Stiff:A Stepbrother Romance

By: B. B. Hamel


I was stuck in the dark.

He was so far away and his touch was like a distant memory. I could just barely feel the soft slip of his lips against my skin. I wanted that feeling again, needed it badly, but I couldn’t reach him. I wanted his muscles, his skin, his lips, his leg-shaking grin. He made me squirm with sweet agony. He was the light, the opposite of where I was.

The darker one was just down the hall.

I could hear the water drip down the walls of my cage, my body contorted to fit comfortably while my hands were locked up above my head.

He hadn’t touched me. Not yet, at least.

But his whispered words were almost worst: I’m going to kill him slowly, and I’m going to make you watch.

He was always just a shadow, just a small motion in the corner of my eyes. I never thought I’d be taken, never thought I’d be held somewhere against my will.

I also never thought I’d be begging for my life in the den of a serial killer.

Still, Easton was out there. It was him that I needed, his strength that kept me from screaming out. I remembered the way his arms grabbed me against his body, the way his tattoos snaked in and out of his sleeves, and that wicked, teasing grin.

I thought of him over and over, locked in that cage.

I’m going to cut his throat for you, Laney. I’m going to make you watch.

Shivers ran down my spine.

Open your mouth, Laney. Scream for me.

Quiet as a mouse.

Still as the dead.

I wouldn’t give him what he wanted.



I hadn’t been home in almost three years.

Once I got out of Mishawaka, I thought I was gone for good. I never wanted to go back to my small, backwoods town in the middle of Indiana.

But, unfortunately, it was hard not to come home when your dad just got married without telling you about it.

Mishawaka. Town of a few thousand people, and a few thousand more lies. It was every single small-town stereotype all rolled into one very real place. I loved it back when I was a little kid. My mom was alive back then, and Mishawaka felt like a real home. Things changed after she passed away and I began to realize that small-town life wasn’t what I thought it was.

College was my way out. When I got my scholarship to study criminal justice at the University of Chicago, my whole world changed. Suddenly it wasn’t just the same three places and the same old people, but it was an entire city. I was both surrounded and alone, and it was totally amazing. Nobody knew me and I knew nobody, and I liked it like that.

Of course, I made friends. College was just like that. You had to really hate people if you wanted to make absolutely no friends. I fell into a comfortable life in the city, working a decent job during summers to afford my apartment and going to school.

Up until I got the call, at least.

Summer had just started and the city was coming alive after a particularly brutal winter. It was early and I had just finished my finals. I was looking forward to finally taking it easy and not working while going to classes every single day.

But that was a pipe dream, of course.

My cell phone rang, but I didn’t recognize the number. I considered not answering, and in retrospect I wish I hadn’t. That one phone call would lead to everything, to working side by side with the most frustrating man I’d ever met, to helping people in ways I never realized I could, to getting locked in a cage.

But that wasn’t for another few weeks.

“Hello?” I said, picking up the phone.

“Sweetie, it’s Dad.”

I paused, surprised. I hadn’t heard from him in a few months. “How’s it going, Dad?”

“I’m fine.” There was another awkward pause. Why had things gotten so strained between the two of us?

I knew the answer to that question. I moved away from Mishawaka and never looked back, and in a lot of ways Dad felt like that was like turning my back on our family. He had lived in town his whole life and so had my mom, and he never really understood me moving all the way to the city to get away from town.

I should have kept in better touch with him, even went home a few times to visit, but it was so easy for time to get away from you. One day I hadn’t been home once during freshman year, and the next day it’d been three years, all in the blink of an eye.

“I have to tell you something, kiddo,” he said.

“Okay. What happened?” I felt nervous, like I had somehow done something wrong.

“I got married.”

My eyes went wide and I took a short breath. “Are you serious?” I asked.

“Yes, dear, very serious. Do you remember Mrs. Wright?”

“Sure, I remember her.” She was blond, tall, and infamous. Her husband had died years before I was born, but she’d kept his name. She was a popular lawyer in town and sat on the council, the only woman with a recurring seat. In a lot of ways, Susan Wright was the most powerful woman in town.