“You touch him again, and I swear to Christ you’ll be pissing blood for a fucking week.” I glared at Preston Slater, daring him to step up and challenge me.
“Whatever, ghetto trash. You lay a finger on me, and you’ll be out on your ass before you can say ‘food stamps.’”
He started to turn away, and I mumbled, “Entitled little prick.”
“What’d you say, you piece of shit?” Slater swung around.
My lips curled into a malevolent smile. These little rich fucks were so easy. “I called you an entitled little prick, cocksucker.”
“I think your mama is the only cocksucker in this equation.”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re probably right about my mama, Slater. But she ain’t the only one. Because your mama sucked my dick real good last night.”
The vein in his forehead bulged and his eyes looked like they were going to pop right out of his fucking head. These rich boys could toss out a yo momma line, but they sure as hell couldn’t shrug ‘em off. Which is exactly what I was counting on.
Slater’s voice was a derisive sneer. “I’ll see you at the tracks. Four o’clock. We’ll see who’s pissing blood after that.”
I smiled. “Bring it, rich boy.”
He backed away down the hall toward the gymnasium, his posse of friends closing ranks.
I turned to Teddy Liggins, the short kid by my side. His eyes were bulging just as wide as Slater’s had.
“Con, what the hell? You didn’t need to do that. You’re gonna get in so much trouble. It’s not worth it, man.”
I looked at his torn shirt, spattered with blood where his busted nose had dripped onto the formerly pristine white collar.
“He’s had it coming. Slater and his prick friends can’t treat people like that and get away with it. It ain’t right. Someone’s gotta put ‘em in their place. And if it has to be me, then so be it.”
Teddy shook his head. “You’re gonna get expelled. And it’ll be all my fault. Don’t put that on me.”
“Ain’t nothin’ your fault, Teddy. You better get to the nurse. Don’t know what you’re going to tell her about this, though.”
A sly smile spread over Teddy’s thin face. “Don’t worry about Nurse Hayes. We’ve got an … understanding.”
“You … seriously? No shit? She’s like ten years older than you, Ted.”
“What can I say? She’s a cradle robber.”
I shook my head. “I don’t even know what to say to that.”
Teddy winked his swelling eye, and winced. “Maybe I’ll get some ice first, though.”
“Let me know if Slater or any of those other guys fuck with you again. Okay?”
He fist-bumped me and rushed off down the hall.
A door creaked, and I spun around, looking for the source. The hallway had cleared out now that everyone was supposed to be in class. My eyes darted to each likely option, before settling on the door to the girl’s bathroom. It was cracked open just the slightest, and I caught sight of pink-tipped fingernails wrapped around the wood.
“You can come out now, doll.” I had no idea who had listened in on the entire exchange, but almost all of the girls in this prep school were interchangeable.
The door opened farther, and she stepped out.
Her golden blond hair fell into her face as she looked up at me from beneath long lashes.
She wasn’t interchangeable. Because while all the other girls were chattering like the seagulls that gathered by the edge of the river, she was mostly quiet. Observant. Listening. And yeah, I watched her. I watched and learned that whoever had her attention at that moment had all of it. And just when you thought her face was a becoming a little too serious, her lips would curl into the most amazing smile I’d ever seen and laughter would spill from her lips. It was the best sound I’d ever heard. Infectious.
I wanted to know what it would be like to be someone’s entire focus. To be that important, if even only for a few minutes, that someone would look at me like I held the answers to the mysteries of life. To be more than just a kid in the system that someone had to put up with. I wanted to be the reason she laughed. I wanted that smile to be mine.
When I realized my thoughts sounded like a shitty wannabe poet, I reminded myself of her fantastic tits and luscious ass I wanted the right to put my hands on.
“You got an earful, didn’t ya, baby.” I leaned against the wall, going for a casual pose.
Her blue eyes narrowed. “Don’t call me baby just because you don’t know my name.”
She’s joking right? How could this girl think I don’t know her name? My trademark smirk unfurled across my face, and I arched an eyebrow. “Wanna bet?”
She pursed her lips like she’d sucked on a lemon. She was too pretty to look so annoyed. But I had the perverse need to see her blush.
“Wanna bet, what?” she asked.
