The Billionaire Stepbrother (2015)

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

              We arrived at an apartment building in Manhattan that had a line of cars approaching. A valet came and opened our door about a block away. “What’s happening here?” I whispered over to Chris once we were both on the sidewalk. I was holding on to his arm as we walked up to the door. The valet had taken our car and another man opened the door for us.

              The apartment’s lobby was full of people riding up on the elevator. Chris said hello to a few people, but didn’t introduce me. His focus was getting on the elevator. Once there, I asked again. “Chris, what’s happening here?”

              Chris didn’t answer. But once the elevator opened and the first man to shake Chris’ hand appeared, I knew everything. “Chris, I thought you said you weren’t going to make it.” The man had dark skin and was really tall. He played for the New York Knicks. I recognized him immediately. He turned to me and his smile grew. “Chris, you’ve been holding back on me.” The look he gave me almost caught my face on fire. There was such raw lust in those dark eyes.

              Chris laughed. “Andre Coleman, meet my sister, Linda Shaw. And happy birthday.” A gift appeared in Chris’ hand out of nowhere and Andre took it.

              Andre shook it. “Oh man, is it the key to Linda’s heart?”

              I laughed. We all laughed, and after that, I felt less nervous. I didn’t even know I’d been nervous before this moment. I felt my shoulders relax. We talked to Andre for awhile and then moved through the party to speak to other guests. I met actors, musicians, and some of New York’s finest socialites. There were other celebrities there too, you know, the kind that just wake up in the morning and they’re famous? The ones that have reality shows and makeup lines. Yeah, those guys.

              “Chris,” a woman’s voice made us turn.

My eyes widen as my heart stopped once I recognized her. Maria Vega, one of the world’s top Spanish fashion designers. I’d been to a few of her shows that my friends had been in, but I’d never seen her up close and personal. This was my first time. She smiled at me, looking my dress up and down. She sucked her teeth. “Don’t tell me this is what John John is doing next year.”

Chris grabbed my hand and gave me a spin. It wasn’t the first one I’d done that night. “This is John John, indeed.”

Maria crossed her arms and gave me a dirty look. “You are sickening to look at.”

My eyes went wide, but I couldn’t speak. I was dumbstruck. She’d spoken to me. She’d addressed me. She’d insulted me, but I still had a smile on my face. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. I loved her. I know, I know. I was being silly, but it was true. The woman’s clothes filled my closet, well, Chris’ closet, but you get the point.

Chris broke my trance. “Now, Maria. Be nice, this the world's next supermodel, Linda Shaw.”

Maria’s eyes widen. “Oh, this is Linda?”

They way she’d said my name really got my attention. “What do you mean?”

Maria looked me over, a smile on her face. She scoffed. “She is still sickening to look at. So gorgeous. Look at those cheekbones.” Maria reached up and grabbed my chin. “She brings life to that dress.” I felt my face turn red.

Chris sighed. “Yeah, well, don’t let us hold you up.”

Maria pulled her hand back and began to frantically wave them in the air, trying to clear Chris’ words away. “No, you bring her to my office. I want her for my next show.”

Chris started again. “Well—”

“No,” Maria cut him off. “I must have her. Tell John John to find someone else.” She looked at me again and smiled a most devious smile. “You want to walk in my show, chica?”

I just smiled. This was the happiest day of my life. Chris nudged me, bringing me back to life. I blinked a few times before answering. “I would love to—”

Bien.” She turned to Chris again. “Call me.” Then she was gone.

Any designer that approached after that kind of did the same thing. It was spring, but John John was already showing off his line for next year. It was a frightening thing, apparently. Other designers were not ready. Revealing a creation so far in advance was like calling a challenge. It was a bold move and possibly meant he had more up his sleeve.

Many of the designers present had asked me to show up for auditions. It had been a successful night and I had Chris to thank for that. After running into Maria Vega, talking to everyone else had been easier, but honestly, I was still a little nervous. I was totally out of my element with famous people. Rich people, I got. Famous people were different. Rich people had money and bought entertainment. Famous people almost all had this entertaining element engraved in them, and some of them weren’t even wealthy. I’d never laughed so hard at jokes or found myself raptured in well-told stories. It was an experience I would surely remember. Chris had walked me around the entire room and everyone stopped to stare. Some men had tried to do more than just stare, but as promised, Chris had protected me. He’d been the perfect manager.

Once we got to an area where the music was lower, I leaned over to Chris and whispered,  “Thank you.”

