Authors: Terri L. Austin
“So? What does that have to do with it?”
Monica said nothing but looked away.
“Was he with you when you got arrested?” Allie came to a stop in the middle of the
“It wasn’t his fault,” Monica said.
“So he just left you there, by yourself?”
“He didn’t want to leave me, but if he gets into trouble again, he’ll go back to jail.”
“Maybe that’s where he belongs.”
“Shut up, Allie.” Monica clenched her hands at her sides. “You don’t know him, so
why are you even talking about it?”
“I met him. He’s an asshole.”
“And he’s not?” Monica pointed at Trevor.
Allie took a step toward her sister. “He’s the asshole who bailed you out. You should
be on your knees, thanking him.”
Monica sneered. “Isn’t that your job?”
Trevor smoothly stepped in between them. “I think we should go back to my house and
get a good night’s sleep.” He took Allie’s arm in one hand and Monica’s in the other
and all but hauled them toward the car.
“I want to go home,” Monica said.
“Finally, you’re talking sense.” Allie peeked around Trevor’s chest to look at her
sister. “Have you called Dad yet?”
Monica tried to pull out of Trevor’s hold, but he tightened his grip. “No, why should
I? And I’m not talking about that home. I mean where I’m staying with Brad.”
“Are you kidding me? You’re going back to the loser who left you to get arrested?”
Trevor gave both of them a shake. “Both of you shut up. Now, who’s hungry?”
“I’m calling Dad,” Allie said when they walked through the front door of the mansion.
“Yeah, you do that,” Monica said in a snotty tone.
When Trevor led Monica to the drawing room, Allie remained in the foyer and tried
calling her dad. It went to voice mail and she left a message, feeling angrier by
the minute. Where the hell was he, and why couldn’t he just pick up the damn phone?
She turned to find Trevor leaning against a display case of bird eggs. Suddenly, a
wave of exhaustion overwhelmed her, leaving her drained. “Why are you doing this anyway?”
“Standing here? In my own foyer? Because I can.”
She took a step toward him. “Why are you doing this for Monica?”
“Bailing out teenage delinquents is a new passion of mine. Although she’s quite a
“You don’t get to talk about my sister that way, and you can’t buy forgiveness, Trevor.”
He pushed off the glass case and slowly moved toward her. “Doesn’t hurt to try.” He
cupped her cheek, his thumb stroking along her bottom lip.
It felt good, his touch. And it shouldn’t, because he wasn’t right for her. He was
callous and uncaring and selfish. Most of the time. And they made a deal, one that
didn’t leave room for the emotions churning inside of her.
He leaned closer, his mouth a whisper from hers. She wanted his kiss, his touch, even
though her feelings were still bruised from his hurtful words.
He kept his eyes open, locked on hers, as his lips softly brushed her own.
“Oh look, Nigel, they’ve made up.”
Trevor closed his eyes. “Fuck,” he said.
She snapped her head back. This interruption was a good thing. She had been weakening
toward him, and she needed to stay strong. It was just a bargain. She needed to remember
that and not let her feelings get tangled up.
“I’ll go see if Brynn’s still awake,” she said. “I’m sure she’ll want to see Monica.”
Allie nodded at Mags and Nigel as she ran up the stairs.
Trevor straightened. “When are the two of you leaving?”
“I don’t know what you and Allie fought about, Son, but you’ve been like a bloody
thundercloud for the last few days,” Nigel said.
“Where did everyone go?” Monica asked, stepping into the foyer.
“Oh, this one’s new. Are you starting a harem, dearest?” Mags asked.
Trevor stared at the ceiling and sighed. Then he roused himself. “This one’s off-limits
too,” he said to Nigel.
“Son, how many times do I have to tell you? I’m with your mother.”
Mags swished forward in a bright green caftan, her arm extended. “I’m Mags, Trevor’s
mother. I tried to teach him some manners, I really did.”
Trevor scoffed. “Was that in between your second and third marriage, or your third
and fourth? Because I can’t remember.”
