Off Limits

By: Callie Harper

A STEPBROTHER MMA ROMANCE



CHAPTER 1


Jewel

He looked like the kind of man you wanted to rip your clothes right off of you. Like a huge, sexy, rugged pirate, stepped right out of the historical romances I loved. But also kind of like a Sean Connery 60s-era James Bond, suave and tall in a classic tux perfectly tailored to fit his large frame. The party was just getting started, but he already had the late-night look with his bow tie hanging loose, his white shirt slightly unbuttoned. My panties got wet just looking at him.

I blushed at my own thoughts. They weren’t the kind I normally had. Calculations for science labs, worrying if I’d be late for an obligation, that was what usually filled my head as a sophomore at a preppy all-girls college in Massachusetts. But standing there at that party my mother had dragged me to, I forgot all of that.

I hadn’t wanted to go to the black tie charity affair that night, but my mom had insisted. She craved the spotlight. I shrank from it. But she said that there was someone special she wanted me to meet, the guy she’d been seeing for the last couple of months. I’d been hearing a lot about him. He was so rich! Had she mentioned how rich he was? Cross your fingers, this could be the one! But I’d heard that plenty of times before. It got so you tuned it right out.

She’d been pretending to be interested in polo lately, the game with the horses and mallets. You know what she liked most about polo? The rich men who attended polo matches. The charity event that night had something to do with raising money for equestrian land conservation. What was that exactly? She pretended to be passionate about the cause, told me the equestrian industry needed our support. I tried not to roll my eyes.

I’d had some fun getting ready for the party. Mom talked me into wearing green that night. I usually tried not to call attention to my red hair. It drew enough attention to itself as it was. Thank God it had toned down a bit from the orange of my youth. I liked to pretend it looked auburn, though in full sunlight I swear it was fire-engine red. Basically, my hair belted out a solo of color when all I wanted to do was blend in with the chorus.

But my mom certainly knew how to take advantage of assets, and she chose a flattering dress for me. She knew a lot about lingerie and supporting structures and by the time she’d rigged me out I looked like the perfect hourglass. I was still getting used to my curves. I was what you called a classic late-bloomer. I’d had a long, awkward stretch, made all the more awkward because my mother happened to be a movie star.

Or had been. She was now decidedly on the B list, but you’ve still probably heard of her. Candice Kidd. At 14 she’d been discovered in a shopping mall in Illinois. She still loved talking about it. She started modeling, living unsupervised and mainlining coke like the rest of the malnourished, overpaid minors with whom she shared an apartment in New York. At 18, she made her big crossover, heading out to L.A. to launch her acting career.

At 18 she’d also had me, a minor footnote on her Wikipedia page. My dad was some agent she’d partied with one night, but he’d never been involved. While I’d been shunted off on whatever neighbor she could impose on or babysitter she could afford for a little while, she started snapping up any acting part she could, working her way into America’s hearts or at least the pants of American males. She had a couple of bit parts in teen romps, the kind set in summer camps where bikini tops came off during mud fights. Where at 14 she’d been 5’10” and all skin and bones, by 18 she’d filled out big time. That’s when Hollywood took over.

Her big moment, the apex of her career, came with a moderately successful romantic comedy: Springtime in Paris. You’ve probably seen it late at night on TV. There was the cute meet, the typical hijinks and mix-ups, then all was lost until—surprise! Everything worked out in the end.

Fast forward 15 years and Candice Kidd was your basic has-been starlet, a few stints in rehab, a few years making headlines as the girlfriend of Zane Black. Nothing like a heroin-addicted lead singer in a band to bring stability to a happy home. She hadn’t been in the headlines for a couple of years, thankfully, but for most of the past decade she’d been good for a juicy gossip story.

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