Hunted:A Stepbrother Romance Novel(8)

By: Olivia Long


“What?” I asked, my eyes going wide and blank.

“Harry and I,” Mom said, smirking while Harry graced her cheek with another sloppy, gross kiss. “We’ve decided the hell with setting a date, and all the expenses, and the invitations, and the caterer, and blah, blah, blah, for a bunch of people we only half-like on their best days. So! We’re going to elope this weekend!”

Blink.

I felt cold all over.

“What?” I breathed. “You can’t—you can’t do that,” I insisted, though all the fight had gone out of me the moment they’d confirmed my suspicions. It was finally, really happening. They were getting married. And stupid Chase was going to be my stupid step-brother.

“Of course we can,” Mom rebutted, not seeming to even notice my drawn and pale expression. Then again, Mom did always kind of suck at identifying emotions on other people’s faces. She strolled into the room and kicked off her heels, hardly looking at me. She was still over the moon, and I was going to puke, and she didn’t even care. “We booked tickets to Hawaii with our phones while we were still at dinner!”

I needed a drink. A stiff one.

“But,” I floundered. “You ... you can’t flitter off to some remote island and get married. That’s not—the way anyone does anything. You have to get a wedding planner, and a venue, and those take months to open up! And you need a band! And—and centerpieces!”

Mom rolled her eyes and collapsed onto the couch beside me. “Honey,” she indulged me, patting my thigh, oblivious. “You’ll always be my little girl. Honestly, sweetie, you’re twenty-one. We thought you’d take it a little more easily than this.”

My cheeks fumed. “It’s not about that,” I insisted pointlessly. “It’s just that this isn’t how people do it!”

Harry grinned and came to join us on the couch. “And how, pray-tell, do people ‘do’ it?” he asked. “How do people be happy and tell each other they’ll be together for the rest of their lives? Is there any one particular way, Chloe?”

I grimaced. As much as I hated Harry in this moment, he was a pretty likable guy. I could see why my mom was crazy about him, even though he was doughy and bald and hot pink, and I could see how a man like Harry might accidentally raise a jerk like Chase. Sometimes awesome parents accidentally brew terrible children.

“It just feels like it’s awfully sudden, to me,” I explained calmly. Unlike my mom, who never knew quite what to say, Harry was great at bringing the tension in a room down. Running a non-profit was an obvious and natural choice for someone like Harry, and he’d employed both Mom and me years ago. Mom had the shrewdness and organization necessary for event coordination, skills that lovable but occasionally scatterbrained Harry lacked.

“Awfully sudden?” Harry prompted fondly. “Irene and I have been seeing each other exclusively for five years this year.”

I rolled my eyes and nodded. Technically, sure, that was true. Marriage was not the most sudden thing for them.

“I don’t know, then,” I admitted.

“Maybe you mean it feels awfully sudden to you,” Harry suggested kindly, smiling down at me in that doting, kind of therapeutic way that he had. He was really too good of a guy to be Chase’s dad. I couldn’t believe they actually shared genetic material.

“YES,” I agreed emphatically. “YES. It does feel sudden to me.”

“Oh, honey,” Mom cooed. She played idly with my hair, a habit she had which I always hated, and I swatted at her absently. She didn’t notice or stop. She was a little drunk. “You’ll always be my baby. You know that. This—doesn’t mean anything.”

“Thank you, dear,” Harry interjected.

“Oh, Harry!” Mom cried, smacking at him lightly from behind my back. “You know what I mean.”

I grimaced. It was me that neither of them understood ... and how could they? Even I wasn’t exactly sure why I felt so distressed that they were finally doing it. They were getting married ... legally ... this weekend ... and it made me feel sick to my stomach. Why?

I didn’t want to lift that rock and examine what creepy crawly thoughts were really lurking in my subconscious.

“I’m sorry, you guys,” I said limply. There was nothing else I could say. Mom was right. I was twenty-one; I needed to just accept the things I didn’t like but couldn’t change. And Harry was a nice guy. He treated Mom well, and they loved each other, and Harry was right, too; they’d been together for five years, and they’d been living in the same house for over two of them, and it wasn’t like they were—well—twenty-one. “You’re right.” I stood up from the couch and summoned a fake smile to my face. “I’ll ... be throwing rice from the living room, waiting for you to get back. Congratulations. I think you just surprised me. Maybe I just expected to be part of the wedding.”