By DIANA NIXON
I was so fucking screwed, in more ways than one…
The moment I saw Elizabeth Brown, the darkest of my desires and the worst of my nightmares, walking through the front door of my best friend’s house, my dick hardened to the core. Shit… Almost four years had passed since the last time I saw her, and the bitch still had so much power over me, or at least over one particular part of me that somehow refused to get over her. Un-freaking-believable…
“What is she doing here?” I asked Liam with as much venom as I could put into that simple question.
“Who?” He frowned, his eyes followed mine, obviously trying to find the object of my precise attention. “Oh…her? He pointed to the girl with platinum blond hair cascading down one shoulder in big pin curls. “She’s here with Declan.”
“Declan, as in Declan “The Scumbag” Sanders?” I knew the name well. The asshole and I used to be classmates in high school. There had never been any lost love between us. I just didn’t get him and his pathetic attempts to demonstrate how brazenly rich his family was. I had never felt the lack of money myself, but he was a snob to the max, even compared to me. I wouldn’t have even been surprised to find out that he ate checks for breakfast.
“Are they dating or what?” I took a long sip of my coke, hoping to seem absolutely uninterested in the answer.
“Don’t know. But she isn’t with Kolby anymore.”
I smirked, humorlessly. “That, I am well aware of.” Kolby was my half-brother; he happened to be the third part of the love triangle Elizabeth, he, and I still couldn’t recover from. Well, I wasn’t sure about the two of them, but I still felt as ruined as ever. And it was entirely her fault.
“Does it still bother you who she’s sleeping with?” Liam asked, chuckling into his beer.
“No even a fucking bit,” I snapped back. But he knew me too well to buy my bullshit. The story of my so-called love was too messed up to recover from it so easily.
“And that means what, exactly?” I shot him a look that let him know just what I was thinking…it said it all – you better not mess with me tonight, not when Elizabeth and I just happen to be in the same room again. I had been avoiding her for a long time, and I was sure I did a great job getting over her, but apparently, I was not as successful as I had originally thought I was.
“Nothing.” My friend shrugged, knowing it was better to keep whatever shit he had in that smart-ass mind of his to himself.
Elizabeth and I had a long history together. We first met about four years ago when she and Kolby were about to graduate from high school. I was six years older than she, just finishing my education and getting a degree in Business Management from Stanford University. It was my last weekend before graduation; so, I came to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I had lived before going to college. I came back to hand deliver invitations to the ceremony to my father, his wife Shelby – Kolby’s mother, and my brother. After my parents divorced, my mom moved to LA. Since we lived so close together, she was the first person to receive the invitation. Not that she didn’t want to raise me, but my father was sure that a boy needed to grow up by his father’s side. Mom didn’t argue with that. After all, she knew it was for the best. I spent all my winter and summer breaks with her, and when the time came for me to choose a college, my choices all ended on Stanford. I decided I would finally get a chance to spend more time with her. She was not thrilled about the meeting with my father and Shelby, but she loved me too much to miss one of the most significant events of my life just because “the asshole” was supposed to be there too. Mom was not alone. She was dating a great man, Derek. His biggest dream was to marry her, but she was sure one marriage was more than enough for one lifetime.
As for Elizabeth… I still remembered the moment I laid my eyes on her for the first time. How could I not? It was impossible to forget. Even after everything she did to break and bury my heart in a pool of its own blood, I still remembered every single detail from the first time we met. Yes, I remembered it as if it were just yesterday, and not so long ago. I was so fascinated by her, I didn’t immediately realize she was there with my brother. We shared a few meaningless words with each other, but they changed it all, they changed me. Since that day, I couldn’t think about anything but seeing her again, talking to her again, just being around her again, which was a huge mistake from the very beginning.
