laughed, a short, sharp bark. You think this is
love? Youre both eighteen years old. You dont know what
love is.
I stood up, hands curling into fists by my side. How the
hell would you know? You were only twenty when you met
my mother, and you sure as shit seemed to love her.
He ran his hands through his hair and sighed. Nate, this

is different.
Bullshit, I replied. Its no different. Lauren and I love
each other, and thats that. Were not breaking up, and I
dont care what you do. Cut me off, disown me again. Its
fine. I handled it on my own just fine last time you did that,
and I can do it again. As long as I get to be with her and
take care of her.
With that I stormed out of the room and headed
upstairs. Fuck this shit. What made them think it was okay
to tell us our feelings werent valid simply because they
were older than us and supposedly knew better? Especially
my father. Hed been married five times so far, and four of
those marriages had been total bullshit. If anything, he was
the one who didnt know shit about love.
I lit a cigarette to calm my nerves and sat on the end of
my bed, contemplating my next course of action. Someone
knocked at my door a moment later, and assuming it was
Lauren come to cry on my shoulder, I called out. Come in!

It was Yves, holding a glass of scotch. After the whole


kidnapping incident, my father had practically begged him
to continue working here, and claimed the whole firing thing
was a misunderstanding. He briskly crossed the room and
handed the scotch to me. Seems like you might need this.
Since when do you approve of me drinking? I asked,
accepting it and taking a swig.
I dont. This is a one-time thing, he said, knitting his
eyebrows and gazing at me. Are you all right?
I shrugged. Dunno. Im probably about to get disowned
again. And now Lauren might be as well.
He crossed the room, opened the curtains and then sat
down on the chair underneath my window sill. You cant just
wallow up here all day. Go back down and talk to your
father.
I may as well just talk to you. Youre practically my
second father.
He chuckled. Dont let him catch you saying that. Itll

probably make him even angrier. But really, Nate, you all
need to talk.
I just dont get why everyone is so up in arms about it.
Lauren isnt my real sister. We didnt grow up together.
Theres nothing taboo about what weve been doing.
He arched an eyebrow. Then why did you hide it for so
long?
He had a point, and I had zero response. He leaned
closer to me. You know, youre both lucky you werent
discovered earlier than this. You didnt exactly hide it too
well.
You knew?
Of course I did. I know everything that goes on in this
house.
He grabbed the tumbler of scotch from my hands and
took a sip himself before sighing deeply. Nate, theres
something you should hear. The feelings you have for
Lauren may very well be real, but that doesnt mean others

will want to accept it. You cant change everyones minds.


My partner and I werent even allowed to legally consider
marriage until just a few years ago. Even now, people still
stare at us sometimes when we walk hand in hand down
the street.
So what, youre saying we should just end it because
no one will ever accept it?
Thats not what Im saying at all. Im saying you just
have to realize youll never be able to please everyone, so
you should do what makes you happy and accept the
consequences.
I lay back, thinking over his words. He was right. Id just
had my trust fund reinstated, but knowing my father, it was
about to be cut off again. Well, screw that. Like Id told him
downstairs, I was more than capable of getting a job and
being just like a regular person. Maybe Id never be able to
make it to college, but so what? As long as Lauren and I
were together, none of that shit seemed to matter. People
could point and stare all they wanted; I didnt give a shit.

And hopefully neither would she.


So what do I do now? I asked.
As I said, you need to go and try to have a proper
conversation with your father and Anne. That would be a
start. No more storming out and trying to bury your head in
the sand. That isnt going to help.
I nodded slowly. Youre right. As usual.
I headed back downstairs to find Lauren, Anne and my
father in much the same position as Id left them. They all
glanced up at me as I entered, and my father opened his
mouth to say something. I held up my hands and cut him off.
Dad, just let me speak. Im sorry I ran off before. But
you need to understand. This is real. The way Lauren and I
feel about each other is real. I know it might be hard for you
to accept, but I really hope youll try. If you dont want me
around anymore, I understand. But just know that I am not
doing this just to piss you off or get attention. Ive done that
in the past, but this is different.

He stared at me in silence for a full three minutes. I was


hoping to get some sort of response out of him; anything at
all, but he simply sighed and strode out of the room.
Shit.

