Home > Anti-Stepbrother(9)

Author: Tijan

We’d just finished when the last of the group arrived, and the whole alcohol-prepping process started again. The last girl took three bottles.

“When we go to a big party, we bring our own booze,” Avery told me. “We might know the guys who live in the house, but we don’t always know everyone. We’ve heard too many stories, and none of us feels like getting drugged or raped. That’s why we look like full-on alcoholics.”

I nodded. That made sense. These girls were smart.

Another girl chimed in. “And we move in a buddy system. It’s not obvious at the parties, but none of us is ever alone unless we explicitly tell the others we’re doing a one-nighter.”

“One-nighter?” I echoed.

“One-night stand.” A different girl shrugged. “It happens. There’s no judgment here.”

“Unless someone has a boyfriend.” A third girl nudged the one who’d explained. “Right, Shell?”

Shell rolled her eyes. “I still wouldn’t regret a night with Caden Banks.”

I paused. “Wait. What?”

The girl who’d nudged Shell laughed and looked back over her shoulder at me. Her eyes twinkled. “Caden Banks. He’s one of the bigwigs in a fraternity around here. If you meet him, trust me, you’ll know it.”

I was pretty sure I had.

Avery glanced sideways at me. “She might already have met him. Kevin Matthews is her stepbrother.”

I wasn’t prepared for the effect those words had.

Everyone stopped and turned around. I suddenly found myself the center of attention as seven girls each gave me a different look—surprise, caution, intrigue, nervousness. Everyone was silent for a moment until Avery laughed out loud, forcing the sound a little bit.

Her hand perched on her hip, and she lifted her chin. “What? Don’t hate her because of what her stepbrother’s done.”

Wait. What? I fixed Avery with a look and raised an eyebrow. “What haven’t you told me?”

One of the girls stepped forward. “Your brother’s an asshole.”

“Claudia,” Avery reprimanded.

I held my tongue on that one. I couldn’t really argue with her, but I did say, “Stepbrother.”

Shell let out a sigh. “He dated me last year and slept with two of my best friends.” She paused before adding, “In the same weekend.”

“We’re an against-Kevin Matthews group. Neither of those girls is friends with us anymore.” Claudia looked at Avery. “Well, the rest of us. They’re not friends with us.”

Avery shifted back on her feet, letting out a small sigh. She crossed her arms over her chest. “One of those they’re talking about is Maggie.” She said to them, “And I went to high school with Maggie. There’s a whole group of us who are still friends. I can’t just leave them.”

Shell said, “We know. We’ve talked about it, but you know how we feel about him and Maggie.” Claudia raked me up and down. “And if you think bringing his stepsister around us is going to make us soften, think again, Av.”

“I’m not,” she protested. “I didn’t bring her because of that. I’m no fan of Kevin either, but she’s cool. That’s why I brought her.”

I felt a full-body flush coming on. Avery had taken pity on me. I knew it, and she knew it, but she didn’t tell them that. I’d been alone in that bathroom and looking pathetic. She’d invited me out because she was nice.

“Look.” I gave them a tight grin. “I’m under no illusions about Kevin.” Liar. “He’s my stepbrother, so he’s family, but trust me, I’m well aware of his history with women.”

And you need to remind yourself of it. Over and over again. And again, I chided myself as I waited for the hostility to cool to a simmer. When it did, I knew I’d said the right things.

Now I just needed to listen to them myself.

The party was huge, and we had to walk three long blocks from campus to get there. As we went up the driveway, a guy held open the front door. I ducked under his arm and voila—I was inside my first party of college. With the hip-hop music blaring and girls in bikinis running around, I felt like I’d stepped into a music video. I could practically see the champagne spilling in slow motion and girls washing each other, bending over a Lamborghini. But no wads of cash were waiting for me inside; Avery and her friends were instead.

A deep chuckle sounded behind my ear, and an arm appeared, extending a tray of red plastic cups. “Only the finest beer for my ladies.”

Avery had said they didn’t trust the booze offered at these parties, and I stiffened, looking at her first.

She rolled her eyes. “Take it away. You know we bring our own.”

As if they had rehearsed it, the girls all raised the bottles they’d been sipping on the walk over. The tray was lifted back over my shoulder, and I stepped to the side. That arm was seriously big. I needed to see who this guy was.

My eyes met his chest…then trailed upward. If I was ever going to meet a bodybuilder in person, I knew this was the guy. He had muscles in his throat, wrists, everywhere—including places I didn’t want to think about.

He smiled as he rubbed his jaw. “Oh, come on. You know this house is different. We’re rape-drug free.”

Avery snorted. “No offense, Dave, but you know how we are.”

“Yeah, yeah.” He waved her off. “Got it.” He pointed over his shoulder. “Can I offer up a wet T-shirt contest? We’ve got one about to start in the back. Ten minutes.” He wolf-whistled, assessing us. “I do think you all have a chance at winning.”

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