My eyes never stopped following her. She walked around Liam’s living room, greeting her friends, then stopped at the bar, next to a girl who was standing there, kissed her on both cheeks, and laughed at something she was telling her. The sound of her laughter was too damn familiar, and as always, it shot right through me, like an arrow hitting its mark, making every damn inch of my body vibrate in response, as if she were laughing right into my ear instead of across the room. Her laughter sent invisible waves of excitement through me. She had always had that kind of effect on me. Everything about her awakened the best and the worst in me, and I still had no idea how to fix it. The only thing that I knew for sure was that I would never be able to forgive her for what she did to me. She betrayed me, me and every little emotion that I felt for her; she betrayed my love, so pure and boundless; I still couldn’t believe I once let a girl so deep under my skin. No doubt, she was a devil sent from hell to suck the soul and life out of my body, and with it, my desire to see her ever again.
Elizabeth had changed. I could see that even from the distance. She looked more confident, independent, and as cold as an ice cube in the Arctic. Not even her polite smile could change that. She had never been a shy girl. For as long as I had known her, she had been a fighter. And surprisingly enough, I liked that. She fought for her dreams and never gave up on anything, regardless of how much her father wanted to change her and her plans for the future. He didn’t want her wasting her time designing clothes, but that is what she loved. As snobby as he was, he couldn’t imagine his only daughter being anything but a lawyer or a doctor. Not that she ever listened to him of course.
She was a match that I never thought I would be able to find. I fell for her…hard, it hurt to even think about letting her go one day. But the only thing that I felt for her now was hate, so strong it shattered me whenever I allowed my mind to wander towards thoughts of her. I wanted nothing more than to hurt her too, to see her suffer as much as I did when she ripped my heart out of my chest and threw it away like a piece of trash. I wanted to ruin her just like she ruined me.
I swallowed the rest of my coke in one gulp, slammed the glass against the coffee table and moved to the bar, right to where she was standing. Being the only sober person at the party, which by the way, I already regretted even showing up, made everything so much worse, but I couldn’t let myself get drunk today. Tomorrow I had an early flight back to LA where I was supposed to start work at one of my father company’s branches; it was one of the biggest computer equipment sellers all over the west coast. And there was no way in hell I would miss my first day of work because of her. I had to work my ass off to be who I was now, and she was not a part of me anymore.
I stopped right behind her, taking my time to appreciate the black mini dress she was wearing tonight. It fit her perfectly, outlining her every curve, covering and showing just enough to want it off of her. Her body was one of those things that I couldn’t resist. And no matter how sick the thought of fucking her again was, I didn’t mind it happening. Maybe not for pleasure, but at least for revenge.
As if feeling my presence, she slowly turned around, her amazing turquoise eyes bored into mine. I had never seen eyes of the same color as hers. Which was one of many things that I used to love about her. I drowned in them, hypnotized by their beauty and depth.
My whole body froze at the look she gave me. And if I didn’t know better, I would say she was as excited to see me as I was to see her. So much for my hate-you-to-death rule. Shit.
“Hello, Kameron,” she said, smiling as fucking sweetly as ever. “What a pleasant surprise… Didn’t know you would be here tonight.” Her face stayed cool. She had always been damn good at hiding her emotions. Poker-faced bitch.
I smirked in response. “Oh, did you?” My eyes traveled to her blood-red lips, shaped so ungodly perfect; I never knew how to stop myself from kissing them.
“You know, I always loved it when you wore red lipstick,” I said in a low purr. A twisted part of me still enjoyed teasing her, flirting with her. As if my fucked-up life after her was not a good enough reason to stay as far away as humanly possible from her for the rest of my existence.
“Really? I didn’t remember that,” she said, taking a sip of her champagne. God knew, I needed all of my willpower to not pull those devilishly luscious lips of hers to mine. As always, I just couldn’t stop thinking about kissing her senseless. Only this time, there was nothing romantic about my desire to be closer to her. I just wanted to hurt her, make her feel used.
My eyes shamelessly slipped down her dress again, the front of it was even more amazing than the back, fitting her like a glove. I smiled slightly at the view of her high-heeled shoes, the fuck-me-hard kind of shoes. I knew she was crazy about shoes, as well as she knew how much I loved her wearing them like tonight – as if they were her secret weapon in a game that she and I always loved to play.
“Nice stilettos. Did you put them on precisely to tease me?”
