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The Hunter

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Year:
2020
Publisher:
L.J. Shen
Language:
english
Series:
Boston belles #1
File:
EPUB, 639 KB
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The Hunter

Copyright © 2020 by L.J. Shen



All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotation embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial use permitted by copyright law.



Resemblance to actual persons and things living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.





Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

About This Book

Epigraph

Playlist

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

Preview of Pretty Reckless

Books by L.J. Shen

Connect with L.J. Shen





To Yamina Kirky and Nina Delfs. Thank you for being absolutely fabulous.





Boston’s debauched elite is going up in flames, and it’s the Fitzpatrick family that set it on fire.





I didn’t mean to star in a sex tape, okay?

It was just one of those unexplainable things. Like Stonehenge, Police Academy 2, and morning glory clouds.

It just happened.

Now my ball-busting father is sentencing me to six months of celibacy, sobriety, and morbid boredom under the roof of Boston’s nerdiest girl alive, Sailor Brennan.

The virginal archer is supposed to babysit my ass while I learn to take my place in Royal Pipelines, my family’s oil company.

Little does she know, that’s not the only pipe I’ll be laying…





I didn’t want this gig, okay?

But the deal was too sweet to walk away from.

I needed the public endorsement; Hunter needed a nanny.

Besides, what’s six months in the grand ; scheme of things?

It’s not like I’m in danger of falling in love with the appallingly gorgeous, charismatic gazillionaire who happens to be one of Boston’s most eligible bachelors.

No. I will remain immune to Hunter Fitzpatrick’s charm.

Even at the cost of losing everything I have.

Even at the cost of burning down his kingdom.





“I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

―F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby



In this book, she isn’t.





“A Little Party Never Killed Nobody”—Fergie

“The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows”—Brand New

“Kill and Run”—Sia

“Truly, Madly, Deeply”—Savage Garden

“One Armed Scissor”—At The Drive-in

“When You Were Young”—The Killers

“Lullaby”—The Cure





Once upon a time there was a magic castle in which everything wilted but the soul of one boy.

He was six when she met him.

The girl had arrived with her mother to prepare a festive meal for his family. She roamed the hallways, gliding over the marble floors of his mansion on socked feet. She was five—far too young to appreciate the grand arches and courtyards of roses. She slid back and forth, occupying herself until her mother was done, while thunder cracked outside.

It was the kind of winter Bostonians talked about for years afterward, unyielding and persistent. The dark sky shot needles of hail down on the castle, the ice banging over the curved windows angrily. The girl slid toward one of the Gothic windows, pressing her hand against the cold glass.

She was surprised to see a small shadow lying on a sunbed by the pool, out in the rain. A boy. He lay very still, letting the downpour hit him without resistance. He simply took it, accepting the punishing lashes of hail on his skin.

Panicked, the girl began to pound the window. What if he was injured? Unconscious? Dead? Did she even know what death meant? She heard about it sometimes, when her parents thought she wasn’t listening.

She banged the glass harder. His head turned slowly her way—lazily, almost like she was of no importance.

His gray-blues met her light greens.

“Come in!” she shouted, looking left and right to find a door handle.

He shook his head.

“Please!” she cried.

“They’re sending me away.” She read his moving lips, but couldn’t hear him. “I’m leaving.”

“Where? Where are you going?” she called.

But he just turned around, angling his face toward the sky, welcoming the whiplash of the hail.

His eyes were open, she noticed. She followed his gaze, looking up at the black velvet of the night. There was no moon. No sun. The earth seemed so terribly lonely without one of them to watch over it.

The girl wondered what would happen if the sun kissed the moon.

She had no idea she’d find an answer to that question one day.

Or that the person to give it to her would be that very lonely boy.





Present



“Time to wake up, Captain McCrabson,” my friend/angel on my shoulder, Knight Cole, announced. The tip of his Margiela sneaker nudged my back.

Based on the hard surface underneath my aching muscles, I gathered I’d crashed on the floor again. And by the sticky feeling in my groin, followed by the breeze rolling through my neatly trimmed pubes, I knew I’d shoved my cock into holes I shouldn’t have the night before, and I was gloriously naked.

I groaned, squeezing my eyes shut and rolling over on top of another warm, naked body. Tits. I felt tits. Nice, plump, and natural. Without opening my eyes, I brought a nipple into my mouth, suckling on it idly.

“Want some coffee with your milk?” Knight wondered aloud.

My hand descended its way along the chick’s stomach, down to her holy grail. She was wet and hot, arching her back, her thighs quivering with need. I began to rub her swollen clit, prepping her. My cock yawned its way into a semi, just as another body pressed against me from behind.

Jackpot.

“Taking your coffee with milk is like going down on a woman with a condom on your tongue. The Italians would exile you for less,” I murmured, eyes still closed, my lips against this girl’s skin.

“Thanks for the imagery,” Vaughn Spencer, my other good friend, quipped flatly.

“Pay no heed to me, old sport.” My available hand patted the flesh behind me, curling the other chick’s leg over my waist. Where are my condoms? Why were Knight and Vaughn offering me coffee and conversation instead of a rubber? They should be fired and replaced with wingmen who’d actually help me score. Not that I had any trouble in that department. “Just throw me a rubber before you leave, will ya?”

“Give your cock a timeout and wake the fuck up.” A muddy boot found its way to the side of my head, threatening to squash my skull.

Vaughn, AKA the devil on my shoulder.

On anyone’s shoulder, really.

I had a love-hate relationship with the motherfucker.

Love, because he was, after all, one of my best friends.

Hate, because he was, despite the abovementioned title, a cunt of gargantuan proportions.

My eyes popped open. The rest of my body signaled my brain that this orgy might die prematurely. Grains of sand and dirt from his boot dusted my temple. I felt my nostrils flaring, my pulse spiking up.

The girl in front of me, Alice, grinned sleepily as she curved her back, plastering her breasts to my chest encouragingly. Shit. I was still fingering her. It was hard not to when she made all those delicious noises. I removed my hand from her pussy reluctantly. The girl behind me, at least, had the decency to stop humping my leg like a guinea pig that had just discovered its genitals.

“Get your filthy-ass boot away from my face,” I hissed through clenched teeth, “before I snap your spine and use it as a scarf.”

Both Vaughn and I knew this was an idle threat. My manicured hands weren’t big on violence. In fact, I wouldn’t hurt an ant if it killed my entire immediate family. I mean, I would be mad. Livid. And I’d sue for emotional distress, for sure. But get my hands dirty? Nah.

It wasn’t fear of fighting that stopped me but the sheer indolence that came with my aristocratic upbringing. As the son of Gerald Fitzpatrick, owner and CEO of Royal Pipelines, the biggest oil and gas company in the United States, I rarely needed to rise to the level of taking care of my own shit. The Fitzpatrick family was the fourth richest in the entire US of A, and that made me a lazy, self-entitled asswipe.

“You and another dudebro tag-teamed five chicks yesterday.” Vaughn kept his foot on my temple.

This violent act was probably the highlight of his week. Why he couldn’t find the simple joys of life in booze, women, and overpriced clothes from aging rappers was beyond me. He made everything seem so fucking complicated.

“I did?” My eyebrows shot to my forehead, genuine surprise tinged with pride filling my chest. “Are the Guinness people on their way here? Will they bring actual Guinness? I find stout to be far superior to lager.”

“Smash his skull. He deserves it,” Knight groaned above my head.

That was rich coming from him. He had a history with booze that could rival Lord Byron and Benjamin Franklin at an all-you-can-drink Koh Samui bar. Now that he had a girlfriend, I worried that if they were ever to conceive, she’d give birth to a bottle of tequila and two tickets to Coachella.

“I also answer to God and Damn, Hunter You’re So Big,” I mumbled, briefly considering a quick nap under Vaughn’s boot.

Hey, it wasn’t like he’d shifted any real weight onto it.

The two girls unglued themselves from me. They were now making background noise, picking up their clothes, getting dressed. I checked my surroundings for the first time since opening my eyes. I was in Vaughn’s living room, judging by the plush, crème upholstery, dripping chandeliers, and 8k-a-piece brass lamps.

The carpet felt sticky, and the blinds were torn. Daddy and Mommy Spencer would be glad to get rid of their asshole spawn, who was flying out to England for an internship soon.

“You fucked up big time.” Knight hoisted me out from under Vaughn’s boot, hurling me on the sofa and throwing a quilt over my now-impressive, raging hard-on.

He didn’t look directly at me as he spoke, like it was my fault I’d been blessed with a physique fit for constant nudity and an eight-inch dick.

“All I heard was the word fuck, and I’m definitely game for that.” I patted the table next to the couch, found a pack of cigarettes that wasn’t mine and a lighter, and lit one, puffing smoke upward. I only smoked occasionally, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to look like an asshole when it presented itself. “Why’d you cockblock me?” I squinted, pointing the cigarette between Vaughn and Knight, who stood in front of me, hands on hips, full-fledged and shit.

“There was a leak.” Vaughn’s icicle eyes tapered with displeasure.

I waved him off with the cigarette. “That’s just a natural discharge designed to tell you the female body is ready for mating. You’d know that if you fucked women who were alive. Is this about your parents’ carpets? Because I’ll send Syllie the bill.”

Syllie—Sylvester Lewis—was my father’s right hand and COO back in Boston. He did solids for me on the reg. His job, among others, was to keep me alive and out of trouble, which meant he was basically set up for failure. I didn’t call him often, but when I did, it was because I needed to bail out of something heinous I’d gotten myself into.

My parents hated when I gave them bad press.

So far, Syllie had helped me pay fines, avoid a DUI charge, and discreetly deal with a nasty case of the crabs.

“A leak on social media, you moron,” Knight clarified, leaning down to flick the back of my head.

It wasn’t like my friends to be serious or worried. I sat up and secured the quilt around my narrow waist, resting my chin on my knuckles thoughtfully.

“I’m listening.”

(I wasn’t. I was thinking about who I wanted to fuck tonight.)

Maybe Arabella.

No, definitely Arabella. She was the hottest piece of ass that was still single in town.

“Recap.” Knight clapped his hands once. “Yesterday, after Vaughn’s internship party, we came back here to kick it. You had an orgy with five girls on the main floor. At some point, some other guy butted in—pun intended—but mostly, it was you doing the fucking. It wasn’t in the media room, so phones weren’t confiscated. Vaughn and I were upstairs and couldn’t save you from your moronic self.” He turned to Vaughn, jerking his chin for him to finish the story.

Vaughn crossed his arms over his chest and took it from there. “To make a long, excruciatingly gross story short, about a dozen people filmed the entire thing with their phones. Some uploaded it on YouTube, some to Twitter, some to Snapchat. Those were taken down, as far as we know. But the ones on the porn sites? Those are still available. And let’s just say what you lack in academic achievements, you make up for as an adult entertainer.”

As soon as Vaughn finished his sentence, Knight handed me his phone, the browser open on said sex video. (Why did people call them tapes? That was so fucking eighties.) I hit play. It was the most popular site on the internet, actually. It was also free, which, I’d heard through rumors on the street, was something middle-class people were fond of.

