Prince albert, p.47
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       Prince Albert, p.47

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

  told where to go and what to do. Photo shoots, interviews, appearances, one right after the other. I shot some television commercials, but I don't even know what the products were. Cologne, I think – nothing bike-related. And an ad for one of those little canned coffee drinks. It's all a blur.

  And in the middle of that blur is Delaney. Always Delaney. I'm still hooking up with her, sneaking into her hotel room at night after Chelsea has gone to bed. The sex hasn't changed – it's still as hot as hell. That in and of itself is a fucking miracle. I've never had so much sex with one girl.

  The thing is, it's bugging me.

  I want – shit, I don't know what I want. I want to be around Delaney all the damn time. I can't get enough of her laugh, or the way she blushes when I embarrass her, which is a lot, or how she's so professional when we're out somewhere and she's handling me…and then she's mine, totally mine, in bed. When I'm with her…it's just easy.

  Except that everything has felt off since the flight. Or maybe it's not off for her -- I can't tell. I don't know why the hell I brought up dating, anyway. I wouldn't know the first thing about dating some girl, much less Delaney. Delaney is sure as fuck not any regular girl, even if she weren't kind-of related to me. The whole stepsister thing doesn't bother me like it apparently does her, anyway.

  I answer the knock on the door because I know it's Delaney. Pulling on my Marlow Oil polo shirt, I yank it open. Delaney is wearing black slacks and a polo shirt that matches mine, her hair in a ponytail, messenger bag slung across her chest. Her face is still flushed. "Good morning, Ms. Marlowe," I say.

  It's a great fucking morning, actually. Delaney is coming from her hotel room and her shower, but only because she sneaked back over there this morning after a little morning sex.

  She rolls her eyes. "Good morning, Gaige," she says. But she's smiling.

  Reaching forward, I grab the front of her shirt and pull her into the entryway of my room, out of the hallway, so I can kiss her.

  "Stop," she whispers. "Chelsea will be out here any second."

  "When are you going to stop giving a shit what that bitch thinks?" I ask.

  She slaps me lightly on the chest. "When there's no chance of my father finding out what we've been doing," she says. "Now, are you going to go over answers to questions? Remember the product placement. Do you have your hat?"

  "I'm not talking about the interview with you," I tell her. "I'm bored with this shit. Pick another topic. Like how I want to unbutton your pants right now and put my fingers inside you."

  "You better take this seriously," she says. "You have an interview in two hours."

  "Then you should make sure I'm prepped."

  "Your version of prepped and mine are not the same thing."

  I hear a door slam and Chelsea comes into view. Delaney takes a giant step back from me, and the fact that she steps away pisses me the fuck off. The fact that Delaney gives a crap what Chelsea thinks pisses me off.

  "Has Delaney prepped you on the interview?" Chelsea asks, her voice clipped. She doesn't wait for an answer. "Well, come on. Traffic will be terrible and Delaney, do you think that this time, you could make sure to ask for a cab with air conditioning? The heat and humidity in this hellhole are going to kill me, I swear."

  "I'll do my best," Delaney says as we walk down the hallway. When I open my mouth, about to say something smart-assed to Chelsea, Delaney elbows me and shakes her head no.

  And I, Gaige O'Neal, master of not giving a fuck about anything, refrain from telling Chelsea where she can put her air conditioning just because Delaney gives me a look. I just held myself back from telling someone to fuck off because a girl asked me not to.

  Hell really must be freezing over.

  Or I might really like Delaney.

  Shit.

  I'm not sure if the sinking feeling I get is because of the elevator, or if it's me.

  "Are you listening?" Chelsea asks. We're standing in the lobby and Delaney is talking to the concierge in Japanese. She nods and giggles, her mannerisms different when she's speaking the language.

  "Look," I say. "Delaney might think she has to put up with your condescending attitude and your bullshit, but I really don't have to. And if you talk to her again the way you did a second ago, I'll make sure Beau knows exactly how uncomfortable I am working with you."

  Chelsea steels her gaze at me, but by the time she opens her mouth to say something, Delaney is back.

  "The cab is out front," Delaney says brightly. "Air conditioned. And we're only fifteen minutes from the hotel where the interview is. Are you ready?"

  Chelsea looks back and forth from me to Delaney. "Absolutely," she says. "Thanks so much for negotiating that, Delaney."

  Delaney gives me a questioning look when we get in the cab, and I shrug. Chelsea's politeness should feel like a victory, but I just hope it doesn't blow back on Delaney.

  * * *

  Two days later, the blowback happens.