No response followed. She had been quiet for no less than a minute; it was one of those awkward silences. Then finally, she smiled, leaning closer to my face and breathed against my lips, “Fuck you, Kameron Grayson.” I could practically taste the scent of champagne emitting from those bright-red lips of hers. My fists doubled in my jeans pockets. I was too close to dragging her to one of Liam’s guest rooms and taking her right there and then. Only this time, she didn’t deserve such a generosity from me, no matter how badly her hardened nipples begged me to do just that. Did she even know that her body betrayed her every secret thought? I shook my head, frustrated. I couldn’t let her get to me, not again.
Her eyes stayed locked with mine for no more than a heartbeat, but it was more than enough to see the truth that she obviously hoped she would be able to hide from me. She knew I was back from LA, as well as she knew I would be at Liam’s tonight. The only thing that she didn’t expect was how fast I would be able to see it through the small and sexy as hell spectacle she was playing for me. I was not going to fall into the same trap twice, no matter how much a selfish part of me wanted to claim her as mine again. She had always been mine, even tonight. I knew her too well to believe that she was not interested in me anymore. Regardless of how much of a cheating bitch she was, I knew she would never belong to anyone but me. And the funniest part was that she knew it too. Despite how screwed we both were, there had always been something pushing us to the edge, testing our limits, pulling us to each other, and then breaking us apart. Fate maybe? Or just a sick joke the universe enjoyed playing, where she and I fit together perfectly but could never work together. Go figure…
Four years ago
“The only true love is love at first sight; second sight dispels it.”
I looked at my watch and yawned. I didn’t even bother hiding my attitude towards the situation taking place right in front of my eyes. Shelby was terrible at throwing parties, and she was even worse in her attempts to be a loving wife and mother. I never understood the kind of relationship she had with my father. She did everything he told her to do, and not even once did she try to talk back to him, or maybe she was not smart enough to be her own person and take charge in her life; either way she seemed content to let my father dictate her every move. My mother was the complete opposite, she had absolutely no word filter to speak of when it came to calling my father names and believe me she has called him every name in the book – in his presence and behind his back. They separated when I was five, and shortly after that, I found out that my dad was going to marry again. I can’t say that I was surprised, my parents fought all the time; but that doesn’t mean it didn’t affect me, it did. . . I was mad when I came to the realization that I would have to sit there and watch a different woman than my mother by my father’s side, doing all the things a wife is supposed to do, and pretend to be a mother too. Even after many years had passed, I still couldn’t force myself to love that woman, AKA my second mother. To me, she still seemed like the other woman, my dad’s secret lover, who would sneak into his hotel room when he was away from his family for business or otherwise.
“Why did you even want me to be here tonight?” Liam asked, as bored as ever. “This party sucks, and we both know it. But we are still here…”
“Dad asked me to stay at home tonight. You know, I would gladly skip the fun to leave this place and have a few shots with my best friend, which happens to be you; but he said we needed to talk about something very important, so I didn’t have any other choice than to stay here.”
“But still, what am I doing here? Kimmy wanted to hang out tonight, but I ditched her to watch a couple of snobby daddies, sharing stupid dirty jokes, and showing off their new lovers in attempt to figure out which is hotter. . . Seriously man, this is not how I expected this night to end.”
“I can hardly stand living under the same roof with Shelby, but I don’t have much choice. Besides, you know how much I love ruining every damn party my ‘mommy’ throws. I needed your company to help me live through this particular one. That’s it.”
“You are welcome,” Liam muttered bitterly in response, sending a text message. I was sure it must be addressed to his own new passion, Kimmy.
My eyes traveled around the room, looking at no one in particular, until I spotted her. . .a stranger, a girl with an incredibly beautiful smile. She was holding a glass of punch in one hand when she walked over to my brother and kissed him on the cheeks, and then she went to my father and Shelby and kissed them on the cheeks too. She was acting like she had known them for ages, but that couldn’t be the case because I had never seen her before.
“Hey, who’s that?” I asked Liam, punching him lightly in the arm. I was hoping to distract him from sexting with Kimmy, which I was sure was the only logical explanation for the shit-eating grin plastered all over his pace.
