Prick, p.5
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         Part #1 of A Step Brother Romance series by Sabrina Paige
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Page 17

  I just have to think about something else. Like how great it'll be to be back here for the summer. I love this place, with its white painted walls and airy spaces. I love the wraparound porch, and the little balcony outside of my bedroom where I sit and sketch when I want peace and quiet. I wish I could spend the summer here alone. I don't want Caulter and Ella here, intruding on this place that used to be my mother's and mine. I don't want their presence tainting my memories of her.

  And I especially don't want Caulter here, reminding me of that night every time I look at him. I don't want him here, reminding me of the fact that he's awakened feelings in me, even if the feelings are simply lust. Ridiculous, inappropriate lust. It's ridiculous and inappropriate not just because he's about to be my step-brother, either. It's ridiculous and inappropriate because of who Caulter Sterling is. He's a crude, caustic prick who can't keep his dick in his pants.

  The problem is, I just can't stop thinking about that prick.

  I can't stop thinking about that kiss in the park, Caulter's lips pressed hard against mine, his touch rough and unyielding. The thought of it sends a shiver down my spine even now, and I try to banish it. I should want someone more appropriate. I shouldn't want Caulter, with his vulgarity and stupid rebel-without-a-cause attitude problem. I shouldn't want Caulter, who's obsessed with sex.

  The problem is, I'm beginning to think he's done something to me, messed with my head. Because ever since that night, I can't stop thinking about sex either.

  I need to get Caulter out of my head, and being here this week by myself is the best way to do that. Until Friday night, I'm rid of my father and Ella and their whole love-struck teenager act. I don't have to give my opinion on wedding plans, and I don't have to deal with Ella's perpetual cheeriness. And I don't have to deal with Caulter and any early morning encounters in the bathroom. Maybe Caulter will decide to stay in Hollywood, and he won't come with them on Friday night, just in time for the Saturday morning pancake breakfast.

  I pause, my pencil on the page, mid-stroke. The Saturday morning pancake breakfast is a yearly tradition, this lame PR thing my father does at the beginning of every summer at this mom-and-pop cafe in town. We eat pancakes and smile and he kisses babies and talks about how meaningful this place is to him.

  "Katherine," a reporter will inevitably ask. "Does he do this at home?" And I will smile sweetly and hold up a fork with a bite of pancake on it. "When I'm home from school, he does it every Saturday morning. Pancakes and hot cocoa, just like when I was a kid. "

  I fucking hate pancakes.

  I lose myself in my thoughts, my charcoal pencil moving over the sketch pad, the sound of the short, smooth strokes almost like white noise. Art is like my version of meditation. It's what got me through after my mother died, and I have boxes in the bedroom closet, filled with my paintings and sketches from that time.

  The knock on the door is what jolts me out of my thoughts. I slam the sketchpad closed, slipping it back into its hiding place underneath the mattress on the bed.

  Rose stands in the doorway, clad in a dress and apron. She's the other reason this place feels like home. Rose took care of me when I was a kid before we moved to DC, but she returned full-time every summer. She took care of my mother when she got sick. And after my mother died, she's the one who stroked my hair and spoke softly to me as I sobbed, stretched out on the window seat in the library with my head in her lap.

  When I look at her, I'm immediately afraid she'll be able to tell what I've been doing. I glance back at the bed as if the sketchpad filled with drawings of Caulter's naked body might have somehow jumped out of its hiding place under the mattress and displayed itself in full view. But of course it's hidden away.

  "Kate," she says, wiping her hands on her apron. "It's two in the afternoon. It's not good for you to be hidden away up here all day. "

  I shrug. "I'm just drawing. "

  She shakes her head and makes a clucking sound with her tongue. "I'm making cinnamon rolls and bread. You should eat. Pretty soon you'll be skin and bones. "

  I laugh. "Rose, I gained weight during finals. I can barely button my jeans as is. " But I follow her out downstairs anyway.

  She clucks her tongue as we walk, and gives me a disapproving shake of her head. "Barely button your jeans," she mutters. "You kids these days. "

  "What about us?" I ask, sliding onto one of the tall stools surrounding the large island in the middle of the kitchen. The marble surface is covered with a dusting of flour, baking implements scattered across the countertop. Rose reaches into one of the kitchen cabinets for a plate, before presenting me with a cinnamon roll practically the size of my head, drenched in frosting.

