“Come on, Coop,” I whisper. It’s dark in the closet, but I can still make out his huddled form in the back corner. “Come on, Coop. Please. Mom will be back soon and you know she’s gonna be mad if she hears us.”

I shift my body so he can see the cracker box I grabbed from the barren kitchen. Mom never brings us food anymore. I’m lucky that my best friend, Joel, lives close and shares his snacks with us or we wouldn’t eat.

I ball up my fist when I hear his broken and weak voice. My brother is so small. I just turned ten last week, but I’m bigger. I know Coop is small because he is always scared. Too scared to come out of the closet our mom always makes us stay in.

When I get to the back of the closet, closing the door tightly behind me, I reach out and hand Coop the box. It only has seven crackers in it. They’re old, and I had to get a few roaches out of the box before I brought it back. Coop doesn’t like the bugs that live in the kitchen.

“Don’t you want some?” He holds the box my way, and even though my stomach rumbles, I shake my head no. “You need some too, Ash,” he tries again.

“I’m okay, Coop. I had some before I brought them back. You gotta hurry before mom gets home, okay?”

He nods his head and starts to eat sluggishly. I grab one of the bottles of water Joel gave me last week and hand it to him. His head falls to rest against my shoulder while he takes turns eating and drinking slowly.

He’s getting weaker. He couldn’t get up this morning to go to school. He just kept sleeping, so I stayed home. Mom didn’t even notice. I could hear her throwing up this morning. She’s always throwing up. And drinking the nasty stuff.

I don’t know how long we have been sitting here when I hear the front door bang shut and the sounds of feet stomping around the house. Coop drops the crackers and pulls his legs up to his chest.

“Zachariah Cooper! Where in the hell are you, you little shit?!”

Oh crap. This isn’t going to be good.

I grab some of the old blankets we sleep on and throw them over Coop. I can hear him whimpering when I crawl over to the door and crack it open.

She wouldn’t miss this chance to show Coop how much she hates him.

But I won’t let her. No. I’m a big boy now, and I won’t let her hurt my brother anymore.

I’m already standing in the middle of the bedroom when she rounds the corner, her yucky clothes that don’t cover her private parts on and her face smudged with old makeup—I know she’s going to be really mean today.

“Where is that little shit? He didn’t go to school again today. Both of you little shits decided to stay home, and now I’ve got the school poking around, asking questions!”

She tries to get around me, but with her tall shoes on, she can’t move quick enough. That’s all the distraction I need for her to focus her attention on me and not on Coop. Just where I want it.

Right before her hand reaches out and slashes against my face, I promise myself that I will never let anyone hurt my baby brother.

After releasing the tight grip I have on her slim hips, I trail my palms slowly up her back, watching the skin my hands pass over break out in goose bumps. I brace my knees farther part, and when my fingers curl around her shoulders, I finally let myself take her hard.

Take her how she craves.

It’s a bruising pace, my balls slapping hard against her wet folds and my hips grinding into her ass. I have to close my eyes when I see her turn her face against the pillow, trying to get a better view, I’m sure.

“Oh, Ash…just like that, I’m going to come so hard.”

I need her to keep her mouth shut. I need to be able to take my pleasure and selfishly think about the only person I wish I was driving my cock into. The one person whose touch I crave like nothing else I’ve ever craved before whenever I’m around her.

“Yeah. Give it to me, baby.”

“Not your baby,” I spit out. Fuck no.

She starts to push up on her knees, meeting me thrust for thrust. I bring one of the hands that I have curled around her shoulder and press down on the small of her back, reminding her of the place she should stay in.

“Please let me touch you, Asher. Just let me touch you this time.”

I smack her ass hard. Her pussy clamps down on my cock and she starts to come. Moving my hand back to her shoulders, I thrust a few more times before I feel my balls start to tighten and the warmth—that delicious warmth—travels from the base of my spine, filling my body with the pleasure I’ve been craving right before I feel myself go.

With my eyes closed tight, my hands still curled tightly around her shoulders, and my hips locked into place, I empty myself and pray that this time I won’t need her as fiercely as I have for the last few months.

“What in the hell did you just call me?”

It takes my fog-filled mind a second to clear before I understand what is being asked.

The warm body I just took roughly starts to buck, pushing against my hips.

I open my eyes and the vision that filled my mind only seconds before is completely different.

The straight, blonde hair is gone, having been replaced with bright-red curls.

The bronze skin, that lickable and silky skin, was replaced with someone much paler.

And when she turns her angry eyes on me, it isn’t the deep-brown eyes I’m used to looking back at me with a mix of compassion and kindness. Nope, I’ve got twin green eyes blazing with unmasked fury.

“What in the HELL did you just call me?” she asks again.

When I don’t answer her right away, she starts to fight. And I mean fight. I get an elbow to the eye, a foot to the thigh, and worst of all, her nails clip my cheek when she slaps me across the face.

“I’ve been warming your sheets for the last two months, Asher Cooper, and you just called me another woman’s name? Two months where I thought we were going somewhere and you just did THAT?”