Gas or Ass
by Eden Connor
Bad Apple Press
Ebook ISBN: B00VN6WJFO
[ Contemporary Erotica ]
My new stepbrothers challenged me to find my inner wild child, pairing illegal drag races with high-octane sex games, like ‘winner gets head’. I was soon hooked, but always planned to walk away. Then everything spun out of control and walking wasn’t an option. I had to run.
I re-read the college application with a sigh. Eyeing the clock, I set the laptop aside and jumped off the couch, leaving the browser window open. Stalking to the front door, I jerked it open and peered outside. A car I’d never seen pulled into a parking space in front of our apartment building.
“Dammit, Mom,” I grumbled, dismissing the unfamiliar vehicle. Turning to scan the street again, I prayed I’d see our faded gold Kia. No luck there, but a glimpse of auburn hair drew my attention to the strange car at the foot of the stairs again.
My mother opened the door and jumped out, waving me down the stairs with an excited squeal. “Come see the new car!”
Relief swept through me. A new car meant no more anxious moments after work, jiggling the ignition and praying the ten-year-old vehicle would start.
“What kind is it?” We’d been hoping to trade for a newer model Kia. This was definitely no Kia.
The luxurious interior smelled so good, my head swam when I slid behind the wheel. We’d never had leather seats before, but the flashy two-tone gray seemed out of character for her. “Why’re there two brake pedals?” I caressed the top of the leather-wrapped steering wheel, eying accessories we’d never been able to afford. The interior looked better than any used car we’d ever had. I didn’t see a cigarette burn. No stains on the carpet floor mats. Not a single scratch marred the plastic parts.
She laughed. “It’s a manual transmission, Shelby. That’s a clutch, not a brake pedal.”
I blinked and turned to peer at her. “But… I don’t know how to drive a stick.”
“Dale will teach you.” Her smug smile made me want to slap her.
Anger shut off my breath. Some kids have mothers who drink or who eat Valium like candy. My mother got off on staring into the eyes of a beautiful liar and thinking she’d be the one to tame his wild ways. Bad boys were her drug of choice. This latest one was no different from the rest, I was sure. I hadn’t met him yet, but they’d taken off for parts unknown two weekends in a row. Every time she brought him up, I changed the topic. He’d last the same six months as all the rest before she’d OD on all the broken promises and ‘loans till payday’ that never got repaid. Why bother?
I glared at the extra pedal in the floorboard. Did the asshole sell Volkswagens? Why else would she buy a damn car I couldn’t drive? Jerking around to peer into the back seat, my heart nearly stopped when I caught sight of the sticker affixed to the side window. Even reading through the translucent paper, I had no trouble making out the hefty sticker price. Who was this guy? Why had she let him talk her into something she’d regret?
How was she going to help me with college expenses if she’d gone over the amount we’d budgeted for a car payment?
“Well, saying your boyfriend will teach me to drive a stick doesn’t help get me to work on time, does it?” I spun to fix her with an accusing look. “And how can you afford a forty thousand dollar car?”
Tears gleamed in her eyes, but I couldn’t generate much sympathy. She could be so impulsive. Since my grandmother’s death, eight months ago, I’d lost my only ally in forcing my mother to be a responsible adult.
When she had no response, I reminded myself I didn’t have time for this. “I need your debit card, please. Seventy-five dollars. Pay you back tomorrow. The deadline to apply to UNC-Wilmington is midnight tonight.
While we traded glares, a huge black truck pulled into the space on my right. A tall man in a baseball cap got out of the vehicle and walked up to Mom. He slid an arm around her waist and kissed her flushed cheek. She beamed. “Shelby, this is Dale Hannah. Dale, this is my daughter, Shelby.”
So not the time to show off a new boyfriend. I got out of the car and slammed the door. “Hello. Nice to meet you, Dale.” I gave the stranger a polite smile. “Sorry to run, but I’ll be late to work if I don’t leave in three minutes. And it looks like someone needs to drive me,” I gritted through clenched teeth.
Dismissing him, I focused on my mother. “Did you hear me? If I don’t get that college application in today, I’ll miss the deadline. I can give it back to you after two a.m., when my paycheck hits my account.”
