Step Brother

By: Jayna King

1 -- Tatum

Before I even opened my eyes, I could tell that my headache was going to be the kind that lasted all day. I needed ibuprofen, water, and more sleep, but my cell phone was insisting that I wake up. I rolled over to grab the phone and silence the alarm, and I realized that I was most definitely not at home. I panicked and sat up, realizing three things. One: my head hurt worse. Two: I was completely naked. Three: I was not alone.

A man was asleep next to me, on what I typically considered my side of the bed. I was afraid to move, because I only had the foggiest recollection of the night before, and I really didn’t want to have a face-to-face with my one-night stand. As I looked around the enormous hotel suite that we’d spent the night in, I pushed aside the memories of the man’s naked body and the things he’d done to me—things that felt better than they’d had any right to.

Looking at the tanned, muscular line of the man’s shoulders and back, I was mortified. I swung my feet over the edge of the bed, moving slowly and steadily, hoping that I wouldn’t wake the gorgeous man who snored quietly every time he inhaled.

Trust me to have a one-night stand with someone I know. It’s not like I’m likely to run into Reed again—not as big as Vegas is—but why couldn’t I have picked some nameless, faceless guy with a huge bank account and a perfect body—someone I could fuck and forget? No, I had to go sleep with the guy I’d had a crush on for my entire elementary and middle school career. What a fucking idiot.

There was no trace of my clothes in the enormous bedroom, and while I held my head, hoping it wasn’t going to explode, I tracked down what I’d worn the night before. I found my jeans and shirt on the balcony, and the blinding heat of the Las Vegas sunshine nearly killed me. I found my bra on the bar, and I found my thong on the edge of the enormous hot tub in the bathroom.

Wow. I must have put on quite a show.

I dressed quickly and quietly in the bathroom, and then I managed to close the suite door behind me with only the faintest of sounds. Prepared for my walk of shame through the lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, I knew that the rest of my day was pretty much guaranteed to suck.

I climbed into the cab, pleased to see that the driver was having a heated conversation on his cell phone. I was glad I wasn’t going to be forced into small talk. After giving the man the address of the house I was living in, I sat back to run through the slew of text messages that had accrued while I had been acting like a drunken slut with Reed.

I let Chelsea know I was alive, promising to make it up to her with dinner and drinks tomorrow. I felt bad about having abandoned her the night before, but the vodka and the allure of Reed’s body had been more temptation than I was able to resist. Glad she’d made it back to her hotel safely, I turned my attention to the other messages.

My father: reason number three that my day was likely to suck—reasons numbers one and two being my crushing headache and the embarrassment at my wanton behavior of the night before. I hadn’t seen my dad since I’d moved back to Vegas after finishing up law school in Texas. It wasn’t that I hated him, exactly. It was more that I was wary of him. I didn’t want to have to deal with yet another heartbreaking disappointment from the man I’d tried to convince myself did really care for me. I texted him to confirm our lunch date.

Yes, I’ll be there by noon. Any hints about this surprise?

He wasn’t an easy man to love. I’d had to leave Las Vegas when I was sixteen and go live with my mother in Austin—not that going to live with her was an inherently bad thing. But having to leave all of your friends in the middle of the school year because your father has been arrested on corruption charges—that was an inherently bad thing. I hadn’t wanted to leave, but my father couldn’t parent me very well from a jail cell, even if it did look like he’d only serve a year or so in a minimum security facility.

I’d looked forward to spending more time with my mother, but that hadn’t overshadowed the impact of having to leave my childhood friends and start over in a new high school.

Water under the bridge, I thought as the cab pulled up to the curb. I was surprised to see Garrett’s car in the driveway next to mine, and I hoped he hadn’t been worried that I’d stayed out all night.

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