Stiff:A Stepbrother Romance(9)

By: B. B. Hamel


“That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

He was silent while he looked at me, and something clicked.

“You didn’t want me, did you?” I asked suddenly.

He looked a little surprised. “Why do you say that?”

“It’s obvious.”

A little cocky smile played at his lips. “Go ahead and explain then.”

“Well, you’re clearly hungover, and I probably woke you up. No, let me keep going,” I said quickly as he tried to protest. His cocky grin got bigger, but he didn’t interrupt. “You didn’t seem interested when we ran into each other yesterday. I know your mom is a big shot, and I suspect she doesn’t love her son working as a private detective. You left the FBI for some mysterious reason, probably making the relationship with your mom even more strained. So I suspect she’s forcing this on you, especially based on what you just said.” His grin was huge by the time I was finished talking. “How close am I?”

He stared at me and slowly started to shake his head. “You ever been on a stakeout before, Laney?”

“Excuse me?”

He stood up. He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a pistol tucked into a holster. He pushed the holster down the back of his pants and walked over to a coat rack, grabbing a light jacket.

I stared at him the whole time. I had just been really brazen in saying all that, and I mostly expected him to throw me out. He should have been pissed, and honestly I wanted him to be. I was annoyed that he wasn’t taking me seriously, annoyed that he had answered the door looking the way he did, annoyed that he was hungover.

Instead, he was acting like nothing had happened.

“Come on,” he said, opening the door. “Let’s go.”

He disappeared outside. I quickly stood up and followed him. “Hold on!” I said, catching up. “Wait a second. What are you talking about, a stakeout?”

“You know what that is, right?”

“Yeah. I’ve seen movies. Are you serious?”

“Of course I’m serious.” He paused at the stairwell entrance. “Scared?” he asked teasingly.

I bit my lip. “I thought this was an office job.”

“It’s whatever I want it to be.”

I took a sharp breath. I realized he was testing me, seeing how far I was willing to go.

And there was something about him. True, he was gruff and rude, but also he seemed completely in control. I could feel myself getting swept up.

“Okay, fine,” I said.

I followed him down the stairs. I had no clue what we were doing or where we were going, but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to find out what this guy’s deal was. I wanted to know him, even if he was already totally on my nerves.

“First rule of being a private detective,” Easton said, “is never do anything fucking stupid.”

He made a sharp right and I gripped the door handle like my life depended on it. Easton drove like a psycho.

“Okay,” I said.

“Second rule is, do exactly what I say.”

“Seems like a bad rule for most private detectives.”

He laughed. “These are just for you.”

“Okay, fine. Are you going to teach me anything useful?”

“Maybe. But for now, you do nothing but listen to me. Got it?”

“Fine,” I grumbled.

“This isn’t like your CJ classes at school. This is the real world, kid.”

“Don’t call me kid. We’re almost the same age.”

“How about I call you sis, then?”

“Not much better,” I mumbled.

“Third rule is,” he said, not missing a beat, “if you think you’re in trouble, run the fuck away and call the cops.”

“Really think that’s going to happen?”

“I have no fucking clue what’s going to happen,” he said, suddenly pulling over to the curb. “That’s why this is so much fun.”

He killed the engine and I looked around. We were at a boring, normal corner across from a bank. There was a shopping center to our left, across the street, and an apartment building catty-corner. Up ahead and to the right was a little park and playground area.

“What are we doing?” I asked.

“Watching,” he said.

He reached across me. I felt his closeness suddenly, could practically smell him. He popped open the glove box and pulled out a pair of binoculars. He moved back slowly, and I wanted to lean into him. Or maybe I wanted to slap him away. I wasn’t exactly sure.

“Okay,” I said. “Who are we watching?”

“Landlord,” he said.

I sighed, frustrated. “Are you going to actually tell me anything?”

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