Chapter 1 - You’re not my brother!
To a very beautiful, witty, and thoughtful girl Chiara Ghettini. Thank you for your help with this book and for the inspiration you gave me. I feel that I can’t thank you enough for your valuable insights and for the time that you spent helping me. You’re an amazing friend 🥰.
“Dom, you have no right to talk to me like that! You’re not my brother!”
I was so angry with him. The entire situation was unbelievable. My brother went to college the previous year, and I thought that I would have been able to act freely, without him controlling me, and that was the case! For a damn year! However, since Dominic returned to our town, I was living in hell. I had my brother’s fucking best friend to follow my every move. What did I do to deserve that?!
“Mia, I told you this already. Jeff Atkins is a fucking asshole! He’s using you.”
“Dominic Watson, you need to watch your mouth! You’re talking about my boyfriend!”
“What the fuck?!” In a few steps, he invaded my personal space. His hands landed on my wrists, keeping me from striding away from him. When I was a teenager, I would have been on the edge of bursting with happiness because of that proximity with him. At that moment? I was annoyed beyond measures.
“It’s not your business, Dom. My mom has nothing against Jeff, and it should have been enough for Matthew too. Jeff is always nice to me, and he cares about me.”
“Mia, I am telling you... He’s not a good guy.”
“And you’re a good guy?” We were standing extremely close. I didn’t even notice it at first. My heart was pounding in my chest because of that. I was delusional thinking that I could have been indifferent to him. I had feelings for him for as long as I could fucking remember. Something like that wouldn’t have disappeared because I wanted it. Screw him!
“I am not.”
“That’s what I thought.” I pulled my hands from his grip and turned on my heels. I was going to leave that asshole by himself. I was tired. I just came home from my workplace, and I wanted to spend at least a few hours alone, without any drama. I had plenty of it at the store.
Unfortunately, I lived in the same building as his, and he fucking followed me to the door of my family’s apartment. The fact that we yelled at each other in the middle of the hallway wasn’t enough for him. He wanted to continue that torture inside of my home. God, I was hoping that my mom wouldn’t be there to witness that nonsense.
I opened the door, and I was ready to slam it to his face, but he caught it. He pushed it a little, making me step back. I rushed to the living room and threw my purse on the couch. I turned around and folded my arms over my chest. Yeah, Dominic looked as if he was ready to explode with anger. I should have probably felt fear since he had a threatening aura around him and a reputation. Even so, I couldn’t have cared less. He was an asshole, and I hated him for everything he put me through. He wasn’t going to stop any time soon. Argh!
“I thought that it was crystal clear that we didn’t finish this talk.” Dom matched me, folding his hands over his sculpted chest. His sleeves covered in ink, and for a long time, I even thought it was hot. Not anymore. He was annoying me with that paternalistic and fake act of care.
“You’re delusional, Dominic. This talk ended a long time ago as soon as you opened your mouth and decided to act as if you were my brother. Not even Matthew has any right to talk and act the way you are doing right now!”
“He asked me to watch over you. To take care of you and your mom while he will be in college.”
“I advise you to mind your own businesses, Dom. Mom and I were totally fine on our own for a year. I am 17 years old, and in two months, I will be 18. That being said, you are a fucking adult! You’re 22. Don’t you have better things to do at your car repair shop? Why are you so determined in making my life a living hell?!”
“Mia, it’s not like that, and you know it.” He stepped closer to me. His voice sounded calm and soothing. I think he wanted to calm me down but, before I met with him tonight, I was exhausted but perfectly fine. On the other hand, he made me agitated and angry in a matter of seconds. It was all his fault!
“I know nothing, Dom. I don’t know what you are playing at, and, honestly, I don’t fucking care anymore. I want you to leave me alone and to tell your best friend to leave me alone as well. I am sick and tired of Matthew’s overprotectiveness. He needs to learn to let go! I am not a fragile little girl as I was a few years ago. I am stronger than that!”
“I don’t have any doubts... You always were special and brave...” Dominic placed his palm on my cheek and stroked it a little. I gulped nervously. I didn’ like it even for a second. I knew what came from being too close to him. I knew the consequences. I learned them the hard way, but I was even grateful for that. I wouldn’t have fallen into that trap ever again. I was not going to revive the feelings that I felt for him. They were gone for good.
“Dominic...” I said and looked him in the eyes. His eyes were of green color with blue hints. His gaze was intense. He was taller and hovering over me. “Take your hand off me. Now.”
I stared at him in the eyes. I wasn’t willing to back away. Even if I knew how gorgeous and hot he was, I didn’t have any desire to be near him. He ruined my feeling for him and made me hate him. How happy was I when he left for college after graduation. I had the chance to start my life from scratch. I created a new reality where I wasn’t attracted to my brother’s best friend, and it felt good. Like damn good.
“Mia, please, I don’t want to hurt you. I hate the way you are looking at me right now. I am doing what’s best for you. Trust me. If I say that Jeff Atkins is using you, it means that he is. Why would I lie?” Still, his hand stayed on my cheek.
“Because it’s something that you always do.” I said curtly to him and stepped back. His hand dropped from me, and I saw him clenching his fists. Yeah, he wasn’t used to me reacting like that around him. He was used to me looking at him with admiration and pure love. Sorry to disappoint, but I was not the stupid little girl that I used to be even a year ago.
The door to the apartment opened, and my mom stepped inside. She was listening to music as I saw earphones in her ears and heard loud beats. I shook my head. Mom was being mom. Sometimes I even thought that I was the real adult between the two of us. I also heard her humming. I raised an eyebrow and watched as she turned around to Dominic and me.
“Oh, Dominic! What a pleasant surprise!” She almost yelled without taking the earphones out of her ears. “Oh, shoot, I am too loud.”
“It’s no big deal, Monica. You have a beautiful voice.” That jerk knew what to say to my mom. She adored him. She never had anything against his friendship with Matthew, even if my brother is two years younger than he is. Besides, the fact that Dominic Watson had a reputation of a bad guy couldn’t be forgotten. A real troublemaker.
“You’re flattering me too much.” She went to the kitchen, placing her bags from the grocery store on the kitchen counter. Then she came back to the living room and walked to me, placing her hand on my waist and kissed my temple. She was utterly ignorant of everything that previously happened in our living room. She didn’t notice the tense atmosphere between us either. No surprise there. “I guess that I was just so used to you spending your time in our house. When you left for college, this apartment felt empty.”
“I was sleeping on your couch more than in my college’s dorm room.” Dominic laughed. “So, believe me, I missed staying here too.”
“While you were gone, at least, Matthew was with us. Now he’s in college for his second year, and before you returned, two weeks ago, Mia and I were very lonely.”
“Talk for yourself.” I untangled myself from her and took my purse. I was ready to go to my room.
“You became so bitter, Mia.” Mom’s voice sounded disappointed. “Will you stay for dinner, Dom? The last time you had a meal with us was last summer before Matthew went to college. I want to talk to you to know what you were up to. So?”
I stopped near the hallway. Please, say no. For fuck’s sake, just say no!
“With pleasure.” Dominic answered her, glancing and throwing at me his mischievous grin. I rolled my eyes and went to my room to change. Yeah, it would have certainly been a dinner in a very “pleasant” company. Just what I needed.