Fade Back (A Stepbrother Romance Novella)

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Fade Back
A Stepbrother Romance
Stephanie Brother

C
opyright © 2015 Stephanie Brother

All Rights Reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locations is purely coincidental. The characters are all productions of the author’s imagination.

Please note that this work is intended only for adults over the age of 18 and all characters represented as 18 or over.

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About this book

D
espite Becka’s confidence
, the piece of paper containing her tattoo sketch was wadded and crumpled. She'd erased the lines so often, she'd worn through the first piece of paper. Here she was, with the ten zillionth draft, about to get this picture permanently etched on her flesh, and she still wasn't sure she'd gotten it right. She spent a month on the internet scouring for the right phrase, the perfect combination of words that summed her up and made her authentic. Something about butterflies? No, that was tawdry. Something in Latin? Ugh, too biblical. Goodnight Moon? The Owl and The Pussycat? Where The Wild Things Are? Nope, nope, and double-nope!

In the end, she'd settled on a phrase she heard in a movie and thought sounded cool. She picked out a font online and typed it out in different sizes, different configurations; she'd even photoshopped it on some photos of herself, trying out places and eventually settling on her ribcage, just under her right breast. Whatever happened, she was determined to be positive.

She took a long sip from her now-cooled drink and turned up an alleyway to a lurid neon sign hovering above a staircase descending below street level. The neon tubes read “Dickie’s Emporium” in old-timey carnival-colored letters. It was kitschy, a little tacky, and painfully hip. The place had a trendy dive vibe, which made Becka feel a little bit dangerous as she scoped herself out one last time in the reflective glass of the door and stepped inside to find the new, improved, one-hundred per cent sexier woman she was sure she'd become, with a little ink.

But she could’ve never predicted what she’d find inside that day.

Chapter One

S
he felt
eyes on her everywhere she went, but she never, ever looked back.
Let them look,
she thought as she waltzed down the street, catching glimpses of her reflection in the windows of chic stores and looking for all the world like one of the mannequins behind the glass, or the pouting models in the posters adorning the walls of the salons. She watched herself as she walked, and the appreciative looks she received from both men and women were plain to see.

Her jeans were tight and slung beneath her hips, the seemingly effortless flat stomach of her twenty-two year old body hinted at by the fluttering of her Dolce & Gabbana t-shirt, the super low v-neck exposing small but pert breasts, toned arms straining against her barely rolled-up sleeves. Her long perfectly highlighted wavy hair shone in the afternoon sun, and she had dimples when she wasn't even smiling.

Any way you sliced it, Becka Treadway was one sexy girl, and she was on her way to complete the look.

She sidled past a designer sneaker store (a pair of which adorned the ends of her own perfectly sculpted legs,) picking up her pace to avoid the restless eye of the hot sales guy behind the counter. Becka flirted with him mercilessly only a few nights before, without giving him her number in the end, and she did
not
need the drama of some little scene right there on the sidewalk. When she'd safely passed the store, her pace returned to normal, and she treated herself to a few casual winks at passers-by, just to make their day: a guy in a great suit, a girl in a fierce dress, a few older folk—just to freak them out. She could practically feel hearts break when she tossed her caramel-colored hair. She felt irresistible, and that wasn't far from the truth.

Her list of admirers ranged from cute college grads to wealthy sugar daddies, married men and jocks, cowboys, and old-school gentlemen who offered her the world. Few she slept with (very rarely), most she didn't, but she collected their hearts effortlessly. Or at least, it looked effortless. But as Becka liked to tell all her friends who sought her favor and advice: you work hard so you can play hard, in every sense of the phrase.

Her thoughts ran to the weekend's partying, which began on Thursday night and ran through till Monday morning. She'd thrown a drink in the faces of a pair of men in expensive suits who offered to buy her a designer luggage set if she'd join them in their limo. She'd danced for hours with a hot female go-go dancer from Lux, the hottest club in town (where Becka worked), before the girl’s boyfriend got jealous and threatened to break up with her, but wound up kissing both of them instead, all probing hands on the dance floor as the dysfunctional pair took turns pawing Becka’s perfect breasts. She’d slammed Red Bulls with a fairly major pop star, then licked whipped cream off his nipples in a private booth and let him do the same to her. She drank just, oh, way too many espresso martinis and was still sweating Kahlua when she woke up. It was a fun weekend. It was always a fun weekend.

And, if she was honest with herself, which she certainly tried to be, it was all getting old. One weekend blurred into the next, and the weekdays spent in recovery of more club activities weren't much better. At twenty-two, she'd seen it all, or almost all. She almost never took men home—her intimacy was something only three men have shared so far, to be completely honest. She just never really got close with anyone, not since her high school boyfriend had cheated on her (well, it wasn’t even actually cheating since he’d just used her to peeve his
real
girlfriend). And she never got the appeal of a casual one-night stand. As far as she was concerned, getting into her bed was a prize, and to get that prize, the guy had to work
hard
, very hard.

She hadn't met a
grown
man, that was for sure. Everyone in her increasingly tight-feeling social world seemed to be some variation of a teenage girl or boy, whatever their driver's license said. It was all about tighter bodies, tighter designer jeans, tighter dress codes for the VIP lounge. They gossiped and fought, throwing shade and drama like volleyballs across Becka’s life.