Nigel walked forward and smacked Trevor on the back of the head. “Behave.” Then he
turned to Monica. “I’m Nigel.”
“Monica, these are my parents, such as they are.” He nodded toward the two nightmares
who’d created him. “This is Monica, Allie’s middle sister. We just bailed her out
“Ooooo, what were you in jail for, darling?” Mags threw her arm around Monica’s shoulder
and walked her out of the foyer.
Trevor turned to Nigel. “I’m quite serious you know, about leaving these girls alone.
If you so much as look at one of them sideways, I’ll kill you.”
“I keep telling you, Trev, I love your mother.”
“Right.” He glanced toward the stairs where Allie and Brynn stood. “Brynn, we busted
your sister out of jail, and we brought you a burger to celebrate.”
Brynn gave him a tired smile. She’d obviously been asleep. Her dark hair was flat
on one side and she wore a pillow wrinkle on her cheek.
“Thanks. For the burger and for breaking Monica out.”
“Go to the drawing room and get something to eat before Mags beats you to it.” He
nodded his head toward the hallway. Brynn walked by and tucked a strand of hair behind
Trevor draped his arm around Allie’s shoulder and led her away. She shrugged it off,
but he yanked on the hood of her sweatshirt, forcing her to keep pace with him.
“Guess she hasn’t forgiven you after all, Son,” Nigel said, before jogging back up
No, she hadn’t. But she would. It would help things along considerably if he could
get Mags and Nigel to leave. They popped up at the most inopportune times.
In the drawing room, Monica perched on the love seat next to Mags. Brynn sat cross-legged
on the floor, throwing tater tots in the air and catching them in her mouth.
“Oh, darlings, Monica has been telling us about her new friend, the prostitute. Tell
them.” Mags rubbed her hands together. “This is dreadful.”
Monica gave Mags a confused, sideways glance. “There was a hooker in the cell with
me who got cheated out of her money. So she hit the guy in the head with her shoe
and the heel got stuck in his skull. She was covered in blood.”
Trevor sank onto the sofa and pulled Allie down next to him. “What a charming story.
One I’m sure you hope to tell your children.” He said to Brynn, “Pass me a bag of
fries, would you? And give Allie a burger.”
Brynn dug into the grease-coated white sack and pulled out a burger and a bag of fries,
handing it to him. “Here, Trevor, catch.” She threw a tot. It hit him on the forehead
and landed on his trousers. He simply picked it up and tossed it in his mouth.
Then he peeled back half the wrapper and handed it to Allie. “Eat this.” He held out
a fry. She gave him a look but let him feed it to her. “You hardly ate a bite at dinner,
“I wonder why.”
When he gazed up, Monica, Brynn, and his mother stared at him with wide eyes. “What?”
he asked with a frown.
“So are you two, like, dating? I thought she was your assistant,” Monica said. “What
is she assisting you with?”
Trevor glanced over at Allie and found her cheeks had turned bright red. Almost as
red as the bra and knickers she wore earlier. “I suggest you tone down the snotty
attitude and show your sister a little respect.”
Monica tried to hold his gaze but eventually dropped her eyes. He didn’t imagine this
subdued change in behavior would last long. Didn’t seem her style to back down from
a fight. Being in jail must have really shaken her.
“And she is my assistant,” Trevor said before eating another fry. “Anyone who says
otherwise can go back to their own home.” He gave each one of them a hard look.
“Dude, you just posted bail for me. It’s none of my business.”
He nodded. “Good. And on that note, I’m going to bed.”
He stood, dropped his fries on top of the coffee table, and walked out the door.
As soon as he was out of earshot, Monica threw Allie a smug look. “The two of you
are totally doing it.”
“Shut up, Mon,” Brynn said. “At least she doesn’t have a criminal record.”
“Now, now, girls. Let’s not fuss.” Mags clapped her hands. “Monica, Frances prepared
you a room across from Brynn’s. She can show you the way.” When Monica and Brynn just
stared at her, Mags gestured in a shooing motion. “Well, go on. Get to bed.”