“You need money for a college fee?” The man reached for the back pocket of his jeans.
Unease trickled down my spine when he pulled a credit card out of his wallet and extended the shiny plastic rectangle in my direction. “Here, use this.”
I cut Mom another look. Why was she just standing there like a dolt? I made the protest on her behalf. “Uh, thanks, but we have it handled.”
The man cocked a brow and half-turned to her. She cleared her throat. “First things first. Let’s go inside.”
I dashed ahead, racing up the stars to grab my purse. Just hold it together and get out of here. Don’t say something I’ll regret later. Maybe I can talk her into returning the damn car tomorrow.
When I was halfway down the stairs, she raised her eyes to mine and pointed to the new chaise we’d splurged on with the income tax refund. “Sit down, Shelby. I have something to tell you.”
Dread turned my feet to cement blocks. Heart hammering, I made it downstairs and perched on the side of the chair. Her eyes had that tense look that meant bad news. Had she lost her job? Buying a new car, only to be fired a few hours later, was what passed for luck in our family.
She extended her left hand. A square-cut diamond glinted from her left finger. I stared at the wide band behind it. “Dale and I got married today.”
A joke? Lifting my eyes from the ring, I took my first good look at the man. His hair was neatly trimmed around his ears, but when he whipped off the baseball cap, a thick ebony wave fell over his brow. Not a speck of gray showed around his temples. Friendly blue eyes met my scrutiny. His tanned face suggested he worked outdoors. A five o’clock shadow shaded a square chin with a cleft in the center. His build suggested a background in athletics. Just her type.
He was attractive in a throwback, Elvis sort of way, minus the sneer. His polo shirt had a logo embroidered on the left chest. A rippling pair of black-and-white checkered flags crossed under gold letters. I had to squint to read the words. Ridenhour Race Team. He settled the matching cap back on his head.
The trickle of unease swelled to a river. I looked back to my mother. “But—”
“Macy, let me.” He squeezed Mom’s hand. A matching band glinted from his third finger.
She tipped her face to his. The trademark ‘helpless’ smile she only used around men made me want to hurl. “Please.”
He turned the full force of those eyes on me. The pleading look only put me more on guard. “Shelby, the minute I stopped to help a stranded motorist and laid eyes on your mama, I knew she was the woman I’d been waitin’ for all my life.”
“And this revelation happened… when?” I couldn’t help my tart tone.
“Four weeks ago today.”
Even Macy Roberts, hopeless romantic and single mother, wouldn’t marry a guy she’d only known a month. Not after all the times she’d been burned. I burst out laughing and got to my feet.
“Good one, Mom. You really had me going for a minute. Seriously, I gotta go. Can’t be late again or Sam’ll fire me. Can you just enter the card number on that application and hit ‘send’ after you drive me to work? You guys can laugh after I’m gone.”
I hustled to the door and yanked it open, only to come to a complete halt. Four long, interlocked legs criss-crossed the small stoop. Two legs were clad in faded denim, complete with ripped-out knees. Gray sweats clung to the other set. I drew up short and looked from one side of the porch to the other. A mannequin leaned on each railing—male, but too good-looking to be anything but life-sized plaster figurines.
The one on my left was the spitting image of the man on the couch, except the eyes that raked me were black. The tips of the other’s close-cropped hair glowed nearly white in the fading sunlight, but he appraised me with blue eyes identical to Dale’s. Same dimple in his chin.
“Gotta love a redhead. You Shelby?” the blond demanded.
My mouth went dry and my ovaries shouted, Holy hotness! Pewter hair dusted his pecs and trailed his centerline, disappearing underneath the elastic waistband of his baggy sweatpants—sweatpants that barely clung to slim hips. I couldn’t take my eyes off the ropes of muscle outlining his hipbones. Is he wearing an athletic cup? He had the look of a football player. God, how I hate jocks.
He shoved his fingers into the waistband. Is he touching himself?
I jerked my eyes to his face, cursing my pale complexion. He smirked when heat swept my cheeks. “Y-yes.”
“Hey, girl. I’m Colt.” He tipped his head toward the silent one. “That’s Caine. Guess we’re all movin’ in together.” His lips twisted in amusement.
