Love Stripped

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Chapter 10

Eric couldn’t stop looking at Kimberly.

Millions of thoughts ran through Kimberly’s mind, wondering what Eric was thinking about it. Was he shocked? Amazed? Goddamn it, he could just say something! But he wouldn’t tell anyone. Kimberly was sure of it! He didn’t seem the type of guy that would do the same Damien did... He wasn’t him. And he definitely wasn’t Jake. Or so Kimberly held on to that. In fact, Kimberly simply couldn’t imagine what kind of reaction Jake would have if he ever find out she worked as a stripper.

“You’re the stripper?” Eric finally spoke, still gazing at her. Regardless of feeling uncomfortable with it, she comprehended the amazement. “Why didn’t you tell me when we met that night?”

“Eric, it was five in the morning! I didn’t know you, you didn’t know me, and I didn’t know what you’d do in case I told you it was me! Can’t you understand? I was afraid! I was afraid you’d come in his defence!”

“I know what happened, Kim. I know it wasn’t your fault! I talked to some strippers at the strip club, but they didn’t tell me it was you. They didn’t dare to say your name.” Eric disclosed. Honestly, Kimberly didn’t expect less from them. If someone had been in her place, Kimberly would have done the same. “Besides, I would never in my life defend that bastard. God, if my mother knows about this... I honestly don’t know what she saw in him... But I’m sure about what he saw in her – her money.”

Money, Eric said. So that meant Jake had to come from a wealthy family. Well, that explained a lot. That was why he really didn’t bother about paying them dinner before.

“I understand you wouldn’t do anything to me, but you have to understand me. Eric, your stepfather met with my boss and threatened him, saying he’d sue the bar and would hurt me as well, though he was the one who ended up being sued.” Kimberly revealed, sitting down on the chair, while Eric stood there. “You’re going to stay here for a while?”

“Just for a few days until things calm down between me and that bastard.” She noticed him closing his eyes and shaking his head in a helpless way. “This wouldn’t have happened if Jake hadn’t left us. If he’d been there...”

“What would be the difference?” She caught herself asking, though it was really none of her business.

“Well, Jake’s the only that can really face him. Peterson’s afraid of him, because he knows Jake has the guts to say everything he has to say - including to my mother. But when Jake left us... everything fell apart.” Counting the months, Eric added, “It’s been one year and half since that son of a bitch has been set free to do what he wants, since my mother simply refuses to see what’s in front of her eyes.”

Eyeing Eric with sheer curiosity, Kimberly just had to take advantage of Eric, and try to get some information about Jake, since Jake himself wouldn’t tell her anything. “Then why did he left?”

“I think that’s none of your business, Kimberly.” The both heard that refined voice. They looked in his direction, and saw Jake leaned on the door frame, gazing at Kimberly with a serious expression. All of the sweetness had vanished. “I thought you two would be sleeping by now.”

“I just came to drink some water and happened to find Eric here. We just started talking.”

“About me, I see.”

“Don’t be so cocky, Jake.” Whatever nice expression she’d had on her face, or whatever good thoughts she’d had about Jake, it had all vanished. Getting up, she added, “You accomplish nothing talking like that. Anyway, I’m going to bed. I have classes in the morning.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll be rotting up in here.” Eric said, yawning.

“You can get back to mum’s if you want.”

Eric just faked a laugh, “Ah. Ah. Ah. You’re so funny sometimes, Jake. Don’t worry, I’ll go to bed as well.” And when Eric motioned towards the way out of the kitchen, Kimberly did the same. Jake followed them, and when he was sure Eric was in bed, he chased Kimberly till her room.

“You’re already trading me for my brother, baby?” He spoke with a low tone. This time, he wasn’t even smiling. “I didn’t know you were like that.”

“And I’m not like that, Jake. Now would you please go to bed as well and leave me alone?” Looking at her with a malicious expression on his face, Jake actually did what she asked of him. He left her alone, and she came back to bed.

Thinking in bed, Kimberly realized that, one way or another, she knew Jake’s attitudes towards her would somehow change with Eric’s presence here. He could either be sweet... or mean.

She sighed, tired. Like if their relation wasn’t already demanding and challenging.

***

Next morning, already dressed and ready, Kimberly found them all in the kitchen having breakfast together, all set to go to school like her. Her eyes immediately searched for Eric, though he wasn’t there. But the moment she sat down next to Sidney and across Jake, Eric actually strolled into the kitchen, rubbing his eyes, and wearing nothing but some shorts, like Jake usually wore sometimes.

“’Morning, Kim!” Sidney’s too perky voice caused to close her eyes. “Sleep well?”

“Ah... yeah?” Why was her sister all cheerful? Wasn’t Sidney still mad at her or something?

“Great!”

Kimberly tried to smile, but a faint thingy appeared on her face. She was still too tired and sleepy, unlike Sidney. “You already know Eric?” She remembered to ask. In that moment, she caught Jake’s eyes gazing at her, at the same time she listened to her sister.

“Yeah, Jake introduced him to me last night when I arrived with Tom and...” The rest Sidney said, Kimberly really couldn’t seem to focus. The provoking way Jake looked her in her eyes, made her just get loose in his, noticing those green eyes watching her every move, and becoming aware they darkened by the second, unlike what had happened last night when they’d had sex again. “Kim?”

“I’m sorry, sweetie,” She suddenly turned to face her sister. “I’m still sleeping or something.”

“Yeah, Kimberly always looks like she’s sleeping during the day.” Jake suddenly spoke with poison on his voice. “Did you know Kimberly has this mysterious job during the night she refuses to tell us something about, Eric?”

“Of course I didn’t know.” Eric said, not even looking at her. “If she doesn’t want to say anything, that’s her problem, Jake. Besides, I thought you didn’t bother to know anything related to women, other than if they’re good in bed.”

Laughing, Tom, who was by the counter, agreed with Eric, “You’re so right, Eric. All he cares about is what they can do in bed!”

“Of course! But, then again, don’t I have the right to know something about the people sleep...” In that moment, Kimberly stopped breathing. Sleep with me? Was that what Jake was going to say? “...in the same house than I?”

Allowing herself to breath, Kimberly just shook her head. In what had she gotten herself dealing with since the very first night she gave in to lust?

