Tool, p.1
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         Part #2 of A Step Brother Romance series by Sabrina Paige
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Page 1

  At least this day can't get any worse.

  Famous last words, I know.   Except I can't help but think it, even as I'm limping down the walkway, headed toward the guesthouse and dragging my suitcase behind me.

  The suitcase makes a sound that's only slightly less grating than nails on a chalkboard as I drag it over the concrete.   It's held together with twine, clothes poking out of the sides every which way, and a giant sticker peeling at the edges that reads, "Notice of Inspection. "  I'm holding one of the wheels in my hand, because of course as soon as I picked it up at baggage claim, a wheel went rolling off.

  The suitcase looks better than I do, actually.   You know those romantic comedies where the heroine falls in a fountain or gets caught in a downpour and is supposed to appear bedraggled but instead is breathtakingly gorgeous in spite of her dripping hair and clothes?  Yeah, that's pretty much exactly the opposite of what I look like.

  I look like I walked off the set of a horror movie.   Outside of the airport, I caught my heel in a grate while I was walking and ripped it clean off my brand new designer shoe, crashing onto the sidewalk and skinning my knee.   While I was hailing a cab, my umbrella had some kind of seizure, so my hair is plastered to my head; my clothes are soaked; and my black bra is completely visible through my white t-shirt.   I know my shirt is transparent, because the cab driver was helpful enough to point it out for me.

  I'm hoping I can make it to the guesthouse without any further catastrophe.   I didn't even stop at the main house – I want to clean up before seeing anyone I know, and as soon as I glimpsed the cars in the driveway, I knew I had to avoid that place.

  I've just flown back to Dallas to start my new job, working in my father's company, Marlowe Oil -- my first professional job out of college.   The last thing I need is to show up at the door looking like a hot mess in front of whatever business associates my family is likely entertaining.

  Sneaking around to the guesthouse is a much smarter choice in my condition.

  Besides, I don't think I even have the mental capacity to make coherent conversation with anyone.   All I want is a shower.   Actually, make that a bath.   I want a bath and a stiff drink.

  At least it's not raining anymore.   That has to count for something, right?

  I push open the door to the guesthouse with my shoulder, trying to wrangle my suitcase through the doorway.   I'm making such a commotion that it's only when I turn around, I realize I'm not alone.

  In fact, not alone is the understatement of the year.

  There are probably twenty people staring at me.   I scan the room, taking in their faces, trying to process the scene in my brain.   It's some kind of photo shoot, models and makeup artists and clothing hung on racks in the corner of the room.   Strategically placed lighting illuminates the set, and a photographer is turned toward the door, paused with his camera in hand, staring at me.

  I'm standing here, barefoot and looking like a drowned rat, my gaze coming to rest on the chaise lounge in the middle of the room, where three tall, thin, beautiful blondes with perfectly coiffed hair and flawless makeup and expensive lace lingerie pose around him.   The boy I used to know.   The boy I last saw four years ago, when we were eighteen.

  He's sure as hell not a boy anymore.

  He looks right in my eyes, and I swear he can see through me.   Then he gives me that cocky, shit-sure of himself, nothing-ever-surprises-me grin, and I'm not certain whether the heat that rushes through me is anger or lust.

  Gaige O'Neal.

  Motorcycle racer, womanizer, asshole extraordinaire.   Four years ago, he was the bane of my existence.   And my best friend, my confidant, my first love.

  My stepbrother.

  Crap.   This day just got a hell of a lot worse.

  "Well, now, as I live and breathe. "  Gaige's voice reverberates through the room.   I've spent four years trying to get that sound out of my head.   His voice is low and gravely, with a hint of a drawl, the product of spending his formative years at a boarding school in South Carolina -- the boarding school was prestigious and pretentious, but Gaige is anything but.

  "Gaige O'Neal. "  The words leave my mouth in one breath, heavy like an exhale.   For a split second, seeing him there is almost enough to make everything else in here fade to black, as if I'm looking at him with tunnel vision.   It's the same Gaige I used to know, with that arrogant smile that made me so angry and a body made for sin.   Even back when we were teenagers.

