Authors: Tawny Taylor
Stepbrother Romance 2
Stepbrother Romance 3
ABOUT THE BOOK
Hate, hate, hate! I hate that f#cking jerk. So why can’t I stop thinking about him? Dreaming about him? Fantasizing about him?
Arrogant asshole. Cocky prick. That’s Clay Walker. I’ve known him since I was five, and he’s gone out of his way to make my life a living hell since. He even tricked me into letting him punch my v-card. I thought when I graduated from high school and left BFE Nowhere for greener pastures I’d said goodbye to the a**hole for good. But I should’ve known better. I'm not that lucky. You see, I inherited my aunt’s ranch. And guess who’s been running the ranch for the past four years? You got it. That f#cking jerk is out to make me even more miserable than ever.
Did I mention he's panty-melting hot? And since I’ve last seen him, he’s learned new ways of tormenting me…wicked, deliciously naughty ways.
So now there’s me, the responsible, business-minded good girl locking horns with the untamed bad boy. What's the worst that can happen, right?
I guess I’m about to find out.
“Clay,” I whispered, my voice low and husky. It sounded more like an invitation than what I’d intended—a warning. Or maybe a plea.
He dipped his head lower and brushed his lips across mine. “It’s been such a long time since I’ve tasted this mouth. I’ve been hoping, waiting, wishing I would have a chance to taste it again.”
A tiny groan rumbled in my throat. Resist. I had to resist. I couldn’t fall for his charm again. Could not.
I pressed both palms against his chest. It was so hard. And broad. Deep crevasses cut between the bulge of his muscles. My fingertips traced them, meeting in the center. His heartbeat thumped beneath my hands, fast and hard, just like mine. “Clay, we can’t.”
“Can’t what?” He sealed his mouth to mine, and the world spun. Memories flashed in my head. Lazy summers. Kisses. Longing. Love. His tongue slipped into my mouth, exploring, claiming, conquering. He rolled, one leg resting across mine, his body leaning heavily on me. His heat seeped into my pores and thundered through my body. Blazes ignited. My nipples hardened. My center burned.
I wanted him. His kiss. His touch.
it. God help me, I needed it.
But if I let myself trust him again, would he finish what he started all those years ago? Would he take my fractured heart and crush it into a million tiny fragments?
My life was over.
That was my future.
Anyone would be jealous, am I right?
The days of sprinting across campus to class, making out with drunk strangers at parties, pulling all-nighters to cram for exams, and stuffing my face full of pizza with friends were done. Over. Kaput.
I missed them already.
I missed my friends. I missed the stench of stale beer. I missed the pounding pulse of bass thrumming through my body at parties. I missed it all.
This was my life now.
Trees and more trees.
Cows and more cows.
Where were the bars? The restaurants? The people?
I couldn’t live like this for five whole years. I simply couldn’t. I needed at least the basics. A Walmart. At least one decent restaurant.
Oh, and, of course indoor plumbing.
My car rattled and bumped down the pitted gravel. Out here, in Nowheresville, better known as Dawson, Wyoming, (population, 202 people and 20,000 cattle) they didn’t even have real roads. They had dirt trails they called roads.
Okay, I knew I had no right to complain. None at all. I’d inherited a huge ranch from an aunt I hadn’t seen in years. And it was worth a lot of money...like, millions of dollars. Not every girl was so lucky.
When I was a kid I used to spend half my summer at Aunt Sandee’s ranch. Mom had said it was important I get to know my dad’s side of the family, since my dad had died when I was a baby. But that wasn’t why she’d packed me up and sent me to stay with my father’s older sister. By the time I was in seventh grade, I had figured out the real reason. She just wanted me out of her hair for a month and a half so she could live it up. But hey, I couldn’t blame her. She was young and hot and stuck with me for forty-six weeks out of the year. Those six weeks were gold.
And, to tell the truth, I didn’t mind it much. Not until I was in high school and all my friends were planning trips to the beach, parties, and bonfires, but I couldn’t be there because I had to go shovel shit at Aunt Sandee’s.
And here I was. Once again waving goodbye to all the things I had hoped to enjoy after graduation. But this time it was different. It wasn’t six weeks; it was five
. I had to stay for a minimum of five years. Then, and only then, would I inherit the rest of her estate.
Boo hoo for me, right?
Pitty party over.
I turned my piece of shit car into the driveway and it rattled over the washboard ruts, clunking to a stop at the end.
Everything looked smaller than I remembered. Smaller and shittier. I shifted into park and killed the engine. As I opened the door, a gust of wind sent a thick cloud of dust into my car. My eyes filled with grit.
Thanks, Wyoming, for the warm welcome.
Wiping at the tears streaming from my burning eyes, I slammed my door, creating another dust storm and stomped up to the house,
house. The storm door was hanging open--one gentle breeze away from falling off its hinges. I unlocked the front door and stepped inside, carefully pulling the storm door shut behind me.
What a shithole.
Ratty furniture lined the smoke-stained living room walls, every horizontal surface covered in a thick blanket of grime. Dust bunnies the size of elephants congregated in every corner of every room. The air was stagnant, hot and stale. It smelled like no one had opened a window or door in months—probably because nobody had, not since Aunt Sandee died in February. The place had been waiting for me to finish school. Empty. Abandoned.