“You’re so mean, Jake.” Sidney said, and Kimberly felt her motioning her foot towards Jake, trying to kick him.

“I know, Sid.” He blinked his eyes at her, “Don’t you like me this way?”

“I love you that way.” Sidney grinned at him, while Kimberly just burned him with her cold eyes.

Kimberly didn’t open her mouth again until she and Sidney were finished having breakfast. When it was time to go, she got up, and demanded, “Sid, go fetch your things, we’re going to be late if we don’t hurry.”

Silently, her younger sister got up and did what she was told.

“When my classes are over, I’m planning to go to the supermarket to get some things. You guys need anything?” She asked, remembering she really needed to buy some groceries.

“Not me,” Tom said first. “I did my groceries shopping a couple of days ago. But thanks, anyway, Kim.”

Next, Jake’s arm was up, and with his mouth loaded with toasts, he managed to say, “I need some things!”

Smiling, she said, “You go get it.”

Swallowing the food he’d been chewing, Jake’s eyes narrowed, “Why did you ask, then?”

“Just trying to be nice.” She grinned at him, enjoying his fuming expression.

But then, offering her a tight-lipped smile, Jake said, “Nice is something you’ll never be able to be, Kimberly. Anyway, I’ll go with you, then.”

Before she could argue with him about not wanting his company, Eric’s voice was heard, “Can I go as well? I don’t want to be here the whole day doing nothing.”

Kimberly shrugged, and replied, “Sure you can go. When I arrive, we’ll all go to do our shopping, ok? And we’ll go in Jake’s car. Is that fine with you, Jake?”

Nodding, and amused, Jake answered, “That’s fine with me.” At last, she motioned towards the way out of the kitchen, though she wasn’t counting on Jake to do the same thing at the exact same time, which meant she really couldn’t say he’d done it on purpose. Nevertheless, he just had to take advantage of it, when he found both of them by themselves. “You’re so mean, baby.”

“Look who’s talking.” She said, sighing and rolling her eyes, running out of patience already.

“You think I’m mean, baby?” He moved to be face-to-face with her, and when he was, Kimberly watched him folding his arms over his chest and amusingly smiling. “But you like me that way.”

“No,” She shook her head like if that question meant nothing, “I really don’t.”

“Are you sure? I thought you liked me since... you know, we’ve already gone to bed a couple of times, baby.”

Jake had to mention that. “Well, they were both mistakes. Besides, sex is a nice way of getting over problems.”

Then, she realized she should’ve just kept her mouth shut, because she noticed she’d spoken too much. “Getting over problems? What problems, baby?”

Stepping towards him, she whispered in a sensual way, “That’s none of your business, baby.”

And all of a sudden, Kimberly heard her sister’s perky voice yelling, “I’m ready, Kim!” A pause. She looked past Jake and sighted Sidney. “Oh, I thought you were in the kitchen.” She gazed at her close to Jake. Then she focused on something past them. Her light brown eyebrow arched. “Were you three waiting for me?”

“Three?”

“Ah... yeah. Eric’s right behind you two.” Sidney revealed, confused.

The second after, both Kimberly and Jake turned to catch Eric curiously grinning at them. Jake was the first to speak, his amused smile already absent from his handsome face. “Were you listening to us?”

“Oh, no.” He kept grinning, “Why? Were you two talking about something I couldn’t hear?”

“Of course not.” Jake spoke again. “Kimberly and I were just chatting. Right, Kim?”

She didn’t look at Eric when she replied, “Right. Well, Sidney, let’s go.” The two young girls walked up to the door and one of them opened it. “I’ll see you later.” And then, they strolled out of the house and went to Kimberly’s car.

When the red haired started the engine, she just had to say, “You’re acting weird.”

“I am?” Sidney turned to look at her, and smiled. “I’m fine. It’s just that... well, I’m not mad at you anymore, Kim.” She wasn’t that surprised. After all, Sidney had acted just fine toward her this morning, telling Kimberly she wasn’t that pissed off at her any longer.

“What made you change your mind?”

“Tom, actually. We talked a lot last night, and one of the issues of our little tête-à-tête was our problems. Tom made me realize that, yeah, you exaggerated, but that I should care about what you’re feeling often, that you’re always tired, studying and working. And that if it weren’t for you, I’d probably be living with our uncles by now. What I’m trying to say here is that... I’m sorry, Kim. I really am.”

“I’m sorry too, sweetie. I shouldn’t have said what I said anyway.” Kimberly happily grinned. “Every time we have something to say to each other, from now on, we’ll say it right away, Sid. I don’t want any more discussions like the ones we’ve been having, ok?” Oh, making a mental note, Kimberly just couldn’t forget to thank Tom.

“Don’t worry about it, Kimmy.” Sidney grinned, but Kimberly didn’t pay attention to her radiant grin. Her sister had called her Kimmy. But it didn’t remind her so much of her parents this time. Jake was the one who popped up on her mind.

“Well, we’re here.” Kimberly said the moment she parked the car in front of Sidney’s school. “You know, you should invite your boyfriend to have dinner with us tonight. I’d like to meet him.”

“Oh, Kim, really? He’d love that! I would love that!” Sidney actually started clapping and talking with an excited tone. “Well, I’ll talk to him today, but I’m sure he’ll go! Well, I really should go! Bye, Kim!”

When her sister got out of the car, Kimberly waved at her, and then headed to college. When she arrived, classes had already started, so she ran towards the classroom. She walked in silently, gasping for air. The moment she sat down, she thought no one had noticed her, but she was wrong. “Miss Roberts, I hope you haven’t forgotten we’ll be having an important exam tomorrow.”

Her jaw dropped. Was she serious? “An exam? Tomorrow? I didn’t-”

“You didn’t know?” The woman who gave that class interrupted her. “Maybe that’s because you haven’t any attention to classes lately.”

Kimberly didn’t reply. Not because she didn’t have an answer, but because the woman was damned right. She hadn’t paid any attention to college these days! Her mind was loaded with other issues! Such as Sidney, work... and Jake. Shit. How could she not know she’d have an exam tomorrow? She was screwed.

When that class ended, Lisa once again commented on that issue. “I can’t believe you actually didn’t know we’d have an exam tomorrow. It doesn’t even looks like you, Kim. Since you’ve moved to that house, you... haven’t been you.”

