Hunger (A Stepbrother Romance Novel)

BOOK: Hunger (A Stepbrother Romance Novel)
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Hunger

A Stepbrother Romance Novel

 

Written by Arabella Abbing

© 2015 Arabella Abbing

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Any names or characters, businesses or places, events or incidents, are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

Cover design by
Resplendent Media

Chapter One

 

When my soon-to-be stepmother told me that her son was in rehab and would be there for a long time while he recovered, I really didn't expect to meet him any time soon. Especially not in time for the wedding they had planned.

Yet, apparently, it was happening. I sighed and turned up the volume of my music, trying to drown out the conversation between Clara and my father in the front of the car as we rode to the center to pick up my future stepbrother.

In hindsight, I probably would have benefited from eavesdropping on their conversation. Because when we all piled out of the car and went inside to meet him, I certainly wasn't expecting Clara's son to be so... normal looking.

Actually, forget that. Lucas wasn't normal looking at all.

He was fucking
hot
. Movie star hot.

I was gaping as she hugged her son, totally confused as to why this man didn't look at all like a junkie. Of course, rehab was supposed to help people kick their addictions, but I didn't think he had been in there long enough for any physical side effects of drug or alcohol abuse to wear off. It was a shocker to me.

It was even more surprising how happy he looked when he finally met my father for the first time, shaking his hand good-naturedly as the two introduced themselves.

I was called up next.

“And this is Bill's daughter, Jenna. Jen, this is my son, Luke.”

The smile faded from his face in an instant and everything seemed to move in slow motion—like we were trapped in quicksand or some cheesy movie. From the corner of my eye, I could see a flash of concern on Clara's face as I reached for Luke's hand, but it disappeared as quickly as it came.

He reached up and gently took hold of my outstretched hand, and I could tell by the look in his eyes that he didn't miss the small shock of electricity that seemed to happen right as our skin brushed.

“Nice to meet you,” he said flatly, even though his eyes told a completely different story about how he felt.

“You too,” I hesitantly responded, unsure of what exactly was happening.

My dad raised an eyebrow at Clara and she shook her head. I immediately realized I had missed something important. I could only hope that one of them would fill me on whatever it was once we got home.

“Do I need to sign anything?”

“I'm an adult, Mom. I signed myself out,” Luke said as he rolled his eyes.

My father looked concerned by this news. “Did you complete your... treatment? Is that what you'd call it?”

Luke laughed and shook his head. “Oh, call it whatever you want. I finished the course, yes. Everything is... fine.”

For some reason, he looked at me during the last word of his sentence and I felt a rush of heat move through my body unlike anything I had ever experienced before. As Luke grabbed his bag and we began walking out of the building together, I could already sense how awkward all four of us living together for the next two months was going to be.

“I'll ride in the back with Jenna,” Clara abruptly volunteered. “We'll have girl time while the men bond.”

There seemed to be more to her offer than just that, but I really couldn't question it without being completely tactless. So I hopped in the car and forced a smile on my face as Clara began to grill me about how prom went.

There was silence from the front seats as I ran through a PG rated version of the events of prom night two weeks ago. My graduation ceremony took place last week, but Clara had been visiting family out of town up until a few days ago, so we hadn't had a chance to catch up on everything that had happened.

“Did you dance with any cute boys?” she slyly asked.

I could feel myself blush as I answered. “Sure. A few, I guess.”

“Oooh!” she squealed excitedly. “Anyone in particular catch your eye? Will you be bringing a boy home? Oh, I've always wanted a daughter to talk to about dating and boys,” she said wistfully.

I smiled at her, grateful that my dad had given me ample time to get to know Clara before popping the question to her. I liked her a lot and I knew that with time, I'd probably come to think of her as a mother, just like she was beginning to see me as a daughter.

“I don't think I'll be having any summer flings,” I told her honestly.

Clara looked even more disappointed about that than I was. “Oh, but that's when all the magic happens! I remember my first summer out of high school, right before college.... Gosh, those are such fond memories to look back on.”

“I hope not
too
fond,” Dad grumbled from the front seat.

“Oh relax, honey. Puppy love,” Clara assured him before turning to me with eyes that danced with mischief. “But noteworthy nonetheless.”

I sat back in my seat and frowned as I thought about the very valid point Clara was making. I actually had very few dating experiences as a teenager and I certainly didn't look back on any of them fondly.

But it had been difficult to convince my single father to even allow me on dates in the first place. So a curfew of nine o'clock and only seeing boys my father approved of wasn't exactly a recipe for success.

“Well, I'll do my best to find a hot stud to have a fling with this summer,” I jokingly told Clara, the two of us chuckling as the car swerved.

“Don't even joke like that! You'll remain my innocent little girl until you leave this house in the fall!”

God, it weirded me out that my father seemed to somehow know that I was still a virgin. Still, the more interesting thing was how often I felt Luke's scorching gaze land on my face for the next two hours of the ride home.

~*~*~

“Welcome to your new home, son,” Dad told Lucas, giving him a pat on the pack after we got out of the car.

He let out a low whistle as he looked up at the house. “Damn, you must be well off. What did you say you do for a living, Bill?”

“I didn't. But I'm an architect.”

“Impressive,” Luke said, raising his eyebrows before turning back to look at me. “You must be proud of your pops here.”

I frowned, not really sure what to make of the random comment. “Yeah, I am.”

“What are you going to college for?”

Ah, so he
was
listening to the conversation between Clara and me in the car. At least that much was answered.

“I'm not sure yet. I was thinking about becoming a doctor.”