  "Her phone is off," Delaney says. "It's going to voicemail. It never goes to voicemail."

  I shrug. "We were supposed to meet here at eight, right?"

  "That's what my schedule says." Delaney checks her phone for the hundredth time. "It's the dinner with Akira-san. I don't think anything changed. What do we do?"

  "Do you have his number?"

  "I have his office number," Delaney says, giving me a look. "I don't have his personal one. I left a message. What should we do? It was supposed to be a business dinner and then he was taking us out on the town."

  I slide my hand around Delaney's waist, right there in the hotel lobby, and she smacks it away. "Gaige, don't," she says.

  "There is literally no one here watching us."

  "Only because it's impolite to stare," she whispers. "PDA is not appropriate here. And people will watch but not tell you you're doing something wrong, because that is not polite. But someone will notice. Trust me."

  I exhale heavily. Delaney is standing there, looking insane in this white dress that shimmers under the lights. It's simple and elegant and looks like it was made for her, skimming over every curve and showing off her amazing legs.

  I want to take it off her immediately. But she walks away and talks to the concierge. I see her gesturing, her forehead wrinkled up in the face she makes when she's upset, and then she bows slightly and returns to me.

  "Well, that's weird," she says.

  "What?"

  "The concierge says that Akira picked Chelsea up already. They left."

  "Sweet." I'm not even going to pretend I wanted to have dinner with the businessman who had his eyes on my girl.

  My girl. The thought just popped into my head like it was supposed to be there. I have the sudden impulse to say it out loud, just to make it real. Just to see Delaney's reaction. My girl.

  Fuck that guy. I've had to be in the same room enough with him already.

  "What do you mean, sweet?" she asks. "This is terrible."

  "Fuck that guy," I say, my voice a little too loud, and Delaney looks around, hushing me and taking my elbow. She leads me to the elevator and pushes the up button, hard. Then again, a second later.

  "I think it takes more than a half a second for the elevator to get here," I say.

  Delaney glares at me. Shit, she's pissed. "You can't say that here," she says.

  "I can't talk about the elevator?"

  "You know what I meant," she says. "You can't say fuck anyone here."

  "The fuck I can't," I say. "Fuck him and fuck Chelsea." The elevator door opens and we get inside.

  "Why would she leave without us?" Delaney asks. "You're the most important part of this trip. The dinner and the tour were a big deal."

  God, I can't resist the way she looks when she's upset. She's so damn cute when she's angry that I want to hug her. But more than that, I want to tear her dress off. I put my hands on her arms, and press her up against the side of the elevator.

  "Gaige, what are you doing? Not here," she protests.
>
  "I'm not doing anything," I say, looking down at the eyes I haven't gotten the least bit tired of looking at. "There's nothing on the agenda for the weekend, right? This was it. The Tokyo tour tonight, right?"

  "Yeah, and we're supposed to make nice with Akira," she says. "It's a big deal. A traditional Japanese dinner and a tour before the trip is over. If you don't show, it's an insult."

  "Maybe he decided he wanted to take Chelsea out," I say. "He seemed like a bit of a ladies man, didn't he?"

  She shakes her head. "I think Chelsea ditched us," she says.

  "Delaney," I say, tilting her head up and looking in her eyes. "Calm down. It'll be fine. I think she had the hots for Akira anyway. Chelsea is pretty ruthless in what she pursues."

  Delaney is silent. "Well, shit," she says. "What do we do now? And I swear to God, if you say we go back to the hotel room and do it, I'm going to knee you right in the balls."

  "You don't want to do it?" I ask, running my finger down her arm until I reach her fingers. I take her hand and slide it along my chest, just because I want to feel her touch. "It might make you less stressed."

  Delaney purses her lips and looks at me, then she finally sighs and smiles. "There's nothing we can do about it, can we?" she asks. "Do you want to go back to the hotel room?'

  I look at her for a second, and then suddenly I don't. When the door opens, I hit the down button. "Nope."

  "What are you doing?" she asks.

  "We just got ditched, and I've got a night with you," I say. "A whole weekend, come to think of it. Here you are, looking fucking stunning, and I have you all to myself. I don't want to take you back to a hotel room."

  "You don't," she says. "Where are we going?"

  I can't resist doing what I do next. I slide my hands underneath her, cupping her legs and picking her up. "I'm taking you out."

  "What? No."

  "This city is huge, and I'm not wearing anything Marlowe-related. No one knows who the hell I am," I say. "No one knows who the hell you are, either. And I want a tour of Tokyo."

  "I don't know Tokyo," she says.

  "You've been here before."

