Prince albert, p.34
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       Prince Albert, p.34

         Part #4 of A Step Brother Romance series by Sabrina Paige
 

  Japanese of him; I wonder if he knows that.

  "Dad, you can't think that I'm going to be the one to keep him in line overseas," I protest.

  "That's exactly what I need you to do," Beau says. "I have full confidence in you. I can't trust anyone else. You've always had a way with him, and he's always listened to you."

  "What?" My voice is high pitched now. "That's not true. I haven't even seen him in years. We only spent two summers together after you and Anja got married. I hardly know him."

  Beau shrugs. "He respects you."

  I almost burst out laughing, but I know my father would be terribly offended. "I hardly think that's true. Gaige doesn't respect anyone."

  "You'll keep him out of trouble," Beau rises from his seat and comes around to my side of the table, putting his arm around my shoulder and giving it a squeeze. He kisses me on the top of the head the way he used to do when I was young. "I trust you. And I'm glad you're home. I think I might just be the proudest father in the world, getting the chance to work with his daughter."

  "Damn, you really know how to work people, Dad." I shake my head. The last thing I want to do is babysit Gaige, and yet here I am acting as if it's a foregone conclusion already.

  "I know you'll do the right thing, Delaney," he says, before he leaves.

  CHAPTER FIVE

  GAIGE

  Fuck, I'm pissed off. I came back to live here after the accident because I needed to recover from surgery. Two surgeries and two months later, my tibia is no longer in a million pieces. And at least I can get around, even if it's in this goddamned boot that leaves me limping like an idiot. But I'm ready to get the fuck out of this place. It's been a lame couple of months, definitely not as filled with booze and girls and parties as I'd thought a few months of mandatory rest would be.

  But that's not what's irritating me right now. That's the background, but what's pissing me off is this deal with my stepfather. I generally don't mind him. Even though he's a cowboy boot-wearing, born-and-bred Texan, he's not a bad guy. He's not a drunk, or a wife-beater, or a gambler. The guy's biggest vices are hunting, cigar smoking, and buying insanely expensive scotch. And talking about Texas.

  But he tries to do right by me. This deal is a lot of money, and it's Beau's company. He's concerned about my "brand" – of course, he's also concerned about Marlowe Oil's brand. That's where I come in – I can make big oil "cool and approachable" for millennials who don't trust big corporations.

  If it were anyone else but Beau, I'd have said no to the whole "face of the company" thing. I don't want to tour Japan and smile pretty for the cameras, just like I didn't want to do that bullshit photo shoot with the models either. Sure, three hot blondes made it less painful, but I'm a racer.

  I want to race. I miss the rush of adrenaline, sitting on the bench for the past two months. No amount of working out can match the rush I get going a hundred and fifty miles an hour on the back of a bike. You can't replicate that shit doing anything else in the world.

  Except maybe when you're fucking.

  But hell, good sex like that, the life-altering kind that mimics the rush of racing? That shit happens once in a lifetime, maybe.

  I think that's the way it would have been for me and Delaney. I've thought about that a lot. More than a lot. Fuck, I've jerked off to her memory a thousand times. We never got quite that far.

  And now Beau makes me feel like a jackass in front of her, a child who needs babysat because I can't be responsible enough to take care of myself. I'm an idiot for convincing myself that Beau thought I was a good investment, an adult and not an irresponsible kid. But that's exactly what he thinks, just like everyone else.

  I'm so wrapped up in my thoughts I almost don't even hear the knock on the front door. There's no way it's Beau coming here to apologize; if there's one thing Beau doesn't do, it's admit he's wrong.

  I pull the door open, and Delaney stands there, looking nervous as hell. And hot. Hot and nervous as hell, in my doorway at eight o'clock at night. Shit. I'm already aggravated and pissed off -- and now I'm getting hard, too.

  "Can I come in?" She tucks her hair behind her ear, the same way she used to do when she was nervous. I guess some things don't really change after all.

  "What, did you trek all the way down here to gloat about how you're going to babysit my ass in Japan?" I stand in the doorway, blocking her entry.

  "Why am I the bad guy all of a sudden, Gaige?" she asks. "I thought we were getting along."

  "Getting along?" I ask, feeling a surge of anger. I'm not irritated with her; I'm angry because I agreed to do this thing I don't even give a shit about, because I thought her father respected me, but it turns out he doesn't. I know I shouldn't be taking it out on her, but I can't seem to help myself. "Yeah, we used to get along, didn't we? Did you come down here to see if you could help yourself to that old style of getting along?"

  Delaney's face colors red, the way it does when she's angry, or embarrassed, or upset. She's probably all of the above right now, I imagine. Does she think I forgot what passed between us?

  "Don't take it out on me because you're pissed off, Gaige O'Neal," she says, punctuating her words by poking my chest with her fingers. I wrap my fingers around hers, pulling her against me, and she inhales sharply, the hiss of air audible in the silence of the evening.

