Brix I don’t remember who brought me home, much less why I chose to crash on the couch, of all places. My back screams in agony from the pain and stiffness, moving to stretch, peeking one eye open.
The piercing ray of sunlight combined with the skull-splitting headache has me regretting the round of shots we had after wrapping up our show last night.
It wasn’t the first time it happened, and it won’t be the last.
I miscalculate the space between me and the edge of the couch when I roll on my side, sending me falling face-first onto the hardwood floor.
“God damn,” I groan, bracing my hands beneath me, pushing myself up. Feeling weak, I reach for the edge of the oak coffee table to help me up.
Beer cans litter the surface, reminding me of the one too many drinks I put away when I got home.
“What the hell was I thinking?”
I wince hearing the sound of a throat clearing behind me. I expect it to be my father, which should have me regretting my choices from last night even more. Except that would mean I gave a shit, which I don’t. I stopped worrying about what he thought of me a long time ago.
I rub the pads of my fingers over my eyes, delaying the inevitable moment when I glance up to find him staring bullets through me, adding yet another reason for being a disgrace of a son to the list.
“Are you waiting for me to answer that question?”
The soft voice from behind catches me off guard, sending my head jolting over my shoulder. The sharp movement causes a shooting pain to slice up the column of my neck. I roll my eyes shut, groaning in agony.
Her quiet chuckle follows. Whoever it is clearly relishes in my pain.
Pushing to sit on the edge of the couch, I fall back against the cushions, tilting my head in her direction.
When I finally manage to open my eyes enough, I wonder for a second if I somehow misplaced where I was or what the hell happened last night.
What was I thinking?
Did Ivy end up coming home with me?
Thinking back to the scant denim shorts she wore showing off her sculpted legs nearly has me biting my lip at all the thoughts swirling through my mind. My eyes rake over her body once again, pausing as they land on her tan legs. She’s active, judging by the clothes she’s wearing combined with her tight body.
Recalling how she all too joyously turned me down, followed by the smirk lining those sexy-ass lips when she pointed out who she is, left the sting of embarrassment ringing clear in my memory.
Yeah... there’s no way she would’ve come home with me. If that’s the case, what the hell is she doing standing in my living room with the look of disdain painted like a neon sign on her face?
“What the hell are you doing here? Did you break into my fucking house? Or is this your way of twisting the knife deeper after last night?”
She laughs. The sound coming out both sexy and frustrating. Her head is thrown back and strands of her long, dark hair are falling over her shoulder.
“The fact you think I give a shit about you or would even consider wasting another second on your bullshit is hilarious.”
Well, okay then. It still doesn’t answer the question of why the hell she is in my house?
As if reading my mind, she continues, “I’m actually wondering the same thing.” She clenches her jaw.
She looks so fucking sexy, the way her cheeks turn rosy. If this is how she looks when she’s mad, I can’t wait to see her when she’s turned on.
“Like I said, sweetheart”—I lean forward, bracing my hands on my knees to stand— “this is my house. I live here.”
Facing her now, the subtle tick in her jaw at the term of endearment does not escape me. Anger blazes in her eyes when she crosses her arms in front of her chest. She widens her stance like she’s gearing up for the argument that’s about to ensue.
“Are you sure you still don’t want to take me up on my offer from last night? I have no problem letting you take a little aggression out on me.”
I reach my hand out, brushing my knuckle along the ink covering her forearm. Goose bumps rise over her skin, and despite her best effort to paste the look of hatred on her face, her body gives her away.
She’s trying to play it off, hoping like hell I won’t notice, but I flash her a grin letting her know she’s not fooling me.
“Something tells me the hate-sex will be some of the best fucking I’ve ever had,” I moan, wrapping my hand around her wrist.
She grits her teeth, whipping her arm out of my hold. Seeing how riled up she is, I bite my lip to cover my bemused smile. I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy letting her take her anger out on me.
Nails in my back, teeth marking my skin. Fuck.
“If you think I’d ever let your dick anywhere near me, you’ve gotta be fuckin’ crazy. I bet you have shit growing on you from all the places that thing’s been.”
“You better watch your fuckin’ mouth,” I grunt, tension coiling in my body, taking a step closer to her.
She smiles like the Cheshire cat, apparently liking how she’s pissed me off.
Yeah, the hate-sex is gonna be real fuckin’ good for the both of us.
A familiar sound of keys sliding into the lock followed by the click of the deadbolt has us both turning toward the door. Laughter filters through the room, and my eyes bounce back over to Ivy. The smell of her clean scent washes over me; the way her throat bobs when she swallows ignites a fire within me.
“Mother?” Ivy says, sounding both surprised and lighter. Like happiness was wrapped around one simple word. That is until I realize it’s my father and his fiancée, Charlene, staring back at us.
For a second, I wonder if they heard us arguing from outside.
“Ivyana,” she replies, smiling, and it all clicks into place.