“That if you were naked under me, I’d know exactly which name I’d be calling when I came.”
She glared, eyes burning with anger. No blush.
Apparently, I’d missed my mark. These rich girls were a hell of a lot harder to figure out than the guys. I took offense at being called disgusting, even if my comment may have been a little shocking. This girl had never heard some of the truly disgusting things that could be said to a woman and probably never would. My irritation at her perfect, little insulated life grew.
“Says the pure as the driven snow Catholic school girl.” I dropped my gaze to her feet and dragged it up inch-by-inch. “You know you could probably make enough to pay for college if you started stripping in that uniform.”
Her mouth fell open.
“And that mouth, honey. Don’t even get me started with what you could pay for with that.”
Her head jerked back in outrage, nostrils flaring.
“You … you …” she sputtered.
“I’m … I’m … what?”
She shook her head. “I won’t even dignify that with a response.”
“But didn’t you just?”
Her shoulders straightened, and she slipped out of the bathroom to face me fully.
“You’re going to get detention if you don’t get to class,” she warned.
“I’m so touched at your concern. Don’t you worry ‘bout me, sweetheart.”
“Trust me, I’m not.”
She turned on her Mary Janes, her sweet little pleated uniform skirt flaring with her haste.
I waited until she was a few yards away.
“Those are some really sexy pink princess panties, Vanessa.”
She froze mid-stride before slowly turning to confront me.
“Fuck you, Con.” She flashed me both of her middle fingers.
My belly-laugh echoed down the hallway as she stormed toward her classroom.
There was nothing sexier than a good girl who could be tempted into being just a little bit bad.
That boy … That boy was … Agh. There were no words to describe that boy. None.
The little voice in my head called me a liar, and I fought to muffle it. Okay, so there might be words to describe him. He was … unlike any boy I’d ever encountered. Irreverent. Coarse. Foul-mouthed. Unbelievably beautiful. And completely dangerous.
I slipped into my Latin class, and Sister Jansen smiled up at me sweetly. After all, she would never suspect that the well-bred and perfectly behaved Vanessa Frost was having impure thoughts.
Holy crap. I’m going to Hell because there’s no way I’m confessing this.
Father Gerard would have me saying Hail Mary’s until the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse rode into town.
I sat and flipped open my notebook and began to conjugate my Latin verbs. Repetition. Discipline. Consistency.
My hammering heart calmed as I took solace in the familiar. In the safety of routine. Slow and even deep breaths centered me, and I repeated my mantra in my head.
Because I could accomplish anything. Conquer anything. Overcome anything. Even my own worst enemy: myself.
My stomach growled, and my eyes darted around the room to see if anyone noticed. My habit of drinking a Diet Coke and eating a salad for lunch for the last few years had seen me all the way to the lunch table of the most popular girls in school. That, and a late four-inch growth spurt and the perky C-cup boobs I’d sprouted right before freshman year. I was pretty sure it was the boobs that had caused them to anoint me head popular girl. Well, and the fact that my family had more money than most every family in the entire parish.
But I didn’t care about my social status. It was a burden that came with too much trouble and attention, and it had come too late. My mother, the one person who would’ve wanted to see me in such a position, had passed away before it I could become the daughter she’d always wanted. She never got to see me as anything other than the chubby, flat-chested, completely disappointing Vanessa—at least on a physical level. She’d never understood how her tall and slim Bennett genes had completely skipped me. Well, Mother, apparently I was just the ugly duckling waiting to bloom. But that didn’t mean I wanted to go back to being the chubby girl. I would never go back to being that girl.
And I’d stay away from Constantine Leahy because my father would have a coronary.
Because he was not a proper beau for the Frost heiress. Regardless of how exciting he might be.
I snapped out of my musings as the hiss came from my left. I looked toward the window as Elle inched her desk closer to me.
My eyes skipped to the front of the room, but Sister Jansen was obliviously scribbling on the board, chalk dust flying and coating her black habit.
“What?” I whispered.
“What took you so long? You have to take a dump?”
I glanced up at the ceiling seeking patience. From her language, you would never guess that Elle’s family was nearly as well off as mine. If you knew nothing about her, you’d assume she was the stereotypical rebellious, attention-seeking, wild child—because that was the only face she showed the world. I knew her better than that, considering she’d been my best friend practically since birth.
