by Stella Rhys
Lake and I never had a chance at normal. She was drop dead gorgeous from day one - our maid's granddaughter who became my mother's spoiled living doll. I hated that girl with all my heart and at the same time, I worshipped every inch of her skin, every word that she spoke. I lived for her and the twisted game of truth or dare we created to feed our f***ed up needs for shock, shame and one-upping each other. Lake was my drug, my bad lifestyle choice.
And I'd fallen in and out of love with her a thousand times till the day she disappeared.
I know I ruined Callum Pike and going back to New York may be the worst decision I've ever made, which is saying a lot. But I'm willing to risk it. I never wanted to leave and now that I can, I'm going back - to be with the man I made, who made me. I know I screwed him up. I know he's hardened and become cold. I know the love we had is gone. But I need him now more than ever and no matter how much it hurts, no matter what kind of sick or satisfying way he decides to torment me, I'm going to fight through it.
I'm going to repent for the way I broke him and I'm going to find the Callum Pike I loved again - even if it tears me apart.
**a standalone novel**
**see below for an exclusive excerpt**
Let me start by saying that Lake and my relationship never had a chance at normal. I blame my mother’s generosity. Growing up, she let Lake stay at our place while her grandmother cleaned, so for as long as I can remember, she was at my house Monday through Friday, from after school till Elena went home at night. I didn’t care when we were little. I could ignore her if I wanted to. But as we got older and Lake grew beautiful, my mother’s fondness multiplied. She paid for her ballet lessons. She brought her on family vacations with us to Paris, the Hamptons, St. Bart’s. She went out of her way to hunt down anything Lake ever mentioned she wanted or liked or so much as fucking looked at. Maybe it wasn’t my mother’s generosity so much as her undying need for a daughter.
And a fucking stunning one at that. Lake’s honey brown waves were just a shade darker than her smooth skin and she had a raspy voice that lilted out between perfect heart-shaped lips. I probably hit puberty early because of her. Sprung countless hard-ons that had her name written all over them. So for the height, build and sexual appetite that landed me all those older girls in high school, I should’ve probably thanked her but I vacillated between lust and cold, hard resentment my entire adolescence. Because everything I worked hard for, Lake was simply given.
It was like that from the start but got to its worst in high school. I’d spent three hours a night for half a year applying to The Mercer School but when Lake was sixteen, she said she liked our uniforms, so my mother bought her way in. She had Lake’s casual stays at our house turn into something permanent when Elena got sick. She tore down a wall so Lake’s new bedroom could fit a walk-in closet, because every drop-dead gorgeous sixteen-year-old girl deserved a walk-in closet the size of a railroad apartment. She had me look after Lake at school and report back on how she was doing. I forced myself to lie and pretend that she was just being the perfect girl my mother dreamt of instead of telling her that Lake had every boy in school and half the teachers lusting after her with the way she walked around, back arched and tits pushed halfway out her uniform. All verbal warnings with that girl. I got written up for taking a piss without permission but Lake walked around Mercer with her nipples an inch from showing and the teachers only smiled and motioned for her to pull her shirt up.
I fucking hated going to school with that girl.
She’d already infiltrated my home life and I’d known from day one that it was only a matter of time before she wormed her way into my social circle. It took barely a week before she was a fucking staple, despite the fact that she had no money, played no sports and was a “proud Christian virgin,” for Christ’s sake. She had nothing in common with any of us. But she did have a tight little body and the face of an angel hiding a dirty secret. Whenever she felt mischievous or had some sort of impish thought – basically every fifteen seconds – those big hazel eyes would narrow into this cat-like bedroom gaze that was what my dad wound up blaming when he confessed to my mom before the divorce. But that’s a whole other story.
Plain and simple, I hated her. I hated that she dated my best friend and formed an unbreakable bond with my girlfriend. I hated that she heard things about me that I didn’t want her to know. I hated that my friends hit on her every chance they got and became horny, bumbling idiots if she was home when they came over. I hated that I eventually lost my best friend because I had to kick his ass for pressuring her for sex. Because of my mom, this random girl became my damned responsibility, and I wound up hating her as much as I fucking loved every inch of her skin and every goddamned word that she spoke.
