Stepbrother Inked

By: Violet Blaze

Three years earlier...

I curled my own fingers around my throat and bit back a gasp. It shouldn't feel so good to be touched like this. The hand wrapped around my own was firm, but insistent. There was no way I was getting out of it this time.

“Flor.” The word dropped from my lips like a cinder, one that I thought had gone cold but that always managed to flair back to life in a surge of heat and desire that I knew was wrong. Knew it. But couldn't stop the fire from fanning itself into a raging flame.

My brother – sorry, my stepbrother because let's be honest here, there's a big difference – pulled me forward so forcefully that I stumbled, fingers still at my throat in a gesture of surprise. What, exactly, he was doing here, I wasn't sure, but the hard glint in his eyes and the firm set of his mouth told me what I feared most: that he still, and maybe always would, think of me as a sister. If he didn't, then why was he so angry? Why did his full lips twist down in a scowl at the corners? And why was his grip so hard and his aura so … messy. His emotions twisted down his arm, following the colorful lines of his tattoos as they wrapped his bicep, bleeding into me and choking back my breath. Messy. I couldn't tell if he was just pissed or if he was disappointed, too, if maybe he couldn't believe he'd just caught me with a boy's arms around my waist and his tongue in my mouth. I was supposed to be the good one, right? The one that didn't give my dad or my stepmom any trouble because Flor gave them more than they could handle.

His dark hair bled into his eyes, dripping with sweat from the heat of the party and the crush of bodies, and I stared in simple fascination as he swept it back and glared at me.

“What the fuck,” he began as I cringed, “are you doing here?” I watched in horror as my stepbrother's gaze lifted and met that of the boy's behind me. I kept one hand on my neck, sliding it down to my chest so that I could feel the rapid thump and slam of my heart, much like the chilling bass beat that was tingling up my toes and making me blissfully deaf. Maybe then I wouldn't have to hear the sound of my father's disappointment when he sighed and then later probably screamed at me for this little adventure? “And who,” Florian continued, “the fuck is that?”

“None of your business, bro,” my mystery date said, curling his own fingers around my hip in a strange mockery of the way I'd done to my own throat, caught up in surprise when Flor had appeared out of nowhere and pulled me from my make out session and back to the harsh, gritty twang of reality. “Hey, are you alright?” the guy asked me as I glanced over my shoulder and swallowed hard. I guess he mistook my speechlessness for fear because he stepped around me and got in Flor's face. “You can't make her leave if she doesn't want to go.”

“I can,” Flor snapped back at him, grinding his teeth and squeezing my wrist even tighter than before, “if she's my sister.” He leaned in and let my date have it with a simple whisper of words. “Oh, by the way, she's only fifteen, asshole.” My new friend tore his hand away from my hip like it was on fire – but not the good kind, not the kind I was feeling right now as Flor's sweaty fingers tugged me forward. No, this was more like he was terrified of me now, like he wouldn't touch me with a ten-foot pole. I guessed he wouldn't want to, considering he was twenty-one. Guess I shouldn't have lied about my age.

“Hey, Flor,” a girl with long black hair and brightly colored extensions giggled as we passed by. “You in a hurry or something?” She eyed me with no small amount of contempt as Flor dragged me through the crowd and paused only when we were standing on the porch outside the little green and white house. In the middle of a neighborhood known locally as The Whit, it was unlikely the cops would get called on this place, so it was a hotspot for parties. I knew because I'd followed Flor here more than once. Tonight, though, tonight I'd really believed him when he'd told his mom he – and I quote – felt like shit and was going upstairs to lie down. Florian never lied about going to parties. He just … went. No matter what sort of fight his mom put up.

“Yeah, I sort of am,” he growled, ignoring the girl and pulling me down the steps in my heels. His broad back filled my view, blocking the clusters of teenagers and young adults hanging out on the sidewalk at the bottom of the steps. The fabric stretched across his muscles in a way that was criminal. I was young, sure, but I wasn't so young that I couldn't appreciate that, couldn't appreciate the way Flor's body had changed from a lanky teenage boy's to a … to a man's.

I flushed from head to toe and rolled my eyes. I'd binged last week during spring break, reading each and every single one of the romance novels crammed onto my stepmom's shelf. It was part curiosity, I guess, that encouraged me to read them. That, and part disappointment and frustration that Flor got to go away and I didn't. Since then I'd been saying and thinking strange things, like how Flor always smelled so good. Or how I was glad he didn't shut his bedroom door when he was changing his shirt. That kind of stuff.

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