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Authors: Colleen Masters

Stepbrother Bastard

BOOK: Stepbrother Bastard
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Copyright © 2015 Hearts Collective

 

All rights reserved. This document may not be reproduced in
any way without the expressed written consent of the author. The ideas,
characters, and situations presented in this story are strictly fictional, and
any unintentional likeness to real people or real situations is completely
coincidental.

* * *

 

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 * * * 

 

 

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STEPBROTHER BASTARD

A Hawthorne Brothers Novel

Book One

 

* * * 

by Colleen Masters

 

 

Prologue

Just Outside of Spokane, WA

 

The
cool light of morning has barely begun to filter through the flimsy motel
curtains, but my looming headache still throbs at this slightest hint of day. I
can sense the impending hangover circling overhead like a sinister bird of
prey, ready to dive down and ruin the rest of my day. It

s
not a sensation I

m accustomed to: I haven

t
had this much to drink since graduating college a few years ago. And now, I

m
starting to remember
why
.

I
pry open my eyes by a hair

s breadth and groggily
appraise my surroundings. The grubby motel room looks even bleaker in the cold
light of day. But you get what you pay for, I guess

and
this was the cheapest place I could find en route to my destination. Besides, I
didn

t
need anything fancy last night. Just a place to crash before the second leg of
my long drive from downtown Seattle to middle-of-nowhere Montana.

The
former has been my home since finishing undergrad, the latter was my mother

s,
when she was a girl. My mom, Robin, has returned to her hometown of old for the
summer, and summoned me and my two younger sisters to join her. She says she
wants to get some painting done, fill her lungs with fresh air

but
I can

t
help but wonder what else has motivated this return to her roots. Then again, I

ve
never been able to suss out the rationale behind my mother

s
flights of fancy. Why should this time be any different?

Throwing
off the scratchy, questionably clean comforter, I swing my legs over the side
of the bed, gritting my teeth as the contents of my head throb painfully
against my skull. Brushing my dark blonde, shoulder-skimming, and very
disheveled hair out of my face, I scan the room for a coffee machine

caffeine
is always my first order of any given day. My bleary eyes rove over my unopened
suitcase, the singularly bad hotel art on the walls, and the trail of discarded
clothing leading from the front door to the narrow bed I

m
perched upon now

All
at once, the pounding in my head evaporates as my heart takes up the frenzied
beat. The last twelve hours swim up in my boozy memory, walloping me with a
series of realizations. First of all, for all the clothing scattered around the
room, not a stitch of it happens to be on my body. Secondly, it isn

t
just
my
clothing that

s strewn every which way

half
of the items very clearly belong to a man. And as I whip around to peer over my
shoulder in the dim half-light, I

m
reminded of
which
man, in particular.


Good
lord
…”
I whisper, springing
gingerly out of the motel bed. I clutch a sheet to my naked body, staring at
the man I

ve been bunking with all night. His
face is turned away from me, but there

s
still plenty of him to see all the same. 

Surprise
gives way to amazement as I take in his broad shoulders, muscled arms, and
heavily inked back. Faint red lines stand out among the numerous black tattoos

those
are nail marks.
My
nail marks. I swallow a gasp as he rolls over to face
me. He drapes one of those thickly corded arms across my side of the bed, as if
reaching out for me. A tight twang of sensation pulses between my legs, and I
become aware of the telltale, satisfied soreness there. While I rest my eyes on
my bedmate

s sculpted, slumbering face, the
events of last night come back to me in a rush. As I recall the cause of that
delicious soreness I

m feeling, my knees begin
to quiver so hard that I can barely stand.

Pulling
the sheet tightly around me, I dash into the motel bathroom and sink down
heavily on the edge of the tub. I clasp my hand tightly over my mouth, trying
to keep my jaw from smacking against the tile as it drops to the floor. But
even so, a laugh of disbelief escapes from my throat. I know this was supposed
to be a layover and all, but I didn

t
expect quite so much emphasis on the
laid
part. 

Well, Maddie

I think to myself, letting out a deep sigh, you

ve
got a nasty hangover, a day-long drive, and a sexy stranger sleeping in your
bed. What happens now?


