I clear my throat. "Yes. It's definitely a good thing."
Rose turns to leave, but pauses when she reaches the door. "I'm glad to see the two of you getting along so well."
I look at Caulter wide-eyed after she's gone. "Do you think she knows?"
He shrugs. "Maybe. Who cares?"
"I care, you idiot," I say. "Don't you? What if she says something to my father? What if someone finds out? I can't believe we broke the ladder in here, for goodness' sake."
"For goodness sake?" Caulter laughs. "Okay, grandma."
"I'm being serious, Caulter," I say. I'm getting irritated with him for taking this whole thing so lightly. "Behavior has consequences."
Caulter is standing close to me, and I immediately feel the thrill of his nearness. I silently curse my damn body for being so attracted to him. "So what if your father finds out?"
"It'll ruin his campaign."
"You know why, Caulter," I say. "We're...going to be related."
"We're not related," he says. "You're being ridiculous. We're barely even step-siblings."
I bristle at the way he brushes off my concerns as if they're nothing. "People won't care about what's true, Caulter," I insist. I'm angry that he's dismissing me, the same way my father dismisses me. "They thrive on scandal. They'll latch onto it and run with it. It'll ruin his campaign and his public image."
Caulter traces a finger down the front of my chest, and I smack it away, but not before it gets a physical reaction from me, goose bumps dotting my skin. Damn him. "Why do you even give a shit about it?" he asks.
"Because he's my father."
Caulter laughs, the sound bitter. "Yeah, he seems like a great father."
"You don't know anything," I say, defending him despite my mixed feelings. All I know is that I'm irritated with Caulter.
Caulter leans in close to me, slips his finger underneath one of the straps on my dress. "I know that you're not the good little straight-laced girl your father wants, the poster child for his campaign. I know that you're so fucking pent-up with all your studying and being responsible and being so damn perfect all the time that you've been dying for someone like me to come along who will let you out of your pretty little shell and make you feel something."
Now I'm beyond irritated. I put my hands on his chest and try to push him away, but he grabs my wrists and holds me tight. "You don't know a thing about me," I say.
"I know that you're living up to everyone else's idea of who you should be," he says. "I don't think for a fucking second you want to go to Harvard, be a lawyer or a doctor or whatever the hell daddy has planned for you. I see you with your sketchpad, drawing all the time. You just don't have the fucking balls to do what you want to do."
It's somehow over the line, him watching me draw, noticing things about me. He notices too many things about me. I yank my wrists away and push him, hard. "Fuck you." I spew the words from my mouth like they're poison. "Fuck you, Caulter. You're so damn high and mighty, rebelling against anyone and everything because you're too cool for conformity. Yet here you are, doing exactly what your mother wants you to do because....why, exactly? She won't give you your paycheck? You think rebelling means you know who you are? It just means you're full of shit."
I walk out of the room before he can respond, anger flooding my body. He just gets so far under my damn skin. He's so infuriating and smug and self-satisfied. He acts like he's so much more mature than I am, with so much more experience under his belt. He's just a trust fund baby who doesn't know the least little bit about things like obligation and family.
Later, I lay in bed, my head resting on the pillow while I prop the sketchpad on my thighs, lazily drawing. I know Caulter is in his room, because I heard the door close, and I find myself wondering what he's doing. I have to force my mind to focus on something other than Caulter.
Anything but Caulter.
Like the picture I'm doing right now. Of Caulter's cock.
I tear the piece of paper off the pad, crumple it, and throw it across the room. Screw Caulter. And screw the stupid stuff he said about me.
I close my eyes, and bring up my mother's image in my head, beginning to sketch her from memory. But my mind is in a different place. I have the nagging feeling that Caulter is right -- that I am just too much of a coward to stand up to my father. It's why I haven't told him about UCLA.