Anti stepbrother, p.18
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       Anti-Stepbrother, p.18
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  any time you want to do that again, I’m down.”

  I felt the corner of my mouth twitching, mirroring his. “Down?”

  A stark promise suddenly appeared in his eyes, and his hand dipped low, pausing just beneath my jeans. “You know what I mean. I’ll be hard and ready to go in all the right spots.”

  Oh hell. I needed to breathe. The room got a whole lot hotter, and I sat up, actually fanning myself. “Stop talking. You’re making me come just listening to you.”

  He bent down, kissing my shoulder before sitting up with me.

  I closed my eyes. The quick peck of his lips on my skin sent a thrill through me, reenergizing my already boiling blood. He shifted to sit on the edge of the bed, bending forward so his elbows rested on his knees, his back to me. I looked at him and knew my emotions were shining through. If he’d glanced back at me, he would’ve seen everything I felt.

  We could get physical. We already had with cuddling and holding hands. As long as I was okay with it, Caden would be too. But if he saw my feelings, I could lose him then. I was sure of it. He dated girls who you were more than me. Who was I to compete against them?

  “You okay?” he asked.

  I couldn’t lose him.

  He looked back, and I slammed my eyes shut. When I opened them again, everything was gone. I’d tucked it all away, and I smirked back at him. “Other than wondering what the female term for a quick tug is, I’m golden.”

  Lust moved back into his eyes, and he glanced down at my jeans. “I could help take care of that.”

  I shifted on the bed. “You’re the reason it’s there.” Alarms were going off. This was the entire reason I’d pulled away. Caden was okay with it. I wasn’t.

  I coughed, clearing my throat, and scooted to sit next to him. The side of my leg pressed into his, and I felt him watching me. I patted his hand. “I’m good. Really.”



  He opened his hand underneath mine. “We’re still friends?”

  My heart twisted, and I slid my fingers alongside his. “Still friends.”

  “Good.” He pressed a kiss to my forehead. “Because I really need a drink now. Come on. We’re going out.”

  “Where are we going?” I followed him out the room on unsteady legs.

  He grabbed his wallet and keys, tossing the latter in the air and catching them. “Diego’s.” He winked at me before heading out.

  I couldn’t move, not at first. Good God. That wink had gone right between my legs, and I had to catch my breath. This guy had way too much power over my body.

  Well…not just my body.

  “Welcome, mis compadres.”

  Diego welcomed us with open arms as we walked into his bar. He beamed, wearing jeans and a leather vest with nothing underneath. Right before he would’ve caught Caden in a hug, he moved and wrapped his arms around me instead.

  He winked at Caden. “You used the front door this time too. I’m touched.” He tightened his hold on me. “And you brought my new best friend. We are close friends now.”

  Caden frowned, but I saw his lip twitch. He was trying not to grin. “Just don’t get too close.”

  “Oh?” Diego pulled back and made an exaggerated point of looking from me to Caden and back again. “It’s not like that now?” His eyebrow went up, along with his sly grin.

  I flushed. “It’s not.” But it was. Thirty minutes ago, in fact.

  Diego stepped away. His hand curved around my back. “Come on.” He motioned for Caden to go away. “You get a table. I’m taking my new best friend to the bar. We’re going to get shots.”

  “She’s underage.”

  “Then the shots are not for her.” He winked at me.

  Caden rolled his eyes and glanced at me. “I’ll grab a table outside.”

  I nodded. I needed the night breeze to cool off.

  Diego patted one of the stools. “Hop up.” He went around the side of the bar, waving off one of the bartenders. “I got this one.”

  He pulled out some bottles and placed them on the bar. “Okay. This.” He lifted the tequila bottle. “I am pouring for Caden. It looks like he needs some further encouragement, if you know what I mean.”

  He winked at me, starting to mix. I didn’t know what he meant, and I was afraid to ask. Diego seemed in a mischievous mood. I feared what would come next.

  “So.” He cleared his throat, finishing one of the drinks. “Tell me, querida, what is the latest development between you and my long-time friend outside?”


  He paused, his gaze intent. “You don’t know, or you don’t wish to tell me?”

  “Both.” I smiled.

  His eyebrows dipped together. “You are a good girl. You’re the only girl he’s brought here. That means something. Don’t tell me it doesn’t.”

  “It means…” I had to stall. “That Caden and I are friends.”