Allie had never seen Mags in such a commanding mood before. She seemed almost maternal.
Once they were gone, Mags began gathering wrappers, packages of ketchup, and the rest
of Brynn’s tots, tossing them into a sack. “Your sisters are charming, Allison.”
“Thank you. I’m not sure how charming Monica is these days. We did just bring her
home from jail, after all.”
Mags placed a hand on Allie’s arm. “You know why Trevor is doing all this—bailing
out your sister, allowing Brynn to stay here?”
Allie didn’t want to discuss Trevor. Besides, talking about him to Mags felt like
a betrayal somehow. “You know Trevor, he’s unpredictable. He can be nice when it suits
him.” She wadded up the napkins and tossed those in the sack along with her uneaten
“Nice?” Mags actually threw her head back and laughed. When she sobered, she tilted
her head, her eyes sparkling. “Trevor’s never been nice. Not even as a child. No,
my darling Allie, he’s in love with you.”
The next morning at the breakfast table, Trevor glanced up from his phone. “Why are
you staring at me?”
“No reason.” Allie lowered her gaze to her plate, but her eyes had other ideas and,
against her will, kept returning to his face.
“Do stop, Allison. It’s annoying. Unless this is your subtle way of telling me you’ve
forgiven me and want to fuck?”
“It’s all about fucking with you, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it’s been four frustrating days, and I’m so goddamned hard all the time, I could
cut rocks with my cock.” He glared at her, as if it were her fault.
In a way, she supposed it was, but her mistress duties had been derailed by the arrival
of his parents and her sisters—and of course his own ass-clown behavior.
Mags had been so far off base last night it was laughable. Trevor didn’t love her.
He wanted her. He even wanted her forgiveness—at least he seemed sincere about that—but
it wasn’t love.
“So, what do you want to do, English, throw down on the breakfast table?” she asked.
He leaned toward her. “God, yes.” Trevor gave her a look of such longing, such heat,
she felt seared by it. He picked up her hand and brushed his lips across her palm.
Maybe she could lock the door. A quickie would take what, ten minutes tops? No, what
was she thinking? His parents were in the house, and her sisters. And she was still
mad at him. But when Trevor touched her like this, every rational thought fell out
of her head.
Then Mags and Nigel walked into the room. Trevor dropped her hand like it was poison.
“Oh, you two again.”
Mags, swathed in the green caftan she’d worn the night before, lowered herself into
a chair. “I’ve been rethinking the wedding.”
Nigel, dressed in a paisley robe, poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down next
to Mags. “Do you know what sounds good this morning? A round of golf. Eh, Trev? Let’s
hit a few.”
“The whole thing is all wrong.” Mags pressed her hand over her heart and her large
diamond engagement ring winked in the light. “I simply can’t do it.”
“I knew it wouldn’t last. When are you leaving then?” Trevor asked.
Mags raised her brows. “What are you talking about, darling?”
“The wedding.” A little smile played on his lips. “I knew you wouldn’t go through
She laughed. “Who said we’re not going through with it?”
“You did, just now. Not two seconds ago.”
“I bought new clubs. Let’s give them a go,” Nigel said. “Haven’t got much play in
Mags touched Nigel’s sleeve. “Darling, I’m parched.”
“I’m terribly sorry, my love. Would you like juice or coffee?”
“Both, of course.”
“Goddamn it, Mother,” Trevor exploded. “What the bloody hell are you talking about?”
“Don’t yell at your mother, Trev. It’s bad form.” Nigel rose, and as he did, his robe
parted, giving Allie a full view of little Nigel. Which wasn’t so little. And it appeared
as though he manscaped. Everything.
She tried to hold it in but couldn’t. Erupting with laughter, she slapped a hand over
her lips. Shaking, tears ran down her face.
Trevor turned his angry gaze on her. “What the hell has got into you?”
“Your father just flashed me,” Allie said, trying to catch her breath.
Nigel smiled. “Whoops.” He returned from the sideboard and placed a glass of juice
and a cup of coffee in front of Mags. “Sorry that you saw my dangly bits, Allie. Sometimes
the boys need fresh air.”
