Hate Is a Strong Word, but in This Case I Think It Applies

Chapter 1: Fun for the Whole Family

"Milo is first in his class at Columbia, you know," boasted Abel Kennedy. "He's also an All-American lacrosse player and rower and he spends his extra time tutoring immigrant children in East Harlem."

"Milo is a fucking saint, isn't he?" muttered Agnes Kennedy under her breath.

"What's that?" asked her father, Abel.

Aggie widened her eyes innocently and shook her head. "Oh, nothing."

Aggie was currently slouching in her chair at Concert, easily one of the most expensive restaurants in all of New York. All of Concert's other patrons were elegantly dressed in formal evening attire, chatting in low voices about commonplace things like the opera and the weather. Aggie stuck out like a sore thumb - she wore ripped Sevens, tangled auburn hair, and a worn black cardigan. She had forgotten how she'd come by the holey woolen cardigan in the first place - had she found it at a thrift store? Borrowed it from one of her starving-artist-type boyfriends?

"Well, Agnes, I expect you to be on your best behavior tonight," commanded Abel. "You've met Cat, of course," here Abel looked exasperated, recalling the memory of how Cat and Aggie had first met, "but it's never too late to make a good impression."

Aggie smirked. Catherine Piedmont Schumann was her father's new wife, a.k.a. Stepmother #3. Cat was the inordinately wealthy society widow of Conrad Schumann, a German manufacturing tycoon. When Arthur had died two years ago, Abel had been the advising lawyer for Schumann Industries, and thus had gotten to know Cat quite well. The Kennedys had resided in Boston, and Cat in New York, but Abel's frequent business trips to the City over the last year had left Aggie more or less alone in their Beacon Hill townhouse for her junior year. She had thought that her father had been in Manhattan so often purely for business, but had discovered the truth rather unfortunately this past summer.

Aggie and Abel had been at their summer house in Newport. When Aggie arrived back at the mansion one morning after a late night out, she had walked in on Abel and Cat sharing a rather intimate moment. In true Aggie fashion, she had thrown a world-class fit and done some things of which lesser girls might've been ashamed. Oh, well, that Ming Dynasty vase couldn't have been worth that much, could it?

Wanting to keep what was Cat's second marriage and Abel's fourth out of the public eye, the couple had gotten married quietly and privately in the Newport City Hall that August. Quite honestly, Aggie couldn't have given a damn what or who her father did. After a tidy divorce from her mother back when Aggie was three, Abel had gone on to marry his secretary. That marriage lasted roughly from ages seven through eleven. When Aggie had been fourteen, Abel had married a childhood flame, Peggy Flaherty. Peggy was perfectly nice - if one overlooked her ten-year stint in a mental hospital/rehab center. She had been in there for a reason, and she and Abel divorced when Aggie was fifteen.

Now, Aggie was seventeen and she really couldn't care less what her father did. Aggie had spent so much time alone over the years that she'd had to find a way to entertain herself - and she certainly had. She was one of those girls mature beyond her teenage years, one of those girls who committed every possible sin in the book (Aggie was Catholic, so she knew a lot of sins) and stayed out all night doing so.

"And of course, Milo will be so pleased to finally meet you," Abel was saying.

Aggie groaned quietly. If she had a dollar for every time she'd heard about the fabled Milo Schumann this summer, she'd ... well, she'd be even richer than her hefty trust fund already made her.

Rolling her grey eyes, Aggie responded, "Has Milo heard as much about me as I have about him?"

Abel frowned. "Well...perhaps." That was code for 'Hell no.' And that didn't surprise Aggie one bit - after all, Milo, Cat's apparently completely perfect and godlike son, sounded like the complete opposite of Aggie. Milo was the kind of child about whom parents loved to brag - apparently even new stepparents like Abel. Aggie, on the other hand, was the kind of child who parents were embarrassed to mention at parties.

Suddenly, Abel's eyes lit up. "Ah, there they are now!" Aggie didn't have to twist around in her seat to know that the golden duo themselves, Cat and Milo, were approaching their table from behind. The newly-formed family of four was meeting tonight at Concert for their first family dinner, and for Aggie and Milo to get to know each other better.

After all, Aggie and her father had moved to New York just yesterday. Yes, that was the truly terrible part of this whole ordeal. Aggie didn't mind who her father married, so long as it did not interfere with her own life. But this latest marriage had forced her to leave her friends, her school, and her life in Boston and uproot to the Upper East Side to live in the Schumann townhouse.

"Abel!" came Cat's annoyingly breathy voice. "I've missed you." Aggie rolled her eyes. Cat's whole waif-like act was really getting old.

Abel rose from his seat to embrace his new, diminutive wife. "My darling," he greeted. Oh, God, Aggie was seriously not going to be able to eat now.

Cat came up next to Aggie and gave her a one-armed hug. "Hello, Aggie," she said hopefully.

Glancing up reluctantly, Aggie grimaced. "Hey," she mumbled, barely intelligibly.

"Agnes," came Abel's warning voice.

Rolling her eyes, Agnes sat up straight and looked at Cat. "It's simply lovely to see you again, Cat," she greeted sarcastically.

