Hushed - Lauren Smith - E-Book

Hushed E-Book

Lauren Smith

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Beschreibung

There were three things Henley Cunningham knew about Russell Rawlings:


- He was gorgeous. He was the kind of hot and sweet sort of golden boy that made a girl simultaneously want to dance and sing like she was in an old-time musical number and drop her panties.


- She hadn’t seen him since she was fifteen.


- He was her stepbrother. But looking at him now and remembering all of the things she’d wanted him to do to her… her infatuation had been the worst idea in the history of ideas.


He’s home for the summer after her first year of college and the last thing she needs to do is let her childhood crush cause trouble…but that’s just what Russell Rawlings is…TROUBLE.

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Hushed

A Stepbrother Romance

Lauren Smith

Contents

1. The Intruder Incident

2. The Farmers’ Market Incident

3. The Flooded Kitchen Incident

4. The Power Outage Incident

5. The Sleepover Incident

Epilogue

Forbidden

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Other Titles By Lauren Smith

About the Author

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Hushed (c) 2021 by Lauren Smith

All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitutes unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting Kinglsey Lockwood Literary, the publisher , at [email protected] Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.

ISBN: 978-1-952063-55-8 (e-book edition)

ISBN: 978-1-952063-56-5 (print edition)

1

The Intruder Incident

Someone was trying to get in the house.

Henley Cunningham bolted up out of her bed, straining to hear the sound of the doorknob rattling downstairs. Someone was thudding and cursing on the other side of the front door. It took a second for her to shake off sleep as she glanced at the clock by her bed: 1:00 a.m.

“Shit… Shit… Shit.” Henley slipped out of bed and grabbed her keys from the nightstand. While standing in the dark, she slipped one key between each of her fingers to create a dangerous weapon with her fist.

Someone would break into the house while she was totally alone. Wasn’t this just great…

She’d agreed to housesit for her mother and stepdad while they went on a month-long second honeymoon in Europe. The end of her first year of college classes had given her a week to get reacquainted with both her mom and the house, before she waved the couple off and turned toward having a restful first half of the summer alone. She hadn’t been particularly worried because they lived in a safe neighborhood in a safe city. And now, before her quiet month had even started, the house was already under siege.

This was just her luck.

Henley left her bedroom and crept to the top of the stairs. Because she’d left the porch light on, she could see the faint outline of someone tall through the opaque glass. She tiptoed down the stairs, still gripping her makeshift weapon. The illuminated figure behind the door fumbled again with the lock and cursed. In an instant, the figure vanished and his footfalls faded.

For a long, frightening second, she waited to see if he’d suddenly crash into the door or shatter the glass…but he didn’t return.

Heart pounding, Henley leaned back against the wall by the stairs with one hand pressed flat against her chest and took several calming breaths.

“Oh my God…” She had to call the police. They would come and do a sweep over the area or something. Jumping at every sound was not how Henley wanted to spend her first summer after college.

Why did I watch all those true crime shows this week?

She headed straight for the kitchen to get her phone from where she’d left it plugged into a charging station. After grabbing it from the kitchen counter, she turned the device on. The sound of a door opening kicked her pulse into overdrive, causing her to nearly drop her phone as she whirled toward the back of the house in time for the follow up sound of the back door closing.

Stupid, stupid, stupid—I left it unlocked!

Another thud sounded as something hit the floor near the mudroom and Henley braced herself with her weaponized fist held out as her other hand fumbled to dial 911.

“Fuck!” someone hissed.

She had a nanosecond of warning before a body came barreling into her from the hall. The phone clattered to the ground without her having pressed the call button and skidded out of reach. Not that it mattered… The man, and it was a big man, already had his hands on her.

They struggled in the hall, their limbs grappling. She screeched and kicked him hard in the groin, but he dodged the blow and pinned her to the wall inside the narrow hall by the kitchen and stairs.

“What the hell are you doing, lady?” the man demanded. The distant lamp on the side table by the front door cast light across his face. Bright, gorgeous blue eyes met hers and her world spun wildly on its axis.