“I can’t say you’re wrong, but damn! I have to study tonight. Thank god Bob gave me this night off.” Bob was the best. Even if he didn’t know what’d done for her now.

“You’re so fucked, Kim.” Lisa shook her head in a helpless way, but then, with eyes wide-open, she remembered to ask, “Oh, by the way, how was dinner?”

“Oh, that! God, you’re not going to believe what happened yesterday!” And in that moment, Kimberly told her best friend everything that had happened yesterday. When she was done with it, Lisa’s eyes were still wide-open.

“Ok... so let me see if I got this straight... On the restaurant, the waitress spilled a glass of wine over you accidently, because of Jake. You went home, had sex with Jake again, went to work, Bob told you the news, came back home, you met Jake’s brother, and Eric, I repeat, Jake’s brother, knows you’re a stripper.” Biting her lower lip, Lisa asked, “Did I miss anything?”

“Yeah... something I didn’t tell you yet.”

“Oh god, more, Kimberly Roberts?”

“Yeah, but you’re so not going to believe this.” She paused for a moments, knowing how it would surprise Lisa. “Remember when I told you what had happened some days ago, involving a guy that had harassed me? The one Bob is going to sue now?”

“Hum...” Lisa closed her eyes for seconds, but she managed to remember. “Oh! Peterson, right?”

Kimberly nodded. And then, she revealed. “Yeah. And guess what, he’s Eric’s stepfather.” She stopped watching Lisa gasp in shock. “But that isn’t the worse. If he’s Eric’s stepfather, it means...”

“Oh. My. God. He’s Jake’s stepfather!” Once again, her friend gasped in sheer shock. “Oh my holy fuck. Now, I really mean it, Kim. You’re so fucked up.”

“You think I haven’t got that yet?” But, fortunately, something good came out of it. “In any case, Eric’s not going to tell Jake or Peterson that I’m a stripper or the stripper. Thank god they both hate their stepfather. From what Eric told me, they’re rich, and I think Jake moved out of his mother’s house almost two years ago. Oh, and their mother doesn’t even dreams of Peterson going to strip clubs...” Feeling feeble, Kimberly couldn’t really believe this was happening to her.

“If you need anything, you know you just need to say it, Kim.”

Weakly smiling, Kimberly said, “Thanks, Lisa.” Then, her face dropped and she looked at her feet. She sighed tiredly. “I can already imagine myself studying tonight while the four of them are comfortably sleeping. At least I can say one thing’s fine! Sid’s ok with me again!”

“It was about time, wasn’t it?” And all of a sudden, when Kimberly looked at her best friend, she noticed her expression changing into a malicious one. “So... how was the sex part?”

Kimberly just rolled her eyes. “Do I ask you how is the sex between you and Justin? You’re such a sick girl, Lisa.”

“Come on, Kim! You know I like to know about those sick little details!”

“I’ve already told you he’s good in bed! What more do you want to know? His penis’ size?”

“I’m not that sick!” Lisa grumbled, though it really wouldn’t amaze Kimberly if she actually asked about it. “I just want to know if it was good!”

“Yeah, it was.”

Still, Kimberly knew her friend’s questions didn’t end there. “Just good, or really good?” Lisa insisted in knowing.

Anyway, since she was her best friend, there was no point in lying. “I guess it was really good.” Kimberly revealed, thinking about that evening with Jake. It wasn’t great, but hell, it was really good. Jake was good, especially when it came to provoke her. Before Lisa could ask her about any other sick detail, the next class started again. And like any other day, they were all boring, and Kimberly paid no attention to each.

At half past five, classes were over, and Kimberly was already opening the door to get inside in what she called her home, now. She searched the house for the brothers, and found Eric still putting some clothes on, while Jake was coming from his room in the basement, since he’d probably heard her voice.

“You’re ready?” She asked him, when he stopped just a few steps away from her.

“I’m always ready, baby.”

Ignoring his amused smile, Kimberly said, “Jake, I need to ask you something.”

“Shoot it, baby.” Despite the nickname, his voice was chilly.

“I was wondering if you didn’t mind if I asked Sid’s boyfriend to have dinner with us tonight. I know your brother’s here and all, and I have to study as well, but it was really just for dinner.” She didn’t want to be arrogant enough and bring the boy here. Hadn’t Jake asked her if she minded to have Eric sleeping there for a few days?

“Sure I don’t mind. I also want to know Sid’s boyfriend. Now that she lives here, I have to know who she starts bringing to the house. I already think of her as family.” Jake revealed. Kimberly’s jaw dropped. Was he really serious?

“Like family?”

“You don’t need to be that surprised.” Jake shrugged, folding his arms over his tamed chest, like if what he’d said was totally normal. “Tom and I chat a lot with her when you go to work. She listens to us and we listen to her. We joke around with her and all. Sid’s a great girl, and I don’t to see her suffer due to some guy. So if it means to get to know him and be a pain in the ass for the poor kid, I’m all for it, baby.”

So the cold-hearted bastard wasn’t such a cold-hearted bastard after all. She couldn’t help but to be amazed with everything he’d disclosed. What did she miss when she went to work? Yeah, she could see herself connecting with the guys in some way in the near future, but thinking of them like family? Lisa was family for her, but they’ve met each other for years now! What was strange was that when Kimberly was around, they didn’t show that connection. Maybe she was too drowned in other thoughts, or too busy pushing Jake away. But then again, Tom had had a conversation with Sidney, and he’d convinced her younger sister to forgive her.

Maybe... sooner or later, Tom could almost be like family to her, because he seemed a nice, easy-going and understandable guy, but she didn’t expect that from Jake. At all. In fact, she didn’t expect anything from him.

“I see you’re very surprised.” Jake became aware she was thinking about it. “Perhaps if you didn’t have to work so much, we could feel that connection as well.”

“Me and you?” Kimberly smirked, “I doubt it.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right.” His green eyes pierced through her, and something shifted inside her. “We have a different connection, isn’t that right, Kimmy?”

Despite the possible edge of tenderness in his voice – she probably was just imagining it – Kimberly replied with ice in her voice, “We don’t have any connection at all.”

“Don’t lie, Kimmy.” Jake stepped towards her, and Kimberly lifted her head a little to better take a look at his suddenly brighter eyes. “You know we have a connection. Otherwise you wouldn’t have gone to bed with me... twice.”