My mind filters through the several conversations we’ve had about her daughter, Ivyana. The daughter who graduated high school with honors and has a nearly perfect GPA at the University of North Carolina.
Ivy is Ivyana. What the hell is wrong with me? Why didn’t it click into place until now? I’ve never heard her called by her full name, not even when we were back in high school.
“Hi, Mother.” She grins, crossing the distance between them to wrap her in a hug. The snarky tone she threw at me a moment ago is completely gone, replaced with something else entirely.
Reaching my hand up behind my neck, I massage my fingers into my skin in hopes of easing the tension.
“I’m so happy to see you, honey. I’ve missed you.”
Already over this bullshit, I begin picking up the beer cans strewn over the coffee table along with the ones knocked over onto the floor.
“Brix, what the hell happened here?”
It wouldn’t be a typical day if my father wasn’t finding some reason to lay into me.
“What’s it look like? I had a few drinks last night after my show. I’ll fuckin’ clean it up, alright? Chill out.”
Holding the cans in my palm, I brush past my father, stalking into the kitchen. Like whiplash, the once happy moment between Ivy and her mom is gone.
“This can’t happen anymore. You hear me? Just because I let you live here doesn’t mean you can treat my place like a dumpster.”
“Yeah, I got it.”
“I’m serious, Brix,” he demands, raising his voice even louder, “turn around and look at me.”
Tossing the cans into the recycle bin, I turn the faucet on and wash my hands before grabbing the towel.
Resting my hip on the edge of the counter, I stare at him with a look I hope says get on with it already.
“This cannot happen anymore.”
“I heard you the first time. I said I got it.”
Charlene whispers something to him about waiting until later to have this talk. He nods, apparently ready to let it go.
We only agreed I’d stay here because I promised to help look after the place. His job has him traveling a lot. Even when he’s in town between trips, he usually stayed at the apartment near his office. It got to the point he was either going to sell the house or hire a groundskeeper.
“I’m glad to see you’ve met Ivyana. She’s Charlene’s daughter. You may remember us discussing her staying here for the summer. I didn’t want the two of you to meet this way.” He glances at Ivy, and she flashes him a warm smile as he says, “It’s good to see you again.”
Again? I thought.
“I didn’t want you to meet this way,” he repeats, “or for you two to find out under these circumstances.” His eyes bounce back over to Charlene. She steps closer to him, grabbing his hand.
Ivy’s eyes widen in bewilderment as if hanging on his every word waiting for what bomb he’s about to drop. I know what’s about to come before the words are even out of his mouth.
“Charlene and I… while we were away on vacation, we decided to get married.”
“What the—?” I stammer.
At the same moment, Ivy says, “Oh my God!”
“Are you serious?” I scoff.
My father’s eyes lock on mine, and I can see the daggers he’s shooting my way the moment they do.
If he thinks I’m going to stay here and play house with them, he’s out of his damn mind.
“Now you listen here, I won’t tolerate any of your comments. If you have something to say, I suggest you swallow it. I don’t have the time or patience to hear you anymore.”
Tossing the towel in my hand to the counter, I cross my arms over my chest.
Ignoring my father’s glare, I focus on Ivy. Her hand covers her mouth, and a dazed look shrouds her eyes when she peers over at me.
What the fuck?
If they are married, this makes Ivy, or should I say Ivyana, my sister. Judging by the wide-eyed look on her face, it’s apparent the same thought just hit her, too.
I told my stepsister I wanted to fuck all my frustration out on her. Good fucking lord.
“I can’t believe it, Mom,” Ivy says, hugging her once again. Charlene holds her hand out between the two of them to show her the ring. Of course, like every one of my father’s wives, they can’t help but gush over their five-carat diamond ring.
“Wow, Mom,” she says in awe, reaching for her hand, “it’s beautiful.”
“Well, let’s hope you signed a prenup with this one. Huh, Dad?” I snicker, crossing through the kitchen toward the staircase leading to my bedroom.
“Brix Carter Ward, don’t fucking move.”
I stop momentarily, waiting for whatever insults he wants to hurl my way. Although, he’s always been one to say them without other watchful eyes around us, so I know the real jabs will come later when it’s just the two of us.
“I won’t tolerate you talking bad about Charlene or our marriage. If you have a problem, I suggest you find a way to keep your mouth shut, or you can get the hell out of here.”
“You got it,” I mutter, deadpan.
“By that, I mean you aren’t allowed at the beach house either. If you’re out of here, you’re on your own.”
“Whatever. Congratulations, Charlene. You picked a real winner.”
Not bothering to look her in the eyes as I say it, I stalk up the stairs toward my room.
Passing by the bathroom, I find the guest room door next to mine open. Pausing in the doorway, I notice the bed sitting directly across from me left unmade and two suitcases standing near the foot of the bed.
It looks like Ivy’s made herself at home in her new house, in the bedroom next to mine. I can tell already it’s gonna be a long fuckin’ summer.
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