Cannon, p.7
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       Cannon, p.7
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         Part #3 of A Step Brother Romance series by Sabrina Paige
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  "I'm not opening the door unless you want me to, Addy," he says.   "But at least be fucking honest.   Tell me. "

  He's safely on the other side of the door.   I should be pleased about that.   I should be happy that he's staying on the other side of the door.

  The problem is that on the other side of the door isn't where I want him.   I want him here with his hands on me, his fingers between my legs.

  "There's nothing to tell, Hendrix. "  My voice cracks.   There's nothing to tell, yet my body is on high alert, just like it was before, goose bumps dotting my arms and heat between my legs.   Damn it, why does Hendrix have this kind of effect on me?

  "Do you know what you're doing to me, Addy?"  His voice is hoarse, muted through the door, but it's like he's right beside me, whispering in my ear.   The same way he whispered to me in the hallway, half under his breath.

  I want his breath in my ear, but I'm afraid to speak.   I'm afraid to say yes.

  I'm afraid of what I'm doing to him.

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  I'm afraid of what he's doing to me.

  "I don't know," I say.   The words barely come out.   Can he tell that I've slipped my hand underneath my shirt, that I'm running my palm over my breast?  My nipples harden to my touch, and I inhale sharply.

  "Do you know what you've always done to me?" he asks.

  My breath catches in my throat.   What I've always done to him?  My jaw clenches tightly as the memory of that night flashes in my mind, the things Hendrix said about me when he thought I wasn't there.   No.   Hendrix is full of shit.   He was a player in high school, and he's a player now.   Nothing is different.   "No, Hendrix. "  I choke out the words.   "Go away. "

  SIX YEARS AGO

  I sit on the balcony of the hotel room overlooking the beach, listening to the waves crash against the shore and jonesing for a smoke.   I quit a month ago, but it's times like this that I really miss it.   Times like this, when I'm sitting in a hotel room balcony, looking at the empty room and knowing that Addison is in the room next door.   She's probably asleep now.

  Shit, I wonder if she sleeps naked.   No, that's not Addison.   She probably sleeps in a little cotton t-shirt that barely covers that perfect ass of hers.   Or what I imagine is her perfect ass.   I've never seen it outside of that swimsuit she wears.

  Fuck.   Now I have a raging hard-on.

  I need to stop thinking about Addy.   I don't know what the hell I was thinking, blurting out "road trip" like that, like I'm some geeky guy who's falling all over himself to talk to her. She's a star.   She's out of my league.   She definitely doesn't look at me the way I look at her.

  Oh, and she's my fucking sister, for shit's sake.   Stepsister.   But I've been living with her for a year now.   We're basically siblings.

  It's fucked up.

  I swear to God, I've never been as big of a whore as I've been this year, trying to fuck thoughts of Addy right out of my head.   I've brought a parade of girls through my room, one after the other, none of them right.

  Too blonde.   Not blonde enough.   One breathed too loudly. Too short.   Too tall.   Too damn irritating.

  I know I'm an asshole.

  An asshole who's too fucking obsessed with his stepsister.

  That makes me an even bigger asshole, I think.

  Hanging around Addy is just so fucking easy.   When I'm not feeling guilty and fighting my attraction for her, it's practically effortless.   She's the easiest person I've ever talked to.   Hell, I've talked more to her than anyone in my whole damn life.   On the drive to Hilton Head, we talked non-stop, for almost eight hours.   No weird or awkward silences.   We talked about music and bands and life and our asshole parents and the future.

  The problem is that it's too easy and comfortable.   I can't get comfortable with Addison.   Hell, I can't get that comfortable with anyone.   Too comfortable is dangerous.   Relying on people is dangerous.

  That's the thing I know about life.   When you love people, they leave you.   I learned that lesson with my mother.   Never let anyone get close – that's a lesson I taught myself.   That's what my mother's death taught me.

  I have to get away from Addy.   Out of sight, out of mind.   It's the only way.   I break out my emergency smoke and the lighter.

  By the time I finish smoking the cigarette, I've made a decision.