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO
LAUREN
The look on my Moms face when shed found out about
Nate and me had said it all. She was hurt. Angry.
Disappointed. All I could think of was how stupid wed
been. Wed been so brazen with our behavior, running off to
the bathroom and hooking up with half the citys top
reporters right outside.
How could we have been so dumb? Wed been so
blinded by our lust that we hadnt even considered that
someone might walk in. I was meant to be the stereotypical
smart nerdy girl, but right now I was just an idiot. I supposed
I couldnt blame myself too much, though. After all the crap
Id been through in the last few days, my mind was all over
the place. I wasnt thinking straight, and it wasnt all that
surprising that Id made such a dumb decision. But still. I

was an idiot. We both were.


Mom, please say something, I said softly, gazing over
at her. Shed barely spoken a word in over an hour now.
She shook her head as if to clear her thoughts. Are you
twoare you having sex?
My cheeks flushed pink, and I nodded. Yes.
She sighed deeply. What about protection?
We always use condoms. Dont worry, Nate said. She
ignored him and focused all her attention on me.
I dont understand why you kept this from me. You used
to be my little girl. You used to tell me everything.
I know. Im sorry.
There wasnt much else I could say. Id always been my
mothers little girl like she said, but there were some things
that I just couldnt talk to her about. She would have killed
me if Id told her what was going on between me and Nate.
Or she would have given me the same disappointed puppy-

dog eyes that she was casting around the room now. Either
way, Id been too scared to tell her.
Her phone buzzed, and left the room for a moment.
When she returned, she looked at Nate.
Nate, your father has scheduled a press conference.
Hell be on national television in a few hours to make a
statement to his shareholders about thisthis scandal.
With that, she swept out of the room, and the next few
hours crawled by. Nate and I held hands, but neither of us
spoke a word. We didnt know what the future held. What if
our parents called off their engagement all because of us? I
hadnt even considered that, but now guilt was worming its
way into my guts, chewing up my insides till I felt hollow. Not
only that, Richard had mentioned something about his
shareholders probably being upset after the news of our
relationship broke. For all we knew, everyone was going to
sell their stocks all at once, and Scion was going to go
under. It was a worst-case scenario, but it could happen.
Then it would be all my fault that thousands of people lost

their jobs.
My Mom returned and switched on the flat-screen TV,
and she flicked through the channels until she found the
right one. She nervously picked at her nails, and another
pang of guilt bit at me. She was so anxious, so scared, and
it was all my fault.
Richards voice boomed through the room from the TV
a moment later.
Good evening, everyone. Thank you for being here.
Now, I wont beat around the bush. You all know why Im
here. By now the story of my son and my fiances
daughters relationship has gone viral, so to speak. Im
hearing a lot of negativity about it.
He paused, and my heart raced frantically in my chest
like the wings of a trapped bird.
Ive called this meeting to personally address Scions
shareholders concerning this incident. I was only made
aware of the relationship between my son and Lauren

Torres this morning, and I have something to say about it.


He is my only son, and I am damned proud of him.
He paused for dramatic effect, and my eyebrows
practically shot to the ceiling. I turned to Nate, and he
appeared to be just as shocked.
My son has fallen in love, and I cannot fault him for that
or hold him back. Only yesterday, the media was having a
field day over him rescuing Lauren from an incredibly
dangerous situation, and I am disappointed to see how fast
the tables have turned. Yes, it is a strange situation, but it is
not unheard of. Nate and Lauren are not related. Anne and I
are not even married yet, so they share no familial relation,
even by marriage. I could easily stand up here today and lie
to you, and tell you all that I am disowning my son and
refusing to acknowledge his relationship in order to save
my company. But I wont do that. You wont hear this much
in the corporate world, but love is important. So is family. Id
rather have my sons love, happiness and respect than
anything else. Now, as you all know, Scion employs

thousands of people throughout each state in our wonderful


country. People who also have families. If my sons
personal business is so deplorable to you, then by all
means, sell your shares but know that if you do, you may
be contributing to a financial loss that would force
hundreds, if not thousands, of my employees out of a job.
They will suffer. Their families will suffer. Can you have that
on your conscience?
Richards face was immediately illuminated by the flash
of a thousand cameras, and he shielded his face from the
light with a hand as reporters screamed questions at him. I
was beyond shocked. Hed just potentially thrown himself
and his entire company under the bus to defend Nate and
me. Something had obviously changed his mind. Maybe
Nates earlier speech had actually gotten through to him.
Mr. Sloane, do you realize that your stocks have
already plummeted? How many people are going to lose
their jobs? one reporter called out.
Does your board support this? another shouted.