“Who?” He asked aloof, not even bothering to look up from his phone.
“That girl, over there, talking to Kolby.”
Finally, he lifted his head, looked in the direction of the girl, and let out a chuckle. “Oh, that. . .she’s your brother’s girlfriend, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Brown. She is Christopher Brown’s daughter. Ever heard of him?”
“Didn’t he used to be one of my father’s companions?”
“How long have they been dating?”
“For a couple of months, I guess. Why?”
“They look like they have been together for longer than that, they seem more like a husband and wife whose marriage has seen better times.” The only thing that made me believe there was something more than just friendship between them was my brother’s lovestruck expression, that to be honest, was the funniest and at the same time the stupidest expression I had ever seen on his face.
“The girl’s been through some rough shit recently. Her parents are in the middle of a divorce. And guess why? Because her old man has been living a double life. He has another family in Houston, and as far as I know, he has two other children that neither Elizabeth nor her mother knew a damn thing about.”
“That is not cool.”
“Not at all. Especially considering the size of her father’s fortune. . .now he has to divide it between three children, and two wives.”
Suddenly, I felt really sorry for Elizabeth. She didn’t look like she was enjoying Shelby’s shitty party either, and I couldn’t blame her for that, so I thought I would cheer her up a little.
I waited for her to excuse herself and go out to the patio, and followed her. I didn’t really care whether Kolby liked it or not. He could put on his best tailored suit, use a whole bottle of that damn hair gel he couldn’t live without, and go straight to hell. I wouldn’t give a fuck. I never cared about what he thought or felt. He was my worst enemy’s son, and no matter how hard our father tried to make our fellowship work, we were anything but friends, and even less brothers that were supposed to take care of each other. So I didn’t see anything wrong with trying to get to know more about his lovely girlfriend.
“Even an empty patio feels better than what is going on inside, right?” I closed the door behind me and looked at the girl standing just a few feet away from me. She was wearing a knee-length strapless dress, the top was like a corset and was black, and the skirt was white and flared, flowing smoothly with the wind. Her hair was pulled up in a high ponytail, exposing the perfect lines of her creamy shoulders and neck.
She flinched when she heard my voice, turned around, and frowned. She studied me, giving me a careful head-to-toe once over. She was obviously not thrilled about me breaking into her ‘peaceful moment’.
“Don’t worry, I’m not a stalker. I just needed some fresh air too.” I took a few steps closer, smiling slightly at her. She took a few steps back, and crossed her arms over her chest, as if she needed to shield herself from me.
“I know exactly who you are, Kameron Grayson. No need to waste your precious time on introductions.”
Wow, that was a pleasant change to her quietness. The fragile, innocent girl that I thought she was just a few minutes ago was gone instantaneously; that girl was replaced by a snow queen. And she was looking at me as if I were the scum of the earth.
“Do you always believe everything that people tell you?” I asked. She didn’t look like the kind of person who didn’t have her own opinion (like Shelby), but it was obvious that she had heard enough shit about me to believe that I didn’t deserve to breathe the same air as she did.
She smiled, making those full bright-red lips of hers look even more tempting than before. “No, but I don’t think you can surprise me. I mean, come on. . .almost everyone who attended Springs knows who Kameron Grayson is. Obviously, your reputation was far too glorious to fade even after graduation was over.”
Just like my brother and Elizabeth, I used to be a student at Springs – one of the most prestigious private schools in the city. At least now, Elizabeth’s reaction toward me made sense. Springs knew me as a first-class jerk, captain of the school’s baseball team, and the prick who didn’t miss a single skirt that was presented to him. At least that is who everyone thought I was. But I didn’t care enough to make them believe otherwise. I always knew what I wanted from my life, and I was not going to let anyone take it away from me.
“I hate rumors and I hate people spreading them even more,” I said, taking another step closer. I could see that my presence bothered Elizabeth, and to say that I liked it was the understatement of the century. I loved it. “They ruin everything. Wouldn’t you agree?”
