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Mayhem


From the author of The Tie That Binds comes a fun, steamy enemies-to-lovers romance about a girl that loves too much and the boy she can never have.

What if the one person you can’t have is the one person you can’t resist?

Carter and I have been enemies for as long as I can remember. Hell, I’m pretty sure it was hate at first sight.

I can’t even remember how our feud started, but that has never stopped me from pulling some crazy pranks on Carter — and it certainly never stopped him from retaliating.

Lately Carter has upped the stakes, though. He’s playing an entirely different game now. One where he infuriates me with his annoyingly hot body and the way he looks at me.

Is it all just a new way of messing with me? I’m tempted to find out, but he and I can never cross that line. After all… he’s my best friend’s brother.

Author’s Note: The Mayhem Series follows Emilia and Carter’s epic love story. Book I is set in high school, Book II is set in college, and book III, the final book in the series, follows them through adulthood.

The e-book version of Mayhem is only available on Amazon, so you can’t buy it from me. I’m not allowed to sell it myself, since I have an exclusive contract with Amazon for the e-book version of Mayhem. But as an Amazon Associate, I do earn from qualifying purchases, so buying through the button below is the best way to support me. All my e-books are available on Kindle Unlimited too.

Read the first three chapters of Mayhem

Emilia

To say it was hate at first sight for Carter and I would be putting it mildly. That sounds dramatic, considering that I was only eight when we met, but I assure you, it’s true.

I still remember every detail of the day that I moved in next door to Catherine and Carter Clarke in our sleepy town of Woodstock, Vermont.

How could I not remember? It was, after all, the day that my entire life changed. It changed for the better, though it took me years to realize it.

“Daddy, I wanna go home,” I cried, distraught. “I miss mommy and I miss my friends.”

I cried my little heart out as we walked into our new house, which was a far cry from our condo in California. My dad sighed and kneeled down in front of me, his face filled with sorrow. “I know, Princess,” he said. “I know you miss your old school and your friends, but I promise you that you’ll make new friends here. You’ll enjoy it, sweetie. Just give it time,” he said, his voice breaking.

I failed to see that this was just as tough on him as it was on me. In hindsight, it must have been even harder for him. He tried so hard to shield me from the fact that my mother left us to be with someone else. He never wanted me to feel unwanted or abandoned, but I was too young to appreciate the sacrifices he made for me. For us.

I glared at my dad through my tears and ran away from him. Up the stairs I climbed, to what would become my new room. I sniffed loudly and tried my best to keep my tears at bay as I walked towards the large window in my bedroom. The sound of the movers unpacking our belongings only increased my distress.

I couldn’t understand why my mom would no longer live with us. No one had sat me down to explain what happened. It was like she just disappeared from one day to the other, and I guess she kind of did. She packed her bags and left without telling either of us. One day we just woke up to find her gone, nothing but a handwritten letter left in her place.

I was choking back a sob when I looked out my bedroom window and saw the most magnificent thing I’d ever seen. It was a treehouse, technically. In reality, it was a tiny wooden mansion with its own proper staircase leading up to it. It was far bigger than any other treehouse I’d ever seen. It was beyond my wildest imaginations and I stared at it in awe, my tears long forgotten.

I watched as a girl that seemed to be my age pulled along a boy that looked a little bit older than her. Their dark hair and their identical hazel eyes made it obvious that they were siblings. The girl giggled while the boy scowled, and into the treehouse they disappeared. I stared at the treehouse in hopes of catching a glimpse of them and gathered my courage to approach them in the meantime.

I hesitated very briefly before I sneaked into our neighbor’s garden as stealthily as an eight-year-old could and paused at the bottom of the stairs. I was nervous and my heart was beating so loudly that it seemed like I could actually hear my own heartbeat, but in the end my curiosity won out. I slowly made my way up the stairs, and with every step I wondered if the two kids would welcome me or shun me.

