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Stepbrother Inked

By:Violet Blaze

Stepbrother Inked
Violet Blaze

       Three years earlier...



I curled my own fingers around my throat and bit back a gasp. It  shouldn't feel so good to be touched like this. The hand wrapped around  my own was firm, but insistent. There was no way I was getting out of it  this time.

"Flor." The word dropped from my lips like a cinder, one that I thought  had gone cold but that always managed to flair back to life in a surge  of heat and desire that I knew was wrong. Knew it. But couldn't stop the  fire from fanning itself into a raging flame.

My brother  –  sorry, my stepbrother because let's be honest here, there's  a big difference  –  pulled me forward so forcefully that I stumbled,  fingers still at my throat in a gesture of surprise. What, exactly, he  was doing here, I wasn't sure, but the hard glint in his eyes and the  firm set of his mouth told me what I feared most: that he still, and  maybe always would, think of me as a sister. If he didn't, then why was  he so angry? Why did his full lips twist down in a scowl at the corners?  And why was his grip so hard and his aura so  …  messy. His emotions  twisted down his arm, following the colorful lines of his tattoos as  they wrapped his bicep, bleeding into me and choking back my breath.  Messy. I couldn't tell if he was just pissed or if he was disappointed,  too, if maybe he couldn't believe he'd just caught me with a boy's arms  around my waist and his tongue in my mouth. I was supposed to be the  good one, right? The one that didn't give my dad or my stepmom any  trouble because Flor gave them more than they could handle.

His dark hair bled into his eyes, dripping with sweat from the heat of  the party and the crush of bodies, and I stared in simple fascination as  he swept it back and glared at me.

"What the fuck," he began as I cringed, "are you doing here?" I watched  in horror as my stepbrother's gaze lifted and met that of the boy's  behind me. I kept one hand on my neck, sliding it down to my chest so  that I could feel the rapid thump and slam of my heart, much like the  chilling bass beat that was tingling up my toes and making me blissfully  deaf. Maybe then I wouldn't have to hear the sound of my father's  disappointment when he sighed and then later probably screamed at me for  this little adventure? "And who," Florian continued, "the fuck is  that?"

"None of your business, bro," my mystery date said, curling his own  fingers around my hip in a strange mockery of the way I'd done to my own  throat, caught up in surprise when Flor had appeared out of nowhere and  pulled me from my make out session and back to the harsh, gritty twang  of reality. "Hey, are you alright?" the guy asked me as I glanced over  my shoulder and swallowed hard. I guess he mistook my speechlessness for  fear because he stepped around me and got in Flor's face. "You can't  make her leave if she doesn't want to go."

"I can," Flor snapped back at him, grinding his teeth and squeezing my  wrist even tighter than before, "if she's my sister." He leaned in and  let my date have it with a simple whisper of words. "Oh, by the way,  she's only fifteen, asshole." My new friend tore his hand away from my  hip like it was on fire  –  but not the good kind, not the kind I was  feeling right now as Flor's sweaty fingers tugged me forward. No, this  was more like he was terrified of me now, like he wouldn't touch me with  a ten-foot pole. I guessed he wouldn't want to, considering he was  twenty-one. Guess I shouldn't have lied about my age.

"Hey, Flor," a girl with long black hair and brightly colored extensions  giggled as we passed by. "You in a hurry or something?" She eyed me  with no small amount of contempt as Flor dragged me through the crowd  and paused only when we were standing on the porch outside the little  green and white house. In the middle of a neighborhood known locally as  The Whit, it was unlikely the cops would get called on this place, so it  was a hotspot for parties. I knew because I'd followed Flor here more  than once. Tonight, though, tonight I'd really believed him when he'd  told his mom he  –  and I quote  –  felt like shit and was going upstairs to  lie down. Florian never lied about going to parties. He just  …  went. No  matter what sort of fight his mom put up.