She hesitated with her response, well aware of a very short distance separating us. I mentally high-fived myself. I didn’t expect her to be that easily distracted.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you,” she said, a little nervously.
“Relax, princess. I know you didn’t mean that.”
“What did you just call me?”
“Princess, why? Aren’t you daddy’s princess?”
That was the worst thing I could have said.
Elizabeth’s face paled. Her lips formed into a thin line, her eyes filled with anger.
“Wow, easier there, sweetheart.” I put my hands up in a calming, yet defensive gesture just in case she decided to take a swing at me.
“Seriously, Kameron? You know about my parents’ divorce, don’t you? And you followed me out here to what? Laugh at me? How very mature of you.” She shook her head, and walked to the patio door. But I couldn’t let her go like that.
Catching her by the hand, I pulled her back to where she was standing. “I’m sorry,” I said, looking down at her. Even wearing high heels, she was shorter than I. “I didn’t mean for it to be derogatory. It was supposed to be just a joke, okay?”
Only now did I get the chance to really look at her face. Only now did I see how truly beautiful she was. And those eyes, God those were the most incredible eyes I had ever seen – a mix of blues and greens, such a rare shade of. . .
“Turquoise?” I asked, genuinely surprised. “Are those contacts?”
She rolled her eyes, breaking free of my grasp. “No, this is my natural eye color.” Apparently, I was not the first person to ask her that question.
“Have never seen it before,” I said, still staring into those bewitching eyes of hers.
“Is that all you wanted to talk to me about? Can I go now?”
She was obviously upset about something. . .something other than my failed attempt at humor. Maybe it was her parents’ divorce or something else; I didn’t really know and not even my attempts to flirt with her could change that.
“Wait,” I said, as she moved toward the door again. “Is there anything I can do to see that smile I saw on your lips back inside again?”
She smiled at my words, it wasn’t intentional; she wasn’t just trying to please me. “Actually, yes…” She said, pausing and giving me a hard look. “Stop flirting with me.” And then, she was gone. She opened the door, and with a whoosh of her skirt, and the door slamming behind her, she was gone. . .leaving me alone on the patio, with the biggest smile I had ever had.
Edgy, but sweet, I thought to myself. Perfect.
The rest of the party didn’t seem boring anymore, it may have been that my mind was occupied with thoughts of Elizabeth: the brilliant color of her eyes, her perfect skin, or even the way she bantered with me; I couldn’t pinpoint the exact detail that made the party seem better, but it was indeed better. Occasionally, I would look up and catch Elizabeth staring at me, a few times our eyes met across the room, and every time I caught her looking at me, I wondered what she was thinking about me. She told me to stop flirting with her, but how on earth could I do that when I constantly felt her gaze on me; she watched me the whole night, right up until the time came for the guests to leave. Even during dinner, sitting at the table, her boyfriend right beside her, and my father’s attempts to involve me in the conversation about his business, we couldn’t stop looking at each other. It was as if neither she nor I knew how to stop what was suddenly building between us. It was very intense and heady.
Has she already slept with Kolby? I thought to myself. If I were him, I would have claimed her as mine the moment I laid my eyes on her. Liam said they had been dating for a few months, which in my opinion, was more than enough to share a bed, at least once. But with Kolby, I couldn’t be sure about that. Sometimes I doubted if he even knew what sex was. He was a gentleman to the bone, one that wouldn’t kiss a girl without asking for permission first. How could a girl like Elizabeth, who could have any guy she wanted, end up with someone like my precious, bore-me-to-death brother? I just didn’t get it.
“Thank you for this wonderful dinner, Shelby,” Elizabeth said to my stepmother as she walked out of the dining room. “I really needed to get away from my house tonight.”
“Oh, dear, I can’t even imagine how hard it is for you right now,” Shelby replied sympathetically, wrapping one arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders. “How’s your mother handling the situation?”
Elizabeth sighed. “Not so well, actually. We haven’t talked much about it, but I can see how stressed and devastated she is.”
“We should have invited her to join us tonight,” my father said. “Jeaneth and I have known each other for years.”