She tried to stop but wound up laughing harder. His parents were bananas.
Trevor clenched his jaw. “You”—he pointed at his father—“there are children in the
house, you perv. Wear some fucking clothes to the table.” He pointed at Mags. “And
you. You said you were rethinking the wedding.”
“What? Oh.” Her brow cleared. “Red’s not the right color. And now we’ll have to change
the flowers. And of course the cake I picked will never do.” She sighed and sipped
With jerky movements, Trevor stood. “You two are leaving today. Do you hear me? I’ve
had enough.” He marched to the door and threw it open.
“We’re not golfing then?” Nigel called after him.
Trevor strode to his office. They were a pair of nutters, his parents. After all these
years, he still didn’t know why he let them burrow under his skin. But when his father
flashed Allie, Trevor couldn’t keep his anger in check. For God’s sake, the man had
not an ounce of shame.
A knock on the door brought him out of his thoughts. Allie poked her head inside.
“I’m going to run home and talk to my dad.”
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“I assume you’re referring to the two barking mad people who made me?”
She smiled and nodded. “Yes, them.”
“What the hell is the point of getting married? They’ve had ten weddings between them.
Why go through it again?”
Allie walked to his side of the desk and perched on the corner. “Marriage obviously
means something to them.”
He rubbed his chin and made a disgusted snorting sound—one that was very unbecoming.
He vowed never to make that sound again. “It’s just another excuse for my mother to
plan a party.”
“I’ll bet every time they take those vows, they have the best of intentions.”
Trevor laughed. “Did you hear yourself just now? Vows, as in promises.” He waved his
hand. “Their intentions are bloody pointless.”
She toyed with the hem of her pink dress. “Would vows mean something to you? I mean,
if you made a promise to someone, would it be important for you to keep it?”
He looked up at her and noticed for the first time that she was sitting on his desk,
her bare legs within reach. He wrapped a hand around her knee. “I don’t want to talk
about parents. Or marriage. Or promises.” He slid his hand down her soft calf.
“Of course you don’t.” She gently pulled her leg from his grasp and stood, smoothing
her skirt over her hips. “Trevor?”
He wanted her, here on the desk, and to hell with whoever came barging through the
“It’s none of my business, but how long are you going to let Monica stay?”
More complications—his parents, her sisters. He had a feeling there would be no desk
sex in his immediate future. “Of course it’s your business. She’s your sister. And
I really hadn’t given it any thought. By the way, I bought the house Brad’s been living
Allie stilled. “When?”
“I had my attorney, Alex, make an offer late last night. The landlord was thrilled
to wash his hands of it. There are five people living in a two-bedroom house, and
they’ve made quite a mess of it. But, I figured at least this way, I could ensure
that Monica has a place to live.”
She looked at him, her brow furrowed. “Why did you do that?”
“Because I can.” She seemed surprised, and he didn’t understand why. She already had
too many worries, and if this eased her mind, why wouldn’t he?
Allie left the office and walked out the front door and around to the garage. Of course
he could afford to buy a house. It meant nothing.
That little voice that kept giving Trevor a pass when he acted like a jerk, or gave
him more credit than he deserved when he did something nice, was getting louder. More
annoying and difficult to ignore too.
But this gesture wasn’t personal. Like he said, he did these things because he could,
not because he wanted to make her life easier or better. Or to please her. It was
his nature to take charge. He was bossy like that.
She walked into the garage and found Simmons polishing a car.
Her feet practically skidded to a halt. “Is that…” She pointed to the shiny Festiva.
It looked just like her car but without all the dings and dents. And it was bright,
cherry red, not the faded orangey-red she remembered.
Simmons smiled. “Yes, Miss Allison, it’s yours. Mr. Blake had it fixed, painted, and
detailed.” He walked around to the front and patted on the hood. “There’s a brand-new
engine, new transmission, new brakes and tires. It’s practically a whole new car.”
