Romance: Stepbrother Passion (4 page)

BOOK: Romance: Stepbrother Passion
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Chapter Seven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mel is already at the coffee machine when I arrive bright and early on Monday morning.

“So how was the ballet?” she asks as I saunter over. “Get laid?”

I laugh pitifully. “Ha ha funny. But no, I didn’t go.”

“What?”

“I cancelled. I just wasn’t feeling up to it.”

“What do you mean you ‘weren’t feeling up to it’? Are you fricken serious? It was The Nutcracker. You make yourself feel up for it!”

“Um, you didn’t go either.”

“That’s because I literally felt like death. I cannot believe that you bailed on Cole! I had already pegged you for wife number two.”

“Firstly, marrying Cole? That’s insane. Secondly, I can still go see The Nutcracker. It’s showing all month.”

“Um, not with those seats you can’t.” Mel smiles and slides over a steaming cup of coffee.

“Oh no,” she then says more apologetically. “It’s not because I made you work on Saturday is it? Shoot. I knew I should’ve just sucked it up.”

“No. It was fine. I bailed because…” I am about to mention Dylan but then I notice the bouquet of purple roses at the far end of the counter.

“What are those?” I ask, turning back to Mel.             

“Oh yeah, I forgot. Those came for you by courier about 20 minutes ago. Someone is keen to impress!”

“Did they leave a note?”

“Nope. It’s probably in there somewhere.”

I leave the coffee and walk over to the bouquet.

Weird.

Who would be sending me flowers at all let alone so early in the morning?

It is barely nine o’clock.

“I assumed they were from Cole,” Mel sings out.

“I doubt it,” I say, shrewdly. “I don’t think he takes blow offs very well.”

As I begin to search for a note I feel my cell phone buzz in my pocket. It is a text message from an unknown number:

 

 

Good morning Miss Wilde. I hope you like the roses. I remember your Mom saying they were your favorite once. Looking forward to Friday night – DM

 

 

Damn.

Not only is he seductive but he is now also charming?

He is not playing fair.

“So you DO know who sent them?” Mel suddenly says, popping up beside me. I jump and nearly drop the phone.

“Mel! You almost gave me a heart attack!”

“Who is DM? Another secret?”

“No, I was going to tell you about it, before I got distracted by the roses...”

“Right,” Mel drawls sarcastically.

“I was. I promise.”

“Okay. Spill the beans then!”

I take a deep breath and prepare myself for Mel’s theatrical reaction.

“When I was closing up on Saturday…Dylan dropped by.”

“Dylan? As in…oh my! He’s DM?”

And the Mel-o-drama begins.

Mel starts jumping on the spot.

It is humiliating even without customers in the store.

“Mel, take it easy,” I say, waving my hands at her.

But she completely ignores me.

“What happened? I want to know everything! This is so crazy. We were only talking about him at lunch the other day. It must be fate!”

“It is not fate,” I say flatly. “He looked me up.”

“Even better,” Mel smiles coyly. “So what did he want?”

“I’m not sure. We just talked briefly and then he asked me out to dinner. He wants to ‘catch up’.”

“Like a date?”

“I don’t know. I mean, I wasn’t sure what to think. But now after the roses…maybe. And we were family once, remember?”

“For what? Like a week? This is totally a date. Guys don’t send flowers unless they’re really into you. Or want to sleep with you. Either way it’s awesome. You’re dating like the hottest guy in Manhattan!”

“Cut it out. We’re not dating. Oh, and he’s a former felon, may I remind you.”

“Yeah but a HOT one! Speaking of, how did he become an attorney with a criminal record?”

“I’ve been wondering the exact same thing.”

“Well, who cares anyway? It’s all in the past. He’s respectable now. Rehabilitated or whatever. People change.”

“No they don’t,” I laugh condescendingly.

“Oh come on, Ell. That took effort coming down here to see you. Wait, where’s his firm?”

“The Upper East Side.”

“Get out. Do you think he lives around there too?”

“Maybe.”

“Well you’ll find out soon enough. So when is this dinner?”

“Friday.”

I do not why I am allowing Mel’s exuberant enthusiasm for my love life to continue. She should know that Dylan is not to be trusted.

“Do you know where yet?”

“No.”