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  "Eat," she orders. "In my day, if you were skinny, it was because you couldn't afford to buy food. "

  "Yes, ma'am. " I don't have to be told twice to eat a giant cinnamon roll. Tearing off a piece with my fingers, I pop it into my mouth, and my eyes roll back in my head. It's still warm from the oven, homemade all the way, not that crap from the refrigerated section of the store.

  When I open my eyes, Rose looks at me expectantly, with one flour-covered hand on her hip and the other holding the rolling pin, paused mid-air. "Well?"

  "Well, what, Rose?" I ask, smiling.

  "Don't sass me. "

  "These are amazing. Of course. "

  She smiles, and goes back to rolling out her dough.

  "You're to blame if the newspapers talk about how the Senator's daughter is now fat, instead of the re-election campaign," I say, shoving a bigger piece of the baked good into my mouth.

  Rose snorts and gestures at me with the rolling pin. If she didn't look almost exactly like Mrs. Clause, with her gray hair piled on top of her head in a bun and her glasses sliding down to the end of her nose, she would almost be menacing. "Don't ever let me hear that word come out of your mouth again, Kate Harrison. "

  "What?" I ask.

  "You know what I'm talking about. That word. Fat. "

  "I'm saying that's what the media would say," I protest.

  She shakes her head at me. "You sound like that woman," she says. That woman is Rose's way of referring to my father's PR manager. I think the official term is communications director. Mona. Rose knows her name but refuses to use it. "That woman, the one who dresses you up and talks about brand. "

  I sigh, thinking about what Mona will say the next time she sees me, the lecture I'll get on the "absolute catastrophe" I've created for my father with the picture in the newspaper of Caulter and I giving each other the finger. I'd love to see her face if she knew that Caulter had given me more than just the finger. "You know her name, Rose," I say. "It's Mona. "

  She goes back to rolling out dough. "You look more and more like her, you know?"

  "I do?" I ask, my mouth full, picturing Mona, tall and stick-thin, with her fiery red hair clipped in a perfect bob and suits meticulously tailored to her model figure. "I don't look anything like Mona. "

  Rose waves at me dismissively with a spoon in her hand, then dips it into the bowl and ladles cinnamon filling across a swath of dough. "Not Mona. Don't be daft. You look like your mother. "

  "My mother was elegant, polished," I say. "I'm the exact opposite of that. I was trying to be polished. But after the photos in the newspaper. . . "

  Rose hasn't mentioned the photos in the newspaper yet. I know she's seen them. She clips the ones that mention me and saves them all in a scrapbook. She doesn't look up from her dough, but I think she might be smiling. "I saw that one of you and that boy, the new --"

  "The new step-brother. "

  She rolls pieces of dough into pinwheels and lays them out in the pan. She's on her second tray of cinnamon rolls and I'm beginning to be afraid she's cooking them all for me. "Step-brother. I guess that's what you'd call him. "

  "Have you met Ella?" I ask. I wonder if my father has already brought Ella here. I wonder how l
ong he's been keeping his little secret.

  Rose purses her lips. "It was news to me too," she says. "Although the fact that I didn't know about it wasn't surprising. "

  "She's a big celebrity. "

  Rose raises her eyebrows. "That part isn't surprising, either. You know your father's political aspirations. "

  I grunt my response as Rose adjusts the dough and slides the pan into the stove. "They'll be here tomorrow, you know. "

  "I'm prepared. " I'm lying through my teeth, and we both know it. I'm not prepared to see them. But I'm more unprepared to see Caulter.

  "Uh-huh. " She rinses her hands under the faucet, her back still to me. "That's why you've been wasting away inside here all week instead of being out in the sunshine, down at the beach the way you used to be. " She turns toward me, her hands on her hips. "It's not healthy, you know, moping around your room. She's not going to replace your mother. "

  "That's not it," I protest. It isn't. I'm not a little girl who thinks a celebrity is going to come in and replace her. I'm irritated with the way he sprung it on me after being hypocritical enough to insist on dictating every part of my life.