  PRESENT DAY

  Damn it, damn it, damn it.   I push the door to my room, and it slams shut loudly, louder than I intended.   Shit.   Now Addison will think I'm angry at her, that I'm some dickhead who's throwing a temper tantrum because I wanted to fuck her and she didn't want to let me in her bedroom, when that's not it at all.

  I'm fucking infuriated with myself.   I'm infuriated with myself for standing there, one hand on her bedroom door and the other hand wrapped around my cock, stroking myself while I pictured her with her fingers inside her panties.   The minute I heard her call my name, I could tell what she was doing, my name on her lips in the throes of orgasm.   I wanted her to touch herself again, to bring herself to orgasm again while I was there.   I wanted her let me in so I could finish what I started out there in the hallway.

  My dick is still as hard as a fucking rock, and I lean with my back against the bedroom door, running my hand down the length of my cock.   I close my eyes, picturing Addison in front of me.   I imagine my hands in her hair, traveling over her breasts, cupping her curvy ass.

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  I picture Addison on her knees in front of me, looking up at me.

  Addison, with her sweet lips wrapped around my cock.

  The image of Addy taking me in, Addy sucking me dry, pushes me over the edge with a vengeance.

  It's her face I see when I come.

  And it's her name I groan, not even bothering to try to stay silent.   I hope she hears me.   I hope she knows I just came, thinking about her.

  It's two hours before Addison comes out of her room.   I guess I should be impressed that she came out at all, honestly.   I sort of figured she'd hide away in there all day, give me some bullshit excuse about how she was feeling sick.   But she didn't.

  I guess she has more balls than I thought she did.

  She sits down at the counter in the kitchen without looking at me, and I pour a cup of coffee, sliding it toward her.   "Thanks," she says.

  "Did you go back to sleep?"  I ask, sipping my coffee.   Well, this is about as awkward as I expected it to be.

  "Hendrix, we should talk about what happened," she starts.   But she doesn't look at me, clearly embarrassed.

  "Should we?" I ask.   "Because nothing happened. "

  "Out in the hallway," she says.   "And then. . . what you heard.   And what I heard. "

  Oh good, she heard me, I think.   But I shrug nonchalantly.   "It was a momentary lapse in judgment," I say.

  "That's it. "  She looks up at me, her eyes wary.   "You were going to. . . kiss me. "

  I turn to grab the printout of her schedule and put it in front of her on the counter, intending to change the subject.   "I was horny, and you were wearing. . . that shirt.   And those panties. "

  "You saw my panties?" she asks.

  "Shit, Addy. "  I shake my head, laughing.   "You're something.   Let's just write it off, all right?  Nothing happened. "

  "That's it," she says, her voice wary.   "You were just horny.   I was just horny. "

  No, that's not fucking it, I think.   That's what I want to say.   That's not it at all.   But I don't.   "That's it," I lie.   I force a shrug, and a casualness I definitely don't feel.   "You know me, sweet cheeks.   Have I ever been able to pass up a hot chick?"

  "You think I'm a hot chick?" she asks, her cheeks flushing.

  Damn it.   I clench my jaw.   "You're Addy," I say.   "Not a hot ch
ick. "

  "You're saying I'm not hot, then?"  But the corner of her mouth turns up, and I think she's about to break into her signature grin.   Thank God she's not taking this seriously.

  "You're the hottest girl I know," I say, looking her in the eye.   That makes her face flush deeper.

  "Obviously, the Marines have ruined you," she says.   "You probably haven't been around any hot girls in years. "

  "That's probably it," I lie.   "And it explains my temporary lapse in judgment.   It was basically temporary insanity. "

  "Yes. "  She nods.   She doesn't look away, and for a minute, I think about walking around to the other side of the counter, picking her up and setting her on the marble, so she can wrap her legs around me.   I want to take her right here, right now.

  But I don't.

  Addy clears her throat.   "So it won't happen again. "

  I can't tell if she's telling me, or asking a question.   "No, Addy-girl," I say.   "It won't happen again. "

  I want to be telling the truth.   It shouldn't happen again.   It can't happen again.   I know the stakes for her if it does.   If I put my lips on her, it's over.   Everything is over.   Her career, her future.   I knew the stakes when I signed up for this gig.   Her record label would eat her alive.

