My Twisted Stepbrother
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Kane Blackwell's desires for Celeste Monroe only fuel his resentment. He knows staying away from her is the right choice, but he can't resist. Every glance sends desire to all the wrong places. He's about to ruin her life, and he might just let himself do it. Celeste finds herself caught between a rock and a hard place after her stepbrother and best friend, Blaine, dies mysteriously. Committed to protecting his secrets, Blaine's brother, Kane, is determined to force her to reveal what she knows about that fateful night. As an outside aggressor threatens her with increasingly volatile threats, her safety teeters on the edge. As tension crackles in the air, the arrogant and tormented Kane grapples with his own demons. He's torn between compelling her to confess and the escalating attraction simmering beneath the surface while standing as her reluctant guardian. Their fates become increasingly intertwined.
"You're late, Blackwell," Talon, the president of Kappa Alpha, calls over his shoulder when Kane walks into the formal dining room of the fraternity house. He’s extinguishing the flames on the candles lined across the marble mantle that overhangs on the ancient stone fireplace. This whole school is so pretentious, between the way they make them dress, speak, and act. It’s like they’re living in archaic times, despite the fact that when they go home on term breaks, they all drive Maseratis, get tattoos, and trash their parents’ mansions with wild parties. But it’s a rite of passage for the wealthy in Faircliff, and Kane is fairly certain none of them would be there if their trust funds weren’t on the line.
"When the president addresses you, it’s polite to respond," Talon brushes his hand through his blonde hair and gives Kane a shit-eating grin. He’s baiting him. Kane can feel the tension between them, and it’s more intense than usual. But that’s more on him than Talon. Talon's always been a pretentious douchebag. Kane can’t remember the last time he slept more than an hour or two, and he's hanging on by a thread. And if anyone is going to make him snap, it’s Talon Sanderson.
Kane's wanted to kick his ass since the first time he heard him open his mouth freshman year, but he hasn’t because his dad is the Dean of Woodsboro University, and Kane's father’s best friend. So, instead of knocking him out and crushing his windpipe with his foot on his throat, Kane settles for flipping him off. He doesn’t want to be a part of this stupid fraternity, but he doesn’t have a choice. His brother, Blaine, and he are legacies. Kane clenches his jaw as the thought runs through his brain. Were. Past tense. They were legacies, until Blaine was found dead on the cliffs around the perimeter of the Woodsboro campus last month. No one is acting like it’s a big deal. Just a horrible accident, is what every adult in this hellish school is saying.
There are some whispers from students about whether it was self-inflicted, if their stepsister Celeste was involved. No investigation, nothing but a shitty vigil and an even shittier tombstone in the cemetery near the old church on campus.
Kane glances around the room, and he realizes that he must be further behind schedule than he thought. Besides Talon, there are only four guys still in the room, which means he’s completely missed the meeting. They’re pretending to be bored and unbothered, but they're aware of the fact that he's not in any mental state to be dealing with this asshole. Wilder has swiped one of the leather-bound books off the built-in bookshelf and is reading it upside down as he grins at Kane. He’s always looking for a reason to get into a fight, and he’s waiting for Kane to start it so he can get in on the fun. Nathaniel and Cruz are messing around with the gold encrusted globe that’s probably worth more than all of their lives together.
And Declan is sipping whiskey and watching Wilder with an amused expression. He’s the most reserved, never one to spout off in anger, but if Kane could only pick one person to have his back, it’d be him. The five of them are like brothers, and Kane's not surprised that they're waiting around to see if he’s going to lose his shit and burn this motherfucker to the ground with Talon still inside. He notices that Jesse, his brother’s best friend, hasn’t waited around for him. Kane doesn't need a babysitter, but he's usually Mr. Nice guy just like Blaine was and wouldn’t chance leaving him alone with Talon with four witnesses who would swear on their grandmothers that he bashed his own skull into the cement. They're all grieving though, so Kane doesn't blame him for being distant.