They were both startled when I walked in, and I froze out of instinct, suddenly at a loss for words. All the way up I’d been rehearsing what I’d say to them, but instead of introducing myself like I’d been meaning to, all I could do was glance around the room in awe. It looked like I’d interrupted them in the middle of a tea party, one with actual tea cups and a fancy looking tiny little table with matching chairs. I felt like I’d walked into a fairy tale. The boy looked at me with red cheeks and wide eyes while the girl smiled at me so sweetly that I wondered if she might be an angel.

“Hello,” she said, holding out a tea cup for me. “I’m Kate and this is my brother Carter. Wanna join?”

Relief rushed through me and I smiled at her as I took a seat at the exquisite tiny table. “I’m Emilia,” I whispered. “I just moved in next door and I saw your treehouse from the window.”

It’s like my voice snapped Carter out of his daze, because he looked at me furiously and snatched away the tea cup that Kate was about to hand to me. He brought the cup to his lips and emptied its contents in one big gulp before slamming it back down.

“This is our treehouse. No outsiders allowed,” he shouted, his hazel eyes blazing.

Kate merely rolled her eyes and poured me a new cup of tea, but Carter snatched that from her too. His actions angered me and I glared at him as fiercely as my tiny self could.

Just as Kate finished refilling his cup, I grabbed it and drank all his tea in one go, just like he’d done with mine. Carter looked at me, completely shocked, and then yanked the cup out of my hands. He stared at it in disbelief while Kate burst out laughing.

“I like you,” she murmured, a wide smile lighting up her face. “We’re going to be friends.”

My heart soared at her words and I was about to reply to her when Carter jumped out of his seat and pushed me with all his might. I fell out of my seat and onto the floor. I gasped and glared at him while Kate rose from her seat, tears gathering in her eyes. I stood up and just as Carter was about to push me again I grabbed his hand and bit down on it as hard as I could. He shook his hand to try and get me off, but I held on like a rabid dog.

Eventually, Carter’s screaming and Kate’s crying sent their mother running into the treehouse. She was a whirlwind of panic and long brown hair. She took one look at my upset face, Kate’s tears, and Carter, who was cradling his hand, and sighed.

“What happened?” she asked, her voice soft and even. She didn’t shout at us like I expected her to and she didn’t raise her hand before giving us a chance to explain, like my mother had always done. Instead she smiled lovingly and took a look at Carter’s hand. She kissed his cheek and stroked his hand gently in an effort to soothe his pain.

Carter pointed at me, tears gathering in his eyes in his mother’s presence. “It’s her! She bit me!” he yelled.

My heart dropped and I looked down as my own eyes filled with tears. I was scared that she’d never let me near Kate now–my friendship with Kate would be over before it had even started.

I sniffed and looked up, glaring at him as best as I could. I decided then and there that if I was going down, he was going down with me. “He pushed me!” I shouted, sounding just as aggrieved as Carter did. Kate jumped into action when a big fat angry tear rolled down my cheek. She grabbed her mom’s hand and nodded, taking my side. Carter looked at her in disbelief and then at his mother before his eyes zeroed in on me.

“It’s true, Momma,” Kate said. “Carter pushed her. She fell right out of her chair. He drank her tea too,” she said, pointing at the seat I’d previously been in.

Carter and Kate’s mom knelt in front of me and held me by my shoulders gently. “Hi. I’m Helen. I’m Carter and Catherine’s mom. You just moved in next door, right?”

I nodded, trembling slightly. Helen smiled at me and brushed my hair with her fingers before looking at Carter through narrowed eyes.

“Is it true that you pushed her?” she asked, her tone stern. Carter looked away and folded his arms over his chest, a stubborn look on his face. I sniffed back my tears and Helen sighed. “You should be glad she didn’t bite you harder, Carter.”

My eyes widened and I looked at her in disbelief. Bite harder? She turned towards me and smiled at me. “Next time just bite harder, okay? He should know better than going around pushing other kids.”