An assistant jumped in front of the camera. Mr. Sloane


will not be taking questions at this time.
How can you be happy with your son dating the girl
whos about to be his stepsister? another journalist
shouted. Dont you agree that its disgusting?
Richard ignored her and strode out of the frame of the
camera, and my Mom turned the TV off.
Well, she said.
And that was it. She was lost for words. We all were.

CHAPTER TWENTYTHREE
NATE
Ten months later
Does this look okay?
Lauren smoothed down her black pencil skirt and
looked at me in the mirror, her eyes wide with anxiety.
I hate it. You should take it off right now, I said with a
smirk, moving right behind her and sliding the zip halfway
down.
She glared at me in the mirror. Nate, be serious for
once. I need to look professional when I start this internship
at your Dads company.

It looks fine, I replied. Honestly, you could wear a


dinosaur onesie and still look good.
But not professional, she said, turning around and
melting into my arms as she giggled at my silliness.
Sliding my arms around her waist, I kissed the tip of her
nose before moving down to those luscious lips of hers.
They parted and I kissed her hungrily, my cock stirring in my
pants as soon as my tongue entered her mouth.
Shed made it through her first year at MIT with flying
colors, and she was about to start the summer internship at
Scion, working directly with my father. Things had been
crazy at the company since his press conference all those
months ago, but not in a bad way. Surprisingly, stock prices
for Scion had actually gone drastically up after his speech
on TV. It had been dropping steadily after the news of our
supposedly-sordid relationship went public thanks to Stella,
but that speech of his had obviously changed more than a
few minds.

Scion was even bigger and more powerful than ever


before, and that meant even more corporate crap for my
Dad and his board to worry about. But I didnt think he was
all that worried. Hed survived one of the biggest scandals
that ever hit him, and hed not only managed to sail through
it, hed managed to leverage it to his advantage and
increase his revenue by a substantial margin. Sometimes I
didnt know how he did it.
Hed meant every word hed said in that press
conference, though. Anne had finally come around to
Lauren and me being together as well, although it took her
a little longer. Luckily, shed accepted it by the time the
wedding rolled around, and that all went off without a hitch.
Yep, she and my Dad were still together and now happily
married. Lauren had been her mothers bridesmaid, and
shed never looked more radiant and beautiful than on that
day.
Id blown off Harvard and been accepted into one of
Massachusetts top film schools, and it had been

surprisingly easy to bring my Dad around to the idea. Then


again, it was hard to shock him nowadays, considering the
way hed found out about Lauren and me. It felt good, finally
being able to learn about something that really interested
me. Id also invested some of my trust into the catering
company Id worked for when I was broke, and I made sure
they were all being paid a better wage. I also regularly
spoke to prospective clients and told them that the staff
were to be treated with respect or Id have no problems
telling them to walk out halfway through a shift. It wasnt
going to solve all the worlds inequality problems, but as Id
learned when I had no money every little bit helps. My
study and work load from all that was intense, but coming
home to my Boston apartment with Lauren there made
things that much easier.
I pulled back and looked at her, still almost unable to
believe how things had turned out. I could hardly believe my
luck. Id never been the type of guy to believe in corny shit
like love and happy-ever-after stories, but this was it. We

were meant to be. Sounded sappy as hell, but it was the


truth. It was still funny to me to think of how wed gone from
despising each other to wanting to spend every possible
moment together. The one girl Id loved to hatewell, it
turned out that I just fucking loved her.
Lauren playfully hit me on the shoulder. What are you
staring at? she asked. Is there something on my face? Oh
god, do I need to start using your pore strips again?
Oh, shut up, I said, my lips quirking up in a smile.
Youre never going to let that pore strip thing go, are you?
Nope. Youre such a girl.
Would a girl have this? I asked, grabbing her hand and
moving it to my crotch. Her eyes widened at the stiffness
underneath the fabric of my pants, and I smirked. Didnt
think so.
Well, what were you staring at? she asked, gently
rubbing my cock through my pants.
You, I said. Just thinking about how lucky I am to have