Hell
if I know,

I
mutter out loud, my baffled voice echoing off the grimy tiles of the motel
bathroom. I

ve never been very good at embracing
the unexpected. And waking up still-drunk next to a tatted-up bad boy on the
way to a quiet family vacation is about the last thing I

d
ever expect from myself.

What
can I say? I

ve never been very good at
half-measures, either.

 

 

Chapter One

The previous night

Seattle, WA

 

My
best friend Alison McCain cocks her head at me, watching from the couch as I
overstuff my suitcase for the coming two weeks. I

ve
been multitasking

packing for my vacation
while filling her in on the details of my latest breakup. Allie, on the other
hand, is entirely single-minded, here.


So
wait,

she says, gesticulating
with her wine glass,

Did you break up with
him, or did he break up with you?


It
was mutual, Allie,

I mutter, straining to zip up the seriously
overpacked bag. This is a laughably typical predicament for me

I

m
constantly over-planning, over-thinking, over-preparing. I

ve
never managed to take even the shortest of trips without dragging half my
earthly possessions along. On the one hand, this compulsive trouble-shooting
makes me excellent at my job in event marketing, where something is always on
the verge of going seriously wrong. On the other hand, it

s
obnoxious as hell, even to me.


Maddie,
Maddie
…”
my redheaded best friend
sighs, taking a healthy swig of her Pinot Grigio,

It

s
never mutual.
Ever
. You were with this guy for six months. It couldn

t
have just evaporated like
—”


Fine,

I sigh, leaning back on
my heels. Allie is relentless in her dirt-digging. I may as well just hand over
the buried treasure of my latest failed relationship and let her have at.

I
was the one who wanted out, but I let Paul think it was a mutual decision.


That
sounds like the Madeleine Porter I know,

Allie nods, sending her
halo of short red curls bouncing,

I

m
glad you finally pulled the plug. You guys have been on the fritz for

well

most
of the time you

ve been together,
actually.


In
more ways than you know,

I reply, pulling myself up to fetch a
glass of wine. If we

re going to get into the
nitty gritty of my love life, I

m going to need a drink.


Do
tell

?

Allie prods, swiveling
around as I walk into the kitchen

or
rather, the corner of my one-room studio apartment that

s
posing as the kitchen. I was lucky enough to get a job after graduating; plenty
of my classmates didn

t weather the
post-recession market half as well. But at 24, I

m
still not raking in enough dough to rent more than a couple hundred square
feet. I tell myself it

s romantic. Bohemian,
even. But really

it

s
just my only option.


Let

s
just say that things in the bedroom were

less
than electric, there at the end,

I tell Allie, pouring
myself a deep glass of white wine.


Really?

she asks, genuinely
surprised.

But Paul is
gorgeous
. What I
wouldn

t
do for cheekbones like his.


One,
your cheekbones are excellent,

I inform her, flopping down on the couch
beside her,

And two, he
was
gorgeous, and he

d
be the first one to tell you.


Ugh,

Allie says, wrinkling her
nose.

One
of
those
.


One
of those, indeed,

I reply, taking a sip of wine,

It

s
like, he expected me to get off on his well-manicured chest hair alone. I
honestly think
he
could. And he certainly wasn

t
very forthcoming with any
other
methods of getting the job done
…”


Wait-wait-wait
,

Allie says, eyes widening
into saucers,

Are you telling me he didn

t
take care of you? He seriously didn

t
even make you come?!


He
almost did. Once
…”
I sigh, averting my eyes.


But
you were with him for a
six months
,

Allie exclaims,

How
in the name of all that is good have you survived without

?


I

ve
been taking care of myself in that department, don

t
you worry,

I
assure her,

I mean, s
omeone
has to.


Damn
right,

she says firmly, distress
fading from her eyes.

Well, I

m
proud of you for ending things with him, then. You deserve more than some rich,
handsome, lawyer anyway.


Isn

t
that the trifecta of excellence, where men are concerned?

I ask sarcastically,
taking another long sip.


For
some women, maybe,

Allie shrugs,

But
not for you, Miss Porter. Not for you.