“No. I just got … waylaid.”
“Did you say you got laid?” Her awed voice carried further than just our little corner, and a dozen heads swiveled in our direction.
“Shut up!” I said through gritted teeth, sinking down in my chair.
Several jocks gave me chin jerks, and a few of the mean-girl groupies raised curious eyebrows.
Elle’s giggle drew Sister Jansen’s attention.
“Ms. Snyder, was there something you wanted to share with the class?”
My face heated, terrified what Elle might say.
“No, Sister. I’m so sorry. I was just contemplating piety and virtue and was overcome with a feeling of holiness.”
I rolled my eyes. Elle could spout more BS than any girl I’d ever met. Probably because she was always talking her way out of trouble.
Sister Jansen’s skeptical expression clearly telegraphed the fact that she wasn’t buying it. “Now is the time for contemplating Latin verbs, Ms. Snyder. I’ll see you contemplating piety and virtue in the chapel at three o’clock.”
Elle smirked at the nun. “Of course, Sister Jansen. I’ll be there promptly.” Under her breath she mumbled, “And I’ll be hitting the sacrificial wine.”
I bent my head to study my notebook.
The next verb on my list to conjugate: to fascinate.
My mind wandered to the boy I’d left laughing in the hallway.
Fascination was not an option.
* * *
Because I’m that sort of friend, I followed Elle to the chapel at three o’clock and knelt beside her. We both bowed our heads as though in prayer, but our conversation was anything but godly.
“I heard there’s a fight tonight. After football practice.”
I recalled the conversation I’d overheard from my hidey hole inside the girl’s bathroom.
“Preston Slater and Con Leahy, at the tracks, at five o’clock?”
Elle’s eyes snapped to my downcast face. “How’d you know?”
“I overheard them arguing when I went to the girls’ room during Latin.”
“So that was the delay. Not nearly as good as getting laid.”
I darted my eyes from side to side, as if I were expecting lightening to strike us dead.
“Elle,” I whispered. “We’re in the chapel.”
“Keep it clean.”
“Clean? I’d rather talk about that dirty, dirty boy, Constantine.”
“What do you mean? Dirty? He’s not dirty.” My tone was defensive.
“I’ve heard he’s plenty dirty in bed. Although I think most of the bragging is probably bullshit.”
I glared at her. Swearing in church was just asking for trouble. And a little part of me really didn’t like that other girls had something to brag about when it came to Con.
“We’re not having this conversation now.” Or ever, I added silently.
“Ladies,” a temperate voice said from behind us. “You’re free to go.”
We both straightened, and I wondered if Father Maxwell had overheard our inappropriate conversation. Regardless, our places in Hell had probably been reserved.
We filed out of the pew and down the aisle to exit the chapel.
Stepping into the muggy afternoon air, we both shaded our eyes against the glaring sun.
“You have to head straight home?” Elle asked.
I flipped through my mental calendar. My father would be at work or some kind of meeting until at least seven o’clock.
“No. Why, what are you thinking?”
I mentally cringed at the calories that thing would pack, but nodded. “Sure.”
We walked toward Elle’s Range Rover, and I couldn’t help but ask, “So who says they’ve slept with Con?”
Elle grinned devilishly. “Feed me coffee and chocolate, and I’ll tell you everything I know.”
I stripped off my shirt and heard the tittering coming from the peanut gallery. This was one thing that didn’t change, no matter where I landed. A fight always drew a crowd. And once I’d hit six feet and packed on some muscle, there were just as many girls in the crowd as there were guys.
Tossing my shirt to Teddy, I stretched both arms and shoulders. Cracking my knuckles, I remembered to remove the skull ring on my right hand and the plain silver band on my left thumb. The last thing I needed to do was disfigure the kid and land in jail while he ended up needing plastic surgery. Teddy took my shirt and dropped it on his book bag on our side of the tracks.
Preston and his group of dick friends were standing in a circle, each with the same pose. Arms crossed, eyes glaring in our direction.
“You don’t need to do this, man,” Teddy murmured.
“Friends stand up for each other,” I replied.
