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My Brother's Forbidden Friend
Author: Piper Rayne











My first crush on a boy started when I was five years old, after I’d caused my mother’s death.

I think a lot of girls have that one all-consuming crush. The one guy she never forgets and just can’t seem to shake.

Unfortunately, mine is my brother Fisher’s best friend, Cameron Baker. I never even wrote his name in my diary for fear of my crush being discovered. It doesn’t help that he’s five years older than me and isn’t the settling down type. Which would be fine with me—I’m not looking for marriage either—but if I hooked up with Cam, my brothers would have something to say about it. To him and to me.

I was too young to get those butterflies in my stomach when my crush started, but it was the first time I didn’t see him as another older brother who just wanted to boss me around.

After the “accident,” my mom’s wake was being held at our house. I can remember it all like it was yesterday.

I was sitting on my swing set in the dead of winter, wearing a purple dress that was too small for me. I’d worn it the year before when we visited some relative of my mom’s who lived in the lower forty-eight. My hair was off-center in a knotted ponytail at the back of my head, after my grandma had fought my snarled hair for twenty minutes.

“There you are.” Cam came out the back door of our house. He was dressed in a suit much like the ones my brothers wore, but his pants didn’t sit inches above his ankles and his jacket didn’t look as if the stitches were going to break.

While my mom usually passed down the suits from brother to brother, they didn’t have a lot of reason to wear them in our small Alaskan town. We weren’t poor, but when my dad had said he was going to take us all shopping to buy presentable clothes for the funeral, we fought him long enough that he retreated to his room, as he did a lot, and he never brought shopping up again.

“Is someone looking for me?” I asked.

I didn’t want to go back in there. I felt like everyone was blaming me for the fact that my mom had fallen through the ice on the lake and died. They were right to blame me. It was my fault for wandering out there in the first place.

“Yeah.” He smiled, the one where his left dimple indented. “I was.”

He trudged across our yard with his big boots on and sat on the swing next to me, setting a plate of food on his lap. My stomach growled, and his smile deepened as if he was satisfied with himself.

Picking up a meatball on a toothpick, he held it out to me, steam rising off it from the cold air. “Want one?”

I shook my head.

“Come on. I can’t eat all this.”

I looked at his plate. Cam was known to eat all of our food, and he always asked for seconds when he came over for dinner. But I was hungry, and I didn’t want to go inside, so I accepted it.

After my first nibble, I mumbled, “Thanks.”

He continued to offer me food, blabbering about how he didn’t realize the egg rolls had so much cabbage in them and that he didn’t like cabbage. Or how his mom told him he couldn’t have any more sweets for the day, so he had to sneak the brownie that was on his plate.

“Are you cold? I can get your jacket.”

I was a little cold, but I’d been numb since the day my mom had died and I didn’t much mind the biting cold on my skin. I shook my head. “If I sneak into my bedroom, will you not tell anyone?”

“I’ll do one better. I’ll help you.”

“I don’t need help. Just say you don’t know where I am if someone asks.”

I got off the swing and walked to the side of the house, where my mom had installed a white ladder thing last year. In the summer, it would be covered in green ivy. I remember the day before she died, she made a joke to my dad that they’d have to take it down when I became a teenager. I tried to commit everything I could from those last days to memory.

I started to climb the ladder but looked down at Cam. “Don’t look up my dress.”

He chuckled as if that was the most absurd thing and held his hands up, stepping back. Seeing my seriousness, he sobered. “I won’t.”

I eyed him once more, then climbed the ladder. When I was straddling my windowsill, I looked down at him. “Thanks for the food.”

I climbed the rest of the way in and shut my window before he could say anything else.

The next few years weren’t great for me. I was a little obsessed with always wanting to be with my dad and ended up seeing a therapist. Everyone walked on eggshells around me, but Cam was always there to lighten the mood with a joke. I gravitated to him when he came over, even if it meant just sitting in the same room and playing Barbies while the guys played video games. He’d make me forget that I felt like the reason the heart of our family was missing.

Years later, when those butterflies came, I didn’t really know what to do. Because at the same time as I started to thrive off his attention for a different reason, Cam started to discover girls, and one never seemed to be enough.

Now, as I walk down the dock toward my boat—which I only have one more year of payments on before she’s all mine—I mentally prepare myself for another fishing excursion with a bachelor party. At first I enjoyed them. Bachelor parties were always entertaining, and I could charge top dollar for the experience. Plus, I grew up with four brothers, so I was used to being the only girl. But lately, I’ve grown annoyed with the immature behavior of these men who need to celebrate the groom’s freedom as if the old ball and chain is going to lock him in a closet for the rest of his life.

Someone whistles at me from a nearby boat. I look to find a fishing boat I’m familiar with.

“Careful there, Vic. I might have to tell Polly you aren’t behaving yourself,” I joke, knowing it wasn’t him. He’s old enough to be my grandpa.

Vic holds up his hands and points at the guy next to him. Must be a greenhorn because he doesn’t look familiar. The way they find these guys and fly them in to see if they can handle the wicked weather out on the seas surprises me.

“Get to work,” a voice yells from behind me.

A voice I recognize. That’s why I deliberately pretend I don’t hear him.

Cam follows me for a few steps. “So, you’re ignoring me?”

I purposely increase my speed which isn’t easy since I’m carrying a case of beer in my hands. “We’ve been over this. I can fight my own battles out here.”

“I just told them to get to work. I’m technically their boss.”

I shake my head. “You aren’t their captain.”

“Jesus, Chevelle.” He grabs my wrist and spins me around.

“Careful there, Baker. She’s got a tough right hook,” someone shouts from the boat. I can’t be sure who it was.

Cam doesn’t grant them an ounce of his attention, keeping his gaze on me.

I raise my eyebrows, and he huffs, as if I should know why he’s tracking me down on the dock.

“Yeesss?” I draw out.

“I was just checking the log. Another boat full of guys?”

I roll my eyes. “No one ever told me we couldn’t have orgies on the boat. Then again, is it an orgy if it’s just me? I guess that’s probably a gang bang, right?”

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