The video already had 1.2 million views and an 89-percent customer satisfaction rate.

Damn.

The tags on the video included: #FratParty #Orgy #Hotsluts #Cheerleaders #Billionaire #Anal #Oral #69 #Creampie #TagTeam #BestFriendsEx

And all I could think was, I managed all those things in the span of twenty minutes with one dick? Im-fucking-pressive.

I was dead-ass serious. Were the Guinness people coming for me, or what?

The title of the porn video was “Polo Billionaire Prince Fucks Five Chicks.”

The prince part was dope. It had a noble ring to it. Polo wasn’t my passion, but I still played it to please my never-pleased father. All the rest seemed solid as well, other than the frat party part. And since all of us were of legal age (I knew all the chicks in the video), I guessed it would be a bitch to take down.

I watched as three fellow recent high school graduates—Alice, Stacee, and Sophia—giggled into the camera and strutted their way to me, asses dangling, high heels on full display. I was on the couch, getting sucked by a chick named Kylie while another one, Bianca, was circling my nipple with her pierced tongue. I was wearing an open varsity jacket with no shirt, my jeans rolled down to my shins. The camera zoomed out, and the person shooting the video and I pounded it. He lowered the camera to show that he was fucking Kylie from behind while she was sucking me off. He came on her lower back, stepping back and tucking in his semi. After five minutes of acrobatics, I somehow managed to get my hands, mouth, and dick on all five of the girls combined.

The video was almost twenty minutes long, and—in my humble opinion—hot as sin. I looked up from it when I was done, handing Knight his phone back. There was a beat of silence as my friends waited for me to process the information they’d pummeled into my hungover brain.

“Who was the other dude?” I yawned.

“Brian something.” Knight scrunched his nose.

“Branson,” Vaughn completed.

“Brian Branson?” I blinked. Unfortunate name. “Wow. His parents hate him more than mine hate me.”

“Not after the pile of porn shit you left at their doorstep this morning,” Knight commented helpfully.

I hadn’t even heard of Brian Branson before today, but I’d shared a sexual encounter with him. Which I guessed was something I could say about the majority of people in Todos Santos. I slapped my thigh, moving on with the plan.

“So, are we heading to Benny’s for breakfast or…?”

“You idiot.” Knight white-knuckled his phone, resisting the urge to hurl it at me. “You’re in deep trouble. Stacee, Kylie, and Bianca are pressing charges against you. They’re already at the police station. We just got the text.”

That explained why Alice and Sophia were the only ones here this morning.

“For what? I wasn’t the one doing the filming. If anything, I’m as much a victim as they are.” I stubbed the half-finished cigarette on its pack to put it out, smoke skulking from my mouth as I spoke. “Besides, they can hardly claim it wasn’t consensual. I mean…” I motioned with my hand to Knight’s phone. In the video, Stacee let me pull out of her, peel off the condom, and jizz all over her face. She’d licked the hot, white cum from her cheek and giggled in delight while Kylie sucked my cock so hard she almost swallowed it. Not to mention Bianca, who did all the work while we did a reverse cowgirl with Kylie sitting on my face, bouncing it like I was a trampoline.

“You’re as stupid as a rock, and sadly, just about as endearing,” Vaughn said gravely, turning around and lifting shit up, looking for something. “You’re an heir to a multi-million-dollar company. They don’t need a reason to want to sue you. You sneeze on them? They’ll say you gave them the swine flu. You hug them? They’ll claim you broke their bones. You fuck them…” Vaughn trailed off, finding what he was looking for on one of his lamps—my jeans—and throwing them in my direction.

I caught them in the air.

“Now get dressed. I’m going to have to refurnish the entire fucking house after your STD-fest yesterday. I need to bleach the walls.”

“I need to bleach my eyes,” Knight added.

“I need to Men in Black my brain,” Vaughn shot back.

Knight picked up an imaginary remote and clicked it in Vaughn’s direction.

“And Home Alone your life to avoid any more public orgies,” Knight offered.

Har-har-ing dryly, I stuffed my legs into my jeans. I still hadn’t fully comprehended what was happening. I expected, as with everything else, that Syllie would get me out of it. If not him, then my aunt and uncle, Jean and Michael Brady. (Yes, they were the Brady bunch, and yes, I found that endlessly amusing, seeing as my parents had sent me to them in hopes that they’d be able to cram into me some of the manners and upper-class demeanor the private schools they’d enrolled me in couldn’t.)

Point was, someone always got me out of trouble, and that someone was, unfailingly, not me. Getting out of trouble myself seemed like tedious business, and don’t get me started on the potential paperwork.

However, lesson learned. From now on, I would pay attention to where I conducted my mass orgies. One could only be so reckless. It was time to be more careful. And while I was on the subject, perhaps I should limit myself to three girls at a time.

I stood up, buckling my Louboutin spiked-leather belt, and turned to Knight.

“Okay. I think I’m ready for that coffee now.”

Knight smacked the back of my head. Again.

“You’re not getting it, are you?” His brow wrinkled. “Tell me who to call. Do you know your lawyer’s name?”

“Damn, son. Why so serious? You need a shot of dirty Sprite.”

Also known as codeine. Also known as Knight’s version of water, before he got clean. I knew I was a jerkface for mentioning his substance-abuse problem, but he let it slide. Plus, he had his shit together now. He and Vaughn got to go study what they wanted, choose what they wanted to do with their lives. My ass was going back to Boston to study at Harvard, majoring in business, economics, and all the stuff that made a man want to hurl himself off a skyscraper. Don’t ask me how I got into Harvard. Da probably donated enough money to feed the entire state of Massachusetts for a decade to make that happen. I wouldn’t trust me to write a grocery list, let alone an essay.

I also wasn’t looking forward to the forced internship at Royal Pipelines during the summers.

“Your dad? Your mom? Your brother? Sister? Who should I call? The Bradys, maybe?” Knight waved his hand back and forth in front of my face.

I opened my mouth, and there was a knock on the door. Vaughn went to answer. A second later, three policemen came in. I swear one of them flexed his biceps. They were hella high on the power trip. The burliest one, whose face reminded me of a constipated baboon with cropped coppery hair, recited my Miranda rights as he grabbed my hands and handcuffed me.

“Hunter Ernest Vincent Fitzpatrick, you are under arrest for sexual harassment, statutory rape, and obstruction of justice. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer…” The police officer stopped, letting out a grotesque snort. The other three burst into hysterical laughter.

Yeah, yeah, I’m loaded. Hilarious.

“If…if…” he tried again, throwing his head back and laughing with such mirth, you’d think he was the one swimming in it. “If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at the government’s expense,” he finally finished, wiping a happy tear from the corner of his eye.

I stared at him with a clenched jaw, feeling a stir of anger coursing through my veins for the first time since I woke up. I didn’t rape or harass these girls. Or any girls. It was a setup.

The officer reached for his pocket and took out a fifty-dollar bill, slapping it into the open palm of the cop next to him.

“Dang, I really couldn’t say it with a straight face, Mo.”

They’d bet on my arrest. Sweet. The handcuffs felt cold and tight around my wrists, and bit into my flesh unnecessarily. I was obviously in no danger of escaping or pouncing over the female cop standing there, in all her balding patches, post-acne scars, and three missing teeth glory.

Knight and Vaughn appeared next to me.

“Hey, assholes, do you mind not justifying every police brutality stigma alive?” Vaughn asked. “As for you—” He jerked his chin toward me. “—I’m calling my dad. He’s in Virginia with my mom, but he’ll fly in, if need be.”

Knight asked again, “Who should I call, man? Talk to me.”

The answer was Jean and Michael, of course. At this point, they felt more like my parents than the ones who’d sent me away from Boston as soon as I was out of diapers. The officers began pushing me toward the door.

Vaughn came after us, hissing to me, “Don’t tell them anything, you hear me?”

I nodded. “Tell Knight not to call my da.”

“What?”

They shoved my back in the police car’s direction.

“Just not Da,” I managed to howl before my head was ducked into the back seat. “Anyone but Da!”

Knight gave me two thumbs up, nodding from the doorway.

“No problem, dude. I’ll call your dad!”

“I said not to call my father,” I yelled as the back door of the police car slammed in my face.

Knight didn’t hear me.

Fuck.




“The statutory rape charge is the one I was most concerned about, but it turned out to be bullshit. All six of you are over eighteen. The police hadn’t even had the common sense to check IDs when they filed the report, which means not only are they going to drop this charge, but we can also slap the boys in blue on the wrist—always a good form of damage control.”

Baron “Vicious” Spencer, Vaughn’s father, sat across from me in my uncle and aunt’s stuffy attic, flipping through the thick pages of my case. The attic was the shape of the roof. I had to crouch on my seat like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a Barbie dollhouse to accommodate my height.

Twenty-four hours had passed since my arrest, and I had yet to take a shower, a dump, or beat my meat to decompress. Although Baron was a lawyer by trade, he didn’t practice criminal law. But it was my understanding that sometimes he helped relatives and close friends with legal shit. It was also my understanding that he charged $5,000 an hour to justify his reputation as a world-class cunt. He needed the money like Kylie Jenner needed more lips. The first thing he told me was that he was going to overbill me.

“Just to get a taste of being fucked. One cannot live his whole life only doing the fucking,” he’d explained point-blank when he entered the house an hour ago, after Jean and Michael bailed me out of jail.

I took a sip of my bottled beer, tugging at my leather necklace cord with the wooden Dala. “And the other charges?”

“The sexual harassment will be a hard sell, seeing as the girls seemed lucid, active, and present. The obstruction of justice charge is due to the fact that Mr. Cole had confiscated Bianca’s phone. According to Miss Evans, the order came from you. Fortunately for you, at the time she entered the media room and party with the rest of students who’d had their phones confiscated, your dick was already softer than marshmallow and you were passed out on the floor, long after the orgy. There are several witnesses to attest to that time discrepancy. In other words, your incompetence saved you.” He glanced up from the pile of documents, his arctic blue eyes dropping the room temperature by ten degrees.

“Always happy to be a loser. Sláinte.” I toasted the air, taking another sip of the lager.

Baron had the same ink black hair as his son, identical glacial eyes, and the hunger to be successful, powerful, and capable. I wondered what it felt like to be a Spencer—adept, driven, motivated. Talented.

I had not so far been any of those things. I had money, yes—more than I could ever spend—and the looks to match. But other than those superficial features, I was nothing. An empty jar. My father had warned me that the day people would call me out on my frivolity was near. I believed him.

Which was why I dreaded going back to Boston and starting college—moving back with my family. Not doing so hadn’t been an option. Royal Pipelines had passed through six Fitzpatrick generations thus far.

Needless to say, I was interested in running a business a little less than I was interested in another public orgy, followed by a mini-vacation in a jail cell. But here was the reality of things: my older brother, Cillian, was set to become the CEO of Royal Pipelines the minute Da kicked the bucket, and I was going to be COO.

“When’s the trial?” I sucked my teeth.