  So I steel my jaw, and shrug.   "Honestly?" I ask.   "Getting out of the Marines is like getting out of prison.   Don't fault me if you're the first good-looking girl I've seen in a while.   I just need a good lay, and that's it.   It's nothing personal. "

  "Nothing personal," she repeats.   She blinks - once, twice, three times, then nods again.   "Yes.   That's. . . how it should be. "

  "So, anyway.   Here's the schedule for today," I say, looking down.   "You want to go through it, or you need to finish your coffee first?  You've got an interview this morning, and time at the studio this afternoon, and then dinner with our parents tonight. "

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  "Dinner with our parents?" Addy asks, her brow furrowed.   "When did that get added?"

  "Are you going to deep-freeze them forever?"

  She crosses her arms over her chest and glares at me.   "That was my plan," she says.

  "Why not just fire me?" I ask.   "If it bothers you so much. "  Honestly, I'm shocked she's kept me around this long anyway.   I don't know why she has.   I'm sure she could have found another assistant who would manage shit and keep an eye on her.   I really don't know why she needs someone to babysit her -- it's not like she's snorting coke off male strippers in the living room or dancing on tables at the club.   I haven't even met these so-called friends of hers, the ones she was getting into trouble with.

  Addy shrugs and looks at her phone, preoccupied with texting.   She looks up at me.   "Because my lawyer advised me not to," she says.

  "You talked to your lawyer?" I ask.   I'm not sure whether to be offended or impressed that she was smart enough to try to get rid of me.

  "Yeah, duh," she says.   "What, you think I just rolled over and took my label's advice?  Do you think I'm dumb?"

  "I think I've been with you this whole time," I say.   "Practically. "

  Addy smirks.   "I took a meeting with my attorney and it wasn't any of your business," she says.

  "When?"

  "Don't be so nosy, Hendrix," she says, her voice clipped.   "Not everything in my life is your damn business.   When I said before that I didn't need a babysitter, I meant it.   On my attorney's advice, I'm stuck with you until this all plays out. "

  "Shit, you're no picnic either, sweet cheeks," I say.   I rack my brain trying to figure out when the hell she talked to her attorney.   I'm irritated that she tried to get rid of me.   And after I've been so goddamned agreeable, doing her grocery shopping and cooking for her and refraining from ripping her clothes off in the damn hallway.

  What I am is a goddamned saint.

  "Well, then, maybe you should quit. "  She looks at me, her eyebrows raised, practically daring me to walk out.

  "Nah," I say.   "That would be too easy.   I'd rather be up your ass twenty-four, seven. "

  "Up my ass," she says.   "That's super professional, Hendrix. "

  "That's me," I say.   "I am professional.   Which is why I didn't say I'd be crawling up your ass like one of your thongs. "

  Addy wrinkles her nose.   "The fact that our parents thought you should be the one babysitting me demonstrates their complete and utter lack of judgment. "

  "I agree," I say, raising my coffee cup in a mock 'cheers' gesture.   "It's shocking.   Appalling, really. "

  Addy slides off the barstool, her coffee cup in one hand and her phone in the other.   "They think you'd never look at me the way you did in the hallway," she says.   She turns and walks away, without another word.

  Our parents are fucking blind.   I was looking at Addy that way for two years before I left.   Looking at her that way is why I joined the Marines.   I thought it would get her out of my system.   Instead, I wound up thinking about her that way for five damn years.

  I tell myself I need to stop looking at her that way.

  Maybe this time it'll finally sink in.

  SIX YEARS AGO

  I lie on my back on the blanket I share with Hendrix, looking up at the night sky, my hands behind my head.   We lie there together in silence, and I listen to the waves roll in, the sound soothing like a lullaby.   Hendrix has been weird today, even though we've spent the entire day hanging out together, doing stupid tourist shit, mini-golfing and go-kart racing and playing frisbee on the beach.   Yeah, too-cool-for-life Hendrix played frisbee.   Obviously something is wrong with him.   I'm half-concerned he's about to tell me he has a serious illness.

