Author's Note: It's my first time posting on this site so I'm a bit nervous. This is a story that I'm currently working on but I'm really undecided about whether or not to keep going. I thought I'd post the beginning and hopefully get some reviews and opinions to help me make up my mind. So please, let me know what you think.

Chapter One

Corrie crossed her legs at the ankles and let her head fall back against the padded lounge chair, already thoroughly bored with the fiasco taking place around her. It was always the same at one of her mother's parties. The same people with their plastered on smiles and surgically altered bodies having the same meaningless conversations filled with endless gossip and humorless jokes. Nothing, NOTHING, ever changed. Even the food was predictable – tasteless pate, gauche caviar and stringy duck.

For years she had been good at concealing her distaste during these functions, but it was becoming more and more difficult. She simply couldn't hide how she felt. And she most certainly couldn't explain it. Especially when not one other member of the DeSaunt family seemed to share her sentiments. In fact, as her mocha colored eyes scanned her surroundings, pinpointing first her parents and then her two siblings, it was obvious that they were in their element, thoroughly enjoying the tedious affair.

Andrew, her father, was standing amidst a circle of his peers, no doubt regaling them with one of a dozen stories he loved to share about his misshapen youth. Her mother, Allison, was flitting between the small tables strewn across the massive lawn, basically making her presence known. Her two brothers, Richard, the eldest, and Kyle, the baby, were mingling and laughing, flirting and teasing, generally eating up all of the attention their good looks, charm and wealth won them.

She, on the other hand, had taken up her usual place, a comfy lounger in the corner of the pool area. She'd discovered that from that spot she could view the happenings while going virtually unnoticed until a few hours had passed. At that point, it became socially acceptable to claim another engagement was forthcoming, allowing her to bow out early. It was a ridiculous game, one she absolutely despised, but worth it in the end since it let her both escape the social nightmare and maintain peace within her family.

With a bored sigh, Corrie closed her eyes, wondering if she might be able to take a short nap, but a boisterous laugh caught her attention. It sounded awfully familiar, not to mention a little too close for comfort. She sat up and scanned the area, only to find the unwelcome source. Her brother Richard. He was several yards away, standing by the pool house with a blond haired, 'Double D' cup that she recognized as one of her former sororiety sisters.

Wonderful! Richard would have to invade her territory to play out his seduction. She watched the pair for a few minutes, amazed by how smoothly the man operated. He was leaning in, one hand against the building; staring down at the blond while she gazed up at him with a deer-in-the-headlight look. He was feeding her a list of all his undeniably admirable qualities, no doubt. Ha! Corrie rolled her eyes, knowing just how arrogant and cruel Richard really was beneath the charismatic surface.

He was the one person in the family who constantly dwelled on the fact that Corrie did not fit in with the rest of the DeSaunts. At every turn, he badgered and berated her, loving to point out how different she was. Not only in looks – Corrie had dark hair and eyes while the rest of the family was fair haired with eyes that were pale blue or gray - but in personality as well. She was so different in fact, that his favorite long running joke was that she was adopted.

Her parents had been outraged by the 'joke', disciplining him repeatedly for the vicious lie when they were younger, but that didn't stop Richard. He just continued the harassment in private. And the claims grew much crueler. By the time she was twelve, Richard had started telling her that she was the by-product of a lurid tryst between their mother and the caretaker of their estate, David Caldwell.

David Caldwell. Just thinking about the man and his family had Corrie's eyes automatically shifting in the direction of their beloved haven. Though she couldn't see it, the image was crystal clear in her mind; every nuance of the large old house that sat on the edge of their property committed to memory. It was her home away from home, the place she coveted above all others.

And to think she had Richard to thank for it. Because of his accusations, she'd sought the caretaker out and in the bluntness of youth, had asked him straight up if he was her father. After several minutes of stunned silence, he politely explained that he was not (though she was a charming young woman, he'd noted) and that she was more than welcome to come by his home and meet the three youngsters who did belong to him. She'd taken him up on the offer and that was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

Corrie had spent countless hours with the Caldwell clan, getting to know and love each one of them as if they really were her family. There was David and his lovely wife Sandi, wonderful people and amazing parents. They always went out of their way to make her feel like one of them. Jeff was their oldest. He was kind and extremely intelligent. He'd been an inspiration, helping Corrie with school work, keeping her focused and guiding her toward the right college. Then there was Lindsey, the baby and only daughter, who was sweet and funny and repeatedly told Corrie that she was the sister she'd always wanted. Even with a six-year age difference, they were very close.

And last, but certainly not least, there was Justin. A smile touched her lips as her thoughts turned to that one. He was the middle child, only a year older than she was. Tall, gorgeous, witty and sexy as hell, Justin was everything she had ever wanted in a man and then some. Though they had an unusual relationship, sometimes barely speaking at all, he was the one who had captured her heart from the moment she had laid eyes on him twelve years ago.

"So, what are you up to, Cor?"

The sultry voice snapped Corrie from her reverie and she turned to face Caroline, the leggy redhead she considered her nearest and dearest friend. They'd met forever ago, back in third grade, and though it was a rocky beginning – they'd practically battled to the death over who got to sit by Josh Rosling – the two had been inseparable ever since.

