M E G A N
Looking at Steven Dwight was like looking into Caleb's future. They shared the same height, the same lanky limbs. Both bore the same smooth olive skin, the high cheekbones.
But there were definitely differences. Where Caleb bordered on 'artfully mussed', Steven was impeccably tidy. Smooth, gelled hair combed back into the perfect style; an expensive looking suit tailored perfectly to his muscled figure; deep-set black eyes framed by dark arched eyebrows. His jaw was square without making his head look boxy, and was covered in a neatly kept outline of stubble.
If someone had told me he worked as a model, I would've have believed them, without a doubt.
He strolled out of the elevator, hands buried deep in his pockets. His entire being radiated confidence, from the way he held his body completely upright to the way he smirked at Caleb.
"Hey, baby brother," he said, voice deep, smooth. "Long time since you've been here."
Caleb stiffened, his scowl deepening. "And whose fault is that?"
Laughing, Steven pulled his hand from his pocket and hopped onto his impressive desk. He waved his hand towards me, and chuckled, "Who's this?"
Still sat in a plush chair, I stood, offering my hand. "Megan."
Darkly, he smirked. Getting to his feet, he gently took my outstretched hand and, to my surprise, ducked and pressed his lips to my knuckles.
"Steven," he grinned, straightening.
My cheeks flushed and I slid my hand from his grasp.
"So," Steven said, clapping his hands together. "What brings the golden son?"
"I need help," Caleb breathed, all anger drained from his voice. He gazed out of the window, any panic over heights gone.
Steven's smile didn't falter. "What is it? Drugs? Money? Did you join a gang? Mug an old lady?"
"It's my Claiming."
Even the word sent a numb feeling down my spine.
Steven whistled through pursed lips, and grinned. "Ah, so after months of not talking to me, you finally come begging for help about love. Hate to burst your bubble, kid, but I can't help you." He held up a finger. "No, wait. I don't want to help you."
Caleb turned, his teeth clenched, and spat, "Steven, this is the only thing I've ever asked you to do for me. I've never asked for money or a place to stay. All I'm asking now is for you to help me change this."
"Okay," Steven sighed, pouring himself a glass of some raw smelling alcohol. "Explain."
"The girl I've been paired with is disgusting," Caleb said. "She's a cruel, manipulative, cold-hearted witch. I can't cope with being with her for the rest of my life, Steven. You know people who could turn this around, make it right. Please." His voice turned desperate. "You have to help me."
Tilting the glass back, Steven swallowed, his eyes not leaving me as he said, "Have you even spent more than twenty minutes with the girl?"
"Well, no, b--"
"Then how do you know she's not right?"
"Steven," Caleb pleaded. "I don't love her."
"No, even I can see that," Steven grinned, pointing again at me. “You love her.”
I frowned. "Stop with all the pointing, its rude."
Caleb shot me a look but Steven just laughed, reclining back into his chair. "She's cute. I get why you like her."
Ignoring him, the younger Dwight sighed. "Please."
Steven ran a hand through his hair. For the first time since I'd first laid eyes on him, he wasn't smiling. His calmer, kinder expression made him look even more like his brother. "I can get in contact with a few of my people down on Level Four," he said, finally. "You can appeal your Claiming and they'll rerun the system to see if they'll get a different result." Dark eyes flickered to Caleb. "If they don't, that's when it get's a little sticky. Choice isn't a big thing with the Mate system. You shouldn't be capable of falling in love with anyone other than your chosen Mate. Your band rejects the chemical feeling released by falling in love, and your brain simply blanks that distraction from your life. Unless they are paired with you, they shouldn't make any sort of long-lasting impact on your life.
"Harsh," I commented, frowning. "What's wrong with letting people choose who they love?"
Steven shot me a odd look. "And why would that ever happen?"
I flushed, hesitating. "I r-read it somewhere. Like, that's what used to happen in the olden days, right? Before the SM system came about. People fell in love with whoever they wished."
"Yeah, and look where that got them. Illegitimate children, divorces, arguments, needless money spending--I could go on. Women murdered their husbands in the hope of gaining either freedom or money from wills. Husbands cheated on their wives with no second thoughts. Society was a mass of lying and cheating, all coming from liars and cheaters." Steven flicked his pen towards me. "The SM system was a revolution, young lady. Society has never been stronger."
I held up my hands in surrender. Jeez, this guy was defensive. "I wasn't saying it was a bad idea," I backtracked. "I was just mentioning how it had been done before. I've always been interested in it."
But Steven was no longer listening. He tapped his desk and it burst into life, automatically becoming a screen underneath his fingertips. His finger grazed over a large, pulsing number four.
"Objection Order from a Caleb Dwight," he said, speaking as if he was talking to the screen. "Emergency case, I require all personnel on this case presently."
"Command accepted and sent to Level Four, Mr Dwight."
I jerked, twirling round. What the hell?!
Steven watched me, his lips twitching. He tapped the screen. "Its a command system, Megan. Purely technology."
Caleb stood beside me, warmth pressing through his hoodie against my arm. Steven got to his feet, straightening his suit. The air seemed to get thicker as the brothers stood, eye to eye.
"The results will reach you by phone call tomorrow," Steven said, face soft. He reached out and placed a hand onto Caleb's shoulder. Caleb flinched, but didn't shift away.
Nodding, the younger of the two said, "Thank you. It means a lot to me that you did this."
Grinning, Steven clapped a hand against Caleb's head twice and said, "Kid, you better be grateful. I took time out of my busy schedule to do this."
"Busy schedule? I didn't realise sitting looking at old Playboy magazine’s took that much time."
I rolled my eyes and tugged on Caleb's hoodie. The ornate clock that hung on the wall just behind Steven's head ticked at me.
"Caleb, we need to leave. I have to be home for four," I said.
"See you later, kid," Steven called as we left. "Sunday roast is always open for me, right?"
Caleb just snorted as the lift doors began to close.
Laughter followed us all the way to the ground floor.