Caught Between Two Billionaires by Skye Warren

There have been other boys. Other girls. Most of the time we ignore each other, having bigger problems in our broken rich-kid lives than the stepsibling of the month. Sometimes one of them will take a swipe at me, with sharp words or a surprise shove as we pass in the hallway. A preemptive strike, so I know better than to mess with them.

I don’t want to mess with them. They’ll be gone by next year.

There’s no reason Christopher should be different.

Except that he is.

Even in a burst of sunlight he manages to look like a shadow, with raven hair and onyx eyes. He’s taller than me, taller than Daddy. His arms solid and muscled beneath the thin cotton of his black T-shirt. He’s wearing jeans, technically, but nothing about him is casual. Not the way he holds himself, as if he needs to guard something—maybe himself. And definitely not the way he’s looking at me, intensity a physical brush against my skin, like he’s made of ocean and I’m sand, washed away, washed away, becoming smooth and pliable beneath him.

He inclines his head. “Your dad talks a lot about you.”

“He never mentioned you,” I say before I can stop myself. I would have remembered. He looks like some kind of conquering warrior, like a knight from the old medieval days. The kind who would have defended the peasants, but who would also have demanded his due.

Daddy makes a disapproving sound. “Harper.”

The corner of Christopher’s mouth turns up. “There’s not much to say.”

“Liar,” I say before I can stop myself. “I bet you’re top ten percent of your class.”

“Graduated valedictorian,” Daddy says, pride rich in his voice. “Now he’s in his first year at Emerson studying business with a 4.0 GPA. You could learn a thing or two from him.”

It’s really not surprising Daddy has a new wife every year. The only thing he knows how to do with the female of the species is make us mad. “He can get good grades, but can he paint a three-story Medusa on the wall of the gymnasium?”

A rueful laugh. “That little stunt cost me a brand-new science lab.”

Even two coats of thick white primer hadn’t completely covered the shape of her thick lips and wild snake hair, painted dark and angry in the small hours of the morning, using the folded-up accordion stands for scaffolding.

The new wife makes some kind of cooing sound, like a bird on the street, and Daddy goes to make her a drink. That leaves me and Christopher standing on the deck, the echo of his perfect GPA and my costly little stunt hanging in the air between us.

“Daddy seems to love you,” I say, unable to keep the venom from my voice.

He laughs softly, which infuriates me. “You’re one to talk.”

“He’s my dad. Of course he loves me.”

“Of course. That’s why you need to paint the gym to get him to notice you.”

Asshole. “You don’t know anything about me.”

“So you aren’t a poor little rich girl?”

There’s a twinge in my chest. “We both know you’ll be gone next year. I’ll never see you again, and you’ll never see me, so let’s just stay out of each other’s way for the next week, okay?”

“Sure you wouldn’t rather learn a thing or two from me?” he asks, mocking.

“If I want to know how to make enemies and alienate people, I’ll call you.”

He blinks, and I think for a minute that I may have actually struck a nerve. Then his eyes harden. “I’ll stay out of your way,” he says, his voice so cold it makes me shiver even as the sun beats its heavy blanket on my bare shoulders. It’s not the worst encounter I’ve ever had with a stepsibling, but it’s the first time I think I started it. Apparently I’m not above lashing out first, if the boy in question is smart and handsome enough.

Though he isn’t really a boy, this one. His first year at Emerson College. Business school. No wonder Daddy loves him. He probably thinks he’s found his true heir, because his wild daughter isn’t going to take over the family empire. That will never be me, but I was right about one thing. Christopher will be gone next year. They always are.

I manage to avoid him the rest of the day, napping after brunch and ignoring him at dinner.

Our cabins are on the same floor, below the galley and above the master bedroom where our parents sleep. Thankfully he keeps his word and leaves me alone, even stepping aside to let me pass when I head back to the observation deck at midnight. I suck in a breath to make extra sure no part of my body touches his.