Anti stepbrother, p.17
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       Anti-Stepbrother, p.17
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           Tijan

  A road trip was a new concept to me, especially with such a large group, but that’s what ended up happening. Once I got a hold of Clarissa and May, we picked a weekend. May would fly in from New York. Soon all the details were ironed out.

  We were going in a few weeks—the second weekend after Family Weekend. Avery had been right about Caden too. He’d said he’d come, but he’d drive, and only I could ride with him. The girls were unfazed by that request.

  Claudia even said, “We figured he’d say something like that.”

  And since Caden was coming, Marcus was in too, as well as some of the other guys from Caden’s fraternity. In fact, most of the guys from the fraternity were coming. They had a chapter at Clarissa’s college, which was smaller than North River. We had fourteen thousand students, and Dubrois College had about six thousand.

  Caden’s chapter reached out, so the chapter there was taking care of finding a rental house for everyone to stay in. The list of travelers kept getting longer and longer, but I figured if there wasn’t room at the house, I could crash on a couch in Clarissa’s dorm.

  “Like fuck you are.”

  That was Caden’s response when I told him my plans. We were at his place, and two other guys were sitting in the living room with us. They’d been talking about a football game, but quieted after Caden’s statement.

  I sat up on the couch, squaring my shoulders. He was at the other end, a beer in hand. He’d been half watching the game with his brothers, and half listening to me talk about the road trip.

  “What are you talking about?” I asked.

  “You’re not going off and sleeping at your friend’s place. We’re all going with you.” He gestured to the others with his beer. “Almost the entire house is coming. You gotta stay where we are.”

  “But there’s so many people coming now.”

  Avery was adding one or two more people every day, or so it seemed. I half expected her to reveal she was friends with Maggie again, and Maggie wanted to come. That hadn’t happened, so far.

  But Avery didn’t say much about her ex-friend, and I knew her well enough to know that wasn’t good. She was probably talking to her again. Which reminded me that I wanted to ask Claudia about it. Despite my issues with Claudia, she was a pit bull when it came to Maggie. She hated her more than anyone.

  “It’ll be fine,” Caden assured me. “A third of the people will be sleeping together. People can bring sleeping bags.”

  “The guys will crash wherever,” one of the guys added. “Don’t be surprised if you find people sleeping on top of tables.”

  “Or below them,” the second one grunted. “Shit, I woke up outside last weekend. Best sleep I ever got.”

  The first one laughed. “That warm bed of grass and sprinklers?”

  “It was nothing. Cold water on my face. It was a nice alarm clock.”

  They snickered, turning back to the game.

  Caden was watching me and suddenly, he pointed to the door. “You two, get out. I need some privacy.”

  “What?”

  The first started to protest, but the second slapped him in the chest and gave me a meaningful look. Whatever the message was, he got it. They stood and headed out.

  Caden continued to focus on me, a deep frown on his face.

  I sighed internally. God, he looked beautiful. He’d been working out more so he’d trimmed down a few inches, giving him a leaner look, but his muscles hadn’t gotten smaller. They seemed bigger, sculpting his body so he looked more and more like a Greek god or something. When he wore tight-fitting shirts, like he had today, I was having a harder and harder time remembering what kind of friends we were. We hadn’t held hands again, but even thinking about it, my hand itched to touch a different part of him. I wanted to trace some of his tattoos, find out where they ended.

  I tucked it behind me. “Why are you mad at me?”

  “I’m not.”

  He was. I could hear it in his voice.

  “Fucking hell.” He gripped the back of his neck. “I am.”

  “Because I said I’d stay at my friend’s place if the house gets too full?”

  “Yeah.” He shot me a dark look. “I don’t want you staying somewhere else. We’re all coming because of you. You should be where we are.”

  “Well.” I lifted a finger in the air. “I don’t really think I’m the reason everyone’s coming. I think I’m the excuse for a road trip.”

  “Exactly.” His jaw clenched.

  I waited for him to elaborate, but he didn’t. I leaned forward. “Exactly…what?”

  “Why are all these stupid fucks coming? I thought this was going to be small. You. Me. Avery. Marcus, maybe a few of his friends. Now it’s thirty plus idiots joining in.”

  “Most of those idiots are your fraternity brothers.”

  He bit out a curse, adjusting his hold on the back of his neck. “And how the hell did they even get invited? I didn’t say anything to them.”

