When my stepbrother, Elec, came to live with us my senior year, I wasn’t prepared for how much of a jerk he’d be.
I hated that he took it out on me because he didn’t want to be here.
I hated that he brought girls from our high school back to his room.
But what I hated the most was the unwanted way my body reacted to him.
At first, I thought all he had going for him were his rock-hard tattooed abs and chiseled face. But things started changing between us, and it all came to a head one night.
Then, just as quickly as he’d come into my life, he was gone back to California.
It had been years since I’d seen Elec.
When tragedy struck our family, I’d have to face him again.
And holy hell, the teenager who made me crazy was now a man that drove me insane.
I had a feeling my heart was about to get broken again.
Stepbrother Dearest by Penelope Ward is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
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When my stepbrother, Elec, came to live with us my senior year, I wasn’t prepared for how much of a jerk he’d be. I hated that he took it out on me because he didn’t want to be here. I hated that he brought girls from our high school back to his room. But what I hated the most was the unwanted way my body reacted to him. At first, I thought all he had going for him were his rock-hard tattooed abs and chiseled face. But things started changing between us, and it all came to a head one night.
Then, just as quickly as he’d come into my life, he was gone back to California. It had been years since I’d seen Elec.When tragedy struck our family, I’d have to face him again. And holy hell, the teenager who made me crazy was now a man that drove me insane. I had a feeling my heart was about to get broken again.
Author: Penelope Ward
Cold air fogged the bay window in our living room as I nervously waited in front of it and struggled to see outside.
Any minute now, Randy’s Volvo station wagon would be pulling into the driveway.
He’d gone to Logan Airport to pick up his son, Elec, who would be living with us for the next year while his mother took a yearlong work-related assignment overseas.
Randy and my mother, Sarah, had only been married a couple of years. My stepfather and I got along well enough, but I wouldn’t say we were close.
Here’s what little I knew about Randy’s former life: his ex-wife, Pilar, was an Ecuadorian artist based in the San Francisco Bay area, and his son was a tattooed punk who, according to Randy, was allowed to do whatever he wanted.
I hadn’t ever met my stepbrother before and had only seen a picture of him that was taken a few years ago, shortly before Randy married my mother.
From the picture, I could see he inherited dark hair, probably from his South American mother, along with tanned skin, but had Randy’s light eyes and fine features.
He was clean-cut then, but Randy said Elec had entered into a rebellious stage as of late. That included getting tattoos when he was only fifteen and getting into trouble for underage drinking and smoking pot.
Randy blamed Pilar for being flighty and too focused on her art career, thereby allowing Elec to get away with murder.
Randy claimed he had encouraged Pilar to take a temporary position teaching classes run by a London art gallery so that Elec, now 17, could come live with us.
Although Randy took two short trips out west a year, he wasn’t there on a daily basis to discipline Elec.
He struggled with that and said he looked forward to the opportunity to set his son straight over the next year.
Butterflies swarmed in my stomach as I stared out at the dirty snow that lined my street.
The frigid Boston weather would be a rude awakening for my California-bred stepbrother.
I had a stepbrother.
That was a weird thought. I hoped we would get along. As an only child, I had always wanted a sibling.
I laughed at how stupid I was, fantasizing that this was going to be some kind of fairytale relationship overnight, like friggin’ Donny and Marie Osmond or Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
This morning, I heard an old Coldplay song I never even knew existed called Brothers and Sisters. It’s not about siblings per say, but I convinced myself it was a good omen. This was going to be okay.
I had nothing to be scared about.
My mother seemed just as nervous as I was as she repeatedly ran up and down the stairs to get Elec’s room ready. She had turned the office into a bedroom.
Mom and I had gone to Walmart together to buy sheets and other necessities. It was weird picking stuff out for someone you didn’t know. We decided on dark navy bedding.
I started muttering to myself, thinking about what I would say to him, what we would talk about, what I could introduce him to here. It was sort of exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.