“Why don’t you go fuck around with someone else, Jake?” Kimberly suddenly pushed him away, almost making him trip in his own feet, since he wasn’t waiting for the sudden push. In that very moment, Eric appeared.

“Ok... what’s happening?” Eric looked at Kimberly and Jake with wary eyes.

“Nothing,” Jake said, straightening himself. “Kimberly and I just joke around with each other sometimes.”

“I see.” His eyes narrowed and then he focused his attention on Kimberly. “You two like to play?”

Whatever unspoken question he was asking behind that one, Kimberly decided it was better not to reply. So she just said, “Well, let’s go, guys.” She turned her back on both of them and headed for the door. The two brothers followed her silently. When they were all outside, Kimberly remembered to say, “Oh, Eric, we have a guest tonight. Sidney’s boyfriend!”

“Really?”

“You don’t mind do you?” Kimberly turned around and looked at a smiling Eric.

“Of course not, Kim. I’m also a guest!”

She couldn’t help but to roll her eyes. “You’re not a guest guest, you’re Jake’s brother.”

“So what?”

“He’s the owner of the house.” She explained him, though Eric knew it well.

“But I don’t live here, so I’m still a guest, which means you have to take care of me!” And just like that, Eric rested his arm over her shoulders and the both of them started walking towards Jake’s car again. Kimberly laughed. She didn’t really care about that proximity with Eric. He could be Jake’s brother, but Kimberly could clearly see they were different.

When they got in Jake’s car, Kimberly became aware Jake wasn’t smiling at all. He didn’t smile much, anyway, did he? Well, yeah, he did. SO what was the problem now? His brother must’ve noticed it too, because he said, “Smile, Jake! You have a beautiful girl living with you! Not all guys are that lucky!”

“I know.” Jake acknowledged, which actually stunned her. “I’m lucky in having Sid living with us.” And of course, he just had to be an idiot. Looking through the rearview mirror, Jake caught Kimberly’s eyes, though she just dismissed his gaze by focusing her attention on texting Sidney. She knew he was provoking her, but Kimberly would in no way play with him now.

Once in the supermarket, each of the three followed different paths, since every one of them had distinct needs. She didn’t mind if Eric had come with her, but she was happy Jake had opted to choose a different path from hers.

However, sometime later, when she was dragging herself around some shelves, choosing some yogurts, Kimberly happened to bump into Eric. This time, he didn’t have that welcoming expression when he spoke, “So, Kimberly... sex’s a nice way to get over problems?”

Whatever surprised expression she could have possibly shown him, it vanished the second after Eric saying those words. This was just what she needed – Jake’s brother eavesdropping on her conversations with Jake himself. “You heard us.”

“Oh yeah.” Kimberly didn’t say anything, afraid she’d stutter in front of Eric when talking about that issue. “Well... just that part and what it followed. The beginning I honestly didn’t hear it. Why? Was it about something I can’t know?”

Kimberly tried to smirk, “Of course you can, but it’s just like Jake told you. Your brother and I like to play sometimes.”

“Oh really?” Kimberly avoided his gaze by pretending to pay attention to the yogurts again. “And you call him baby, just like he calls you?”

“Oh... that.” Why did he have to hear her saying that? Suspicious, she asked again, “Are you sure you only heard what you said you heard?”

Eric just ignored her question, “Then again... I always see you guys teasing and arguing with each other, so I suppose it’s totally unlikely that you guys have slept with each other, right?” She wished it was the way Eric was saying, but things didn’t work like that between Jake and Kimberly. The more they teased, argued and provoked, the more Kimberly actually desired him. “Don’t lie to me, Kim.”

She had to. She’d never tell him the truth. “Jake and I have never slept together, and we never will. Jake’s really not my type.”

“He’s not the type of a lot of women, but he still manages to sleep with them all.” And damned Jake for that.

Stepping towards him and narrowing her stormy gray eyes, Kimberly stated very slowly, so that Eric would get the picture, “Jake’s surely not my type.”

“So...” That familiar cultured voice was heard just a few steps away from them. “Here I catch you two alone again, and very close, I see.” Unconsciously, Kimberly stepped back immediately. She’d burned in hell for that stupid move.

“Kim and I were just talking.” Eric said in a very easy-going way, though Jake’s suspicious expression didn’t vanish. “Are you jealous?”

“Never in my life.” Jake rushed to say. “Why would you say that anyway?”

“I think that’s enough, guys.” Kimberly interfered, placing herself between the brothers. Then, becoming aware of what Jake carried in his hands, she questioned him, “What the hell are you going to buy?”

Shrugging, Jake explained, “Well, since Sid’s boyfriend’s coming to have dinner with us, I thought I could make pizza for dinner.”

Shock stroked her straight away. “Pizza? Pizza? Are you crazy, Jake?”

He seemed genuinely confused. “Why not?”

“Jake, it’s the first time the kid’s coming to have dinner with us, and you want him to eat pizza?”

“Kimberly,” Jake said, sighing and looking suddenly exhausted. “do you think a guy prefers a fine dinner over pizza?”

Before she could say something about it, Eric spoke, “Pizza, of course. If I was to meet my girlfriend’s family, I’d prefer having pizza for dinner. It makes the whole scene more comfortable to everyone. But that’s just me, of course.”

Knowing she wouldn’t win this argument, she turned to Jake and asked, “Do you even know how to make acceptable pizzas?”

“Kimberly,” In her heard, she heard baby, thanks to that amused and cocky tone. “I’m the best. I promise my pizzas will disappoint neither you nor the kid.” Giving him the benefit of doubt, Kimberly decided to leave it at there, and give him a chance.

After all of them fetched for everything else they needed, they headed for the cashier and all of them paid for what they’d come to get. Then, Jake drove them back home, and when they arrived, after placing everything in the kitchen, while Jake went to prepare dinner, Eric, Kimberly, and Tom, who had already arrived, cleaned and tidied up the house, since it honestly needed some cleaning.

At 8 PM, they had the entire house ready to welcome Sidney’s boyfriend. They were all packed up in the living room the moment they heard Sidney walking inside the house. They knew she wasn’t alone, not only because they already knew her boyfriend was coming, but because they became she was talking to someone.