Ugh.
I know,

I moan, letting my head
fall back against the couch,

What is the matter with
me? I tell myself that I should find a stable relationship, with a respectable,
mature guy
…”


But
then you get bored stiff by each and every one of them,

Allie completes my
thought, her vibrant green eyes sparking with insight.

Did
it ever occur to you that you may be going after the wrong sort of guy?

I
cock an eyebrow at my best friend. Alison and I were roommates in college, long
before we were both recruited by the same creative agency. And while I was
holding down two uneventful long-term relationships over those four years, her
dorm bed was a veritable revolving door for men of all stripes. And a few
women, too.


I

m
just not as adventurous as you are, in that department,

I tell her,

Not
that I don

t admire your inclusive attitude, but
—”


No
one

s
saying you should go sow your wild oats all along the West Coast,

she laughs,

But
Christ, Maddie. You

re in your twenties! If
ever there

s a time to be adventurous, it's now.
You know what you are, my friend? You

re
a serial monogamist. And that wouldn

t
be an issue if it weren

t also depressing the shit
out of you.

I
avert my eyes, a bit stung by her choice of words. The truth is, I
have
been depressed these past few years, but not because of my love life. I try not
to dwell too much on the darker aspects of my life, but remaining positive
takes constant effort. My struggle with depression began just as I was starting
my last year of college, when my father was killed in a car accident. Collision
with a drunk driver, who of course walked away unscathed. My dad, Archie
Porter, wasn

t just a father to me

he
was my idol. My role model. Losing him was the worst thing that

s
ever happened to me. I

ll be carrying the weight
of it my entire life. Next to that pain, a breakup is nothing but a toothache.
After all these years, I can usually make it through the day without getting
mired down in that pain. But now that it

s
come to mind


I

m
sorry, Maddie
…”
Allie
says, her tone softening at once.

That
was super insensitive of me. I know how much you

ve
been through

But,
isn

t
that all the more reason to look for what makes you happy, rather than playing
it safe?


Sure.
In theory
…”
I
allow, shaking off the shadows in my mind.


Maybe
in practice, too,

she smiles, draining her glass.

I
know a really easy way you can start looking, too.


Oh
yeah?

I reply,

What

s
that? Pottery class? Meditation? Tinder?


Not
quite,

she begins, grinning
conspiratorially,

These next couple of
weeks, while you

re on vacation, I want
you to grant yourself one random hookup with a hot stranger.

I
immediately choke on my wine, I

m laughing so hard.

Have
you forgotten who you

re talking to?

I splutter,

Your
best friend, Maddie Better-Safe-Than-Sorry Porter.


Really?

Allie replies,

I
thought I was talking to Maddie Always-Up-For-A-Challenge Porter. What, do you
need me to make this into a bet or something? Get that competitive streak of
yours all fired up?

“…
No.
You can

t
sway me
that
easily,

I say, lying badly.


Aha!

Allie crows, leaping to
her feet and pointing a victorious finger at me,

Madeleine
Abigail Porter, I bet that you can

t
bring yourself to have one random hookup by the time you come back from
vacation. Are you gonna prove me wrong or what?


Dammit,
Allie!

I groan, burying my face
in my hands.


I
got you now!

she
cackles, going to grab the bottle again.

Now
you

ll
do it for sure.


We

ll
see,

I laugh, letting her pour
me a second glass,

Which will win out, my
hate of losing, or my hate of spontaneity?


The
game is afoot,

Allie
grins.

I
raise the replenished wine glass to my lips. What are the chances that I could
actually
throw caution to the wind and have some fun while visiting my family for two
weeks? Breaking up with Paul sucked, to be sure, but we were hardly in love. My
heart didn

t take too much of a beating this
time around. Probably, that

s because I never really
opened up to him. In the wake of Dad

s
death, I haven

t really been able to feel much of
anything

least
of all passion. Maybe a little rebound would do me some good. But who the hell
am I going to meet in the middle of the woods? I don

t
really dig the grizzled lumberjack type, myself. You never can tell what

s
hiding in those big, bushy beards

BOOK: Stepbrother Bastard
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