A car door slammed, prompting me to jump up from the couch and straighten my wrinkled shirt.
Calm yourself, Greta.
The key made a turning sound.
Randy walked in alone and left the door cracked open, allowing the freezing air to seep into the room. After a few minutes, I could hear feet crunching on the sheet of ice that covered the walkway but no Elec yet.
He must have stopped outside before entering. Randy stuck his head back out the door. “Get your ass in here, Elec.”
A lump formed in my throat when he appeared at the doorway.
I swallowed hard and took him in for a few seconds, my heart pounding harder and harder as the realization hit that he looked nothing like the picture shown to me.
Elec was taller than Randy, and the short hair I remembered from the photo was now a tousled inky black mess nearly covering his eyes. He smelled of cigarettes, or maybe it was pipe smoke because it was sweeter.
A chain hung from his jeans. He wouldn’t look at me, so I used the opportunity to continue examining him as he dumped his bag on the floor.
Was that my heart or the bag?
He looked over at Randy, and his voice was gravelly.
“Where’s my room?”
“Upstairs, but you’re not going anywhere until you say hello to your sister.”
Every muscle in my body tightened as I cringed at the term. There was no way I wanted to be his sister.
For one, when he turned to me, he looked like he wanted to kill me.
And two, once I got my first look at his chiseled face, it became abundantly clear that while my mind was wary of him, my body had been instantly put under a spell, one I would have given anything to come out from under.
His eyes bore into mine with daggers in them, and he didn’t say anything. I took a few steps forward, swallowed my pride and reached out my hand. “I’m Greta. Nice to meet you.”
He said nothing.
Several seconds passed before he reluctantly took my hand. His grip was uncomfortably hard, almost painful before he quickly released it.
I coughed and said, “You look different…than I pictured.”
He squinted at me.
“And you look pretty…plain.”
My throat felt like it was going to close up. For a quick second, I thought he was paying me a compliment before he followed the word “pretty” with “plain.”
The sad part was, if you’d asked me how standing across from him made me feel, “plain” might have been the term I would have used.
His eyes were looking me up and down with an ice-cold stare.
Despite the fact that I detested his personality, I was still in awe of his physical likeness, and that sickened me. His nose was perfectly straight, and his jaw was defined.
His lips were perfect—too perfect—for the filth I was sure came out of them. Physically, he was my dream and in every other way, my nightmare. Still, I refused to let him see that his words had an effect on me.
“Would you like me to show you to your room?” I asked.
He ignored me, lifted his bags and headed toward the stairs.
Great. This was going well.
My mother came down the stairs and immediately pulled Elec into a hug.
“It’s so nice to finally meet you, honey.”
His body stiffened before he ripped himself away from her. “Wish I could say the same.”
Randy stormed toward the stairs pointing his finger. “Cut the shit, Elec. You say hello to Sarah in a decent way.”
“Hello to Sarah in a decent way,” Elec repeated in a monotone voice as he walked up the stairs.
My mother put her hand on Randy’s shoulder. “It’s okay. He’ll warm up. Let him be alone. This cross-country move can’t be easy. He doesn’t know me yet. He’s just a little apprehensive.”
“A little disrespectful prick is what he is.”
I had to say, I was surprised to hear Randy speaking that way about his son regardless of how badly Elec was acting. My stepfather had never used words like that with me, although I had never really done anything to deserve it.
But Elec was being a disrespectful prick.
That night, Elec stayed behind closed doors.
Randy went in there once, and I heard them arguing, but Mom and I decided to let them hash it out and stayed out of whatever was going on between them.
On my way up to bed, I couldn’t help stopping to stare at Elec’s closed bedroom door. I wondered if his alienating us was indicative of how the entire year would go or if he would even last the entire year here.
Planning to brush my teeth, I opened the bathroom door and jumped at the sight of Elec wiping his wet body down from the shower. Steam and the smell of men’s body wash filled the air.
