High-Powered, Hot-Blooded

By: Susan Mallery



“It wasn’t me, specifically. It was…” She cleared her throat. While she didn’t want to tell her cousins what had happened, she believed in speaking the truth. Well, except when it came to her secret M&M stash.

She quickly explained about the two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, how Duncan would forgive half the debt and allow Tim to make payments on the other half when he got out of rehab and was working again.

Julie sprang to her feet. “I swear, Annie, you’re impossible.”

“Me? What did I do?”

“Gave in. Let Tim do this to you again. You’re always getting him out of trouble. When he was seven and stole from the mini market by the house, you took the fall and paid them back for the candy bars. When he was in high school and cutting class, you convinced the principal not to suspend him. He needs to face the consequences of what he’s done.”

“He doesn’t need to go to jail. How will that help?”

“If the pain’s big enough, then maybe he’ll learn his lesson.”

Jenny nodded, while Kami only looked uncomfortable.

“He needs help,” Annie said stubbornly. “And he’s my brother.”

“All the more reason to want him to grow up and be responsible,” Julie said.

Annie sighed. “I promised.”

When her mother had been dying, she’d made Annie swear she would look after Tim, no matter what.

The twins exchanged another look.

“There’s no getting around that,” Kami told them. “You know how Annie gets. She always sees the best in people.”

Annie stood and touched Julie’s arm. “It’s not that bad. I’m dating a really rich guy for a month, going to fancy parties. Nothing more.”

All three girls looked at her. Annie felt herself starting to blush.

“Nothing,” she repeated. “No sex, so don’t even go there.” She smiled. “I wouldn’t have told you except I’ll be gone a lot and eventually you’d notice. In the meantime, I kind of need your help. Duncan is sending a stylist to take me shopping for cocktail dresses and a couple of formal gowns. I won’t need them after this month, but I get to keep them. So I thought you three might want to come along and give me your opinions. What with you being able to borrow them when I’m done.”

As she expected, there was a general shrieking as all three of them jumped up and down, yelling.

“Seriously?” Jenny asked.

“Uh-huh. The stylist is due here any second and we’re going shopping. So you want to come with me?”

They’d barely had time to agree when the doorbell rang. Jenny and Julie ran to open the door.

“Dear God,” a man said. “Tell me Duncan isn’t dating twins. Although you two are gorgeous. Have you thought about going into modeling?”

The twins giggled in response.

Annie went out into the living room where a tall, thin blond man stood looking over her cousins.

“Love the hair,” he said, fluffing Julie’s ends. “Maybe a few more layers to open up your face and give your hair volume. Try a smoky eye. You’ll be delish.” He looked past them to Annie and raised his eyebrows. “Now you look exactly like a stereotypical kindergarten teacher, so you must be Annie. What were you thinking, agreeing to help someone like Duncan? The man is a total ruthless bastard. Sexy, of course, not that he would ever notice me.” He smiled. “I’m Cameron, by the way. And yes, I know it’s a girl’s name. I tell my mother it’s the reason I’m gay.”

He glanced over her shoulder as Kami came in the room and he sighed. “I don’t know who you are, honey, but you’re giving these beauties a run for their money. Yummy.”

Kami laughed. “Get real.”

“I am real. The realest.”

Annie introduced the girls. Cameron sat on the worn sofa in the living room and pulled out a couple of folders.

“Come on, little teacher,” he said, patting the cushion next to him. “We have to go over the schedule. Duncan has fifteen social events between now and Christmas. You’ll be with him at all of them.”

He passed her one of the slim folders. “You got the background information, didn’t you?”

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