That fucking prick.
A smirk spreads across his lips, the movement excruciatingly slow, almost as if he's not the least bit surprised to see me. He looks so satisfied with himself that it’s all I can do not to walk up to him and slap that stupid smug smile right off his face.
Instead, I stand there, my heart pounding so loudly in my chest I swear everyone in the room must be able to hear it. I'm frozen, paralyzed, staring at him like I'm some kind of idiot.
The devil incarnate.
A devil with the bluest damn eyes I've ever seen, right here in my father's house.
When Caulter directs those blue eyes toward me, I just know he can see right through me. I'm naked under his gaze, helpless to prevent the heat from rising to my cheeks as his eyes linger on me.
The only thing I can think about is the last time I saw him - the heat of his breath on my neck that made me practically writhe with the anticipation of him being inside me, the way he bit the edge of my lip when he kissed me that caused me to cry out, unsure if I was feeling pleasure or pain. When the tip of his cock pressed against my entrance, I winced and he gave me an odd look. “Shit, Princess, tell me you’ve done this before. ”
I'd forced a laugh, tried to sound more casual than I felt. That was all it was -- casual. Hit it and quit it was Caulter's mantra. Unlike Caulter, I had exactly zero experience with that. I had been Little Miss Perfect my whole life -- 4. 0 GPA, class president, valedictorian, the whole nine yards. The daughter of Senator Harrison. The Senator Harrison. There were certain expectations of me. Let's just say that no one -- at least no one normal -- was clamoring to date the daughter of the retired Marine Corps General. The same man who was expected to make a bid for President in the next few years.
And no one was trying to get in my pants. Except for Caulter Sterling, the bad boy who didn't give a damn about rules or expectations.
The week before graduation, I had made my decision. Enough was enough. I was eighteen, an adult. I was headed to Harvard in precisely ninety days, and I sure as hell wasn't arriving there with my virginity intact. I texted the one boy I knew would do the deed -- even if he was the only boy I truly couldn't stand.
Caulter moved slightly, the head of his cock pressed insistently against me. "Tell me, Princess," he whispered, his voice nearly a growl. "This isn't your first time, is it?"
"Of course it's not, jackass," I lied, my jaw set, forcing an assuredness I definitely didn't feel. "Are you going to screw me, or not?"
My father's voice cuts through the memory with military-like precision. "Katherine," he says. "You know Caulter Sterling. "
Do I know Caulter Sterling? My cheeks feel like they are on fire. Surely everyone in here can see what is written all over my face. Do I know him? Only in the most Biblical of senses.
I know how he tastes.
I know how his cock feels as it slides into me.
I know how it feels when I come on him, digging my fingernails into his shoulders as I cling to his body like I'm afraid I'll be swept away.
The boy I'd lost my virginity to -- the same one to whom I'd mumbled an awkward "thanks" as I'd slipped out the door of the hotel the next day in what was inarguably the most awkward morning-after exchange in the history of mornings-after -- the boy I hadn’t spoken to since he did the deed two weeks ago -- is now standing in my fucking living room.
With my father.
In terms of embarrassing moments, this has to rank as one of the worst. A million thoughts are swirling around in my head. Does my father know? I wonder. No, he can't possibly. I try to reassure myself. My father would have already throttled him with his bare hands if he knew the debauched things Caulter had done to me that night. The thought of those things sends a rush of heat between my legs that I try to ignore.
"Yes. " I choke out the word, my voice little more than a croak. "I know Caulter Sterling. Hello, Caulter. "
"Hello, Harvard," Caulter says, his voice drawing out the word, lingering on it. His lips turn up on the edges. The image of him above me, those sweet lips millimeters from mine, flashes in my head as clear as day.
Standing there next to my oh-so-conservative father, Caulter pulls his lips into a smirk again. And winks. If there is such a thing as death by humiliation, I swear I am two seconds away from experiencing it.
"Of course you two know each other from Brighton," my father says, apparently oblivious to what has to be the now-scarlet color of my face.