“Never.” Baron closed my file, linking his fingers together over the desk. “A trial would be public, messy, time-consuming, and above all—very bad press. The ladies—and I use the term fucking loosely—aren’t keen on hashing out the details of the mass orgy on the stand, either. I came up with a generous settlement package for each of them. They and their families are content to strike a deal. The packages include a two-million-dollar compensation check and a full ride through college. Your father and brother are pleased that the matter is settled.”

I didn’t for one second think my father’s eagerness to take the deal had anything to do with me. It was the headlines that worried him. As for Cillian, if he had his way, I’d be on a leash, locked in the basement of my parents’ estate, Avebury Court Manor.

I sat back, playing with the good-luck horse on my neck.

“Why are we signing a deal? I didn’t do shit. You said so yourself. They have no case.”

“That notwithstanding, even taking this to trial would put a stain on you and your family and piss off Royal Pipelines’ shareholders.”

“So I need to cave because my daddy runs a big-ass shop?” I scowled.

“In a nutshell, yes.”

“No,” I countered flatly.

Baron checked his phone as he spoke, completely unconcerned by my refusal. “If we take this to a jury, there’s no way of knowing how they’d react. A white, male billionaire in the middle of a whale-sized sex scandal is not, in fact, the most empathetic creature known to mankind.”

“I didn’t rape them,” I seethed. “I didn’t even hit on them. They came to me.”

Baron stood up, gathering the documents into his leather briefcase. He seemed to be done with the conversation and his client’s rage.

“Better a crook than a fool. Taking the deal and having them sign an NDA is the clever thing to do. Whenever you feel your precious ego needs a hand job, log on to that porn site and remind yourself that whoever ends up putting a ring on those women will always know you as the guy who fucked them half-dead and still managed to make them come.”

“I need a stronger drink.” I shook my head.

“What you need is a good spanking.”

I put the beer bottle to my lips again, sighing. “Fuck, you’re right. A kinky lay is just what the doctor ordered. But this time I’ll make sure it’s in a secluded bedroom.”

Baron threw me a condescending frown and walked to the door. I knew I should thank him for everything he’d done for me, but I wasn’t in the mood for niceties. Also, the check Da would sign was going to buy him another yacht.

“Oh, and Hunter?” Baron asked when he reached the door.

I looked up from behind the desk.

“Yeah?”

“Good luck with your next meeting. You’ll need it.”





“A disgrace!” Da spat, his saliva spluttering over the desk between us. His pasty, Irish-freckled face was purple as he towered over me in the same attic office Baron had exited minutes ago.

The Bradys had the kind of house Gerald Fitzpatrick deemed homely and quaint, if not completely lackluster. Back in Boston, he’d knocked down an entire row of brownstones in Beacon Hill and built a mansion better suited for the extended royal family and every person they’d ever said hi to. Avebury Court Manor boasted twenty bedrooms, fifteen bathrooms, an indoor pool, a tennis court, and a heated driveway—because why not be a douchebag when you can afford to be?

The mansion was architecturally inspired by Mont Saint-Michel, a looming castle on a French island—heavy on the arches, statues, and wide spaces. Truthfully, I’d take the old-fashioned Brady townhouse over that nouveau riche marbled monster any day of the fucking century.

“You stupid, embarrassing fool. You…you…goddamn…” He stopped, curling his fists tight to brace himself for the ringing scream that followed. “Epic disappointment!” He hurled the desk between us. It hit my knees with a bone-chilling thump. I pressed my mouth harder, ignoring the raw pain, my face still impassive.

It was hella tempting to curl into myself and resurface after his verbal lashing was over, but I forced myself to jerk my chin up and brave it. My sister and brother were both perfect in their own, overachieving ways, which made me my parents’ favorite source of complaint.

“Thank God you haven’t fathered any bastards.” Da looked heavenward, making the sign of the cross, as if God was in charge of my obsessive condom usage. I got no damn credit for anything these days.

“Night’s still young,” I clipped.

He shot me a dirty look, pointing at me with his stubby finger.

“Your little fling just cost me six million dollars in hush-money—more, if the others decide to jump on the bandwagon and sue. You think it’s funny? I’m done with you.” He shook his fist skyward, pacing back and forth in the small room. “I want to be done with you. Your mother, bless her heart, has a soft spot for you. Perhaps because you’re the middle child.”

Or maybe because she dumped me in a boarding school in England when I was six and tossed me around the globe when I got kicked out, never considering raising me herself.

“I, however, see you clearly for who you are, and I have news for you. You may be going to college in Boston, but Harvard is off the table. You will go to evening classes, as commoners do. And you are certainly not coming to live in my house.” His finger now dipped to his chest for emphasis.

My father towered to nearly six feet and one inch, a tad shorter than me, and was arranged in round bulks of meat. Years of indulgence had made his body soft and his personality hardened. A white shock of hair fell over his forehead, but his brows were dark and thick.

My mother, in contrast, was light and dainty, both in personality and looks.

“Boo-fucking-hoo.” I rolled my eyes provocatively. The edges of my ears turned hot, and I hated that. “Heard Boston’s got an apartment or two to offer. I’ll be glad to stay out of your way.”

As for Harvard, I didn’t think an idiot like me would survive it, anyway. I’d probably fail at finding the classes, let alone deciphering the lectures. It was just as well.

“With what money, pray tell, are you planning to rent any of those apartments?” A vein popped on his forehead. I could practically see it slithering under his skin. “Not mine, I regret to inform you.”

I stared at him wordlessly, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“You’ve never finished anything in your life, Hunter.”

False. I finished analogies, beers, and orgasms on a daily basis. But even my dumb ass knew better than to point it out.

“You’re packing your things and leaving here immediately,” he continued, delivering his instructions in a cold, practiced manner that told me he’d decided what to do with me before his private plane touched Californian soil.

“Bet.” I smirked.

“No time to bid your friends goodbye,” he snapped.

My head darted up. Being popular was a lonely business, but I actually liked my friends here. “It’ll take me an hour.”

“I don’t care if it’ll take you a minute. And then,” he proceeded, his voice ricocheting off the walls like cartoon bullets chasing after a villain’s ass, “you’re going to do a six-month stint to prove to me you are not the pile of sexually transmitted diseases and bad decisions I see you as.”

“You’re asking me to go to rehab?” I choked on my morning beer.

“No. I spoke with your uncle and aunt, and they don’t think your problem is drug or alcohol abuse. Your problem is commitment and finding a sense of purpose. Taking responsibility.”

It was curious to hear about my problems from someone who’d seen me twice a year for the duration of a week or less for the past decade and a half.

“What’s it gonna be, then?” I heard myself asking.

I had this game I played with myself, since I was my only steady companion in life. I changed places and crews so often, I had to find something to anchor me. The game consisted of choosing a daily song that defined my mood. Today, it was clearly “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones. Because shit, I could use a hideaway right about now.

“You’re going to be working for me, supporting yourself while attending college, and living in an apartment in the Oval Building, where my staff can monitor your whereabouts and progress.”

My family owned the Oval Building, a high-rise that was supposed to look like an elegant lipstick tube, but in reality resembled an uncircumcised, angry cock. I’d have warned Da if he’d ever consulted me about it.

He lowered himself to catch my gaze, his fingers spread on the chipped oak desk between us. “And you’re going to be sober as a judge and celibate as a nun.”

And bored as fuck. Yeah, no thank you.

“For six months? You gotta be kidding me.” I stood up, throwing my hands in the air. My head bumped against the ceiling. I didn’t even care. He might as well kill me now. What was life without pussy and a stiff drink? Just a sequence of events nobody wanted to participate in, that’s what.

“This is non-negotiable.” My father tried to unfurl his spine and straighten to his full height, but failed. The low-ceilinged room somehow grew hotter and smaller by the second. Beads of sweat gathered at my temples. I noticed Da was sweating like a pig in his suit.

“Ain’t happening.” I crossed my arms over my chest.

“Then you can kiss your inheritance goodbye.” He smiled breezily, tearing a piece of paper from his breast pocket and shoving it in my face.

“I anticipated your reaction, and your mother—out of concern for you, of course—has graciously allowed me to legally remove you from our will, seeing as you have very little desire to fit into the Fitzpatrick family business and honor its values.”

I snatched the paper from his fingers, unfolding it with unsteady hands. Bastard wasn’t bullshitting. It had the stamp from the law office he kept on retainer and everything. The wrinkled paper, although still unsigned, noted that I was not to inherit a penny of the Fitzpatrick fortune unless the six-month agreement was executed to my father’s full satisfaction.

I looked back up, feeling something hot and uncomfortable spreading in my chest.

“You can’t do that,” I hissed.

“What, save you from yourself? I am doing that,” he announced, spreading his arms. “Agree to my terms, and you can have half my kingdom, Hunter. Continue to let me, your mother, and yourself down, and you have no place in our family.”

I never have. Which was why the money meant so much to me. I wasn’t going to be robbed of that, too.

“Fine,” I spat. “Whatever. Put me in your dick-shaped building. I’ll stay out of trouble, and I won’t drink or fuck for six months.”

“Of course you won’t,” my father said, yanking the piece of paper back and folding it tidily before tucking it into his breast pocket. “Because you’ll have a roommate to make sure you’re on the straight and narrow. Always accounted for.”

I threw my head back, laughing bitterly. “I’m not sharing an apartment with Cillian. He probably performs satanic rituals involving puppy blood and baby tears on the daily.”

My older brother was the definition of a cunt. He had that holier-than-thou, wunderkind attitude that had made me give up on being anything other than the family jester. Catching up with his many conquests, both academically and career-wise, seemed futile. He was the golden child, the wild promise, the ruthless emperor everyone looked up to.

Da shook his head. “Please, like mo órga would reduce himself to living under the same roof with you.” Mo órga translated, quite literally, to golden child in Gaelic.

Real subtle, Pops.

“My bad. I forgot he needs to take off his human costume after a long day and relax by himself. Who, then?”

“Well, that person is yet to be approached. You will have to convince her to agree to this. If she says no, the entire plan crumbles. But your mother and I have found the most perfect candidate.”

She. He said she. That meant she was female. That also meant I could fuck her behind his back. No matter her age and looks, I was willing to do it if it meant dipping my dick into something that wasn’t my own hand.

“Who?” I gritted out, knowing he was enjoying the exchange, having me at his mercy.

“Sailor Brennan.”

Yeah, never mind. Ain’t touching that with a condomed ten-foot pole.

Why? Let’s count:

Sailor was a goody two-shoes. Straight-up, straight-A, boring-good kind of girl.

She was a tomboy, and possibly a lesbian (not that I had any issues with that), and an archer (something I did have an issue with, because it meant she could kill me with little effort).

She was Troy Brennan’s daughter, and Troy Brennan was a person you didn’t want to make an enemy out of. He was Boston’s underworld’s fixer, the guy the upper society of the city had on retainer to do the dirty work for them.

The few times I’d met Sailor, she’d seemed annoyingly resistant to my charms (as I said, lesbian).



“Kinda out there, don’t you think?” I feigned boredom, itching to haul ass to the Southern Hemisphere and escape my verdict.

