The peer and the puppet, p.29
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       The Peer and the Puppet, p.29

           B. B. Reid
 

  “Surviving isn’t living, kitten. You’ll spend so much time wishing for tomorrow that you forget about everything else.”

  “Time can’t heal a festering wound, Jamie. Wishing Barbie out of your heart won’t make the pain go away.”

  “What is it with you?” he growled. “That bitch can take a hike off the nearest cliff for all I care.”

  I was momentarily startled by his viciousness. Jamie’s reactions were never this raw. “You’re a fool.”

  “Yeah, well, it takes a fool to know one,” he said with a curled lip. “Don’t expect Ever to choose between you and his mother. Just because Rosalyn is a piece of shit doesn’t mean everyone’s mother isn’t worth the trouble.”

  I took a step, ready to kick him, punch him, spit in his face, and scratch his eyes out. “Fuck you.”

  I didn’t stick around, and when I made it back to my room, I took Jay D for a walk to keep Tyra from noticing my tears. I lingered a bit longer than usual in the hope that the chilly October night would freeze my heart. When I made it back to my room, Tyra was softly snoring, so I decided to take a quick shower before bed. I ended up staying under the water long enough for the water to run cold, and by the time I finished brushing my hair, I decided that the asshole Buchanan had been right. So far, Ever had outsmarted me at every turn. That aristocratic son of a bitch would probably just call my bluff and turn cold again. Could I risk that?

  Feeling myself crashing after an eventful night, I quickly brushed and flossed. The moment I stepped from the en suite into my bedroom, I knew something was off. The light from the lamp I left on had been extinguished, plunging the room completely into darkness, and a figure far too large to be Tyra’s reclined against my headboard. I couldn’t see his face, but I didn’t need to. I was all too familiar with the breathlessness, the heat, and the throbbing between my legs his mere presence created.

  “Where’s Tyra?”

  “Vaughn got lonely.”

  “They left?”

  “They’re down the hall in the guest room.”

  If Tyra was right about Vaughn knowing she was ready, then she was in for a busy night. Away from her father for the entire night, it was the perfect opportunity. I was suddenly grateful for the dark so Ever couldn’t see my blush. “Sleeping soundly?” Sexual clairvoyance or not, I prayed he’d be patient with her.

  “I wouldn’t know. I’m not with them,” he answered dryly.

  “He better not force her into anything.”

  “Vaughn spends half his day turning down pussy. He doesn’t need to rape to get laid.”

  “His arrogance is exactly what concerns me. What if she bruises his ego?”

  There was a click, and then a soft glow illuminated his scowling face and shirtless torso. The air in the room became stifling as his eyes narrowed. “I swear to fuck you better not be speaking from experience.”

  “What? No!” My face flooded with heat for an entirely different reason now.

  He held my stare for a moment longer before relaxing against the headboard once again. There was still tension as he kept me locked in his gaze, but at least I could breathe again.

  “Vaughn would never hurt her, but I’m sure you already know that or else you would already be down the hall dragging your friend back to safety.”

  “True, but one can never be too sure,” I sassed.

  He didn’t reply as his eyes fell. I clutched my towel a little tighter, suddenly remembering I was naked underneath. The towel was the plushest I’d ever used but still not nearly enough to help me feel less exposed.

  “Truth or dare?”

  “Ever…” I had a good feeling where this was headed.

  “Truth?” He rose from my bed with hungry eyes and stalked across the room. “Or dare?”

  “The game is over.”

  “I’m not done playing.”

  “I’m tired,” I said with a sigh. “Get out.”

  I’d just barely kept my voice from shaking, but of course, he noticed. He was now close enough to touch me though he didn’t. “Truth or dare, little sister. Unless you’re afraid.”

  Little sister?

  I didn’t know about this game. In fact, I was so far out of his league it would have been wise to surrender. But I couldn’t, and he knew that.

  “Truth.” I sounded bolder than I felt but…whatever worked.

  “Do you only want to fuck me because I’m your big, bad brother?”

