Russ yelled, “Dinnertime!” from downstairs, and I pushed Celeste to the back of my mind. I'm over-analyzing things. I probably just need some sleep ... but first, I have to get through a meal with my new family.
As the three of us entered the enormous dining room, with its vaulted ceiling of bare timber and a gorgeous two-story fieldstone fireplace, I realized that we had become four. Ford had returned.
He clipped out a low, “I’ll be right back,” and headed toward the same hallway as the guest room we’d just been in. Shit. Was his bedroom close to mine? God, why do you do this to me? I was still trying to wrap my head around the thought of eating across the table from my new stepbrother; I didn’t have it in me yet to deal with spending a whole summer just down the hall from him. My stomach felt tense. Nerves, that’s all. Just nerves. Nothing at all to do with the fact that my soon-to-be stepbrother was both drop-dead gorgeous and a complete asshole.
I need to get better at lying to myself.
My father was thinking with his dick.
It wasn’t something I wanted to contemplate because no son wants to think about his dad’s dick, but it was a fact I had to face.
I tossed the two fifty-pound bags of river rocks to the ground and watched our newest ranch truck roll to a stop in front of the house. If my stepmother-to-be hadn’t absolutely needed to have those damn rocks lining the walkway before the wedding, I would’ve been the one fetching our newest guest. Instead, I’d had to send Griff. Despite being as old as dirt, Griff could still move quickly when he wanted to. The way he slammed the door and rushed to retrieve the luggage would make it obvious even to a blind man that he wanted this task over and done with.
Couldn’t say I blamed him.
I waited, eyes shaded by my hat from the spring sun beating down, to see our latest arrival.
A fucking stepsister.
And a spoiled bitch of one.
Just what I needed.
Her mother had already settled in and taken a liberal hand to adding a woman’s touch to the house. I wasn’t sure what had been wrong with the house before, but we had throw pillows now, for fuck’s sake. Who needs goddamn throw pillows? My dad and I had functioned just fine before throw pillows and river rocks, but it seemed there was a new sheriff in town: Cynthia Carter Yates Palmer —and you could tack Bennett on in a few more days. Which brought me back to my dad thinking with his dick.
For the record, he loved the fucking throw pillows. And Cynthia, it seemed.
It wasn’t that I thought Cynthia was a total gold digger. Okay, it was more like I was trying not to think that about her. The fact that she was only a handful of years younger than my father was definitely a mark on her side, as was the fact that I hadn’t heard my father laugh so much in years as he had in the last few months.
I was trying. I was really fucking trying.
But when I’d overheard her telling my father that we just had to send the private jet for her daughter, I made a swift exit before I was tempted to share my opinion.
And now the daughter was finally here.
The passenger side door of the truck swung open almost a full minute after Griff had already jumped out.
Was she waiting for him to get her door? I shook my head. I’d already pictured a royal, stuck up bitch when I saw the pink sandals and the long, tanned legs slide out of the truck and dangle for a beat before they found purchase on the running board. As she climbed out of the cab, her yellow and pink sundress molded to the curve of her ass. And what an ass it was. Round and juicy, like a peach.
Blond hair was pulled into a low ponytail and a pair of those giant sunglasses covered half her face. I shouldn’t care what her face looked like, but goddamn if I could stop the curiosity stirring inside me. If it matched the tight, little body my eyes were devouring, this was going to be the longest fucking summer of my life.
She held up her hand as if shading her eyes and took in the ranch house. It’s a sight, that’s for sure. Not really a house so much as a mansion. My dad did well for himself before retiring young. I couldn’t help but wonder if she were surveying it in the same calculating way that I’d sworn I’d seen on her mother’s face.
The apple doesn’t usually fall all that far from the tree, now does it?
I couldn’t help but straighten when she pulled the sunglasses from her face and slid them on top of her head.
Fuck. Me. Running.
My groan was already out in the world before I had the sense to stifle it. Mac whistled low.
“Hot. Damn. I wouldn’t mind taking that filly for a ride.”
My glare in the ranch hand's direction silenced him. “You want to keep this job? Then you’ll keep your eyes on the fucking cattle and the horses. Keep ’em off the girl.”