“Better the plan being out there than your penis driven into holes it has no business being in,” my father deadpanned, taking a handkerchief from his front pocket and dabbing his sweaty hands with it, focusing on the clover-green fabric.

“Six months to live and play house with a complete stranger—that’s unorthodox, Da. Some would go as far as saying prosaically medieval.”

“You were just caught having sex with five young women on top of your friend’s antique Italian furniture—which, by the way, we still have to pay for and will be deducted from your salary. You’re too far from the realms of orthodox to be concerned about your reputation.”

“What about Sailor’s reputation?”

“She has none—a clean slate. And no one is insane enough to talk badly of her, considering who her dad is.”

He is sending me to live with a girl whose father is a cold-blooded murderer. Me. With my unfiltered, filthy mouth.

“What makes you think Sailor would agree to this?” I squinted at him.

I’d met Sailor Brennan maybe three or four times in my life. Her parents had restaurants all over Boston. Her mother was a chef and had cooked for a few events my mother hosted a while back. The entire time, Sailor messed with her phone or looked at my sister curiously (more proof of the lesbian theory).

I barely remembered the chick. What I did recall was carroty hair that looked about as soft as blistered feet, more freckles than a face, and the body of a malnourished, five-year-old boy.

“I have my reasons, but she will take some persuading.”

“So, how do you see this going down? I go to her and just say, yo, let’s move in together?”

I didn’t want to lose my inheritance because my dick had the social life of the entire Kardashian clan. Living with a geek and six months of celibacy weren’t going to kill me.

Probably.

Only time would tell, honestly.

“Do whatever you see fit to make sure Sailor says yes.” Da shrugged. “I’ll throw you a hook, but you’ll be doing the fishing. Not Syllie—who, by the way, I’ve ordered never to help you again. No more screwing around. If you want something, you need to chase it. It’s your job to make Sailor cooperate. You’re on your own now, Hunter. If you fail to show me you’re the man I need you to be in the next six months, you’re out. And Sailor is just the type of person to keep you in check.”





Dear God,

I know I talk to you periodically, mainly asking for favors, but I swear this is the last time.

…

Fine. It’s probably not the last time, but hear me out anyway, okay?

Please give me a signal that my Olympic dream is not a bust.

Make it rain.

Have a pigeon poop on me.

Anything.

It’s the only thing I care about. The only thing I truly want.

Yours,

—Sailor Brennan (P.S. I totally gave up chocolate and salty snacks for Lent, so if you look me up and see a list of my family’s sins, particularly my dad’s and brother’s, just remember I’m cool, all right? P.P.S. I pray for them, too.)

I drew an imaginary line between myself and the target, squinting under the pounding sun, sweat casing my forehead. Using three fingers to hold my arrow and string, I raised the bow toward the target, my inner elbow parallel to the ground. I could practically feel my pupils dilating as I focused, a tingle of excitement shooting up my spine. I released the arrow, watching as it spun in the air, missing the bull’s-eye by mere millimeters.

I lowered my bow, wiping my brow.

“Sailor,” my trainer, Junsu, clipped in a cutting tone. He approached from the shaded visiting area of the archery range, his hands clasped behind his back. “You have a visitor.”

I removed my bracer and leather tab, turning around and dumping them into the open duffel bag behind me.

“Visitor?” I grabbed a bottle of water from the plastic chair, squeezing its contents into my mouth. “Who would visit me?”

The question was not meant to sound as pathetic as it came out. Lots of people could visit me. My parents, for instance. Mom often dropped food off for me at reception, knowing I always forget to feed myself. I also had friends—Persephone (Persy) and Emmabelle (Belle) Penrose, namely. They both spent a good amount of time trying to drag me to social events I didn’t want to attend. But everybody knew I wasn’t big on visitors while I was training. Never mind the fact that I was always training.

“A boy.” Junsu’s mouth twisted around the last word. His Korean accent, touched with an unexplained British twang, rang with accusation. “A tall, blond boy.”

Junsu was short and sinewy and didn’t look a day over thirty, though considering his prime years in the Olympics were thirty years ago, he was no doubt pushing fifty. His hair was raven black, his tan skin wrinkle-free. He wore tight, simple clothes of expensive fabrics. They always looked neatly ironed.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I shook my head, my Merida DunBroch-style mane whooshing around my face.

I scooped up my duffel and looped my bow over my shoulder as I started walking from the outdoor range back to the archery club. Junsu must’ve misheard. That guy was probably looking for someone else.

“Can I come half an hour early tomorrow, so you can help me tune my bow? I think I need a new string.”

Junsu gave me a slight nod, his face still troubled. “The boy,” he pressed, stroking his chin, “is he—how you say?—your boy-friend?”

He put a hyphen between the words boy and friend, knowing dang well what the answer was. I’d postponed college (and life in general) to be laser-focused on archery. More specifically: the Olympics that would take place a year from now. Boys were strictly off the menu this year. A stab at the Olympics was a once-or twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

College could wait. I could enroll next year, after I won my gold medal.

Boys? They were so off my radar, I wasn’t even sure I possessed said radar.

I’d had the pleasure of growing up next to two men, two strong men who taught me everything there is to know about the gender: they were wild, violent, and real time-suckers. I had no place for them.

“I don’t know who you’re talking about, Junsu.” I blew out air as we waltzed through the narrow hallway of the archery club. It was filled with pictures of past and current archers who’d brought pride and medals to this club. I inhaled the addictive scent of sweat, leather equipment, and faint powder. “But whoever it is, he is no one to me.” I stopped, scratching above my eyebrow as I tried to make sense of this. “Maybe it’s Dorian Sanchez. He went to school with me and has been begging me to talk to my mom about giving him a job.”

Dorian was blond and tall-ish, the only person in my class other than me not to secure entrance to a good college. He’d bought a food truck senior year and sold it before graduation, so I knew he needed money.

Yup. It had to be Dorian.

“Well…” Junsu gestured with his open palm toward the front door. “The boy is loitering outside. I shall be most appreciative if he does not do that again. This is not a Tinder.” He spat out the word.

Stifling a chuckle by biting my lower lip, I nodded seriously. “I’ll try to invite all my hookups straight home in the future.”

“Not funny,” he said sternly, his eyes widening.

“Yes, it is.” I breezed toward the entrance, a spring in my step as I twisted my head to wink at my Olympic trainer. “Because we both know it’s bull—”

“No cussing!” He waved his index at me. “Is right shoulder still bothersome?”

“Yes.” I shrugged. “It’s kind of killing me, actually.”

My right shoulder had been bothering me for weeks, but every time I visited my physical therapist, I pretended it was okay so he’d let me train. Junsu was very strict about missing practice time, and whenever I complained, he gave me a soldier-through-it look.

My trainer nodded. “It is natural. Tomorrow, Sailor.”

“Tomorrow.”

I poured myself toward the parking lot, making my way to my sensible white Golf GTI. Boston was insufferably hot in the summer, the dark colonial and federalist buildings always a few degrees away from melting into a puddle on the concrete. The archery club was located on a quiet side street by the West End, far enough from my parents’ apartment downtown that the congested daily commute cost me fifty minutes to and from.

I discarded my equipment in the trunk and pushed my AirPods into my ears. I was humming “Kill and Run” by Sia when I felt a tap on my shoulder.

I turned around, surprised, even though Junsu had given me a heads-up. An unfamiliar face looked back at mine.

A stunning, miss-a-beat-or-five face, to be exact.

Definitely not Dorian Sanchez.

“Sailor Brennan?” the man—not boy—asked flatly, his eyes raking me head to toe like I was a call girl he’d just opened his door for and discovered was not up to his standards.

I felt my body stiffening in defense and shook my head, ridding myself of the weird hold his looks had on me.

“Yeah.” I reared my head back so I could take more of him in, and also because I couldn’t tell if the need to head-butt him would arise. This guy was a complete stranger, after all. “Can I help you?”

“I’m Hunter Fitzpatrick.” He pointed at himself, his smirk a perfect, well-practiced half-moon with the right amount of teeth-to-dimple ratio.

I blinked at him, waiting for further explanation. “And…?” I frowned when it became obvious his statement was also meant to serve as some sort of clarification.

His eyes inched wider in surprise, but he soon arranged his features back into a flaccid expression and cleared his throat.

“Can we talk somewhere?”

“We are talking somewhere.” I took my AirPods out, dropping them into my front pocket. “Right here. And if you don’t tell me what it’s about, I’m afraid I’ll have to turn around, get into my car, and drive away.”

“I’m afraid I’ll have to block your way out of here, if you do that.” He dragged his fingers through his tresses, each golden hair submitting to the movement, like a gust of wind swiping a wheat field.

Spoiled brat. I stared at him with a mixture of irritation and confusion.

“Then,” I said carefully, “I’m afraid I’ll have to run you over. So let’s spare you the hospital visit and me the inconvenience. Can you tell me why you’re here? You’re getting me in trouble.”

“What the fuck?”

“My trainer thought you were a hookup or something.”

“JFC, back it up all the way.” He snorted a lewd laugh, actually abbreviating Jesus effing Christ. He shot another glance at my nonexistent breasts.

I wore a snug, long-sleeved shirt and yoga pants, paired with an old pair of sneakers I probably should have replaced three years ago. Despite my best efforts, I felt myself blushing at his dismissal. I knew what I looked like, and I wasn’t a perfect ten. I was scrawny, with red, tangled hair cascading all the way down to my butt, and a dusting of freckles everywhere the sun touched. On a scale of one to ten, I was a six on a generous day. Hunter was a perfect million.

“I wanted to run an idea by you.” He leaned a hip over the open trunk of my car.

Everything about him was lazy and indulgent. He was the opposite of my brother and dad. He loved himself and was hyperaware of his good looks. It turned me off.

Not that I was turned on in the first place.

“About?” I shifted from foot to foot. My nerves were tattered, frayed at the seams. Boys never spoke to me, and when they did, they didn’t look like him.

“Us.”

“You just said there is no us. And I’d like to reinforce that statement.” I yanked my car keys from my duffel bag, slammed the trunk shut, and rounded my car. He tailed me, his movements tiger-smooth, especially for a guy his size. He was very tall and very lean, and—most annoying of all—smelled very, very nice. A mixture of clean laundry, cinnamon, and corrupted male.

“Whoa, hold the phone. You really don’t have any idea who I am?” He touched my shoulder to stop me from entering the car as I opened the driver’s door.

I looked at his hand with an arched brow. He withdrew it immediately.

“No touching,” I said.

“’Kay. So? You don’t?” He searched my face, his brows leveling with his hairline.

I shook my head. “Not even the faintest clue. My condolences to your ego.”

“H-u-n-t-e-r F-i-t-z-p-a-t-r-i-c-k,” he drawled slowly, treating me no different than a first grader practicing her letters. “You know, of Royal Pipelines.”

“If this is a sexual innuendo, I am going to have to knee you in the balls,” I said matter-of-factly. I did not, however, feel half as calm as I pretended to be. His mere presence rattled something deep in my stomach, and I felt nauseous with excitement.