He nodded his head. “I’ll be right back,” he said as Andre called him over for something. I didn’t mind. I needed a break. I waited where I was and pulled out my phone. The party I was currently at was being featured on an entertainment site. I surfed through the article and found a photo of Chris and I. I smiled. My name was printed alongside Chris’. We looked good together.

Underneath the picture was a link to the TIME article about Chris. I sighed and clicked on it. I might as well. Chris had been so nice to me and seemed pretty bothered by my not reading his article. After tonight, the least I could do was read an article about him.

The article was an interview that had back and forth questioning. Most of it focused on the spy movie that was being shot in France and how Chris had gotten the job. They talked about the latest technology and how Chris’ company was specializing in its use, but then they’d moved on to personal questions. Who was Chris dating? What he wanted in a woman. They were questions I already knew the answers to.

But then the interviewer asked what Chris attributed his success to.

Chris: “I have a great team that I work with, but I would have to say that my sister, Linda, inspires me.”

Interviewer: “How so?”

Chris: “I will always have a special place in my heart for her. Linda keeps me sane.”

The interviewer said that they shared a laugh before moving on to other things, but none of those other things mattered to me. I stopped reading the article and stared at my phone… I felt like shit. There was no other word that fit. Chris had said my name in front of the entire world and I’d turned my back to him.

I kept him sane. What the hell did that mean? Why did it matter? I kept him sane. Me. I did that for him. No one else. Sanity is a good thing. Almost a necessity and he got that necessity from me. And he had a special place for me in his heart.

Yeah. I was shit.

I turned and caught his eyes. He was in the middle of a laugh, but it slowly died when he saw the look on my face. He walked over very quickly and didn’t stop until he was touching me. His hands went to my bare arms. “Linda, what’s wrong, you’re shaking.”

I was? I shook my head. “I’m fine.”

Chris scowled at me. “No, you’re not. What happened?” He looked around me, looking for the culprit, but he wouldn’t find them, because the culprit was me.

I just stared at Chris and waited for him to look back at me. When he did, I didn’t know what came over me. Maybe it was the way he was looking at me or maybe I was high from the night’s magic energy, but there in that dark hall, nothing else mattered. I brought my hands up to Chris’ face, leaned forward, and kissed him.

              His lips were soft and the feel of them was more than anything I could have imagined. His mouth opened, maybe in shock, I don’t know, but I took advantage of it. I kissed him hard and passionately. I swept my tongue into those parted lips and thoroughly searched his open mouth as though I could find his soul. I felt Chris shudder right before his hands went about my back, bringing me closer to him, deepening the kiss. He leaned his head closer to me as I felt the first touch of this tongue in mine. Heat shot through me, hitting my flesh like hot rain. I moaned as I pulled him closer to me.

Chris stepped back. My moan must have caused him to do so. The look he was giving me was not a friendly one. “What was that?” he asked.

I had to fight to find my words. I found a few, but none of them sounded right, but I went with the best ones I had. “I don’t know.” Heat spread over my face that had nothing to do with lust and everything to do with embarrassment.

Chris was really upset now. “Linda, you’re my sister.” The look he gave me was of disgust.

Now I was pissed. “I’m your step-sister, Chris. ”

He shook his head. “No, this can’t happen.”

I knew that. I’d always known that. I had just gotten swept up in the moment, but the moment was gone. Now Chris knew how I felt and for a moment, I thought he’d enjoyed the kiss just as much as I did. Maybe Chris did, until he realized who he’d been kissing. I never should have done it, but the cat was out of the bag now. Chris knew how I felt, well, not really, but he knew my feelings went past the love of a sibling. But it didn’t matter. He didn’t want me and now I wouldn’t have to say ‘what if’ for the rest of my life. I would know. Chris had made himself perfectly clear. This couldn’t happen. I threw up my hands. “You’re right.” I was so done. I headed towards the door.

No one tried to stop me as I made my way to the elevator. No one said anything on the way down or in the lobby. I didn’t hear anyone call my name until I was outside.

“Linda.”

I waved my hand and a taxi pulled up. I quickly opened the door and gave the driver directions before I closed it. “Drive.”

The driver asked no questions. She just drove and I caught a glimpse of Chris’ face as I passed, but couldn’t see his expression in the dark. I turned away from him and wrapped my arms around myself. I felt cold. It was a cold that had nothing to do with the weather.

Ten minutes had passed before the driver asked me where I wanted to go. She was a good driver. She’d left me to my thoughts for a moment before saying anything to me. She probably knew that I needed it. Or, she thought that driving in the wrong direction would earn her more money. But I didn’t want to think of her that way. Tonight, she’d saved me and that was good.