As soon as they all started to get up to go and greet Sidney’s boyfriend, Kimberly tensed in that same instant. She knew it was just her sister’s boyfriend, but they were talking about her sister. During the dinner, she’d have to play multiple parts – sister, mother... and father. And hell, she couldn’t mix those parts. Especially the father. Yes, she was supposed to be the good sister, but she had to play the dominant part as well, like her father would.

Then, the answer to her problem passed right beside her – Jake. Before she could even think about it, she grabbed Jake’s arm, and stopped him from leaving the living room like all the others had. When he turned to look at her, she just said, “I need a favour.”

“Another one?” His eyebrow arched, “Having sex with me to get over problems isn’t enough?”

Ignoring that remark, Kimberly continued, “I need you too...” Act like a father. Kimberly wanted to say that, but it would sound stupid. So stupid. “Can you just act like someone close to Sidney? Someone worried about her? Like if she was your-”

“You want me to act like a father?” Jake cut her off, instantly comprehending what Kimberly wanted. “Of course I can do that. Just like I expect you to be the mother. So let’s have Tom and Eric do the brothers’ part.” With his arms folded over his chest, his lips pressed against each other, and eyeing her with importance on his eyes, Kimberly knew he was serious about it.

“When you want, you... can be nice.“And why the hell had she said that?

Jake just shrugged, and Kimberly was happy he hadn’t commented her observation. “Oh well, since I’m going to be the father and act like you - dangerously deadly - I expect you to act like me – sweet and polite.” And before she could say something about, Jake just placed his arm over her shoulders and forced to walk out of the living room, though when they stepped out, he drew back.

Sidney’s boyfriend was everything Kimberly really wasn’t expecting. It’s not like the kid wasn’t pretty, but he wasn’t any Greek God to stand on the same feet than her younger sister. To be honest, Sidney was indeed beautiful.

James was a boy with average height and weighted, whose body wasn’t tamed at all, like Kimberly was expecting. Her dark brown hair was a mess and his pale face still had some very visible dimples. Aside from that, the glasses he wore made his ocean blue eyes pop out.

“Oh, and this is my older sister, Kimberly!” Sidney’s sudden high-pitched voice drew her to reality. “Oh, and the tall guy behind her is Jake.”

“Hello, James.” Jake said first, moving towards the boy. He offered his hand, and James took it, nervously smiling.

“Hi.” He said anxiously. When it was Kimberly’s turn to greet him, the boy had visibly relaxed. “Oh, it is a pleasure to meet you, Kimberly! Sidney talks a lot about you!”

“Only good things, I hope!” She grinned at him, always aware of her sister’s expression. And since the moment she’d put her eyes on her, Sidney always seemed cheerful. That pleased Kimberly. “So, are you hungry, James? Jake made some pizzas for our dinner!”

Colour just drained our of James’s face, and Sidney suddenly murmured, “James actually doesn’t like pizzas...”

“I-I’m sorry.” He stuttered, avoiding everyone’s gazes.

“Oh, it’s ok.” Kimberly said quickly, “I’m sure we’ll prepare something delicious for you, right, Sid?”

“Right!” Her face lit up again. “Come on, James, let’s see what we have!”

“I’ll help you.” Tom said, going after the couple.

“I’ll can help too!” Eric suddenly said, rushing after them.

When Kimberly was alone with Jake, they said and did nothing at first. But not being able to take it any longer, both burst out laughing.

“He’s a total geek!”

“I know!” Kimberly whispered, agreeing with Jake. “That was the last thing I expected from Sid! I wasn’t imagining a God or something, but... damn, I wasn’t imagining a guy like James either!”

Taking advantage of being alone, Jake just had to say, “You expected someone like me, baby?”

“Not someone like you, but-” She stopped herself before she kept going. Damn her, she’d already said too much. “I didn’t mean that, you’re not that good, I-”

“Baby, you said what you really think. I’m hot and you think that exactly.” The look was his face was of someone that had just won something.

“You’re such a jerk, Jake.” And then she just poked him the abs, though she didn’t hurt him at all.

“Father and Mother,” The both heard behind them, “How about supporting your seventeen year old daughter?” They lazily turned around, knowing already that it was Eric.

“We were just talking.” Jake said, suddenly stiffened. “Do you always have to spy on other people? Kimberly and I can’t have a conversation where you won’t be eavesdropping?” Shaking his head in clear icy disapproval, Jake passed by Eric, and Kimberly followed, silently. Eric didn’t bother answering, but Kimberly was sure he was thinking about them.

Tom, Sidney and James were comfortably talking, but when Jake and Kimberly drew near and sat, the atmosphere cooled down.

“So!” Jake started, turning to his right side, where James was, while Kimberly was sat across him. “How old are you, James?”

“Nineteen, sir.”

“You have the driver’s license?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You truly like Sid?”

“Truly, Sid.”

Both Kimberly and Eric were doing a great effort to not burst out laughing, while Jake questioned the kid with random questions. However, Kimberly pitied him a little, because Jake was really taking his part seriously.

“How did you two met?” Jake asked, reaching out for a slice of pizza, the moment Tom placed a different meal in front of James.

“Her Math’s teacher thought she needed some help, and Sid said her sister couldn’t help her, given that she was very busy at the moment,” That moment, the sisters traded looks. Of course Kimberly couldn’t help her. She was too busy running her own life. “So the teacher suggested I should help her and-”

“You’re in her class?” Eric cut him off.

“Yes, I am.”

“And she met you when you started helping her?” Jake asked Eric’s next question. Everybody understood what it meant. Sidney was popular and James wasn’t, seeing that they were both on the same class, but didn’t even know each other.

“We can say yes... yes, sir.” James resumed to chewing for a while, preparing for the next round of questions. Kimberly just stayed there, letting Jake do the entire inquiry. Maybe... he really cared about Sid.

“You’re dating since?”

“We’ve been dating for three months.” This time, Sidney spared her boyfriend.

"Three months?” Kimberly’s jaw fell open, shocked. “How come I didn’t know about this before?”

“Kim... I meant to tell you, but... you were always too busy studying, working, sleeping...” Feeling guilty, Sidney avoided her sister’s silver eyes.

“Is Sid telling the truth, James?” The way Jake eyed the kid... it was impossible for him to lie.

“Yes, sir.” He affirmed, then looking back at the red haired. “Sid meant to tell you, but she said the last thing you needed was to worry about this.”

