The Billionaire Stepbrother (2015)



The ride back from Chappaqua was silent. We were in the living room when I finally spoke. “Do you want me to move my clothes out of your closet?” I popped off my heels and walked into the kitchen. I went into the stainless steel fridge for a bottle of water. I was having one of those moments when I was feeling extra dehydrated.

When I turned around, Chris was sitting in a bar stool, leaning on top of the granite peninsula, watching me. His face resting on a propped up fist. “The other closets don’t rotate.”

I smiled as my face turned red. Had it been that obvious that I enjoyed such a simple thing? “I know.” I leaned back against the counter behind me.

He smiled back at me. “Do you want to move your clothes?”

I made a face. “You know I don’t.”

“Then why did you ask?”

I shrugged. “To be polite.”

Chris laughed. “Polite?” He sat up straight. “You come into my house, sleep in my bed, load your clothes into my closet, but now you want to be polite?”

I sighed, angry now. “Are you going to hold this over my head forever? Because if you are, I’ll leave.”

Chris shook his head. “I’m not trying to hang anything over your head. I just would have liked a heads-up before I got home. What if I’d been bringing a female over?”

That got my attention. I hadn’t even thought of that. I could see now how that would have looked. If Chris had come home with a woman and they’d seen me in his bed… it could have been bad. I leaned off of the counter behind me, moving closer to Chris. “Did you plan for a female to come over?”

Chris leaned closer to me as well, placing his elbows on the counter. Our heads were still about two feet away from one another. The counter was pretty big. But standing this close, face to face, I could see the intricate details of his eyes. I could also see how tired he was. “It had been a thought,” Chris confessed.

The confession hurt. Chris narrowed his eyes, and I realized it was because I’d narrowed mine. I relaxed my face. “I’m sorry,” I whispered and I started out of the kitchen. “I’m going to move my stuff. Maybe I’ll be able to move in with a friend so that you can have your space back.” I walked past Chris’ chair on my way towards the bedrooms.

He grabbed my arm, making me pause. I turned towards him and met his serious face. “Why do you do that?”

I kept myself clear of anything that I was feeling. And honestly, I was feeling too many things to actually narrow down what I was feeling at the moment. Hurt, sadness, anger, confusion. I shook my head before meeting his face again. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

His hold on me tightened. “Yes, you do.”

I sighed in exasperation. “What do I keep doing, Chris?”

He was angry now. “Getting all… Linda on me.”

I lifted my chin at that. “What does that mean?”

“Retreating. You retreat from me, all the time.”

I frowned. “No I don’t.”

“Yes, you do.”

“No, I don’t. Let me go.” He did it just as quickly as the words let my mouth. I hated that. Yes, I should have my sanity checked, but it’s true. I’d rather he’d held on me, fought me, because he needed to touch me just as much as I wanted to touch him.

“Why don’t you like me?”

My face fell. What the heck was wrong with everyone today? Was I the only one who’d miss the memo about today being National Confess Your Feelings Day? “I don’t not like you, Chris.” I love you. Though, I wouldn’t tell him that. Ever. That was one confession that I would most likely take to the grave. Unless I told Granny Annie. I could probably tell her. She could keep a secret. I could tell. There was something in her dark eyes that said she had loads of secrets; like why they call it 2% milk when it’s actually 2% fat or why the letters on a phone start at the number two, but skip number one.

“I don’t believe you.”

This close to him, I could smell that expensive cologne that he liked to wear, something I’d developed a craving for. When Chris had left for France, the scent had been left in his sheets. There had been days when I hadn’t wanted to get out of the bed and the thread count had nothing to do with it. I felt close to him, lying there in his bed. With the faint smell of him surrounding me while I slept, the dreams had come easily.

I rolled my eyes, put my water down, and placed both of my hands on Chris’ hard face. He was being silly. I looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Chris, I don’t not like you.” I didn’t even understand how he could think that. We probably weren’t best friends, but I considered him my friend. Over the last few years, we’d had some really deep moments and had probably shared details about one another that no one else in the world knew. There were times where just standing next to Chris was both the safest and yet scariest place in the world. He gave the best advice and seemed to genuinely care about my wellbeing. It was, at times, easy to open up to him. And that’s when it got scary. I couldn’t afford for him to know how I truly felt about him, so I would distance myself from him every now and again. I hadn’t known it bothered him so much until this very moment.

Chris narrowed his eyes, right before his face went neutral again. He pulled away from my grasp. “Forget it. It doesn’t matter anyway. Forget I brought it up.” He started past me.

I grabbed his arm then, but couldn’t make him turn back towards me, so I had to walk around him to see his face. “Chris, what is wrong?”

“Why didn’t you read my article?”

I looked around the room before looking back at him. He had to be kidding me. It was just a stupid article. “Chris, it’s just an article. You’ve done interviews for other magazines and papers before. Why should this be different?”

Chris smiled and I knew it was as phony as his next words. “You’re right.” He walked past me and I let him go. I didn’t stop him. I didn’t know what I’d have said if I did. He was being silly. Everyone was being silly today and I felt completely lost.