“This has to be illegal,” I said to her. “You guys are lying to the world.”
Carter looked thoughtful for a second. “Not illegal,” he said, clearly musing. “Maybe immoral, but I can’t think of any laws we’re breaking.”
“Enough, honey. The money Mr. Green is offering will pay for your student loans.”
“And then some,” he said with a smile.
“I don’t care about the money.”
“You should,” Mom said, sighing.
“We can get money some other way.” Carter was smirking at me again, and to my total horror I found that I couldn’t look away from him.
“Is this really so bad?” he asked me. “It’s a temporary arrangement. You and your mother will come live with me—“
“Live with you?” I cut in, staring at Mom wild-eyed. “You didn’t say anything about that.”
“We’re married now,” she said, sighing.
“No way. I’m not living in his house.”
“Mansion,” he corrected. “And you can have a whole wing, if you want.”
“I don’t care if you give me the whole place, I’m not interested.”
“Sweetie.” Mom stared at me hard and I fell silent. “This is happening. You can keep resisting and fighting this and make things very hard for Mr. Green and me, or you can play along and help out. I can’t force you, but please, for my sake and for your own, help us.”
I frowned at her, silent for a second, and almost wanted to give in. I opened my mouth to speak, to tell her that I’d do absolutely anything for her no matter what because she was my mother and I loved her, but then I felt something under the table that stopped me.
It was Carter’s foot sliding up my calf.
I nearly jumped out of my chair. The triumphant grin on his face drove me totally crazy as Mom cocked her head at me, wondering what the hell I was doing. I quickly stood up, not interested in getting foot-stroked by that rich asshole again, no matter how excited it made me.
“I can’t do this,” I said and quickly walked away from the table. My head was spinning and I didn’t know where else to go, so I went out the back door and headed into the yard, looking around at the familiar place.
I couldn’t believe my mom was doing this. She complained about Carter all the time, said he was a spoiled playboy. She’d been working for him for years, and I had no clue why she stuck by him all that time if she thought he wasn’t any good, but clearly there was something between them that I didn’t understand. They were almost friends, or at least as close to friends as a boss and his secretary can get.
As I headed out to the stump in the back of our yard, I heard the door open and shut behind me. I turned to see Carter following me out into the sunlight.
He was so handsome it was hard to stomach. His cocky grin made me want to either smack him or kiss him and I couldn’t decide which. He was technically my stepfather, or going to be soon enough anyway, and yet all I wanted to do was feel the muscles beneath his impeccable suit.
“Hey,” he said.
“I’m not interested.” I turned and headed to the stump. He followed as I sat down and crossed my legs, looking away from him.
“Look, I get it, you’re pissed. You don’t want some rich asshole coming into your life and fucking shit up. Right?”
I raised an eyebrow at him. “More or less.”
“This wasn’t totally my idea,” he said. “Your mother thought of it. She’s doing it for you.”