  I cocked my hip, going for mildly irritated. “Our parents’ hooking up doesn’t make us siblings, McNamara. Besides, Rosalyn will clean your father out long before anything permanent happens.” It was a lie. Rosalyn was no gold digger, but I was hoping an argument would end this game.

  “Answer the question,” he demanded, not missing a beat.

  I pressed my lips tight together. There was no coming back from a scandal like the one he was offering. It had only been minutes ago that I decided not to take the plunge. I preferred my feet planted firmly on the ground.

  “Don’t do this to me.” I shook my head wildly, displaying my desperation.

  “I’m not, princess. I’m doing this to us.”

  “Why?” I whimpered while hating myself. Effortlessly, he often made me forget myself. I feared that one day, I’d wake up an entirely different person. Someone who was soft and easy to bend.

  “Because I’m tired of the pretense. I’ve never denied myself, puppet, and I don’t intend to start now.”

  “So what? I’m just supposed to drop my towel and spread my legs for you because it’s what you want?”

  “Yes.”

  I shouldn’t have been shocked by his gall and arrogance, but even more, I shouldn’t have been turned on by it. Thinking of a way to stall him until I could get my head back on straight, I planted a hand on his chest and stood on my tip toes. He instinctively bent until my lips reached his ear. “Then I dare you.”

  Straightening, he stared down at me with a perplexed expression. “Excuse me?”

  “I. Dare. You.” My hand had trailed from his chest down to the waistband of his jeans where my fingers toyed with the bronze button.

  “To?” In his eyes, I could see his determination to own me and the knowledge that I was already his.

  “Make me want that, too.” I sounded eager and hopeful as if I weren’t wishing he’d fail.

  “You already do,” he accused with narrowed eyes. I could tell he wanted so badly to prove it. The ache between my thighs begged me to let him.

  “And yet, I’m saying no.”

  I WAS AWAKENED THE NEXT morning when Tyra fell onto the bed with a troubled sigh. “Everything okay?” I questioned while trying to shake the grogginess.

  She rolled onto her side so that we were facing each other.

  “Help me, Four. I had no idea how far I’d fallen.”

  That woke me up. “Did you—”

  “No, but man, did he make me regret it.”

  My eyebrows rose when she shivered a little.

  “I assume that’s good?”

  “Oh, it’s very good,” she confirmed with a satisfied nod.

  “So what happened?”

  “Nothing…and everything.”

  “How enlightening.”

  She picked up on my sarcasm and smiled. “He…um…he used his fingers”—she bit her lip as her eyes widened—“and then his mouth, and it was very good but then…” A deep frown appeared.

  “What?”

  “Nothing, and that’s exactly where it went wrong. I told him I was ready, and he told me he disagreed.”

  “Wow.” I didn’t know what else to say, but Tyra looked like she had plenty, so I waited.

  “He said he wouldn’t fuck me until he was sure I understood that this couldn’t go further than sex.” When Tyra burst into tears, I was forced to admit that Ever had been right that night in Coach Bradley’s kitchen. It just seemed so odd since Vaughn’s behavior this past month was not of someone just looking to get laid. He seemed to genuine
ly like her. “That asshole said I was his friend, and he didn’t want to hurt me.”

  And what a fine job he was doing.

  Tyra wiped at her tears before sinking inside her head. I also retreated inside my head and began to wonder when life stopped being so simple. In Cherry, I went to school, worked at the shop, and made sure Rosalyn kept taking her pills after a break-up. Now I had drama, friends, and boy problems. I admit my life before Blackwood Keep had been lonely, but that was just one emotion. I was now juggling six on a good day.

  “I know what we should dare them to do,” Tyra announced. Almost twenty minutes had passed since either of us had spoken.

  The wicked gleam in her eyes made me grateful I wasn’t the guys. “This should be good.”

  Tyra told me the dare before hopping in the shower. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as sinister as they deserved, but it would do. I definitely couldn’t wait to see Ever’s face when we told them.

  A hungover Jamie had been the last to come to breakfast. I caught him sneaking me an apologetic look or two, both of which I ignored. I was used to his cattiness now, which incidentally, was one of the many problems I’d inherited since moving to Blackwood Keep. Moments like last night were when I missed home the most.

