Anti-Stepbrother(6)

By: Tijan



“Your stepbrother is a dick.”

I turned around, my throat still burning. Caden stood there, not looking surprised. His hard eyes were locked on me, despite the girl plastered against his side. She had her arm around his waist.

He was waiting for a response, and maybe he expected a denial. I didn’t know, but all I said was, “I couldn’t agree with you more.”

His eyes widened, and surprise flashed in them, but I was done.

I slipped out the door and left.

I’d been so stupid.





I’d driven up to North River University ahead of Sheila and my dad last night.

Today was move-in day for me since I was coming up earlier than others, so I’d told them I had a friend to stay with. They never questioned me. That “friend” was supposed to be Kevin, and because that didn’t work out, I’d checked into a hotel room.

Now here I was, bright and cheery—not so much—waiting in my dorm’s lounge for their SUV to arrive. Sheila and my dad were planning on seeing Kevin too, but I was hoping they’d go find him after my stuff was moved in.

“Summer.”

No such luck.

I looked up from the couch, and my heart sank at the same time the old butterflies lurched up into my throat. Kevin looked so damn good. Freshly showered—his hair was still wet—and wearing a snug shirt over jeans, he kept his shades covering his eyes. My heart did a little flip-flop.

I hated him.

No. I only wished I did.

He flashed me a grin, showing his perfect, white teeth, and he came forward, holding two coffees. He offered one to me. “Got you your favorite. Sugar free, right?”

I took it, my hands closing around the warm cup, and I let out a silent sigh. I could already feel a traitorous grin tugging at the corner of my mouth. It was like I lost control over myself when he was around. I hoped it wasn’t always going to be like this.

“Yeah.” I held the cup in front of me like it was a shield and made a point of looking around. “Uh, where’s our mom and dad? Did they call you already?”

He didn’t move. I felt like he was studying me, but I couldn’t see through his shades. He nodded, slowly. “Yeah. They called when they were a half-hour away.” He glanced around.

A few girls lingered by the front desk, stealing glances in his direction, but no one else was in the lounge. I purposely sat across the room, in the farthest corner, but he moved close, even though he didn’t need to. He cleared his throat, and I got ready.

“Um…so…about last night—”

I waved him off. “No worries.”

He frowned, his forehead wrinkling. “But—”

I looked away. “No. I mean it. I came early and stopped to say hi. That was all. You looked busy, so yeah, I left.” Please leave it alone. Please leave it alone. I prayed silently.

After another beat, he coughed and shifted back in his seat.

“Okay. Well, thanks.”

I nodded. My neck was stiff. “Yeah. No problem.”

“Summer, are you sure?”

“Oh, yeah.” I bobbed my head up and down, clenching the coffee cup like it was going to slip away. Then, as if in answer to my prayer, they pulled up to the door. “Look. They’re here.” I couldn’t keep the relief out of my voice.

As I started forward to meet our parents, I caught how Kevin had looked out the window, then jackknifed back to face me. But I was ahead of him and hoping to leave the awkwardness in the dust behind me.

“Mom. Dad.” I waved as they got out of their SUV and started our way.

I set the coffee on a bench as I knew this one-day-apart reunion       would consist of hugs. Sheila liked hugs, and I was soon engulfed in her arms.

“Summer.” Sheila held me to her, murmuring into my hair. “You dear girl. I’m not letting you go, you know. Nope. Not going to happen. You’re firmly glued in my arms. I’ll hug you to death.”

“Mom.” I could hear the smile in Kevin’s voice as he stood next to us. “You gotta let her go. She’s going to need oxygen at some point.”

“Nope.” She shook her head, rocking from side to side with me. “I lost you to this hell called college. I’m not ready to lose this girl too.”

I laughed. It felt good to hear the words. Sheila had never pushed to replace my real mother, but in some ways, she’d stepped into her shoes seamlessly. There hadn’t been any problems when the two families merged. There should’ve been, but there just weren’t. It might’ve helped that I knew my mom would’ve wanted my dad to be happy, and he was. I couldn’t deny that. Sheila had let me set the pace, and when I’d started doing my homework out on the dining room table instead of holed in my room, I knew she’d rejoiced. Food had begun to pile up around me. Then drinks. Then her own work.

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