Luke hummed and nodded. “Yeah, I suppose I can see that.”

Before I could ask what that meant, he turned around and started walking up the sidewalk towards the house. I exchanged a confused look with my father, but he simply shrugged and made his way up the path as well.

What strange behavior
, I thought to myself as I followed suit.
This is definitely going to be an interesting summer.

~*~*~

“I made lasagna for dinner. I hope that’s alright,” Clara said as she placed the pan on the table in front of us.

Luke smiled at his mother. “My favorite.”

“A mother always remembers those things, sweetie.”

She took her spot at the table and motioned for us to dig in. My dad grabbed the first helping, followed quickly by Luke, who reached across the table to hand me the serving spoon once he was done loading his plate.

I accepted it, sending him a kind smile that faltered a little when our hands brushed again. I felt the same spark of electricity go up my arm and I quickly retracted it, somehow sensing that a connection like that would be nothing but trouble. Trouble for me, for him, and for our parents who were about to get married.

Must not think about my future stepbrother naked. Must not think about-

“So, a doctor you said?” Luke asked with a smile that would probably look creepy on anyone else. On him, it just looked endearing and curious.

“Yeah. Or maybe something else. I’m still not sure. I’d like to do something to help people.”

His green eyes sparkled. “You seem like a kind person. I’m sure you’ll figure out something.”

Again, I was struck by his extremely weird behavior. What was his deal?

Clara interrupted whatever awkward thing was going to spew out of his mouth next by asking, “Do you have any plans Luke? Have you thought about going back to school?”

He shook his head and shoved a forkful of lasagna into his mouth, obviously not interested in elaborating on the question. There was a tense silence until my father decided to break it.

“Do you have
any
plans, Luke?”

He must’ve know that dodging my father’s questions wouldn’t be as easy as dodging his mother’s, so he washed down his food and shook his head again. “Not exactly. But I’ll figure something out soon, I promise.”

He chose that moment to direct his green eyes up to me and I felt frozen under the weight of his stare. My dad obviously wasn’t satisfied with his answer, but he simply grunted and let it go for the time being. Everyone resumed eating except for Luke, who was still staring at me.

I couldn’t stop the heat from rising to my cheeks. Even after I looked away, I could still feel his gaze burning into my face. It was a mystery to me why he seemed so transfixed, but I tried to shove away the uneasy feeling his attention was giving me so I could finish my meal.

After another long minute, his gaze dropped back to his plate and we ate in silence, a million questions unspoken.

~*~*~

Later that night, after dinner was finished and the dishes were washed and put away, I managed to snag Clara and pull her aside as my dad began to grill Luke on his plans for the future again.

“Clara, I'm not exactly sure how to phrase this without it sounding offensive, but-”

“You want to know why Lucas was in rehab,” she finished for me.

I gave her a wry smile. “Kind of, I guess. I mainly just want to know what his deal is. He acts so...
weird
.”

“Come with me, honey,” she said as she started walking towards the back door.

Once we were outside, she led me to the swing by the pool and we sat down together.

“Lucas is only acting 'weird' because of you, sweetheart. He just... Luke doesn't know how to act around women that aren't his family.”

“But we're going to be family.”

Clara gave me a sad smile. “Oh, I don't think Lucas is ever going to see you as a family member, dear. He's too old for that and also very resistant to change.”

I nodded, understanding where she was coming from and forcing myself to keep my voice even as I asked, “So why was he in rehab?”

“Lucas is— or was, I suppose— a sex addict. He wasn't a junkie or a drunk, and he checked himself into the facility to try to get help for his problem the moment he realized he had one,” she explained quickly, and I could tell she had the strong urge to defend her son.

“I’m not judging him,” I assured her, raising my hands in the air to show I meant no harm in asking. “I don't even know him. I just... felt like I had the right to know since we're going to be living together. If that makes any sense.”

“Of course it does!” Clara readily agreed. “And you're free to ask me as many questions about him as you like, but I won't go into many details. If you want those, you'll have to talk to him.”

“Thanks, Clara. One last question for now and I'm good.”

“Go ahead.”

It was probably nothing more than my own overactive imagination, but I just couldn't shake the tension that seemed to hang in the air between Luke and me. I also couldn't forget the weight of his stare on the way home, nor the way he awkwardly attempted to make small talk with me at dinner and all the crooked grins he shot my way.

“Did Luke break his addiction?”

Clara looked surprised by the question for a moment before she frowned, deep in thought. After a long moment, she finally replied.

“You know, Jenna. I think the only person who could possibly know the true answer to that question is Luke himself, and to be quite honest, I don't want to ask. He checked himself out so I'd like to say yes, but...”

“But you aren't certain.”

Clara nodded and shrugged. “And I have no way of knowing. So do me a favor and just... be careful around him. Do you understand?” she asked, pleading with her eyes for me to understand the
real
question she was asking without putting it into words.

“I understand.”

~*~*~

Hours after our brief conversation, I was lying in bed, staring at my ceiling and intently listening to the soft pad of Luke’s feet as he shuffled around in the guest room which happened to be directly next to mine.

I assumed he was settling in and unpacking his bags, but for some reason I was stuck on the image of him doing nefarious sexual things on the other side of the wall. It was completely irrational, but I couldn’t shake the thoughts away.

How did one know they were a sex addict? How many partners did he go through before he realized it? What was the breaking point that led him to check himself into rehab? I had a thousand questions swirling around in my head keeping me from being able to fall asleep.

BOOK: Hunger (A Stepbrother Romance Novel)
8.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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