Stepbrother Backstage (The Hawthorne Brothers Book 3)

BOOK: Stepbrother Backstage (The Hawthorne Brothers Book 3)
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Copyright © 2015 Hearts Collective

 

All rights reserved. This document may not be reproduced in
any way without the expressed written consent of the author. The ideas,
characters, and situations presented in this story are strictly fictional, and
any unintentional likeness to real people or real situations is completely
coincidental.

* * *

 

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STEPBROTHER BACKSTAGE

A Hawthorne Brothers Novel

Book Three

 

* * * 

by Colleen Masters

 

Prologue

Outside of Stowe, Vermont

Early Summer

 

I stand at the foot of my narrow twin bed, staring down at a
snarled tangle of sheets and limbs. The sun has just peeked its face over the
trees that stand sentinel around my family’s property, but I barely notice its
soft rays streaming in through my bedroom window. I’m too distracted by the
glaringly pale full moon that’s rising up among my sheets.

“Hey…
Hey
,” I whisper roughly, my none-too-pleased
voice cutting through the early morning silence of the old farmhouse. But the
tall, gangly body twisted up in my bedding doesn’t stir. The sheets shift away,
giving me an even clearer view of his pasty, naked ass.

Lovely
.

I raise a foot and prod at his back with my big toe, not
wanted to get my hands involved. “Ethan, wake up,” I insist, punctuating my
words with persistent toe-pokes. “Wake. Up. Right. Effing.
Now
.”

With a glamorous snort, the boy jerks awake before me, his
mop of black hair standing up every which way. His bloodshot eyes swivel wildly
around the room, landing finally on my unamused face. A giddy smile spreads
across his lips as he sees me standing over him in the cold light of day.

“Well…” he drawls tipsily, reaching for my hand, “Fancy
meeting
you
here.”

“Is it ‘fancy’? Really?” I laugh sharply, keeping my hands
safely out of reach, “Waking up naked in someone else’s bed is
fancy
to
you? I’d hate to know what casual looks like.”

“What, didn’t you have fun last night?” he slurs,
unconcerned about his utter lack of clothing, “Didn’t I show you a good time?”

“Ethan…What’s the last thing you remember about last night?”
I ask drily, gathering my light blonde hair into a hasty top knot.

“I remember showing up at your house for the party…” he
begins with a mischievous grin, “I remember thinking, ‘Damn, Anna Porter looks
smokin’
tonight’. I remember talking you up like crazy…”

“And I’m guessing you
don’t
remember drinking five
cups of grain alcohol punch and blacking out before 10pm?” I cut him off.

“Huh?” Ethan replies, his brow furrowing, “I didn’t—”

“And I’m sure you also don’t remember me and four other
people hauling you up here to sleep it off,” I go on, “Or insisting on taking
all of your clothes off to the tune of ‘Blurred Lines’ before you’d agree to
get in bed?”

“So you and I didn’t…You know…” Ethan blathers, looking at
me with ardent desperation, “Do it?”

“No, Ethan,” I sigh, “We most certainly did not ‘do it’.”

“Goddammit,” the overgrown boy groans, falling back against
the bed in which I’ve slept my entire life, “I wanted to land you before I
headed to Spain for the summer! Epic fail.”

“How tragic,” I deadpan.

“Right?” he pouts, “But hey, it’s not too late…”

“Oh, no. You misunderstood me,” I cut him off, “I meant your
grasp of how sex between two people works is tragic. That, and the fact that
you’re still using the word ‘land’ in reference to the women you sleep with.
We’re not in a ‘90s teen movie, Ethan. Get your shit together.”

“Damn, Anna,” Ethan grumbles, wrapping himself up in a lilac
sheet and going in search of his pants, “I didn’t mean anything by it. You need
to relax.”

“What I
need
is for you to clear out so I can get my
house back in order,” I reply, “It’s trashed. As usual. Thank god high school
parties are officially behind us, now. Happy graduation to me.”

“Come on,” Ethan cajoles, shucking on his clothes, “You’re
seriously not going to miss high school?”

“Not for a goddamn second,” I say, marching him out of my room
and down the stairs.

“I guess college will be pretty sweet too,” he allows,
trailing along behind me, “Two words, Porter: dorm rooms. Look out, freshman
girls of UVM, Ethan Hodges is on his way! Hey, where did you say you were going
to school again?”

“I didn’t say, because I’m not going,” I inform him,
wrenching open the front door.