  Now, though…hell, I don't know that I've ever seen anyone that looks as holy-shit-hot as Gaige does with his shirt off.   When I last saw him, he had one tattoo on his shoulder, but now they snake around his forearms and biceps and cover his chest. Page 2

  His very broad, very defined chest.

  Gaige used to be hot, but he's transformed into something else entirely.   I've made a concerted effort to forget Gaige O'Neal over the past four years, which is honestly pretty difficult when your stepbrother is a media darling, a sports figure the tabloids love.   It involves going to extreme lengths: no looking at photo spreads in the sports magazines, shutting off the television interviews, ignoring the tabloid articles about Gaige and whoever his girl-of-the-moment is, shrugging and changing the subject when friends want to know what Gaige is like.

  What Gaige is like…The memory of my last night alone with him sticks in my head.   It never leaves me.   I've revisited it God knows how many times over the last few years, replaying it like some kind of movie.

  Gaige's lips are so close to mine that if I move even a millimeter, we'll be touching.   And there's nothing more that I want on this green earth than to feel Gaige's lips against mine.   I want him more than anything…and that is exactly why I can't have him.

  "Say it, Delaney. "

  "We can't. "

  "We can do whatever we want.   Tell me you're mine. "

  Returning to Dallas is not supposed to mean coming back to Gaige.   Gaige is the last person I wanted to ever see again.   Out of sight, out of mind, right?  But now, standing here…it feels like no time at all has passed between us.

  "Delaney Marlowe. "  He stands up and walks over to me.   Limps over to me, to be more accurate.   He has a boot on his foot, one of those things you wear after you've had surgery.   I wonder what the hell happened.    Knowing Gaige, it'll be because he did something reckless on that motorcycle he races.   He never was able to just race that thing, even when he was a teenager – it was always stunts, crazy shit, chasing the next adrenaline rush.   And to Gaige, a rush wasn’t a rush unless it was death-defying.

  I'm distracted from asking what happened by the fact that, aside from the boot, he's wearing not much else.   Boxer briefs made of some kind of material that hugs his ass and his whole package, like it's a second skin.   I force my eyes upward toward his face.   It's hard not to look at…it.   What he's packing.   His Tool.   That's what people call it.   I used to call him the same thing, but for a different reason – because he frequently acted like such a dick.

  His Tool is apparently legendary.   I never got the chance to see it.   The night I was supposed to meet him – the night it was supposed to happen between us – never happened.   What can I say?  Things were complicated between us from the first moment we met.

  When Gaige gets to me, he pauses, standing so close I can hear his breath, and reaches out to push a tendril of wet hair away from my forehead.

  Oh my God.   My hair.   My clothes.

  My face flushes warm, and I know it must be bright red.   For a split second, I'd forgotten I was standing here looking the way I look in the middle of this.

  And now Gaige is standing in front of me, looking the way he does – with a perfect body, bei
ng photographed next to equally perfect-looking models.

  I want to sink into the ground, melt into a puddle of humiliation.

  "You're wet," he says.   His voice is low and deep and honeyed.   The way the words roll off his tongue, long and languid, make them sound more sexual than if he'd told me to take off my panties right now.   Electricity courses through my body, down to my fingertips, as the pad of his finger grazes my skin.

  I can't tear my eyes away from his.   I swear I'd forgotten what his eyes looked like.   They're this deep chocolate brown, flecked with gold and framed with lashes so thick they would make any woman envious.   His lids are hooded, giving him this perpetually seductive look, like he wants nothing more than to lounge around in bed all day.

  He looks deeply into my eyes, and for a second I think we're the only two people in the room.   For a moment, this is like a scene in a movie, the kind where the hero scoops up the heroine, bedraggled and soaking wet from the rainstorm, and kisses her in slow motion.

  But my life is definitely not something out of a movie.   I'm opening my mouth to respond to Gaige, when I'm cut off by the photographer, who's dressed head to toe in black and waving his camera behind Gaige from across the room.   "We have shots we need to get, please," he says, motioning impatiently toward the models.