Like I said, we had no chance at normal with the way we grew up. While she worshipped my mom like a goddess, Lake was smug and cheeky to me. She was a teenage girl and all too pleased with the fact that she was beautiful enough to control people – with the fact that she got a yes for every request of mine that was met with no. So I grew to enjoy tormenting her as payback. I liked how her cheeks looked flushed pink. I told our friends all the stupid, self-conscious things she said after ripping from my bong. In class, I picked her for every question on the book that I knew she couldn’t answer. Since she loved to tease, I locked her out of her room in just her towel. I pointed every time her top washed off at the beach. I did anything I could to piss her off.
In return, she worked her charm harder. She customized the way she behaved around everyone in my life so they were thoroughly enchanted, catering to her every whim. She acted like a sweet, innocent angel to them but to me, she was a smirking, lilting, devil.
And till the day she shattered me to pieces, we kept at our game. It started when Elena got sick and Lake’s Aunt Paula, came to take over cleaning. Unlike fiery Elena, she was boring. Presented no challenges. She did whatever we asked, gave us whatever we wanted. She was so dim she reached right up to hand us whatever we pointed to, too absent to realize she was giving say, a full bottle of Ketel to a pair of fifth graders.
So we started the game of truth or dare.
What naughty little thing would finally get Paula’s attention? Stealing the joint from her purse? Lake dared me to swipe it and I dared her to take the first hit. The next year, our dares graduated to sneaking out of the townhouse with Paula’s cash, running down the street to buy soda and candy and condoms just to see what they looked like. Years later, I’d let her watch me put one on. I dared her to give me something to look at, to get me hard enough to show her how a rubber worked. And Jesus fuck, did she come through.
The challenge had most definitely taken a turn by high school. It had nothing to do with getting in trouble, but pushing each other past our furthest physical, emotional and sexual boundaries, the lines of which grew fainter with every minute we spent together. It helped that we always picked dare.
Because for every “truth” you uttered, the other person could pass a turn for free, and that made for a boring day with no scandal or shame, which was everything Lake and I grew to fear. We needed those things. Thanks to each other, we grew up fucked in the head, living off the daily adrenaline of shocking, arousing and one-upping each other. I dared her to streak down Sixty-First Street in just her schoolgirl skirt. She dared me to jerk off in front of the window. I dared her to flash Mr. Price her tits. She dared me to start an affair with Miss Kane. I said she couldn’t seduce my girlfriend. She proved me more than wrong. By college, we had a handful of threesomes under our belt. But I always favored having Lake to myself because that was how it was meant to be. I was the first to see her body naked, the first to touch it, the first to show it pleasure. I was the one who took her virginity when she was finally ready and the one who knew every part of her, inside and out. That body belonged to me.
Growing up, that was my truth.
By the time we turned twenty-one, I’d fallen in and out of love with Lake at least a thousand times. And she knew it. But she still chose to disappear one day, without a word to me or my mother, who took only a couple months to turn grey and spiral into depression. She had invested love and time into Lake, chosen this exceptional girl over her husband. Over me. And Lake had shown her gratitude by vanishing into thin air one rainy Sunday morning. She had taken several things of ours with her – things worth a small fortune – but we didn’t blink twice over that shit. All we wanted was to find her but after she sent that one message asking us to stop, we did.
And I went back to hating her, with a passion a million times deeper than any one I’d ever loved her with. On top of that, I went on to accomplish every last goal that, depending on her mood, she said I would or would never achieve. I broke all the hearts she claimed I was going to and I became the cruel, powerful man she declared I’d be when we were only thirteen. And I managed to do it all without missing her once. I wouldn’t let myself so much as think of her. Lake was a bad lifestyle choice. An addiction. And I had to stay sober to build my empire, make my fortune and care for my mom. Which is exactly what I did. I found a way to love my life stripped of the twisted girl who made me, who I made.
But as of this morning, she’s back in Manhattan. And despite the war I went through to forget her, I have to have her.
In every way that exists.
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