Bad Romance - Jen McLaughlin

Jackson

Walt, my stepfather, frowned at the letter in his hand. “Yale said they would take him, despite his bad grades. I have to buy his way in, but I will.”

“They did?” Mother gasped, smiling.

“ ‘He’s’ right here,” I said drily. “And doesn’t want to go to Yale.”

Neither of them noticed.

“At least he can amount to something, unlike his father.”

Mother smiled even wider. “Thanks to you, Walter.”

“You’ll go at the end of the month,” Walt said, not even looking at me, even though he clearly spoke to me. “You’re dismissed.”

The hell I was. “I don’t want to go to Yale. I’m joining the army.”

Walt laughed. “Not in my house.”

This was bullshit. Everything about it was. Mother was married for the millionth time, and this time to a man who quite clearly didn’t want the extra kid that came along with her. No big shocker, there. His new wife didn’t exactly want me, either.

She never tried to hide that fact from me.

Had told me, straight up to my face.

But to have some pompous prick all up in my business, telling me what I had to do with the rest of my life as if I needed to listen to him, was the last straw. I was eighteen years old. I didn’t have to listen to Walter Hastings. Or to his wife.

Screw them all.

They’d only been married a few months, and he wasn’t my damn stepfather, no matter what he thought. I mean, he was. Legally. But I didn’t need him.

I didn’t need anyone.

So I stood up, fisting my hands at my sides. “I don’t want to be a lawyer. I already told you that.”

Walt laughed. “And I told you that, under my roof, you do what I tell you to do, and that’s that. You’ll do it, and you’ll like it. I won’t budge.”

“Neither will I, Walt.”

“Don’t call me that,” Walt said, his voice low and seething. His name was Walter, and he hated it when I called him Walt…which was why I did it. “My name is Walter, or Mr. Hastings, or sir. No one calls me Walt. Learn some respect, boy.”

I didn’t answer. Just smirked.

Walt could kiss my ass.

“Jackson, dear…” Mother fidgeted. “It’s a good career. You’ll be lucky if you live to see the other side of twenty if you join the army. Listen to your father. He knows what’s best for you.”

I stiffened. I might not know my father, but I knew one thing. Walt wasn’t him. “He knows shit, and he sure as hell doesn’t know me because he’s not my father. He has no idea what’s best for me, or who I am. Or what I want. I want to—”

“Watch your mouth, young man, and how you speak to your mother. You’re going to law school, to Yale. That’s final, so get it into your head. End of discussion.” Walter picked up his newspaper, addressing his wife. “And if he wants to continue living here, he will stop annoying me.”

I gritted my teeth, because he was a tight-suited asshole. “Then I’ll leave this house. Go out on my own. Make my own way.”

“Over my dead body. You’re part of this family now, and while you are, you’ll live up to the Hastings name. And that’s all that will be said on this matter. You may go,” Walter said dismissively, flicking a hand my way. “I’m finished with you.”

There was so much I wanted to say, but why bother? I knew it was a waste of my time, so I walked away from them both. He wouldn’t listen, and, really, it didn’t matter even if he did. Officially, I