Forbidden: Her British Stepbrot - Lauren Smith

Chapter 1

T onight is the start of my grand adventure. And since it’s my birthday, you guys are welcome to join in the fun.” Kat Roberts grinned as she spread out the folded piece of paper on the table so her friends Lacy and Mark could see.

They were nestled in the corner of the Pickerel Inn just outside Magdalene College in Cambridge, catching a brief break from studying for exams. The pub was full of other students, all enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and the fish and chips the pub served late into the night.

“What on earth is that?” Lacy asked as she brushed her hair back from her face and peered at the list.

Kat tapped the paper. “A list of ten things every undergraduate should do while studying and living in Cambridge. Number one? Drink a glass of Nelson’s Revenge at the Pickerel Inn pub on Magdalene Street.”

Mark, Lacy’s boyfriend, chuckled. “Have too many Nelsons and he’ll definitely get his revenge. You Americans aren’t used to our stout ales.”

Kat was only half-listening as she studied the list, contemplating the other suggestions it gave. She’d moved to England in August to start college while her dad worked in London, and now more than ever she wanted to do something wild, something fun and crazy. Her parents had divorced when she was a kid, and she’d been living with her father, whose job entailed frequent corporate moves. She’d been too afraid to get close to people and break out of her shell. She didn’t want to make connections with people only to have to leave and never see them again. It reminded her too much of when her mother had left.

But that’s all changed. I’m finally living in one place for three years. I’m making friends here. Roots. For the first time I can really live.

Now she yearned for an adventure. She wasn’t used to being wild and crazy or doing things out of her comfort zone, but she wanted to be that way.

Baby steps, she had to remind herself. That’s why she’d picked this list from an online article about attending school in Cambridge. It had fun things for her to do. Things she might not have otherwise tried. Now that she’d settled into her classes and schoolwork, she could focus on enjoying the whole college experience. She’d picked an easy item from the list first—drinking a pint here at the Pickerel—but she’d work her way up to the bigger items soon.

Mark leaned forward, his elbows propped on the old wooden table. “Is this really all we get to do to help you celebrate your nineteenth birthday?”

“He’s right, Kat. We should be doing something really fun tonight. Like going clubbing!” Lacy curved her lips in a charming but teasing smile that under other circumstances would’ve made Kat laugh.

“Clubbing? Lacy, you know I can’t dance. I’d fall flat on my face. Maybe if I drink enough you can talk me into it.” Kat winked at her friend and gulped down more of the cider and beer blend she had ordered. It wasn’t strong, but she wanted to get warmed up before going for the Nelson’s Revenge.

Lacy grinned. “You’re officially nineteen, and as this is your first semester at college, we need to make something amazing happen. Leave high school behind. This is your chance. Let’s go dancing, meet some hot guys.” She jerked her head suggestively toward a nearby table where a group of decent-looking men were watching them, pints in hand and friendly smiles on their faces. She nudged Mark in the ribs. “Right?” She winked.

Mark put an arm around Lacy’s shoulders and shook his head, silently laughing. “You have a hot guy right here for you, no need to find a new one,” he teased.

Lacy rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean, for Kat . She needs some action.”

Kat couldn’t disagree. She’d never really dated in high school since she and her dad had moved every couple of years. Maybe Lacy was right. Now was the time to give it a try.

“First I’ll drink my pint, then I’ll work my way up to meeting hot guys. How’s that?”

Mark shook his head. “I think you’re underestimating your appeal. British blokes like me would love to date an American. You’ll have no trouble getting a guy.” He nodded at the same group of men his girlfriend had pointed out. “Start with them. They look nice enough, and if they aren’t, I’ll beat them up for you.” Mark put up his fists with