“Don’t objectify me, lady.” He ripped a VLTN beanie from the back pocket of his designer jeans, slapping it on his head and covering his eyes with a sulk.

That thing cost four hundred bucks. I knew because I’d gotten something similar for Belle’s birthday. But that was a joint gift where her sister, parents, and cousin had also chipped in. Who on Earth was this guy?

“I come from the fourth richest family in the country.” He pouted, peeking through the edge of the beanie now, looking ridiculously yet adorably infantile.

“Good for you. Are there any more meaningless details about your life you’d like to share before I depart? Favorite color? Maybe the age when you lost your first baby tooth?” I hmm-ed.

But now that he’d said his name again, the penny dropped, and I understood why he was surprised I didn’t recognize him—mainly because everybody else in this city did.

Hunter Fitzpatrick was unfairly, undeniably, irrefutably stunning. Shockingly so. In a way that made me resent him simply because men that handsome aren’t trustworthy.

Let me amend—men in general aren’t trustworthy. The pretty ones were extra mean, though. That was a lesson I’d learned in high school that wasn’t in the syllabus.

Rumor around Boston was, Hunter’s parents had sent him to Todos Santos, California, four years ago after he got kicked out of a British school, hoping to clean up his act by settling him with his Bible-studying uncle and aunt, or at the very least keep him away from the East Coast press. The latter hounded the Fitzpatrick family, and Hunter specifically, seeing as he had the notable ability to act like an idiot. In fact, I remembered one particular headline referring to him as “The Great Ghastly,” after one of his pool parties back west ended up with two people breaking their limbs trying to jump from the roof into his pool.

Even from California, the rogue Fitzpatrick had managed to make headlines. According to the gossip mill, his sexual conquests were currently in the triple digits, and if angels got their wings every time he had a fling, heaven would be so severely overpopulated, they’d have to start building new, up-and-coming sections in hell.

Hunter’s hair was muddy gold, curling in angelic twists around his ears, temples, and the nape of his neck, enhancing his heart-stopping beauty. His eyes were narrow, almost slanted, and brilliantly light, a mixture of gray and powder blue with flecks of gold, and his high cheekbones, square jaw, and pouty lips gave him the elegance of a surly, spoiled prince. His nose was straight and narrow, his eyebrows thick and masculine, and he had that healthy, glowing tan of a man who got to see the better parts of the world.

Hunter’s body was discussed just as much as his antics. He’d played polo while he studied in the UK, and continued doing so privately after he got kicked out and moved to California. He was lean, muscular, and freakishly tall for a polo player. According to the rumors, he had enviable abs and a member the size of the Eiffel Tower.

In short, he screamed trouble, and not the kind I had time for.

“I have a proposition for you.” He tipped his nose up.

God, he was so arrogant I wanted to throw up on his Fear of God Jungle sneakers ($995, Emmabelle had once told me—at this point, he was a theft victim begging to be targeted).

“The answer is no.”

“That’s an untextured way of thinking. You haven’t even heard it yet.”

I raised my palm, smiling politely. “Based on your reputation alone, combined with the fact that we’ve been standing here for ten minutes and you still haven’t gotten to the point, I can deduce we are not a good match. For anything.”

“I need you to live with me for six months. But, like, in a sick-ass apartment downtown. Super rad shit.”

He completely ignored my rejection. Furthermore, he talked like he was doing me a favor. True, my parents were not on any list of the richest people in the country, continent, or outer space, but they did very well for themselves. In fact, I’d grown up in luxury. But like Mom, I rejected the idea that money equaled happiness. I found that oftentimes, the opposite was true.

“Oh,” I said cheerfully. “Well, in that case, the answer is still no.”

“Wait! I have something you want.” He had the audacity to close the driver’s door behind me, bracing his arms on either side of my shoulders, caging me in.

I stared at him, bewildered. Was he high or something? “What?” I spat, wishing someone would come out of the club, see us, and shoot an arrow through his skull. Another part of me—a teeny, tiny part—enjoyed the attention this fine male specimen was providing me. I made a mental note to drown that part of me in the bathtub when I got home.

“My da says if you agree to this deal, he’s willing to sponsor you all the way to the Olympics. Said he’ll make you a household name across America, and Boston’s sweetheart. I’m talking commercials, hooking you up with the best sports agent in America, get you a book deal. You’ll be famous, baby.” He offered me another one of his toothy-dimpled smirks.

“I don’t want any of those things. I just want to do what I love.”

“That’s cute, but I know Lana Alder from New Mexico is breathing down your neck in the archery department and might take your place on the squad. And she’s got beauty campaigns and movie deals coming out of her ass, so you might want to reconsider that big, fat rejection.”

“You did your homework,” I said sullenly. Lana was a sore subject for me. Her name alone made my skin crawl.

“First and last time.” He wiggled his brows.

I bit the tip of my thumbnail. He was right. My main competition was Alder, and she, unfortunately, was as gorgeous as she was talented. She was coming to Boston in five months so we could train together with Junsu, and had already secured more media coverage in my hometown than I’d had the entire year.

I shook my head. “No.”

“You sure? Same crib, separate rooms. My parents just want you to watch over me.”

“Why?” My eyes flared in annoyance. “Why me? Why not a willing girl? I’m sure there are lots to choose from.”

“That’s exactly why. You’re unwilling. They said you wouldn’t be persuaded or seduced—incorruptible. You have good character and know the meaning of responsibility.”

“Ehm, thank you.”

“Dear God, woman, that wasn’t a compliment.” He laughed.

I frowned. “Well, sorry to disappoint your parents, but the answer is still no.”

“Seriously?” He groaned when I swatted his arms away from me, opening the door again and slipping into my car before I could consider his crazy idea. “My da knows your da and gave him the skinny on things. Apparently, he is super into the idea. Ask him. Da can make your career. If you care so much about archery, do yourself a favor and bite the bullet, man.”

“My dad is influential, too,” I said, not quite believing the words leaving my mouth. Was battiness contagious?

“Your dad can influence the body count in Boston, but he is hardly a public figure. My old man, however, donated millions to build a new stadium for the Patriots. You need connections, Sailor. Let me help.”

I started my car with the door still open, fully tucked in, gripping the steering wheel and feeling my fingers going numb around it.

“You just have to make sure I’m sober and celibate. That’s it.”

I looked up at him, aghast. “Like, be your nanny?”

He shrugged. “I’m fully potty-trained, sleep through the night—sometimes well past the morning and afternoon—and can make a mean-ass omelet.”

“Can you stop using the word ass as an adjective, verb, adverb, and noun?” I half-asked, half-wondered.

“I’ll stop saying the word ass if you agree to my once-in-a-lifetime offer.” He pressed the button to lower my window so we could continue our conversation a second before I slammed the door in his face. Good instincts.

“This is crazy,” I mumbled.

“I’m going to take that as a yes.” He slapped my window frame, grinning.

Junsu would kill me if he ever learned of the deal. He said archery was a respectable art, not a Disney Channel special that required me to do press junkets—not that he was ever going to know about it. As far as he was concerned, that qualified as cutting corners. But I was falling behind the curve and knew Lana Alder could crush my Olympic dream—and take great pleasure in it, too.

Anyway, Dad would kill Hunter Fitzpatrick if he gave me trouble. And Sam, my brother, would get rid of the body. That was the beauty of coming from a mobster family.

It seemed like a no-brainer. I needed a big endorser to push me. That’s what everyone except Junsu kept telling me. My problem wasn’t lack of skill or talent, but that I was shy and too much of a wallflower to bring attention to myself.

Still, I said nothing.

Hunter bent his knees, pressing his palms together. “Help a dude out, old sport. I promise I’m not an asshole. I mean, I wouldn’t go as far as calling myself a good guy, but I’m harmless. My inheritance is on the line here. I just want both of us to survive this bitch of a time. I swear.”

He seemed genuine. Besides, how hard could this be? He was a willing participant in this weird deal. Plus, I’d been wanting to move out of my parents’ house for a while. They’d been bugging me about my love life—or lack of it—for a long time.

“How big is this apartment?” I groaned, feeling my resolution slipping through my fingers.

“Three bedrooms, about twenty-five-hundred square feet. Skyscraper. Walking distance from here. You can use the spare bedroom for your equipment.”

“Wow,” I blurted. That beat the studio apartments I’d been looking at to escape Mom and Dad’s constant put-yourself-out-there nagging.

“Also, there will be a private chef. I was just kidding about the omelet; I can barely open a can of alphabet pasta. And you can bring your friends and Bumble dates or whatever over. I’m an excellent wingman, Sailor. I will hand you a condom and call for an Uber to kick them out when it’s all done so you can shower and take a shit without playing hostess.”

“You’re gross.”

“Why? I’ll order them the deluxe service through my app. I’ll even risk my rating—which is four point nine eight, just saying—because that’s who I am as a person: an altruistic, stand-up guy.”

“Didn’t you do community service for public indecency recently after running down a street completely naked?” I frowned, recalling the article.

He waved me off. “That was a year ago. I’m a changed man.”

I was making a mistake. I knew that as I was making the decision. But my drive to succeed won the battle.

“What’s the drawback?” I narrowed my eyes. “If you need babysitting, there must be a reason for that.”

“Impulse control,” he said.

“Meaning?”

“Specifically speaking, I don’t have any. Just think of me, like, as Bambi: cute AF but super stupid and in total need of supervision.”

He just said aay-eff. Plus, he willingly labeled himself stupid. I felt kind of sad for him, before I remembered who he was.

“A few ground rules.” I sat back in the driver’s seat, my car still running.

Hunter’s diamond-sharp eyes twinkled at my surrender. “Anything.”

“One, as you said, we’ll have totally separate bedrooms.”

“So separate they’ll barely be in the same zip code.”

“Two, no drugs, drinks, or girls in the apartment. I’m not going to cut corners for you, and I’m not bribable, in case you’re planning on pulling any funny business.”

“No funny business.” He parked his elbows on the edge of my open window, shoving half his body inside and ignoring my personal space, not unlike an eager Labrador. “What else?”

“No hitting on me.”

“Done,” he said much too quickly, raising his palm in a Boy Scout swear. “Sized me up pretty quickly, huh?”

“Your reputation precedes you.”

“So does a certain organ.”

I lifted a hand in warning. “See? Exactly what I mean. You’re going to have to cut the BS, because dealing with your potty mouth is above this sitter’s pay grade.”

“Fine. No sexual innuendos. Can I tell Da it’s on?”

Everything was moving way too fast. I didn’t even fully grasp that Hunter was here, much less what I was agreeing to. But something told me he was the sign I’d been begging for earlier today. This airheaded, rakish boy was my good-luck charm. He was going to bring me to Tallinn Olympics next year.

Besides, Persy and Belle were going to have orgasmic seizures when they heard I’d be rooming with the Hunter Fitzpatrick.

And it wasn’t like I was breaking my no-boy rule until after the Olympics.

Hunter was a boy, but he wasn’t a good fit for me. I was in no danger of falling in love with him, of losing focus.

He grabbed my hand and shook it comically. I noticed his palm was softer than mine. Probably the only thing about him that wasn’t tarnished.

