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Title: Beautiful Disaster
(The Bet, #1)
Author: Francette Phal
Find it on Goodreads
They created the game but eighteen year old Nicholas Grayson mastered the rules.
They are young and entitled and utterly bored with their lives, so they play games to entertain themselves. They call it the “bet” and new girl Ellie Holbrook is their latest target. Ellie is not the kind of girl Nicholas dates, but she is pretty enough to be his next conquest and so he sets out to seduce her and claim a nice little prize at the end. But her seduction proves difficult when she openly rejects his advances. In his dogged pursuit of her he slowly finds himself in her small circle of trusted friends and meets her two year old daughter, Sophie.
Life takes a startling turn for Nicholas when he realizes his happiness now lies with the young mother and her daughter. Falling in love with Ellie isn’t something Nicholas ever thought could happen to him and he’s completely frightened at how fiercely she makes him feel. But before he can further examine those emotions and clearly process them, enemies from Nicholas’s personal circle of friends conspire to tear them apart and he must now decide whether their love is worth saving or allow his friends to take away the greatest thing that’s ever happened to him.
Nicholas Grayson wasn’t a nice person. In fact one could call him an asshole and he wouldn’t dispute it. He was as jaded as they come, eighteen years old, with a moral compass fixed permanently on diabolical. He was an emotional cripple with the personality of a cactus. He understood his faults and embraced each one with gusto.
His goals in life were to piss off his parents, break a few laws and generally screw his way through life. He was a good looking kid, born with movie star looks, a little James Dean with Brando’s swagger thrown into the mix to make the female populace of John Edgar High swoon.
He was fully aware of his power over the fairer sex and he used that knowledge for his own selfish end.
It was a game his group of friends played and Nicholas excelled at it. He’d slept with nearly every girl on campus, seduced each and every one with practiced ease that had become second nature, like breathing.
The sex was initially meant to stave off boredom; another vice to add to the growing list of evils he’d accumulated over the years. But then, like all things in his life, sex had become nauseatingly easy to obtain.
“Nicky.” The breathy call of his name had Nicholas peering over his shoulder where Maddie Tate, “Fatty Maddie,” as she was known by many in his circle, looked at him with sickening adoration.
Lounging across his king sized mattress in post-coital bliss, she looked every bit the sated lover with her tousled cinnamon red hair, flushed face, and gleaming azure eyes. She was in love with him. Had been for quite some time now and would undoubtedly do anything he asked of her.
It would take nothing to manipulate her and bend her to his will. Nicholas was sure that she would follow him. Therefore the seduction of Maddie Tate hadn’t taken much doing. The fact is Nicholas had been feeling charitable at the time. She was just another notch in this game he’s come to master; another pawn to use and discard when he was finished. He’d made a video of all their sordid acts just as he always had done and stood to win five hundred dollars for his troubles. Chump change as far as he was concerned but a win nevertheless.
“N-Nicholas…,” the voice was little hesitant this time. He heard the rustling of sheets as she rose.
“Get out.” This was the part he relished the most. Devil that he was, he caught the hitch of her breath and reveled in it.
“I…um…did I do something wrong?”
He took a moment tinkering with the camera before turning to give her his undivided attention, mouth curling into a bastardized version of a smile. “Well.” He moved with effortless grace, swagger unmatched, open and welcoming in contrast to the calculated, almost predatory look in his diamond grey eyes. “You didn’t bore me completely.”
Her face crumpled. The ensuing expression nearly heartbreaking as tears welled. If he cared he would’ve felt something other than this deep rooted annoyance and sudden need to see her out of his bedroom. “Now, please get your shit and get out.” It didn’t take long after that. Shoving him aside with surprising strength she gathered her things and was out like a shot.
Now, Nicholas figured, she’d grow to hate him like so many of the others who’d come before her.
It was what he did best. Fuck ‘em and leave ‘em. He lived by those words, using a slightly different variation out of the bedroom.
He was his father’s child after all; he had learned about screwing people from the master himself. Grabbing the half emptied bottle of whiskey from his dresser Nicholas made his way to the balcony in his bedroom. He took a mouthful, and then another, feeling decidedly better as each swig burned a warm path down his throat. Maneuvering himself over the balcony’s ledge he sat precariously over the edge, legs dangling four stories over the gleaming pool below. A deprecating smile tugged at his lips and Nicholas knew his demons were not far. He could hear the menacing gait of their hooved feet making a steady trek to the forefront of his mind, carrying with them memories he would sooner forget.
Shit, he was feeling maudlin. Why? He hadn’t the slightest idea. Only that the memories refused to be quelled, refused to be inundated by the liquor as per usual. The sudden image of his father fleeted across his vision and Nicholas gave a humorless laugh. Well wasn’t that just a kick in the teeth? Even at his lowest he continued to be haunted by the immoral bastard.
Charles Grayson, CEO and founder of one of the nation’s largest real estate firm was the devil incarnate and Nicholas could attest to that. He’d been ten years old when the first lesson had been imparted. There’d been an incident in school involving him and another student. Nicholas couldn’t remember exactly what it was he’d done, but he remembered he’d been mean and had been fittingly reprimanded for it by his teacher. Charles had somehow gotten word of it and swiftly rectified the situation. The teacher was terminated, credentials ruined and she’d been unable to find work in the state again. This action was quite extreme and cruel for something so little, but then Charles had never been the sentimental sort.