“Ru—Russell?” she asked in a small voice.

Good God… It was him. There was no mistaking the chiseled features, the slope of his patrician nose… It was Russell freaking Rawlings. The last man she’d ever expected to see again, and the man she’d been obsessed with since she was twelve years old.

There were three things she’d grown up knowing about Russell Rawlings. One: he was gorgeous. He was the kind of hot and sweet sort of golden boy that made a girl simultaneously want to dance and sing like she was in an old-time musical number and drop her panties.

Two: he was seldom home. She hadn’t seen him since she was fifteen.

Three: he was her stepbrother. But looking at him now and remembering all of the things she’d wanted him to do to her… her infatuation had been the worst idea in the history of ideas.

“What are you doing here Russell?” Henley tried to push him away from her. God, he was freaking tall; she’d forgotten that. What was he? Six three? Six four? He was massive compared to her own five-foot frame.

“Who are you?” Russell’s lips, those full, totally kissable kind of lips parted in shock. “Hen? Is that you?” Shock widened those baby blue eyes of his and a sweep of his blond hair fell across his forehead as he stared down at her.

“Yeah, who else would it be? Let go of me, jerk.” She shoved at his shoulders, but he was like steel beneath the black T-shirt he wore. He leaned back only slightly as though to get a better look at her.

“You grew up…” His gaze raked over her and she suddenly felt like he could see every flaw, every imperfection. Her body reacted despite her wish for it not to, and her nipples hardened. She was in her PJs, her body barely covered. As turned on as she was, she was also mortified he was seeing her like this.

For as long as she’d known Russell, she’d always felt one step behind, one level below—just young and small and never good enough.

It wasn’t his fault. He’d never said anything bad to her or about her. Hell, he’d always been polite and gently teasing. He’d always acted like a young man dealing with a child whose feelings he didn’t want to hurt. Right now, she was reacting the way she always had when she was in his glowing orbit, but things had changed. She’d definitely changed. She was a grown woman and not some little starry-eyed kid who’d follow him around.

“How long has it been?” Russell asked, his voice a little soft, a little gentle. He seemed almost as stunned to see her as she was to see him. He released her and stepped back, giving her a better, more tantalizing view of his body. Tall and lean with narrow hips and broad shoulders, all perfectly accented by his black T-shirt and dark blue jeans.

“It’s been a few years. You don’t remember? What are you doing here Russell? Our parents are in Europe.”

“Yeah, I heard. I’m here for the summer, or at least a month anyway. What are you doing home alone?”

“What do you mean? I’m housesitting for our parents.” Henley shot back, then frowned. “I’m nineteen Russ, not twelve.”

She’d been ten when her father passed away and only twelve when Russell’s father and her mother had married. At the time, Russell was nineteen and had already spent a full year at college. She’d only seen him over summers and breaks. He’d been tall and far too gorgeous back then, not that she’d really understood attraction at that young age. She’d only known that she loved being around him, which hadn’t been that often, sadly. But now… He had that hard-edged beauty men develop in their late twenties. And he was definitely all man, not some college boy, and damn… she had to stop thinking these things.

“Right…” He crossed his arms over his chest. “Four years…” he murmured before his eyes brightened as though he finally realized what he’d just said. “Damn, I guess it really has been that long, huh?” His lips curved in a smile, one that still had the power to weaken her knees. Only this time, it’s effect was so much more potent.

It’s not a good idea to start obsessing over Russell, she reminded herself.

“Why did my dad change the locks?” he asked.

“We needed new ones. The old ones were getting stuck in the doors,” Henley said.

“Thank God you left the back door open, kiddo.” He slapped Henley’s shoulder affectionately. “Or else I’d be sleeping in my car tonight.” He walked into the kitchen and much to her disgust, she followed him, just like twelve-year-old Henley would have. But this time, she had a great view of his ass, and she wasn’t going to miss a second of that show.