  Whatever moment was happening between Gaige and I evaporates, so quickly I might have imagined it.   "You should finish your shoot," I say.

  Page 3

  Gaige grins.   "You look like you'd like a hot bath. "

  Why does everything that comes out of his mouth sound like an invitation for more?  I put that thought out of my head.   Thinking about Gaige – my stepbrother, for goodness' sake – that way is not good.   It's not appropriate.

  I look down at my wet clothes.   "Yes.   I need to clean up. "

  One of the blonde models appears by Gaige's side and places her hand on his bicep, jutting out her hip as she poses beside him.   I recognize her from something – an ad, maybe – but I can't place it.   She's tall and thin, with perky boobs and the kind of flat stomach I didn't think existed in real life.   She wrinkles her nose as she looks at me, her expression unbridled disdain.   That expression changes when she turns her focus back to Gaige.   "Gaige," she says sweetly, "Is this your girlfriend?"

  It's more than just an innocent question.   I know that by the way she touches him.   She wants him; she's marking her territory.

  Gaige's eyes never leave mine, but with his other hand he pats the hand that rests on his arm.   "No, Brooke," he says.   "This is just my sister, Delaney. "

  Just my sister.

  "Yes," I say, looking at Gaige.   "I'm just his stepsister.   And I'm just leaving. "

  An hour later, and we've finished the photo shoot, this editorial spread for a men's magazine: me surrounded by models in lingerie, the poster child for manwhores everywhere.   And no sooner do we wrap up than Brooke turns to me, her voice practically a purr, running her finger along my chest.

  "You know," she whispers, tossing a glance over her shoulder at the staff just out of earshot.   The other models are slipping into robes, but Brooke stands there in her lacy bra and panties, completely comfortable.   Hell, she should be.   Her body is irresistibly hot.   "Denise and Jessi are up for a little fun if you are. "

  I look beyond her at Denise and Jessi, the other two models with perfectly perky tits and asses.   "Maybe next time. "

  Brooke pouts, an expression she seems to think is seductive but really makes me find her obnoxious.   "If you change your mind," she says, turning to leave.   "You should call me. "

  Any other time, I'd be all over this kind of offer.   No red-blooded male passes up the opportunity to screw three blonde models.   At least, Gaige O'Neal sure as hell doesn't.   After all, that's my brand: racer, hothead, manwhore.   My dick -- or my tool, rather -- can't be satiated.   That's the angle a major magazine ran with years ago, and that's what everyone started talking about.   Like my cock had a life of its own, pursuing women it just had to fuck.   Even then, the idea made me roll my eyes.

  After the magazine article came out, Delaney started calling me Tool, but she said it was because I was a dick, not because of my dick.   Of course, Delaney never gave a shit about what anyone else thought of me.   She's probably the only person in my life who's ever been that way.

  Any other time, I'd be up for three hot blondes.   Any other time except an hour after Delaney Marlowe just waltzed back into my life.   Or, rather, came barreling through the door, a whirlwind of disarray, with her sopping wet clothes and hair plastered to her forehead.

  I should be screwing three blondes right now.   But instead, I'm thinking about Delaney.   Delaney and that glance she gave me when I tucked that strand of dark brown hair behind her ear.   Those wide eyes of hers, looking up at me.   The way her lower lip fell open just a little bit, and that sharp intake of breath when I touched her.   She probably thinks I didn't notice, but I sure as hell did.   And it took everything in my power to keep from getting a raging hard-on right then and there in front of everyone.

  Four years ago, I spent the entire summer alternating between arguing with that girl and trying to keep from throwing her over my shoulder and carrying her into my bed like some kind of caveman.   She's always been the ultimate in off-limits.   I have no doubt that my stepfather – the owner of the team I race for -- would break out his shotgun if he thought I had my sights set on Delaney.

  Besides, Delaney is all business.   She made that clear before.   She was heading to Columbia with big plans, and nothing was going to get in her way.   Especially not someone like me.   And, besides, she's the one who didn't show up that night.

