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By:Kim Linwood

I take it. “Just Angie. Thanks.”

“You give your girl a nice name, but will she use it?”

Mom’s always disliked me shortening my name, but Angela makes me feel like I’m eighty. Maybe because she named me after her great aunt Angela who used to make me watch Jeopardy marathons. Given her use of Herbie earlier, it really feels like a double standard.

Herbert takes a step to the side. “I’d like you to meet my son, Gavin, the heir apparent to my financial empire. A bit of a rebellious streak, but I’m working on it.” He smirks in a scarily familiar way.

My jaw drops. No way. No fucking way. The floor drops out from under me at the mention of his name. This isn’t happening. No wonder his facial structure looks so familiar. Like father, like son.

Like my new stepbrother, who I almost fucked just three weeks ago. He puts his hand out like his dad did, his gorgeous eyes locked to mine. He’s grinning broadly, obviously thinking this is the funniest thing in the world. “Hi there, Sis.”

I stand still so long that Mom gives me a bump with her elbow. Her whisper is a hiss, though I’m sure they all hear it. “Angela.”

Like a rusty robot, I raise my arm stiffly and take his, remembering the rough feel of his large hands all over me as I shake it briefly. Even that short touch sends sparks racing up the skin of my arms. I should say something, but I’ve no idea what.

“Hi.” That’s all I get out, then I just stand there like an idiot.

Mom gives me a confused we’ll-talk-about-this-later look, but she shoves me aside and makes room for our visitors. “Come in, come in. I’ve got a roast cooking in the oven and potato gratin and asparagus to go with it. It should be done in twenty minutes or so.” She practically drags Herbert towards the living room, leaving me alone with Gavin.

Chapter 4: Angie

“Well, how’s this for a surprise?” Gavin laughs out loud, a rumble in his powerful chest. “And here I thought you were gone from my life for good.”

I finally find my words, hissing them between my teeth. “Fine, laugh it up. But not a word about this to anyone. You eat, we stay pleasant, and then you leave. You understand?”

“I don’t know, babe. I’m not nearly as good at leaving as you are. Will you teach me how? Besides, this is like destiny. Karma. It’s like God decided to give me a second chance.” His voice drips with sarcasm. He strikes his arms out, smiling broadly. “Beautiful Angie, delivered right into my arms.” Closing in until his nose is only an inch from mine, he whispers loudly. “What do you think? Should we do it in your bed? That’d be hot.”

The image of the two of us in my bed, him naked and above me flashes through my mind. I must’ve given something away, because his smile broadens knowingly. He’s so frustrating. I want to smack him right in the face, but I hold back. This isn’t the time to make a scene. Also, he doesn’t seem to care if anyone finds out that he almost boned his stepsister, but I do, and I don’t want him to have any excuse to blab.

Instead, I try to reason. “Gavin. If anyone finds out that we almost... well, you know, then—”

“Almost what? I think you need to explain it more clearly.” He laughs, enjoying my misery. “Did we almost do something three weeks ago? My memory’s a bit fuzzy. I think you have to be more specific.”

So much for reasoning. “You’re a prick, Gavin.” Turning on my heels, I stomp out of the entry, leaving him laughing behind me. Why did it have to be him? And why is my heart pounding like a jackhammer?

* * * * *

I’m so nervous I can barely eat, but Gavin’s a totally different person at dinner. He’s well spoken, respectful, polite, friendly... and only I seem to realize that it’s all a sham. With a long sleeved and collared shirt on, his ink isn’t visible anywhere. The hair that was so wild three weeks ago is combed neatly and gelled into place. I want to scream that this isn’t really who he is, but who’s going to believe me? And what would that do, other than ruin dinner?

I sigh. This is supposed to be Mom’s night, where she gets to bask in being newly engaged. I shouldn’t be messing it up. If he can pretend, then I can too. Swallowing my dislike, I close my eyes for a moment before I engage in the conversation. Mom smiles in relief, her shoulders relaxing. This isn’t going to be easy.

We’re about halfway through our meal when I feel his foot sliding up my shin. Our eyes meet, his mischievous sparkle crashing into my ice cold disdain. What the hell does he think he’s doing? I try to push him away with my other foot, but there’s only so much I can do without being really obvious. In the end, I settle for an angry glare while I do my best to ignore him. Or rather, bide my time.