For some God forsaken reason, instead of running out, I froze. More disturbing, instead of covering himself with the towel, he let it fall nonchalantly to the floor.
My mouth dropped.
My eyes were now glued to his cock for a few seconds before my gaze traveled up to the two shamrocks inked on his ripped torso and then to the full sleeve tattoo on his left arm. His chest was dripping with water.
His left nipple was pierced. By the time my eyes landed on his face, they were met with an evil smirk. I tried to speak, but the words just wouldn’t come out.
Finally, I whipped my head away and said, “Uh…Oh my God…I…I’m so…I better leave.”
As I turned around to head out the door, his voice stopped me in my tracks. “You act like you’ve never seen a guy naked before.”
“How disappointing for you. It’s gonna be really hard for the next guy to measure up.”
“You tell me. Don’t I deserve to be?”
“God…you’re acting like—”
“A giant dick?”
It was like a bad car accident impossible to turn away from. I was looking down at him again. What was wrong with me? He was stark naked in front of me, and I couldn’t move.
Holy hell…his tip was pierced. What a way to be introduced to my first live one.
He broke my stare. “There’s really nowhere to go from here, so unless you’re planning on doing something, you should probably leave and let me finish getting dressed.”
I shook my head in disbelief and slammed the door shut behind me.
My legs were shaking as I fled to my room.
What just happened?
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“How is stepbrother dearest today?” Victoria asked.
The bed squeaked as I plopped on my stomach and sighed into the phone. “Up to his usual assholery.”
I hadn’t told my best friend Victoria about Elec’s show and tell in the bathroom Friday night.
It embarrassed me to no end, and I decided to keep it to myself. A Google search of pierced penises ended up keeping me up the rest of that first night.
Let me tell you, anyone who innocently searches “Prince Albert” is in for a big surprise.
It was now Sunday, and tomorrow Elec would be starting at my high school where we would both be seniors.
Soon enough, everyone would get to meet my jerky stepbrother.
Victoria sounded shocked. “He’s still not speaking to you?”
“No. He came downstairs to pour some cereal this morning and brought it back to his room.”
“Why do you think he has such a stick up his ass?”
You should see his other stick.
“Something’s going on between him and Randy. I’m trying not to take it personally, but it’s hard.”
It’s hard alright. God, I can’t get it out of my head!
Pierced mushroom head.
“You think I would like him?” Victoria asked.
“What do you mean? I told you…he’s the devil,” I snapped.
“I know…but do you think I would like him?”
Honestly, I knew he was exactly Victoria’s type. She loved dark and brooding guys even when they weren’t as good-looking as Elec. This was another reason I had to keep the details of the bathroom encounter to myself.
All she needed to hear was that his cock was pierced, and I’d never get her out of my house. But she’d find out what he looked like soon enough, so I figured I’d be honest.
“He’s really hot, okay? Really…fucking…hot. In fact, his looks are just about the only thing he has going for him.”
“Okay, I’m coming over.”
“No, you’re not.”
I laughed, but deep down, the idea of Victoria throwing herself at Elec made me really uncomfortable even if I didn’t think he’d return the attention.
“What are your plans for tonight, then?”
“Well, before I actually met him and realized he was an asshat, I was supposed to be making Sunday dinner for all of us. You know…my one specialty.”
I laughed because it was the only thing I knew how to make well. “How did you guess?”
“Maybe you can serve up a can of whoopass on the side for stepbrother dearest.”
“I’m not engaging him. I’m gonna kill him with kindness. I don’t care how much of a…dick…(oh goodness) he wants to be to me. The worst thing I can do is let him think he’s affecting me.”
Mom helped me set the table while we waited for the Tetrazzini to bake.
My stomach was growling, but it was more nerves rather than the smell of cream sauce and garlic emanating from the oven.
I really wasn’t looking forward to sitting across the table from Elec, that is, if he even agreed to join us.
“Greta, why don’t you go upstairs and see if you can get him to come down.”