I swallow hard and nod, willing the heat in my cheeks to subside. "Yes. Brighton. " Page 2
"And you know Caulter's mother, Ella Sterling," he says.
I've been so focused on Caulter that I haven't even registered the other person in the room. Ella Sterling. Caulter's mother. She’s a huge movie star, a Hollywood icon. If I had met her in any other setting, I'd be star-struck right now.
Why are she and Caulter in my living room? I silently pray this is all about some kind of political fundraiser, even though that might require that I play nice with Caulter. You know you'd like to do more than just play nice with him. The thought jumps right into my head, unwanted, and I banish it.
"Hello, Katherine. " Ella steps forward and extends her hand. She’s looking at me with the kind of affectionate expression you reserve for children and puppies, her eyes soft. "I've heard so much about you. "
Before I can think about why she's looking at me the way she is, my father speaks, his tone staccato, clipped. Business as usual. "Ella and I have an announcement to make, and we want the two of you to hear it from us first. "
He’s using her first name. They’re on a first name basis.
Caulter's eyes are on me, but I can’t bring myself to look at him. Instead, I stand there paralyzed, afraid to draw in a breath, watching as Caulter's mother reaches for my father's hand and covers it with hers, then looks up at him, positively beaming.
Oh my God.
It’s like watching two trains moving in slow motion toward certain collision. I know what my father is going to say before he even says it, but I just can't bring myself to believe it.
"We've managed to keep this out of the press, but we're planning to make an announcement soon. And the two of you have been shielded from it at boarding school. That wasn't intentional on our part. We meant to tell each of you over the holidays, but it just didn't seem like the right moment. " He clears his throat. "And you should know first. "
No, no, no.
"This may come as a shock. "
That’s the fucking understatement of the century.
"Ella and I have been seeing each other for some time. And we're getting married. It will be tasteful, respectful of your late mother, of course. But it will have to happen this summer, before the major campaign push. "
Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. I’m screaming the words inside my head.
I’ve just lost my virginity to my new stepbrother.
I'm completely fucked.
I’m going to be sick. I feel dizzy, detached from the entire situation as if I'm watching it happen from outside of my body, the three of them lined up in front of me, waiting for me to respond. Like some kind of emotional firing squad.
Maybe I’ll faint, I think, matter-of-fact. The casualness with which I consider it almost makes me laugh. Except that the situation is essentially a tragedy, not a comedy.
I’ve only fainted once before. It was during one of my mother’s appointments. The word makes it sound like we were going to the hair salon or the spa, but it was her chemotherapy. I’d insisted on going, despite her protests that I needed to be in school, that I was in eighth grade and I’d soon have to compete for a spot at one of the prestigious p
rivate high schools in the DC area. It was obviously an excuse, her way of trying to shelter me. But even then, despite my parents’ attempts to hide the severity of my mother’s disease from me, and maybe from themselves, some part of me knew she was dying.
Do not pass out, I tell myself now. Not over this.
“It’s obviously a lot to take in,” my father says.
“Obviously,” I parrot, my voice sounding robotic.
My father clears his throat. “Caulter was just saying that he knows you well from school. ”
I narrow my eyes at Caulter, hoping my murderous glare is enough to silence whatever the hell the unpredictable jackass is considering saying. Caulter's eyes crinkle at the edges, and the smirk makes me think he considers this entire situation a joke.
Oh shit. What if he knew about our parents before. . . what happened between us that night? The thought triggers a fresh wave of nausea.
“Brighton’s not exactly a big place,” Caulter says. “Everyone knows everything about everyone. It’s practically incestuous. ”
Ella Sterling’s face blanches at the word, and my father clears his throat. If I weren’t so completely and entirely enraged with Caulter, I’d almost be amused by my father’s obvious discomfort. Senator Jed Harrison is not the kind of man around whom you casually toss words like incestuous.