I wasn’t sure whether to nod or shake my head and she chuckled at my expression before petting my hair. Kate nodded too. “Yeah, just bite harder,” she said, a fierce expression on her face. Carter’s eyes moved from his sister to his mother before he finally glared at me. He looked so hurt and betrayed that for a second I felt guilty for biting him. I guess this is the moment he decided we’d be adversaries going forward.

“You’re grounded, Carter,” his mother said. “One week. No TV for you, kiddo.”

The way he looked at me before storming out told me there’d be retribution. If I’d known that Carter and I would spend the next years waging war against each other, would I still have done what I did?

Yes. The answer is a resounding yes. Kate and I spent that entire week becoming best friends, and every time Carter glared at me from his bedroom window that faced mine, I’d stick my tongue out at him. Who would’ve known that Carter spent that week thinking up schemes to get rid of me?

Emilia

“Don’t look now, but he’s staring at you again,” Kate whispers. I blush and try to glance at Zach as discreetly as I can. I totally fail, of course. I’m anything but subtle. He catches me staring at him from across the cafeteria and grins as he throws a wink my way. I turn scarlet and turn back around so quickly that I nearly fall out of my chair. Kate looks at me in disbelief. “I said don’t look!” she whisper-shouts. I bury my face in my hands to hide my embarrassment and Kate gasps. “Oh, my god. Oh my god, Milly. He’s coming this way. He’s walking right towards us.”

I peek at her through my fingers to make sure she isn’t joking. Her shocked expression tells me she isn’t messing with me, and I suddenly forget how to act like an actual human being. Zach is one of the hottest guys in school and I’ve had a bit of a crush on him for as long as I can remember. He’s in Carter’s grade, so he’s two years older than Kate and me. For him to even speak to me makes my heart race. Our town is tiny and almost everyone knows each other, but it’s still not that common for a senior to speak to a sophomore like me, and it’s Zach on top of that.

“Hey, Emilia,” he says, dropping into the seat next to mine. Oh, my god. Zach is actually sitting next to me. He puts his arm on the back of my seat and I nearly stop functioning. “Haven’t seen you around in some time,” he murmurs.

Instead of replying I just stare at him speechlessly, beyond flustered. “I…I…I had the flu,” I stammer eventually.

Zach smiles at me and my heart does a somersault. “Hope you’re all better now, babe,” he says. I nod and stare at him, part of me still in disbelief. I can’t believe he’s actually sitting here and speaking to me. And did he just call me babe? I practically swoon. I glance around us to find some of the girls in my grade looking at me with blatant jealousy. Zach is widely considered to be the second hottest guy in school. The top spot is reserved for asshole Carter. I personally don’t see the appeal. It’s obvious the girls in my school are delusional. I guess he does have gorgeous hazel eyes that look a little green in certain lighting and his thick dark hair is pretty nice. He’s also super tall and keeps getting more and more muscular, but whatever. It’s Carter. His rotten personality definitely overshadows his slightly good looks.

“Yeah, all good now,” I say, finally snapping out of it. Zach is talking to me. There’s no way I’ll ruin this opportunity, nerves be damned.

“That’s good,” he murmurs. “Good… because I was kind of wondering what you’re doing on Saturday. I’m having a few people over at my house. Thought you might wanna hang out?”

I blink, my mind completely blank. Did he just… Is he asking me out? I guess not, because he said there’d be more people. But still, it’s more than I ever expected. I blush and Zach smiles smugly. He leans in as though he’s about to brush my hair out of my face, but just before his fingers make contact with my hair, a hand closes around his wrist, holding it in place. I look up to find a furious Carter staring down at me.

“Goddamn it,” I mutter under my breath. Carter’s sole mission in life seems to be to annoy me. We’ve been feuding with each other since the day we met, and over the years our war has only intensified. I’ve tried my best to keep my teeny tiny crush on Zach from Carter, because that type of knowledge would be weaponized in his hands. He grits his teeth and looks away from me, focusing on Zach instead. Zach’s shoulders sink and he purses his lips, clearly disappointed that Carter interrupted us.

“What do you want,” I snap.

