Sweat trickles down my back as I sprint the final half mile back to my apartment. The summer sun hits my skin, the warmth sliding into my pores and reaching my soul. Nothing beats a summer morning jog.
I climb the stairs to my apartment complex and as soon as I open the door, the smell of bacon greets my senses. I walk to the kitchen and see my shirtless brother cooking his breakfast on the stove. He glances to the side and gives me a brief head nod.
"You go runnin?" he asks me.
I grab for a glass of water, attempting to stretch as I gulp it down.
"Yea," I manage to say as I catch my breath. "It's hot as hell though. I'd say it's around seventy already."
Tyler just nods as he unloads his sizzling bacon onto a paper plate. He turns off the stove and reaches to the side cabinet where I keep my granola bars. He grabs one and tosses it in my direction.
"Thanks Ty," I say and hop up onto a kitchen stool.
Tyler and I moved out of our parents' house when he was eighteen and I was only sixteen years old. He got a job at a local bar while I finished high school and took care of us the best he could. And even though it wasn't legal for me to live with him without my parents' consent, it really didn't matter.
With a druggie mother and a father who was always in and out of prison, I honestly don't think they even noticed we left. So for the past three years it's just been the two of us. And now, thanks to Tyler's incessant pushing towards me having a 'bright future,' I've officially finished my first year of college.
I give my brother a sideways glance and wonder for the hundredth time how he did it. I mean seriously - what eighteen your old boy wants to work at a bar and take care of his younger sister full-time? He could have had the world but instead he put it all on hold…just to take care of me.
"So, guess who's coming to town?" Tyler asks, pulling me out of my thoughts.
I take a bite of my chewy granola bar and shrug my shoulders.
"I dunno - one of your ex-whore bags?"
Tyler tips his head back and laughs. He and I both know how much of a playboy he is. For the first year we lived at the apartment, our place was like a revolving door for strippers and slutty women with zero self-esteem. I've heard tons of girls say how gorgeous my brother is but still - after so many women you'd think he'd get tired of it.
But apparently not.
And then on the other side of the spectrum, there's me - living in an apartment with my severely over-protective brother. Of course, Ty let's me go to parties with him. But I'm never allowed to bring a guy home, never allowed to go over to another guy's place and never allowed to go to bars without him.
Can we say overprotective to the extreme?
So while my brother is out having the time of his life, I'm stuck going to school and having a very minimal (and very monitored) social life. So I guess it goes without saying that I'm still a virgin.
That's right ladies and gents - this nineteen your old girl still has her V card.
"Did you hear what I said?" Tyler asks.
I shake my head and he rolls his eyes with annoyance.
"Jesus Desi, you're such a space cadet sometimes," Tyler says and I can hear the teasing tone in his voice.
"Yea, yea, yea. Ok so who's coming to town?"
I freeze hearing the name of my older brother's childhood best friend. Cash Donovan was our next door neighbor from ages four to twelve. He used to come over every day in the summer and tease me mercilessly. Tyler would stick up for me every once in a while, but most of the time it was the two of those hooligans against me.
I remember when Tyler came home one day with tear-filled eyes. He punched a dent in his bedroom wall and when I asked him what happened he told me to leave him alone. The next day at school I found out Cash's dad had gotten some new job a few states away, and they were moving immediately. Even though I loved my brother, I seriously hated Cash. So for me - that was the happiest news of my life!
I try to keep my voice steady as childhood memories flood my mind.
"Why is he coming back?"
Tyler gives me a lopsided grin. "Because he is. And he's coming over tonight so I told him we'd take him out for a good time. Cool?"
I give myself a final look in the mirror and nod my head in satisfaction. I may have to go out with Tyler and his stupid friend tonight, but at least I could look good doing it! Just as I'm turning to leave my room, Tyler waltzes in and frowns.
"That's not what you're wearing tonight is it?" he asks coldly.
I look down at my carefully hand-selected outfit: a short, tight black skirt, a one-shoulder loose fitting blue top and sexy black stilettos. I shrug and look at my brother.
"Yea. And I like it so if you're about to insult my outfit selection - save your breath," I scold.
Tyler crosses his muscular arms across the chest of his all black t-shirt. The action pulls the sleeves of his shirt up, showing off a piece of his newest tattoo - a charging bull.
Don't even get me started.
"You're not going out like that," Tyler says and moves to my closet. "You look like a tramp. I don't want to have to beat the shit out of a bunch of dudes tonight, Desiree. So just change."
I narrow my eyes on him and shove him towards the door.
"Listen, Tyler Banks. You're my brother and I love you. But if I have to suffer through a night with you and Cash," I say and shudder as the name 'Cash' leaves my lips, "I'm wearing whatever-the-hell I want!"
Tyler looks me over once again, running an angry hand through his hair. He lets out a frustrated sigh.
"Whatever," he finally mumbles. "He's meeting us there. Let's go."
Even though I'm not twenty-one yet, my brother always finds a way to get me into the hottest bars in town. He tells me it's because men can't resist me. I have no idea what he's talking about though - have I mentioned I'm still a virgin?
I clutch onto my brother's arm as he leads me to the back door of the club. A few people stand near the door, most of them with a lit cigarette hanging off their lips. A layer of smoke passes over my face as Tyler greets the bouncer who is tall, bald and has a menacing scowl spread across his features.
The two of them shake hands and then Tyler nudges me forward, allowing the bouncer to look me over for a brief moment. His expression begins to soften and desire clouds his eyes. I gulp down a nervous mouthful of saliva and move behind my brother once again.
"So whadya' think Mac?" my brother asks, putting a friendly hand on the bouncers arm. "Does she pass inspection to get in even though she 'forgot' her ID at home?"
Tyler uses air-quotes when he says the word 'forgot' and I struggle to keep from rolling my eyes. The bouncer gives me a small smile and then opens the door for us.
"Have fun you two," he says in a deep, rich voice. "And little lady - if you get bored in there, you know where to find me."
I give him a polite smile and nod, but when the door closes again I shiver with disgust.
"Blech, he was creepy," I whisper to Tyler.
He lets out a small chuckle and guides me along the back wall of the crowded bar. Loud music resonates from the speakers, and when we finally find an empty table, my ears are already tightening with pain.
"What do you want?" Tyler yells over the music.
"Beer is fine!"
He nods and vanishes into a crowd of people. I glance at the tables around me, trying to find out if I recognize anyone. But then my gaze catches on a pair of smoky eyes and my stomach coils with excitement. I watch, mystified, as the smoky grey eyes stare back at me. I let out a breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding as I study the handsome face belonging to that heavenly gaze. Masculine jaw line, dirty blonde hair, tan face, plump lips…..
…..ohmagawd. He's gorgeous.
The mystery man gives me a sly grin and gives me a nod. I try to smile but my face seems to be frozen. He gets up from his chair and starts walking towards me. His lean and muscular body pushes through the crowd and my palms begin to sweat when he's only a few feet away from me.
Ohhhh Tyler please don't come back just yet.
My cheeks smolder when he reaches me and he sets his drink on the table. His expression is guarded but I can see his eyes are lit with amusement. He gives me a crooked grin and leans closer to my ear.
"Well, you sure look different since I saw you last," the husky voice whispers to me.
I jerk back from his touch, my eyes scanning his face for some source of an explanation. And then it hits me. The familiar face from so many years ago adjusts in my mind and I gape with horror.