In just a few steps, I was in the kitchen, with its ancient vinyl floor, gnarly old cabinets and circa 1970-something matching gold stove and refrigerator. Thankfully someone had cleaned in here after Aunt Sandee died. To my relief I found no moldy food in the fridge, no dirty dishes stacked in the grungy sink. I checked the pantry. It was full of home-canned pickles. Nothing else. I was going to have to make a trip to a grocery store for some real food. Pronto.
Leaving behind the depressing kitchen, I turned down the hallway leading to the bedrooms. The bathroom at the front was in semi-working shape. The sink, toilet, and shower all sported a rust stain from the nasty well water. And I recognized that rotten-egg odor.
I mentally added bottled water to my grocery list.
My bedroom, the one I’d used when I’d visited the summer after my senior year in high school, hadn’t changed at all. Same butt-ugly flowered wallpaper and orange shag carpet. Same nondescript twin bed and dresser. I opened the closet and discovered it was empty. The clothes that used to hang in it were gone.
Aunt Sandee was gone.
The realization hit me like a sucker punch.
Old Aunt Sandee was really gone.
The house still smelled like her--the caustic twang of her cigarettes, coupled with the smell of seared onions. Aunt Sandee was like no woman I’d ever met. She was scrawny, her face wrinkled leather, her fingernails tar stained from decades of smoking, and her mouth as dirty as any sailor’s, but she had the biggest heart in the world. And I’d loved her dearly. Although, regrettably, I’d been too young and stupid to let her know it.
If only I could tell her now.
“I love you, Aunt Sandee. You were the only person who really loved me. Who didn’t see me as some kind of pain-in-the-ass responsibility that needed to be dumped at the first chance. I’m going to miss you.”
A knock sounded on the front door, and I jumped, startled. It was pretty late for any of the employees to be working. I glanced at the little clock sitting on my nightstand. It was after seven in the evening. I hadn’t seen any trucks when I’d pulled in. And nobody would come to the house to visit, since everyone in Dawson had to know it was empty by now. In this town, news of a death spread faster than a wildfire.
So, it was probably someone who knew I was coming.
I threaded my way through the cramped house to the front door. Through the screen I saw a face but I couldn’t make out the features. I pushed open the door, and wham, the past smacked me between the eyes.
I was too stunned to move. Or speak. I wanted to turn around, duck back inside the house, and slam the door in his irritatingly gorgeous face. But instead I just stood there, staring in disbelief.
What the hell was
doing here? When I’d left Dawson the last time, I’d prayed I would never see that smug jerk’s face again.
“Oh, hell,” I blurted.
“Good to see you too.” The unwelcome blast-from-the-past winked.
I threw up a little. Then my heart did a summersault, which made me mad. Why would my heart do that? Why? Clay Walker was a jerk. A huge jerk. A jerk I’d never wanted to see again. “What do you want?”
Clay grinned. God, how I despised that cocky smirk. Though it did make his eyes twinkle.
I gave myself a mental head slap.
To hell with his eye twinkles!
And the rest of him.
“Well, I think we both know what
want,” he said, gaze meandering down my body. “But that’s not why I’m here.”
Steam blew out my ears. Really? Cheesy pickup lines? Already?
I took a giant step back and folded my arms over myself, even though parts of my body were tingling at the look of male appreciation spreading over his face. He liked what he saw. He liked it a lot.
But I didn’t care.
No really, I didn’t.
“You’d better get to the point,” I said, making sure my tone was as chilly as an arctic winter, “or I’m going to slam the door in your face.”
“Easy, babe.” He lifted his hands, holding them palm out, and instantly a memory of those hands flooded my mind. Fingertips tracing a line down the center of my stomach, teasing the sensitive skin just above my public bone, tickling my inner thigh…
“I’m not going to force you or anything. You know I’m not the kind,” he boasted.
“Asshole.” I grabbed the doorknob.
“Okay, I just came to let you know I’m leaving for the night.” He stuffed his hand into his jeans pocket and pulled out a scrap of paper. “My number, in case you need anything.” He offered it to me but I didn’t take it.
“Why would I need your phone number?” I asked, totally confused. What was he doing here? And why would he think I would call him?
“Because I’m the ranch foreman,” he offered.
My heart literally stopped.
He was my employee?
No. Couldn’t be.
He was pulling my leg. Like he used to. All the time.
Lying. Always lying.
“You liar.” I poked his chest. “You said the last thing you would ever do was stay in Dawson and work on a ranch,” I reminded the lying dirtbag with the stupid twinkly eyes and panty-melting smile.
“Yeah well. Here I am. Check the books. You’ll see my name on the payroll.” He grabbed my hand, flipped it palm up, and smacked the paper into it then ran a finger along my jaw. An honest-to-God quiver of lust raced up my spine. Of course, I made sure jerkoff did know it.
“It’s good to see you, kitten. It’s been too long,” he murmured.
Not long enough. Not by a long shot.
“Don’t touch me or you’ll find yourself
the payroll.” I smacked his hand away and crumpled the paper. God help me if I ever needed to ask this Neanderthal for a favor. I would never live it down.
“Okay, so I’ll be going. G’night.” Looking just as arrogant as always, he tossed me a wave and clomped down the porch steps in his stupid cowboy boots. I slammed the screen door and tried not to watch, but for some sick reason I could not rip my gaze away from his panty-melting body. That bod had been nice years ago, when I’d last seen him. But the past four years had clearly been
kind to him. His then
physique was now
, thicker and yet leaner. His torso formed the perfect wide vee, broad shoulders arrowing down to a narrow waist and hips. His totally adorable ass filled out his jeans to perfection.