A Love So Wrong - Katerina Winters

Chapter 1

Bracing his feet at the edge of the dock, Gideon crossed his arms and stared out at the skiff in the middle of the pond. With no engine, the boat floated quietly on the water's placid surface. The only sign of life on the algae-covered body of water was the bare leg hanging over the boat's edge. Too far from the house to be seen and unnoticed by his target, Gideon let his eyes trace undeterred up the length of the honey-brown leg. With one barefoot nearly grazing the water's dark surface and the other propped up on one of the boat's benches, Gideon would bet money that the girl was asleep.

Sweeping through the trees, the wind created a gentle, fluttering chorus of leaves. Gideon closed his eyes at the cool feeling against his hot, grimy skin. Today had been hard, the muscles in his shoulders ached from loading and unloading heavy cases, and his stomach grumbled, reminding him why he had come out here in the first place. Pulling up his jeans a bit, Gideon crouched and hit the switch on the winch at the edge of the dock. With a mechanical whir, the winch did its job and slowly pulled the skiff in. Coming into view, the boat pulled forward, and Gideon watched with steady breaths as more of the girl was revealed. With her head pillowed on her shoulder-length brown curls and turned to the side, there was a book laying open across the NASA space-camp logo on her t-shirt, all signs that confirmed his suspicion as he examined her sleeping figure.

The boat stopped a few inches out from the dock as the winch pulled in the last of the line. Shutting the machine off, Gideon stared at the girl a few seconds longer, letting this rare unobserved moment linger before he slipped the mask of familial indifference back into place.

Standing up, he placed one boot on the boat's stern. "Jade, wake up,” he called softly at first. “It's time to attend your womanly duties," he added with a grin.

Brown, softly arched eyebrows knitted together as she stirred awake. Turning her head with slow, tired grace, she squinted from the sharp afternoon sun. Hazel eyes so clear and striking, glittered in the light as they met his, a perfect complement to her name. Gideon couldn't stop the immediate thought that sprung to mind, toying with and tempting his imagination, of her laying in his bed, turning to give him the same sleepy smile.

Ignoring his goading comment, Jade wordlessly slid her book from her chest and dog-eared the page. Standing up with a skilled balance on the shifting boat, her jean shorts rode up higher on her thighs as she bit her full bottom-lip in concentration and reached out her hand to the dock's metal handle, but Gideon beat her to it. Grabbing her by the forearm, he hauled her out of the boat with ease, enjoying the brief look of shock on her face at the sudden action.

Steadying herself on the wooden dock, she gave him a serene little smile before looking towards the house. "Is dad back too?"

Nodding, Gideon led the way back up the dock towards the house. "Yeah, he got in when I did, just a few minutes ago."

Reaching the back door of the house, he held it open and let her walk in ahead of him. Walking through the den, a space decorated in football paraphernalia, a big-screen TV, and two worn but comfy couches, they headed through the laundry room hallway and past Gideon's room, turning into the galley-style kitchen.

Standing at the kitchen counter, taking a foil cover off what looked to be a large pan of green-bean casserole, was Sandra Lattimore. With her greying blond hair pulled up into her usual ponytail, she turned to give Gideon a warm smile. "Go and get washed up, dear," she instructed before turning to Jade, who was already washing her hands at the sink. "And Jade darling, can you make a quick pitcher of tea? You know how Henry loves it when you make it."

Obediently, Jade started moving to the pantry cabinet as she quickly tied up her long curls into a matching ponytail. "Yes, momma."

Unable to resist taking a glance, Gideon watched as Sandra's smile widened at the title. Like a bright ray of sunlight warming the earth, Sandra savored the title of mother coming from her favorite hand-picked child as if this was the first time she heard it and not the