The pressure of a hand squeezing my boob pulled me from my deep sleep. A dull ache lingered in my temples, which wasn’t a shock considering I drank my weight in vodka the night before. My eyes shifted from side to side, trying to determine where the Hell I’d landed myself this time. They lingered on an orange colored rust stain on the ceiling. Super gross. The result of a leaky roof, I’m sure, because obviously the place was a complete dump. Piles of clutter lined the walls; stacked papers, mounds of dirty clothes and who knows what other random junk.
Boy, I sure can pick ‘em.
I’d slept on merely a crappy mattress on the floor. No sheets. No blankets. Only a ratty-assed comforter – probably older than me – to cover myself.
As my eyes finally adjusted to the dim light filtering through the window, I could see a form attached to the hand on my chest. He began to move slightly, rubbing up against my leg with his unimpressive cock. Thankfully, the scraps of blanket covered most of him. Everything but his face. He wasn’t bad looking, this person. Now, if I could only remember his name…
Jonathon? Hmm, maybe.
Shit. Did it really matter? Time for me to get the Hell out of Dodge. At least before this guy opened his eyes and decided to finish his morning grope session.
As I shimmied out of his grasp and off the provisional bed, my hand landed on the supple leather of my black mini skirt. Score. I tugged it up my legs, my eyes skimming over the rest of the dump for my shirt. I did, at that moment, take notice that I was still wearing my black bra. So either we never made it that far last night, or the lazy asshole didn’t even bother to take it off of me.
I’m gonna put my money on door number two.
I quietly snatched my tank top off of the makeshift nightstand and pulled it over my head. Heaving my purse up over my shoulder, I tiptoed across the junk-littered floor toward the front door.
“Shit,” I whispered. “Shoes.”
I knelt down and moved some dirty clothes and other random crap out of the way. My hand brushed something sticky and I instantly pulled back. The jackass had tied off the condom and just thrown it on the floor. Disgusting. A slender heel caught my eye under a stained t-shirt. Using only the tips of my fingers, I lifted it off my shoes, grabbed them and hightailed it out of there.
After pushing through the front door, I scanned the area in search of any clue as to where I’d ended up last night. I hooked a left down a narrow sidewalk and passed trailer after trailer until hitting the main road. I held my phone up to the sky and kept walking, hoping like hell my cell service would kick in so I could call a cab.
I wasn’t new to this game. In fact, this was old hat for me. No one did the walk of shame better than this girl. Except there was one tiny problem… I had no shame. None whatsoever. So I guess, then, you would just call this a walk?
The cab pulled up and the window slowly lowered. “You the one that called for a ride?”
“Where to this morning?”
I shimmied my body into the backseat and pulled the door shut. “South Shore.”
The cab driver turned to look at me with wide eyes. Obviously wondering, since I looked like a complete slutty mess, why would I ask to be taken to the wealthiest part of town?
“Yeah, yeah. I know. Just drive,” I muttered as I closed my eyes, trying to calm my nauseous, hung over stomach.
My name is Katherine Willis. Everyone calls me Kat. You could say I come from a wealthy family.
You would be wrong.
I come from a stinking rich, so ridiculously wealthy family, that you would literally piss yourself if you saw my parent’s bank statements.
Yeah. That rich.
And you want to know what it means to me?
Absolutely jack shit.
All my life I’ve been paraded around like a freaking showpiece to my parent’s friends, presented as the beautiful and classy Katherine Willis. Except behind the scenes they wanted nothing to do with me. I learned at a very early age that you could hire a person for anything. Cooking, cleaning, lawn care – and, of course, to love and raise your only child.
You see, my parents needed me to make it look like they had the perfect family; that they were living the American Dream. In reality they didn’t want me, or at least, the hassle involved in taking care of me. They’d both grown up in middle class homes and apparently it was their life’s mission to become something more. To have more, be more. Mediocrity wasn’t an option in the Willis home. You were either the best – or nothing at all.
The only time we ever acted like a family was when outside eyes were watching. Mom never shied away from an opportunity to boast about her wonderful daughter and how much she loved me. When, in the end, I spent more time with nannies or my grandparents than I did with them growing up.
So, I blame them for the way I am.
Shortly after my sixteenth birthday I started dressing differently. Provocative even. It worked because I had a killer body, a fact my mother guaranteed. It would be bad form and tacky to have an overweight child. So when I wasn’t in some sort of dance class, I was forced to endure an hour of hell with her personal trainer. Daily. I had to keep up appearances, you know. She also made me color my hair and get my eyebrows waxed at the ripe old age of eight. God forbid anyone in the second grade class be cuter than her daughter!
