Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Dan might be the enemy of my enemy, but I’m not sure that makes him my friend. He’s definitely not my ‘step brother’, no matter what everyone at school says. Honestly, I don’t know what he’s supposed to be to me. Or what he’s becoming…
Fact: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
In the yearbook, I’ll be Sophia Ramos: Valedictorian. Years of honor roll certificates, AP classes, and lugging around an obnoxiously large cello case are about to finally pay off. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll escape these decaying suburbs for a top university across the country.
The problem? A few years ago, my mom met someone just as broke, just as drunk, and just as impulsive as she is. Approximately five seconds into their relationship, they decided it would be an excellent idea for him—and his son, Dan—to move in with us. (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t).
Now I share a house with none other than Daniel Cole. Even though Dan dropped out two years ago, he’s still the tattooed, bad boy, heartthrob, legend of St. Anthony’s Academy. He and I aren’t supposed to have anything in common.
Living together means war. First, Dan and I were at war with each other. Now, our rivalry is giving way to an unlikely alliance—two opposing sides teaming up against a common enemy: our respective parents.
Which is to say, we’ve been hanging out.
Question: What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object
Here’s the thing: My brain is a complex organ. One hundred billion neurons, each with an average of seven thousand synaptic connections to other neurons. My brain is my ticket out of here.
My heart, by contrast, is a pump. It moves blood around.
I know Dan is off-limits. I know I shouldn’t do something I’ll regret. And I know how much is at stake (my family, my future).
So why can’t I stop thinking about him? Those inscrutable jade eyes. The smile that can say a thousand different things at once. That tattoo curving across his abs…
Even though I know better, I feel that pounding in my chest. And it’s getting harder to ignore.
But if I follow my heart, I can never go back.
Answer: There is no such thing as an immovable object.
Sophie Ramos's mom and Daniel Cole’s dad have been living together, drinking together, and fighting together. While their parents might be cut from the same cloth, Sophie and Dan are textbook opposites. She’s the cello playing honor student; he’s the tattooed high school drop-out.
Sophie, 18, and Dan, 20, aren’t really step-siblings, but it seems that people see them in that role. In one sense I felt the taboo aspect was a little forced since their parents weren’t really married and they were both legal adults. While the story jumps right into the point where their relationship changes (so the love/hate is downplayed), I definitely felt the chemistry between them.
“It’s as if he needs to feel all of me at once and I need the same.”
My favorite scene was their “first date.” It was cute seeing how Dan presented his life to the rest of the world or his world. It was also a critical relationship development scene as it depicted that “good girl/bad boy” world coming together. I think scenes like this are important in romance as it helps the reader envision a successful future for them as a couple.
I was pleasantly surprised when it came to Dan. There are so many bad boy, manwhoring stepbrother characters out there and while initially I sensed Dan might fit the mold, he turned out to be a dedicated romantic hero. His devotion to her kept the angst in check and the steamy scenes plentiful. That’s always a plus in my book.
“‘Yes,’ I moan, and he echoes me. ‘Yes,’ we pass it back and forth. Yes.”
Told via Sophie’s first person POV, this is a new adult standalone romance. Both Dan and Sophie have to deal with a difficult home life and Sophie wrestles with merging her developing private and personal identities. Sophie’s classmates are a little stock character, and there was more than one person who I wanted to see get what they had coming to them, but the ending wraps up pretty quickly, jumping to the epilogue. For the most part, the angst between the couple is mostly contained to the drama around them rather than between them. It’s an “us against the world” type of romance, which this market needs more of.
Twisting the tray from side to side breaks the ice with a satisfying crack. I've almost gone so far as to pour water into my glass before I stop. Memories from last night surface and I recall sitting up in bed picking popcorn out of my bra.
Dan is wearing elastic-waist pajamas. I can see the edge of his boxer-briefs peeking out of the top but their waistline is much the same scenario. Everything has been so relaxed today. He's perfectly content—humming to himself!—while he finishes scrubbing the sink. He would never see it coming.
I pad softly across the linoleum, careful not to make a sound. The glass of ice waits poised in my hand. Dan finishes rinsing the sponge. In one fell swoop I wrench back a handful of pajama-and-boxer and let loose a frozen torrent.
Dan jumps, surprised, but he’s still reacting more to the grabbing than anything. While he knows something has happened, he doesn't yet know what.
I can't contain my devious grin while he searches my face. Then—there it is. A yelp, a jump, a shake. Cube after freezing cube tumbles from his pant legs. More yet are trapped inside his underwear. He hops from foot to foot and tries to push them out. Then he changes strategy.
“No!” I squeal, giggling wildly, and tear out of the kitchen.
I circle the table and he pauses just across its diameter. I try to feint left. He jerks then corrects his course and lunges. I backtrack.
We're stuck in a dead heat. A draw. One of us will have to make a break for it.
Throwing caution into the wind, I take off away from the table and leap over the couch. He struggles to follow my maneuver. Probably something to do with the glassful of ice melting in his underwear. I can't stop shrieking like a child and waving my hands like an idiot. If I don't make it to my room, he's going to tickle the fuck out of me.
My heart leaps as I crash through my door and tug it closed behind me. It stops short of snapping shut. One tattooed arm pries it open.
I jump back and seize a pillow from my bed like a shield. “No!”
Then the tickle-fingers. Just the sight of them breaks something inside me and I start laughing so hard I can’t breathe. Once, twice, three times I whack him with my pillow. He yanks it away and I trip backward onto my bed.
We land hard and he quickly takes both the figurative and literal upper hand. One knee wedges between my legs to keep me from kicking. His hands snatch my wrists in turn, pinning them above my head.
Dead heat. Stalemate. My armpits are terribly exposed but he can't tickle me as long as he's holding me down. My chest rises and falls as fast as my heartbeat. Desperate laughs push through my tight-pressed lips.
This close, his face a spare few inches from mine, I notice a field of freckles for the very first time. Light, almost invisible, they dust his nose and cheeks. Freckles don't seem like something Dan should have.
The lunatic laughter dies in my throat but my chest still rises and falls. A muscle in his jaw works. Green eyes dart rapidly between mine, thinking. About what, I’m not sure.
When we landed, his chest pressed down against mine. Now I feel his thin, worn sleeping t-shirt against my thin, worn sleeping t-shirt. No bra in between. On either side, only skin.
His hands, coiled around my wrists. My breasts, curving against his chest. Our lips, inches apart. This is starting to look like…something.
Our eyes stay locked. The longer we remain like this, the more the next movement matters. The stakes are shooting up. Maybe, if I could move, I could just tickle him back...
His knee shifts a fraction, hardly anything at all. Or maybe I imagined it. A rush of heat flows between my legs—so strong and so sudden I'm sure he could feel it. The fabric is so thin it might as well be bare skin. Goosebumps erupt down my arms. My nipples pull to points against him. He must feel them too.
I've been staring into his eyes so long…however long this has been—an infinity— and I mark their swift change. Something has happened there. Some choice, some determination...
Some noise rises from my throat. I'm not even sure if it was a sound or just a feeling, but I sense how it changed me. The space between us starts to close.
V.K. Torston is a millennial and ‘cool aunt’ to a brood of nieces and nephews. She was born and raised in San Francisco, attended university in New York City, and aspires to one day live in London. A veteran of the independent music scene, she began writing nonfiction in her late teens. Then she realized that making up stories was way more fun than coming up with endless synonyms for ‘frenetic’ and ‘danceable.’ Her hobbies include drinking too much coffee, making up stupid songs, and ranting about current events. Defiant Attraction is her first novel.
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