Read Stepbrother Protects (His Twisted Game Book Six) Online

Authors: Chloe Hawk

Tags: #His Twisted Game

Stepbrother Protects (His Twisted Game Book Six) (3 page)

BOOK: Stepbrother Protects (His Twisted Game Book Six)
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“No.”

“Avery!”
 
Her voice was sharp, and I winced.
 
My mom hardly ever yelled at me.
 
She was usually the complete opposite – shutting down,
refusing to talk or show any kind of emotion, even when it would be completely
appropriate to do so.
 
“I don’t
know what is going with you and your brother, but you’re coming home with me
tonight.”

“Step
brother.”

“What?”

“He’s my stepbrother, Mom, not my
brother.”

“Oh, good,” she said.
 
“Is that how you’re justifying whatever
it is the two of you were doing up in that room tonight?
 
How you’re making it seem okay?”

My face flamed with embarrassment.
 
They knew.
 
Her and Gordon knew what Cole and I had been doing
upstairs.
 
Had they heard us?
 
We’d tried so hard to be quiet.
  
“I don’t know what you’re talking
about,” I said softly.

“I think you know exactly what I’m
talking about,” she spat.
 
“And you
don’t know what or who it is you’re getting involved with, Avery.
 
Cole has done very bad things in his
life.
 
Unspeakable, disgusting
things.”

“Like what?”

She shook her head.
 
“They’re things I won’t talk about,
Avery.
 
But they go way back, and
you should not be here.
 
He’s dangerous.”
 
Her voice was firm, but a second later
it softened just a little.
 
“Please, Avery,” she said.
 
“I need you.
 
We can get
through this together.”

My heart ached for her.
 
Yes, she was a grown woman making her
own choices.
 
So on one hand, you
could say she wasn’t a victim.
 
But
on the other hand, she
was
a victim – a victim of being beaten down over all these
years, of being so demoralized that she’d been convinced she couldn’t have a
life without Gordon.
 
She’d been
with him so long she thought she deserved the abuse.

“Mom,” I said.
 
“You can stay here.”

“I just told you, Avery, Cole is –”

“He’s what, Mom?” I asked, my voice
rising in frustration. “What is it?
 
What is this horrible thing he’s done, Mom?
 
Just tell me.”

“Avery, please, he – ”

The sound of the door opening echoed
through the apartment, and suddenly, Cole appeared.

The sight of him took my breath
away.
 
There was a cut on his jaw,
the red line running ragged up his cheek.
 
His right eye was bruised and swollen, the skin underneath it turning
ugly shades of purple and red that faded into an angry tapestry.
 
I longed to run to him, to wrap my arms
around him and make sure he was okay.
 

“What’s going on?” Cole asked when he saw
my mom.

“Avery?” my mom prompted.

I looked between her and Cole.
 
I’d never been in the place where I’d
been forced to make a decision between my mom and my stepbrother.
 
Actually, I’d never been in a position
where I had to make a decision between my mom and
anyone.
 
The only time she’d been up against anything in my life was
when it was either
her
or leaving my house.
 
And every single time, she’d won.

“She just came by to check and make sure
we were okay,” I lied.

“We’re fine,” Cole said.
 
I saw his jaw twitch, and I could tell
he was annoyed that my mom was here, that she was bothering me.

“Well, then,” my mom said.
 
“I guess I’ll be leaving.”
 
She gave me one last long look, giving
me a chance to change my mind.
 
But
when it became obvious I wasn’t going to, she turned and walked out the door
without even saying goodbye.

As soon as she was gone, I rushed to
him.
 
Cole put his arms around me,
and a tsunami of emotion overwhelmed my soul.
 
I was so glad he was here, so happy to see him, that I
couldn’t hold it in.
 
I started
sobbing against his t-shirt, the fabric soft against my cheek, the hardness of
his chest a reminder of how powerful he was, how safe he could make me feel.

“Shhh,” he said, stroking my hair.
 
“Shh, don’t cry.
 
It’s okay.”

I pulled back and looked up at him,
wincing at the ugly bruises that clouded his face.
 

“I came to the police station,” I
said.
 
“But they wouldn’t let me
see you, they said you were going to be there until at least tomorrow.
 
I came back here because you told me
to, and I didn’t know who to call or what to do.
 
I was so worried, I – ”

He silenced me with a deep kiss, his lips
pressing into mine.
 
I felt my body
sinking against his, his arms holding me tight as he turned me around and
pushed me up against the wall behind us.
 
We kissed for a while, until finally, he pulled back and rested his
forehead against mine.

“I missed you,” he breathed.

“You just saw me a couple hours ago.”

“A couple hours
is
too long.”
 
His hand slid down my
side, over my hip, slipping up under my shirt and grazing the bare skin of my
stomach.
 
His touch sent searing
heat through my entire body.
 

“Cole,” I breathed.
 
“I was so scared.
 
Are you… what’s going to happen to
you?”

“I’m out on bail,” he said.
 
“We’ll see what happens next.
 
But I have good lawyers.”

I nodded, feeling choked up, the emotions
overtaking me until it was hard for me to speak.
 
The thought of Cole leaving, of him going away to jail, or
being in trouble because of me, was too much to bear.
 