The kicker? On my eighteenth birthday she hauled me off to the plastic surgeon for a boob job. Yeah… I know, talk about being vain. I could have refused, but deep down I always hated my small boobs so I figured, what the hell? Still, even with my gorgeous blonde hair and cornflower blue eyes, I wasn’t perfect enough for dear old Mom. Or maybe it was that she wanted me to be better than all their friends’ kids. Who knows? I was the kid with the most toys and the best clothes. But Jamie Sue, the little piss-ant neighbor girl next door, had great boobs. It drove my mother nuts. So… in we went to Dr. Rohlfsen and voilà!
Kat had a rack to die for.
I learned quickly that along with this new provocative look and kickass tits, I gained a superpower; I could get anything I wanted.
Attention, for one. From boys. And men.
The other thing I always got was my way. With only a crook of my perfect little finger and some shameless flirting I had all the attention I wanted, including free drinks all night. Guys ate that shit up, and I had them eating out of the palm of my hand.
My best friend, Presley, calls me a man eater. Get in, get off and get the hell out. End of story. Often times I run into a repeat when I’m out and about, flirting and trying his best to get in my pants one more time. Except I never let a guy double dip.
“You know the address, miss?” The cab driver’s question pulled me back to reality.
“You familiar with Banks Street?”
“Well, that’s where I need to go. Number nine seventeen.”
We drove another five minutes before reaching the estate. The cab driver let out a low whistle when he pulled up to the gate and the massive house came into view.
“You can just drop me here,” I mumbled as I threw a couple twenties up to the front seat. I knew the cab ride only cost me eight bucks or so, but I didn’t care. It didn’t bother me one bit to spend Daddy’s money in whatever way possible. In fact, the more frivolous, the better.
I hopped out of the cab and trudged to the keypad on the side of a tall, stone pillar. I felt like crap; still hung over, my body sore from being used and abused the night before. After punching in the code, I slipped through the gate before it gently closed behind me.
I only made it two steps before I heard my name called in the distance. Ugh, not today. Through the gate, I saw my annoying neighbor, Jamie Sue, jogging up the driveway. Of course, most people would look like a sweaty mess after any exercise, but not Jamie Sue. In her matching tank and skin tight shorts, she looked like a damn Nike model. Not a single hair out of place and… was she wearing makeup?
“Hey,” I said flatly, hoping she’d catch my tone that I wasn’t in the mood to chat.
“Are you just getting home from last night?” Her eyes slid down my body, taking in my disheveled outfit.
I sighed. “Yeah, so?”
“Jeez, Kat. That’s not very responsible. I bet your poor mother is worried sick.”
“Jamie,” I said, closing my eyes as I pinched the bridge of my nose. “I could really do without the lecture on my life choices this morning.”
“Well, I’m just saying, Kat.”
I huffed. “Seriously, this obsession you have with climbing up my mother’s ass is a little unnerving.”
“Katherine. That’s not nice to say,” she huffed. “Why are you always so rude to me?”
I barked out a humorless laugh. “Cut the shit with the good girl act, Jamie. There’s nobody out here but you and me.”
I watched as her eyes morphed into pure evil. This was the special side of Jamie Sue only a few had the privilege to ever witness. Unlike the fake, plastic version she showed to the outside world, I knew she was actually the spawn of Satan.
“You’re just jealous because I’m everything your parents ever dreamed of in a child, and you’re nothing more than a piece of trash who spreads her legs for anyone that’s willing.”
“There’s the real bitch,” I muttered under my breath as I rolled my eyes. “Whatever. I gotta go.”
I could feel her condescending glare burning holes in my back as I walked away. I’d endured years of Jamie Sue pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes about the kind of person she really was. Most of the time I just made fun of her and let the judgmental bullshit slide off my back, but this morning she rubbed me the wrong way.
I bet your poor mother is worried sick.
Right. And I bet someday the Kardashians will just turn back into regular people.
Never gonna fucking happen.
Taking a deep breath, I brushed my annoyance away and headed for the house. My parents owned the biggest property on Crystal Lake. My dad is the Chief of Staff for Minnesota Health Systems and isn’t around much. He began his career as a heart surgeon and soon became one of the most sought out surgeons in the country. Then, the world. Patients travelled from every continent for his services. When he became Chief, he slowed down a bit in the operating room, but still kept busy with all the new administrative duties.