“Can I have one rule, too?” he asked.

“No,” I said flatly, then sighed. “Fine, what?”

“Don’t Google me.”

“Why?” And why was he still shaking my hand? And why, why, why wasn’t I withdrawing mine?

“Just because.”

Easy peasy, I told myself. Just like living with a really beautiful, useless picture.





As it happened, it was not just like living with a really beautiful, useless picture.

More like living with a Tasmanian devil, judging by the first five minutes of our so-called “roomance” (roommate-romance, as my mother, Sparrow, cheerfully—and creepily—put it).

A week after Hunter had cornered me outside the archery club, I officially moved into his West End apartment. Mom and Persy helped me with my suitcases and boxes. Belle had wanted to come, but she had “a thing.” Knowing my friend, that thing was attached to a man she was going to eat alive and discard after a few weeks of fun. The minute the three of us tumbled out of the private elevator and took in the apartment, we dropped whatever we were holding, our mouths slacking in unison.

At first glance, it was everything I’d expected it to be: scarcely and tastefully furnished, floor-to-ceiling windows, new kitchen appliances, not to mention a bird’s-eye view of Boston that made me fall in love with my hometown all over again. The colors were navy and deep burgundy, giving the place a rich-yet-trendy vibe.

However, on second look, the place looked like every raccoon in North America had raided it. Hunter’s clothes adorned most of the furniture—the couch, on top of the TV, coffee table, floor, even in the sink—and there were open takeout containers everywhere, including on top of the garbage can.

The modern, gray-accented open-plan kitchen was a whole new level of mess. Everything looked sticky. Food cans were open and dripping. I even saw a trail of ants marching their way from the floor up to an open jar of chipotle sauce on the kitchen island.

“Well,” Persy chirped cheerfully. “He said there’s a cook, so for sure there’s going to be a housekeeper, too. Besides, you have him by the balls. You can threaten him to keep the place tidy, or else you’re moving back with your parents. Right, Mrs. Brennan?” She placed a cardboard box on the sliver of open space on the coffee table, planting her hands on her hips.

“Actually, no. We’re making Sailor’s room a sex dungeon.” Mom gathered her red hair into a topknot with one hand, wheeling my suitcase to the hallway in the other.

I shot her a death glare. “Mom. Super, deeply gross.”

She laughed with her entire face. It made my heart squeeze. “We are planning to turn it into a second office. My paperwork is getting out of control, and there’s no point moving into a bigger condo.”

“Why not make Sam’s room a second office? He hasn’t been living at home for years.”

“Because I don’t worry about his social life,” Mom answered frankly. “And so, he is welcome to come back whenever he wishes.”

“Which would be never.” I scoffed. Sam was a notorious Bostonian bachelor with a taste for partying, Warren Beatty-style.

“My point exactly,” she concluded.

Great. Now I didn’t have a place to run back to if when this thing imploded. By the looks of this apartment, it already had.

I had no doubt my parents’ decision to convert my childhood room into a home office was to keep me here. They loved me dearly, but had begged me to be more social. If it were up to me, I’d be shooting targets and lazing around with the Penrose sisters until the end of time.

“You know what?” I turned around, facing both of them, trying to appear more upbeat than I actually was. In reality, I’d almost popped an artery. It had taken Hunter exactly ten seconds to piss me off. “I’m going to tidy up myself, arrange things the way I want them to be—set the tone for the next six months.”

In the week between the time Hunter propositioned me in the parking lot and now, our fathers had met numerous times to negotiate the terms of this insane, legally binding agreement. Mom and I had met Gerald and Jane Fitzpatrick so we could all sign the contract. Gerald was cold as a fish and Jane nice, but reserved. Hunter was absent from those meetings, and I had a feeling it was because Gerald was either worried he’d say something embarrassing, or because he didn’t want Hunter to feel like he had control over the situation.

“You sure?” Mom frowned at me. “We don’t mind staying, and you could use the extra help.”

“Positive, Mom.” I was already pushing them out the door. I knew they weren’t going to cooperate if I told them my plan.

Mom wasn’t hard to get rid of. She understood my independent streak and my need to do things my way, because I took after her in that department. Persy was another story. She was a do-gooder, innocent and agreeable to a fault. I sometimes wondered what drew me to my best friend, who was the same age as me, eighteen. We were polar opposites in both appearance and personality. She had long, wavy hair the color of sand, huge blue eyes, and the soft, traditional beauty of a rose in bloom. She was attending college like her parents wanted her to, and didn’t have one rebellious bone in her body.

I was wild, driven, and tunnel-visioned. I hid my scrawny body in ill-fitting clothes, loose tops, boy-sneakers, and jeans. Whereas Persephone, named after the Greek goddess who’d been stolen by Hades to live and rule the underworld with him, was quiet but confident, I was insecure to the bone. I loved Persy to death because we both possessed the two qualities I cared about the most: we were innately loyal and stayed away from the rumor mill.

In fact, that’s how we’d become friends. When I started elementary school, gossip about my father ran through the hallways like the Mississippi River. Troy Brennan was Boston’s infamous “fixer,” and it was said he had a substantial amount of blood on his hands. In spite of that, Persy and her older sister, Belle, sought me out and made sure I had someone to play with at recess and sit with in the cafeteria.

Belle was everything Persy and I weren’t: a nymph, a fallen goddess. Cunning and adventurous with a vicious tongue. Street smart and daring. The two of them by my side meant I wasn’t bullied, picked on, or harassed during my school years.

“Are you sure?” Persy screwed up her little nose.

“Yes.” I pushed her through the door. “Go!”

I spent the next three hours tidying the apartment up as best as I could, unpacking, putting things away in my room, and using the spare room to arrange my archery equipment, as per my agreement with Hunter. We hadn’t even exchanged phone numbers, but a deal was a deal.

As night rolled in, I collapsed onto the opulent, satin-upholstered sofa and groaned, my hair matted on my forehead. Two, perfect circles of sweat graced my shirt under the armpits, hardly an aphrodisiac.

I’d begun to drift off, despite my best efforts, when the doors to the private elevator of our penthouse floor slid open and Hunter walked in, carrying a few shopping bags.

“Yo, roomie, what’s shaking?” He jerked his chin in my direction, swaggering into the depths of the living room. He took the two steps down from the landing to the living area, discarded his bags on the coffee table, and sat on its edge, planting his elbows on his knees. His scent drifted into my nose: fabric softener and rich-boy musk that made my mouth water, no matter how much I hated him.

I peeked under my lashes, preparing myself for his gut-punching beauty. If I thought a week away from him would subdue his impact on me, I was sorely mistaken. His gray-blue eyes looked like winter stones, glimmering playfully, his cheeks ruddy from the evening wind, his lips swollen and full, and his tawny blond curls a perfect mess. Everything about him was male, sharp, and muscular.

“Got you a present.” He threw something into my hands.

A small envelope. When I opened it, I saw a Target gift card. Yes, the actual store. I rolled my eyes and smiled tiredly. “Thanks.”

“I like what you did with the place.” He looked around, picking up one of my feet from the coffee table and removing my holey sneaker. I watched in horror as he let the dirty shoe drop to the floor, took my socked foot, and began to dig his thumbs into it. At first, I tried to yank my foot away, but after hours of working—and years of training in general—my muscles were tense and rigid. The massage felt too deliciously good not to accept.

“What the hell are you doing?” I scowled, watching him put my foot atop his muscular thigh and massage it thoroughly. His thigh was so hard, I wondered what the rest of his body felt like.

STD. It feels like catching an STD, you moron.

There was no denying he was good with his hands, and I wondered how many girls had fallen for this trap.

“None,” he said, reading my thoughts as he smirked at me knowingly.

“W-what?” I stammered, hating myself for becoming an inarticulate mess.

His father shouldn’t have put all his trust in me. If he could see me with Hunter right now, he’d know how helpless I was—not that I was going to go lax on his son, but I was definitely not bulletproof to his charm.

“You’re wondering how many times I’ve done this as foreplay. The answer is never. I’m doing it because you look like crap and need a break, and because you cleaned our apartment even though the housekeepers arrive tomorrow.”

“Oh,” I said, feeling stupid but too exhausted to get riled up about it. “You really know how to compliment a girl.” I was tired of hearing how unattractive I was to this guy. Besides, everything he did—even the glorious massage—was braided in mockery, like he didn’t take anything seriously, ever.

“Would you like to be complimented?” He popped an eyebrow, digging his fingers deeper into my heel.

My eyes rolled in their sockets, and I let out a groan as the delicious pain unknotted my muscles. “I really don’t care.” I dropped my head to the back of the sofa, closing my eyes. “Where were you, anyway?” Now was a good time to start investigating him and show authority.

“Shopping.”

“With who?”

“My sister, Aisling.”

Funnily enough, I remembered his sister. His brother, too. I must’ve deleted Hunter permanently from my mind because he was a boy my age, gorgeous, and about as unattainable as planet Mars. Those things somehow made him an automatic enemy in my eyes.

“You’re going to love her. She’s appalled by everything male and fun, just like you.”

“I resent that statement.”

“You resent everything.”

Biting my tongue to keep from lashing out at him—solely because I knew I’d already gotten my vengeance for the day—I changed the subject.

“How do I know you weren’t out and about with some other girl?” I opened my eyes. He blew air through his cheeks, hiking his long, strong fingers from my foot to my ankle, kneading it in circles.

“For one thing, you’d know if I’d had sex, because I’d be rocking the after-orgasm glow.”

“I can’t believe I’m humoring this, but what does your after-orgasm glow look like?”

“I’m afraid I can’t fake it.” He winked, removing my leg from his thigh and returning it to the table gently. My heart missed one lonely beat at the loss of his touch before Hunter took my other foot and gave it the same treatment, removing my banged-up sneaker and massaging it heel to toes. “You’ll have to give me an orgasm to find out.”

“Hard pass,” I said.

He regarded me with amusement, trekking his fingers up my ankle. Silence engulfed us. Finally, he said, “Who’s gonna take care of Hunter Jr., then?”

“Your hand?” I suggested. “Or an apple pie, if you’re into cultural clichés.”

I wasn’t so hot on talking sex with Hunter—or with anyone at all, for that matter—but I didn’t want him to see how flustered I was, and he was obviously testing me. Belle and Persy would die if they heard I’d talked sex with the sex king himself. The minute I told them about my agreement with Hunter, they’d bombarded me with every piece of newsworthy gossip I’d somehow missed about my new roommate. Belle also mentioned something about wanting to ride him like a stolen bike.

“How about we strike a deal—if I play the doting saint all week and stay out of your way, I can sneak in a few fucks with a rando? I’ll have to bring her home because Da has people following me—I’ve already seen them around—but you can always help a bro out and tell the building staff they’re your friends.”

My eyes nearly popped out of their sockets, the blood in my veins heating with anger. “What?”

“Oh. ’Kay.” He lifted his palms. “Not a few fucks. Just the one. Twenty minutes. But this is my final offer.”

“No,” I said.

