Elec:  Bring some ass cream too and put extra Snickers in it.

That message would have seemed really odd to someone on the outside looking in. The text had made me giddy, though.


That night, we shared another bowl of ice cream and played the game until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I even managed to kill Elec off two out of the 17 times we played. Even though he didn’t really open up to me, the gaming sessions seemed to be his own special way of saying he didn’t find my company deplorable anymore and that maybe, he even enjoyed it

But in typical Elec fashion, just when it felt like we were finally connecting, he had to go and ruin it.

***

It was a couple of days before my Friday night date with Bentley. Victoria and I were hanging out in the kitchen when Elec walked in and did his usual drinking out of the milk carton routine.

Victoria’s eyes fixated on Elec’s shirt riding up as he lifted the milk. The two shamrock tattoos on either side of his rock-hard abs were exposed.

She was practically drooling. “Hey, Elec.”

Elec grunted in response through the carton before putting it back into the fridge. He then began rummaging through the snack cupboard.

Victoria dipped a pretzel in some nutella and spoke with her mouth full. “So, have you decided which movie you’re going to see with Bentley Friday night?”

“No, we haven’t discussed it.”

From across the kitchen, I couldn’t help but notice that Elec stopped sifting through the cabinet for a moment and froze. It seemed like he was trying to listen to what we were saying. He glanced over at me for a fleeting moment with a troublesome expression.

“Well, I think you should see that new Drew Barrymore romantic comedy. Make him suffer through a chick flick. What do you think, Elec?”

“What do I think about what?”

“What movie should Greta see on her date with Bentley?”

He ignored her question and looked at me. “That dude’s a f**knut.”

He started to walk away, but Victoria called after him. “Hey, Elec…”

He turned around.

“Would you want to join? I mean…we could go with them. It might be fun. Like a double date.”

He chuckled and just stared at her for the longest time with a look that screamed, not a chance.

I shook my head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

He turned to me with a malicious grin. “Why not?”

Why not?

“Because it’s my date. I don’t want anyone else tagging along.”

“It would really upset you if I went?”

“Yes, actually.”

He looked over at Victoria. “In that case, I’d love to go.”

The look of satisfaction on her face sickened me. She thought this was her big chance to make a move on him. Meanwhile, he’d basically admitted he was just doing this to torture me.

“See you Friday night,” he said before disappearing.

Victoria opened her mouth in a silent scream then tapped her feet excitedly on the floor, and it made me want to vomit. I now had to gear up for what would surely be one of the most awkward dates of my life. But nothing could have prepared me for what actually transpired that night.

CHAPTER 5

Elec was supposed to be meeting us at the cinema. He had taken a part-time job at a bike shop and would be going home to shower first after work.

Victoria, Bentley and I got his ticket before they sold out.

“Victoria, are you sure your date’s showing up?” Bentley laughed.

“He’ll be here.” She looked over at me with uncertainty. Truthfully, I had no clue whether Elec was actually planning to show up and prayed he didn’t. When Victoria texted him that we planned to go inside the theater early to secure seats, he’d never responded.

As we waited in the concession line, Bentley put his arm around my shoulder, causing me to stiffen. It seemed a little forward since we were just getting to know each other. He did smell nice and looked really good in jeans and a black dress shirt. His short light brown hair was spiked with gel. I remember I used to think Bentley was really cute. Nowadays, every single guy seemed to pale in comparison to Elec on the physical attraction meter. I wanted to crush that meter with a sledgehammer.

Victoria was under strict instructions not to tell Bentley that Elec was my stepbrother. Since Elec never spoke to me at school, most people still had no clue that we lived together. I preferred it that way.

Relief set in when the theater darkened, and the previews began to play. I put my phone on vibrate. Maybe he wasn’t going to show after all. My body started to relax while Victoria checked her phone every two seconds and looked around for him.

The opening credits to the movie started. I sank deeper into my chair and kicked my feet up on the empty seat in front of me. Bentley gestured for me to have some of his popcorn. I’d been munching on it for a while and was actually enjoying the movie until I nearly choked on a whiff of clove cigarettes mixed with cologne.

Then, there he was.

My knees trembled as he slid past them in the darkness making his way to the empty seat on the other side of Victoria.

I wanted to smack the look of joy off of her face. When Elec leaned in and kissed her on the cheek, my appetite for the popcorn transformed quickly into nausea. I handed Bentley the bag and pretended to be interested in the movie. In all honesty, I was staring straight at the screen, but Drew Barrymore might as well have been speaking Mandarin Chinese.

All I was really doing was ruminating and breathing in Elec’s scent. His presence had made me angrier than I anticipated it would.

At one point, Bentley grabbed my hand and wrapped it inside his. I froze.

Victoria, who had downed a giant Diet Coke before Elec arrived, whispered in my ear that she was going to the bathroom.

My heart began to pound faster once she left because there was no longer anything blocking my view of him. I could feel from the corner of my eyes that he was looking at me. Despite laughter erupting around me from the audience, the weight of his stare seemed to drown it all out. I wouldn’t look at him or even move.

Just keep staring at the screen, Greta.

My phone vibrated on my leg.

Are you practicing to be a store window mannequin?

I couldn’t exactly respond to the text because Bentley would have seen me. I did, however, look over at Elec and regretted it. His normally unruly hair was gelled and styled. He was also more dressed up than normal in dark jeans and a leather jacket.

His mouth spread into a rare genuine smile that made me feel as if something were squeezing at my heart. Then, he chuckled, causing me to laugh at myself, too. He was right. I had been sitting there stiff as a board tonight. I was acting ridiculous.

Victoria interrupted my moment with Elec when she slid past my legs and sat down, once again obstructing my view. She leaned into him, and that was my cue to stare back at the screen.