He ignores me and stares Zach down. “Kate and Emilia aren’t allowed to go to parties until they’re sixteen,” he says, grinning evilly. “So please tell me you weren’t just inviting them to this weekend’s house party.”

He pushes Zach’s wrist away roughly and stands in front of me, getting between Zach and me. I’m tempted to poke him where I know he’s ticklish, but I don’t want to come across as childish or petty in front of Zach. “Ah, I didn’t know, dude,” Zach says. My heart sinks. He’s going to take back his invite, all because of Carter.

“That’s odd, because I vaguely recall mentioning it to you when you asked me about Emilia yesterday,” Carter says. Zach cups the back of his neck and looks down nervously. Not only are Carter and Zach in the same grade, they’re also on the football team together. There’s no way he’d choose me over Carter. I’m never getting an invite now.

“It’s fine. I mean, you don’t live that far. I could drop by,” I say, trying to sound as upbeat as I can.

Carter laughs humorlessly and turns to look at me. “Like hell you will,” he says. He glares at me and I glare right back at him.

Zach stands up and looks at Carter, ignoring me entirely. “Look, I hear you. No hard feelings, man,” he says. I stand up too, but Zach shakes his head. He winks at me and then walks away. I bite down on my lip in an attempt to keep from murdering Carter in cold blood.

“You— you… you’re such a dick!” I shout. I push against his chest, but I fail to move him. In the last year he’s gone from thin and my height to muscular and tall. I hate it. I hate that I now have to raise my head to look into his eyes. I push against him harder and he grabs my hands, keeping them in place.

“If I catch you trying to go to any parties before you’re sixteen, I’ll tell your dad,” he says. I huff and roll my eyes. Like my dad would actually care. With each year that passes by he works more hours and spends less time with me. He’s become a shell of the person he used to be. Every once in a while he’ll make a remark that tells me that he’s just reminded of my mom whenever he looks at me. I can’t even remember the last time we had dinner together. He’s definitely not going to care if I go to a party.

“I’ll tell my mom too,” Carter says.

That asshole. He knows Helen is my weakness. The idea of her being disappointed in me breaks my heart, and he knows it. He grins like he knows he’s got me now and lets go of my hands. His eyes move to Kate and he stares at her with raised brows.

What?” she says. “I didn’t do anything. Go tell Mom all you want,” she challenges. I chuckle when Carter glares at her before storming off. I inhale deeply and sit down in my seat. I push my tray with half eaten food away in dismay, my appetite long gone.

Kate huffs and stares at Carter’s disappearing form. Her stunning eyes are identical to Carter’s and they’re flashing with anger. “I can’t believe he just cock blocked you like that. I mean… I know you two have your feuds and all that, but damn. This is next level.”

I look up at her, suddenly realizing that she’s right. “He did, didn’t he?” I snap.

Kate nods, furious on my behalf. She crosses her arms and bites down on her lip. “Maybe we can sneak into the party,” she murmurs. “How cool would it be if we actually went? I know Zach hasn’t invited anyone else in our grade, he never does. This would’ve been a first. Damn Carter. I can’t believe he ruined this for us.”

I laugh. “I can’t believe that’s what you’re concerned about. Kate, he ruined my chances with Zach! Didn’t you see the way Zach looked at me before he walked away from us? I know that look. It’s the exact same way Tommy looked when Carter told him to stay away from me last year. I can’t believe he did that to me when he goes around sleeping with half the school. Don’t even pretend it isn’t true.”

Kate looks disgusted at the idea of her brother sleeping around. She flicks her long auburn hair over her shoulder and sighs. He’s a total dick to me, but he treats his mother and his sister like they’re the most precious people alive. He’s always polite and caring to them, while he saves his crudeness and malice for me.

“I’m sure that’s not true,” she murmurs, looking away. The mere idea of Carter sleeping around makes her uncomfortable, but she and I both know that it is true. She’s heard the same rumors that I have. She just chooses to believe that they’re merely that. Rumors.