you.
Wow, you really are a girl.
I playfully slapped her ass. I was just about to give you a
surprise, but if youre going to keep being a bitch to me,
you arent going to get it.
She raised her eyebrows. Let me guessthe surprise
is in your pants? Because let me tell you, thats no surprise.
Im already touching it.
I chuckled. No. But youre going to have to take that
skirt off and put something more comfortable on.
Something you can travel in.
Nate, my internship starts in two weeks. I cant go
running off somewhere.
Oh, yes you can, I said. Two weeks is plenty.
She sighed and shook her head, then smiled. Okay.
Enlighten me. Where are we going?
Thats the surprise, I said. Now pack your bags.

She pouted, hating the fact that I knew at least one thing
she didnt. I unzipped the skirt the rest of the way and pulled
it down, and she sighed with pleasure as I rolled a thumb
over her clit.
God, Nate, she said. Are you always going to be this
horny?
I leaned down and brushed my lips over her ear. You
wouldnt like me if I wasnt.

CHAPTER TWENTYFOUR
LAUREN
We were in France. In Nice, to be precise. Just when Id
thought things couldnt get any better, Nate went and
whisked me halfway across the world. Id always dreamed
of vacationing along the French Riviera, and now here we
were. Id never even told Nate that I wanted to come here,
but it was like he could just see inside my mind and know
exactly what it took to make me happy.
My life was crazily good now. Last year had been the
most screwed up, harrowing year of my young life. Id
survived having my heart shattered and then put back
together again, a kidnapping attempt and a date rape

attempt, but I was still in one piece with Nate by my side.


Neither of us were the same people we used to be, and
that was a good thing. Nate was finally doing something he
loved, and hed grown so much; from a spoiled, arrogant
playboy to a man who was able to stand on his own two
feet and support himself if need be. And me? Being with
him had helped me become less uptight and a lot braver. In
taking that first risk at Erics party all those months ago, Id
learned that sometimes taking risks could be a good thing.
Hey, it got me Nate, didnt it? I loved him more than
anything, and I knew he felt the same way.
My Mom and I were back to being as strong as ever,
although that had taken some time. Shed mostly been
afraid that Id get hurt, but when she saw how much Nate
really cared about me, shed come through. With Richards
support, shed followed her dreams and gone back to
college to study advertising and marketing, and she was
loving every minute. College was amazing for me, too. I
was meeting all kinds of new people and learning all kinds

of fantastic things, and I couldnt wait to start my summer


internship in a fortnight. But that could wait. Right now, I was
going to enjoy this surprise trip.
Lauren! Come here.
Nate called out to me, and I took a quick look in the
bathroom mirror before following his voice out onto our
hotel balcony. We had a direct view over the ocean, and I
gasped at the sight before me. The sun was about to set
over the water, and the sky was an enchanting mixture of
pink, orange and purple shades, glowing as the very last of
the days light kissed the surface.
Oh godits just so perfect, I said breathlessly. Im so
glad were doing this.
And Im so glad Im doing this, he replied.
Huh?
I turned to see Nate down on one knee, holding a
sparkling ring. My eyes flashed from the ring to his face,
and my hand involuntarily flew to my mouth.

Oh my god. Are you?


He nodded, one eyebrow cocked, and I screamed with
excitement as tears of joy prickled at the backs of my eyes.
Yes! Oh my god, yes!
He stood up and slipped the ring onto my finger,
murmuring into my ear. You didnt even give me a chance
to actually ask you properly. Typical you, always being one
step ahead of everyone else.
His lips pressed firmly against mine, and I felt giddy with
happiness. Just when Id thought things couldnt get any
better
Youre stuck with me now, he said, breaking away for
a second and gazing at me. My eyes filled with emotion,
and his brilliant smile made my heart beat faster.
I love you, Nate Sloane.
He caressed my jaw, slid down to my neck and trailed
his fingers over my delicate skin.

I love you too, Lauren Torres. Youre the most important


person in my life.
Oh, really? I twined my fingers behind his neck and
gave him a wicked smile. Well, the most important person
in your life wants you to throw her over your shoulder, take
her into that hotel room and screw her brains out.
He chuckled and nuzzled my lips. Well, if thats what
you wantyoull get it. Whatever you want.
***
THE END