Elizabeth’s eyes met mine again, and for a second I thought she wanted to tell me something, but then she turned to my father and smiled, saying, “Thank you for your concern Leonard, but I think a few days of rest is all my mom needs now.”
“Anyway, tell her she’s always welcome in this house.” My father smiled at Elizabeth and went to accompany the rest of the guests out.
“Some of the guys are going to Storm tomorrow. I am going with them,” Liam said, coming over to me. “Wanna join us?”
“Yeah, sure,” I muttered absently. My attention was still focused on Elizabeth.
“See you tomorrow then.” He patted my shoulder and headed for the door, sending another text message on the way. Apparently, he still hoped to catch up with Kimmy.
Shelby spoke again, “The guest room is ready, dear. If you need anything, just ask our housekeeper, Bree, and she will bring it to you, okay?”
What? Was Elizabeth staying the night with us? Now that was something I couldn’t leave unnoticed.
“You can also count on me,” I said, coming closer and lowering my voice so that only she could hear me. “Whatever it is that you might need tonight, I will be more than happy to help with.”
She smiled in response. “Thank you, Kameron. But I’m sure my boyfriend will be more than happy to help me with whatever I might need tonight.”
“I was just trying to be hospitable.” I shrugged. “Which guest room have they prepared for you?” I wasn’t going to sneak in there in the middle of the night or anything, I just wanted to make sure Elizabeth was alright and didn’t need anything, but the thought of keeping her awake, doing naughty things was much more alluring than letting her sleep in peace.
“The usual one I guess.”
My eyebrows rose in surprise. “So it’s not the first time you have stayed then, is it?”
“Your father and Shelby have always been very kind to me. When Kolby and I needed to study for finals, they let me stay here overnight.”
“What about your mom? Is she okay with you sleeping over. . .you know, where your boyfriend just so happens to live as well?” I mimicked her manner of calling my brother her boyfriend, which I still believed was the most ridiculous thing in the world to happen to her, or any other girl for that matter.
“She trusts Kolby, she knows he would never let anything bad happen to me.”
“And by bad you mean the imaginary ghosts that might scare you in the middle of the night? Because I’m sure with a boyfriend like yours, this is the only bad thing that can happen to you in this house. Though if you were mine. . .I wouldn’t mind doing a few bad things with you. . .” I winked at her.
She drew a sharp breath, her cheeks flushed in fury. “Good night, Kameron,” she said, and then turned on her heel and headed upstairs.
Well, hell. . . Who would have thought it would be so easy to get to her. I smirked to myself. She should have known better than to tease me with her coldness. I didn’t buy it. Not after all those curious glances she had been sending my way all the night around. Maybe I should have been easier on her, but something was telling me when it came to her, nothing would ever be easy.
I waited for my father to come inside and followed him into his office to talk about something that he thought was important enough to make me suffer the entirety of Shelby’s party to discuss.
“What is it, Dad? What did you want to talk to me about?” I asked, taking a seat across from him. He poured himself a glass of scotch and took a few sips before answering.
“I know you have never liked Shelby. . .” He said, turning the glass in his hands absently. “But I really appreciate your patience with her. She can be a little. . . pushy at times, but she’s not a bad person.”
“Are we here to talk about Shelby? Don’t you think it’s a little too late to start this conversation. . .after what? Almost twenty years now. . .twenty years that the three of us have been living under the same roof?”
“It’s not her that I wanted to talk to you about, Kameron. But I noticed how tense you were during dinner and I wanted to thank you for staying. But the real reason I wanted you to be here tonight, is to talk about your graduation. I spoke with Professor Emmers, and she said that your grades are very impressive. I’m proud of you son.”
Wow, that was probably the first time in years that I didn’t mind being my father’s son. In fact, I had always wanted to be like him. Regardless of how little I liked him cheating on my mom and eventually divorcing her, he had always been good to me, a real father that always raised me by setting the best example of how a man should be.
“You know I always wanted you to inherit my company,” my father said. “And you will, one day. I also know how badly you want to work in it, and again, you will. . .one day.”
I looked at him suspiciously. “What are you getting at, Dad?”