Simmons chuckled. “One and the same.” He snatched the keys off the wall and handed
them to her. “Here you go. Take her for a spin.”
Allie cleared her throat and blinked back tears. Trevor wasn’t a sweet man. He wasn’t
a kind man. And yet…he had taken in her sisters, he was gentle with Brynn, made sure
Monica had a place to stay. He could have totally taken advantage of her the day she
was sloppy drunk. Instead, he took care of her. And he’d begged for forgiveness. Now
he brought her car back.
She didn’t know what to think about any of this, how to process it. But right now,
she needed to talk to her dad, have it out with him once and for all. He needed to
start acting like a father again. Then she could think about Trevor.
“Thanks,” she said to Simmons, hopped into the Festiva, and took a minute to appreciate
it. It smelled clean and fresh. She started the engine and smiled when it purred instead
Trevor. That look he’d given her at the breakfast table—it made her ache. She wanted
him too. Four days seemed like a long time without sex—even though she’d lived without
for over four years. Now she craved him, like a gambler craved one last bet. But she
couldn’t do anything with her sisters in the house, so moot point.
She waved at Simmons and drove home, enjoying the familiarity of her old car. When
she pulled up to her house, she saw a strange Honda sitting in the driveway. She snapped
off the radio. Who would drop in at seven-thirty?
Allie used her key to let herself in. At the sight of a strange woman walking from
the hallway to the living room, wearing one of her dad’s T-shirts and nothing else,
Allie yelped. “What the hell?”
The other woman screamed and yanked at the hem of the shirt, trying to pull it down
over her hips. “Who are you?” She wore glasses and had chin-length dark hair. She
was on the short side and a little heavy.
“I live here. Who are you?”
Her dad walked out of the kitchen, a spatula in his hand. His brows lifted, causing
the horizontal lines along his forehead to deepen. “Allie, I wasn’t expecting you.”
“Yeah, no shit.” She looked back at the woman. This had to be Karen, the guidance
counselor. “What if Brynn was with me? And why wouldn’t I be here, considering Brynn
and I left you messages all night?”
His mouth opened and closed. “I forgot to charge my phone.”
“Really? Well, while you were dicking around and not checking your phone, Monica was
sitting in jail.”
The color drained out of his face. “Is she all right? What happened? What did she
“I’d like to speak to you in private.” She glared at Karen, her lip curling as she
glanced at the woman’s bare legs. Her father had sex last night, in the house he’d
shared with her mother. Allie trembled with anger.
“I’ll just go get dressed.” Karen scurried out of the room.
Once she was out of sight, Allie turned on him. “Nice, Dad. Brynn ran away from home,
Monica’s in jail, and you’re shagging the guidance counselor.”
He pointed the spatula at her. “I told you not to use that tone with me. Now, come
in the kitchen and tell me what happened. I need to flip a pancake.”
She couldn’t remember the last time he’d made himself a meal and he was cooking pancakes
for Karen? She tossed her purse down on the sofa and stalked to the kitchen. She glanced
around. The place was a mess—spilled pancake batter congealed on the counter, newspapers
and mail littered the table, and three trash bags stood next to the back door. Well,
forget it. She wasn’t picking up after him this time. Let Karen do it.
He flipped a pancake, then faced her. “What happened with Monica?”
“She was arrested for pot possession and underage drinking. Trevor bailed her out
and she spent the night at his place.”
He rubbed his forehead with the back of his hand. “Shit. This boy she’s dating is
Allie gasped. “No, you don’t say.”
“I get it, Al, you’re upset.”
“Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not upset, I’m pissed.” She tried to control herself,
but her breaths were spastic and her chest felt tight. “You’ve spent the last six
months so depressed you could hardly get out of bed in the morning. I’ve been doing
everything around here, the cooking, cleaning, shopping, taking care of the girls.”
Not to mention keeping them from losing their house and trading out medical bills
on her back. Okay, so sex with Trevor wasn’t exactly a chore, but she had traded herself
for her family. And it was humiliating. “And now that you’ve replaced Mom, you still
don’t give a shit about Monica or Brynn.”