“Caulter,” Ella says, her tone sharp. “Perhaps we should give Katherine and her father a moment. ”
The last thing I want right now is a moment alone with my father. I don’t want to hear his explanation for why -- or how on earth -- he was able to keep a relationship with Ella Sterling completely under wraps from everyone, including his own daughter, for the past who-knows-how long. I definitely don’t want a reminder about the significance of his upcoming Senatorial re-election campaign. Or about the importance of decorum and public perception.
Oh my God, public perception. If anyone finds out what happened with Caulter… Before this announcement of my father's, it was just an ill-advised one night stand. A temporary lapse in judgment. My complete loss of sanity. Now, it’s suddenly…. incestuous.
My chest feels tight, and I’m having trouble breathing. “I need a minute,” I say as I start to walk away, my body moving of its own accord. “Please. ”
I don’t hear what they’re saying. I walk straight out of the room, past the tasteful colonial style furniture placed for show, not use, that matches the decor of the rest of this perfectly polished house. This is not the place where I grew up, the farmhouse in New Hampshire where I spent my childhood. This is the house where my father moved permanently after my mother died, the DC residence; I was shipped off to Brighton, an inconvenience that simply needed reassigned.
I open the first door I come to at the end of the hallway. It's my father's office, not the bathroom like I'm expecting, but I realize I can't remember where the bathroom is on the first floor. How stupid to not be able to remember where the bathroom is in your own house, I think. But, then, this isn't really my house.
I close the door behind me, sinking against it and shutting out the world, allowing the comfort of the silence to envelop me. The walls are lined with photo after photo of my father with politicians and important people, smiling for the camera and glad-handing, making deals and promises. And on the side of his L-shaped desk, prominently displayed like some kind of trophy, is a silver-framed photo of them. My father and Ella Sterling, their cheeks pressed together like two teenagers, grinning stupidly for the camera they're holding out in front of their faces.
I have the impulse to go over to the desk, to pick up the picture and smash it, to throw it to the ground and watch the glass shatter into a million pieces. But I don't. Katherine Harrison would never do something like that.
Of course, Katherine Harrison wouldn't have slept with someone like Caulter Sterling, either, with his tattoos and piercings and I don't give a fuck attitude. He blew into Brighton Academy like a damned tornado. His reputation preceded him, but Caulter was a force all on his own. Like some kind of unnatural phenomenon.
I was predisposed to hate him, but even if I hadn't known anything about him, I'd have despised him on sight, with his meticulously torn jeans and t-shirt with the design faded into oblivion in spots, smudged so it appeared vintage but was really some piece of designer schlock paid for by his mother who made all the money in the world. He reeked of angst and disdain for authority, and immediately offered my best friend Sara a private tour of his new dorm room. She declined and he'd laughed, then winked and made sure to extend the offer to me. If I could have rolled my eyes any harder, I would have sprained them.
Over the next two years, Caulter pretty much proved every prior tabloid article written about him right, racking up infraction after infraction at school -- underage smoking, drinking, drugs, girls in his room -- all of which were summarily swept under the rug, of course. Donations were made. It helped that Caulter’s insolence was intermittent; he was one of those guys who could charm the pants off anyone he wanted. Obviously, I mean that literally. Caulter made it through most of the females in the senior class -- not Sara, but I'm pretty sure if she weren't utterly devoted to her boyfriend, she would have jumped at the opportunity. The thing is, even when he showed up two years ago, Caulter had more of a reputation in the bedroom than he had outside of it. What he does with his tongue is the stuff of legend. The thought of him between my legs makes me flush.
The door moves behind me, jolting me out of my thoughts, which is a good thing because I don't need to be thinking about what happened between me and Caulter Sterling. The mere fact that I’ve lost my virginity to him is humiliating enough without even considering the current level of ridiculousness and drama that’s been added to it. Anyway, it's old news. Ancient history. So what if it was only ten days ago? It was one of those things that never should have happened in the first place.