“You didn’t get in anywhere?” he gasps. “Shit. That’s
rough.”

“I didn’t get in anywhere because I didn’t
apply
anywhere,”
I say impatiently, “I’m taking a gap year.”


Ohhh
,” Ethan says, planting a hand on the wooden
doorframe and nodding vigorously, “A gap year. Like they do in Europe?”

“I guess,” I reply shortly, fingers tightening around the
doorknob.

“But wait a minute,” he grins, “That means you’re gonna miss
out on all that free-for-all of college sex. You sure you don’t want a little
sneak preview before I head out? It wouldn’t be any trouble…”

“Ethan…” I chuckle, giving him a punch on the shoulder,
“Don’t you get it? Not having to endure terrible, awkward sex with a bunch of
floundering boys is going to be the
best part
of not going to college.
Why would I ruin that by sleeping with you?”

“Ugh. Whatever, Anna,” Ethan scowls, turning on his heel and
marching away, “Enjoy being a free spirited little outcast for the rest of your
life.”

“Thanks! I will!” I say enthusiastically, giving him a
chipper flip of the bird before slamming the door in his wake.

I sink down onto the stairs, taking a deep breath as silence
closes in on the house once more. It’s just me, now. As usual. I survey the
damage on the ground floor of the farmhouse—empty beer cans and red solo cups,
pizza crusts, cashed joints and cigarette butts overflowing in makeshift
ashtrays. I’m used to the sight of this morning-after wreckage, by now. For
months, my high school classmates have been descending on my family home every
chance they get. It’s the perfect place to party, after all. It’s secluded from
the prying eyes of local police, it’s got tons of empty bedrooms for all kinds
of sexy shenanigans, and it’s entirely parent-free. It’s any high schooler’s
dream come true… Or something.

The task of tidying up after my classmates is daunting, but
I’m somewhat cheered when I remember that this is the last time I’ll ever have
to do it. “Chateau Porter” is officially closing its doors to high school party
animals. Last night was my class’s collective graduation party, one last
throw-down before everyone scatters across the country in a race to rack up
inhuman amounts of student debt.

Everyone but me, that is.

Pulling myself to standing, I trudge into the kitchen and
flip on the radio. It’s
Talking Heads
hour on our local station. That’ll
do the trick. I retrieve a garbage bag from under the sink and set to cleaning
as David Byrne starts crooning “This Must Be the Place”. After all these months
on my own, I’ve got my post-party tidying up routine down to a science. Ever
since my mom flew the coop back in the early spring, I’ve gotten plenty of
practice fending for myself. Though of course, I was doing that long before she
left. If anything, it’s just gotten easier since she’s been gone. Less
complicated.


Home is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already
there
…” I sing along to the radio, plucking up detritus in time with the
beat.

There was a time when I would have agreed wholeheartedly
with that sentiment. For most of my life, this old farmhouse
was
my
home. My parents bought it before I was even born, back when my dad first got a
job at a nearby university. He was an English professor, my mom was an
up-an-coming visual artist. In the next twenty-odd years, they raised three
kids in this house—first my sisters Madeleine and Sophia, and finally me.
Annabel.

Growing up on this wide, wooded swath of land was like a
fairy tale. I was free to roam around the forest, daydreaming to my hearts’
content, knowing that I had a safe place to rest my head at journey’s end. My
mom, Robin, was usually too wrapped up in her next art project to be more than
a fanciful playmate, but my father Archie always made sure his girls got what
we needed—be it a paper-bagged lunch or a kiss goodnight. Until

Why does there always have to be an “until”?

Our family was perfectly functional, even happy, until about
three years ago. That’s when my father was killed by a drunk driver as he was coming
home from a late night grading papers on campus. The driver was a student at
the same university where Dad taught, drunk off his ass on an end-of-semester
binge. Which explains another reason why people love partying at my farmhouse—I
make my friends walk home if they’ve had too much to drink. If any of my party
guests try to drive off drunk, they can be sure that I’ll toss their keys right
into the duck pond.

The chirping of my cell phone cuts through both the music
and my quickly-darkening thoughts. I glance over at the device buzzing slowly
across the counter and check the caller ID. The name “Robin Porter” glows
bright and clear on the screen. I snatch up the phone before it vibrates right
off the counter and take my mother’s call.

“Mom. I was just thinking about you,” I say in greeting,
hopping up to sit on the counter.

“Uh-oh,” she laughs breezily, “Am I in some kind of
trouble?”