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  Every part of my life except for that night with Caulter.

  "Then what is it?" she asks.

  "Nothing. " I can't tell her what happened with Caulter. I remind myself that nothing of consequence happened with him anyway. Nothing that bears repeating anyway.

  Rose raises her eyebrows. "Get out of the house," she orders. "Go do something with your friends. Jo called the home phone number, said she's been texting you and you haven't answered. "

  Jo is one of my childhood friends, one I see every summer when I come home. My father hates her, mostly because she's not "one of us," which really means she goes to public school. He once grounded me for two weeks for hanging out with her a couple years ago, until Mona suggested it might be seen as elitist if it got around that his daughter was ditching a childhood friends because of the friend's blue-collar background. I've been avoiding her because she'll want to know all the juicy details about my new family, and I just don't feel like dishing gossip. "I'll call her. "

  Rose hands me the phone and walks out of the kitchen. "I have laundry to do. Go have fun. Get some sun. Be a normal kid. "

  "I'm not a kid anymore, Rose," I call to her retreating back. "I'm an adult now. I have been for a month. "

  "Go be a kid," she yells. "You can be an adult when your father gets here. "

  I scroll down the call history, looking for Jo's number. Screw being an adult. So far, the only thing good about turning eighteen has been, well, that night with Caulter.

  "You're seriously going to New Hampshire for the summer? That's even worse than. . . where the hell is that school you go to?" Dane asks, his forearms sliding across the top of the table. I can barely hear him above the clamor of the piece of shit rock band at the dive bar in North Hollywood that Seth insisted on hitting up so we could "pick up skanks. " As if there weren't enough skanks in Malibu.

  "Connecticut," I answer absently, but he can't hear me. I'm trying to get into it here. The Caulter from two months ago would be into it, getting drunk and high and banging some girl whose name I was never going to learn, let alone remember. Shit, this Caulter is practically a fucking monk. It's now been two weeks since I've seen any action. Not that I haven't tried. I left the park after kissing Katherine frustrated and aggravated and horny as hell, and not about to give her the damn satisfaction of showing up at her father's place. So I wound up jerking off in a hotel room and watching TV. Fucking awesome.

  "Dude," Seth says. "New Hampshire?"

  "Yeah, I'm going back to New Hampshire for the summer," I say. "Trust fund. "

  "Your fucking mother," Seth yells. He shakes his head, takes another shot from the bottle at the table, and fills my shot glass with liquor. My head feels cloudy, and I pause for a minute, thinking about waking up tomorrow feeling energetic, not hung-over in the bed of some chick I picked up at a dive bar in North Hollywood. But I take it anyway, tipping my head back and letting the alcohol numb the thoughts running through my head.

  "She wants to be the First Lady," I yell.

  "Fuck yeah," Dane says, beside me. His eyes are bloodshot and his pupils are dilated. "Sucking some Presidential cock. "

  "Shut up. " I stand up. "That's my mother you're talking about. I don't need to hear that shit. " I push through the crowd of people in the bar and head toward the bathroom. I came back to Malibu for a couple days to get the hell away from the East Coast, from Senator Douchebag and the wannabe First Lady, but now I just want to get away from my idiot friends. Getting wasted and stoned with them is starting to feel like such high school bullshit. I should have just gone back to my mother's place in Manhattan.

  When I get back, a group of girls wearing sorority t-shirts is at the table, two of them hanging on Dane and Seth as they take shots from the bottle. Dane looks up at me. "Party at your place," he says.

  One of the girls, her hair ombre, black at the roots and bleached at the tips, slides her arm into mine. Her heavy makeup makes her look older than a college student, and she smells like a damn brewery. She presses her tits up against my arm. Normally I'd be inclined to let her suck my dick in the back of the bar, but right now I'm just repulsed, and I push her away, shaking my head. "Not tonight. "

  Seth puts his hands up in the air. "What the fuck, man?"

  I don't even answer. I suddenly feel sober, even though I've had four shots. I also feel pathetic in here, surrounded by my lame friends in this shithole bar, my boots sticking to the floor that feels like it has ten fucking years of filth caked on it, listening to the worst band in the world play covers of shitty songs. "Later," I yell, knowing they won't bother to come after me as I go. They're too busy chasing pussy and getting trashed.