"Yeah, I sort of am," he growled, ignoring the girl and pulling me down  the steps in my heels. His broad back filled my view, blocking the  clusters of teenagers and young adults hanging out on the sidewalk at  the bottom of the steps. The fabric stretched across his muscles in a  way that was criminal. I was young, sure, but I wasn't so young that I  couldn't appreciate that, couldn't appreciate the way Flor's body had  changed from a lanky teenage boy's to a  …  to a man's.

I flushed from head to toe and rolled my eyes. I'd binged last week  during spring break, reading each and every single one of the romance  novels crammed onto my stepmom's shelf. It was part curiosity, I guess,  that encouraged me to read them. That, and part disappointment and  frustration that Flor got to go away and I didn't. Since then I'd been  saying and thinking strange things, like how Flor always smelled so  good. Or how I was glad he didn't shut his bedroom door when he was  changing his shirt. That kind of stuff.                       
       
           



       

I looked away from Florian's back to stare at the pavement for a moment,  trying to pull myself together. If he was a mess of emotions then so  was I. Nervous, anxious, frustrated  …  jealous. I swallowed hard and  glanced back over at the girl. She was standing with her arms crossed  over her flat chest, her lips pursed, looking from Flor's face to his  hand, the one that was wrapped around my wrist, and then back again.

"You brought me here," she said accusingly, the fabric of her black  dress reflecting the light from the flickering street lamp above us. I  watched her eyes as they moved over my stepbrother, taking in each and  every line of his body like she was lost in the desert and he, he was a  nice, tall glass of water. When her eyes moved over to me, I saw a  primal response, a surge of jealous anger that made me swallow twice  –   not because I was scared but because I was angry. Didn't she know that  Flor didn't belong to anyone? He said that all the time when his mother  asked why he never brought girls home. Then, of course, he'd whisper  under his breath that he actually brought girls home all the time, only  that she didn't notice.

I tried to pull my arm from Florian's grasp, but he wouldn't let go of me.

"This isn't a good time," he said, pausing to glance over at me. I  refused to meet his eyes. I didn't know how to feel towards him. Why was  it okay for him to party, to kiss whoever he wanted, to  …  do whatever  with whoever he wanted? I had a right to experiment, too. "This is my  sister." I cringed again, hating the way he said that word. Sister. I  wasn't his sister and hadn't even known him as long as I'd known my best  friend, Addison. Florian and I had met ten years ago and had only lived  together full time for eight of them. "I've got to get her home, okay?"  I looked back at the girl and saw her face soften. Sister. The word  always did that to them, like I was no longer a threat. Because, of  course, Florian would never want anything to do with me. I wasn't a girl  to him, just an obligation. I was safe. "And then maybe I'll be back  after," he added which did nothing to enhance the slowly building smile  on the girl's face. Her red lips turned down and she rolled her eyes,  spinning on her heels and marching up the white steps we'd just come  down.

"Abigail," Flor said, and I swallowed again, this time to get past the  lump in my throat. I wished he'd let go of me; that would've made things  easier. "Let's go." But Florian didn't release me and instead, pulled  me towards his car, double parked next to a white Honda Civic, its  silver paint dull in the shadowy corridor of the street. Only two street  lamps on either side of the house worked; the rest had been broken  sometime in the last few years. "Get in," he said, finally letting go of  my arm. I spun then, surprising him, tears welling up unbidden from God  only knows where.

"Why?" I asked him and it was his turn to roll his eyes and shake his  head, like he knew better, like he had room to talk. He reached out to  take my arm again, but I stepped back, pulling it out of his reach. He  mistook my emotions for fear and opened the car door with a sigh.

"I won't tell your dad," he said as he tilted his head to the side and  watched me. The eyebrow ring in his left brow winked as a car behind us  turned on its headlights and pulled forward, zooming around Florian's  illegally parked Mazda like it didn't even exist, like we were in our  own little world. "If that's what you're freaking out about, don't  worry."

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