“Ooh how romantic. A surprise! I’m super jealous. Do you think he has any cute and single attorney friends? I’m not fussy on the single part.” Mel winks scandalously.

“You’re unbelievable,” I scoff, walking back to my coffee. “Now come on. We have a bookstore to run you know!”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dylan is half an hour late.

I am sitting in The Lion, one of the swankest restaurants in New York, and marveling at how Dylan managed to get a table at such late notice. Above me artwork hangs like a showcase, eccentric images at their finest and all dripping with price tags that I know are well beyond the thousands.

An antique fireplace also sits poised at the edge of the room, a beautiful piece of heritage marked with long glass windows on either side, the gold shimmering lights of the city blinking beyond. Even the wooden candelabras fixed with naked bulbs are intimidating.

“Another cosmopolitan madam?” the perfectly tailored waiter asks.

“Yes, thank you,” I say stiffly, glancing down at my second empty glass.

I heard a dating expert say on Good Morning America once that you should only have one drink on a first date. One is enough to get the blood flowing and help you relax.

But two or more causes you to flush, making you look at your absolute worst. I am terribly underdressed in generic skinny black jeans and an emerald blouse, with two well-known celebrities canoodling on one side of me, and another movie star on the other.

Flushing is the least of my concerns.

“Ella, my apologies for being so late,” Dylan unexpectedly says, coming up behind me.

I turn too quickly and catch his lips that were meant for my cheek.

“Oh gosh. I didn’t mean to do that,” I gasp, turning brighter than even ten cosmopolitans would cause.

“That’s perfectly all right. It’s not like we’ve never kissed before,” he replies with a wink.

I laugh feebly.

What am I even doing here? 

“Well I see you’ve already started on drinks. Ah Maurice, your timing is excellent,” Dylan says as the waiter returns with my third cosmopolitan. “Gin. Bombay Sapphire. And the selection of oysters to start.”

“Right away, sir.”

I watch Maurice carefully rush off to fill the order.

“You come here often then?”

“Yes, I’ve entertained a few clients here.”

“Of course you have,” I chide. “Of the female variety too no doubt.”

I feel the cosmos taking effect.

Dylan looks at me oddly.

“If I didn’t know any better I would think you’re already drunk, Ella.”

The comment offends me instantly.

“Well, if you had been on time I wouldn’t be drinking. Why were you so late anyway?”

He pauses in the same way he did at the bookstore.

“I… was still with a client. The meeting ran overtime. Once again I apologize. But as for the you being drunk part, there’s sparkling water on the table.”

“Yes, there is. But I’m sitting in a room with A-list celebrities and wearing the wrong attire because you said to dress ‘comfortably’. And you’re wearing a suit that clearly looks Valentino. So I think you’d be drinking too.”

It comes out louder than intended. Even the celebrities stop kissing to stare at us.

“Touché,” Dylan laughs, taking my hand. “It really is nice to see you again, Ella. You haven’t changed one bit.”

Is he serious?

I am nothing like I was ten years ago!

“I’ll have you know that your observations are completely inaccurate. I don’t even know why I agreed to this in the first place.”

“Wow, you really don’t like me much do you?”

“It isn’t exactly easy to,” I snap, trying to loosen my hand from his grip.

“Then why did you come?”

“Who knows? Foolish curiosity I guess.”

“Curiosity about what?”

“Your motives.”

“My motives? You think I have a motive for tonight?”

“Don’t you?”

Dylan pauses and lets go of my hand. He sits back in his seat, peering into my eyes like he is searching for an answer to something.

“I never stopped thinking about you,” he utters softly.

My heart leaps in my chest.

Did I hear him right? 

“What did you just say?”

“The day you left for college, when I came back to the pool house knowing you were long gone, it left a pit in my stomach, Ella. But I thought leaving the note was the right thing to do.”

“I don’t know what to say,” I stammer, barely processing what is happening.              

“I haven’t forgotten that day, that night or you. Ella, you’re what kept me going in prison. I told myself that once I was out I would make something of myself and then try and win you back.”

Win me back?

Is he for real?

What is this? We only slept together for one night. We didn’t date for years.

“First of all, you can’t ‘win’ something you never had. Second of all, do you really expect me to believe that I am what kept you going in prison? That’s crazy, Dylan.”