Cat was obviously either too stupid or Xanax-ed out to catch on. She grinned at Aggie's greeting and clutched her shoulder again. "Oh, likewise! I am so excited to get to know you, Aggie. It's so nice to have another girl around, finally; we are going to be best friends!"

Aggie pursed her lips and widened her eyes, drawing back, a little frightened. "Oh, definitely," she replied caustically.

Practically floating over to the other side of the table, Cat stood next to Abel. He pulled out her chair for her and she sat down.

Then Abel sauntered over to Aggie's side of the table again. "Milo, my boy! Great to see you!" The two men did one of those handshake-hug-slapping-each-other-on-the-back routines that males do.

When they pulled apart, Aggie's curiosity finally overtook her. She leaned back a little in her seat and twisted her head around the side to catch a glimpse of the mythical Milo, her new stepbrother...

...oh. My. God. OhmyfuckingGod. There before her eyes stood the most perfect specimen of manhood that Aggie had ever seen. He was about six-foot-three, broad-shouldered and tan, with dark brown hair and piercing eyes. Despite the fact that he was clad in a suit and tie, Aggie could see an impressive, muscular physique.

This was her new stepbrother? This was the fabled Milo? Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Aggie let out a shaky breath, suddenly finding it difficult to sit up at all. She began to mutter a quick "Hail Mary" under her breath but was so distracted she couldn't remember past the first two words.

Milo took a confident step forward, sending what was quite possibly the sexiest grin ever down at Aggie. "Hi there," came his incredibly low voice. He held out a large hand for Aggie to shake. "Milo Schumann."

Feeling very much like a small child compared to Milo, Aggie straightened up to her full height in her seat and cleared her throat. "Hi," she managed, her voice cracking. She coughed. "I'm, uh, Aggie." Tentatively reaching out her hand, she slipped her thin one in Milo's rough and calloused palm. He certainly was a rower...

Milo's warm palm encased Aggie's hand completely. She felt a jolt of electricity shoot through her entire body and shivered, despite the heat emanating from his hand.

"It's a pleasure to finally meet you," came Milo's deep voice. All Aggie could do was swallow in shock and nod.

Their handshake must have gone on a little past the socially acceptable time, because Abel cleared his throat loudly. "It's great for you two to meet each other after all this time," he boomed. Milo released Aggie's hand and she pulled away reluctantly. He walked over and took the seat next to hers.

Cat beamed at her son and stepdaughter. "Oh, kids, isn't this so nice? We're eating together as a family for the first time!"

Aggie scowled. She hated this sentimental crap.

As Abel launched into a long and incredibly boring speech about the newly-formed Kennedy-Schumann family, Aggie zoned out. She found her eyes involuntarily drifting to her left and catching quick glimpses of the impossibly attractive Milo. Seriously, WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON? Milo was supposed to be the nerdy, boring, goody-two-shoes stepbrother Aggie would love to hate. In Aggie's experience, nerdy suck-ups never looked even remotely similar to the way Milo did.

She couldn't help but steal glances. Milo's muscular forearm reaching out to take a sip from his glass of water. The way his upper lip remained ever so moist after he had set the glass back down.

"And you two are going to love being step-siblings," Abel was saying. Aggie jolted to attention. "You've both been only children for so long, it'll be great for you to finally have a brother and sister."

"Oh, it most certainly will!" echoed Cat excitedly.

Milo nodded, smiling ingratiatingly at his mother and step-father. "I've always wanted a sister."

Was he for real? The thought occurred to Aggie that Milo might be just as much of a suck-up as she had predicted. Sure, he didn't look like a nerd, but he certainly acted like one.

Cat clapped joyfully, practically bouncing up and down in her seat with enthusiasm. "We're going to be such a perfect New York family. Abel working at the law firm, me with my charities and benefits, Milo a sophomore at Columbia, and Aggie starting as a senior at Holy Face."

Milo nodded in agreement. Turning to Aggie, he elaborated, "Convent of the Holy Face of Jesus is one of the best girls' schools in the entire City. They have excellent academics and typically graduates go on to matriculate at some of the nation's best colleges."

Aggie simply stared at Milo in disbelief. What was he, the fucking Holy Face admissions brochure?

"Of course," Cat interrupted, "Milo's old school, Walton, is first-rate as well." She turned to Abel, saying, "Walton is the co-ed school I told you about, dear." To Aggie, Cat continued, "I mentioned it to your father, but of course he wouldn't hear of you attending anything but Catholic school." She laughed. "You Catholics and your traditions."

"I had some of the best years of my life at Walton," reminisced Milo. "Ah, my old school days." He really was acting like a pompous freak.

Cat nodded. "And of course Walton's graduates also go on to the best colleges. Milo is the perfect example."

Milo explained to Abel and Aggie, "Of course, I got accepted into all the Ivies, plus Williams, Swarthmore, you know, the works. Yale was really courting me, sending admissions people down here practically every week to try to convince me to attend, but in the end, I just couldn't leave my beloved city."