  Ever pretty much ignored me while Tyra pointedly ignored Vaughn. He seemed genuinely confused as to the reason, and unfortunately for him, even if Tyra would have wanted it, I wasn’t feeling charitable enough to enlighten him.

  While we ate whatever breakfast we could drum up since Mr. Hunt had the weekends off, Tyra and I delivered the news. Ever and Vaughn would be getting piercings, to each of their horrors, and Jamie, the emotionally unstable ass, would write a letter from the heart and read it to an audience of his choosing before graduation. Since he already had a piercing in his nose and God knows where else—I was pretty sure I glimpsed a nipple ring at some point—Tyra and I decided it wouldn’t be much of a challenge for him to get another one.

  Before leaving to complete their dare, Ever surprised me by pilfering the keys to my bike. He made sure I saw the promise in his eyes just before he walked out the door with Vaughn and Jamie. I was pretty sure the keys came with a catch, but I’d worry about that later.

  It was mid-afternoon when they filed into the garage. Jay D was busy getting into everything while I was teaching Tyra the basic functions as she straddled the bike.

  “Looking good, T-baby!” Jamie’s grinning face and the new hoop that replaced the stud in his nostril was the first to capture my attention, but when I searched Ever and Vaughn’s faces, I found them bare.

  “We had a deal. Where’s your piercing?” Tyra demanded. She’d hopped from the bike and stood with her hands planted on her hips.

  Ever’s mask remained intact, but it was Vaughn who gave them away. “You’re going to have to search a little lower,” he answered with a twinkle in his eye.

  A blushing Tyra fell silent, and when I met Ever’s gaze again, there was a challenge there. Not going there.

  “You already had that one,” I said to Jamie.

  His answering grin only deepened my curiosity.

  “Let us in on the gag, will ya?”

  “We did your dare,” Vaughn said with a shrug, “and unless you’re willing to go searching, you’re just going to have to take our word for it.”

  Fuck. Once again, I’d been outfoxed. It was becoming clear that I needed to sharpen my game. I was pretty sure this had been Ever’s doing. His silence spoke volumes.

  Tyra rolled her eyes, but then a wicked gleam, identical to the one she had this morning, entered them a moment later. “Maybe we should get pierced in secret places, and see how they like it.”

  I tapped my chin with my forefinger. “What an interesting proposal, Miss Bradley.”

  “Is that an invitation?” Ever pinned me under his stare as he waited for my answer. I hesitated, wondering why his voice sounded thicker—almost too thick to understand what he’d asked.

  “Hardly.” It would be far more fun to keep him guessing.

  “Be careful playing with fire, Four.” He spoke his words with care and when he said—“There’s a hundred percent chance you’ll get burned”—I understood why. The flash of metal, piercing his swollen tongue, must have made it pretty hard to speak. I felt heat pool in my stomach as he headed for the door with Jamie on his heels. I couldn’t believe he’d chosen to pierce his tongue of all places. While the addition looked damn sexy on him, I didn’t understand his choice. It didn’t fit the meticulous elegance I’d grown used to.

  Vaughn was a little slower to follow as he walked backward with his arm raised and his finger pointed at Tyra. “Get that pretty little pussy pierced. I don’t mind. You just remember that I offered you a treasure hunt. Reciprocity. Is. Mandatory.” The moment he disappeared inside the house Tyra and I gaped at each other.

  “Did he say your…” I gestured to her part in question.

  “You don’t you think he—” She gestured to her part in question.

  Our eyes bulged at the same time.

  “Oh. My. God!” Tyra screeched. “He. Did!”

  Tyra announced she was running home to show her face to her overprotective father but not before sharing her painful idea to get a Brazilian wax. She’d reasoned that even though she was out of the running to get her cherry popped, she should still be prepared. I didn’t disagree. Vaughn may have turned her down, but any moment now, his desire would overcome him. Of course, she didn’t want to do it alone and insisted that as best friends, it was mandatory that we got our pubes ripped from our vaginas together.