A heavy sigh dragged my attention to the dark-haired brother. His red T-shirt had been cropped in a ragged line just below the arms, but the front bore a large version of the racing logo his father wore. Or the top half of it, anyway. He lifted his shoulders and raked his palm up and down… was that four pairs of lovely bulges? “Parents. What’cha gon’ do?”
Either Mom had dragged a pair exotic dancers along as props for her joke, or—
“We used to beg Dad for a little sister.” When I jerked my gaze toward Colt to see if he was being sarcastic, he grinned and dragged a thumbnail down a jaw gleaming with golden scruff. “That’s been so long ago, I reckon he forgot the ‘little’ part.”
I dragged the edges of my sweater across my chest, hoping to hide the way my nipples beaded. And how small my breasts were.
Caine interlaced his fingers and stretched his arms, cracking his knuckles. His act dragged my attention to the dark happy trail and eight-pack—yes, that’s definitely an eight-pack. “They ready for us to get the boxes out of the trailer? We’re burning daylight.”
He gestured toward yet another matching pickup idling behind the cars parked in front of our building. A long black trailer hitched to the rear bumper blocked the neighbor’s vehicles.
Mom had lost her mind if she thought she could spring this bogus marriage shit on me and move us out of our place all in the same day. “And where do you think we’re going?”
“Concord.” He named a small city about an hour away from our home on the south side of Charlotte. “But not in the city limits. I’d say it’s….”—he tipped his head and frowned, like he was thinking, and that took effort—“’bout, fifteen minutes past the racetrack.”
I spun. “Mom? You can’t be serious! I don’t have time to deal with this right now. I’m going to be late for work!”
Dale cleared his throat. “As I was sayin, Shelby. I asked your mama last weekend, what in the hell are we waitin’ for? So, we went to the courthouse and got married today. Every man in my house works hard, so you and your mama won’t have to.” I searched his face, but saw no sign of deception. As if he read the doubt in my eyes, he added, “I’m serious about payin’ for that application, Shelby. This one and any other you need to send. It’ll be a real honor to have a college graduate in the family.”
Every man in my house? What does that mean?
“Can I speak to you in the kitchen?” I glared at my mother.
She fixed me with a pleading look, but I stalked out of the room. Halting in front of the refrigerator, I stared at the notice pinned to the front. Our lease was up and the new management company was raising the rent by a hundred dollars a month.
Surely, she hadn’t married this guy for a place to live and a new car? Yes, the extra money every month would be a struggle, but she was using a sledgehammer to kill a gnat.
She came around the corner and I stabbed the paper. “When I said you could get a roommate, I was kidding!” Our biggest disagreement had been where I was to attend college. She wanted me to go to UNC-Charlotte and live at home. I wanted to go to anywhere else. Wasn’t the best part of college living on campus?
She shook her head and grabbed my hand. “Shelby, I know you’re upset. I should’ve prepared you. I asked him if we could all get together for dinner. That’s when he popped the question. He’s my dream man. We both raised our kids with no help from anyone. We’d both given up on dating. And then we found each other, and after Dale said ‘why wait’, he had the ring in his pocket and… you’ll go off to college and—” She burst into tears.
The words she’d omitted hung in the air. You’ll go off to college… and I’ll be alone.
“Honey, moving into Dale’s house only affects you for a few months. Shelby, the old car died today. And Dale just took it right in stride. He told me to quit my job, and then we got married, and on the way back from the courthouse, he bought me that car.”
Something was off. Way off. Like, why hadn’t she asked me to be a witness at her wedding? Why marry this man before she introduced us?
“Mom, he’s….” Too good to be true. She had horrible taste in men. The more likely they were to break her heart, the more irresistible she found them.
She grabbed a paper towel and dabbed her eyes. “I know what you’re thinking. He’s not that guy, Shelby. He’s not like—”
“The competition skateboarder who knocked you up and then couldn’t leave the state fast enough after you told him about me?” I dropped my voice to a harsh whisper. “Or Neil, the sky diving instructor? You’re telling me he’s not like the air marshal, or the SWAT dude? This one’s into stock car racing, huh? How does that not fit the profile? He’s got ‘bad boy’ written all over him, Mom.” Not to mention his two mini-me’s you think I’m supposed to live with.
