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Hearts and Thorns – Magnolia Cove
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Jackson Thorn was my best friend and worst enemy, but that didn’t stop me from wanting him.
From first words to high school halls, our childhood years braided a bond that wove in a direction neither of us could predict or outgrow.
Forbidden became a word we ignored.
We had it all planned out.
Hearts and Thorns is a standalone full length new adult stepbrother romance.
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Of all the truths I’ve ever been told,
the loudest lie was yours.
Six years old
The house shook, and I bolted awake at the sound of a familiar scream, reaching for the cool base of the touch lamp shaped like a castle on my nightstand.
It wouldn’t turn on.
A loud crack pierced the silence, followed by a boom so deafening, I jumped as I grappled with my nightstand drawer for the flashlight inside.
He was the worst person in the world.
A bully, a thief, and a liar yet my feet carried me to my bedroom door. I pulled it open before throwing myself down the hall.
Orange flashes of light bobbed off family pictures lining the chestnut-colored walls, and I stumbled as my foot found one of Jackson’s stupid toy cars.
Hopping and hissing, I squeaked as another crack sounded right above the house. My ears rang, and the house came alive beneath the eerie glow of lightning, showing me that Jackson’s door was open. Three rumbling booms followed me as I ran, my breaths loud in the otherwise silent night, and hurled myself onto his bed.
He sat up, a yell snatched from his throat before I slapped a hand over his mouth. “Quiet, unless you want Mom and Dad to make me leave.”
He wasn’t my real dad, but ever since my mommy had married him after I’d turned one and I’d learned to talk, I’d called him that. One time, after he’d yelled at me for spilling chocolate milk in the kitchen, I’d uttered his real name, Heath. I was promptly berated by my mother for ten minutes about all the ways I’d hurt his feelings.
Heath liked rules and having a clean house, a whole lot, but that didn’t mean I wanted to make him sad. And since then, I’d never ever dared to call him anything other than Dad even though it made my real daddy make a frowny face.
Mommy said she’d taken me to the doctor for a checkup when I was four months old. She’d been so tired, and when I’d continued to chuck all over her, she was barely holding on by a breaking thread. Whatever that meant.
Anyway, that was when Heath stepped into the small office with baby Jackson, who was there for his six-month checkup.
He’d offered to help Mommy clean up, and when she’d burst into tears—hormones, she’d said—he gently took her hand and led her outside for some privacy. Mommy said it was mortifying, the way she’d sobbed in front of this handsome stranger, babbling about how my daddy couldn’t change jobs, and how he’d told her he didn’t want to be with her.
That made me sad. That my daddy would hurt her feelings like that. That he could make her so upset she’d cry in public and need help from a stranger. My mommy never cried. Ever. So she must have felt awful.
Heath had then gone back inside to cancel their appointments before taking her back to his house for coffee. His fiancée had split when Jackson was only one month old, and she didn’t want custody. Whatever that meant. So it was just him and Jackson who lived in what would become Mommy’s and my first home. Apparently, we used to live with her friend, but I could never remember what Mommy said her name was.
After feeding me, she’d passed out on Heath’s couch with me snuggled into her side, and the rest, as they say, was history.
Jackson’s green eyes were narrowed, and he shook his head. Then, rather roughly, he yanked my hand from his mouth. “I don’t need you.” I made a face that had him sighing. “Fine, just don’t get your ugly toes near my face.”
I stole one of his three pillows and tossed it to the end of his twin bed. Snuggling beneath his galactic comforter, I tugged it to my chin, shivering as the thumping of my heart slowed.
Jackson tugged it back. “Quit.”
I pulled. “I’m cold, you toad.”
He grumbled, and his foot nudged my butt as he shifted down the bed so we could both have enough warmth.
I kicked him back. He grumbled again.
Silence wandered into the room, the house, and into the dark sky I could see through the gap in the navy blue curtains behind me. So dark that when lightning crisscrossed through it, my mouth fell open while I waited for the crack of thunder.
Jackson stilled, his fear another blanket to smother us.
“Miss Squires says storms are the skies way of grieving.”
The boom sounded over his exasperated, “What?”
“She said that every now and then, just like we do, the sky needs to have a bad day and be upset.” I turned my cheek into the pillow, my eyelids heavy. “It’s upset, but it needs to be so it can feel better soon, and then its smile will reappear.”
Jackson said nothing as the rain began to hammer against the exterior of the house. “You think the sun is the sky’s way of smiling?” He’d tried for derision but failed thanks to his curiosity.