I walked up the cobblestone driveway that paved the way to the front entrance, before it circled around the massive fountain back to the gate. The edging of the fountain was layered in stone to hold the clear, sparkling water. Another pillar stood in the very center, water sprouting from several places before it shot majestically from the top and then sprinkled down like rain.
It was beautiful, but overly pretentious. At night, it was even more spectacular as multiple spotlights cast a glow on it from every direction. Built into the ground to create the illusion that the light just simply ‘appeared’ to highlight all the splendor of the fountain.
That damn fountain cost more than most families made in a year.
I rolled my eyes at the thought and continued on.
As I approached the front door, I took in the enormity of the mansion. Four white pillars stood at the front of the house, making the door seem tiny. Hell, it made me feel tiny every time I had to come in this way. Tiny and invisible, which was the only time I was thankful for absent parents who didn’t give a shit about me. I could come in, sneak through the house and get to my wing without any problems. Thank God for small miracles.
Today had to be the one damn day that I pushed through the front entrance into a foyer full of family. Not what I needed, especially after running into Jamie out front.
“Oh, shit on a shingle,” I muttered, only partially under my breath. My mother bustled over instantly, putting on a gallant show in front of her in-laws. I should’ve expected it. She did have an audience to impress. I winced as she attempted a cheek kiss. This woman repulsed me, so it was pure instinct to pull away.
“What was that dear? Well, good morning, anyway. Have you been up and out already? Let’s just get you changed for brunch. Your grandparents stopped by this morning so we’ll eat out on the veranda, okay? I know how you love to look out over the water. Kiss, kiss, my sweet beauty. Move along now and make yourself presentable. Don’t forget… Mama loves you to the moon and back.”
She turned and continued jabbering at my grandparents, herding them like cattle into the next room while she blabbed on about how I loved my morning run.
Right. Because most people go for a run in a leather skirt and hooker shoes.
I made it one step before a hand curled around my elbow, the fingers digging in so tightly they were bound to leave a bruise. My grandparents had shuffled themselves into the other room and she just couldn’t resist the opportunity to cut me down. Leaning into my side, I felt her warm breath on my neck as she whispered harshly, “You have ten minutes to clean yourself up and get your ass back down here. You look like the homeless tramps that live under the bridge by the interstate.”
“Fine,” I hissed.
I shook my head and trudged over to the massive staircase on the left, the side that would take me to my room and away from these vile people. I’d almost made it to the first step when my dad caught my eye. Never a man of many words, this morning wasn’t any different. His lips thinned into a tight line as he gave me the once-over, taking in my untidy appearance with absolute disproval. A part of me waited for him to scold me, to reprimand my actions and tell me how I’m too good to keep doing this to myself. How I’m wasting my life when I have so much potential. I could be anything, at least something better than this. Instead, he gave a curt nod and clipped, “Katherine.”
I looked into his eyes, waiting for more, willing him to show me he gave even the tiniest shit about his only child.
“Father,” I replied. My eyes held his, both of us too stubborn to back down. Eventually, I broke the silence and said, “Wow. Great chat. We should totally do this again sometime soon.”
Shaking his head at my smart-ass remark, he turned and walked away.
Dismissed. Again. Like I was nothing more than one of his many employees on the payroll.
I swallowed down the emotion threatening to clog my throat, making it disappear into the depths of my soul like all the other nasty encounters with my parents over the years. Once upon a time this would have sent me into a tizzy, where I’d focus on doing everything possible to obey and please them.
But not anymore.
I turned back to the stairs and slowly climbed to the top, yearning for a hot shower to remove the smoke smell from my hair, and the sordid germs off my body. I stepped into the steamy spray and let it wash the stress down the drain, taking my sweet time just to piss off Mother Dearest. I felt more like myself with each passing minute and my mind wandered to the night before. Why do I always seem to pick up guys that take me to a complete shit hole?
I didn’t want to think about the answer to that question. I knew it, but refused to acknowledge the problem. At least not right now when I’d just dealt with the reason downstairs. Daddy issues, you say? Well, I’ve got a double dose of that. Try Mommy and Daddy issues. Piled higher than the junk lining the walls of the crappy trailer I escaped from this morning.
Oh well. You’re only young once, right? Wasn’t this how life was supposed to be for a twenty-one year old rich kid? Party every night and sleep all day?
Hell yeah. This was my reward. My penance for a lifetime of being treated like the gum on the bottom of their designer shoe.
