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Stealing Her (Covet #1)
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FROM THE #1 ‘NEW YORK TIMES’ BESTSELLING AUTHOR COMES AN UNEXPECTED LOVE STORY OF FAMILY, SECRETS, AND THE MOST INTIMATE OF DECEPTIONS.
My estranged twin brother, Julian, was always the wonder boy – and soon-to-be CEO of our ruthless father’s corporation. My mother and me? Left behind. Now, years after tearing our family apart, my father dares to ask “me” for a favor? Pretend to be Julian while he fights to survive a tragic accident. It can save the company. Nobody will be the wiser. It’ll be our secret.
I can play Dad’s favorite. I’ll do anything for Julian. And for my mother, who’ll want for nothing.
But this double life comes with a beauty of a hitch: my very real feelings for Julian’s fiancée, Isobel. Not only am I betraying Julian, I’m deceiving a woman I love. She doesn’t suspect a thing. As lies compound, lines are crossed and loyalties tested, all I can ask myself is. . .what have I done?
Because sooner or later something’s got to give. There’s no way I’m giving up Isobel. But once the truth is exposed, it might not be my choice at all.
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Manhattan, July 2001
“Go to your room!” Dad yelled, disappointment evident as he stared down at my twin, Julian, and then at me. “That’s your second suspension this year!”
The blood left my face as I bit down on my lower lip to keep from screaming at him. To keep from screaming that the kids at school were picking on my twin and calling him names and that I wasn’t going to let it happen anymore. But I never yelled at my dad; it wouldn’t be tolerated. So I cleared my throat and said, “It wasn’t my fault. They were making fun of me.” I didn’t tell him that Julian was their real target. My younger twin only wanted our father to see the best in him.
Dad shook his head. “Then you tell the little jackasses who your dad is. You don’t fight every single one of them and put one in the hospital.”
Julian flinched and looked over at me with fear in his eyes. I could tell he was afraid I was going to say something about him getting picked on. This wasn’t the first time, and he hated it when Dad called him weak. Of course Dad didn’t notice the cut on Julian’s quivering lip. No, he was too focused on both of my black eyes to realize that I’d been doing what I was supposed to do, what I always did.
Protect my brother.
At all costs.
“Go to your room!” Dad pointed. “Do you realize this will make the news? That we have another deal coming down the pipeline, and because of your actions we could lose everything?”
He was exaggerating. And I hated that he brought it back to business. I was thirteen, not stupid.
We lived in a penthouse on the Upper East Side and went to private school. My dad had a driver, we had a cook and two nannies. And my dad had already told me he was going to buy my brother and me matching Audis for our sixteenth birthday.
We were fine.
So I shrugged and ran up the stairs just as I heard my mom’s soft voice. “Edward, you’re too hard on him.”
I could feel Julian rushing after me.
And I could hear the words my mom said to my dad, soft words, from an equally soft heart that was slowly being destroyed. But his voice got louder and louder.
Julian shut the door behind him, tears in his eyes.
I walked over to him, put my hands over his ears, and whispered, “Better?”
He didn’t say anything, just stared at me until I dropped my tired hands fifteen minutes later. “I’m sorry, Jules, I was just trying to help.”
“You’re always trying to help.” He shrugged. “Maybe if I knew how to fight or had half the muscle you did they wouldn’t pick on me.”
I rolled my eyes. “They pick on you because you’re a smart-ass, and they’re idiots. Plus, every girl in school’s obsessed with your hair.”
He smirked. “I do have nice hair.”
“Ass.” I punched him in the shoulder.
And just like that, things were back to normal. He was stealing my CDs and I was pretending I didn’t see him doing it. He was like that, though. He used my stuff, but if I used anything of his he threw a fit. He took after our dad that way, but I really didn’t give a shit.
The rest of the day was uneventful.
We did our homework.
We went down to dinner while my father went back to the office to work, and my mom said grace and told us we were the only reason for living.
We had the best life.
Until it all came crashing down.
One year later
“Promise, Bridge!” Julian’s sweaty hands gripped mine. We were freshmen in high school, both believing we owned the world because that’s what our dad told us on a daily basis.
“Jules.” I pulled him in for a hug and then shoved him away with a soft punch to his shoulder. “We’re brothers. Of course we’re going to write to each other. There’s this thing called email, check it out, you—”
“Shut up.” It was his turn to punch me, and I stepped back, taking a long, hard look at my twin. We were alike but still so different. His dark brown hair fell in a mess over his forehead. His braces were gone, contacts were in, and he’d finally gained a bit of muscle since he started wrestling. He was finally coming into himself. I’d never needed braces and had always been the bigger twin, born with muscle. I was proud of his physical accomplishments, even if our dad wasn’t. “I’m serious,” he insisted.
“We’re moving to Jersey, dude, not Siberia. It’s not like I’m not gonna see you at school.” I tried to keep the tremble out of my voice. Something felt so wrong, I could feel the change in the air, feel it in the way my mom packed up her Lexus SUV.