“Fine. Ten minutes. And I’ll make sure she keeps her voice down. Now that’s my final offer.”

He was going to be a terrible businessman.

“That’s not how final offers work, and the answer is still no.”

“What?” His smile dropped. “Why not?”

“I told you, I’m taking this agreement with your dad seriously.” I stood up.

It wasn’t a good idea to let him touch me while we were negotiating. It bothered me that, just like with all the other girls, his touch disarmed me of my logic. I gathered said logic back into my arms like shattered, miniscule pieces of what used to be a solid statue, trying to rearrange my thoughts.

Hunter got up, too, towering over me. My head reached his lower pecs. I had to crane my neck to meet his gaze.

“Word?” He changed his tune from pleasant to deadly serious. “You’re going to cockblock me for real?”

At least now I knew what had inspired the massage and the Target gift card.

“It’s not like I’m going to tell Da you’re sneaking chicks up for me. It’ll be our dirty little secret.”

“I don’t want any secrets with you.” I threw my hands in the air, exploding. “I don’t want anything with you, period. Your dad is right to follow you. You’re willing to toss your future away for sex.”

“I’m not supposed to choose.” He tousled his hair, the color of forged bronze. “Why do you have to be a narc? And while we’re on the subject, why are you weird? Why archery and not, say, Zumba? What the hell is wrong with you? You’re making everything harder.”

“By being honest?” I laughed hysterically, advancing toward my room.

He chased after me, again, his steps long and feral, making my heart leap to my throat, thumping its way farther up. I couldn’t remember the last time my pulse had pounded so quickly. Hunter jumped ahead of me and blocked my way to the hallway, resting his elbows on either side of the arched passage.

“Insecurity doesn’t look good on you, kid.” He smirked, taunting.

I felt the blush creeping up from my neck to the top of my head and knew my eyes were shimmering with humiliation and rage.

“You ugly, ugly kid. Are you a boy or a girl? Oh, never mind. I’ll take what’s yours, anyway”—the words that chased me to the end of world.

He reminded me of her.

He was the male version of her.

Of the girl who wanted to break me, so I’d vowed to break her first.

I wanted to throttle Hunter. He’d been so sure I was going to let him do whatever he wanted when he cornered me in the parking lot. He knew if he slept with another girl outside the apartment, his father would catch him. I was his only chance, and I wasn’t cooperating.

“Fuck you.” I bared my teeth.

“A few more weeks like this, and I’ll actually consider it, Carrot Top.” He thrust his face in mine menacingly. “What is it that you want? Money? Power? I can hook you up with one of my high-profile friends. Just say it, Sailor. Spit it out and you’ll have the paparazzi monitoring your every move. You’ll be the new Serena Williams. Everyone has a price.”

I shook my head. “Not me.”

“That’s fake news. You’re here, meaning you were already bought by my father. Now, what can I do to up my bid and switch your loyalties from him to me?”

Drop dead, I wanted to scream. Only that wasn’t true. If he dropped dead right here and now, I wouldn’t switch loyalties. I would, however, dance atop his corpse while thanking God for saving me from six months of torture.

Knowing our first encounters together were going to dictate the rest of our relationship, I yanked him by the collar of his shirt, bringing him closer to my face so we were nose to nose. I could breathe in his mouth. Cinnamon gum, mint, and a dirty, carnal kiss I would never let happen.

If he was shocked by my antics, his face didn’t show it.

“Listen to me carefully, Hunter Fitzpatrick. I may seem like an insecure, average-looking geek to you. And you know what? That’s who I am. I own it. But make no mistake, this insecure geek comes from a long line of people you do not want to screw with, and their savagery rubbed off on me as well. I will not hesitate to pierce your pretty, spoiled-prince heart with one of my pointy arrows. But you’re right. I do have a price. My success is my price. Beating Lana Alder at this game is my price. You have nothing to offer me in that department. You will be celibate, sober, and congenial. We will attend our family functions, play house, and be whatever our parents want us to be. And then we’ll part ways and never speak to each other again. Am I clear?”

Rather than answering me, he shook off my touch, turned around, and stalked down the hall to his room. He threw his door open and slammed it behind his back. I waited in the hallway with my arms crossed, knowing the real explosion was seconds away.

Hunter was right. He did cave to his impulses and react thoughtlessly.

“Three,” I whispered, holding three fingers in the air. “Two, one.” I curled them one by one, my eyes trained on his closed door. Every fiber in my body shook with adrenaline, fear, and amusement.

“Showtime.” I snapped my fingers.

Hunter burst from his room, his cheeks flushed, his eyes darkened. Two full moons.

“The fuuuuuuuuuck!”

He drew the letter U to oblivion and back. His hands were filled with junk: the open tin cans still leaking suspicious sauces, his dirty clothes, a pair of designer shoes, and a joystick. “You dumped all the garbage in my room. Are you crazy?”

“Nice This is Sparta moment. All of this belongs to you.” I sloped my chin up, my voice stern. “Thought you’d appreciate getting it back, since it was thrown all over our mutual space.”

He stared at me in shock, like I was a wild, battered animal he had to tame, a rodent vandalizing this expensive penthouse. “You’re insane.”

I smiled sweetly. “Been called worse.”

“Now I get it.” He dropped the garbage to the floor, pointing at me. “You’re my punishment for what I did. He chose the craziest bitch in Boston to set me straight, the old bastard.”

Maybe Hunter was right. Maybe his father had heard just how much of an unbearable, career-centered party pooper I was. Although technically, I couldn’t be called a party pooper, since I never attended any.

“Make sure you keep the place tidy, Hunter. With or without housekeepers, I don’t want to live in filth, not even for one hour. Have a good night, roomie,” I finished, walking into my room and slamming the door in his face.

1-0, away team.





The important thing to remember was, my balls weren’t going to fall off.

I’d Googled it a few times (twenty-three times, if we’re being specific here) to be on the safe side. It was confirmed: I could live for six months without having sexual intercourse and still survive. Physically. My mind was another matter. If I was going to lose it in the process, I was going to tear Sailor Brennan limb from limb, then sew her back together into a sex doll.

The spitfire, copper-haired banshee said we weren’t going to talk to each other after our six months were up, but she was wrong for assuming she could get rid of me that easily. I was already fantasizing about killing her in various positions, landscapes, and with different weapons once this was over. Cue to:

Me strangling Sailor against a Sicilian sunset.

Me slitting Sailor’s throat while we wore matching swimsuits in the Bahamas.

Me pushing Sailor off an aerial tramway on a picturesque Aspen vacation.

Sometimes in the fantasies she was asleep, but more often than not she was wide awake and fully conscious, witnessing her demise.

I’d spent the night on the couch because I didn’t want to sleep in my garbage-filled room, and there was no way I was cleaning up the mess she’d left there.

Look, maybe I wasn’t completely innocent. In the time before Sailor inhabited this place, I might have thrown myself a pity party and dirtied up my new apartment to make shit uncomfortable for her, too. But she didn’t have to make a big deal about it.

I slept in nothing but my boxer briefs. When I woke up with a hard-on like a supersized German sausage—the kind that makes you wrestle with your own dick during your morning pee—I hoped she’d caught a glimpse of it before she scurried along to her boring day of shooting objects and skipping off into the sunset, holding hands with her hymen.

That’s right, Sailor. You aren’t the only asshole under this roof with a deadly weapon.

Which brought me to my next point—who the fuck does that? Just took shots at nothing? She didn’t hunt or do anything productive with her talent, just aimed at useless targets. Why was this an Olympic sport? Archery was checkers for anal people.

“Sir, we’re here,” my driver murmured from the front seat.

My first day working for Da and Cillian. And I needed to somehow pass my college exams this year. I was going to split community college in the evenings and work during the day fifty-fifty. I wasn’t a math genius, but even I knew that left zero time for having a life. Da had really ridden my ass this time around, bided his time while I was having fun in California before he shoved a ten-inch dildo up my rectum. I was feeling sore and tender even before he got the goddamn tip in.

We were on day two of one hundred and eighty-two, but who the fuck was counting?

(Answer: me. I was counting.)

I stumbled out of the executive car and shouldered through the human traffic of downtown Boston, dragging my feet into Royal Pipeline’s crazy-tall, chrome skyscraper that ninety-five percent of Bostonians actively hated so much, there had been frequent demonstrations outside when they started building. The monster had ruined the city’s skyline, but it was who was inside it that had personally ruined my life.

The best thing about the day, other than not spending it with Sailor Goddamn Brennan, was that I got to wear a Brioni suit. Wearing suits was my favorite. I didn’t even pretend to need an occasion. I went to parties, the movies, and restaurants looking like Jay Gatsby.

I spent half an hour with security getting my name tag, electronic card, and a ton of other bullshit, then proceeded up to the eighth floor, where my father’s office was.

I skulked over to main reception and approached a pretty receptionist with eyes so vacant she could pass as a life-sized Barbie.

Bet she can bend her knees, though.

“’Sup. Hunter Fitzpatrick’s in the house.” I parked an elbow on her counter. “Where’s my office?”

Two severe-looking men behind me snorted to each other, shook their heads, and walked away. The blonde stared at me with a mix of horror and reluctance. Maybe I was giving her aggressive vibes because I hadn’t had my dick sucked in almost two weeks.

“E-e-electronic card?” she stuttered, almost flinching. I was persona non grata inside these glass walls, which led me to believe I wasn’t seeing the entire picture. Why was she scared?

I flashed her the card I’d received when I entered the building, letting it snap back into my front blazer’s pocket after she scanned it.

“F-f-follow me.”

With the ginger steps of a lab mouse, she led me past the main area of the office space, which had gold-and-black marble flooring, floor-to-ceiling windows, and long desks occupied by MacBooks, hot-ass secretaries, personal assistants, and mail boys running busily from corner to corner.

Enveloping the room were fishbowl-like offices. The biggest one belonged to Da, followed by Cillian’s (second biggest), and Syllie’s (third biggest). Blondie led me to an ancient-looking oak desk that appeared to have been dragged from Dr. Frankenstein’s basement, complete with a phone and a computer monitor from the eighties. You know, the brick-like thing that resembles a medieval weapon. The makeshift station was glued to my father’s glass wall.

“The fuck is this shit?” I inquired through a tight, gentlemanly smile.

“T-t-that’s your work area. R-r-right outside your father’s office, so he can overlook your p-p-progress.” She said the entire sentence like it had been rehearsed a thousand times over.

I turned to stare at her, frowning. So that’s why she was scared. She thought I was going to kill the messenger. In truth, I would maybe choke her while letting her jerk me off in the communal restrooms if she was into that kind of stuff. As I’ve said, I’m not a violent man.

She cleared her throat, straightening her spine.

“Y-y-your father said if you have an issue, you should take it up with HR and t-t-then—”

Instead of waiting for her finish the sentence sometime next year, I saw myself into my father’s office, flinging the glass door open and stepping in briskly, a pleasant smile on my face. Blondie ran after me, stuttering her apologies to Da, Syllie, and Cillian. Both men sat in front of Da at his desk, hunched over a blueprint.