"Having trouble hearing, Kane?" Talon taunts him again, and Kane can feel the reason leaving his body. He needs to get some of this pent-up anger out, and Talon's looking like the easiest target right now. There are no rules for him because of who his father is, and he knows it.
Kane wasn't in the mood. He wanted Talon to put on whatever grand performance of bullshit he had planned, mark his name on the attendance sheet, and then just shut up. He glared at Talon and stomped over to make himself a drink, biting back the bitter taste of the whiskey and tugging his tie loose. He felt like he was being strangled, and the tie had little to do with that.
Wilder snickered, and Kane cut his eyes at him because he wasn't in the mood to play around.
He was late because he'd turned into a stalker, following his stepsister, Celeste, everywhere. He wanted to know what she knew about Blaine's death, and she was hellbent on taking their secrets to her grave. Blaine had told him he was going to be with her that night, and yet she wasn't with him when he died apparently. She wouldn't say where she was or how he ended up on the cliffs that night. She knew more than she was telling him, and he'd squeeze every last breath out of her until she broke. They'd always had a tumultuous relationship, and that was mostly because she was the only thing he'd ever wanted that he wasn't allowed to have.
Celeste was a good girl, or so she pretended to be. Kane knew the truth about her and Blaine, even if she wanted to pretend that they were just friends. He knew his brother better than anyone, and Blaine Blackwell was not just friends with girls who looked as good as Celeste did in a skirt. She was a liar, and he was the monster that wanted to corrupt her, own her, bring her down to his level. But she always preferred Blaine's company over his, probably because he was the good Blackwell brother. The kind one. The one who put everyone before himself. They were always whispering about some stuff, giggling, and going on walks down to the cliffs that overlooked the ocean. Blaine claimed that he loved Celeste, but only as a sister. He lied to Kane's face when he said he didn't have the sick thoughts Kane did...always will.
Kane felt his heart clench when he thought of his brother, and if it was the last thing he ever did, he'd find out what happened to him. He had his moments when he snapped and started ripping everything apart. In the last month, he'd destroyed his room more times than even he was proud of, and that was a big deal because he had no conscience. It was like he blacked out because he never remembered any of it. He was just left with the damage he'd caused. He never remembered yelling for Celeste either, but he did. Every time.
Declan stood, moving to lean against the fireplace. He must have sensed that Kane was hanging on by a thread, and if anyone gave him a reason to snap, he'd gladly take it.
"I need to mark down why you missed the meeting. Were you too busy trying to mess with your sister?" Talon taunted as he stood by the door. "Oh, that's right, Blaine was the one, but now that he's dead, who knows what the family tree will look like." He snickered, and all the rage Kane had barely been able to keep inside for the last few days erupted. He threw his glass, letting it shatter against the stone wall, and zeroed in on Talon. He was a dead man.
Kane might treat Celeste like garbage, but he'd slaughter anyone else dumb enough to say her name. Talon smirked, seemingly unaffected as Kane stomped toward him. He either wanted to feel Kane choke the life out of him or was dense enough to think that his status at this college was enough to save his life.
Kane was absolutely feral when it came to Celeste on a good day, but today? After all the turmoil with Blaine? He was murderous.
"Kane, don’t," Declan's voice stopped him mid-stride, but his eyes didn't leave Talon even when Declan banged his fist on the ancient intricately carved wooden cart that held the liquor. "Shut the heck up, Talon. He’s here. Say what you need to say, and I’ll make sure you walk out of here tonight." Declan's poised tone, the one they'd been taught since kindergarten, did its job of masking his anger. His tone was cold and even. Kane knew he could count on him if he needed backup, but he wouldn't need anyone to step in. After seeing Celeste today, watching her walk around campus pretending to be sad, pretending that she didn't know why his brother was lying lifeless in the cold ground, he was looking for a reason to confront someone. And Talon had just given him several
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