Once more, Sidney and Kimberly traded guilty looks. It was the truth, and Kimberly knew it. The fewer things she had to fret about, the better she could focus on college and work.

By the time Jake’s questions softened, James became more relaxed, and that was clearly visible. They also started telling stories about what Sidney had done and whatnot, and at some point, Kimberly felt she wasn’t as close to her sister as she’d been before.

“Kim, you don’t know a lot of things about Sid!” Tom remarked, laughing, almost two and half hours later.

“I’m busy!” She said in her defence, though with a smile on her face, because she knew none of them was judging her. “I can’t have my attention focused on everything, and Sid understands right?”

“Of course, Kim.” Her sister replied, with a caring smile.

“Poor, Kimberly. Too busy to even pay attention to her sister.” Jake mocked her, reaching out for another slice of pizza. How many slices had he eaten so far?

“I have to ask you this, Jake.” Eric was suddenly heard, interrupted Kimberly’s thoughts about Jake’s appetite. “Why do you call her Kimberly?”

“Because...” Jake shrugged, “It’s her name.”

“Yeah, but it’s long. Why call her Kimberly, when you can treat her by Kim?”

“Kim is just an ordinary name.” Jake responded, looking back at Eric with his predatory dark green eyes. “Everybody treats Kimberlys by Kims.”

“So... she’s special?” Tom suddenly spoke, and everybody gazed at Jake, all trying to read him, Kimberly included.

“No, she’s not.” He said, chewing more pizza, trying not to make a big deal out of it. “I just prefer Kimberly, that’s all.”

“Funny... I never saw you treat her by Kim,” Sidney also was heard, leaning back on her chair, and looking at Jake with the curiosity on her blue eyes. “Yet, you treat me by Sid. There’s plenty of Sids out there.”

Jake sighed, and in that moment Kimberly knew they were all pushing. Still... she was also curious. They were all right. Jake had never treated her by Kim, yet he treated her sister by her diminutive. “So what guys? Can’t I call her Kimberly? Damn.”

“Calm down, brother. We were just talking about it.” Eric said, also becoming aware Jake was getting angry. And an angry Jake was something no one wanted. “Anyway, it’s almost eleven. Shouldn’t you go home, Jake? You have classes tomorrow. Just like Sid.”

“Yes, I should, indeed.” James agreed nervously. He got up, at the same time than all the others. The guys and Kimberly said their goodbyes in the kitchen, and allowed Sidney to be alone with James before he went home.

“That as quite good.” Tom commented, folding his arms over his chets. “The guy seems nice.”

“He isn’t like Jake,” Kimberly suddenly remarked, provoking the green eyed man. “Of course he’s nice.”

“Oh well, what can I say? Not my fault Sid feels attracted to geeks, instead of hot and great guys, like me, for example. Just remember this, when you become aware you have geeky nephews.” Now that made her laugh, but since Tom and Eric were there, Kimberly couldn’t really provoke Jake the way she liked.

A few moments later, Sidney came back to the kitchen, offering them a brilliant grin. “My god, guys, the dinner was great! I couldn’t have asked for anything else! And you so looked like my father Jake! It reminded me of our parents when Kimberly introduced them her boyfriend, Damien! Our mother just stayed silent, amused by our father’s inquiry...”

Damien... She’d forgotten about him.

And it wasn’t exactly the same thing. James was totally different from Damien, and Jake and Kimberly were everything but a couple like her parents...

“...I laughed so much!”

“Yeah, well, it’s time to go to bed, now. It’s that late, but every one of us went to bed late, yesterday, so we shouldn’t do the same thing tonight.” Kimberly said. Amazingly, everyone agreed, even Jake. Well, they felt tired, including Kimberly. But, a long, long night of study awaited her. “I’ll clean this up.”

When all of them wished each other goodnight, they left the kitchen. However, before leaving, Sid turned at her, and said, “Thanks, Kim. The dinner was really important to me. I was afraid you wouldn’t like James and-”

“Baby, I’d do anything for you! Even accept a guy like James in our family.” She walked up to her sister, and hugged her, knowing she definitely was on good-terms with her sister, again. “Now, go to bed, sweetie. Have a goodnight.” She kissed her sister’s forehead and offered another reassuring smile before she left.

Before resuming to the cleaning, Kimberly went to fetch a book from her room, so that she could read a little while cleaning up the kitchen. Time was something she seldom had, and so she had to take advantage of every second. No on interrupted her, so she knew they were all sleeping, including Jake.

About half past midnight, Kimberly walked out of the house to put the trash outside. It was a pleasant night, not too cold, not too hot. When she put the trash near the other garbage, she turned to walk towards the house again. However, she noticed a car suddenly stopping in front of her new home. When she saw the person furiously getting out it, her reaction was too run.

Damien quickly went after her.

Given that he was faster, he caught her halfway. “Stop, Kim!” He yelled, managing to grab her arm with so much strength that it reached the point where he was seriously hurting her.

“Let me go, Damien!” She begged, trying not to yell, fighting against her own instincts of calling for help, which was so close to her. Just a scream... and she’d have Tom, Jake and Eric outside. However... she couldn’t afford that. “You’re hurting me!”

“Oh, I’m hurting you, bitch?” Damien didn’t control himself. He kept yelling. “What have you been doing? Telling my wife I go to strip clubs?”

“I didn’t say anything!” Kimberly disclosed, too surprised about this. Still, Damien didn’t believe her and pushed her against a post. “Damien! I don’t even know your wife!”

“As far as I know, you can be lying to me!”

“I’m not!”

“I don’t believe you! You’re lying to everyone, hiding the fact that you’re a stripper! I know it was you!” He snarled, too close to her. “You had reasons to do it!”

“No, I-”

Kimberly immediately stopped talking the moment Damien put his hand on her neck. “You’re a slut, Kim! I feel so fucking embarrassed when I remember I dated you! I mean... I can’t believe I dated a stripper and a whore!” Tears started to blur her eyes, but Damien didn’t give a damn about it. “She was from a wealthy family, Kim. Even richer than mine! I could have had everything, but now it’s all ruined because of you!”

She couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think.

“D-damien...” She tried to say, gasping to air, “S-stop-p...”