  He huffed at that, rolling his eyes sharply before beginning to mix a second drink. “That’s bullshit. Don’t insult me. I can tell when something’s up, and a blind man could’ve seen the chemistry between you two.”

  My eyes widened. “Oh.”

  “So tell me, what’s going on?”

  I felt cornered by Diego’s hawk-like gaze. He hadn’t missed a thing, but I really didn’t know what was going on. I opened my mouth, having no idea what was about to come out, when someone bumped into me from the side.

  “Bartender! Can we get a bunnch of shos?” a girl slurred. “Me an my friends?” She hiccupped, then noticed me.

  Her arm felt hot and as she turned, I could see that her eyes were glazed over. Her lips were swollen, and I recognized her as the girl Caden had talked with in my dorm. I stiffened, looking for the guy she’d been with, but didn’t see him. Instead there was a table of girls behind her, all of whom looked just like her. They were pretty, hair and makeup done perfectly. Judging from the shrieking, they were just as drunk too.

  “Hey.” She stuck her bottom lip out, staring right at me. “I know you.”

  Diego saw my reaction and turned on the charm as a distraction. His smile became smoother. Suddenly a thick accent came out. “Quieres tiros, mi chinga?”

  She stared at him, repeating what he’d said. Then she smiled. “Shots. Can we get some?”

  “Of course!”

  She relaxed at his warm tone.

  “How many?”

  “Oh. Um…” She glanced back to her table, her finger lifting to count her friends. “Two, three, five shots. We need five of them.”

  “Any kind?”

  “Sex on the beach. Or blow job.”

  I glanced through the back glass door, but I couldn’t see Caden. If I couldn’t see him, she couldn’t either.

  As if sensing my discomfort, Diego placed three glasses in front of me. Two were already poured. “For your table,” he told me. He quickly poured something out of a pitcher into the third glass. “For me,” he explained. He tapped the second glass. “For you.” And he winked before moving farther down the bar and lining up five shot glasses. The girl was forced to move with him.

  After picking up the three glasses, I nodded my thanks. He gave me a second wink before filling the last of the shot glasses. “Ta da! There you are,” he announced to the spellbound girl.

  I slipped past the table of her friends. Once outside, I saw half the veranda was empty and instantly relaxed. I only hoped those girls wouldn’t come out.

  “You okay?” Caden eyed me.

  I slid his drink to him, putting Diego’s in front of the empty chair. “You have friends inside.”

  “I do?”

  “That girl from my dorm, the one you were talking to while I changed for flamingo night.”

  He frowned. “Who?”

  He didn’t remember. I pressed my lips together to keep from smiling. “I don’t know. There was a guy too.”

  “Oh, yeah.” Understanding dawned. “Jeremy something. He’s friends with Marcus,
not me.”

  “You were talking to them.”

  He shrugged, glancing at the door. “They said hello. I needed to pass the time. Figured polite conversation wouldn’t hurt. Diego’s not coming?”

  “He had to fill some drinks first.”

  “Wait.” He stilled, his eyes darting to mine. “They aren’t coming out here, are they?”

  The last knot in my stomach unraveled. I shook my head, unable to hide my grin now. “I hope not.”

  He grinned back. “It’s awkward enough with Diego, much less some chicks Marcus knows. Word would get out that we were hanging out here.”

  My grin fell flat.

  People knew we were friends already. Caden had been in my dorm, for goodness sakes, but the way he said that—it was like he didn’t want anyone to know we were hanging out here together. Like I was a secret.

  I tried to tell myself that was Kevin baggage, nothing to do with Caden, but the knot in my stomach tightened back up.

  “You okay?”


  “You got quiet all the sudden. That’s not normal for you.”

  I forced a smile. “I’m good. Just…maybe tired is all.”

  “You sure?”

  He cared about me. I tried to remind myself of that. “I’m good.”

  “My friends!”

  Diego made his entrance, his arms stretched out once again. Everyone on the veranda looked up, saw it was Diego, and went back to their conversations. A few offered greetings as he made his way to our table, but once he dropped into his seat, it was like the last time we had been here. There was no awkwardness after that.

  Diego filled the air with stories, and if he was quiet for a moment, Caden would start a new one. Diego would quickly join in, taking over. I laughed the entire time.

  A couple hours passed before trouble started. I felt it coming more than anything else.

