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By:Kim Linwood

Mom’s just refilled the wine glasses, even half a glass for me, which makes Gavin grin crookedly. When I reach for the salt, an idea strikes. In an accident that’s totally on purpose, I knock over his glass, right towards his lap. Wine splashes everywhere, but mostly onto his shirt and pants. I can’t believe I just did that, but when I see his shocked expression, I feel no regret whatsoever.

“Oops!” It’s the most halfhearted oops in the history of oopses.

He glares at me, grabbing his napkin and dabbing at his clothes. They look expensive, but whatever. He can afford it. Maybe next time he’ll reconsider playing footsie with someone who isn’t interested. He looks up, and since Mom and Herbert are scrambling to help wipe up, I stick my tongue out.

His expression darkens, his eyebrows furrowing and his lips tightening in an angry scowl. Is he going to blow already? I didn’t think he’d be that easy. His eyes grow stormy, and I watch him, holding my breath, just waiting for the explosion. He surprises me. The storm blows over almost immediately, and instead of frowning, his face relaxes before spreading back into a friendly smile. While Mom fusses over him and Herbert dabs a napkin at the wine on the floor, Gavin mouths two words at me, “Well played.”

Oh, the game is on, rich boy.

“I’m so sorry, Gavin.” Mom’s found a cloth that she’s brushing against his shirt.

“It’s alright. That’s what dry-cleaners are for. Some people are just naturally clumsy.” He pulls the cloth from her hands. “Honestly, don’t worry about it. But maybe there’s a restroom I could borrow for a moment.”

Mom’s still frowning and throws me a we’ll-talk-about-this-later-too expression, but she nods. “Of course. Why don’t you use the one upstairs? It’s bigger. I’m sure Angela can show you where it is.” I don’t miss the stress she puts on my name, a warning if I ever heard one.

“Of course, Mom.” I keep my tone even in my best good little girl voice, but the last thing I want is to be alone with him. Still, what’s he going to do with our parents right below us? “This way.” He follows me closely. “I’ll try not to trip and push you down the stairs,” I whisper. “But I’m so naturally clumsy. Maybe you should go first.”

“Oh no. Please. Show the way.”

Rolling my eyes, I climb the stairs. We’re barely halfway up when his heavy hands land on my hips to stop me, much as I was afraid of. They’re strong and even through my jeans they feel hot. He’s standing one step below, but he’s tall enough he has to lean down to whisper into my ear, “If you want my pants off so badly, you only had to ask, Sis.” His chuckle raises the hairs at the back of my neck, and his husky whisper fills me with heat. Damnit, I don’t want to be attracted to him.

“Don’t call me sis. I’m not your sis. I’ll never be your sis.” Each phrase comes out a little icier than the one before it. “Now let me go.”

He holds his hands up in the air. “Of course. Anything you say, Sis.”

I want to scream, but that would only bring Mom here running. Instead I clench my hands into tight fists. My nails dig into my palms, but the pain gives me something to focus on. Instead of the big, stupid, annoying, bratty, incredibly handsome guy behind me.

I get to the top, open the door to the right for him and gesture inside. “The master bath. Would there be anything else?” I tell him acidly.

“Well... there is one thing—”

“Don’t even try it. Do you really want me anywhere near your vulnerable body parts right now? Really? What if I slip and bite it off?”

“I was just going to ask which towel I should use, but thanks for the warning.” He backs into the bathroom, grinning as I let out a growl. “Thanks, Sis.” With a laugh, he shuts the door.

Arrgh! I stomp back downstairs, then pause to give myself a minute to relax my features. With my happy daughter mask back on, I return to the dinner table. Mom throws me a thankful glance, but I’m sure I’ll hear about the wine glass later. Gavin returns after a couple of minutes, looking drier, but still with big burgundy stains on his shirt and pants. He winks at me and sits as if nothing ever happened.

When dinner’s over, I offer to clear the table, just to keep out of the way. Of course that ass does the same. It makes Mom smile. “That’s very nice of you kids. I’ll take this wonderful wine Herbert brought and we’ll have glasses ready for you in the living room when you’re done. I’ve even got some of that sparkling grape juice you like, Angela.” Then she and my future stepdad glide out of the dining room, arm in arm. And here I thought being eighteen meant being an adult.