He was a ruthless man whose underhanded business tactics had gained him his empire. Therefore when it came to his son, Charles was merciless. He’d taken the ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ ideology quite seriously and the scars of those lessons were now imprinted on Nicholas’s soul.
Nicholas took another swig from the bottle while raking a hand through his long hair. He was agitated and dear old Jack wasn’t doing it for him tonight. Needing a distraction that was something quite possibly stronger, he headed back to his bedroom and finished off the last of the amber liquid before tossing it aside.
He needed out and having just the place, he threw on some clothes and hastened out the bedroom. Somewhere in the vast cavernous mansion a clock tolled midnight but there would be no one to stop him from trekking out the front door. No parental guidance. He found his sport bike in the driveway and jumped on the leather seat. Nicholas revved the engine and gunned down the silent streets.
The infamous Matthew Bates and his revels of depravity were in full swing when Nicholas pulled into the graveled driveway a half hour later. Located in the secluded parts of Belmont Heights, the Bates mansion stood among the rest of the Georgian houses in all its grand glory. The surrounding of trees gave each home the illusion of privacy and none was needed more than around the Bates mansion.
With purposeful strides Nicholas waded through the milling throng of inebriated teens, the dark expression on his face curtailing anyone from halting his progress. The further he went into the house, the louder the music became. It rumbled in his bones, a throbbing dark seduction of African drums and ripping electric guitars.
Beneath the canopy of multihued disco balls and freakish psychedelic laser shows, the masses danced, their sweat stained bodies gyrating to the cultish beats rumbling through the floor. This was a Matthew Bates party. This was a world within a world where the young and horny youths of Cedar Falls escaped to play, mingled and danced to their hearts’ content. They overlooked social mores and class and instead enemies danced with mutual abandon, friends became lovers, and a kiss or a hug, was as natural as breathing air.
Under the spell, beneath the wicked, shadowed web of the potent atmosphere, everyone was sexy and beautiful. The alcohol and drugs flowed in abundance and with the scent of marijuana weighing heavily in the air, Nicholas knew he’d found his best friend.
Seated at a poker table with a group of people he didn’t recognize, Nicholas watched from the kitchen doorway as his friend took a hit from the blunt he held between his fingers before passing it along to someone on his left.
“Read ‘em and weep, bitches, straight flush!” The group of guys at the table groaned as Matt stood to collect his winnings. It didn’t take long for him to spot Nicholas; the toothy grin on his lips was far too contagious. “Well, if it isn’t the devil himself! Where the hell have you been all summer, Grayson?” He grabbed two beer bottles from the cooler on the floor, tossing one to Nicholas as he approached him. They came together in embrace, Matt clapping Nicholas on the back before pulling away.
“I could ask you the same.” Nicholas said with a grin. “Keepin’ it busy I see.”
Matt returned the grin as he led Nicholas out of the dining room and up the spiral staircase, dodging more than a few drunken advances. “What can I say, Nicky, I aim to please. Who am I to deny our peers one last hurrah before school starts?”
“Been doing this all summer?”
“Mostly,” Matt said. He pushed his bedroom door open and allowed Nicholas entrance. “I had to pay Gregory and the golden child a visit to Boston for a few weeks; it seems Alex got a job at some prestigious law firm.”
‘The Golden child’, also known as Alexander Bates, was Matt’s bane of existence and had been since Nicholas could remember. There had always been competition between the brothers spurred on by the Bates’ patriarch. Gregory Bates did not hide the fact that he preferred Alexander to Matt.
Matt discovered the reason of his father’s bias a few years ago at his mother’s funeral. She’d been unfaithful, his father had said, his face as grim as ever. Matt was told that he was the result of an affair his mother had many years ago. It was understood that Gregory would adopt the illegitimate child as his own and provide all the Bates opportunities, if his wife kept the sordid little secrets she’d discovered about her own husband out of the press.
It’d been a nice little deal that had kept Matt ignorant and his mother in the lap of luxury until she’d passed. So now Matt was the eternal screw up. It was a role he played well, had perfected it quite nicely after meeting Nicholas. They were as close as brothers, their dysfunctions unifying that bond.
Matt walked over to the antique dresser by his bedside and removed a small black box. “I was sent back to exile once the old man found I was up to my old ways again. But, I did manage to pick up a little something before leaving.” The mischievous glint in his dark blue eyes hinted at something with which Nicholas was all too familiar with.
Drugs, alcohol and sex. They were the masters of vice.
“Care for a taste?” Matt shook the small pewter box he held in his hand and the tantalizing rattle of Nicholas’s escape beckoned him. Temporary bliss would come in the form of a little blue pill. This was the distraction he was counting on. Matt could always be counted on for that.
“Break out the whiskey.”
Francette lives in Massachusetts with her amazingly supportive husband of ten years and her darling two year old son. Reading amazing books has led her to writing and she’s dabbled in fan-fiction before self-publishing her own works. She’s constantly thinking up new stories to write and does her best work when music is playing in the background. Romance is where she’s most comfortable but she hopes to one day venture in mystery novels. She has a weakness for coffee ice cream, tropical fruits and a good glass of wine.