Hunted:A Stepbrother Romance Novel(9)

By: Olivia Long


“Oh, honey!” Mom guffawed. “Of course you’re going to be part of the wedding! You have to come with us! To Hawaii! You have to give me away, sugar!”

I frowned, but tilted my head with mild interest. If there was one way to sweeten this bitter shake, it was Hawaii.

“Really?” I murmured. “You want me to come when you two elope?”

“YES!” Mom insisted. “We’ll pay for your ticket—and Chase’s, too.”

My heart sank. I should’ve known. Of course Harry would want his son to accompany us to Hawaii, and to participate in the wedding, if I was going to be there, too.

Great. Just ... great.

“Well,” I said, refusing to look at either of them. “Congratulations.”

“You look like you did after Bonkers died,” Mom noted from the couch. I shot her a hot glare. Bonkers had been my favored pet cat when I was in middle school.

“I do not,” I snapped. “I’m just—tired. I’m super happy for you two.” I just couldn’t quite get the tone of my voice to, uh, reflect it. “But it’s late. And I guess now I have to worry about packing, too.”

I caught a look passing between Mom and Harry. Mom bulged her eyes at Harry, as if to communicate that she had no idea what my problem was, and Harry shrugged and smiled helplessly.

I wished I could tell them that I didn’t know, either, and I just wanted to be left alone.

“Good night, you two,” I said again, forcing a wooden smile onto my face. “And, again, congratulations. I really mean it.” Even though it sounded like I was spitting the words out one by one.

I went to my bedroom and hauled a suitcase out of the closet, flipping it open and contemplating my wardrobe.

I was rifling through bathing suits when I came up with that little yellow bikini from two years ago—the pool house and Chase.

Grimacing, I shoved it deep into my underwear drawer and forced myself to forget all about it. A one-piece would be good. A one-piece would be better.





Chapter 5





Chase





I had just started to drift off to sleep again when the sound of the pool house door shuttering open brought me to vault off of the pull-out couch and shamble forward, groping for a weapon. I came up with the long, slender metal pole used to fish detritus from the surface of the pool, but it would work in a pinch, and I swung it in a threatening arc.

“All right!” I barked. “Back off! This is my family you’re—you’re—Dad?”

The silhouette in front of the sliding glass door was too short to be Keenan O’Connor, and too pear-shaped, for that matter. And he had his hands extended in the position of surrender.

“Hey, son,” Dad greeted me gently. “Are you okay?”

My hands flexed and dropped the metal pole. Thank God I hadn’t had my gun. The pole clanged and rolled, the perfect abrasive note with which to answer Dad’s question.

“I’m fine,” I lied, hoarse and pitchy. “Just had a nightmare I couldn’t quite ... shake.”

Dad reached across the counter—the pool house entrance opened into a small kitchenette, before passing into the main area, where I slept on the pull-out now—and he flipped a light switch, filling the interior with soft, rich yellow light. I glared against it and shaded my eyes. I didn’t want him to see me like this. God only knows how I looked. Pale, certainly, and haggard, and I could feel the bagginess of my eyes in every blink.

“You look like shit,” Dad commented, still gentle. “Here, kid. Have some water.” He fetched me a cup and poured a stream of cold water from the sink spigot, passing it to me for a drink.

“Yeah, well.” I was more grateful than I appeared for that drink, and when it was done, I cleared my throat and tried to regain some semblance of respectability here. I didn’t like looking like a mess. Not in front of him. “I haven’t been sleeping too well,” I explained.

“Right.” Dad smiled sympathetically. “Give it some time. It’s only been a couple months.”

I breathed deeply and loosened my shoulders. He was right. I knew he was right. It would get better; I would get better. “Yeah,” I said, closing my eyes just long enough to give myself a second of solace. Then I opened them, shook my head lightly enough that he probably didn’t notice (maybe), and forced a smile to my face. “What’s up?”

“Well.” Harry raised his eyebrows and smiled helplessly, making an expression that reminded me of accidentally spilling something. “Irene and I decided to end our eternal engagement.”

As sick and selfish as it was, I suddenly felt lighter. Free. Really ... happy.