I curled my hands around the oversized coffee mug, leaning over to gently blow the steam away. I felt calm, relaxed even. Usually it took some lake time to get me feeling this mellow.
It was much needed after wearing my ‘perfection mask’ for two whole hours yesterday during brunch. By the time I’d made it back to my wing, I worried that my mouth would actually freeze into the fake, plastic smile. Thankfully, once the grandparents left, I again became invisible and was able to nap the rest of the day.
I woke to a text from Presley, requesting my presence this morning at the Crystal Cup for a jolt of warm caffeine.
Downtown Crystal Lake was adorable. A picturesque town, like something you’d find on a Hallmark card. The modern day Mayberry, if you will. Drawing an abundance of tourists, the shops catered mostly to the wealthy. Especially the non-essential stores. No sane person would pay such ridiculous prices for some of these things. The wealthy patrons likely bought items simply to brag it was purchased while spending the summer at their ‘lake home’ or whatever bullshit excuse.
Some people. I will never understand.
There just had to be more to life than trying to keep up with the Joneses. Or in Crystal Lake… the Willises.
Anyway, I chose the table near the window so I would see Presley walk in. Not that I could miss her from any part of the store. When Presley Maxwell entered a room, it became electric.
We met in fifth grade. Her family moved to town after her dad became the President of Crystal Lake Bank and Trust. Even though they were well-off, Presley’s childhood was very different than mine. Her parents doted on her and her brother, loved them unconditionally and supported them in every way. I enjoyed spending time at her house as a kid, just for that reason. That, and the fact that they had an entire room dedicated to all things Elvis. No shit. Hence the name, Presley Grace.
Think I’m joking? Her brother’s name is Aaron. Oh yeah, seems fairly normal… thank God, considering it was Elvis’s middle name. Aaron’s middle name, however, is King. Aaron King Maxwell.
You could say they were a bit obsessed with the guy.
Plus, she lived on North Shore, the polar opposite of the snooty-falooty side of the lake where I grew up.
Crystal Lake wasn’t a big town, by any means, but people here were territorial. South Shore homes were bigger, fancier, and more regal. The occupants had an abundance of money to burn and throwing it in each other’s face was important to them.
North Shore contained the normal people, at least by my standards. A general mixed bag of white and blue collar. They had neighborhood gatherings and you never drove down the street without seeing someone smile and wave from their front porch.
Yet, when people from the North and South side got together? Whew. Not good. Not good at all. On occasion, I worried that the outcome would cause an all-out war. Okay, maybe not that dramatic. More like a rumble. I envisioned something along the lines of West Side Story. Except without the musical number from the Sharks and the Jets.
I giggled to myself as the bells chimed above the door. About time you showed up, Presley.
I looked up and my world shifted. Everything around me fell away as I watched the sexiest man alive walk to the counter. No, not walk… prowl. His ragged blue jeans sat low on his waist. Covered in dust and dirt, the bottom edge frayed where they fell against his worn work boots. After a lifetime of feeling numb, the tingle of a hundred pins and needles stung every nerve ending in my body when he reached to pull his wallet from his back pocket. Muscles flexed and rippled through his forearm as his blue t-shirt rode up just a tad, revealing his tight, tanned stomach.
“Medium coffee. Black.” His voice rumbled through the entire shop. It rolled over my skin, causing my stomach muscles to clench tight and my hoo-hoo to spasm. For a moment, the only sound my brain registered was the steady pounding of my heart as it tried to pump itself right out of my chest.
Holy shit on a fucking shingle. I licked my lips, suddenly aware that my mouth resembled the Sahara. Dry as it was, I still felt the need to check my chin for drool. I want that, I thought to myself. I pictured myself under him, on top of him, beside him. Both of us sweaty and breathing heavily. Mmmm, I bet he’s a wild one. Without warning, my beautiful man candy disappeared.
“Are you high?”
“Move, Presley,” I commanded, trying to push her face out of mine so I could see him again.
“What is the matter with you?”
Realizing I’d spent the last few moments acting like a cartoon character - with my eyes bulging from my head and my tongue lolling onto the floor - I snapped myself from the lustful haze and looked at my best friend.
“Nothing. Hi. I’m sorry. I was just…” My eyes slid one last time to the counter.
She giggled. “Admiring the view?”