“Fuck you, Kim.” Damien was totally out of control the moment he held her neck tightly, feeling his nails cutting her deep in the neck.

“Y-you’re hur-t-ting-” She suddenly stopped talking, choking on her own words, thanks to the lack of air. She couldn’t breathe anymore. But before she knew, her instincts yelled louder for survival, and she did what she should have done moments ago – she kicked him right between his legs. And then, her lungs had all the air she’d been begging for.

Damien was on the floor, crying out in pain. Not daring to give him time to catch her again, Kimberly ran for the house while tears rolled down her face. The instant she walked inside the house, she shut the door and leaned back, sliding down until she was sat on the floor, her arms wrapped around her knees and her head over her them, allowing her to cry from all the fear and pain.

However, that didn’t take long. It took her only a few moments for to get up.

God, she knew what she needed. She needed him. Even if it was just for a hug, she wanted and needed him, because he could make her forget about that abrupt episode. And so, not even ten minutes later, Kimberly dragged herself to his bedroom in the basement.

She didn’t knock. She simply barged in and slammed shut the door when she was inside.

“I knew you’d come tonight. I don’t know why, but I just knew it.” Jake said, his eyes on the TV. But when he returned the look and became aware she was crying, he immediately got up and reached her, automatically hugging her. “Kimmy? What happened? Why are you crying?”

She just hugged him back, leaning her head on his tamed chest. Ignoring his worried questions, Kimberly could only think she felt secure in his arms. “Is it Sid? Did she say something? Did you two have a fight again? Come on, tell me, Kimmy.” This time, she could easily notice the tenderness and the concern in each time he pronounced her name.

“I... I need you, Jake.” She whispered, “I just... need you.” She lifted her head and allowed Jake to take a look at her watery eyes. He just bent down his head, and his lips parted. The kiss... was different. Softer, smoother? She didn’t know, but it certainly was different.

Putting his hands on her face, Jake knew she was still crying, so he broke the kiss. “What happened, baby? Tell me! Someone hurt you?”

She ignored his pleas for answers she was never going to give him. She just wanted to feel his lips on hers, so she pulled him back and smashed her lips against his. This was a need she couldn’t control. Kimberly just had to feel him close to her - closer than anyone could ever be.

Her hands slid underneath his shirt and seconds later, she took it off. Jake knew where they were heading, but of course he didn’t stop. He also wanted, and Kimberly knew it. Nevertheless, she noticed he hadn’t quite overcome the fact that she had a problem. A problem she needed to get over... with sex. With him.

She was using him in such a cruel way, but then again, he also allowed her to use him, given that he wanted the sex, too. For a while, she felt like n insensible woman. She’d almost been suffocated by Damien, yet, minutes later, she made a dash for Jake’s room because she knew he could help her forget about Damien. She’d never acted like that before, but she’d never gone through something like that prior to this situation. Jake made her desire him, Damien made her need Jake. She needed him to forget everything, needed him to care for her, since she had no one else who could comfort her.

Jake was everything she could ever ask for in that moment.

When she came back to reality for a while, Jake was sat down on the edge of his bed, already naked, while Kimberly still had her underwear. She became aware he was hard, but this time, she didn’t provoke him.

Then, it was when Jake noticed it. “Kimmy... you’re neck.” She immediately put her hand over the scratched, while Jake got up to see her neck slightly bleeding. He managed to take her hand off her neck and saw the wounds. His green eyes darkened straight away. “You didn’t have this a few hours ago. Who did it?”

“It doesn’t matter, Jake.” She avoided his eyes, hiding the tears that once again threatened to fall. How could Damien do that? How could he hurt her like that? He almost smothered her to death!

“You’re arm...” Now, Jake’s hands were on her arm, the one Damien had grabbed to stop her from running away. He forced her to look at him, “Tell me who did this, Kimberly.”

“No.” She replied, “Forget about it, Jake. That doesn’t matter.”

“It was a man?” She didn’t answer, and Jake took her silence as a yes. With a sharp tone on his voice, he asked, “Kimberly. Tell me who he is.”

“I can’t. I just can’t.” And then, she just hugged him again. She couldn’t tell him, or anyone else. Tell the police? Of course not, everyone would know what she did to live and why he was blackmailing her. Everyone would know every single detail of her miserable life, including Jake and Sidney.

She felt the most fragile woman in his arms. However, she couldn’t help but to not ignore the desire when he trailed kisses all over her neck and shoulders, as his hands slid down her back, reaching for her bra and taking it off. He once more sat down again, and smoothly kissed and licked her breasts.

His hands softly moved around her thighs, waist and lips... Never leaving her cloudy gray eyes, Jake took off the rest of her underwear. Then, she closed her eyes, and allowed him to keep kissing her with so much tenderness that she was already melting.

Still, she was the one who started the real action. She sat on his laps, wrapped her legs around his waistline and her hands met behind his neck, locking his hair, while she gazed at him, both feeling the pleasure and excitement growing inside them.

Contrasting the last time, Kimberly was the one who was moving, letting Jake enjoy her. His hands on her thighs, moving on to her breasts, kissing every part of her body... It drove her crazy.

On top of him, she moved slowly, so that she could extend the pleasure to its maximum. And Jake liked it. They looked into each other eyes and Kimberly couldn’t help but to admit that he was beautiful. Now, his expression wasn’t unfriendly anymore, but was a caring one. His bright green eyes glowed, and Kimberly knew he could like a woman, no matter how many times he said he wouldn’t.

The time passed without them noticing it. They both wanted that moment to last.

“Kimmy...” Jake lifted his arm, and made her lean her forehead on his. “You’re beautiful...” Jake stated, gasping for air. Then, he tucked her red hair behind her eyes, and softly kissed her cheeks.

She cried again. Not because she wasn’t feeling any pleasure or was in pain, but because she needed so much to have Jake by her side, yet she couldn’t have him. Not someone like him, though he was the one she was longing for, now. All she needed was someone to take care of her, like Jake was, now.

Guessing her thoughts, Jake said tenderly, “Don’t cry, Kimmy.” The warmth in his voice melted her heart. “I’ll take care of you, baby.”

She tried to smile, always gasping for air, though Jake ignored that and kissed her once more, with so much affection and softness... so different from his usual hungry kisses.

