“I need you guys to help me fuck with Claudia’s date when he gets here,” Owen says.
What. The. Hell. Since when does Claudia care anything about guys and going out with them? “You mean she’s going on a real date? One where a boy comes here to pick her up?”
“Well, yeah, dumbass. That’s what most dates involve. Guess you must have forgotten that since it’s been so long since you took a girl out for dinner and a movie.”
“Dinner and a movie are pointless when you can skip it and go straight for the end goal.” My end goal? Getting laid. I’m always clear and honest about what I want so that no one misunderstands or gets hurt. The girls I hook up with are after the same thing—a good time for the night.
There have been a few who think they have what it takes to change my ways. Make me love them. Make me see that all I really want is a committed girlfriend. I wasted no time showing those few the door.
“I hope the little fuck-stain who’s taking my sister out tonight doesn’t think with his dick the way you do.”
Who does Owen think he’s kidding? This kid’s a boy with a dick. Of course, he thinks like me. Like us—Owen, River, and me. “I can’t believe your parents are letting Claudia date.”
“She’s seventeen, going on twenty-five. A high school senior. All her friends started dating last year or the year before. They couldn’t keep telling her no.”
Bullshit. They’re the parents. They can tell her no for as long as they like. “Have you forgotten the shit we pulled with girls when we were in high school?” Two words specifically come to mind. “Hannah. Beales.”
Owen romanced that girl for weeks. Sent her flowers, wrote her love letters, took her out to dinner and the movies. Even got her a damn puppy for Valentine’s. She served him her virginity on a silver platter and he gave her a prompt goodbye. Hell, even I felt bad for the girl when he was finished with her. “What you did to Hannah…? Those little high school dicks want to do the same thing to Claudia.”
“Fuuuck, you’re right.”
I can’t help the way I see Claud. To me, she’s still that little girl pretending to be a boy and tagging along behind Owen, River, and me everywhere we go. Always struggling to keep up with us while I hang back, not giving my all so she won’t feel so far behind. “No way we can let this kid take Claudia out tonight unless we know he has a clear understanding about what he won’t be doing with her.”
“Agreed. Especially with the new look she has going on,” River says.
“I will beat her ass if she’s gone emo or goth.”
I haven’t seen Claud since I left for fall semester five months ago. I’ve rarely gone more than five minutes without her on my heels. It’s been odd not having her around. But what’s odder is how I feel about not seeing her.
I’ve missed my little dove beyond anything considered reasonable. And it’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed away so long. Something is wrong with me for missing that kid so much. It isn’t normal.
I thought separation would help cure me of whatever this thing is.
River chuckles. “When’s the last time you saw her?”
“End of July, right before I went back to Chattanooga.” I took a lot of extra credits. Worst semester of my life but it paid off. I graduated early with a master’s in accounting, got a new job, and I’m stoked about starting my new life.
River laughs again. “This should be fun.”
“What should be fun?”
“Duke!” I turn when I hear Claudia squeal my special nickname. One look is all it takes. I no longer have to wonder what River meant.
Claudia’s thick, dark hair is longer. She’s always worn it in braids or slicked back into a ponytail through the hole in the back of her ball cap, but tonight it’s hanging in loose curls. Long, lush eyelashes surround aquamarine magnets—the same eyes I’ve seen no less than a million times, but I can’t stop staring at them. It’s as though I’m seeing them for the first time.
The red top she’s wearing is sexy as fuck––one of those where it comes up and around the neck, leaving her shoulders and back completely exposed. Damn, damn, daaamn. Her perky tits and protruding nipples look like nothing less than perfection pressing against the thin fabric.
It’s possible I’m drooling a little as my eyes scan her mile-long legs from her ankles all the way up to the curvy hips she’s showing off in tight skinny jeans. I swear to God those tits and curves weren’t there the last time I saw her. I would have noticed.
Her shoes piss me off. Fuck-me pumps. She has no business wearing anything like those.
Who is this hot, beautiful woman who has replaced Claudia Laine Bliss?