I waved Blondie off. “Show’s over, sweetheart. You can go back to watching The Masked Singer under your desk, thinking nobody knows what you’re doing. It’s been real.”

I wanted to slam the door in her face for effect, but it was one of those fancy, slow-moving doors, so we all stood there for eight seconds, watching it anticlimactically slithering its way shut. Behind the glass, I could see shock and horror on her face.

I turned around to my father, opening my arms with a fake smile. “Athair,” I said. Father in Gaelic. “So happy to see you. And by happy, I mean why would you continue pushing me when you’ve already taken everything?”

I didn’t care that Cillian and Syllie were there. Syllie was practically family, and Cillian was family. Regretfully, that is.

Current mood song: “Greek Tragedy” by The Wombats.

“Ceann beag, I see celibacy is eating at both your brains and manners.” Cillian arched an eyebrow a shade darker than mine.

Everything about the fucker was darker than me—soul included. I’ve always thought it ironic that Cillian and villain contain so many of the same letters.

“He never had brains to begin with, so don’t waste your time worrying about them being eaten.” My father returned to frowning at the document spread on the desk, blueprints of the new refinery everybody was talking about downstairs. He pushed his reading glasses up the bridge of his nose, his Sharpie hovering over the paper. “What’s the matter now, ceann beag?” he asked.

Ceann beag meant little one in Gaelic, which would have been endearing if it weren’t for the fact that I wasn’t the baby of the family. That was Aisling. I was the middle child. Way I saw it, I simply got the smallest chunk of my father’s heart out of us three.

“Is your roommate not to your taste?” A hint of a smirk tugged at the side of my father’s mouth as he made notes with a red Sharpie all over the blueprint.

I didn’t take the bait. He was waiting to hear how much I hated straight-laced, ball-busting Sailor. Which, granted, I did, but why give him the satisfaction?

“Sailor? She is grand. Fucking hot, too. Shame I’m celibate these days,” I tooted, draping a shoulder over one of his glass walls. I knew it was the ultimate taunt. If my father was under the impression that I was fucking Sailor while I was not fucking Sailor, and Sailor denied it vehemently—which she would—Da would have to continue honoring his deal with both of us.

Troy Brennan, Sailor’s da, supposedly gave the Grim Reaper a run for his money. That meant Sailor was going to walk away with all that was promised to her, and I with all that was promised to me. Even my father wasn’t dumb enough to poke a guy like Brennan with the insinuation that I’d screwed his baby girl.

I hadn’t had the displeasure of meeting Brennan yet, so it was easy to use his daughter as a pawn.

My father’s face fell as he tore his eyes from the blueprint, scanning me.

“If everything is grand and dandy, why are you here, in my office, uninvited?”

I pointed at my station outside his door. “A dog bed would have been more fitting.”

“Perhaps, but not in sync with the general design,” Da finished, putting his Sharpie between his teeth and clamping on it with a smile.

“Am I also to get the catering scraps after the rest of the team is done eating lunch?”

“Provided you behave like a civilized gentleman and not a Girls Gone Wild dropout.”

He was enjoying this exchange, and all the fucks I hadn’t given throughout the years were starting to mount into an impressive sum. I cared, and I was furious. Specifically, I cared about how much my family hated me. It was bad enough I had zero friends in Boston and avoided my family like the plague, now I had to spend my days sitting in a permanent naughty spot outside Da’s office.

“I want an office,” I clipped.

“Earn it,” my father challenged. “You haven’t one serious bone in your body.”

Other than my boner.

Okay, fuck. Not constructive.

“Now, now.” Syllie stood up, motioning with his hands to calm the storm brewing in the office. He was a lanky man, pale as a corpse, the dark, closely shaved stubble over his skin giving his jaw a bluish hue.

It didn’t surprise me that Cillian remained quiet. Watching Da give me the third degree was his favorite pastime, aside from sacrificing virgins and kittens to Satan, maybe.

“Let’s calm down here,” Syllie suggested. “How about I switch things around and get him a desk with the assistants? It’ll be easier for him to learn that way.”

“No,” Da boomed. “He will be where I can see him. Kill and I will teach him the ropes ourselves.”

“I understand. But Hunter is still a Fitzpatrick and needs to be crowned as one to show solidarity. With all due respect—” Syllie began amiably.

Now it was Cillian’s turn to rise to his feet, waving his fingertips dismissively, as if the old man was a common servant. I didn’t think it was possible for Cillian to breathe without looking perversely patronizing.

“Thank you,” he snapped at Syllie, who was twice his age. Bastard.

“What for?” Syllie frowned.

“Excusing yourself and giving us our privacy. Off you go.”

“But…”

“Be graceful in defeat.” Kill flashed a wolfish smirk, toothy with a promise to bite when provoked. “You are embarrassing yourself, and the boy. Leave.”

Sylvester glared at him, his mouth hanging, before he nodded and ambled over to where I was standing, by the door. He put his hand on my shoulder, shooting me a sympathetic smile.

“Welcome back, Sonny-boy,” he whispered.

I squeezed his hand on my shoulder, half-nodding. As soon as Sylvester exited, I turned to my brother. “Fuck, man, you’re a cunt.”

“And to think you spent twelve years’ private school tuition for that mouth.” Cillian rolled the blueprint on the desk neatly, his back to me. Fucker never cursed. “Is it too late to ask for your money back, Athair?”

“Unfortunately, yes, mo órga.” My golden.

“My bad for being alive. For what it’s worth, I wish I’d been pulled out before conception,” I muttered, unable to stop my mouth from running.

I was the only Fitzpatrick whose trash talk rivaled that of our ancestors, who’d arrived in Massachusetts on ships from Ireland as dusty-ass sailors with the vocabulary of gutter rappers.

Both men looked at me with open disdain. I hated it, hated that they were united and had a father-son relationship, that I was a stranger in this town, in this building, and in their home, where I wasn’t welcome.

“Speaking of pulling out…” My brother turned toward me.

I’d forgotten how tall Cillian was. He filled his Armani suit like he was born in it. His brown hair was trimmed to neat perfection, his eyes golden and flaxen, just like his nickname—mo órga.

“Is your sex tape still making the rounds on the internet?” he asked.

After I’d boarded my father’s Gulfstream from San Diego to Boston, I found out he’d appointed a team of six IT wizards to try to take that bitch down—not only from cyberland, but to steer the media clear of the story.

That only went to show that Da had no idea how the internet worked. If it was there for a second, it was there forever. There was always going to be someone to save and repost it. I didn’t wanna break the news that even he didn’t have enough juice to alter the internet, so I let him have his moment in the viral sun. But I had no illusions. That video was there to stay.

When I’d shown my face at Avebury Court Manor before fucking off to my dick-shaped building, Mom had asked me if I wasn’t worried my future wife would see it. I’d told her if she watched it, she’d see she had every reason to be thrilled about my performance.

Real talk, though? I wasn’t going to get married in a million years. Why buy a cow when you can develop lactose intolerance by drinking milk from every single tit in your vicinity? I’d seen my friends fall in love and go to extreme lengths to get the girl. It seemed like a giant drag.

“Nope.” I smirked smugly at Cillian, trying to save whatever was left of my pride. I was slowly coming to terms with the fact that my father was going to ruin the next six months for me, and I just had to see this shit through. “All clear. As far as people are concerned, I’m as golden as you are, old sport.”

It sucked that I couldn’t even remember the stupid orgy that got me into trouble. I’d love to hold on to those precious memories whenever I had to deal with Da or Kill.

“Stop saying old sport. You’re not The Great Gatsby,” my father said.

“Kill thinks everything is a pissing contest,” I growled.

“Everything is a pissing contest. Those who lose are the ones who whine about it.”

“Bet, yo.” I popped my cinnamon gum, nodding.

“Bet? Yo?” Kill looked at me like I was a horrific car accident. “Who talks like that? What do you have against the English language? You seem to butcher it whenever the opportunity presents itself. Did English hurt you when you were young? Show me where on the doll.”

“Here.” I pointed my index to my temple, my hand gun-shaped, and puffed my cheeks, pretending to shoot myself in the head.

My brother shook his head and left me with my father. It was odd to share the same space with Da without someone buffering us, a very rare occasion indeed.

Da had always seemed to have a soft spot for innocent Aisling, and he was enamored with devilishly smart and self-possessed Cillian. I was the savage creature who lacked that Fitzpatrick shine, and we both knew why, but neither of us had the balls to say it out loud.

My father removed his glasses and discarded them atop his desk, leaning back in his seat.

“Remember the document I showed you? The one in which I removed you from our will?” he asked.

“Not a sight I’ll soon forget.” I spat my gum into the trash can across the office, slam-dunking it seamlessly from my mouth. I wasn’t embarrassed to admit I wanted my family fortune, bad. My inheritance was my only chance at survival. I wasn’t good at anything, other than fucking and throwing parties. The only thing those traits qualified me to become was a Vegas showgirl. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the rack for that.

“I sent it to my attorney, signed by both your mother and me.” He tapped his chin, as if mulling his words over.

I felt the inside of my veins scorching, my hands curling into fists beside my body. “Why would you do that when I’ve agreed to your terms?” I asked, more calmly than I gave myself credit for. Hysteria didn’t get you far in the Fitzpatrick household. The more emotional you were, the better chance you had at getting your heart crushed by Da and Kill.

“Told them to hold on to it until you finish your six-month stint, just to make sure you knew how seriously your mother and I are taking this matter.”

I said nothing. I was at his mercy, and it made me furious. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to go to college and find something to fall back on. I looked out the window at the looming skyscrapers of Boston. My fingers wrapped around the wooden horse on my neck.

“Stop clutching your pearls, and don’t mess it up with the Brennan girl,” Da growled.

Dropping my hand from the Dala horse, I bit the inside of my cheek until I felt the warm saltiness of blood rolling in my mouth.

“Now get the hell out of my office and make your workspace your new home.”

“Yes, sir.”




At one point, I thought the day couldn’t get any shittier, but I shouldn’t have underestimated it. I spent the next few hours reading all the available material about Royal Pipelines and familiarizing myself with the company’s policy, history, and origins.

There was a shit-ton of stuff I didn’t know about it.

Like the fact that in 2015, GreenWorld activists had shut down sixty-eight of our stations in the US to protest our drilling in the Arctic.

Or that we were one of the first companies in the US to employ special needs persons, or that there were several schools in East Asia and Africa named after my family, because we’d funded them.

Royal Pipelines seemed to be a double-edged sword: good for some communities, disastrous for others. I wondered if Da and Kill even gave a flying fuck about shitting all over the environment. My guess was they didn’t.

After a day from hell, my demeaning, piece-of-shit brother tested me on my knowledge about the company and sent me back to my desk with six more thick-ass books to read. That’s how I found myself wobbling out of the office at seven o’clock, starving, missing my first evening class at college, and with a headache that felt like someone threw a rave in my skull, and every bitch in attendance wore high heels.

All I wanted was to get a cab, go back home, and shove my face into whatever dish the cook had made that day. I ordered an Uber and stood on the curb of the downtown street, watching the velvet blue night descending over the yellow-lit street. A