  “Wait.” I sat back. “You don’t want your fraternity brothers to come? I thought you invited them.”

  “I didn’t.”

  “What?” My mouth was on the floor. I remembered the first night I met Caden. He’d sounded irritated that he was in a fraternity, but since then I’d realized he did everything they asked. He was present when the fraternity had events, and if they had a party, he went, but he called me later. We’d watch movies in his shed while music blared from the house.

  I was stunned to hear he didn’t want his brothers on the road trip.

  “I didn’t invite them,” I said. “So who did?”

  “Fuck if I know.” He grabbed another beer from the fridge, sinking back down on the couch.

  I pulled a pillow into my lap and hugged it to my chest. He stretched his legs out, placing them on the coffee table right next to mine. I gulped, feeling his leg graze against mine. My fingers sank further into the pillow, and I struggled to keep from moving my legs on top of his, nestled between them.

  I could’ve. Caden wouldn’t have cared, but I held back. I’d want more. That small touch wouldn’t be enough.

  I felt my body warming so I spoke hurriedly. “Can I ask you something?”

  “Since when do you ask to ask something?” He grinned at me over the top of his beer.

  I ignored that. “Do you like being in a fraternity?”

  I held my breath, expecting him to show some sort of surprise at the question. I got none.

  “No. I don’t, but not because of them. They’re okay. This just wasn’t my first choice. I don’t like belonging to anyone.”

  “Then why are you here?”

  He hesitated, studying me intently before his gaze slipped away. “Because my dad is a big deal with this fraternity, and someone had to join to make him happy.”

  I wasn’t expecting that. “You joined because of your dad?”

  “And for someone else.”

  He didn’t say any more, and this was one of those moments when I should have read the signals. I should’ve held my tongue.

  “Who?” My curiosity was killing me. “We can pretend we’re in a trust tree. I love those things. Go ahead. Ask me anything, and I’ll give you an honest answer. But I have to know. Who are you doing this for?”

  Please don’t say a girl you loved from high school.

  “My brother.”

  “Marcus?”

  “No.” He laughed softly at my disbelief. “Marcus’s twin, Colton.”

  “You fought Marcus that one night about him, didn’t you? The night you beat Kevin up.”

  “Kevin thought we were fighting about him. He had nothing to do with it, but he walked in and said the wrong shit. My patience was already gone, so he got the hit I really wanted to land on my brother.”

  “On Marcus?”

  “Yeah.” He grimaced. “I’d never hit Colton.”

  He softened his tone and a far-off look came over his face. I knew he was thinking about his brother, but I was on a mission. I wanted
more information. Caden wasn’t the sharing type. He’d stop talking, think everything through in his head, and forget we were having a conversation. He’d leave me hanging and start talking about something else, or just go back to watching the game.

  I scooted to the edge of my seat and leaned forward. “Why not?”

  “Why wouldn’t I hit my other brother?”

  I nodded. “Does he go to school somewhere else?”

  “No.” His tone wasn’t just soft now, it was filled with regret. “He’s at home. He doesn’t go to school. Joining our dad’s fraternity was his dream. He was supposed to do it. Our dad would’ve been happy. Colton would’ve been happy, and so would Marcus and I. I wouldn’t have had to join then.”

  “Wait, when did you join?”

  “Last year.”

  “When you were a sophomore?”

  He nodded. He wasn’t looking at me any more. I wasn’t even sure he was really in the room.

  I needed to leave this alone. He had given me the clues—looking away, his jaw clenching, pain like I’d never heard from him sounding loud and clear. My instincts were telling me to shut up, but I couldn’t. I had this burning need to know more about Caden. I needed to get in there, past his walls, and I wanted to understand him.

  I wanted to help him.

  Caden was hurting, and I wanted to take that away.

  “What happened?”

  “He was hit.”

  I pushed still. “By who?”

  Caden turned his gaze to me now, and I felt branded by the pain I saw. His eyes were stricken. “Does it matter?”

  “No.” My breath caught and held in my chest. I wanted to go to him, but I also wanted to slink away. I was stirring up his pain, but I had to know. “What happened, Caden?”

  “Why do you have to know?”

  “Because it’s hurting you.”

  “What?”

  I made a decision, though I had no idea what the ramifications were going to be. I stood, my legs going numb and my stomach clenching, and I moved to his side. He leaned back, his head falling to the couch, and he watched me.

