A Stepbrother for Christmas:The Hard and Dirty Holidays(2)

By: Celia Aaron



“I’m just going to go on upstairs.”

“I thought you were going to bring Gavin with you?” Brent asked.

Mom elbowed him hard in the ribs.

“Oh, oh too right. I forgot. My apologies, darling. Can I help you upstairs with your bag?” Brent’s faced turned an interesting shade of crimson in only seconds.

Gavin was my ex-boyfriend. I’d dated him for a few months before we ended things. He just wasn’t the one. I liked him, we had a lot in common, but there was no spark, no fire. It didn’t really bother me to talk about it, but talking about my love life – or its untimely death, I supposed – with my parents was not happening.

“Which room is mine?” I clunked the bag up the stairs.

“Second door on the left, next to Niles’.”

I stopped, my foot almost missing the stair entirely. “Niles is coming?”

“Oh, he’s already here. Went to town to get some supplies, he said,” Mom trilled.

I slammed my bag to the top of the stairs, unable to hide my irritation.

Merry Frickin’ Christmas.





Chapter Two



Niles





I swirled the coffee around, trying to cool it a bit before taking a sip. It had been a long trip over the pond, and even longer to get to Colorado. I was looking to relax for a few weeks, do some skiing, see my dad. I was almost finished with university, getting ready to seek a job in finance. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to come back to the States to be closer to my dad or stay in England where I’d made so many friends.

The coffeehouse traffic bustled around me, tourists streaming in and out for their coffee fix. The barista gave me a smile. She’d slipped me her number along with my coffee. She was certainly pretty enough, but I wasn’t here for a fling. I’d done enough of those at Oxford to last a lifetime. I smiled back at her before dropping my eyes. No point being rude.

The door opened with a jingling sound accompanied by a woman with a scarf, hat, and sunglasses. She was curvy and tall. I couldn’t quite see her face, but it had to be gorgeous like the rest of her. I straightened in my chair and ran a hand through my auburn locks, smoothing them down as best I could.

She shifted from one foot to the next as she waited to order. Her ass, a perfect plump orb, moved in her jeans. She had a small waist and her tits were high and large. My cock hardened in my pants as any number of inappropriate thoughts rushed through my mind. I licked my lips as heat rose along my skin.

She ordered her drink, a dizzying combination of flavors that I couldn’t follow, and turned toward the area where I sat. When she saw me she stiffened and reached for her sunglasses. She pulled them off and gave me a look that could melt lead.

Bloody hell. “Annalise?”

“Niles.” She moved away toward the bar area. To the barista, she said, “I need that in a to go cup, please. As soon as possible.”

Clearly, she’d wanted to sit in the shop for a while, but my mere presence was about to drive her back out into the cold again. I couldn’t blame her. I’d been a total wanker to her the entire time I’d lived with her and her mom in Dallas. I was in a bad head space at that time in my life. My mom had died two years before. I couldn’t forgive my father for remarrying. I took it out on Annalise. I knew that now. I’d thought so many times about how I might try to apologize, to make it up to her. But we were strangers now, more or less, and I didn’t want to reopen old wounds.

By the way she cringed away from me in the coffee shop, it appeared the wounds had never fully closed. And going three years without an apology from me? I was the biggest tosser this side of the Atlantic.

I stood and took a step toward her. She leaned away even though I was several meters from her. This was going to be slow going. Getting closer to her was clearly not an option. I resume my seat. She eyed me like I was a particularly loathsome rodent. I rubbed my hand over my jaw, desperately trying to figure out how to rectify a five-year mistake in five minutes over coffee.

When her order was up she thanked the pretty barista and took her drink. She gave me one more acidic glance and headed toward the door.

“Annalise,” I called.

She stopped.

“Please, I just want to talk is all.” I tried to give her my most winning smile.

She grimaced.

Fail.

The barista watched the scene with interest. She perked up at my accent. All the American women did. Except Annalise.

She seemed caught in a fight or flight instinct. Was I really that bad?

One look in her eyes told me yes, I really was.

“Please?” I dropped the smile and just tried to straight up grovel.

She relaxed a bit, her stance not quite as tense. The door opened, sending a blast of cold air onto her. She shied away from the chill, back toward the dining area. Back toward me.

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