Corrupt Me

CHAPTER THREE

I was in a T-shirt and nothing else, not mine. My eyes closed and I forced myself to take a deep breath. Don't freak out. It's not a big deal. It's not like I slept with him or anything. Slept but not s l e p t with.

Or so I thought.

What a way to lose your virginity. Drunk and with your boyfriend's brother. My memories might be foggy of how the night ended with me in Tristan's room, but I was damn sure I would remember sleeping with the guy I'd hated to love for years.

I wiggled my hips just a hair to make sure I was still wearing underwear. Halle-lu-freaking-lujah. They were intact.

But wiggling my hips might not have been the wisest action, regardless how slight.

"Ever, what are you doing?" Tristan asked in a low, husky voice, thick with sleep.

My gaze snapped to his face and my body went still. His eyes were closed and he hadn't removed the hand on my bare skin. Why did his voice sound even sexier in the morning? It wasn't fair. This doesn't have to be awkward. Just keep cool, Everly. You can do cool. You're the picture of cool. Was it wrong to want to stare at his face for hours in the morning? He had a ruggedness that Preston could never pull off. "Uh, wondering how I got in your bed." My voice was scratching, courtesy of yelling and puking. Forget about what was going on in my head, the crashing of the waves outside the open doors echoed the thundering in my head.

"Keep your panties on. Nothing happened," he mumbled, causing an irrational ribbon of disappointment to curl within me. "Yet," he added with a devious smirk to his tone as his fingers inched a hair lower on my belly. Then another inch. And another.

My breath hitched, the muscles in my lower abdomen twitching. Any hangover that had been threatening to consume me was pushed aside by more pleasant sensations.

I'd dreamed of Tristan touching my body a million times before, but nothing prepared me for the electricity that sparked over my skin. If a single touch brush of his fingers could steal my breath, I shivered to think what his lips could do.

His fingers stopped their slow exploration and I realized I hadn't knocked his hand away, but in my defense, my brain had stopped functioning. Those ridiculously long lashes fluttered open, ensnaring my gaze with such heat. I could do nothing but stare back. Desire I didn't want flooded inside me.

This wasn't happening, was it?

Tristan wouldn't kiss me.

But even as the little voice inside me tried to rationalize my thoughts, the devil on my other shoulder said, hell yes, he would. Tristan had no morals. He had no shame. Only one of many reasons he hadn't come home these past two years. His parents and Tristan never agreed on anything.

His head dipped and I ran my tongue over my bottom lip, uncertain what I should do or say. A good girl would run from the room and pray no one saw me leaving Tristan's bedroom half-naked. With Preston's room across the hall and mine a few doors down, there was a good chance I'd go unnoticed. That was what a good, smart girl should do, one who was loyal to her boyfriend.

Or...I could stay in his bed and see what happened next.

Shit.

Why did he have to come home? Why was he at Lang's last night? Why did I have to end up in his bed on the day he returned?

His eyes raked over my body. Only my calves and ankles were tangled in the crisp gray sheets. I suddenly felt so exposed in only a T-shirt. His T-shirt. A smile wicked smile played on his lips, my skin warming under his scrutiny. "If you keep looking at me like that, Ever, I will make you wish you had met me first."

I swallowed the tight lump in my throat. Me? He was the one who was unraveling me with his eyes. I shouldn't want him to kiss me, to want to be closer. My chest rose and fell, my nipples tingling. He wasn't being serious. He couldn't be. Up until a minute ago, Tristan barely acknowledged I existed, other than being his brother's girlfriend, regardless that I'd spent more time with his own family than he did.

My hand moved on its own as if someone else had taken over my body, someone with more ovaries and guts. I trailed the tip of my fingernails over the feathered wings inked on both pecs. Thorns and ivy were tattooed down his sides and across his lower abdominal. It was surreal to be touching Tristan...and shameless, but a groan pulled from his lips and it was all the encouragement I needed.

He caught my wrist, yanking it off his chest. "You shouldn't be here," his voice clip and cold. When I lifted my gaze to his face, that frigidness was radiating in his eyes, a look that would have made grown men cower.

Hot and cold. It was impossible to keep up, especially when I wasn't in top form. I needed to be sober to go toe-to-toe with Tristan-Fucking-Malone.

I shouldn't be in his bed, but saying it didn't change the fact that I was. "It's not like I had a choice," I muttered, reminding him just how I get in this position.

"I didn't want to haul your intoxicated ass all over the house. My room was the closest."

Tangles of hair hung around my face and I jerked my hand from his grasp, sitting up in the bed. "Sorry to inconvenience you, but no one asked you to bring me home." Let alone to his room.

This was how every conversation Tristan I had ended, with us snapping at each other, and then it would be months before we saw each other again. We couldn't seem to help ourselves.

"Do us both a favor...stay out of my way."

My heart started to knock so hard in my chest it hurt, but I forced a defiant look even as I said, "Fine. But last night, you got in my way. It is not my fault I ended up in your bed."

That jewel-studded brow shot up. "Isn't it? You never should have been at one of Lang's parties. You don't belong in that world."

My chin tipped up. "Don't tell me where I belong. You don't know anything about me or what I'm going through." I shoved out of the bed, searching the floor for my clothes. Unlike Preston's bedroom, Tristan had shit tossed everywhere. For someone who had only just gotten home, he sure had plenty of time to mess it up. I kicked a pile of clothes nearest the bed, praying my skirt from last night was somewhere in there.