I was six when she was born; I’ve known this girl all her life and most of mine. Since the time she could walk, she spent her days chasing Owen, River, and me. Always slower. Always weaker. Always so soft, sweet, and delicate. She’d have chosen death over admitting a single one of those facts back in the day. But we didn’t care. She was Owen’s baby sister.
Our little Claud.
That was then and this is now. And our little Claud isn’t so little anymore.
She rushes toward me and leaps into my arms, same as she has for years, with her legs wrapped around me. But this time feels different. My dick immediately recognizes the changes in her, too. The fucker spasms and comes to full attention when her body collides with mine.
The exposed skin on her neck and shoulders calls out to me like a siren. A seductress. A fucking temptress. Touch me, Bram. Kiss me. Lick me. You know you want to.
What. The. Fuck.
No, no, no. Every thought going through my head about her right now is wrong. So many kinds of wrong. This is our little Claud. My best friend’s baby sister. Not some random chick I’ll bang and abandon before morning.
Still wrapped around me, she holds my shoulders and leans away so we’re face to face. So close I could kiss her. “I’ve missed you so much. I’m very upset with you for staying away so long.”
“You know I was taking extra classes so I could graduate early.”
“I know…but you didn’t come back to see me. Not even once.” Her pouty bottom lip protrudes and it reminds me of the face she used to make as a child when she wanted her way. Except this time, it’s hot as fuck. I want to suck that lip into my mouth. Maybe even bite it.
“I didn’t do much of anything for the last five months except study. But it was worth every weekend I spent with my head in a book; I’m finished for good.”
She slides down my body and her crotch rubs my cock—no, make that my hardening cock. I will it to stop but it’s a dick. It can’t not respond to the touch of a woman. Especially when that woman is this hot.
Shit, I hope she can’t tell that she made me hard.
Even more so, I hope Owen and River can’t tell that she made me hard. They would kill me.
Her pouty lips transform into a broad grin. “You’re back in Lynchburg for good?”
“That’s the plan. Starting my new job next week.”
“Good. This is where you belong.” With me. She doesn’t say the words but I suspect it’s what she’s thinking; she’s always considered Owen, River, and me to be her boys.
“I hear you have a date tonight.” And I don’t like it worth a damn.
She lowers her eyes. “Just a boy from school taking me out. It’s not a big deal.”
“I don’t care how nice you think he is. I don’t care how cute you think he is. Don’t believe a word the little prick says. Trust me when I say he wants one thing and one thing only from you.”
She looks up and our eyes connect: so fucking gorgeous. “Tell me. What one thing and one thing only would a boy—or man—want from me?”
They will want to fuck you. All of them. I can’t bring myself to say those words to her. And it’s not my job.
“Owen. Don’t tell me you haven’t had the guys-are-horny-bastards-and-she-should-avoid-them-all talk with her.” It’s his brotherly duty to give his baby sister fair warning about our ways.
“We had that talk a while ago and then we had it again after all of this happened.”
Claudia’s cheekbones rise as her dimples deepen. “Owen and River say I’ve changed. What do you think?”
I think our girl is fishing for a compliment. “You’ve become a lovely young lady.”
Her smile fades. “A lovely young lady? That’s it?”
I know. It sounds like something her grandfather would say but it’s all I’ve got. I can’t tell her she’s hot and sexy and gave me a hard-on.
Her frown transforms into a one-sided half-smile. “Thanks a lot.”
Damn. I know Claud and that forced expression. I’ve hurt her feelings. And it’s the last thing in this world I’d ever want to do.
The doorbell rings. Worst timing ever. The little shit’s arrival ends any chance I have at redeeming myself with her.
“Go to your room,” Owen says.
Claudia’s voice rises an octave. “Why in the world would I do that?”
“Go to your room and freshen up your lipstick or whatever girls do when they make us wait on them. The three of us need to have a little talk with Connor. Make sure he understands what’s expected of him on this date.”
Good. I’m glad to see Owen is taking his big-brother duties seriously.
“You don’t get to act stupid because Mom and Dad aren’t here. I’m letting Connor in before he leaves because he gave up on anyone coming to the door.”
Owen mentioned something about fucking with her date. I’m all for that but we can’t if Claud doesn’t go to her room.
