Authors: Caitlin Daire
A STEPBROTHER ROMANCE
2015 by Caitlin Daire
**Warning: This novella contains explicit sexual situations which may be objectionable to some readers. Not recommended for anyone under the age of 18.**
Please respect the work of this author. No part of this book may be reproduced or copied without permission. This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Any similarities to events or situations is also coincidental.
2015 Caitlin Daire
All Rights Reserved
Editing: V. Beckett
Cover design: L. Armstrong
Cover image licensed by Canstockphoto
“Schmoozing. That’s the word of the evening. Do you all know what it means?”
My boss Barbara stood at the front of the hotel kitchen, trying to command the attention of all the wait staff, kitchen hands and bartenders who worked at the Rosewood Hotel, myself included. She was a tall redhead with pinched features and perpetually pursed lips that made her look like she’d just sucked on a lemon-flavored cigarette, and my friend and coworker Ewan rolled his eyes to the ceiling and murmured to me and my other friend Tina.
“If she really knew anything about schmoozing, then why is she stuck in this shitty job in this shitty town?”
Tina stifled a giggle, and Barbara pursed her lips. “I heard that, Ewan. At least you’re listening to what I’m saying, which is more than what I can usually say about you. Anyway, as I was saying, tonight is a very special night.”
She put all her emphasis on the word ‘very’, her eyes narrowing as she surveyed the room and continued to drone on. “I expect you all to work as you usually do, but tonight you are allowed to spend more than the minimum amount of time interacting with the guests. I want you to talk this place up. Discuss its heritage, how much you love working here…I don’t care, just say whatever it takes to get them to write us some big fat checks. Got it?”
“Yes, Barbara,” we all said in unison before disbanding and heading off to our stations. Many eye rolls were shared between Ewan, Tina and me as we straightened our white shirts and made sure they were perfectly clean and ready to be seen by rich schmucks.
Being a waitress at the hotel wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t exactly my dream job, but if it paid my bills and left me with enough to eventually save up for my own place away from my grouchy alcoholic father, then it was good enough for now. Plus, I worked with some of my friends like Tina and Ewan, and very occasionally a kindly diner would leave a hefty tip.
Tonight was about more than hefty tips, though. The Rosewood had needed refurbishing for decades, but the owners couldn’t afford it for some reason or another, so instead of simply selling the place off to someone who could, they were holding a fundraising gala. Many prominent businessmen and women from around the country who were known for their philanthropy had been invited, and our job was to serve them as we usually would at an event like this, however this time we were allowed to chat with them and share our stories and knowledge of what a fantastic old building it was in the hopes it’d convince the wealthy patrons to fork out bucket-loads of cash.
Schmoozing, like Barbara said.
Truthfully, we’d all be lying through our teeth. The Rosewood was okay, but it was nothing special, and in our little town in southwestern Wisconsin, that was saying something. The exterior was drab and as boring as exposed brick, and the inside could have done with a spit and polish about a billion years ago considering the outdated décor and the permanent musky scent of dust in the air. It was more like a giant mausoleum than a hotel.
“Maybe I can nab myself a sexy millionaire boyfriend tonight,” Tina whispered as Barbara stalked around the room, inspecting our uniforms and making sure everything in the kitchen was prepped.
I grinned back at her. “That’d be nice.”
“Yeah, then I’d have a one-way ticket outta here…if this hellhole even had an airport,” she replied. “Eh, I guess it’s not that bad, though.”
I arched one eyebrow at her, and she laughed and gave me a rueful smile. “Okay, it
that bad. I think the last time something actually happened in Leyton was when Henry Rosewood was born. Or that business boom fifty years ago or whenever it was.”
Henry Rosewood had been the US President at some point back in the late 1800’s, and our tiny town’s only real claim to fame was that it was his birthplace. The hotel had been built and named in his honor, but as far as I knew he’d never even stayed here. Like most other people who’d made something of themselves, he’d hightailed it out of here and never bothered to return. Couldn’t say I blamed him, really. Like Tina said, nothing much happened out here in the sticks. I was surprised the hotel owners had even managed to convince one rich person to come to the fundraiser, let alone a hundred or so. I guess the heritage factor of the hotel made it seem like something worth saving.