“More like picturing my next conquest.” I shrugged and turned to face her. The girl couldn’t look more opposite of me if she tried. Where my blonde hair and blue eyes made me look like a life sized Barbie doll, Presley resembled an exotic visitor from a faraway land. Dark, almost black, locks hung in loose waves around her face, accentuating her almond-colored eyes. The dimples on each side of her mouth popped out whenever she flashed her shit-eating grin. But when she let out a full smile, her beauty was blinding.
The best part though, was what was on the inside. Born with a heart of pure gold, Presley was the bestest best friend I could ever ask for.
“So where’d you end up the other night? I got distracted and you disappeared,” she reached out and grabbed my coffee cup, taking a sip before her face twisted in disgust. “Gross, Kat. How do you drink that awful crap?”
“Hold up.” She walked to the counter, gave the barista some sort of hand signal and threw a couple bills down. The super duper hottie had already paid and graciously moved to the side to give her more room.
“Hey there,” she said to him, flashing one of her blinding smiles.
My spine stiffened.
She was talking to my guy! Wait, not my guy. The guy. The hot guy, who fried every last brain cell and turned me into a pile of goo.
He didn’t respond, only lifted his chin and grinned back. Oh great, I don’t stand a chance. The chin lift was like hot guy code for ‘Yeah, I see you and, yeah, we can definitely fuck later.’
Ugh, I could just see it now. The two of them would hit it off right away, falling madly in love while I watched, heartbroken, from the sidelines. After a whirlwind romance they’d pledge their undying love for one another before riding off into the sunset on a stupid, white, fucking unicorn. Damn it, Presley!
I huffed, not understanding this feeling as jealousy coursed through my veins. Presley and I never competed for guys. If a guy chose her over me, I’d simply go find a different one. What the hell superpower did this guy have that made me want to tackle my best friend?
“Now what?” she asked as she sat back down in the seat. “Seriously, Kat. You look ready to commit murder. Does it have something to do with where you ended up the other night?”
I heard the bells on the door chime again and watched as my beautiful stranger walked across the street. Damn. I wanted to stare at him some more. I took a deep breath, willing my frustration away. I still couldn’t quite grasp what was happening. I rarely let any kind of emotion affect me, but I was all over the place this morning.
“I woke up at a trailer park on the east end of town. Nothing crazy. Just grabbed my shit and got myself home. Did you see that guy?”
“The guy you left with?”
“What? No. I don’t know who that was. I’m fairly certain his name started with a ‘J’ but that’s about all I’ve got on that one. Plus, the lazy ass didn’t even take my bra off. What the hell is up with that? No, I mean that guy who was just at the counter. Tall, unruly brown hair, dirty clothes like maybe he’s a mechanic, or landscaper. Oh, or maybe he works construction.” I continued to ramble, unaware Presley’s body had frozen as she stared at me in shock. “Obviously an athlete, or runner, or something by the way his clothes fit tight against all those muscles.”
“You know,” I went on, pointing at the counter like she needed the extra reminder, “the guy from… just… just a minute ago?”
Seconds ticked by on the clock. I swear I heard crickets chirping in the background as I waited for her to respond. Rather, she lifted her coffee cup to her lips and took a sip before clearing her throat. She glanced once more toward the counter, squinting and tapping her finger against her lips as if that would help jog her memory. My foot tapped anxiously against the floor, all patience gone.
“You’re doing this on purpose.”
She smiled but quickly bit her lip.
A musical laugh erupted from her throat. “Okay, okay. Wow. You… this is… I can’t even freaking talk because I’ve never seen you get so googly over seeing a hot guy.”
I sighed. “I knew you thought he was hot.”
She continued to laugh as she shook her head back and forth, causing her hair to sway with the subtle movement. “Well, yeah, any sane girl would agree. It’s the fact that you seem to be all thrown out of whack over seeing him across the room that really has me baffled. Besides, when have you ever given two shits if I thought a guy was hot?”
I let out a petulant ‘huff.’ I was not out of whack or googly, as she so eloquently put it, over that guy.
“Look, the only thing I know about him is that he lives down the street from me,” she continued. “Remember that blue house the McKinley’s own?” I nodded, still unable to form a complete sentence. “They rent the place. This is like their third summer here, I think. Other than that, I don’t know much about them.”
Damn. I definitely needed to do a little recon on this guy. If anything, to find out how he was able to render me speechless from across the room. Also, why I felt the need to be near him, to touch him, and how he managed to melt my insides when I didn’t even know his name.
“Oh,” Presley continued, “and his name is Jaxson McAllister.”