I step in front of her and block the path to the door. We’re nearly chest to chest when I bring my hand to her mouth and drag my thumb over her pouty bottom lip. “Your lipstick is smeared. You should go fix it… Little dove.”
Her eyes widen and her face softens the instant she hears me say the special pet name reserved only for her. A sigh escapes her mouth when she rubs her index and middle fingers over the lip I just touched. “Okay… Duke.”
Ah. She’s never said my nickname like that before.
The doorbell rings again and River slaps his palms together, rubbing them back and forth. “All right, all right, all right, boys. Time to have a little fun with this punk-ass.”
Owen opens the front door and the kid is standing there with flowers in hand. “Good evening, sir. I’m Connor Bass.”
Flowers? And sir? What a fucking suck-up.
Owen offers his hand for a shake. What is he doing? I thought we were going to fuck with this kid. “I’m Claudia’s brother, Owen. Come in.”
River and I stand straight-faced, chests puffed out, arms crossed. Intimidation. It’s the only way to handle cocky little shits like this guy. “This is Bram and River. Claudia’s other bodyguards.”
The kid laughs. “Okay, I get it.”
“I’m not sure you do. But you will.” Owen puts his arm around Connor’s shoulder and leads him into the living room. “Come. Sit. Let’s talk while my sister finishes getting ready.”
Claudia’s date sits on the sofa and the three of us tower above him. My face is stone but I’m laughing inside as I wonder if he’s ready to piss his pants and run out the door.
“Claudia is a very special girl to all of us. We would be very unhappy if anyone hurt her,” River says.
Connor shakes his head. “I would never hurt her.”
“That’s good. I’m happy to hear that.” Owen walks over to his baseball bag propped against the wall and removes his favorite bat. “Did my sister tell you I play baseball at UT?”
“She didn’t have to; I already knew. I’ve seen you play a lot.” His voice is trembling. I like that.
“Then you already know how hard I can swing a bat?”
Before he replies, Owen takes the stance in the middle of the living room and demonstrates his swing. Doesn’t matter how many times I see it: I’m still amazed by the sheer power behind it. “That swing would crack a skull for sure.”
“This is Priscilla.” Owen wraps his hand around the bat and strokes it lovingly. “You touch my sister or hurt her in any way and you and Priscilla will become very well acquainted. And I don’t mean on the baseball field. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Have Claudia home by eleven. Not. One. Minute. Later. We’ll be here waiting.” River points to his watch. “And we’ll be watching the time.”
I lean down so I’m in his face. “No going parking. No making out. No hands or fingers or any other appendages inside or on top of any article of her clothing. And don’t even think about walking her to the door and trying for a goodnight kiss. I will end you.” The last threat comes out with a bit of growl and I surprise even myself with how angry I feel at the thought of him trying anything with her.
This kid looks ready to piss his pants and run out the door. Goal accomplished. “Yes, sir.”
Claudia comes into the living room and I’m both pleased and relieved to see her wearing a jacket over her sexy red top. Hell, that shirt and her exposed skin made me have inappropriate thoughts about her. This boy wouldn’t stand a chance.
“Hey.” His voice is deadpan and he doesn’t even look in her direction.
Claudia studies the four of us. “What’s going on here?”
“Nothing much.” Owen chuckles. “Connor mentioned that he’s seen me play ball, so I thought he might want to have a look at Priscilla.”
“What did you do, Owen?”
He chuckles a second time. “I didn’t do a thing.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Ask our boy Connor if you don’t believe me.”
He shrugs. “Just showed me Priscilla. And his swing.”
“Pfft… like I believe that.” Claudia’s stiff expression softens when she sees the bouquet. “What beautiful flowers. Let me put those in some water before we go.”
I hate watching her go out the door with anything that has a cock. It pisses me off, which is a ridiculous notion. Not only has she been like a little sister to me since the day she was born, she’s only seventeen. I’m twenty-three. That kind of shit doesn’t go over well with people. Or with the state of Tennessee.
I have no business having these kinds of thoughts about her. Owen and River would kill me. Hell, Owen would castrate me.
Claudia Laine Bliss has grown up. Everything I’ve ever felt about her suddenly feels new and different.
And it scares the shit out of me.