He was a good liar, too. His eyes lingered on mine for a second before taking in the sight of us and everything on the counter. “We’re drinking? Didn’t you get in enough trouble last night?”
I saw my brother tense up beside me. His hand gripped the neck of one of the bottles tighter. “One can never get in enough trouble. What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”
Kash ignored the sitcom quote, padding into the kitchen and grabbing a tray of ice from the freezer. He slid it over the counter to us. “Fine, Matt. You want to have a few drinks, at least make them right, huh?”
It was later, after Matthew went to the bathroom, that Kash grabbed my wrist and pulled me to a corner of the room. He folded his arms over his chest, staring down at me, and standing close. Way too close.
Or that’s what I was trying to tell myself.
“What’d he want?”
He was studying me, but his eyes were first on mine, then dipped to my mouth. And lingered there.
And stayed lingering there.
And still more lingering.
It was a sauna in here. Someone threw open the doors and hell’s inferno had started.
I parted my lips, surprised at his proximity, but he wasn’t moving back.
He needed to move back, or I’d do something we’d both regret.
My hand was itching.
God. His jaw. It was so smooth, so square, so strong. I was itching to touch it, or maybe his chest. That shirt looked smooth. Or his arms, how they were folded tight over his chest and the muscles were bulging out. How there was a dip between them and—
He shifted closer, letting out a sigh and a hiss at the same time. “Listen.”
My eyes flew to his, and I gulped because his were intense, seriously intense.
He placed a hand on the wall behind me, trapping me in, but it was just one hand. His eyes were still boring down into mine, then fell back to my mouth.
“This. You. Me.”
I wanted to shift up on my tiptoes, getting closer. I didn’t, but holy God, did I want to.
Then, suddenly, a barrier fell back between us. Not a literal barrier, but whatever was in his head. I felt the cold rejection almost physically. He moved back, his face becoming stone again, and I jerked back into the wall.
I never felt the impact.
He cursed, rubbing a hand over his face. “Jesus. What’d he want?”
I couldn’t talk. A full three seconds. Crap, that rejection hurt.
I croaked out, “Nothing. Just trying to say I don’t know you.” My own guilt pushed up, storing the other stuff away. “Look, I’m sorry. I wanted to explore your house. I wasn’t snooping as he keeps saying—”
Kash clipped his head from side to side. “I don’t care about that. You’re a stranger. There’s no way I’d let you stay here if I had something of value in this house.”
Yep. Wow. Another slap to the face. This guy was just doling out the punches left and right.
“Your story was good.” He nodded in approval, shifting back from me when we heard the toilet flush. He raked me up and down. “You’re a good liar.”
What I was going for in life. My highest goal achieved.
Then he moved away, going to the kitchen as Matthew was coming back, and I had to kick myself. Why did I care if he thought I was a good liar? I was here to hide for my life. That was it.
When the threat was gone, I was gone.
A woman was knocking on his front door. She had a shorter build, maybe around five foot four inches, with a stockier physique to her. Coming to the second-floor loft area, I stood there a moment. She had dark hair pulled back in a fierce bun. She wore a black shirt that resembled a scrub top my mother might’ve worn for her shift at the hospital. Dark pants. Dark shoes.
She was tough. I could tell. Her stockiness wasn’t from being overweight. It was muscle. She raised her hand to knock again. “Mr. Colello.”
“Coming,” Kash called from his bedroom. A second later, he came out from under where I stood, pulling his shirt down over his shoulders. There was a rippling effect over his muscles from the movement.
My mouth dried up.
Kash was opening the door, stepping back. “Morning, Marie.”
This was Marie?
A small churning of unease started in me. She was the only other person who knew who I was. Because, after last night, there was no way I was going to Kash for anything. Yeah, yeah. There’d been attraction. I couldn’t deny that. But that was done with.
I was way out of my league with him.
By the end of the night, I was in awe, but also slightly horrified that this was the guy I’d be living with for the next few months. He had sealed the cover with my half brother to perfection. He’d been so good that even I was starting to believe him.
I went to bed having to remind myself that I didn’t actually know Stephanie, and I never went shopping with her for a Thanksgiving tradition.
They both turned to look at me.
Crap. I didn’t hide in time.
Marie had come inside, the door closed behind them. Neither smiled. Both just stared up at me.
I raised my hand, then remembered. “Is Matthew still here?”
He’d been the only one to get drunk last night, and when we went to our rooms, he’d been snoring from the living room.
Kash looked tired. “He took off around four this morning, said he wanted to feel like shit in his own bed.” He motioned to Marie. “This is Marie, Bailey. Come down to meet her.”
My legs felt like wood as I did.
This was real. After meeting this woman, another stranger, I knew what was next. Going to the main house. Seeing my other siblings, my stepmother … that f-word. Peter Francis. Meeting him. I wiped my hands over my pants. They were suddenly shaking.
The woman’s hand was strong, just like I thought. She pumped my hand up and down with a clipped nod, and her dark brown eyes were hard on me. This woman was not one to mess around.
“Marie.” I was already terrified of this woman. “How are you?”
She didn’t respond, her eyes just went back to Kash, who’d been watching the exchange. He shifted back, his arms crossed over his chest. Raking me over, a troubled look in his eyes, he shook his head. The look cleared.