  “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.”

  “Did you just quote Bobby Unser?”

  “I figured if you wouldn’t listen to me, you’d listen to a role model. I googled it right after I called for a reservation. Smart, huh?”

  “A tad unfair, but who’s measuring?”

  “Lighten up, Four. It’s totally worth the fifteen minutes of torture. You won’t have to shave for like a month.”

  “I don’t shave. Well…not really.”

  “Seriously? You have a bush?” She looked as if I’d just admitted to having herpes.

  “I trim the hedges. I just don’t whack them all down.”

  “Wow…I have a newfound respect for Ever. Didn’t you say he’s gone down on you twice? I hear some guys are jerks about it.”

  I shrugged, unsure how to answer. I’d never thought it a big deal, but now that I was feeling self-conscious, I agreed to go. After she left, I took Jay D upstairs, grabbed number six, and was back in the garage before Ever could catch wind of what I was up to. I wasn’t sure if he’d actually stop me, but I wasn’t willing to chance it, either.

  An hour later, I’d convinced myself that nothing topped the high of going a buck on an open road until I flew through the gates of McNamara manor and found Ever waiting at the end of the drive. I kept my bike pointed in his direction and was slower than I should have been to decelerate. Ever didn’t flinch when I finally braked a mere foot away. Shame. While I knew he wouldn’t shit himself, I was hoping he’d at least break a sweat. I plucked off number six, a yellow and black open-faced helmet bearing the Eye of Providence and the Hamsa, and smoothed my flyaways back—something I never would have cared about before—before meeting his gaze.

  “Something the matter?”

  He nodded toward the helmet now resting between the handlebars. “I didn’t take you for a religious person.”

  He was still all tongue when he spoke, but somehow, he made it work. Still, I had a hard time hiding my amusement, and of course, he didn’t miss a thing as he narrowed his eyes.

  “It was Rea Anderson’s—three-time Superstock champion—until she was forced into retirement when her leg crapped out.”

  He didn’t seem impressed. “You’ve been gone a while.”

  “I didn’t think you’d notice.”

  “If my father checks the mileage, you’re fucked.”

  I
smirked as I twirled the keys around my finger. “Don’t you mean we’re fucked?”

  “I’m not the one who will care if you lose the bike,” he bit back.

  His words were a blow to the gut. My chin lifted as I crossed my arms. “Then why did you help me?”

  “Silly me. That was before I saw you ride.”

  My eyes narrowed. “I sure as hell don’t remember asking for your opinion, but while we’re on the subject, let me fill you in: I know what I’m doing.”

  “Which is exactly what makes you reckless. You know better.”

  “What do you know about bikes or riding one, for that matter?” His silence was all the answer I needed. I kicked the stand in place, swung my leg over the bike, and stomped toward him until there was nothing between us. “What I do may seem scary to you, but I’ve been on the back of a bike before I even grew breasts or learned why the space between my legs makes assholes like you think you’re in charge.”

  I was breathing fire and seeing red. How dare he criticize when he knew less than shit? Racing was my life.

  Glittering golden orbs stared down at me, and then he was pushing forward. I had no choice but to retreat or be knocked down. I should have known better than to get so close. When pushed, Ever always pushed back. He kept coming until I was straddling my front tire with nowhere else to go.

  “You think being a brat will push me away? I promise, it only makes me want to bend you over those handlebars and show you the reason why I’m in charge.” And just like that, I was engulfed by the fire I’d been spitting a moment ago. “Tread carefully.” He turned on his heel and, without a second glance, swaggered back inside.

  I was still standing in the same spot when Tyra pulled up a moment later. I was on autopilot as I listened to her retelling of Coach Bradley’s interrogation while I stored the bike away. Inside the house, we found the guys in the family room. Vaughn and Jamie were playing against each other in some first-shooter game, and Ever pretended to be engrossed in their bloody battle when he took the offered key ring. When our fingers brushed, I felt the spark, and I knew he did too, but he continued to ignore me. Rolling my eyes, I retreated upstairs.

 

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