Authors: Faleena Hopkins
© 2015 by Faleena Hopkins
Cover Image: Aleshyn Andrei
Licensed through Shutterstock.com
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
after her 21st birthday, dancer and supermarket check-out girl Rue Calliwell gets the shock of her life. Her mother died when she was 18 and since then she’s been on her own, with only her best friend Jenna as ‘family.’ But now she’s got two brothers she never knew she had. One of them hates her. The other has a secret. Both are incredibly famous. And their best friend is a bad-boy musician who’s been told to bring Ms. Goody-Two-Shoes
. He wants to do that, but for all the wrong reasons. Or…are they the right ones?
A Stand-Alone Novel. 18+ While this is a very steamy romance, it's also very much about family.
the color of money, so of course his eyes are green.
That’s the first thing I thought when I opened my door and saw Jack Stone standing on the torn up welcome mat of my unglamorous North Hollywood apartment, wearing a form-fitting suit and undone tie, his sandy-brown hair skewed and hanging over his frowning forehead.
he’s got a heat on
That’s what my mom used to call blind stinking drunk, but he’s also hot-as-hell sexy and hot-as-hell pissed, so that’s heat times three. The weird thing is his fury seems to be directed at me; weird because we’ve never met. Ever. I only know who he is because
knows who he is. I know intimate details about him I shouldn’t know: he’s dated three girls in the last month who were all blondes, he likes dogs over cats, loves Bourbon over beer, and if anyone puts a mushroom in anything he’s eating, he’ll spit it out. I know these things because I read the gossip magazines to keep me occupied during my graveyard shift at the Supermarket. It’s something to do between ringing up booze for has-been rockstars from the ’80’s, and snacks for stoned teenagers who are unsuccessfully
to buy booze. But I wouldn’t admit to reading such trash.
“How old are you?” the incredibly impressive Jack Stone growls, his angry stare ripping down my body. I glance down out of instinct, horrified to remember I’m wearing my ugly pair of sweats and a shirt that is a couple sizes too large. It’s comfy to sleep in, but I vow as of this moment to throw it away as soon as I figure out what the hell is going on.
“What?” I sound as confused as I am, plus I’m kicking myself for not putting on makeup before I opened the door. At least some lipstick or something. And I haven’t brushed my teeth either. But it’s only 8:00 a.m. so can you blame me?
“You’re Rue Calliwell, right?” I nod. His eyes narrow into sexy slits and he repeats in a low, guttural growl, “How
I look past him, scanning the sidewalk to see if we’re on camera. This is a joke right? I meet his eyes, and answer, quietly, “Yesterday was my twenty-first birthday.”
For some inconceivable reason this inspires a slew of swear words to pour from his beautiful mouth, ending with, “FUCK! I can’t fucking believe this fucking shit.” And with that, he flips around and sways his way to the street, only once almost falling.
What is happening?!!
“Hey!” He doesn’t turn, so I try louder. “HEY!!!”
Oops. That sounded a little harsh.
He turns around. No, that’s not correct. He turns just
around, those intense eyes of his peering at me like a vampire’s who was going to let you go, but then decided that no, you were doomed to die. “Did you just yell at me?”
Now I’m getting irritated. Why the attitude? “Excuse me, but you can’t wake me up and ask how old I am and then just walk off, swearing, without explanation. I don’t even know you! I mean, I know you, but you don’t know me. You know what I mean!”
Glowering, he takes a few crooked, long strides back and gets really close to my face. His eyelashes fall as he rakes his steady, judgmental gaze over me again, this time from the ground up. I cross my arms, and gulp, standing a little straighter with my chin cocked out in defiance. There’s something about him that inspires rebellious blood pumping in my veins. Something about the way he looks at me, like I’m beneath him or something. I may not be on the covers of magazines, but I’m no troll guarding a bridge, either!
Righteously, I hold his gaze, inhaling a small huff as his pale green eyes knife into mine to cut me down. He sneers, reaches up and touches my shoulder as if he has the right. I’m so shocked, I say nothing. He’s staring at his thumb as it swipes against the baggy cotton twice before retracting.
With him this close, I can see where his stubble has recently been shaved off. I can see his scar that slices into one eyebrow from the car accident he was in seven years ago when he was sixteen and almost drove off the cliff in Malibu. The whole world knows he almost died that day. When I totaled
car, the only people who knew about it were the guy I ran into, my mother, and my insurance company who danced in their swivel chairs as they hiked up my premium.
When Jack does something, it’s
I open my mouth to say something–ask why he’s here, how he knows my name, why he’s so perfect…but I seemed to have lost my ability to think straight. Unfortunately, I can still stick my foot in my mouth. “Are you about to kiss me?” I whisper, holding very still.
Like he’s won a battle I’d barely begun to understand I was in, he smirks, eyes lighting up with superiority. But the smirk is quickly replaced by a snarl as he says the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard.` “My lawyer will be calling you.”
My jaw drops. He flips around and exits in angry zigzags.
“Your lawyer?” He doesn’t answer. “Wait! What?!” I’m standing on my tiptoes like that will make the sound reach farther. But he doesn’t look back. One half of the Stone brothers disappears around the side of my apartment building. Did he walk here? And what the hell?