“I know and I expected you to have this reaction. But you did keep me sane in there. I liked you so much. I was just too messed up to do anything about it. But I’m not like that anymore, I promise.” He takes my hand again and squeezes it gently.

“Okay. So what has any of this got to do with me now? Is this a ‘thanks for helping me get through jail’ dinner?”

“No. This is a date.”              

“Right,” I exhale.

The butterflies from my Mom’s wedding are back in full force, fluttering madly in my stomach.

I feel the blood rushing to my head.

“Do you believe me?”

“I want to,” I whisper, uncertain. “This is just a lot to take in right now.”

As if fate is as merciful as it is uncanny, Maurice returns with the gin and oysters. It is just the distraction I need to get away for a while.

“I need to use the bathroom, excuse me,” I say curtly, rising from my seat.

Dylan looks at me fearfully, like he knows I am contemplating making a run for it.

“Shall I bring you another cosmopolitan madam?” Maurice asks.

“No,” I say, pulling my hand out from underneath Dylan’s. “Sparkling water is fine.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the subdued light of the restaurant, Dylan looks even more devastatingly handsome.

I would be lying if I said I did not feel some elation at being brought here on a date. At least that is what I kept telling myself in the powder room mirror for like ten minutes. Dylan McCormack wants ME.

He is waiting for ME.

Wise words you would have thought, but as soon as I walked back out all the confidence had just crumbled away.

“So, what’s it like being a defense attorney?” I ask offhandedly, yet know it is a loaded question.

“It has its moments,” Dylan replies firmly. “But I enjoy it.”

I nod and continue on. “I have to admit I was surprised when I read… I mean when you told me you were an attorney.”

“Because of the felony?”

“That and the fact that you never seemed to have any career ambitions when we were younger.”

He swigs the rest of the gin and gestures to Maurice for another.

“I had dreams. I just didn’t understand that’s what they were at the time. I guess I was just too caught up in that whole ‘bad boy’ thing, huh? Man, I was such a jerk. In terms of the felony, I was only 18 and I only served a year, so they let me sit the bar exam. I had the panel to contend with after that but a few of them knew my dad and knew we were ‘of money’ so in the end they let me practice. I got lucky.”

“Sounds it,” I say, raising my eyebrows. “May I ask what the felony was?”

“Breaking and entering, me and another guy. But he went too far. He ah… clubbed the old man who owned the house. I didn’t even know the man was home. Otherwise I never would have…” He looks down, shifting uneasily before continuing on. “There were a few similar crimes around the same time so the judge decided to make an example out of us.”

He looks away with genuine sorrow in his eyes.

“Anyway, that’s enough about me. What about you? What have you been doing all these years, besides owning a highly successful bookstore?”

“That’s quite a story you’ve told, Dylan. Mine is…somewhat less colorful.”

“All the better to hear it.”

“Okay. Well, after I graduated from NYU I worked for a publishing company over in Brooklyn for a few years, which is also where I live and-”

“What part?”

“Excuse me?”

“What part of Brooklyn?”

“Oh. Park Slope.”

“Nice. A very bohemian little part of New York, I quite like it. But sorry you were saying?”

“Ah…so, I worked for the publishing company right up until my friend Mel, who had previously been working in Washington as a marketing executive, moved back to New York and we put the plan together to make the bookstore ‘Wilde At Heart’ a reality. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell.”

“Mel. I remember her. Flirty girl.”

“Still is,” I chuckle.

“And boyfriends? Surely you must have had guys throwing themselves at you? I mean look at you! You’re even more stunning than your Mom.”

I turn away shyly. “There were a few guys. I lived with one for a while.”

“Oh? May I ask what happened?”

“I don’t know exactly. Suddenly walks in the park together weren’t the same. It just stopped feeling right and…” I stop.

Wait, why am I telling him this?

“I’m sorry,” I say quickly, flushing again. “That was definitely the cosmopolitans talking.”

“It’s okay,” Dylan says reassuringly. “I asked. Besides, if you were both still together I wouldn’t be here right now, would I?”

I smile and take a sip from my glass, secretly sighing with relief when Maurice appears with our mains.

 

 

BOOK: Romance: Stepbrother Passion
2.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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