Humming an old tune, I busied myself in the kitchen, racking up trays with canapés, plates and napkins while I waited for the gala to get started. Within the next hour, the hotel function room had transformed from the real-estate equivalent of an empty wasteland to a rip-roaring party, and I marveled as I walked around and served snacks to designer-clad men and women. I had to admit, the decorators had done an incredible job, and everyone seemed to be having a lot of fun.
Up at the front of the room, there was an impressive set up with framed pictures of the Rosewood in its heyday, all the way back in the 40s or 50s. Back then, there’d apparently been some sort of economic boom in these parts, and while it had only lasted a few years, I supposed it was enough to put Leyton on the financial map for a brief period. Even though the hotel was already quite old when the pictures were taken, it looked magnificent compared to the faded behemoth it had become today. As I stopped for a moment and gazed at the sepia images, I felt a strange sense of nostalgia. It seemed like things were just so much simpler in the past, even though I hadn’t actually been there to witness any of it.
While I was walking back to the kitchen to fetch more trays and dispose of some dirtied napkins, I got sidetracked talking to an elderly man in a suit who had teeth like an anti-fluoride campaigner with a crippling addiction to sweets…and the breath to match.
“Lovely old place, isn’t it?” he said, leaning in even closer to me.
I smiled and ever-so-slowly moved my head back, not wanting to be rude but also wanting to escape his dragon breath.
“Yes, it is,” I replied. “Did you see the photos up at the front? This place really used to be something.”
“Photos?” he said before tilting his head back and laughing uproariously. “My dear, I was here when some of those pictures were taken! I don’t need to look at them. But you’re right, this place really used to be something. It’s a shame. It could really benefit from being done up. But I suppose that’s why I’m here.”
He patted his pocket, where I assumed his wallet sat.
“You were here back then?” I replied with a mischievous smirk. “You don’t look a day over thirty!”
He grinned and patted me on the shoulder. “I like you, missy. You’ve got a good sense of humor. Now, who do I make the check out to?”
As I gave him the appropriate information, all the hairs on the back of my neck suddenly stood up as if my body were sensing a ghost or some other unearthly creature. I craned my neck to the side to find curious green eyes staring over at me from a table. They were set in a square, masculine face that made my stomach do somersaults, and I abruptly turned back to the old man.
“Thank you, sir,” I said, giving him a warm smile as he handed me the check to give to Barbara. “We really appreciate it.”
“You’re very welcome,” he replied, patting me on the shoulder again. “Now, you must excuse me. All this scotch really does a number on my bladder these days.”
I nodded and waved as he slowly ambled away, and I was about to pick up the tray of empty plates and dirty napkins I’d been carrying when I felt the green-eyed man’s eyes on me again. This time he was standing up, and as I caught his gaze, he grinned and headed over to me. Holy mother of wet panties…he was hot. Tall, dark-haired, and strangely familiar in his perfectly-cut tux. I could have sworn I’d seen him somewhere before, but I couldn’t figure out where. He looked fairly young, maybe a year or two older than me.
“I see you got stuck talking to Mr. Landry,” he said.
“Oh, I wouldn’t say stuck,” I replied. “He was a lovely man.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tina giving me a thumbs-up and mouthing something at me from across the room. My cheeks turned pink, and the handsome stranger motioned towards his table.
“Join me? I want to hear more about this hotel of yours.”
I followed him to the table and sat down across from him before nervously smiling. “It’s not actually my hotel. I just work here.”
He gestured towards my white blouse and black pants. “I gathered that. So do you like working here?”
“Oh, sure I do,” I said, even though that wasn’t the one-hundred percent truth.
He arched an eyebrow, and his eyes twinkled with mirth as if he could sense I was just putting on an act on behalf of my employer. “Really? I would’ve thought a girl like you would be more at home acting in movies or posing on the cover of a magazine.”
He was a smooth talker, I’d give him that. Although to be fair, I hadn’t had much experience. Most of my knowledge in that area stemmed from chick lit and rom-coms. My skin felt hot all over, and I knew my cheeks were even redder now. “That’s sweet. But no, this is where I work. What brings you here tonight?” I asked.