“Ugh,” I groan. I bury my hands in my hair and seethe in silence. “I’m going to get him for this. He’s going to regret getting between Zach and me,” I snap. Kate nods in agreement. Usually she tries to dissuade me from arguing with Carter, but today she’s on my side.

“What’re you gonna do?” she asks with a hint of excitement. I grin evilly and wink at her, leaving her to wonder what I’m planning.

Emilia

I walk into Kate’s house as if it were my own, like I’ve done almost every day since I moved here seven years ago. Helen looks up at me and smiles.

“How was school, sweetie?” she asks, like she does every single day. Helen has shown me what it’s like to have a real mother. Straight from the start she’s treated me exactly the same way that she treats Kate, and over the years I’ve come to love her just as much as I love Kate. Helen is one of my favorite people in the world.

Years ago my dad asked her to watch me after school while he was at work, and the habits we developed then have remained. Even now I’m usually at the Clarke’s house after school. I’ll go home to change and to drop my bag, and then I’ll usually go straight next door. More often than not I’ll have dinner here before going back when my dad finally gets home. It seems like he works more overtime every year, and I can’t help but wonder if it might be because he just doesn’t want to spend time with me. When he comes home, he usually just goes straight to bed. He barely even looks at me.

“School was good. I aced my math test,” I tell Helen proudly. She gasps and smiles from ear to ear.

Carter rolls his eyes and coughs as he shouts, “Nerd!”

I glare at him and look away, intent on ignoring him. I’m not over that stunt he pulled with Zach a few days ago. Besides, he’s one to talk. Carter is one of those horrible people that are just good at everything they do. His grades are top notch and he’s the school’s quarterback too. I hate him. If only people at school could see past the stupid facade and that stupid smile of his. I’m the only one that sees the devil within. Even Helen and Kate adore him.

“Oh, honey, I’m so proud of you,” Helen says. She walks to the freezer and takes out a tub of my favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. My mouth waters just looking at the tub of Chocolate Fudge Brownie.

“For you,” Helen says, pushing it towards me. I grin and reach out to grab it, but Carter gets to it before I do. He takes the lid off and looks right into my eyes. Carter grins wickedly and then licks the entire top layer, slowly.

“Ugh! You’re not twelve anymore. Why are you so freaking childish?” I shout.

I lunge towards him and he jumps up, out of the way. He holds my ice cream right above my head and I jump up in an attempt to reach it. He’s so much taller than me now that holding it above my head is easy for him. I hate it.

“You asshole!” I shout.

Helen clears her throat and looks at us in amusement. “Language, Emilia,” she murmurs. None of Carter and my antics have ever fazed her. If anything, she seems to enjoy them. She rarely interferes with our ongoing feud, no matter how bad it gets. I glare at Carter, blaming him for getting chastised.

“You… you… snickerdoodle!”

He bursts out laughing and I take that moment to aim. I jam my knee up in an attempt to knee him in the balls, but he’s become a pro at evading me. He grabs my leg and pulls on it, making me lose my balance. I fall down onto my butt and he laughs before dragging his tongue over my ice cream. That disgusting devil.

Kate walks down the stairs and smiles when she finds me sprawled on the floor. “Thought I heard you,” she says. She drops down on the floor beside me, completely ignoring the fact that I’m obviously not sitting here voluntarily.

Carter grabs a spoon and starts eating my ice cream from the tub, his eyes on me with every bite. I’m seething.

“Are you prepared for the mid-year cheering auditions?” Kate asks. I bite down on my lip and shake my head. Kate joined at the start of the year and she’s been trying to get me to join her ever since, but I’m just not sure I’m cheerleader material. I’m far better at studying than I am at jumping and dancing. I didn’t think Kate would enjoy it either, especially because she’s always hated cheerleaders. I guess that changed when the most popular one of them befriended her. Ever since Kate became friends with Gabby she’s started to change, and I’m not a hundred percent sure I love the change.

Carter bursts out laughing. “She’s joining the cheering squad? When hell freezes over maybe. She’ll break a leg in the first week.”