“I still don’t like it.”
“Don’t worry so much. I win more than I lose.” If I’d wanted to sound like a stuck up prick, I would’ve told him the truth: I’ve never lost. “But if the cops come, you better fucking grab your shit and run. Don’t wait for me. Just get your ass out of here.”
“The cops?” Teddy’s eyes widened comically.
“Yeah, the cops. Because that’s who the rich boys are gonna call when their friend is getting his ass handed to him by white trash, and they’re too pussy to jump in and try to save him.”
“But … that’s …” Teddy’s already pale complexion looked downright pasty as he trailed off.
“That’s the way it goes,” I finished for him. And it was. This wasn’t my first rich boy rodeo. And it probably wouldn’t be my last. Regardless of whether I got arrested. Not like that hadn’t happened before.
But for once, the thought made me pause for a beat. Because I did have a good thing going here; I’d hit the foster kid lottery when I’d been placed with Joy and Andre Leahy.
My thoughts were halted by the sound of crunching gravel behind me. A glance over my shoulder identified the vehicle as a Range Rover and most definitely not a cop. Just one more rich kid come to watch the throw-down.
I went back to my pre-fight routine.
Until I heard a wolf whistle. “Damn, Constantine. No wonder they keep the guys and girls separate during P.E.” I turned to grin at Elle Snyder. She was one of the only girls who circulated in the popular crowd who would actually approach me in public. She probably thought it made her badass or something. We weren’t friends, and had never spoken in private, but whatever the reason for her behavior, it was nice to be acknowledged as more than just shit on someone’s shoe.
“Sweetheart, wouldn’t your mama faint if she knew where you were?”
“If she were sober, she might,” Elle replied, her tone even.
A harsh indrawn breath had me spinning around. I let my panty-dropping smile settle on my face as I crossed to the girls. Color me shocked. Elle brought her sidekick.
“Princess, isn’t this a little too scandalous for you?”
Vanessa glowered at me. “Don’t call me that.”
Elle’s eyes bounced back and forth between her friend and me. “Princess? Seriously, what’d I miss?”
I smirked. “Your girl and I had a moment earlier. Her panties were involved.”
Elle’s eyes widened to the size of saucers. “You did get laid! You lying ho-bag!”
Vanessa’s face turned blazingly red as I wondered what the hell I had missed. Was there a rumor going around I didn’t know about? Vanessa stepped on Elle’s foot.
“You starting a rumor about us, princess? Can’t say I have a problem with it.”
She didn’t have a chance to reply before Teddy joined the group. “Hey, Elle. You come to cheer my bro here on?”
A heavy feeling spread through my chest at his words. No. Now was not the time to be getting sentimental. Or getting distracted by this girl. Not if I didn’t want my ass humiliated by Preston Slater. Jesus. Even his name screamed ‘rich prick.’
Once again I slipped into the cool familiarity of pre-fight mode. I ignored Vanessa as she studied me. Or I tried to. But she was staring at my chest as I stretched, and my dick was taking notice. Fighting with a hard-on was less than ideal.
“Vanessa, what the hell are you doing here?” an authoritative voice called from the other side of the tracks. The rich prick side of the tracks.
Simon Duchesne stormed across the divide, and I stepped in front of him as he reached for Vanessa.
“Get out of my way,” Duchesne said, voice low, menacing.
I crossed my arms, letting my muscles flex. He might have been the golden boy of the senior class, but he didn’t intimidate me in the slightest. “Don’t talk to her like that.”
Duchesne glared at me. “If she needs protecting from anyone, it’s you. So back off.”
I turned to look at Vanessa. Her forehead was lined with worry, as it seemed to be fairly often. I didn’t like that look on her face. At all.
“You’re not going to tell my father you saw me here, are you?” she asked Duchesne.
“Of course not, Van. But I am taking you home. Now.”
“I brought her, I can take her home,” Elle interjected.
“Which shows poor judgment on both your parts.”
“Stuffed shirt,” I mumbled.
“What was that, boy? You have something to say to me, you better spit it out like a man.”
Being called ‘boy’ in that condescending tone stirred up memories best left buried.
“Fuck off, Duchesne. I ain’t no boy, and I’ll fucking prove it.”