After she used the C-word—commitment—and these guys moved on to greener pastures, she’d cry in my arms and swear off bad boys forever. “Forever” had been about three years this time. She’d been on the wagon for so long, I’d let my guard down.
Her nails bit into my arm. “This one married me, Shelby. I love him. He loves me. We’re moving in with them. And that’s all there is to it.”
“Them?” I narrowed my eyes.
“Dale’s sons live at home.”
“Those two Chippendale dancers on the front porch?” I hissed. “You want me to move in with them?”
Her troubled expression cleared. “Oh, Shelby, they’re the nicest young men.”
Could she be more clueless? Unless Dale’s house rivaled the Biltmore House in size, not looking at them in a most unsisterly way was going to require poking my eyes out.
“You girls all right?” Dale stepped into the kitchen. “Can the boys start hauling stuff to the trailer, Macy?” He moved closer and his expression became troubled. “Shelby, I know it’s a lot to put on you. Just give us a chance, sweetheart. It’ll be an adjustment for everybody, but Caine already cleared out his room so you can have a bigger closet.”
I blinked and whirled on Mom. “So they knew this was coming, but I didn’t?”
“Shelby, honey, you rush out of the house as soon as I bring the car home. We barely have time to say hello. Then you get home after midnight and I’m asleep. When was I supposed to tell you?” Her voice rose to a wail.
Dale slipped an arm around her shoulder. “Shh, shh, sweetheart. Don’t cry, Macy. We’re gonna do something about that. You don’t work, as of now, Shelby. So you can call up your boss and tell him you quit. Your mama turned in her resignation today. Y’all are gonna have all the time I can give you to spend together before you go off to school this fall. I know Macy wants that more’n anything. It’s my pleasure to make that happen.”
“You’re driving me back and forth to school,” I hissed, raising the first objection that came to mind. “I am not going to transfer.”
“I got something to say about that, too,” Dale interjected. “Your momma told me what happened last month. I gotta say, if you get suspended again for slappin’ some asshole who can’t keep his hands to himself, I’d go to jail for shootin’ the sonofabitch. West Mecklenburg’s a rough school and we all know it.”
He raked his hand through his hair. “The local high school’s just about in our back yard. No more’n eight hundred students. And what’s more, I know the parents of every damn kid there. Nobody’s gonna lay a hand on you without him or his daddy—or both—answerin’ to me. So, yes, you will transfer.” His eyes blazed and the set to his jaw dared me to contradict his edict. “I know you don’t participate in after school stuff, and not just because of your job. You don’t feel safe there, Shelby. Admit it.”
There were more than eight hundred in my senior class. Most days, I was terrified at school. I didn’t even use the restroom at school if I could help it, but I’d have bitten my tongue off rather than admit that to this man.
“Listen, I’ve raised a couple of teenagers. Don’t dig in your heels just to do it, okay? And if you’ll work with me on this, on putting’ your mama’s mind at rest about you bein’ safe, I’ll see if I can’t help you talk her into lettin’ you go away to college come fall. Deal?” He stuck out his hand.
Had she persuaded Dale to bring Hot Thing One and Hot Thing Two along because she knew I’d hesitate to show my ass in front of two guys my own age? When I got her alone—
The weirdest part was that she’d always leaped small buildings to stop me from hanging out with guys who had chest hair and had to shave every day. “They’ll ask for too much, Shelby,”
And now, she was asking me to just walk off into the sunset with some ready-made family. Were those two clowns on the porch supposed to be the bait?
I could hardly wait for this to go wrong. How long could that take? Two months? Three at most?
I stared at their interlocked hands and bit back the objections sizzling on my tongue. “I can’t believe this is happening.” I shoved past them, stalked across the living room, and stuck my head out the front door. Neither half-naked stepbrother was visible. “Looks like I need boxes,” I yelled.
A dirty-blond head popped out of the back of the trailer. “Comin’ right up, little sister.”
Eying the hard body that sprang out of the trailer with an armload of cardboard, I sensed that safety was an illusion. Nothing about this situation seemed sane or safe.