I cross my arms over my chest and glare up at him. Carter smiles and takes another bite of my ice cream. “Yes,” I say suddenly. “I’m ready. I might as well give it a try.”

I know deep down I’m just doing it to prove Carter wrong and that I should be above that, but he truly brings out the worst in me. Kate grabs my hands excitedly and grins. “Oh my god, really?” she says, overjoyed. My smiles wavers. I can’t get out of this without letting her down now. Kate looks beyond happy, while Carter looks annoyed. I’m not surprised. I’ve heard the rumors about him and the girls on the cheering squad. He’s probably worried I’ll cock block him the way he did to me last week, and I probably will. He deserves it.

Kate grabs my hand and pulls me up. She drags me to the staircase and I look back at Carter. He’s staring at me, obviously brooding. His eyes meet mine and for just a second I see a glimpse of worry in his eyes. Surely he isn’t worried that I’ll actually get injured? I’m a little accident prone, but how hard can cheerleading really be?

Kate drags me up the stairs and into her room in a rush. “The cheering thing just reminded me that I totally forgot to tell you,” she says. “Look what I bought my mom for Mother’s Day!”

I don’t follow and totally fail to understand what cheering has to do with Helen’s Mother’s Day present. Kate walks towards her wardrobe and takes out a gorgeous dark blue gown that Helen is definitely going to love. I stare at it, equal parts confused and equal parts stunned. The gown is amazing, but Kate and I have been buying one joint present for Helen for the last three years. Why would she suddenly buy something without me this year?

Each year, Kate and I compete with Carter to give Helen the best Mother’s Day gift. Though she refuses to ever pick one over the other, we both know that we lose more often than we’d like to admit. The devil can be quite thoughtful sometimes – so thoughtful, that Kate and I have had to join hands to surpass him. I stare at the shimmering blue fabric in awe. I guess Kate is definitely winning this year.

“I went to the shopping center with Gabby yesterday and she recommended this dress for my mom. She has such amazing taste,” she gushes. My heart sinks. Gabby again. She moved here from New York right before the start of the school year and very quickly became the most popular girl in our grade – scratch that, in our entire school. She took a liking to Kate almost instantly, and they’ve been friends ever since. It’s because of Gabby that Kate insisted on joining the cheering squad, even though she’s always been incredibly introverted. I guess I’m just not used to sharing Kate, and Gabby doesn’t really seem to like me much, so they never include me when they hang out.

“I didn’t realize we were doing separate gifts this year,” I say carefully. Kate’s expression drops and I immediately feel bad for bringing it up at all. Kate shouldn’t have to discuss anything with me before buying a present, yet I still feel oddly left out. I don’t mind it as much when she hangs out with Gabby and doesn’t invite me, but this is different. Besides, we still have a couple of months left until Mother’s Day. I thought we’d plan something out together. Usually it takes us weeks to even decide.

“Oh, well… I saw this and I thought it would be perfect for my mom. I guess we can give it together? Or maybe you can buy her something else,” she says awkwardly. I hate that I’ve taken away her excitement over the gown and shake my head, trying my best to shrug it off.

“I should buy Helen matching shoes,” I murmur.

Kate looks at the dress and purses her lips. She’s quiet for a couple of moments and then looks up at me with an expression I can’t quite decipher. “Well, you know, my mom isn’t your mother. You don’t need to get her anything at all,” she says, her eyes flashing.

I freeze, a pang of hurt coursing through me. Recently she’s been making remarks such as these more and more often, and I never know how to respond. I’m always worried about overstepping, and recently she’s been making me feel like I am.

“Anyway, we can go to the shopping center tomorrow if you still wanna get something. She’s going to absolutely love this gown!”

Kate puts the dress away carefully and sits down on the bed next to me. I’m a little thrown. Recently I’ve started to feel like the way Kate treats me has changed. She’s always been my best friend – the girl that stuck with me when I was the new girl in a close knit town. She defended me when kids made fun of me for not having a mother and she’s always done her best to include me in her family, so I’m not sure what I’ve done to cause the recent change in her.