  The need to ease some of his hurt outweighed the fear of what would happen next. Swallowing tightly, I stepped over to straddle him and sat down.

  “What are you doing?”

  He asked that softly, still holding his beer. I took it from his hands and put it on the stand next to the couch. Then I just sat there. He had to do the rest. I’d already made the first move.

  I glanced down at his hands, feeling like an idiot. “What happened to your brother?”

  “Why are you pushing this?”

  I looked back up to find confusion warring with need in his eyes. He wasn’t pushing me away, so I sank further into his lap.

  “You haven’t told anyone else about this.” It wasn’t really a question, but I saw the confirmation in his eyes. My chest tightened, thinking about whatever secret he held. “Please tell me.”

  “No.” He shifted forward, and I braced myself, expecting him to push me away. He didn’t. His hands grasped the backs of my legs and lifted me so I was more fully on his lap.

  I could feel him between my legs, and my breasts almost pressed against his chest. I waited. I wanted to see what else he’d say

  “But not because I don’t want you to know,” he added. “Because it’s not my secret to tell. It’s Colton’s.”

  I nodded, my stomach doing somersaults now. “That makes sense. I can respect that.”

  And there we were. His hands cupped my ass, and the pain in his gaze became something darker, something I felt too, something that began to turn off all rational thought.

  “What are we doing here?” he questioned, his voice like a caress in itself.

  I leaned forward, my gaze lingering on his lips. “I didn’t really think it through.”

  “And now?”

  “Still not thinking it through.”

  “You’re okay with that?”

  In that moment, the truth exploded in me. I wanted him. I wanted this—but it was more. I needed this.

  I didn’t answer.

  I closed the distance between us.

  My lips found Caden’s, and they were everything.

  I melted into him, my hands moving over his chest and arms. I felt like I was drowning as we kissed. He answered. His mouth opened under mine, taking over, and a tremor went through me. I sank further down on him, almost grinding, and he pulled me more tightly against him, tighter than I could’ve gotten us. Then before I knew what was happening, he stood.

  I gasped, wrapping my arms around his neck. I started to pull away, but he murmured, “No,” and kept on kissing me. It was dizzying. My body was burning up, my need for him building.

  By the time he dropped me onto his bed, I could do nothing but clasp his shoulders. I dragged him down with me. I couldn’t get enough of him. I couldn’t get enough of this.

  “Summer.”

  His hand came to my arm, and I paused, my mouth still on his. He pulled his head back to look at me. His eyes darkened again, and I saw the primal lust on his face. I felt it in me. It spread all over, like a drug. I was intoxicated, and adrenaline pumped through me, making me need more and more.

  I slid a hand up under his shirt, savoring the feel of him. His muscles rolled and shifted under my touch, and I dipped down, lingering at his jeans. My thumb rested over the button. If I flicked that open, this was going to go farther than I’d anticipated.

  I pulled away and looked up, holding his gaze.

  We were both breathing heavy.

  He waited, letting me make the decision.

  I wanted to. My legs wound more tightly around his back, and I shifted against him. He closed his eyes at the contact. When they reopened they were dilated, like he was drugged right along with me.

  My heart pounded in my chest. The ache was almost combustible. I’d never felt this before. I’d lost my virginity to the 4-H guy, but that’d been painful and awkward. I hadn’t enjoyed sex with him, and then the only other time had been with Kevin. That’d been a little more pleasurable, but it was nothing compared to this. Just the kissing with Caden was already more than what I’d felt having sex before.

  My hands let go of his jeans, and fear slammed into me.

  I wasn’t ready for this.

  This could break me. I didn’t know if I could come back.

  Caden responded to me immediately. The only thing I’d done was move my hand away, but his touch changed. It had been demanding and hot before, but he switched it to soft and comforting.

  Shifting to lie beside me, he rested his forehead to my shoulder and let go of a deep breath. “Holy shit, woman.”

  I let out an awkward and relieved laugh, hitching up on the last note. “You said it.”

  His hand smoothed over my stomach, and he slipped it under my shirt, rubbing in comforting circles there.

  I closed my eyes, letting out a silent sigh. My entire body was relaxing, feeling exhausted like it had run a marathon just now.

  “You okay?”

  I opened my eyes to find him watching me. I nodded. “I’m okay.”

  Then the side of his mouth lifted. “Good, and just so you know,
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