  "Pissed off?" I ask. Her body feels warm against mine, and I want more than anything to kiss the ever-loving hell out of this girl. Scratch that -- I don't want to just kiss this girl. I want to tear her clothes off right here, right now, and plunge my cock between her legs. "Did you come down here to the guest house because you wanted to talk about a work trip that's a month away? Or did you come for something else?"

  Delaney struggles against me. "Let go of me, Gaige," she hisses.

  "You sure you want me to, darlin'?" I ask. I run my other hand along the side of her neck and she tilts her head to the side, into my touch. She's practically purring as I touch her. She looks at me, her green eyes wide.

  "I don't know what you're implying, Gaige," she whispers.

  "I'm not implying anything, Delaney," I say. "I'm outright saying that you waltzed that little ass of yours all the way down here from the main house at this time of night for something that couldn't wait."

  "You should let me go," she says, but her voice is softer now, the edge from before suddenly gone. I'd let her go if her pupils weren't as big as saucers and her breath weren't coming in short gasps.

  "Or what, Delaney?" I ask. "You're so hot for me you're practically panting. I bet if I were to reach between those legs of yours, you'd be soaked."

  "Don't be disgusting," she says. This time, she yanks her hand from my grasp and pushes away from me. Apparently, suggesting she came down here to screw me was one thing but talking about putting my fingers between her legs crossed some kind of imaginary line.

  Her reaction makes me want to keep crossing that line, pushing that same button over and over and over. What can I say? I'm a fucking child. So I guess Delaney's father had a point after all. Maybe I'm not maturing as I get older. It's funny how Delaney makes me feel like a damn teenager.

  "Whatever you say, darlin'." If she's going to babysit me, I might as well give her something to fucking babysit.

  I can see Delaney's jaw clench and she tugs at the edges of her shirt, smoothing it. "What happened between us was years ago," she says, her voice hard. "It was a lifetime ago."

  What happened between us. She doesn't say the actual words. She doesn't describe the kiss that started everything that summer, the kiss that sent both of us spiraling out of control, reckless in our pursuit of each other, until it came to a crashing halt just before anything went too far. She fails to mention the stolen kisses when we were left alone, the frenzied groping that carried the promise of more. More that never happened.

  And I've never forgotten about it.

  "Right," I say. "And you've never thought about any of it in the past four years?"

&nb
sp; She waits a moment too long to respond. "I don't think about it at all."

  "Liar," I say.

  "If you think I came down here to get some of your...tool..." Her eyes drop down to my waist, then lower. "You'd be wrong."

  "You tell me why you walked your fine little ass down here then."

  "I came back to Dallas to work, Gaige," she says. "That's it. And that's why I came down here tonight. To say I want things to be professional."

  "Professional," I say.

  Delaney nods. I want to kiss that serious expression right the hell off her face. "Appropriate," she says.

  "Appropriate," I echo.

  I definitely don't do appropriate, and I'm sure as fuck not doing appropriate with Delaney Marlowe. In fact, getting under Delaney's skin and making her behave inappropriately just might be the kind of cure for boredom I've been looking for.

  CHAPTER SIX

  DELANEY

  It's my first day of work at my father's company. My first real job. And I couldn't be more uncomfortable if I tried, as I survey my office. Sure, it's no bigger than a closet, but it's an office. With a damn window. The window might overlook the parking lot, but it's still a window. Most new college graduates would be absolutely thrilled to have a setup like this, but not me.

  I should be in a cubicle, but the fact that I'm my father's daughter has gotten me an office with walls and everything. I make a mental note to tell him later that I should be moved. People are already going to hate me enough, just because it's my father's company.

  I can already tell it's a huge problem by the way my brand new boss Chelsea has treated me since I walked in the door this morning, her voice practically dripping with contempt when I introduced myself. Chelsea is Gaige's domestic account manager, and I instantly know she hates me.

  When I hear the knock on the door, I groan inwardly, steeling myself for her. "Come in."

  It's not Chelsea. It's Gaige.

  Gaige walking through the door on my first day is fucking perfect. Especially after I just saw him last night, when he was pissed off and angry and...sexy, the way he pulled me close to him, his hand wrapped around my fingers, practically threatening to kiss me.

  No. I refuse to even let my thoughts go there. The past is the past. When you're eighteen years old, on your way to finally throw caution to the wind and sleep with the guy you like more than anything else in the world and you're intercepted by a girl he may or may not be screwing, that makes you feel differently about him.

  Of course, it was damn hard to ignore how I felt about him last night, the way my heart raced and my breath caught in my throat when he pulled me toward him. Gaige had the same effect on me back then. All along, I've discounted my memories of that summer, attributing my desire for Gaige to the fact that we were eighteen and our hormones were crazy, but here I am, standing in front of him again, and it’s like nothing has changed. He still irritates the shit out of me. And sends desire ricocheting through my body.