Russell opened the fridge, stared at the contents, and pulled out a water bottle. “You want anything?” he asked over his shoulder. He was settling right back in like they’d never stopped living together these last four years. The concept was impossible for Henley. She’d developed some serious fantasies about this man, built him up in her head to almost godlike proportions. Now here he was, his actual presence reminding her of every teasing thought she’d ever had and tried to ignore since she last saw him years ago.

“What’s the matter?” Russell opened the bottle of water as he faced her again and took a drink. Henley stared at his throat muscles as they worked.

“I… Um… Just tired. You woke me up with your whole breaking and entering routine.”

He snorted a laugh and grinned at her. “Damn, it’s good to be home.”

Henley leaned back against the opposite counter, her arms over her chest to hide her breasts a little from his view. “So, you’re here for a month? Then what?” Henley knew from her stepdad that Russell had finished medical school at Vanderbilt, but she wasn’t sure what came next.

“Then I start my residency in Kansas City.”

“Oh?” He was going to be close by? Her heart kicked up a notch. It was only a short drive to the city from Lawrence, where her parent’s house was and where she went to school at University of Kansas.

“What about you? You’ve got to be in college now, right?” Russell asked, his gaze going over her again.

“Uh, yeah. Just finished my first year at KU.”

“No shit. What are you majoring in?”

“Architecture. They have a good program there.”

“Look at you building houses, kiddo. Nice job.”

She flinched at the word kiddo again and tried to duck when he reached for her head, but he moved too fast. He ruffled Henley’s hair and she frowned at him, which only made him laugh. He checked his watch, one of those expensive pieces with a brown leather band. As he moved, his forearm muscles rippled, and she had to count backward from a hundred not to get turned on by those arms.

This was bad. Real bad. She couldn’t be attracted to him. This was Russell… Yes, they weren’t blood related, but their parents were married. There was no way her mother or Russell’s dad would be okay with anything between the two of them.

“Well…” Russell said a little more awkwardly. “I’ll just grab my duffel and go to my room. I still have a room, don’t I?”

“Yeah.” Henley was tempted to tell him that their parents had turned his bedroom into a home gym or another home office.

“Night kiddo.” He offered her a lazy grin and a wave before heading upstairs, leaving her stunned in the kitchen wearing nothing but her pajamas.

Russell freaking Rawlings was back…

Russell returned to the mudroom by the back door and grabbed his black duffel bag. He also picked up the lamp he’d knocked over when he stumbled inside the dark house. Slinging his bag over his shoulder, he headed into the hall and climbed the stairs. His bedroom was two doors down, next to Henley’s.

As he passed her room, he slowed and then stopped to sweep his gaze quickly over her room. Gone were the boy band posters, tennis team trophies and cork memory boards plastered with photos of her friends. The bright purple bedspread had also vanished. The room now was elegant with white wood furniture, a frosted blue coverlet, and gold pillows which were tossed in a bit of a disarray. Her walls were covered in seascapes which drew him in. He loved the ocean.

He forced himself to keep moving. Once inside his own room, he dropped the duffel on the floor by his fourposter bed, sat down on the end of the mattress, and sighed. God, he was tired. Not just from the long car ride but from the last four years of college and four years of medical school. He was twenty-six but he felt like he was a hundred. The exhaustion was why he’d made a decision to come home for a month or two to rest before he started a grueling residency.

With a graceless flop backward on his bed, he stared up at the ceiling. The stairs creaked, warning him that Henley was finally coming up. Russell placed a hand on his chest, tapping his fingers as he listened to her in her bedroom. Drawers opened and closed.

Little adorable Henley is not so little or adorable anymore.

Four years had turned her into a curvaceous bombshell. He’d been shocked as hell when he’d grabbed her, thinking she was trying to attack him after he’d scared her by practically breaking into the house in the middle of the night.

He hadn’t recognized her. He’d only known that in the heat of the moment he was holding a gorgeous woman against the wall. When he finally saw it was little Henley, he hadn’t known how to react. She wasn’t twelve. Hell, she wasn’t fourteen either. She was an adult woman. She looked too tempting in her pajamas, a button up short-sleeved cotton top and tiny, little cotton shorts that barely covered her ass.

This isn’t good, Russell thought.