  "Do you ever think about what would have happened if you hadn't been on that show?" he asks, breaking the quiet between us.

  "Yeah," I say.   "My mom and Grace and I would be back where we were before the show. "

  "Was it that different?" he asks.

  "Yeah," I say, laughing bitterly.   "Of course it was that fucking different. "

  Hendrix tsk-tsk's me, pushing himself up to a sitting position.   I can't see his face in the blackness of the evening, but I know he's looking at me and it makes me self-conscious, as I lie here.   I feel the familiar heat rush through me at the thought of being under his gaze.   "You're always cussing now. "

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  "What can I say?" I ask.   "You're influencing me. "

  "I hope not," he says.   "You shouldn't take anything from me. "

  "Why not?"

  "Because I'm not a good influence, Addy-girl," he says.   I hear him fumbling for a cigarette, and then his face is illuminated in flickering shadows by the flame from the lighter.   He looks at me, the glow of the cigarette giving him an eerie appearance.   "I'm not a good person. "

  "Don't be a dumbass," I say, rolling onto my side to look at him.   "Why did you start smoking again?"

  Hendrix shrugs.   "Because I'm a dumbass. "

  "You're not a bad influence," I say.

  "Says you. "

  "As opposed to my mother?" I ask.   "Or your father?"

  "They wouldn't like this, you know," he says.   "I shouldn't be here with you.   On a road trip. "

  "So?" I ask.   "We can hang out.   What's wrong with it?  Why shouldn't we go on a road trip?"

  Hendrix turns, blowing smoke in the opposite direction, and then he faces the water, not looking at me while he sits in silence.   My heart is pounding in my chest, and I sit up on the blanket, drawing my knees up and wrapping my arms around them.   I think Hendrix is about to tell me we can't be friends anymore.

  It feels like we're having a breakup conversation, except that you can't actually break up with someone you're not dating.   The th
ing is, I don't want to be just friends with Hendrix.   Every time he touches me, it's like electricity flows through my body.   That's not normal.   That's not what happens when the boys I've gone out with have tried to hold my hand, or kiss me, or. . . go farther than that.

  And all I can think about, all the time, is how it would feel for Hendrix to touch me.

  "Sometimes a road trip isn't just a road trip, Addy-girl. "

  "You're so annoying," I say, only because I don't know what else to say.

  I can hear him exhale.   "You're no picnic yourself, sweet-cheeks. "

  "Yet you keep hanging out with me. "

  "What can I say?" he asks.   "I'm just a glutton for punishment. "

  "Now you're saying that hanging out with me is punishment," I say.

  He's quiet for a long time before he speaks.   "It's goddamned torture," he says.   "Every moment of every fucking day I'm near you is fucking torture. "

  The strain in his voice is evident by the way it cracks around the edges.   My heart thumps louder, and I wonder if he's able to hear it in the quiet stillness of the evening.   Doesn't he realize it's fucking agony for me to be around him all the time, wanting him the way I do?  "So why even hang out with me if you hate it so much, Hendrix?"

  "You don't get it, Addy-girl," he says, not moving.

  "Get what?"

  "Being away from you is a million times worse. "

  PRESENT DAY

  Being in close quarters with Hendrix after what happened is a form of torture -- cruel and unusual punishment.   I wanted to drive myself to the recording studio, but the record label sent a car to take us to the interview with the magazine and then the recording session, as if they don't trust me to show up on my own.   So now I'm stuck sitting a foot away from him, pretending as if nothing happened between us.   Pretending that Hendrix didn't overhear me speak his name from the other side of my bedroom door.

  Just the thought of it makes me flush white-hot.

  So we sit here on opposite sides of the car, ignoring each other, Hendrix looking straight ahead and me scrolling through the messages on my phone, trying to distract myself from the fact that I can smell Hendrix's aftershave from where I sit.   "You're making a face," Hendrix says.

  He's not even looking at me, sitting beside me in the back of the car, so how would he know?

  "This is my regular expression," I say.

 
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