I shoved him away with both hands. Unready for my aggression, he stumbled backward into Vanessa. His eyes lit with violence.
“Someone needs to teach you some manners, boy. Because you don’t seem to understand how to behave around ladies.”
That word. My blood rushed hot and fast, and the higher functions of my brain flipped off.
“I don’t see any ladies here. Just some rich bitches out to see some blood.”
Duchesne’s nostrils flared, and I knew I’d gone too far. But I didn’t care. Fuck ‘em all.
Vanessa’s smooth voice punctured my red haze. “Don’t, Simon. You’ll lose your spot at the academy. He’s not worth it. Please take me home. This rich bitch doesn’t need to see anyone’s blood.”
He’s not worth it. He’s not worth it.
Rage dumped into my veins like jet fuel and those words lit the spark.
“Let’s do this, Slater!” I roared, striding to the center of the tracks.
Slater backed away rather than approaching me.
“You pussy motherfucker, come fight me like a fucking man.”
His hands came up. “Whoa, dude. I came to fight, not to die.”
My lungs heaved with rage. I had to hit someone. Something. Anything.
“Simon, no!” Vanessa’s yell pierced the air.
I swung around, fists raised, ready to swing. Duchesne was ripping his shirt over his head and tossing it to the ground. He strode toward me.
“You need an ass whuppin’.”
But Vanessa ran between us, pressing a hand against each of our chests.
“Step back, Vanessa,” Duchesne said.
“Yeah, step off, Vanessa,” I added, my tone snide.
Her blue eyes flashed as she stared into mine. “What is your problem? Can’t you just walk away? Do you have to pick a fight with everyone?”
“Would you rather I fuck it out with you, princess?”
“Shut your fucking mouth, Leahy,” Duchesne bit out, surging forward. If Vanessa hadn’t been standing between us, I was pretty sure I would’ve been spitting out teeth.
Vanessa’s hand dropped from my chest, and she stepped away. “You’re a pig, Con.” And with that, she turned her back and walked toward the Range Rover.
Duchesne just stared at me, shaking his head. “You need to get yourself under control, kid. Or you’re gonna end up dead or in prison. And that’d be a damn shame.”
I spat at the ground, narrowly missing his feet, lungs still heaving, but the rage starting to fade.
“You don’t know shit about me, Duchesne.”
“I know that you’ve got a good thing going here, and you’re just begging to screw it up.”
“Says the congressman’s son.”
“My parents are friends with yours, I know your story.”
“They ain’t my parents.”
“Legally they are.”
“That don’t mean shit,” I said again through gritted teeth.
He shook his head at me. “I’d hate to think that she’s right. That you’re not worth it. But then again, maybe you don’t want to be worth it.”
I didn’t dignify his bullshit psychobabble with a response. I turned away and stalked toward Teddy, grabbing my shirt of the pile.
“Well … that was interesting,” he murmured.
“Not now. I just need a blunt and a fifth of Jack.”
“You sure that’s a good idea, man?”
“I ain’t planning on robbing a liquor store, so what’s the problem?”
Teddy held his palms up. “Hey, I’m on your side. Let’s get outta here. I’ll raid my bro’s stash and my parents’ liquor cabinet.”
“I’ll meet you there. I need to walk this shit off.”
Teddy raised both brows. “Okay, man. Okay. Whatever you need to do. I’ll see you soon.”
I strode away from the crowd, which was now dispersing. One of the interchangeable girls came up to me and trailed a finger down my chest.
Over her shoulder, I saw Vanessa staring at me through the passenger side window of the Range Rover as Elle backed it away from the tracks.
The girl wrapped an arm around my waist as I held Vanessa’s stare. When she pushed up on her toes and moved in for my mouth, I stepped back before she could make contact. I didn’t want this girl’s lips on me, because someday I was going to have Vanessa Frost’s.
I hope you enjoyed this fun peek at Con and Vanessa before the ink! If you haven’t already enjoyed the rest of their story, you can find it in Beneath This Ink.
If you’ve already read Beneath The Ink but haven’t read the rest of the series, you’re missing out on more incredible alpha heroes! Check out the complete series here and get ready to binge!