I move away from the door, and it pushes open immediately. I brace myself for the inevitable imminent conversation with my father.
But it's not my father. It's Caulter. I exhale forcefully. I know I need to talk to him, but right this moment? Whatever I've done to incur this massive onslaught of karmic shit the universe is throwing at me, I resolve to fix it immediately.
"Hey, sis," he says, emphasizing the word as he closes the door behind him and leans against it. If he has an expression other than self-satisfied-smug-asshole, you'd never know it. He should be just as skeeved out as I am, but of course he's not. He's Caulter. This kind of thing would only add to his already sterling reputation.
"Don't call me that," I snap.
"Oh, but you heard daddy dearest, Princess," he says. "We're going to be siblings now. "
"Don't be stupid," I say. Why do I have the urge to slap him whenever I'm around him? He opens his mouth, and it's like nails on a chalkboard.
Caulter laughs. "Shit," he says. "It must be hard going through life with that stick up your ass. "
"Shut up," I hiss, narrowing my eyes. "Did you know about this before you and I. . . you know?"
He steps forward, away from the door, and stands inches from me, so close I can feel his breath warm the air between us. “You know…?” he says, his voice trailing off. “What are you asking, Princess?"
The blood rushes to my head. "Stop calling me that, Caulter," I say. "Or I'm going to start referring to you as shithead. "
He leans closer to me, his mouth mere millimeters from my ear. "Well, you can call me Oh God," he says. "Like you did before. When we were. . . you know. "
Fuck. Heat floods my face, and I put my hands on his chest, pushing him back. "Screw you, Caulter. "
Laughing, he sweeps away the lock of sandy-colored hair that falls briefly over his forehead. "Nah, Harvard," he said. "You already did that. And as I recall, it involved a lot of you moaning. . . Oh God, right there, Oh God, Caulter, Caulter. . . " He mimics me, his tone high-pit
ched and breathy, the sound of his voice echoing through my father's office, amplified in the enclosed space.
What happens next is out of character. I don't even think about it before I do it. I just step forward and slap Caulter right across the side of his face, my palm landing against his cheek with a crack that reverberates through the room. I'm not sure who's more startled, him or me -- and I withdraw my hand like I just touched an electric outlet, backing away from him in horror.
I've never done something like that in my entire life. I can't believe I lost control. “I --” I begin. “I -- you’re being. . . a total asshole about this!”
Caulter brings his hand to his cheek and raises his eyebrows. “Yeah, sweetheart,” he says. “It’s me who's being a total asshole. ”
“Did you know about our parents getting married, before?” I ask again.
“What, before you texted me and begged me to give you some of this?” He grabs his crotch.
“I didn’t exactly have to beg,” I say, my teeth clenched. “I don’t think anyone has to twist your arm to get the dick you dole out like it's candy. ”
"You sure didn't have a problem sucking on it like it was made of fucking sugar," he says.
I can feel heat rise to my cheeks. "That is not how I sucked your --"
"What, Harvard?" he asks. "Are you going to tell me you don't remember how you wrapped those sweet little lips around my cock like it was the best thing you ever tasted?"
"I'm not even going to dignify that with a response. " But my face is flushed, and I think I might be short of breath at the thought of Caulter's cock against my lips. No, I can't think about it. "It was temporary insanity. What happened between us never happened. ”
“Don’t worry, Princess,” he says. “Our dirty little secret is safe with me. It’s already forgotten. You weren’t that memorable anyway. ”
I bristle at his words. Not that memorable? I'm about to give Caulter a real piece of my mind when the door swings open behind him. He jumps out of the way, and for a moment my father stands in the doorway with Ella behind him, his brow wrinkled but just barely. My father is the consummate politician, unflappable. He’s the master of non-expression. If you didn't know him, you wouldn't know that the tiny wrinkle line that creases his forehead is a sign of irritation. My heart stops and I wonder if he knows, if it's written on me like some kind of badge of dishonor-- I fucked Caulter Sterling.