I heard the mattress groan behind me and assumed he had rolled out of bed. "If Preston gave a damn about you, he never would have let you go."

"Preston doesn't let me do anything," I replied, whirling toward him, my temper rising along with the pounding in my head. It had returned with a vengeance. Tristan was sauntering to the closet buck ass naked. The muscles rippled down his frame, black ink covering the tan skin, making my mouth go dry.

God, why did he have to be so beautiful?

"And that's the problem," he said, not bothering to hide the snide in his voice.

I pressed a hand to my temple and winced. "God, you're such a dick."

"Thank you," he retorted, tossing me my soft pink lacy bra, which landed at my feet.

I stared at his back, refusing to let my eyes travel any further...again. "Did you...sleep naked?"

A predatory curve danced on his lips. "You got a problem with my nakedness? You didn't seem to mind last night."

Yes...No...I didn't know.

I chewed on the bottom of my lip, deciding I didn't care where my clothes were. Clutching the bra in my hand, I stalked toward the door with only one thought in my head. I had to get out of here before I made a fool of myself. I paused at the door. With a sigh, I spun back around to face the asshat. "Don't tell Preston about last night." I don't know why it mattered, but mostly I guess I didn't want Preston to find out I'd slept in his brother's room. If anyone was good at keeping secrets, it was Tristan, but it felt wrong to ask him to lie to Preston. Regret and guilt began to worm its way inside my soul.

 

The Malone's had been so good to me, particularly these last six months, and the last thing I wanted to do was cause a bigger rift between their sons. I don't know what I would have done without Anna and Blaine, Preston and Tristan's parents. They were family to me—the only family I had really. Preston and Tristan might be complete opposites and fight like enemies, but they were still blood. Deep down, I knew they cared about each other.

I opened my mouth to tell Tristan to forget it, that I didn't need this lie hanging over my head. I'd tell Preston the truth. The idea of being indebted to Tristan curdled my stomach, but the moment my gaze connected with his, I knew I was in trouble.

His icy eyes darkened from where he still stood utterly naked, leaning against the wall. "So I shouldn't show him the pictures."

I froze, every muscle in my body locking up. "What pictures?" I hated the hitch of panic in my voice, but the thought of Tristan taking pictures of us together in bed sent my heart into a tizzy. He wouldn't have... Would he? Tristan could be an ass, but this...this would be a new low, even for him.

He sauntered his fine ass over to the nightstand, plucking up his phone and swiped it open, before turning the screen around for me to see for myself. I didn't recognize the guy in front of me. Yes, he'd always been a hard ass and arrogant to a fault, cruel even.

I gasped, staring at the racy picture of Tristan and I tangled in his sheets, his lips pressed to my neck. My leg was wrapped around his waist, one of his hands trailing high up my thigh, the other snapping the picture. Wide-eyed, my eyes volleyed from the phone to his face. "Tristan, you wouldn't!" I hissed, my hands balling into fists. "You said nothing happened."

He shrugged, narrowing those glacier blue eyes. "It didn't, but do you think Preston would believe me if I showed him these?" His finger flipped over the screen, revealing picture after picture of us.

I ground my teeth together, a surge of emotions slamming into me, humiliation at the top. The realization hit me like a thunderous wave during a hurricane. Tristan was blackmailing me. But why? "What do you want?" I asked, meeting his hard gaze with one of my own. I wouldn't let him intimidate me.

"Break up with him," he replied simply as if it was no big deal.

Confusion flickered over my face as I stared up at him. "Why would I do that?" He had no heart, or at the very least, didn't care about mine.

He chuckled. "You have until school starts to shatter my little brother's heart, or I'll make sure you regret it." He wiggled the phone in his hand, drawing my eyes to the reminder of what he had over me, what I had to lose.

It was more than just my relationship with Preston at stake. It was his entire family. So callous and there was no mistaking the underlining threat. I blinked, unable to believe what I was hearing. Not for a single second of my life had I ever believed Tristan would hurt me. Despite what he was saying, my gut told me there was no safest place to be than at Tristan's side. Pretty screwed up and stupid considering the turn of events.

"This has to be a joke. Why would you do this?" My voice wobbled, but I stiffened my lip, refusing to cry in front of him. He wasn't worth my tears. I didn't understand what game he was playing at or why it made any difference to him if Preston and I dated. None of the last twelve hours made any sense.

"I have my reasons. Go home, Ever," he sighed, sounding bored. Another twist of the knife he'd stuck in my back.

The tears pooling in my eyes betrayed me. I wanted to scream at him. I wanted to hit him. I wanted to curl into a ball and ball my eyes. But the majority of my body was too stunned to do anything. He knew how desperately hard my life had been for the last six months, before really if I was being honest with myself. Why would he do this to me? Why? "You don't want me here anymore? Is that it? Why not just ask me to leave then?"

"I wouldn't dream of it," he muttered, climbing back into bed, his way of dismissing me.

Fuck. What a mess.

He was blackmailing me. And did so completely naked.

I spun and threw the door open. Just who the hell did he think he was? I hated Tristan Malone with every fiber in my freaking body.

© 2012 by J.L. Weil. All Rights Reserved.

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