Authors: Violet Blaze
“Not until child protective services called him,” a voice says from behind us. I jump, spinning around to find my new stepbrother in a black hoodie and jeans, a pair of black and white Converse on his feet.
“I …” I try to figure out what to say, try to decide if I should apologize to him for telling his story behind his back. But he doesn't look mad. In fact, his blue eyes are sparkling and his mouth is twisted to the side in a smile. I find my eyes drawn to his mouth. I love his lips. I don't know why. Never before in my life have I even thought to look at someone's lips, let alone trace them with my eyes, imagine what they might feel like pressed against mine …
I take a sudden step back and slam into the bank of lockers.
“I wanted to stay with my mom, even though I knew she was sick,” Gill says, coming closer, pausing next to Leilani. I watch her watching him, sizing him up, checking him out, but he doesn't seem to be looking at anyone but me. “I wanted to take care of her, do anything I could to help her get better, so I told my dad exactly what I knew he'd want to hear.” Gill wets his lips and takes a deep breath. I can't stop staring at the sheen on his full lower lip. “But the neighbors called the police and they took her away.” His breath catches like he's in pain and he turns his face away to stare at the floor. “Family is everything though, you know.” His fists clench tight. “Everything.” Another long pause. “I'm glad you're going to be a part of mine.”
When Gill swings his bright blue gaze up to mine, my heart skips a beat and I know then that I'm in trouble.
I grab another quick look in the mirror before stepping into the hallway to find Aveline waiting for me in a dusty colored tank and some faded jeans. Her makeup is thick but flawless—sexy cat eye, bright lips, perfectly sculpted cheekbones. I managed to get Gill to snag a black eye pencil from her, scribbled across my lids like a preschooler's art project, and then mussed up the color with some lip balm. Just one of the many tricks I learned in Paris—effortlessly dewy eyes.
“Don't you look fab,” she drawls, looking me over, sizing me up. I stare right back, enjoying her brazen, outgoing attitude. Gotta love Americans, right? “All chic and shit.” She lifts up her hands, palms out, and then drops them against her thighs.
“Thanks,” I venture, hoping that was a genuine comment and not a hidden slight. I have a feeling that if Aveline wanted to insult me, she'd say something outright. “Gill's not driving me to the next hotel?”
“He calls me
but in all reality, he's the boss. I just do what I'm told,” she says with a tight smile. Somehow, I find that very hard to believe. I watch as she slips her fingers into her front pockets and eyes the hotel room door where my stepfather and sister are staying. I wonder if Gill's in there with them? Wouldn't surprise me. Gilleon might've abandoned me, but he's always stayed in touch with his Dad. “What do you say we get out of here? I'll even treat you to a pumpkin spiced whatever-the-hell-it-is that I'm sure you probably drink.”
“Actually, I don't think I've ever had a pumpkin spiced anything. I'll take an espresso though.” Aveline raises her eyebrows at me and shrugs again. I don't know what she sees when she looks at me, but I can tell her initial impression isn't a good one. It makes sense, especially if she and Gill really are an item. I can only imagine what he's told her about me.
“Truck's parked out front,” Aveline tells me as I follow behind her in my shitty flip-flops. I think I've already got a blister by the time I get to the parking lot, but oh well. If an espresso's really in my future, then I can grin and bear it. “Climb on in.”
Aveline pauses in front of a champagne colored truck and unlocks the doors with a lump of keys and mangled keychains. I pause for a moment to take it all in—the mud splattered across the sides, the bumper stickers with offensive phrases like
Trucks are for Bitches, You Dick.
“So you live around here?” I ask, trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle. If I don't, nobody'll do it for me; Gill thinks all information—even the most menial of facts—is on a need to know basis. I'd expected Aveline to be driving some generic rental like Gill, but this … this is clearly nobody else's vehicle but hers. It just seems to suit her somehow.
“Yup. Moved to Washington from Nevada when I was seventeen.” I grab the door handle and let myself into a virtual smorgasbord of old fast food bags, wrappers, a scattered assortment of dirty tools. Interesting. With Gill as obsessive compulsive as he is about everything, I find it hard to believe that he'd pick a partner—either romantically or otherwise—that's as out of control as Aveline seems to be. “I've been working with Gill for a few years now, helping coordinate things Stateside.”
I buckle up and have to clench the sides of the seat as Aveline peels out of the parking space like a madwoman. As we zoom by the lobby, I catch a small glimpse of Gill out the window, standing with his hands clenched by his sides, his mouth tight. Without even really thinking about what I'm doing, I toss him a little wave and a kiss.
I have just enough time to catch the surprise on his face before we're out of the parking lot and on our way down the street.
Seriously,” I laugh, my feet dangling over the edge of the fountain, toes trailing the cool water and drawing the tiniest ripples. The moon catches on the copper and silver change at the bottom as I curl my fingers around the brick edge of the wall and glance over at Gill. “I haven't. I'm not even kidding.”