As Cat gazed at her son adoringly and Abel nodded in approval, Aggie threw up in her mouth. Well, almost. She took back everything she had thought earlier about how attractive Milo was. Okay, so she couldn't deny that he was a little better-looking than the average male, but that didn't stop him from being a boring douchebag every time he opened his mouth.

Right then and there, Aggie made a vow that she would never end up as pathetic as Milo. The boy was twenty years old, but was so in love with his mother that he went to college just a couple of miles away from home!

"On the ride here, I was just telling Mother about La Wally opening at the Metropolitan Opera this weekend," Milo was saying. "I think it would be superb if we could all attend."

Abel nodded. "Yes, yes I'd love to."

The three freaks at the table looked over at Aggie expectantly. She shifted in her seat. What the hell did they expect, for her to start jumping and singing with joy? "Ooh, the opera," she replied sarcastically. "Why wouldn't I want to go?"

Actually, Aggie could think of about fifty reasons why she did not want to attend the opera, especially with psycho Cat and insufferable Milo. Cat, however, clearly did not understand Aggie's sarcasm yet and let out a squeal of joy. "Oh, Aggie, we are so lucky to have you in our family! You are such a lovely girl."

As Cat went on and on, Milo sent Aggie a disapproving and annoyingly superior look. He was obviously a little sharper than his mother and had picked up on Aggie's twisted sense of humor. Once their parents were occupied in conversation about the opera, Aggie quickly stuck out her tongue at her stepbrother.

Milo shook his head. "I wouldn't expect a seventeen-year-old to be so immature," he murmured in an undertone to Aggie.

Scowling, Aggie responded, "And I wouldn't expect a twenty-year-old to be such a mama's boy. But clearly we've both been surprised."

"Can't you just be happy for your father? I mean, I'd heard that you were difficult, but you're hardly acting in a way befitting of either of our family names."

"Jesus, you are such a nerd! You're even worse than I expected! I bet you've never done anything fun in your entire life," scoffed Aggie.

Milo glared. "I'm sure we have very different definitions of fun, Aggie."

Letting out a derisive laugh, Aggie returned, "Oh, I'm sure we do! Yours is the boring, legal, fun-for-the-whole-family kind." Luckily, Cat and Abel were deeply engrossed in conversation on the other side of the table. Nevertheless, Milo and Aggie kept their voices to a whisper.

"I can tell you right now, sis," Milo spit the word violently, "that I am not going to let you get up to anything illegal while you're here. I won't have you ruining the image of the family business."

Aggie rolled her eyes. "Relax, you're only in college. Your mom is the one who has to worry about the 'family business.'"

"Yes, but it's never too early to start my career. After all, I'm the one who'll be taking it over."

"Oh, and I'm sure you'll do wonders for the company's 'image.' You will officially succeed in making Schumann Industries the most boring company on the face of the planet," hissed Aggie.

Milo crossed his arms, Aggie obviously having discovered his weakness in the family business. "We'll see about that. In the meantime, I won't have you damaging the Schumanns' spotless reputation with your childish antics."

"Childish?" gasped Aggie, terribly offended. "I'm almost eighteen!"

Milo simply laughed at her. "You have a lot to learn, Aggie. Hopefully, you'll be better-behaved than I hear you were back in Boston. From now on, I expect you to act in a manner befitting of a Manhattan debutante."

"You have no right to tell me what to do…" Suddenly, Aggie trailed off as Milo's words registered. "Did you say debutante?" she shrieked.

Cat, Abel, and most of the restaurant looked over at Aggie, startled. Cat broke into a wide grin. "Oh, yes, did Milo tell you, dear?" When Aggie didn't respond, too shocked to move, Cat went on. "You're going to be a deb! Oh, it'll be so much fun! I was one when I was your age and let me tell you, we certainly had a good time!"

Aggie sat stock-still, processing all of this, as her father tried to placate her. "Now, Agnes, I know that you have never really cared for customs of this sort, but I expect you to participate willingly in this. It means so much to Cat."

Aggie sounded out the word slowly. "Deb…u…are all out of your minds!" she burst, not even getting to the last syllable. "I'm not one of those bland little debutante losers! I don't care about cotillion or poufy dresses or giggling, gossiping bitchy girls!"

"Language, Agnes," scolded Abel, but Aggie didn't even hear him.

"This is all so stupid," she hissed, pushing her chair back from the table firmly and jumping out of her seat. "My life is incredibly tragic. I just want to go back home."

With that, Aggie dashed away from the table, zigzagging around a few shocked waiters. After what seemed like what forever, she finally made it to Concert's glass doors and shoved them open. Heaving deep breaths of the crisp evening air, Aggie stumbled onto the pavement. She quickly hailed a cab. "Get me out of here," she barked to the amused driver.

Leaning her head against the cool glass of the cab's window, Aggie stared as the sights of Manhattan went sliding by faster and faster, effectively blending together. Aggie already hated living in New York, and she had only been there for a day.

New York was bad enough, but her new family members were horrible. Cat was a freak and Milo…ugh! Aggie groaned just thinking about him. How the hell was she supposed to put up with that suck-up of a stepbrother?

A/N: I'm a huge review whore and will profess my undying love for you if you indulge me. Seriously. What did you think?