  "Only for a semester," I say. "Only some of it in Tokyo."

  "I don't care about the city," I tell her. And I mean it. "I want to hang out with you. So, show me around."

  "Fine. On one condition," she says.

  "What?"

  "Put me the hell down so everyone in the lobby doesn't see my ass when the door opens."

  "Deal." I cup a handful of her ass for good measure, and feel the lace thong she's wearing. "Panties again?"

  She drops to the ground, and slaps me playfully on the arm. "It was a work dinner," she says. "You think I was going to go commando? That's kind of sketchy, isn't it?"

  "It's not a work dinner anymore," I tell her. "So those are coming off."

  But the elevator dings, and the doors slide open. Delaney smiles triumphantly. "Saved by the bell," she says, as she walks out ahead of me. She doesn't consult the concierge this time, just walks out the door. "Okay. Let's do it."

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

  DELANEY

  We sit across from each other in a crowded izakaya in Shibuya, after passing a million little bars and restaurants that showcase plastic versions of their foods in the windows. Gaige sips his beer and laughs, his eyes crinkling at the edges, and the sound is infectious. He's relaxed, for the first time in weeks, and I finally feel calm, away from Chelsea and work and the hotel and everything. The izakaya is crowded, yet it feels like Gaige and I are the only two people in the room.

  "You love it here," Gaige says.

  "Yeah," I tell him. "I was here for a semester. Not in Tokyo, really. I mean, I traveled, but I was mostly down south. Just enough time to fall in love but not enough time to really let the little things start to annoy me, you know?"

  Gaige sips his beer and looks at me. "Kind of like us."

  My heart practically stops and I take a long gulp of my chu-hi, a drink made from soda and shochu, but tastes dangerously just like plain soda. "You do plenty of things to annoy me," I say, assuring myself that Gaige was simply making a silly comparison that meant nothing.

  "Yet you're still here with me, and about to spend the weekend with me," he says, popping a piece of sashimi into his mouth. "You only pretend to hate me."

  "I never hated you," I protest.

  Gaige groans. "Are you kidding?" he asks. "Hate isn't even nearly accurate. Loathe my very presence would be far more accurate."

  I laugh. "When did I loathe your presence?"

  "Well, definitely not last night," he says, grinning. "But remember the first summer after our parents got married?"

  "I was seventeen," I say. "I hated everything."

  "Especially me."

  "You were a jerk, with your stupid friends who thought they were better than everyone. And the stupid girls you dated and brought home all the time –"

  "You just hated to see me with anyone else," Gaige says. He crosses his hands over his chest and looks so damn smug, so sure of himself as he sits there staring at me, that I want to throw my drink at him. Instead, I kick him under the table and he just laughs. "You're mad because you know it's true."

  "I'm mad because you were a complete tool and you know it," I say. But I can still remember the pang of irritation I'd get when Gaige would parade his floozies through the house like he owned the place. I hated him.

  I might have also loved him.

  Maybe this whole thing is just one long continuation of how I felt when I was seventeen. I thought that being with him would get him out of my system, but it seems to be having the opposite effect. It's made me want him more of him – more time with him, more everything. And wanting someone like Gaige – someone who doesn't stay with one girl -- is dangerous.

  I watch as he dips his gyoza into sauce and then pops the dumpling in his mouth, and I try to remind myself that this thing with us is just sex. Sure, it's good sex. Amazing sex. Curl-my-toes and call-my-girlfriends sex. But that's all it can be. Even if my father had some kind of personality transplant that made him suddenly approve of this train wreck of a relationship, it's Gaige. Gaige with women constantly throwing themselves at him. Gaige, the consummate flirt.

  "Hey," he says. "Where are you?"

  "Huh? Oh, I was just thinking."

  "About what?"

  "Where I should take you," I lie.

  "Come on," he says, taking my hand. "Let's get out of here."

  We walk along the streets, looking in the windows of the shops and people-watching as couples and friends gather around the entrances to bars and restaurants that line the sidewalks, smoking and drinking while they wait. And we talk, non-stop, for a while, about life and our families. I tell Gaige about my absentee mother, and how she wants me to return to Manhattan.

  "Does she hate that you came to live with your father?" he asks.

  "Totally. She can't stand him."

  I ask Gaige about his father. "You never talk about him."

  Gaige shrugs. "He never wanted anything to do with us," he says. "Anja raised me. Or, well, a nanny raised me. And then boarding school. I don't know how your father ended up with her, you know?"

  "He definitely has a type. My mother isn't so different from Anja, I don't think." I pause as we stop at a little shop, looking
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