  "What are you doing here?" I ask, crossing the room to shut the office door behind him. "It's my first day. I don't need any grief from you, Gaige."

  "Come on, Delaney," he says. "Do you really think that poorly of me? I came bearing a first-day-at-the-office gift and coffee."

  It's not even nine in the morning. I can't decide if I'm annoyed that he's in my office or pleased that he dragged himself out of bed to show up here. He's wearing a bright pink t-shirt that somehow has the opposite effect you'd expect from a pink shirt, making him look even more masculine than he did last night, which seems to be a ridiculously unfair trick the universe is playing. The soft cotton fabric grazes over his body, and I can see the outline of his chest muscles underneath. I have to force my eyes away, anywhere else but on his chest.

  He has a box tucked under his arm, wrapped in royal blue paper and tied with a silver bow, and a coffee cup in each hand. He hands me one of the cups, and I take it apprehensively. "What's all this?" I ask.

  "It's a peace offering," he says. "Three creams, two sugars."

  Four years since I walked out of his life, and he remembers how I take my coffee? He's being way too nice this morning. I peel off the lid of the coffee and sniff it, then look up at him. "Should I question whether it's been poisoned?"

  Gaige cocks his head to the side. "I'm horrified you even have to ask, darlin'," he says in that drawl of his, the one that practically drips with sex.

  I can't help but laugh. "Sure, because you'd never spike my drink with anything."

  "If you're referring to the moonshine incident, that happened four years ago, and I've matured since then," he says.

  "You're claiming to have matured?" I ask. "Now I definitely don't trust you."

  "You have to admit it was funny," he says. "And you were a lot more entertaining at my mother's event than you would have been otherwise."

  "Oh my God, Gaige, it was a charity event," I say. "A bunch of socialites didn't need to see me trying to do karaoke at a party where there wasn't even a band." At least Gaige escorted me out of the room without causing an even bigger scene than I'd already made that night.

  "I can hardly be faulted for what happened," he says. "If you recall correctly, I didn't exactly spike your drink. You stole mine, and it wasn't my fault it was leaded instead of unleaded fuel."

  "What?" I shake my head. "You didn't stop me from taking it!"

  Gaige shrugs, but his eyes are bright. "Caveat emptor," he says. "Let the buyer beware and all that. How would I know you had less than zero alcohol tolerance?"

  "Because I was eighteen," I say.

  Gaige laughs. "My tolerance was great, and I was eighteen."

  "You were wild." I put the lid back on the cup and Gaige watches me, chuckling. "I was innocent."

  A slow smirk pulls up the corner of his mouth, and my hand trembles just seeing that smirk. I have to steady it with my other hand. "Not that innocent," he says.

  The words are heavy, dripping with desire. Or maybe that's just the way they sound to me. I clear my throat to cut the tension between us. "Thanks, anyway, but I'll pass."

  "You really aren't going to drink it?" he asks. "You don't have room to complain, not after what you did later to get me back. I mean, you went the obvious route, so you got zero points for creativity, but whatever."

  "Laxatives in the coffee might not be that original," I agree. "But it was effective. You were running to the bathroom every five minutes, and that was good enough for me."

  Gaige sips from his cup. "I expected more from you, Delaney."

  "Next time I'll try not to disappoint." When he brings his cup away from his mouth, I reach out and take it from his hand.

  "What are you doing?"

  "I'm swapping with you." I hand him my cup, and take a sip of his while he laughs.

  "There is nothing in that," he says. "Cross my heart."

  "Then you can go ahead and drink that one. But I'm glad you've turned over a new leaf," I say. "No more pranks."

  "No more pranks," Gaige says. "Of course not. We've both grown up. And I've vowed to behave appropriately."

  "I'm glad to hear it," I say. I don't believe a damn word that comes out of that boy's mouth. Behave appropriately, my ass. I'm just glad he hasn't seen fit to strip naked right here in the office just for shits and grins. Okay, whatever, maybe I'm a little disappointed he hasn't seen fit to strip naked.

  "And as a token of goodwill, I brought you a gift." Gaige hands me the package.

  A knock on the door interrupts us, and my bitchy boss storms in, her jet-black hair pulled tight into a ponytail that makes her high cheekbones look even sharper. She's the kind of long-legged porcelain skinned girl you'd see on a runway, not in an office, but her attitude makes her appearance even more severe. "Delaney, HR is just a complete clusterfuck with your file, and they're up my ass instead of yours like they should be. Just because your father is who he is doesn't mean you -- oh."

  "Chelsea, this is Gaige – " I start, but she interrupts me with a look o
f scorn, immediately greeting Gaige with a kiss on the cheek, before thrusting the file into my hands.

  "Obviously I know Gaige," she says, her hand tracing along his bicep, her fingers lingering just a little too long to be appropriate.

  Irritation surges through me as I watch Chelsea touch him. "Of
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