“I don't believe it, not even for a second.” I stare at him, at the white-blue halo of moonlight on his dark hair. I have to fight against the urge to bite my lip as butterflies take flight in my belly. I thought getting a stepbrother would suck, but … I actually like Gill. A lot. Like, in a different way than I like anybody else I've ever met. “Don't worry. I'm sure you'll have a bunch of French guys banging down the door. Hell, I bet as soon as they see us move in, they'll be outside on the street trying to serenade you.”
“You seem awfully calm about this whole moving fiasco that my mom's sprung on us. I mean, I have like, a year of French under my belt. How am I supposed to talk to anybody?”
Gill smiles and I can't seem to keep my eyes from following the movement of his mouth.
“You can talk to me.”
I blush and turn away, fully aware that I just admitted to never having been kissed. I'd hoped … well, hell, I don't know what I'd hoped. Is it weird to want your stepbrother to kiss you? I think about my friends at school, what they might say if they knew about the crush I have on Gilleon. Nobody but Leilani knows, and I'm not sure that I want to tell anyone else. I'm not ashamed or anything, but this feeling inside of me is so … it's so …
“I want to kiss you, Regi,” Gill says, his voice a whisper in the wind.
My gaze snaps up to Gill's, to those eyes that mimic the beautiful blue-white of the moon above our heads.
Suddenly, I find it hard to breathe, find my hands trembling as I pull them into my lap and try to figure out what it is that I'm supposed to do. Down below, I feel a pulsing, a dark heat blossoming that makes all my feeble attempts at masturbation feel like matches paling in the warmth of a bonfire.
“Regina?” For once, Gill's wry humor is gone, leaving him sounding vulnerable and unsure and oh-so seventeen. I open my mouth to speak, to tell him that the whole reason I brought him out here in the first place was so that we could be alone, so that maybe something like this might happen. But my mouth goes dry and my heart starts to thump so fast that I get a little dizzy. The world shifts and tilts around me and before I even know what I'm doing, I'm leaning in and smashing my lips against Gill's.
Our teeth bump together at first, and I think I taste the metallic hint of blood, but as soon as my mouth touches his, something breaks inside me, something special, something different.
His hands come up and encircle my waist as we lean in together and find a position that works, that lets us open to each other, tangle our tongues. Gill tastes like lemon sherbet, sharp and bright, snapping my senses to full attention. His scent invades me, a spicy sweetness that I can't place but suddenly feel like I could never live without.
When he pulls back, his breath sliding across my moist lips, a strange groan slips out of me and I jerk back, clamping my hand over my mouth.
His bemused smile turns my cheeks a brilliant red.
“Are you sure that was your first kiss?” Gill asks, his hands still on my waist. I can feel each and every one of his fingers through my baggy sweatshirt, like little brands searing themselves into my skin. “Because your tongue did things I didn't even know were possible.”
I pull away from his grip and reach down, cupping a handful of water to throw at him.
“You ass,” I say, splashing him and then throwing my legs out of the fountain and standing up. No way I'm letting him get me back. Gill just laughs at me. “You go to hell,” I tell him and shriek when he lunges after me, chasing me across the courtyard and into the shadows of a tree. When I turn, my back hits the bark and then we're suddenly kissing again, grabbing at one another like we can't get enough, might never get enough.
Being in Seattle, coffee is, of course, courtesy of Starbucks. Company, courtesy of the rashest, filthiest mouthed person I've ever met in my life. I decide then and there that whether she's fucking my stepbrother or not, I'm kind of in love with the woman.
“So I told the motherfucker to grow some ovaries and stop being such a whiny, little bitch. Guess he liked me well enough, so he introduced me to this guy who introduced me to another guy who introduced me to Gill.” Aveline shrugs and sips her coffee, pulling into the hotel parking lot and squeezing her Silverado into a compact space near the front door.
As I'm artfully trying to compose some sort of fishing question, some bait that'll bring the truth of her and Gill's relationship swimming to my lure, my stepbrother appears outside the window, face tight and jaw clenched.
I open my door slowly, carefully. I don't think it's me he's mad at me, but it never hurts to be cautious.
“Coffee was not on the agenda,” he tells Aveline, their gazes locking, a line of tension stretching between the two of them. I sit back, trying to figure out if I could climb from the truck and squeeze past Gill without touching him. I decide it's not worth the risk.
“You never said
to get coffee,” she replies coolly, shrugging and climbing out before slamming the door behind her. I look at Gill and find him staring back at me.
“Take a walk with me?” he asks, and I feel my fingers unconsciously curl against the paper cup in my hand. It crunches in my grip and hot coffee oozes out the opening, burning my skin with fingers of liquid magma.
” Out of reflex, I drop the cup and Gill catches it in midair, taking a step back and gritting his teeth against the slosh of hot coffee that hits his hand. “Oh God, Gill,
je suis désolée.
I clamp a hand over my mouth and watch as his grimace turns into a half-smile.