My mother screwed open a bottle of wine. She was the only one who would be drinking, and she likely needed it. She poured a little, took a sip then said, “Look, I can understand why he doesn’t like me.
“He sees me as the enemy and probably blames me in some way for his parents not being together, but there is no reason for him to be treating you poorly.
“Just keep trying to get through to him, see if you can get him to open up a little.”
I shrugged. She had no idea how all out in the open things were in the bathroom the other night: balls to the wall open.
As I walked up the stairs, the theme song to Jaws rang out in my head. The thought of knocking on his door terrified me, and I didn’t know what I would be faced with if he even opened the door.
To my surprise, he opened right away. A clove cigarette was hanging out of his mouth. The sweet smell of the smoke traveled quickly up my nostrils.
He took a long drag then slowly and intentionally blew the smoke right in my face. His voice was low. “What?”
I tried to seem unaffected until an uncontrollable hacking cough broke out.
Very cool, Greta.
“Dinner is almost ready.”
He was wearing a tight, white ribbed tank top, and my eyes drifted down to a tattoo that said “Lucky” on one of his muscular biceps, which was now leaning against the door.
His hair was wet, and his jeans hung low, showcasing the top of the white boxer briefs underneath. His steely gray eyes stared into mine. He was breathtaking…for a bastard.
I had zoned out when he said, “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Like you’re trying to remember what I looked like the other night…like you’d rather have me for dinner.” He snickered.
“And why are you winking at me?”
Shit. My eye twitched whenever I was nervous and made it look like I was winking.
“It’s just a twitch. Get over yourself.”
His expression turned angry. “Really? Should I? My looks are all I have going for me, right? So, I should capitalize on that.”
What was he talking about? I stood there speechless.
He continued, “What’s the matter…too hot in here for you?” Then, he said in a mocking tone, “So…fucking…hot.” He flashed a wicked smile.
Those were the exact words I had used to describe him on the phone to Victoria earlier.
He had been eavesdropping on my conversation!
My eye twitched.
He continued, “You’re winking at me again. Am I making you nervous? Look at your face! Red’s a good color on you.”
I immediately left to go back downstairs.
He yelled after me.
“We’ll match, seeing as though I’m the DEVIL!”
Elec picked at his meal without saying a word as I fixated on his lip ring. Randy was glancing over at him with a look of disdain.
My mother refilled her wine glass more than once. Yup, our very own version of the Brady Bunch.
I pretended to be enjoying the Tetrazzini while ruminating over the fact that he’d overheard me talking about him that way and therefore, now knew I was attracted to him.
Mom was the first to speak.
“Elec, what do you think of Boston so far?”
“Seeing as though I’ve ventured nowhere but this house, it sucks ass.”
Randy slammed his fork down. “Can you show some respect to your stepmother for five seconds?”
“That depends. Can she stop boozing it up for the same amount of time? I knew you married a cheater, Daddy, but a lush, too?”
“You worthless piece of shit,” Randy spewed.
Once again, Randy had floored me with his choice of words toward his son. Elec was surely being an asshole, but it still shocked me to hear that kind of language coming out of my stepfather’s mouth.
Elec’s chair skidded back as he threw his napkin on the table and got up. “I’m done.” He looked over at me. “The Titty Zinni or whatever the fuck it’s called was wonderful, sis.”
The word “sis” had rolled off his tongue with sarcasm.
After he left the table, the silence was deafening.
My mother put her hand on Randy’s, and I was left pondering what could have happened between Elec and his father to cause such a rift.
I impulsively got up and walked upstairs. My heart was pounding as I knocked on Elec’s door.
He didn’t answer, so I slowly turned the knob and found him sitting at the edge of his bed smoking a clove cigarette. He had headphones on and hadn’t seen me enter. I stood just past the doorway and observed him.
He was bouncing his legs nervously, looking frustrated and defeated. Eventually, he put the cigarette out only to immediately reach into his drawer and grab another one.
“Elec,” I shouted.
He jumped and removed his headphones.
