Authors: Luna Lacour
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary, #Romance, #Contemporary Fiction
All rights reserved. This book or any portion may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher, except for the use of brief quotations within reviews.
This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Credit to Vladimir Nabokov
for use of brief quotation.
, Ch. 25)
Editing by T. Benner
Cover by Luna Lacour
For those closest, who kept me going
when I was almost too scared to finish this.
These violent delights have violent ends
and in their triumph die, like fire and powder
which as they kiss, consume.
― William Shakespeare,
Romeo and Juliet
[There is one thing, first and foremost, that you should know about this story:
it all started with a game.
On the morning before meeting William Tennant, there was a metallic ring in the air; the clouds were nothing but wisps of Fuchsia against a blood-orange sunrise. I was wide awake, my body sunken into soft bedding. I couldn't sleep that night, and in hindsight, maybe I should have taken it as some kind of sign.
I stepped out onto the balcony – all covered in the greedy Moon Flower vines that were already beginning to close – and glanced out over the garden. Everything glistened in the morning dew; frozen, ethereal. Water cascaded from the fountain basins, cradled in the arms of some cherubic-looking thing with otherwise empty eyes. In the not-so-far distance, a high, iron-wrought sheltered me from the outside world. From the smoke-billowing sidewalks and trench-coat wearing fiends with knives and other hidden weapons.
Inside the fence, cooped up in my enviable Upper East Side mansion, I was left to my own devices. My own deeds. My own means of escape and worldly deviances.
Not that I had many.
Standing by the pool was our hired landscaper. He was maybe around eighteen or nineteen, shirtless, gazing down at the low water as he lowered a net to catch the fallen leaves. Scooping them up and throwing them into a sopping pile. Colby, his name was. He was all man, lean and heavy-lidded, his eyes bright green and hair nearly cropped to the skull. Glistening gold speckled against the perfect curve of his head when the light hit his skin, and while he wasn't exactly my type (I craved a more brooding, pensive face) he was undeniably lovely.
He cupped his hands beneath the water, withdrawing, of all things, a pair of black-lace panties. I covered my mouth, muffling the laughter that would so easily bubble up like fizzy tonic.
I grinned inwardly.
Oh, you would.
Colby tossed them aside, cringing only briefly before returning to the task at hand. Dipping, tossing; the sounds of water gentle and calm. I wondered how he kept so composed, given that although it was surprisingly warm for February, there was still a tinge of frost in the air. The roses that surrounded him, hidden in shriveled, dried carcasses, had yet to blossom and bloom.
It's not that I was trying to be creepy or anything; I was simply curious. I enjoyed the moments when I was able to watch the scenes of day-to-day life unfold like film stretched over a cinema screen. In fact, one of my favorite activities was people-watching; namely people of the streets. Regular people. Average people. Families or businessmen all clad in suits and sunglasses. Children with their sticky fingers; faces covered in chocolate and candy-coated sweets. Couples strolling with their fingers interlaced, their eyes all wide and full of dripping affection, like the water that swam in their pupils could spill out at any moment. I'd watch them as they laughed and sighed, clutching my too-expensive purse with a vague, pulsating envy.
My second favorite thing was watching my step-brother, Marius, while he played piano in the Great Room; his Armani shirt unbuttoned to reveal a stretch of sun-kissed skin. Sweat dripping between two focused, pale-blue eyes as his fingers worked quickly, satiating him in a way that only one other activity could: fucking women.
Neither Marius nor I got along particularly well, but we had learned to co-exist. He loathed the fact that I was spoiled (not that he wasn't) and I hated his attitude. His arrogance disgusted me more than just about everything involving my opulent, status-obsessed, admittedly blessed socialite lifestyle. Not that, despite my residing in a bedroom with enough lace and white-frosted furniture to render a toddler jealous, I was some kind of princess. I wasn't. I was a mix of two things, and two things only: curiosity and a speckling of selfishness. My heart could have very well been lost in the rosebushes, making company with other shriveled, equally-dead companions.
My only saving grace, truly, was my ability to fool.