When the moment came, they enjoyed their orgasm together, both gasping and crying out in pleasure together. Damn, Kimberly yearned that! No wonder Jake made her forget about her problems. His eyes, his hands, his lips, himself... she wanted him, and that was it.

When it was all over, she didn’t want to move. She stayed over him, hugging him and feeling his lips on her shoulder, gently stroking her smooth skin. “Baby, let’s sleep... I know you’re tired.”

No, she didn’t want to fall asleep. She knew she’d end up dreaming about Damien. However, she didn’t fight against Jake when he carefully made her lay down on his bed, right beside him. He seemed so different while acting this thoughtful and kind. Maybe it was because she’d been crying. Make his weakness were the tears of a woman. Or maybe... he just felt sorry for her. Was that it?

Kimberly didn’t fall asleep for the next hour. She tried not to think, but it was hard.

“You’re not sleeping yet, baby?” She suddenly heard Jake’s voice whispering, when she shifted position.

“I can’t sleep.”

“Why not?”

“I’ll dream about it.”

“About what?”

“About him.” She replied, not having the notion of who was asking the questions.

“Who is he?”

“An ex-boyfriend.”

Jake remained silent for a while. Still, when he spoke again, there was disgust and fury on his voice, even if he was whispering. “He was the one who did this?”

“Yes.” She disclosed, acting like if he was talking to herself, though that voice belonged to Jake, trying to find out everything he could about that situation.

“Why?”

“He thinks I did something.”

“What?”

“Can’t tell you.”

“Why not?”

“He’ll tell you.”

“Tell me what?” Jake shifted position this time, by lifting his torso so that he’d look down at her. His impatient grew bigger, just like the roughness on his voice, “He’ll tell me what, baby? Damn, Kimberly, wake up! You’re acting like a fucking crazy woman!”

In that moment, she turned around and faced him, “I better go to my room.”

However, before she could get up, Jake placed an arm over her, not letting her move. “Why are you going-”

“Because you’re asking me things I don’t want to answer.” She retorted, her gray eyes examining Jake’s. “Please.” She begged. All she wanted to be by his side, feeling that secured, again.

“I’ll stop.” He said, giving up the moment she pleaded him. “You can stay here with me, Kimmy.” Oh, the tenderness again... Kimberly didn’t reply and shifted to a more comfortable position. As for Jake, the last thing she saw from him was a caring smile, before he lay down and cuddled against her. When Kimberly fell asleep, she didn’t dream about Damien, she dreamt about Jake... and it was a very, very interesting dream.

***

The sunlight was lighting up Jake’s room, however that wasn’t what woke them up. It was an annoying sound. They both lifted their heads, looking for what was making the damn noise. They found that it was Jake’s alarm clock, set for 6:50 am.

“Oh, man...” Jake muttered, letting his head fall back on the pillow.

“You wake up at this hour, everyday?” Kimberly asked, pulling the sheet to cover her naked body.

“Yeah, when you fell asleep, I remembered to set the alarm clock, so that you could leave my room before they wake up, so that they won’t notice you spent the night with me.” Jake explained, covering his eyes with his hand. “Well, it was mostly because of my brother... he’s been really suspicious.”

“Oh... yeah, you did well.” She said, getting up, now. She put on her underwear, and over, Jake’s shirt. “I’ll return it to you later, ok?”

“Sure, baby.”

“Well, hum... bye.” Kimberly said, a little bit clumsy. However, before she opened the door, Jake ran for her, grabbing her arm. The red haired turned around, suspicious and gazed at him. “What?”

“You haven’t told me what happened last night.”

“We had sex.” She told him, though that wasn’t what he wanted to know.

“Before that.”

“I... Look, forget about it, Jake. Please. I’m just a woman that cried over nothing. It wasn’t a big deal.” She lied. Yes, it was a big deal, because Damien had really hurt her. Things were getting too dangerous. What would he do if he caught her again, alone?

“It wasn’t a big deal?” Jake’s eyes widened in shock, and he almost chocked when he spoke, “Kimmy, your arm is purple and you have scratches on your neck! That isn’t a big deal? Not to mention that after we had sex, you told me something about an ex-boyfriend!”

Damn, why did he have to remember all that? And why had she even answered to him? She hadn’t even drunk anything! “Baby, I was... crazy. You make me crazy.”

“Don’t change the subject.” He said, coming too close to her face.

“There is nothing to talk about, Jake. Forget it!”

“So you’re just going to use me whenever you have a problem and then just leave me like this?” Jake finally confronted her, acknowledging he’d allowed her to use him when she wanted.

“I don’t use you!” She lied. It was too hard to admit it.

“You don’t use me?” Jake suddenly started laughing, “Two out of three times you had sex with me because something had happened! And then, you don’t even have the guts to tell me why you went to bed with me! What the fuck is going on, Kimberly?” Oh... this was getting out of control.

“Nothing! It’s... nothing, Jake!” She repeated again. Hell, Damien wasn’t nothing, but there was no way she’d tell Jake about Damien.

“Fuck you, Kimberly!” Jake suddenly snapped.

“So, it’s like that? Fuck me?” Why the hell was he so freaking mad about it? It had nothing to do with him!

“Hell, yeah! I don’t let girls use me! Baby, I use girls!” She was just too astonished to say something, or to even attack him. How could he say something like that? “Get out of my room, Kimberly. I’m fucking tired of this.”

“Yeah, like if we had fucked that many times for you to be tired of this.” She said, getting ready to open the door, feeling too outraged.

“I’m tired of you, now get the fuck out of my room. Oh, and if you have any other problems you need to get over, go ask my brother, since you’ve been so close to him lately.” Jake suddenly said. Now that was something she wasn’t really waiting for.

“Jealous?”

“Not in a million years.” He replied, and Kimberly couldn’t tell if he was lying or not. “You should have already left my room.” God, why did he have to be so fucking cold to her after the night they’d had? That just infuriated her even more.

“You know what, Jake?” She abruptly started yelling, “I’m also fucking tired of you! You’re worse than I thought!” At last, Kimberly turned around and left Jake’s room in the basement, slamming shut the door.

However, when she went upstairs, she couldn’t avoid the person who was waiting for her, arms folded over his chest and eyes stuck on her.

“I knew there was something going on between you two.” Kimberly looked up, and sighted Eric, with a wicked smile stamped on his face.

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