“The fuck? You scared the shit out of me.”
He lit the cigarette and gestured toward the door. “Leave.”
He rolled his eyes and shook his head slowly, returning the headphones to his ears and taking a long drag.
I sat down next to him. “Those are gonna kill you.”
Smoke billowed from his mouth as he said, “Perfect.”
“You don’t mean that.”
“Please leave me alone.”
I left the room and went back downstairs.
Seeing him looking so down when he didn’t know I was watching him made me more determined than ever to break through to him somehow. I needed to know if this was just a façade or if he were truly a genuine asshole.
The meaner he was to me, the more I wanted to make him like me. It was a challenge.
I returned to the kitchen and asked Randy for Elec’s cell phone number before programming it into my phone. I then typed out a text.
I decided to change the subject off of Randy.
What a jackass. This was going nowhere. I threw the phone on the counter and marched up the stairs.
Now, he’d put me in the mood to do something that would piss him off.
He was still sitting on the bed smoking when I opened the door after neglecting to knock.
I headed straight for the drawer, grabbed his box of cigarettes and ran out.
I was laughing all the way back to my room. That is, until my door burst open. I quickly stuffed the cigarettes into my shirt.
Elec looked ready to murder me, although admittedly, the glare in his glowing eyes was pretty sexy.
“Give them to me,” he said through gritted teeth.
“I’m not giving them back to you.”
“Yes the fuck you are, or I’m reaching into your shirt and getting them. You choose.”
“Seriously, why do you smoke? It’s so bad for you.”
“You can’t just steal my shit. But then again, like mother, like daughter.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Go ask your mother,” he muttered under his breath. He held out his muscular, tattooed arm. “Give me my cigarettes.”
“Not until you explain why you just said that. She didn’t steal Randy. Your parents were divorced before my mom even met your dad.”
“That’s what Randy wants you to believe. She was probably fucking around on your father too, right? Poor gullible bastard.”
“Don’t call my father a bastard.”
“Well, where was he when Sarah was fucking my father behind my mother’s back?”
My blood was starting boil. He was going to be sorry for asking. “Six feet under. My father died when I was ten.”
He was silent then rubbed his temples in frustration. His tone eased for the first time since I’d met him. “Fuck. I didn’t know that, okay?”
“There’s a lot you’re probably assuming. If you’d just talk to me…”
Elec almost looked like he was going to apologize. Almost. Then, he shook his head and turned right back into evil Mr. Hyde.
“I’ll be fucking damned if I have to talk to you. Give me my cigarettes, or I’m ripping them out of your shirt.”
My body buzzed when he said it. What was wrong with me?
A part of me wanted to see what that would be like, his rough hands pulling at the material on my shirt, ripping it off. I shook my head to rid the thought and backed away as he slowly approached. He was just inches from me now.
The heat radiated from his body as he moved up against me, squishing the cigarette box into my chest. My nipples instantly turned to steel.
I had never felt so out of control of my own body and was silently begging it to stop reacting so intensely toward him. Let’s face it. My body was an imbecile with poor judgment.
How could it want something so badly that hated it right back?
His breath smelled like clove. “That was the last package of that brand. They’re imported from Indonesia. I don’t even know where to buy them here yet.
“If you think I’m difficult to deal with now, you’re not gonna want to see what I’m like with no cigarettes tonight.”
“They’re so bad for you.”
“Ask me if I give a shit,” he said uncomfortably close to my mouth.
He backed up a few inches. “Look…smoking is the only thing that has brought me any peace since walking into this hell hole. Now, I’m asking nicely. Please.”
His eyes softened, and with each second that passed, my resolve weakened. “Okay.” His gaze followed my hand as I reached into my bra for the cigarettes.
I handed them to him and instantly felt the cold air replace the heat of his body as he walked away.
If I thought giving him back the cigarettes would initiate a truce, I was wrong.
He turned around one last time to face me, and his eyes were no longer soft. They were piercing. “You’re gonna pay for that.”
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