On my left hand, gracing a slender finger, was a white-gold ring; a small, unblossomed rosebud was at the center. A purity ring, in layman’s terms, and I never took it off. Not that it made me a better person, or more virtuous than anyone else. Bullshit, really. All of it was. But that didn't change the fact that I had never engaged in the typical sexual acts that so many of my peers spoiled on and on about in the bathrooms or clustered hallways, whispering their secret escapades during sweet, whipped-cream-and-pillow-fight sleepovers.
I fucked him in the backseat of my father's car -
we did it while my parents were asleep, outside in the piazza. The stars, you know, they were so beautiful.
A facade of innocence; an illusion of goodness. That's all it was.
But I liked it.
“So take the ring off,” Marius had said. “I mean, it's really the stupidest thing. A tacky piece of jewelry. I don't wear a ring.”
Marius grabbed my hand, his five-fingered grip sending a sharp pain up my forearm. He examined me like some kind of specimen. My nails, bitten down and chewed up, much to my father's disdain, caused him to cringe.
“But you've already made your mark. You'll fuck anything with a pair of legs,” I spat. He glared down at me, releasing me and laughing when I tumbled backward. Thankfully, my bed was there to catch the fall.
“Wrong. I don't sleep with anything that doesn't have the ability to consent.”
“I wouldn't exactly call grooming and a heavy dose of blackmail consent, Marius.”
“Whatever,” he snapped, storming off and slamming the door behind him. I stayed on the bed, listening to the sound of his footsteps as they rang with a melodramatic stomp down the hallway. His door slammed; I smiled into my silk coverlet, perfectly contented to have succeeded in what I suppose could be considered my third favorite activity: acknowledging my prowess at getting under someone's skin.
Colby coughed, immediately yanking me out of my daze, and I shot him another glance. He was now crouched over the underwear, perplexed and scratching the back of his head. I imagined what it would be like, just briefly, to sleep with him. From initial inspection, I figured he would likely be aggressive. The kind of guy that moved softly at first, but after several slow, craving kisses would rip off your clothes and tear into you like a rabid animal. His muscles were taut, highly-defined. His lips were full, pillowy. No doubt he was experienced, and there was no doubt in my mind that I stood a very good chance, if I were bold enough, to score with him. I tried to picture it: the stunned widening of his eyes, the painful swallow. But after a few moments, he'd soften, touch the side of my face with a calloused palm when I looked up at him (doe-eyed, cheeks flushed) and following those few seconds of hurried decision-making, he'd take me right there in the garden. On grass that would crush like glass beneath our bodies.
When he saw me, he smiled warmly and waved. I returned the gesture, trying to mimic his ability to connect with something so simple as a smile.
Inside, I ran a hot shower and watched my reflection slowly fade. I trudged into the glass stall, slipping fingers through my hair, down my neck, chest, stomach, and stopping at my abdomen. My eyes opened into the spray of brandishing water, the steam suffocating.
I slid to the floor like a broken mannequin, closing my eyes and covering my face. I was numb, then. Every inch of skin felt nothing.
It's a scary thing, feeling nothing at all. It only serves to remind you that you're capable of anything. Even if it ends in disaster.
At the dining room table sat my father, who was busying himself with some business article and simultaneously grinding his teeth; a habit he had developed since my mother's untimely departure. She had left years back after having a long-concealed affair with a man who sailed yachts, and sold them, too. The story was ancient history for some.
But my father never really recovered. He just remarried.
I sat down, cutting him a glance. He grasped the newspaper with both hands, turning the pages noisily while rambling on about the newest line of clothing branches that he would be rolling out later in the Spring. These, of course, were undoubtedly
to those that were currently nestled in between the great chains belonging to those of the other corporate Giants. My bloodline was traced back to the early garment business, which blew up and exploded like the grandest of fireworks. Catered to females, mainly. Vintage things, jewels, perfume. This provided me with a respectable name that I would only lose upon marriage. I was a
, which in my father's eyes was only second to God. It was the name that had acquainted us with a comfortable living. It had also granted my father boasting rights, which was a role he assumed with great dignity.