She'd been spending more and more time with Mick, whom she met in college as the only non-partying person in her dorm. Mick was a certified nerd but with a taste for inked-up girls with punk-rock flair. They’d both been nerds back then, but Becka decided to throw away that look and transition into the hottest girl their dorm—nay, their entire small liberal arts college—had seen. Mick had only been clubbing with Becka about six times in their whole friendship, and every time he wound up scowling at Becka for days, shaking his head and muttering "
that scene is the worst"
until she promised never to take him out again. She was starting to see what Mick meant, but what could she do? It was her job: Becka worked as a PR rep at one of the hottest clubs in town. And the attention was nice, after all those years of being rejected by the male gender, when she looked like a total book definition of a nerdy girl—complete with thick-rimmed glasses, mousy hair, and sweatshirts that said “Entropy Happens.”

They compromised, watching old movies and whole TV series marathons in their mutual downtime. That downtime has decreased since Mick hooked up with Karen, a tattoo artist and a card-carrying feminist of the no-fucks-to-give persuasion. Becka hadn't met her yet, but to see Mick glued to his phone, texting sweet-nothings and cooing secretly behind the pantry door, made her want to barf with... well, jealousy.

But, whatever. It was tattoo time.

S
he stopped
at a coffee place and ordered a take-out chai latte, the thought of more coffee turning her stomach even as she craved the warmth of a paper cup to hold. The curly-moped server taking her order kept glancing up at her from beneath his thick fringed lashes. Becka wondered if she should let this guy have her number. He was kind of cute. She was about to suggest as much when the server suddenly spoke instead.

“Hey, do you work at Lux?”

Becka’s heart fell. Oh. One of
those
conversations. What a buzzkill.

"Mmmm.... yes? You go there a lot?

“Yeah, I was there a couple of weeks ago. I thought we totally hit it off, but then you disappeared. I'm Alex, by the way."

"Oh yeah, of course,
Alex.
Of course! Yeah,” Becka trailed off, holding Alex's gaze as she pretended to recall this particular face whispering sweet nothings into her ear. Nope. He was one of an endless, faceless parade of her flirting conquests, but Becka thought she could just vaguely recall these features leaning close to her, maybe even making out briefly… but it might have just been her rather active imagination filling in the blanks with some convenient color. What could she say?

She'd only blossomed as a nervous and breathtakingly beautiful twenty year old, and the years of pent-up nerd-dom, longing for the hard-bodied boys on her high-school football team, not to mention the college team, backfired spectacularly. Her first boyfriend after her makeover had taught her what a waste that had been, keeping this heavenly body away from deserving hands and mouths. That guy turned out to be so dumb that Becka couldn’t even have a normal conversation with him, let alone pretend like they were on the same intellectual level, so she dumped him after two months. But after that, unburdened of the shackles of her previous geeky life, Becka became utterly voracious. Even now, in this awkward moment with a forgotten suitor, she was wondering what it would feel like to have this Alex-guy's puffy lips kiss hers. Nah, she wasn’t interested in him two weeks ago, and she’s not into him now, for sure.

"Well, great seeing you!" She picked up her latte and gave the guy a salute. She didn't wait to see his reaction before she shot out the door. Frankly, it didn't matter. She had an appointment with the hottest tattoo artist in town, who was not into lateness. Karen (Mick’s girlfriend), who worked at the same tattoo shop, was quite clear about that when Becka spoke to her on the phone.

Becka was meticulous about punctuality as well, and she timed half her life by the Rolex her father had given her for college graduation. She was notorious among the club employees as the biggest hardass in the promotions team. When it came to timing, whether it was getting the VIP area perfect before the doors opened, or the ins and outs of the go-go dancers’ routines, Becka was a machine of precision.

Despite her confidence, the piece of paper containing her tattoo sketch was wadded and crumpled. She'd erased the lines so often, she'd worn through the first piece of paper. Here she was, with the ten zillionth draft, about to get this picture permanently etched on her flesh, and she still wasn't sure she'd gotten it right. She spent a month on the internet scouring for the right phrase, the perfect combination of words that summed her up and made her authentic. Something about butterflies? No, that was tawdry. Something in Latin? Ugh, too biblical. Goodnight Moon? The Owl and The Pussycat? Where The Wild Things Are? Nope, nope, and double-nope!

In the end, she'd settled on a phrase she heard in a movie and thought sounded cool. She picked out a font online and typed it out in different sizes, different configurations; she'd even photoshopped it on some photos of herself, trying out places and eventually settling on her ribcage, just under her right breast. Whatever happened, she was determined to be positive.

She took a long sip from her now-cooled drink and turned up an alleyway to a lurid neon sign hovering above a staircase descending below street level. The neon tubes read “Dickie’s Emporium” in old-timey carnival-colored letters. It was kitschy, a little tacky, and painfully hip. The place had a trendy dive vibe, which made Becka feel a little bit dangerous as she scoped herself out one last time in the reflective glass of the door and stepped inside to find the new, improved, one-hundred per cent sexier woman she was sure she'd become, with a little ink.

But she could’ve never predicted what she’d find inside that day.

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