  I didn’t hear the girls approach. The veranda had filled while we were out there. But Diego’s gaze trailed past my shoulders, and his smile vanished. His eyes lost their warmth, and a beat later, I heard that same drunken voice, but this time she wasn’t slurring.

  The air cooled dramatically, and it wasn’t the temperature.

  “Caden! What are you doing here?” she asked.

  Caden didn’t turn hostile, but his smile vanished. “I’m here with friends.”

  She waited, standing there.

  He didn’t say anything more.

  Then her eyes fell on me and lit up. A fake warmth oozed from her. “Oh my gosh, you’re Kevin Matthews’ stepsister, aren’t you? I thought I recognized you.” She dragged an empty chair from two tables over to ours, plopping down. She scooted up right next to me, pressing her arm against Caden. “I live in your dorm.”

  She paused again, looking around the table. When she saw Diego, her head cocked to the side, like she didn’t recognize him. “You’re the bartender, aren’t you?”

  Caden started laughing.

  Diego cleared his throat. “Yes. I’m the help.”

  “Oh.” Her head bobbed up and down, the smile still plastered on her face.

  She looked back to Caden with a calculating gleam in her eyes, then switched it to me.

  Something was going to happen. Something shitty.

  “Is it true what everyone is saying? You didn’t really come to school thinking you’d be with your stepbrother? I thought that was hilarious when I heard it. I mean, that’s kinda sick too, isn’t it? He’s not your blood, but still. His parent is fucking your parent. That’s gotta be up there on the ick factor.”

  Yes. She went there.

  She waited for a response from me, but it came from Caden.

  “Fuck you.”

  He said it low, quiet, but the words sent a chill down my back.

  Her eyes widened. “Excuse me?”

  “You came over to our table to insult my friend?” He didn’t move. Not a bit, and that made his words even colder. “Get the fuck away from this table.”

  Her mouth opened.

  He cut her off. “I don’t care who your friends are. If you don’t walk away from this table in five seconds, I will make my opinion known about you. I can’t guarantee you’ll still have friends after that.”

  Diego’s eyebrows lifted. He muttered under his breath, “Damn.”

  Caden ignored him. “I don’t like being an asshole, but when it comes to certain friends, I’ll be the worst asshole I can be.”

  He’d laid it out for her, but she didn’t move.

  Diego got up and put his hands on her shoulders. “You should go. Caden doesn’t make threats lightly. When he does, he follows through. Don’t test him.”

  He herded her away from our table.

  I was stunned. No one had ever done something like that for me. I wanted to thank Caden, say something to show him my appreciation, but I could only gape at him.

  He laughed softly. “Do not cry.”

  Two tears formed at the corners of my eyes. I wiped them away and blinked rapidly. “Who’s crying here? Not me. That’s for sissies.”

  “You’re not a sissy.”

  “Well, we both know you’re not. Holy crap, Caden. No one’s ever stuck up for me like that before.” I felt choked up again. “Thank you.”

  He shrugged. “It’s no problem, but maybe we should get going? I don’t want to deal with a crazy chick.”

  My lip twitched. “No doubt. They’re like serial killers. They bounce back.”

  “Yeah. Just like serial killers.”

  Our eyes caught and held as we smiled at each other, feeling all sorts of feelings—emotions that maybe we shouldn’t have been feeling. Or at least I was.

  Caden’s eyes darkened. His look was like a sensual caress, moving over me, sending tingles and sensations in its wake, and getting me all sorts of excited. Images of us in his bed flashed in my mind. How I sat down, straddling him. How his hands grasped the back of my legs. How he held me tight, then pulled me on top of him. How he carried me to his bed, our lips touching, kissing, exploring. My hand resting on his stomach, the way his paused on my jeans, his thumb at the ready, just waiting for my permission.

  I wondered why the hell we’d stopped in the first place.

  “You scared that girl out of her skin.” Diego plopped back down in his chair, setting a beer on the table. “I should know. I had to give her three shots on the house.”

  I coughed, feeling yanked out of my sensual cocoon. It’d been so nice and warm in there.

  “You should’ve let her try,” Caden remarked, recovering more quickly than me.

  Diego harrumphed. “And let you have a second go at that girl? No, thank you. You might not like having them here, but I welcome almost all patrons. And girls who look like that and drink like that? Bring on all their friends.” He began to raise his arms, like he was going to make an announcement, but he stopped. He looked between us. “Am I missing something?”

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