“Morning,” I mumbled. My father nodded, still dressed in his crimson robe with the golden drawstring tied lazily around his waist. His hazel eyes narrowed as he focused on the paper, running large fingers through a crop of salt-and-pepper locks. For just shy of fifty, the man had aged well. He had the same youthful smile of someone twenty years younger, but a seasoned look about him that often made women swoon.
And of course, money helps.
My step-mother, Vivian, sat at the table with her eyes looking sufficiently glazed-over. She was a terribly vapid woman. I almost felt sorry for her. She gave no mind to it, though; enjoying her mimosa with a giggle at every sip, like the drink was telling her a secret joke or something equally hilarious.
“You don't think it's a little early?” I asked her.
“Kaitlyn,” my father started. “Don't speak to your mother that way.”
“Step-mother,” I corrected, watching the red rise in his cheeks. But he didn't say anything else.
“Where's Marius?” I asked lightly. “Or do I get a break this morning from him? Really, I wouldn't mind.”
My father rolled his eyes. He was a decent enough man, I can't lie. Quick tempered, but not a monster by any stretch of the imagination. I couldn't hate him, but the large majority of my respect for his decision-making had shredded since his remarriage to my Barbie-doll figure of a replacement parent. Stick-thin, coiffed hair and always omitting a too-sweet perfume that I positively could not stand. No matter how many times I hid or smashed the bottles, they were always restocked with such immediacy that it was as if her damn life depended on smelling like chemical-infused baby powder and Lilies of the Valley.
A loud clatter in the foyer startled the three of us. Marius dropped his bag, skulked into the dining room, and sat down.
“Practice was heavy,” he said. No hello, no greeting whatsoever. “I got into an intense match with one of the guys, nearly knocked him ass-backward.”
“Language, please,” my father said. “I hope you don't go walking around campus with a mouth like that.”
I forced myself to suppress a smile, yawning and swapping my focus to the bowl of fruit that I poked at with an honest disinterest.
“Fascinating,” I said, squinting into a green grape, which strangely resembled a human eyeball. “Fencing, though. Really? Such a rich boy's sport.”
“Oh?” Marius raised an eyebrow, perfect Vulcan arches. “And lying around in the garden all morning constitutes as what?”
We stared at each other with such an intensity that you wouldn't have been able to slice through it with a serrated blade. It wasn't until Vivian finally cleared her throat that the two of us turned, just slightly, to acknowledge her.
“Both of you. Stop it,” she said. “And Marius, don't snap at your sister.”
She treated Marius like he was this precious thing. Like he was a teddy bear, full of soft stuffing and warm fuzzies. She had no idea what he was really full of. But Marius replied with the simple raising of his glass, tilting his drink back, his lip twitching in the corner. After a long sip, he set the glass down and sighed.
“You're right. I'm sorry, Kaitlyn. I'll try to be a better brother from hereon out.”
“Step-brother,” I corrected.
His eyes flared, but he suppressed a comment. Instead, Marius went on about the end-of-break masquerade that the Headmaster of Trinity Prep would be holding that evening. His daughter - a whimsy, fair-haired girl named Piper – had shared a few classes with me. Everyone would be there, which only translated into something I wouldn't be able to avoid.
On the other hand, that wasn't why Marius wanted to attend. He had his own personal reasons.
When the dishes were cleared, I followed Marius up the winding steps, down the hall, and into his bedroom. When the door was shut, he turned to me, taking three steps forward before finally pausing.
“You're a real gem sometimes.”
“Yeah?” I asked. “Well, I know exactly why you're going to that dance.”
“Masquerade,” Marius pressed the tip of my nose like it was a button. “And please, indulge me.”
He sat down on his bed, casually pushing aside his journal; this, of all things, was his most prized possession. I'm not entirely sure what he filled the pages with, but I assumed it was mostly his victories. He would never let me look.
“You're going to try and fuck Piper Whitman, aren't you?”
The question tumbled out more hoarsely than I had intended, and Marius cocked his head to the side. After a second or two of radio static, he stood and crept toward me like a looming elf; something much too fantastic to have such perfect features. Each tawny-colored hair on his head was perfectly placed, the strands separated only by sweat and resting between pale, liquid blue eyes.