His lawyer will be calling me??!!
in the passenger seat of Sean’s Lotus Evora, I slam the door. I’m more irritated than ever, now that I’ve met her. “Drive.”
Sean’s got one tensed hand on the wheel, the other in his lap. He glances over to me and puts the car in gear. “You were gone a long time. Did you meet her?” His voice is low as he looks to see if it’s safe to pull out into morning gotta-get-to-work traffic. Even on the residential streets, it’s insane.
“Oh, I met her alright,” I growl.
He barely waits for me to finish my sentence. “Well?”
“She’s exactly like I thought she would be,” I mutter, turning my head away from him.
“Shit.” We take off down the street and he hits the gas like we’re on the freeway, coming up on another car like they should get out of his way. And they should. For a while, we drive in silence. The radio isn’t on. We’re not talking. What is there to say? We’re fucked. The world has changed in a way we never thought possible. And all because of some girl named Rue Calliwell who, up until yesterday, we never knew existed.
The truth is, when we heard from our lawyer what happened, I had all sorts of ideas in my mind about what she would be like. Trashy topped the list. Broke, of course was in there. I expected to see the kind of money-grabbing whore her mother must have been.
broke. I was right about that. What a shit hole place to live. But even standing there in the scuffed-up doorway, her eyes had a dignified intelligence that took me by surprise. She’s barely legal to down a beer, but she seemed older than other twenty-one year olds, stronger somehow. Able to handle my stare more than most twit-heads. Rue Calliwell appeared to be ‘a good girl’ –fresh faced and unjaded compared to the chicks who run in our circles. And she had some fire in her. I liked that.
I don’t want to like that.
“I should have come up with you.” Sean finally says.
“I told you that you should have,” I mutter out the window.
He doesn’t argue. We both know the deal. My brother and I are alike only in physical appearance. No one would deny we descend from the same lineage of Czechoslovakian ancestors–before it separated into Czech Republic and Slovakia. Now I guess we’d be just Czech. But our physical resemblance is where the similarities end.
I’m the one who immediately after Henderson told us about her, paid to have Rue checked out; everything that could be found on her, we found. It wasn’t much. She lives a fucking boring life by anyone’s standards. Works at Ralphs. Didn’t go to college, but she’s studying to be a dancer. Trains at Millennium with all the other dancers who are worth a damn. Has been in a few music videos. Has a best friend, a Mexican girl name Jenna. Last boyfriend was Leon and he was a deadbeat surfer who had only his looks to reel girls in. Didn’t last past a year.
Not much else.
Boring with a capital BORING.
So I needed to see her for myself. I had to force Sean to drive to her place this morning after we left Alec’s all-nighter. I’m the one who jumped out of the car when he wanted to call her when we arrived like we were making a fucking appointment or something.
We don’t play by polite society’s rules.
What the fuck is
anyway? What does that even mean and who the fuck invented it? Our status is a fact my brother still doesn’t seem to understand. Sean feels too guilty to actually enjoy this life we live. Well, not me.
At the Mulholland stoplight on the peak of the hill between Beverly Hills and The Valley, he can’t contain his curiosity anymore. “What was she like?” His shoulders are tense, holding onto the wheel like he’s driving a block of wood.
“You should have had more to drink, Sean. You look like you’ve got a stick up your ass.” He tenses even more. “Make that coal, because two diamonds just shot out the leg of your pants.”
Gritting his teeth against a smile, he mutters, “Someone had to drive.”
“Like we couldn’t afford a cab.”
“That’s not the point.”
“Or a plane.”
“Ha ha,” he says, dryly, lips tightening as he shakes his head.
Impatiently, I stare out the window as we head for home. These turns are killing me. I’ve been drinking since 2:00 p.m. yesterday. I might puke all over Sean’s superiority complex. His guilt over being wealthy has always annoyed the fuck out of me. What’s the point, when you can’t do anything about it? We were born into this; my brother and I. Our family is old money. We were born into this just as our parents and grandparents were, and their parents, too.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But this Rue chick? There is something very wrong about
Sean turns down the radio right after I turn it up. “You didn’t answer me. What was she like?”
“If you’d come to the door with me, you would have known, wouldn’t you?”
He scowls and reaches for the volume knob. “You’re a dick.” He turns it back up way too loud.
“You’re not going to…”
“There’s nowhere to pull over, Jack! We’re up against the side of the hill!! Just a couple more turns and we’re to the houses…”
“Pull over, Sean! Just do it!”
He throws on the hazards, rolls down his window and stops the car behind us by throwing his arm up in the air, stopping the car right here in the middle of the one lane street. I open the door and hurl all over the asphalt. It stings like a motherfucker and I choke and cough as he mumbles, “Foul. You never know when to stop, Jack.”
I wipe my mouth and shut the door as cars pile up behind us, honking like the impatient fucks L.A. drivers are. “I knew when to stop the car. It’s a start.”
He grins despite himself as he puts the car in gear and yells out the window, “Fuck off! People are sleeping!” We laugh and for a second forget that everything has changed. For a blissful second, it’s like it’s always been. But then we both remember, and the smiles fade.