He shrugged nonchalantly. “My mother was invited, but something came up so she sent me in her place. She’s really into saving old heritage buildings. Makes her look like a nice person.”
His face clouded over slightly as he mentioned his mother, and I got more than a slight inkling from his words that he wasn’t too close with her. I wondered why. My own mother and I had shared an amazing relationship; while she’d still been alive, that is. She’d died when I was just about to turn thirteen, and seeing as I was an only child, I’d spent the last six years living alone aside from my drunken father, who’d never seemed all that interested in my life. I’d have given anything to have my Mom back, so I always found it strange when people disliked their own mothers.
“Oh, I see. Well, that’s nice of you to do that for her,” I replied delicately.
“So, how long are you allowed to chat with the guests?” he asked. “I’m not going to get you in any trouble, am I?”
I laughed. “No, usually I’m not allowed to say much more to people other than ‘here’s your meal’, but tonight my boss wants us to chat with all the guests. As long as I get
work done, I won’t be in any trouble.”
“I guess they want you to talk this place up so everyone will be more likely to donate substantial sums of money, huh?”
“That’s exactly it,” I said. I felt bad admitting that to a guest, but he seemed like a cool enough guy who understood how these things worked. He chuckled, confirming my suspicion.
We chatted for a while longer, and I realized we still hadn’t exchanged names. Not only that, the more I looked at him, the more I realized I’d definitely seen him somewhere before. I was about to ask him when Barbara appeared by my side.
“Arizona!” she barked. “Sorry to interrupt your conversation, but I need you to go and get some more trays ready. I’ll look after your guest.”
She waved me away from the table before I could say anything, and I spent the next couple of hours running back and forth between the kitchen and the function room, having apparently fulfilled my quota of one-on-one guest chat for the evening. At least I had according to the expression on Barbara’s face. Every so often, I’d catch a glimpse of the sexy stranger, and he’d raise his glass at me and grin. The last time he did it, he threw in a saucy wink, and my insides turned to mush as I raced back into the kitchen with a tray of empty glasses.
“So who’s your new boyfriend?” Tina asked, sidling up beside me a second later. “And don’t say you don’t know who I’m talking about. I saw you out there sweet-talking him earlier.”
I laughed. “I didn’t get his name. He’s pretty nice, though.”
“With a face and body like that, I wouldn’t even care if he
nice,” she said with a smirk. She saw my expression and continued. “Oh, come on, Ari, you need to swipe that V-card eventually. May as well be with a hottie with a body…and a nice big bank account. I certainly wouldn’t mind taking a dip in his gene pool, if you know what I mean.”
I blushed for what felt like the millionth time that night. “I’m not sleeping with a guy just because he’s rich.”
“Then sleep with him because he’s hot.”
I didn’t have a response to that, and she grinned. “Don’t worry, I’m just screwing with you. You’re lucky though; you know the businessman from L.A. that I got stuck talking to earlier? God, he almost bored me into early menopause. Anyway, I gotta get back out there. And so do you.”
She left the kitchen, but not before turning her head over her shoulder and sticking her tongue out at me. She’d always been a bit of a wild card, and ever since our senior year of high school she’d had no qualms about hooking up with various guys at whatever parties she went to on weekends. Considering how different I was, it was a wonder we were even friends, but I never judged her and she never judged me for choosing to hold on to my innocence as long as possible.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d had my fair share of awkward gropes and sloppy kisses at school dances back in the day, not to mention a rather heated hookup with a hot blond guy Tina had introduced me to at her last birthday party, but I’d still never gone so far as to actually have sex with someone, even though that was almost unheard of these days for a girl approaching nineteen.
I guess it was because of my mother. When I’d just turned twelve and had my first period, she’d given me the whole ‘birds and the bees’ chat. She’d told me to try and wait for the right person, because apparently it’d be a million times better that way. I wasn’t so naïve that I was sitting around waiting for some utterly perfect Prince Charming to whisk me away to a tropical island and make sweet love to me under the stars – I just wanted a decent, respectful guy, and that was hard to stumble upon in a town like Leyton.