I wanted to be the one with him.

It didn’t make sense, but it was proof that desire and logic were two very separate things.

What if Victoria tried to kiss him tonight? What if he responded? I couldn’t deal with this jealousy already, and nothing had even happened yet. His dating girls from school had become something I’d forced myself to accept. I mean, he was my stepbrother, supposedly disliked me and would be moving back to California after graduation. The reality was, nothing could ever happen between us. Despite that, his messing around with my best friend would not be okay for me. She’d tell me every last detail and wouldn’t hold back.

Somewhere in the midst of my thoughts, the movie finally finished. Drew Barrymore was smiling, so it must have been a happy ending.

Bentley’s hand rested on my lower back as we exited the theater. In the bright florescent lights of the crowded lobby, Elec looked even more stunning. Victoria grabbed onto his arm possessively. I wanted to hate her for it, but she had no clue about my feelings for him.

This situation was overwhelming me. I needed to be alone for a few minutes. “Guys, I’m just gonna go freshen up. You should decide where we’re going to eat.”

Upon entering the safety of the bathroom, I let out a deep breath. After I peed and washed my hands, I was reluctant to head back outside, so I stayed staring at myself in the mirror.

Anger and frustration coursed through me the more I thought about this f**ked up date. I picked up my phone and texted Elec.

Why are you really here? Do you even like Victoria?

I immediately regretted that impulsive move. My phone vibrated.

Elec:  What if I do?

Wishing I’d never said anything, I had no answer and just stared at my phone. He texted again.

Elec:  I don’t.

I hadn’t realized I was holding in so much breath until a massive sigh of relief escaped me.

Greta:  Then, why are you here?

Elec:  To get a rise out of you.

Greta:  Why?

Elec:  Because I get off on it.

Greta:  Why?

Elec:  I can’t answer that question any more than you can tell me why you look at me the way you do even though I’ve treated you like shit.

Oh. God. Until now, I hadn’t realized how obvious my feelings were, how stupid and desperate I must have looked to him all this time.

Elec:  Have some self-respect.

What. The. Fuck. Now, he’d seriously pissed me off. Wow.

Greta:  Don’t worry. I won’t be looking at you anymore.

I just couldn’t believe he’d said that to me. My eyes started to water, but I was determined not to let him see me upset. It took a few minutes to compose myself before walking back out to the lobby. As hard as it was, I refused to look at him. Refused.

“What the heck took you so long?” Bentley asked.

“I ran into a little glitch. But it’s over.”

Victoria put her hand on my shoulder. “Everything okay?”

“Yup. Let’s go.”

Victoria and Elec walked in front of us. She was still hanging onto his arm while both of his hands were in his pockets.

The four of us packed into Bentley’s Prius and drove to an all-night diner. Avoiding my stepbrother became a much bigger challenge in the confines of a small booth where he was sitting right across from me. Still, I kept to my word. I’d focus on his sleeve tattoo or play with the salt shakers but never looked up. I pretended to enjoy being immersed in conversation with Bentley, who was sitting to my left.

We ordered our food, and so far, I’d been successful in not making eye contact with Elec.

“So, Greta, there’s this party next Friday at Alex Franco’s house. I wanted you to come with me,” Bentley said.

“Sure. Sounds like fun.”

“Good.” He leaned in and lightly kissed the side of my face.

Elec was mindlessly playing with some sugar packets. If I were Victoria, I’d find it peculiar that my “date” wasn’t even talking to me. But what did I know?

She tried to make conversation. “Elec, what are your plans after graduation?”

“To get the hell out of Boston.”

And that was all she got.

A few minutes later, he seemed to be texting under the table.

Then, my phone vibrated.

Bet I can get you to look at me.

I ignored him and didn’t text back.

A few seconds later, our food arrived, and we all dug in. I was happily ensconced in my pancakes when I heard Elec say to Victoria, “You have some milkshake right there.”

“Where?”

“Here,” he said before pulling her into him and tongue kissing her right in front of me. I watched in horror as he did to her mouth, the same things he’d done to mine during the encounter at the cafe. My face burned up in anger as he slowly and sensually moved his mouth over hers.

“Damn, you two, get a room,” Bentley said.

When Elec finally backed away, Victoria covered her mouth and said, “Wow…and here I was, thinking you weren’t interested.” She laughed.

My stare burned into Elec’s, and he silently mouthed, “Told you.”

“Excuse me,” I said to Bentley as I exited the booth and promptly asked the waitress where I could find the bathroom. Before I could grab my bearings, Victoria came in after me.

“What was that?” she asked.

I leaned against the sink. “What was what?”

“That whole thing…Elec kissing me like that, and then you running off. Did it upset you that he kissed me?”

I dodged the inquiry. “He can do whatever he wants. He just bugs me.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

Sure, why don’t I just admit that I’m obsessed with my stepbrother, so much so, that it turned me on a little watching him kiss you, because everything he does seems to make my body react.

“You know things between him and me are rocky, Vic. I also don’t want to see you get hurt.”

“Don’t worry. I’m a big girl. I’m just having a little fun. I know he’s leaving.”

This was exactly what I was afraid of.

“Don’t mind me, okay? Elec just gets under my skin. It’s no big deal. I just needed a breather.”

“Okay, if you say so.” She crossed her arms. “Are you feeling good about Bentley, though?”

“We’ll see. He’s…nice. I think I’ll definitely give him a chance.”

“Good.”

When Victoria hugged me, I could smell Elec on her, and it made me crazy. It was my reaction to that whiff of smoky musk that served to remind me that he was driving me insane and that it needed to end. I vowed in that moment to do whatever it took to shake this thing I had for him.

“You ready to go back out?” she asked.

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