“So, I saw Carter ate your ice cream,” she says, changing the topic. “Mom picked that up especially for you when she bought me some Cookie Dough. It’s so sweet of my mom to get you something too, isn’t it? You know Carter doesn’t even like chocolate. I can’t believe he’s acting like this after ruining your chances with Zach. I saw the photos from the party, and we really missed out.”

I’m enraged instantly. “I know. That devil,” I snap. Kate grins and I’m relieved. I hate it when Kate and I are even remotely at odds with each other.

“What’re you gonna do?” she asks, giggling. She always tries to dissuade me from arguing with Carter in an attempt to be a good sister, but I know she secretly enjoys our feud.

I glance at her bathroom door and grin. “I have an idea,” I murmur. I walk into her bathroom and emerge with a tube of Nair hair removal cream.

Kate’s smile drops and she looks at me with wide eyes. “Oh my god, Milly. Carter will actually kill you this time,” she whispers.

I shrug and walk out of her room, Kate hot on my heels. As always, she keeps an eye out while I sneak into Carter’s room. I giggle and walk into his bathroom, my heart racing. I grab his bottle of shampoo and shake it, happy to find it half empty already. I fill it up with Nair and shake vigorously, without an ounce of remorse. Just in the last week, he’s thrown itching powder all over my bed, ruined my chances with Zach and eaten my damn ice cream. I can’t wait to see his face after his next shower. Maybe this’ll finally teach him.

Carter

I pause on the stairs when I hear Kate’s bedroom door open. Emilia walks out looking like she’s on a mission and Kate follows her with a worried expression. I grin when I see the bottle of Nair in her hands. This little minx. She’s getting cleverer and more ruthless. The stakes in our game keep getting higher. Very well, I’ve gotta hand it to her. This is a good one. I bet she’s still mad as hell that I stopped Zach from flirting with her last week. She’s been trying to ignore me all week now – I wonder how long it’ll take her to get over it. She’s too young to be going to parties like Zach’s and it’s obvious what he wanted from her. No way was I gonna let that happen on my watch. I might mess with her, but when it comes down to it I’ll always protect her the way I protect Kate.

I should’ve tried to appease her this week and I definitely should’ve been nicer to her when she got home today instead of eating her ice cream, but I couldn’t help myself. That flustered and angry look on her face just makes my day.

Kate is meant to stand watch in front of my room but all she does is stare at her phone. I could walk right up to her and she wouldn’t even notice. Eventually Emilia emerges from my room with a triumphant look on her face. She looks so damn pleased with herself. She’s smiling widely, and her stunning blue eyes are twinkling with mischief.

I grin to myself and take a few steps back before walking up the stairs with loud steps, making as much noise as I can. Both of them gasp and hurry back into Kate’s room, the door closing just as I make it to the top of the stairs. I smile and walk into my room. The perfume I gave Emilia for her last birthday is all over my room, betraying her presence. She claimed she hated the smell, but she wears it every day. I chuckle to myself and shake my head. How she thinks she gets away with these things is beyond me. There are always traces of her.

I strip and walk into my bathroom, scanning the bottles in the shower. She’s done a meticulous job. Not a single thing is out of place. I stand underneath the stream for a few minutes and lean back against the wall. What expression will she have on her face if I walk out of here with clumps of my hair missing? I’m filled with excitement and anticipation. She’s vicious, that’s for sure.

I smile and grab the shampoo bottle, lathering my hair with the undoubtedly Nair-laced concoction. I leave it in for a couple of minutes for good measure. I’m not surprised when chunks of my hair fall out when I rinse the shampoo off. I smile to myself and shake my head. She really did it, huh?

I turn the shower off and step out to get dressed. I take one look in the mirror and burst out laughing. I look fucking ridiculous. This damn Minx. I throw on some shorts and a tee before storming down, my angry game face on. I’ve learned to school my amused expressions for our feud long ago. I hear the front door slam closed just as I reach the bottom of the stairs and bite back a grin. Dad just got home. Perfect.

