Off Limits(10)

By: Callie Harper



But, see, thoughts like that weren’t allowed. They were right out. If there was any way I was going to make it through the six day ‘family vacation’, I’d have to avoid Tuck and focus on other things. Like the mountain of schoolwork I had. Or I could think about depressing things, like the way Tuck had looked at me at the party after he’d met my mother.

He’d sussed out my mom quick, sizing her up as she’d draped herself on his father’s arm. Then when he’d turned back to me it was like he was seeing a carbon copy of her, just as shallow and money-hungry.

The only person thinking worse thoughts about myself was me. I hated the girl I’d become at that party. How had I gotten so caught up? I’d let a total stranger who turned out not to be such a fucking stranger after all press me up against a wall and paw my breasts, cup my ass.

I guessed that’s what I got for letting my guard down. I thought I’d learned my lesson by watching my mother’s freak show unfold over the years. No, apparently I had enough of her in me that I could make a total ass of myself, too. I could be the idiot who went out and let a handsome stranger sweet-talk me into almost anything.

My mother didn’t talk about Tuck much. She mentioned him a few times, but it sounded like the party line, like she was reading from a PR print-out. For all I knew, she was. I didn’t know how billionaires rolled. Maybe they had their own marketing teams? I heard about how Tuck was doing well in school, how he was a varsity athlete in wrestling and majoring in business, a chip off the old block. Bully for him, chip chip and tally ho, whatever rich people said. I wanted nothing to do with either of them. Especially since my cheeks still burned with embarrassment over how much I’d wanted him, how quickly he’d melted my panties. I’d been ready to do whatever he’d wanted in that corner at the party. Had we been given another few minutes, who knew what would have happened?

I’d managed to avoid Tuck completely since that disastrous first encounter. Now my luck had run out.

§

A driver met me at the airport in New York, whisked me away in a limo and took me to an Upper East Side penthouse that made all the other penthouses cry in jealousy. Leland Tucker Helmsworth II had money. MONEY. It wasn’t as if I’d grown up poor, my mom had made a chunk of change modeling and then with her movies, but it always seemed to go as quickly as it came. And she’d always spent it on clothes, treatments, nips and tucks, trainers, investing in her key commodity—herself.

Our house in L.A. had been a modest bungalow, near enough to Beverly Hills that she could say that’s where she lived, plus districted to bad public schools so the sales price got knocked down $100K. Compared to their penthouse our home looked like a shack.

The private elevator opened to a foyer—no entryway or mud-room here, thank you very much, but the French pronunciation of foyer. I set my bags down and started tiptoeing around, marveling at the cavernous living room with the 20-foot ceiling and priceless masterpieces. We’re talking Rembrandt, people, plus a giant Picasso over the grand piano. The spectacular gourmet kitchen had two sinks, two stoves, two pantries, two of everything my mother wouldn’t touch at all. Cooking wasn’t exactly in her wheelhouse. And I wasn’t one to talk. Food was something I tended to forget about, then remember at 6 p.m. that I hadn’t eaten all day and scarf a couple slices of pizza.

I heard some voices. Investigating, heading down a hallway, I discovered French doors left partially open leading out to a roof deck. With a hot tub, of course, didn’t every New Yorker have a private hot tub? One person was climbing out. Holy hell, it was Tuck. Without a shirt.

All those muscles I’d felt under his tux at the party? They were as amazing as I’d imagined, maybe better, his shoulders huge and broad tapering down with every ridge and ripple of his abs defined. And he had tattoos. I brought my hand out to the doorframe to steady myself, taking in every line of his ink, bundled at his shoulder, trailing down around his bicep, one at his corded wrist. I needed to stop staring before he caught me.

“Hey, sis!” He gave a slow wave from the side of the hot tub. He’d caught me. I blushed furiously. What the fuck was he doing calling me sis? “Want to come join us?”

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