"I was watching my darling older brother as he tried to charm the pants off of Elise Montel," she laughed, glancing toward the pool house. The couple was nowhere in sight. "Guess it worked. They apparently went some place more private."

Caroline shrugged. "Nothing new for Richard, the jerk" She was not a fan of the eldest DeSaunt. The two had dated for nearly two years when they were in high school and the relationship hadn't ended well. "I'm surprised you even noticed them. I figured you were too busy daydreaming again."

"I was doing a little of that as well." Corrie said with a grin. "I was imagining a malfunctioning sprinkler system that went off, leaving all of my parents' guests soaking wet and utterly miserable!"

Caroline let loose her trademark giggle and while balancing a glass of red wine in one hand and a plate filled with Manchego cheese and a variety of crackers in the other, managed to drop gracefully into the seat beside Corrie. The way the woman moved so effortlessly was beyond her, though she was no slouch in the grace department herself thanks to years of her mother's forced 'etiquette' classes.

She offered up a piece of cheese, which Corrie gratefully accepted. "Faulty sprinklers! Now that would be a sight, wouldn't it? But be honest here, we both know that your dreams only consist of lewd images of one certain tall, powerfully built, brown haired, green-eyed sex god."

Nearly choking on the small bit of food she'd just popped into her mouth, Corrie shot daggers at the redhead before anxiously scoping the surrounding area to make sure nobody was close enough to have overheard the comment. It had been in a rare drunken state that she'd given up her long burning secret desire for a man that was completely off limits and now she constantly paid the price for the outrageous indiscretion.

"Sssshhhh!! Honestly, what is wrong with you, Caroline?" Her back stiffened, her knuckles turning white in the death grip she held on the arms of the lounger as she continued to watch for signs that someone had picked up on their conversation.

"Relax, will you?" Caroline leaned forward, pried the fingers of Corrie's right hand loose, and then wrapped them around the stem of the wine glass. "Everyone here is too caught up in their own little worlds to pay any attention to ours. Now take a drink and calm down."

She waited until the nervous brunette took a sip from the glass before continuing.

"Seriously, Corrie, you're only going to stir up interest with that sort of reaction. Why don't you do yourself a favor and act on your desires instead of working so hard to keep them hush-hush? Wouldn't it be much easier, not to mention tons more fun?"

Sometimes Corrie simply did not understand where the woman was coming from. Act on her desire? It was impossible and they both knew it. The green-eyed sex god, more commonly known as Justin Caldwell, was without question off limits. Not only were the two of them nothing more than good friends, he was the son of their family's caretaker - and the one man that her evil brother held in such low regard.

"Exactly how many glasses of this wine have you had?" Corrie asked, though she knew it didn't take an overabundance of alcohol for her friend to make outlandish remarks. No, she was the one who could lay claim to that embarrassment. Caroline was just being herself, saying exactly what was on her mind no matter the cost.

"Not nearly enough. And neither have you. We both know you're much more willing to say what you truly feel with a little help from these lovely little grapes, so why don't you imbibe a bottle or two and head to the other side of the property? You know, where heaven awaits?"

The waggle of red eyebrows that accompanied the suggestion was endearing but not enough to put Corrie at ease. Justin was a sensitive area, a private area, and more than anything she wished she'd kept her late night, lust laden thoughts of the man to herself. There were many reasons why nothing would ever happen between them and Caroline was certainly aware of a few of them, so why did she push the issue at every opportunity?

"Not going to happen. Ever. And you know why, so please…"

Caroline reached out and gently patted her friend's knee, keeping her voice just above a whisper as she spoke. "I know that you can come up with a thousand reasons why you and Justin shouldn't get naked together, but what about the one perfect reason why you should?"

This should be good. "And that would be?"

An all-knowing grin graced Caroline's bright red lips. "Because you want it to happen more than anything else in this entire world."

Yes, that was true. Corrie did want Justin more than anything else. Especially since she'd already had a small taste of what it would be like with the man. Tipping the glass to her lips, she took a long drink of wine and thought back to that balmy night more than eight years ago when she was sixteen and they'd shared a kiss. It had been her first and it had been perfect. She'd been certain that Justin had enjoyed it too, but the next day he hadn't said one word about the shared intimacy. In fact, he had actually been a bit cold to her for weeks afterwards, so she assumed he wanted to forget it had ever happened. Though heart broken, she refused to have any regrets, opting instead to cherish the memory but keep things between them light and friendly. After all, it was far better than the alternative - losing him completely.

With a small sigh, Corrie pushed aside the bittersweet memory and granted herself a different image – one she indulged in every night - her and Justin, another place, another time, naked and tangled in satin bed sheets. Caroline was right, it was what she wanted more than anything in this world, but it was never going to happen. It couldn't, because one of those 'thousand' reasons was that Justin Caldwell was not interested in her that way. She was quite certain that the man would never see her as anything other than the sad little rich girl who clung like a desperate vine to her daddy's hired help.