And underneath all of that guilt was the selfish idea that
if he got put in jail, he would be taken away from me.
 
And this safe feeling he was giving me,
the safest I’d ever felt in my life, would be gone.

“Avery,” he said.
 
“Look at me.”

I looked into his eyes, and they burned
with emotion.
 
“It’s going to be
okay.”
 

I gave him a tiny smile.
 
“I’m sorry,” I said.
 
“This wasn’t how this was supposed to
go.”

“How what was supposed to go?”

“I was supposed to be making sure you
were okay, making sure you had everything you needed.”

“You don’t have to take care of me,
Avery.
 
I can take care of myself.”

His words weighed on me heavily,
especially when I realized they were true.
 
I
didn’t
have to take care of him, because he
could
take care of himself.
 
He didn’t need anyone or anything.
 
He was so controlled all the time, so
in charge of his feelings and reactions.
 
Meanwhile, I was falling further and further under his spell, getting so
addicted to him that I couldn’t stand to be away from him for more than an
hour.

Yes, he’d said that he missed me.
 
But it was different than the way I
missed him.
 
He was a master at
stuffing down his feelings, burying them deep inside.
 
Even if he did feel the same way about me that I did about
him – and that was a big if – it could never the same.
 
I believed that really had missed me,
but if I were to walk out of his life right now, if I were to leave, his heart wouldn’t
break.
 

Mine would shatter into pieces.

My stomach did a somersault, and acid
burned at the back of my throat.
 
I’d spent so much time after Cole left home trying to make sure I didn’t
need him, that I could live my life without him.
 
And now he’d only been back in my life for a short time, and
I was already in way too deep.

He’s done bad things, Avery.
 
Horrible, unspeakable
things.

My mom’s words reverberated in my ears,
intensifying the sourness in my stomach.

Cole pulled away from me and took a step
out of the hallway and into the apartment.
 
When he saw what had happened, he froze.
 
His mouth set into a firm line and his
hands balled into fists by his side.

“This is what you came back to?” he
asked.

I nodded.
 
“Yes.”
 
I
watched him carefully, not wanting to ask questions and upset him, but hoping
that if I didn’t push, he might give me some information.

But I didn’t get any.
 

He didn’t scream.
 
He didn’t freak out.
 
He didn’t get angry.
 

Instead, he just walked through the
apartment, room by room, surveying the damage.

When he was done, he came back to the
kitchen and crossed the room to the bar area.
 
He reached down and pulled out a bottle of something
amber-colored and poured some of it into one of the only glasses that hadn’t
been smashed.

He downed the alcohol in one gulp and
then poured himself another.

He didn’t offer me anything to drink, and
I didn’t ask if I could have some.

Instead, I shifted my weight to my other
foot.
 
“Um, how did they get in?” I
asked.

“What?” he barked.

“How did they get in?
 
Because the doorman didn’t –“

“There’s a back door,” he said.
  
“It connects from the garage, but
you need a key card to get in.”

“So whoever it was had a key card?”

“Yes.
 
Or they got one somehow.”
 
He swirled his glass slowly in his hand, staring down at it
thoughtfully.
 
His face was a mask
of concentration and he licked his bottom lip, a gesture I recognized from when
he was younger and trying to figure out a particularly hard homework problem or
trying to fix something around the house.

I closed my eyes for a moment,
remembering him how he was then, just a boy, so full of life and promise, but
just as jaded as he was today.
 

“What are we going to do?” I asked.

“We’re not staying here tonight.”

“Where will we stay?”

He grinned.
 
“Avery, darling,” he said.
 
“I think it’s time you got a taste of the good life.”

 

**

 

“This is our
room?”
I asked half an hour later as
Cole led me into a suite at the Embassy Arms Hotel.
 
The Embassy was one of the most exclusive hotels in the
city, the kind of place that was written about in tabloids and featured in
movies.
 
And it didn’t disappoint--
the room was absolutely mind-blowing.
 
I’d thought Cole’s apartment had been extravagant, but it was nothing
compared to this.

The room was huge, taking up a whole
floor of the hotel, its floor-to-ceiling windows letting the lights from the
city filter in through the glass.
  
There was a circular bed in the middle of the suite that was covered
with a soft-looking black bedspread and flanked on either side by shiny black
nightstands.

The bathroom wasn’t set-up like a real
bathroom -
-
 
it
didn’t have a door and its own separate entrance.
 
Instead, a rectangular glass box ran down the middle of the
room, with a tiled shower stall inside of it, a bathtub, and further down,
behind a door, a toilet.

A heavy gold curtain spanned the
perimeter of the glass box – you could choose to take a shower with the
curtain open, so that you could get the feeling of being outside, with the
windows letting the city sky peek through.
 
We were high enough up that no one would be able to see you,
even from the buildings across the way, which were all much lower than the
towering skyscraper that was the Embassy Arms.

Outside, on the wraparound balcony, was a
bubbling hot tub.
 
Steam slid up
from the water in curls before being swallowed up by the night.

“Wow,” I said.
 
“This place is incredible.”

“I know.”
 
Cole set our suitcases down on the floor – I still had
the backpack I’d taken from our house in Jersey, and Cole had been able to find
a few of his things that hadn’t been wrecked.
 
“It’s mine.”

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