“Shit, sorry,” I stammered as my eyes ran up his body and locked onto his face.
And that’s when I got the real shock.
“Hey Bren,” he said, grinning.
I couldn’t believe it. I recognized the voice, but it hardly matched up with my memories. We hadn’t seen each other in years, not since that time just before I left for college. Which, actually, was another thing I didn’t want to think about—one of many. But he had gotten taller, fuller, even better looking if that was possible. The only guy to ever turn me down, the cocky asshole that was always around our house when I was in high school, my pseudo-stepbrother, Colin Blake.
“Colin. Wow. You’ve uh ... grown up.”
I felt myself blush. Seriously? What was I even saying?
He laughed. “Yeah, you too. Last time I saw you, you were headed out to college, all fresh-faced and ready to take on the big city.”
“What are you doing here?”
He shrugged. “Right now, I’m talking to you, and it looks like you’re trying not to stare at my nakedness.”
I forced myself not to blush any more. “You just surprised me, that’s all.”
“You’re not surprised anymore.”
“Who just walks around in a towel, anyway?”
“People who take showers. And you’re early.”
“I didn’t hear you in the shower.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you, Bren. Still oblivious as always, I guess.”
I made a face. “Don’t start with that already.”
He laughed. “Okay, I’ll be nice.”
“Seriously, what are you doing here?”
“How about I get dressed first. Then I’ll tell you all about it.”
“Yeah, fine, whatever.”
I looked away from his cocky grin and began heading toward the staircase.
“It’s good to see you, Bren,” he called after me.
I paused and looked back. He was standing in the middle of the hall, one hand holding up his towel, water gathering around his defined chest muscles, smooth skin and cut jaw and full lips and piercing blue eyes all gathering me in. I blinked.
“Yeah, you too, Colin.”
I turned away and headed down the stairs as fast as I could without seeming like a total idiot.
Colin Blake. My father’s protégé and essentially his adopted son, though not legally at least. Growing up, there had been a lot of men hanging around my dad, but Colin was the youngest, and he was the only one who actually lived with us for a while.
I didn’t know much about him, in all honesty. One day he had simply appeared out of nowhere, and began to spend time around the house, running errands for my dad and me. It wasn’t until much later that I realized he was being initiated into the Mob, but back then I didn’t really know much about that stuff. I’d never really seen him as a brother, though dad probably wanted me to. He was a year older than me, and we went to different schools, so we rarely saw each other. He grew up in an orphanage in the city, and when he turned eighteen, he was forced to find another place to live. I guessed my dad liked him a lot, because Colin came to stay with us for my last year of high school, and was still there up until the day that I left for college.
The very day I had been trying not to think about for years. I hadn’t heard much about him after that, though, but my dad had wanted me to think of him as my older sibling, and had always been going on about how much promise Colin had and how proud of him he was.
Little did he realize. If Daddy dearest found out the truth of what happened between Colin and me, I’m pretty sure Colin’s life would be a lot more difficult.
The weird thing was, there was no way Colin still lived in my dad’s house. That would be way too weird. And plus, wasn’t he at least twenty-four? He should have his own place. So then what the heck was he doing showering in my bathroom and walking around half naked?
I made my way into the kitchen and smiled at the familiar space. Dad hadn’t done a thing to the kitchen in years, and I was glad he hadn’t. Some of my best memories took place in there, from cooking with my mom when I was really little to joking around with my dad’s guys as I got older. Like a lot of homes, our kitchen was the heart of our family, and I spent many hours in there as I grew up.
I pulled open the stainless steel refrigerator door and made a face at how empty it was. Typical of my dad, unable to take care of the house in any way. He paid people to cook and clean, but trying to get him to stock the refrigerator like a normal person was like pulling teeth. I settled on a yogurt that was on the edge of its expiration date, and settled down at the island.
Being back felt crazy. I could remember the fight I'd had with dad on the day I left almost as if it had happened yesterday. You spoiled brat, you don’t know a fucking thing about what I do, he'd said to me, his face red with anger. He had never talked to me that way before, and hadn’t since.