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  Outside, I catch a cab that takes me back out to my mother's place in Malibu. The house is empty, the sound of my footsteps on the floor echoing through the space. I'm tempted to yell 'hellooooo' like a fucking kid, just to listen to my voice reverberate through the rooms.

  The place looks ridiculous. Everything is white -- white marble floors, white walls, white sofa with chrome legs resting on a white area rug. This is what I've returned to, the newest redecoration of this place, Ella's attempt to "cleanse" everything.

  Walking into my remodeled bedroom the other night was a grand surprise, with the white bed in the middle of the room and a white bedspread that is practically blinding. I considered hiring painters to paint the whole fucking place black, but decided it was too much effort to spend on irritating my mother.

  The only color in the whole damn place are the paintings, some modern art shit she has hung on the walls so people will think she's more than just a movie star. She's an art aficionado. She has taste, people. She has class.

  Yeah, right. She can pretend she shits roses all she wants, but it's still shit. I know the truth, about Ella's past and about my father that Ella tried so desperately to bury. I'm the reminder that no matter how many awards she wins, no matter how much public perception about her has changed since she's started devoting all her time to causes and visiting war-torn countries, she can't get away from the past.

  I lay down on the bed without bothering to take off my boots. Ella will just have someone fix the designer bedspread that I'm sure is spun with only the finest silk imported from Mongolia or some shit. I don't know if they make silk in Mongolia, but it sounds like something Ella would pay for.

  People think I'm just a spoiled rich kid, way too privileged and full of angst about my fairy-tale life. I'm over-privileged, but I'm not full of angst. I just don't play a role like these other assholes, the Hollywood types or the uptight kids at Brighton who step on each other as they claw their way to the top. I'm honest and people don't like it.

  My mother certainly hates it.

  But I don't hide who I am unde
r a veneer, white-wash my life like this damn house. And that's good enough for me.

  I'm leaving tomorrow for New Hampshire. The power couple has requested my presence, and Ella has booked me a first class ticket. There's a fucking pancake breakfast -- how hokey is that? We're all going to sit around and pretend to be one big happy family, eating breakfast in front of the cameras. I'm going to pretend that I'm adjusting to life with Daddy Dearest and his perfect daughter. The daughter I get hard just thinking about.

  It's fucking New Hampshire. I might even wear a polo shirt. That will give Senator Douchebag a damn coronary.

  "She's a total bitch, right?" Jo asks, snapping her gum. "Or she's got some kind of terrible real-life deformity that never shows up on the cameras? Tell me she's not perfect. " Jo squeezes out a giant gob of sunscreen and slathers it across the creamy skin on her arms, setting the bottle in between us. I pick it up and do the same. Rose is right; the sun feels warm on my skin, and Jo's presence here lifts my mood.

  It's almost enough to erase the sense of impending doom I feel thinking about my father and Ella's arrival tonight. I don't know when Caulter is coming, and I don't want to know -- I didn't even dare to ask my father earlier when he called to relay his travel plans.

  I'm already paranoid that my father can smell my lust for Caulter, like I'm some kind of animal in heat.

  I sigh, spreading lotion over my legs. "Ella is. . . okay, I guess. "

  Jo leans back on the towel laid on top of the boat dock, pulling at the edge of her black-and-white checkered swimsuit, this retro number with straps that come up like a halter at the back of her neck. The tattoo she got this year, cherry blossoms intertwined with Japanese characters, goes down the side of her hip, half under the swimsuit and half out. I don't know why we're laying outside in bathing suits, soaking up rays; we're slathered in enough sunscreen to drown, and wearing floppy hats big enough to practically require their own zip codes. But this is what we do here during the summer, so it's force of habit, I guess.

  "Okay?" she asks. "Ella Sterling is just. . . okay? The Dick is marrying a big celebrity and he only just told you about it -- and that's all you've got for me? Spill it. " She looks at me from behind her huge dark sunglasses, but I can't see her eyes. Then she slips them dramatically down to the edge of her nose. "Details. I want absolutely every last detail. "

 
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