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Stepbrother Charming(10)

By:Nicole Snow

“Honey, you're sure you're okay?” Mom gives me the look of death, demanding I tell her the truth.

“I think I need to rest. Let my brain recuperate after it's been blown right out my ears. I hope you don't mind if I cut this a little short. I just want to go home.”

Gary laughs and looks at me. “You're perfectly welcome to join us at our new home, Claire.”

New home? Oh, shit. I hadn't even considered that, but it does make a scary kinda sense.#p#分页标题#e#

Mom nods. “It's way better than our old condo. I think you'll like the house – Gary had his maid set up a room for you, Claire. You'll find everything you need there, and if anything's missing, just shout. I'll be putting the old place in Tacoma on the market soon too – it's peak buying season, after all.”

I throw down my napkin and stand up. I really want to whip it right at them and scream until every wine glass in this fucking restaurant breaks.

It's one thing to have my whole world turned upside down, but now they're telling me the only thing I can really count on – home – is somewhere else?

“Don't worry about driving. We'll take care of your car,” Gary says. “I already told my driver to wait for you out front. I figured you'd need a little time to be alone and get settled in. You'll find my place in Bellingham very comfortable, Claire. My chauffeur will have you home and be back here to pick us up in no time.”

Jesus. Bellingham's like an hour north on a good day. They must be planning to sit here for a good long while and drink, maybe make out or something nasty I definitely don't want to see

I do the only thing I can in this situation. I plaster on my biggest, fakest grin and shake Gary's hand.

“That actually sounds good right now. Are you sure you'll be okay getting my stuff home? Everything I brought off campus is in the trunk.”

Mom beams – probably relieved I'm making a graceful exit instead of an explosive one. “Of course! We'll take care of everything, baby. Gary's a good man. When he proposed, I told him you're my number one. Our marriage doesn't change that.”

“And I told her I want the whole enchilada,” Gary says, reaching for my hand. “Mandy's family is mine now, Claire. I know it's going to take some time, but give me a few months, and you'll see I'm right. I always am.”

I give him one more weak smile and get the hell away before I'm drowned in their affection or the billionaire’s arrogance. True to his word, there's a sleek black sedan waiting out front with a neat looking driver, who gets out and opens the door for me as soon as he sees me coming.

My only regret as I slip into the car is that I didn't have more water, and more wine.

One thing's for sure – Mom and new Step-dad aren't bullshitting about the size of the house. When the car rolls through a gate that's like twice as tall as I am, I know I'm in trouble.

There's a guard shack. An honest-to-God security checkpoint just for billionaire Gary, and I guess that includes Mom and me too.

The man in the guard shack smiles and waves us through, just as friendly and perfectly behaved as the driver. The place looks like a modern castle sitting on the coast. Powerful waves churn just over the hills, and I see one of the cleanest Washington beaches ever below.

On the other side, it's flanked by the most blinding, beautiful green the Pacific Northwest has to offer. The incredible foliage hanging around the house reminds me all our rain has its advantages.

“Miss Frost,” the driver says, almost like he's about to salute me when we pull up. I step out through the door he's holding, gawking at the monstrous palace for a good thirty seconds.

Then my stomach twists again, and I'm forced to move, if only to get inside and use the bathroom.

The key Gary gave me works. It's a card, just like at a hotel, and apparently there's an app to let your phone unlock the door too. I wouldn't expect anything less from a tech mogul.

Luckily, there's a bathroom nearby. It has about all the fine finishes I expect. I do my business, wash up, and run cold water over my face. What little I've seen of the house so far makes me feel like I need to purify myself just to be here.#p#分页标题#e#

When I step out in the hall, the first thing I hear are footsteps. Thinking I'm alone, I jump. But that's stupid, I tell myself. I already know Gary has a housekeeper and who the hell knows what else – and I'd better get used to it awfully fast since this is my new home now.

He also mentioned a son...and didn't really say much else about him. Is he living here too?

I head down a long hall with these awesome murals, hoping it brings me to the kitchen. It does. The massive refrigerator has a whole shelf filled with drinks – mineral water, fancy juices, kombucha, and some other tasty looking imports I've never seen before. It all looks good, but I know I need more water.