“Just mulling over all the terrible things I’m going to
write about you in my memoir,” I reply brightly, crossing my long legs. “So, no
more trouble than usual.”

“That’s great, sweetie,” she replies, having tuned out my
sarcastic remarks. “But really, am I catching you at a bad time? Are you busy?”

“Just cleaning up from last night’s epic rager,” I tell her,
tossing an errant Dorito into the sink, “But I can take a break.”

“I never know when you’re pulling my leg these days,
Annabel,” she tells me.

“Whatever do you mean, mother?” I reply, feigning loftiness,
“I wouldn’t dream of pulling those beautiful legs of yours.”

It’s true, too. I never have cause to lie to my mother. Her
own behavior is so erratic that even my craziest stunts pale in comparison. A
little high school party is nothing compared to, say, ditching your youngest
child to go live in the woods for months at a time… If only that were a
hypothetical situation.

“So, how are the boonies treating you?” I ask her, “Wrestle
any good bears lately?”

“Ha, ha,” she replies, “Very funny. These are hardly the
boonies, I’ll have you know. This is my hometown! Have a little respect.”

“Does your hometown still have one stop light and no
Chipotle?”

“…Yes.”

“Then it’s the boonies. Sorry.”

“You’re impossible,” Robin sighs, “But I miss you, all the
same.”

“I… miss you too, Mom,” I tell her, guilt tugging at my
heart strings. I take it back. I guess I
do
sometimes bend the truth for
my mother’s sake.

For the last couple months, Mom’s been on a pilgrimage back
to her hometown in Montana. She cited “getting back to her roots and away from
it all” as her reasons for going at the time. I’ve tried not to take it too
personally. To be honest, I was sort of relieved to get some distance from her.
Since Dad died three years ago, Mom and I have been on our own here at the
farmhouse. Maddie was finishing up school out West when it happened, and Sophie
shipped off for undergrad soon after. I was only sixteen at the time, left on
my own with a grief-addled stranger who’d once been my mom. Our roles were
unceremoniously flipped, with me taking care of her and raising myself the best
I could.

But you know what? I think I’ve turned out OK, all things
considered. Turns out I’m a pretty good mom, myself.

“Listen,” she says excitedly, jerking me out of my reverie,
“I have something I want to run past you.”

“Mhmm?” I mutter, bracing myself. Robin is the queen of
harebrained schemes, and is always out to rope me and my sisters into her
shenanigans.

“How would you like to come out here to Montana and visit me
for a couple of weeks?” she asks breathlessly.

“Wait. What?” I reply, “I thought the whole point of you
going out there was to have some alone time.”

“Not necessarily,” she says vaguely, “And besides, it’s been
ages since I’ve had all my girls in the same place.”


All
your girls?” I ask, “You’re trying to get Maddie
and Sophie out there too? Good luck with that.”

“What makes you so sure they wouldn’t be interested?”

“Uh, because you’d be asking Maddie to stop working for
three seconds, which we all know is physically impossible. And Sophie’s taking
all manner of extra classes this summer just to avoid a family vacation. You
know this.” 

“Well, joke’s on you, Missy,” Robin says smugly, “Because I
already got your sisters to agree to it.”

“Seriously?” I ask.

“Seriously,” she replies triumphantly.

“So, were you holding them at gunpoint, or…?”

“What’s with all the sass today, huh?” she cuts in, her
friendly veneer cracking just a hair, “I thought you’d be excited about getting
to see your sisters! Come on, Anna. Say you’ll come out here. Please?
Pleeeease?

I bite my lip, mulling it over. On the one hand, it would be
good to see my sisters. Maddie’s got her own life in Seattle now, while Sophie
basically lives at her college year-round. And as self-sufficient as I’ve
become these past few years, I don’t relish the idea of being in this house
once all my friends have headed off to school. It’s hard enough to keep the bad
memories at bay with a houseful of rowdy classmates around—on my own, I fear it
might be impossible. And hey, why not start my gap year off with a trek into
the wilderness? Even if I have to spend most of the trip mediating my mom and
sisters’ clashing personalities, at least it will be a change of pace.

“Anna? You still there?” Mom presses, “What do you think?”

“I think…There must be a catch,” I reply honestly.

“No catch, I promise,” she laughs, “Just some quality time
with the whole family.”

BOOK: Stepbrother Backstage (The Hawthorne Brothers Book 3)
11.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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