  So what the hell is she doing, back here in Dallas?  And why the fuck am I suddenly turning down guaranteed sex with models because my stepsister, the girl who used to get under my skin and give me a ration of shit at every turn, shows up on my front door looking like something the cat dragged in?

  Page 4

  "Hang on," Delaney yells.   When she pulls open the door, she's breathless, her face flushed, hair hanging wet down to her shoulders -- combed and straight now, no longer in damp tangled strands.   And. . . a towel wrapped around her, tucked between her breasts.   I tell myself to keep my eyes up, but shit, it's damn near impossible, and she catches me staring.   "Oh my God, Gaige, just stop. "

  "What?"  I ask innocently.

  "You know what," she whispers.

  Okay, so I'm a shithead.   The fact that she caught me staring at her tits makes me grin and I can't hide the smile on my face.   She notices that too.

  "Why are you laughing?" she asks, indignant.   Then she lowers her voice to a whisper again.   "I saw you looking at my boobs.   Cut it out. "

  I step forward, close to her.   Damn it.   She smells like vanilla or something I can't quite place, the scent of her shampoo lingering in the air.   Like cookies.   Which immediately makes me think about eating her.   And that thought, the thought of being between her legs, renders me suddenly mute.   Stop staring and say something, I remind myself.

  "What?" she asks, her voice soft.   Silky.

  "You know no one is around," I say.   "My mom and your father are gone.   No one is going to hear you, so you don't have to whisper.   Besides, you're wearing a towel.   I can't help but look. "

  She rolls her eyes and exhales loudly, stepping back from me.   Putting distance between us.   "Well, it's nice to see that nothing much has changed since I saw you last. "

  "I don't know about that, Delamey," I say, emphasizing my nickname for her, the old one I used after she took to calling me Tool.   I like to think it was affectionate, although it would get under her skin like nobody's business.   She hated it.   I can't help but use it now.   Maybe I just want to get a rise out of her.   Hell, if she tried to hit me, she might even drop that towel.   "You've definitely changed. "
  Her eyes fly open wide.   "You're so juvenile," she says.

  "You're telling me that no one calls you Delamey anymore?"

  "You're the only one who ever called me by that stupid name," she says.   Her hand is still holding the towel between her breasts, as if she's afraid it's going to go flying off her body at any moment.   I resist the impulse to slip my finger between the folds of the towel and flick open the fabric. I remind myself that would be wrong.   "And if you keep doing it, then I'll start calling you Tool again. "

  I grin, but my words come out with an edge.   "Aw, sis, it's just like old times. "

  Delaney groans.   "And definitely don't call me sis," she says.   "Why are you here, anyway?  Are you finished with -- whatever it is you were doing in the guest house?"

  "You make it sound seedy," I say.   "It's not like I was shooting porn. "

  She gives me a look that could freeze boiling water, one eyebrow raised, and it makes me laugh.   I'd forgotten that look.   She used to give it to me a lot.   "Humph.   You could have fooled me. "

  "Jealous?" I ask.

  "Of -- what was her name?"  Delaney asks.   I can tell she's trying to sound casual but she's definitely failing.   "Brooke?"

  I smile.   "You don't have anything to be jealous of," I say.   "Those models have nothing on you. "  It comes out before I even think about what I'm saying.

  Her lips part for a second, and I think about sliding my hands around to the small of her back, pulling her against me, and bringing my mouth down hard on hers.   But I don't.   I want to know what she's about to say, and I find myself slightly disappointed when she doesn't respond.

  "So.   Are you going to ask me inside, or are you just planning to keep standing there in your doorway in a towel?"  I ask.   I'm totally pushing my luck.   I want to see if she'll actually invite me in her room.   The Delaney I knew four years ago never would have said yes.   That Delaney was far too concerned with playing by the rules.

  She hesitates, and for a second I think she might actually do it.   Then she raises her eyebrows.   "Do you really think I'm going to invite you into my room?"

  I shrug.   "Can't fault me for trying. "

  "Of course I can," she says.   "You're my stepbrother.   It's obscene. "

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