I storm into the living room angrily. My parents both look at me with wide eyes when I enter. My hair wasn’t very long to begin with, but now there are huge chunks just straight up missing. Everyone’s eyes move to Emilia slowly. No one feels the need to point out the obvious. We all know she’s the culprit. I wonder if Mom will finally let her have it this time. If I did this to Emilia I’d be grounded for the rest of my damn life.

Emilia looks at me, but instead of the satisfaction and victory I expected to see, her eyes are filled with horror and remorse. It’s not a look I like on her. Through all the shit we’ve pulled on each other she’s never once looked remorseful, and I’ve never wanted her to.

My dad clears his throat. “That’s something, huh. How did that even happen?” he asks. Kate and I both inherited my dad’s eyes – the very same eyes that are currently sparkling with amusement when he should be outraged on my behalf. Dad rubs his neck and tries to look stern, but I can see him trying to suppress a smile. Trust him to find this shit funny.

Mom looks at Dad through narrowed eyes. “William,” she says, her tone disapproving. Dad merely shrugs. It’s obvious he finds this funny as hell and I don’t think Mom appreciates how hard he finds it to hide his glee.

Mom ignores Dad and instead looks at Emilia with disapproval, and though I’ve achieved what I wanted to, I find that I don’t feel pleased at all. “Emilia, sweetie… What did you do?” my mother asks, her voice stern. Emilia looks up at her and I see the panic building in her eyes. I can tell my mother’s disappointment hits her hard and I hate it. She trembles as her eyes fill with tears, and my heart starts to ache at the sight of her.

“You,” I say, interrupting the scolding my mother is about to give her. “Come here.”

Emilia jumps out of her seat and takes a step back, but I keep stalking towards her. “Shit. I’m sorry, Carter!” she yells.

I shake my head and point at my hair. “I’ll make you pay for this,” I tell her. She dashes into the hallway in an attempt to escape to her own house but I won’t let her. I chase her and she looks at me with wide eyes as she tries to evade me. I chuckle humorlessly as I lift her into my arms and right over my shoulder. She squeals and fights me but I hold her down and turn back towards the stairs.

I carry a thrashing Emilia up the stairs with ease. I’m tempted to slap her ass for thrashing so wildly, but I know she’ll kill me if I so much as try. I walk into my bedroom and throw her onto my bed. She sits up, undoubtedly ready to argue with me, but I lift my arms and pull my shirt up and over my head. Emilia freezes and falls silent, her eyes glued to my abs, courtesy of hours and hours of football practice. She blinks as though she’s startled and I grin when she fails to snap out of it. If I’d known that all it takes to get her to shut up was walking around half naked, I’d have started doing it ages ago.

“You’re gonna fix this,” I say, pointing to my hair. I walk into my bathroom and walk back out with an electric shaver. She takes it with trembling hands and I take hold of her tiny little chin, pinching it just slightly.

“Mess around with me and it’s your hair that’s next. You’d better fix this, little Minx.”

She glances at the mess that is my hair and the edges of her lips rise, as though she suddenly realizes how hilarious I look and how stupid this situation is. My relief is instant. I fucking hate seeing her upset. If I’d known my mom would be disappointed with her then I would’ve just thrown the whole damn shampoo bottle out. Mom never really interferes much and I thought this would be the same. I guess I look pretty damn ridiculous though. In hindsight, it’d be more surprising if she did let this go.

“Yes, okay,” Emilia whispers. I turn around and kneel down in front of her while she rises to her knees on my bed. Emilia shaves my hair carefully. Part of me was worried about putting a razor in her hands, but it seems my worry was groundless. She rests her hands on my shoulder and cups my neck as she works on me. I exhale in relief when she’s done and pull away from her instantly. When she’s this close to me it feels like I’m suffocating.

Emilia looks at me and I’m surprised when I see a brief flash of attraction in her eyes, followed by annoyance. I smile to myself. I don’t have to look in the mirror to know my new hairdo suits me just fine. Her face tells me everything I need to know.