“Well, here’s the thing: I think you should work somewhere else first.” He said, watching me carefully. He knew me too well to believe that I would take his words lightly.
“What? Wasn’t I supposed to start working for you right after I received my degree?”
“Yes, but I think you need more experience to take the position I want you to take.”
I still didn’t get it. “So what do you want me to do?”
“I want you to take Mrs. Emmers’ offer to work for her husband’s company. He is looking for a regional manager to control the stores in LA area.”
“They are one of our partners, right?”
“Okay, but why do you think working for them is better than going straight for our own family business?”
“Because I know their company isn’t doing very well, and I want to buy it one day.”
Now it started to make sense. “And by one day, you mean the day when they file bankruptcy?”
My father smiled slightly. “I knew you would get my point. Besides, Mr. Emmers is well aware of my intentions and it was his idea to offer you the manager’s position, so you could see how things work from the inside.”
“So what exactly am I supposed to do? Make sure their company destroys itself?”
“On the contrary. You need to make sure that investing in them will be a good move to make. Do your best to save them and I will let you head our LA branch as you always wanted.”
It didn’t sound like a bad plan actually. I knew my father would never take a step that he would regret later, at least not when it came to his company’s prosperity. So I decided to accept his offer.
“Okay. When do you want me to start?”
“In September. Take a break. Enjoy the summer, travel if you want. I will cover the expenses. But be ready to work really hard when the fall comes.”
“Sounds fine to me.” I rose to my feet and was just about to leave when another question came to mind. “Would it be alright if I stayed here this summer?” Not that I thought my father wouldn’t want to have me around, but it is still better to ask. After all, I haven’t lived here for years. Things might have changed, including Shelby’s attitude toward my presence in her territory. She never demonstrated possessiveness for the house openly, but I knew it always bothered her when I was around. No doubt, she still hoped that her precious son would inherit my father’s empire. Only Kolby was not even close to being ready for that, which both my father and I knew so damn well.
“Never ask me that question again, son. This is your home, and it always will be.”
I smiled, nodding. “Thanks. Just wanted to make sure that I am still welcome here.”
“Of course, you are. Now, I think it’s time to call it a day and get some sleep. I have tons of work to do tomorrow.”
And with that, we wished each other good night and went to our rooms.
Being back home was good. I missed this place, regardless of how little I missed Shelby and her son. Dad and I always got along well. We rarely even disagreed except, of course, when it came to his new wife and her ridiculous attempts to be my mother. But she was nothing like my real mom, so she didn’t stand a chance going up against the woman I loved more than anyone in the world.
I took off my clothes, leaving only my boxers on and was just about to take a shower when I heard the door in the hall open and close. My room was situated in a secluded part of the house, and the only other door in my hall led to a guest room that no one ever used.
Curious, I looked out into the hall and saw Elizabeth walking to the stairs. Without a second thought, I put on the first pair of jeans I could find and followed her. Was she staying in the room right opposite mine? I couldn’t be that lucky, could I?
I went downstairs and saw the light streaming out from the kitchen. Apparently, she was there.
Quietly, I let myself in, closed the door behind me, and leaned against it, watching her. She was pouring herself a glass of water, standing with her back to me. She was wearing blue pajama shorts and a matching top; she looked so small, even fragile I would say, like a little girl lost in the woods in the middle of the night. Her hair was down, cascading over her shoulders and back, and I wanted nothing more than to run my fingers through it and feel the soft silk strands touching my skin. Then I would wrap them around my hand and pull her face closer to mine. . .
“Trouble sleeping?” I asked quietly.
She jumped, scared, spilling the contents of her glass all over her top.
“Jeez, Kameron! What are you doing here?”
“Your room is right across from mine. I heard your door opening and closing, and then I saw you coming down here. Just wanted to make sure that you were okay.”
She stared at me, her gaze slipped down my naked chest and then up to my face again; for a few long moments, neither of us spoke. Was she recalling our conversation from about an hour ago when I shamelessly admitted I didn’t mind doing a few bad things with her? Because this was exactly what I was thinking about at the moment. . .