PRAISE FOR RACHEL VAN DYKEN
“The Consequence of Loving Colton is a must-read friends-to-lovers story that’s as passionate and sexy as it is hilarious!”
—Melissa Foster, New York Times bestselling author
“Just when you think Van Dyken can’t possibly get any better, she goes and delivers The Consequence of Loving Colton. Full of longing and breathless moments, this is what romance is about.”
—Lauren Layne, USA Today bestselling author
“The tension between Milo and Colton made this story impossible to put down. Quick, sexy, witty—easily one of my favorite books from Rachel Van Dyken.”
—R. S. Grey, USA Today bestselling author, on The Consequence of Loving Colton
“Hot, funny, and will leave you wishing you could get marked by one of the immortals!”
—Molly McAdams, New York Times bestselling author, on The Dark Ones
“Laugh-out-loud fun! Rachel Van Dyken is on my auto-buy list.”
—Jill Shalvis, New York Times bestselling author, on The Wager
“The Dare is a laugh-out-loud read that I could not put down. Brilliant. Just brilliant.”
—Cathryn Fox, New York Times bestselling author
ALSO BY #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR RACHEL VAN DYKEN:
The Consequence Series
The Consequence of Loving Colton
The Consequence of Revenge
The Consequence of Seduction
The Consequence of Rejection
The Wingmen Inc. Series
The Matchmaker’s Playbook
The Matchmaker’s Replacement
The Bet Series
The Ruin Series
The Eagle Elite Series
The Seaside Series
The Renwick House Series
The Ugly Duckling Debutante
The Seduction of Sebastian St. James
The Redemption of Lord Rawlings
An Unlikely Alliance
The Devil Duke Takes a Bride
The London Fairy Tales Series
Upon a Midnight Dream
The Wolf’s Pursuit
When Ash Falls
The Seasons of Paleo Series
The Wallflower Series (with Leah Sanders)
Waltzing with the Wallflower
The Dark Ones Saga
The Dark Ones
Hurt: A Collection (with Kristin Vayden and Elise Faber)
Every Girl Does It
The Parting Gift (with Leah Sanders)
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2017 by Rachel Van Dyken
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Skyscape, New York
Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Skyscape are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc., or its affiliates.
Cover design by Damonza
Cover photography by Regina Wamba of MaeIDesign.com
To my husband, who forced me to leave the house when I needed to write and edit this book—it’s finished because of you!
About the Author
Nobody ever tells this side of the story—but it’s important. Cheaters aren’t born, they’re made. Never forget that. You don’t wake up one day and decide to cheat, you don’t make a career out of it, and you sure as hell don’t want to end up hurting an endless number of people for your own psychotic reasons.
And other times.
What should happen, doesn’t, and what shouldn’t happen, does.
Such is life.
The life of a cheater.
This is my story.
You will hate it.
You will hate me.
You will laugh.
You will cry.
And in the end, you will understand.
Because I wasn’t born this way—I became a cheater.
But there’s redemption for all of us. I have to believe that, or what the hell am I doing?
May 2012 Rehearsal Dinner Night
Reddish-brown hair slid through my fingers like silk. A shudder ran through me as the rightness of finally being with her hit me square in the chest. A warm thigh brushed across my leg and then moved, straddling me, holding me captive.
Morally trapping me.
Imprisoning me with each squeeze.
In a hazy distant fog, I realized something felt slightly off.
Her hair had never been that red.
Her thigh that warm.
And her laugh . . .
“I knew you wanted me,” she whispered in a coy voice that tried too hard to be innocent.
Then all at once the lights came on.
I wasn’t in my bed.
It was a mistake, a horrible mistake.
One I wouldn’t ever repeat if I could just make it out alive.
But luck had never been on my side.
So when the door jerked open, I already knew who it was, just like I already knew how it would end.
Either in tears or bloodshed. Maybe both? Kayla’s hazel eyes locked on mine, then very visibly shut down.
“No,” I whispered, my mouth moving, but nothing coming through my lips. They were numb—maybe with grief, drunkenness.
Yell! My body screamed—demanded I do something.
Fight like hell, MOVE!
But I was completely paralyzed with the actual realization that one false step had done this.
They say every man has a story.
Mine started the night I was found in bed with my fiancée’s sister.
“Lucas Thorn.” Jessica said my name the way all girls said my name—in exasperation with a hint of lust and a hell of a lot of breathiness—and always my full name, never Luke, or just Lucas.
I was Lucas Thorn.
The one time a girl tried nicknaming me, I laughed in her face and very quickly sent her on her way.
Then again, I’d been getting tired of her anyway, which wasn’t a big deal since I had an ongoing list of women—each of them was comfortable with the fact that she wasn’t the only one in my lineup of weekly screws.
Mondays were Molly, because, well, both started with an M, and with so many women in my life, my memory was absolute shit.
Tuesdays were either Tabatha or Cary, depending on which one wasn’t busy traveling with the airline they both worked for. They rarely flew on the same day. The good news? They were roommates, so I never had to get a substitute if one of them was flying. Because who the hell wanted that?
Jessica’s lips pressed into a pink pout, her shiny lip gloss giving me an involuntary shudder as I stepped away and lightly pressed my hand against hers. I was a noncommittal hand-holder, the way I was a noncommittal boyfriend.
Holding hands? Making out? Too intimate.
Sex was sex.
Anything beyond that was asking too much, and they were lucky enough to be with me in the first place.
Hell, maybe I was arrogant, but I had a waiting list. And I didn’t have time for a stage-five clinger in my life. Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt, only to have it happen one more time before I learned to do a very extensive background check on each chick I allowed into my private life.
“What’s up, Jess?” I said casually, pulling my hand away from hers slowly enough not to startle her into thinking I was jerking away from her touch. I waited for her to say something.
Jessica wasn’t typically a talker. She made her living as an inspirational speaker, so when we were together it was quiet time, which was fine by me. Most women talked too much in my opinion, and when you wanted good sex, talking had a way of ruining all the rest of the things I’d rather be doing with my mouth.
She took a deep breath. “I’m unhappy.”
I sighed. She’d been one of my girls for the past three months, and considering that the typical end date to any of my relationships was around month four, I’d known it was coming. I’d always sensed Jess was different. She wanted the American dream: happy husband, two kids, small dog named Bingo, and the minivan with soccer ball stickers on the back window.
“Should we talk about our agreement?” I motioned for her to sit and give me a second while I went to get our coffee. Only hers was ready, so I snatched it and brought it back to the table.
She took the cup and swallowed a large gulp, with her big blue eyes locking on mine for longer than necessary. “I think I’m ready to be done.”
“Alright.” I said it softly, as if it didn’t bother me that women used me just as much as I used them. “Today?”
“Yes.” She nodded and then shook her blonde hair. “I mean, no.” Her lower lip trembled. “Lucas, maybe we can—”
My coffee order was called out.
“Hold that thought.” I went over to grab my macchiato. Anna was working; she was my Thursday.
“Lucas Thorn.” She shook her cropped hair and sighed, placing her hands on her wide hips. “As I live and breathe.” She had a teasing Southern accent that got me hard in all the right places.
“Gorgeous.” I smirked and leaned in to press a hungry kiss to her mouth. She returned it but then gave me a slight shove. “What?”
“I’m at work.” She blushed brightly.
“Green looks good on you.” I meant it. She was beautiful, not model thin, but with curves for days. Shorter than most women I typically dated, but a hell of a beautiful mind, and those eyes, I loved them. She deserved someone incredible. It just wasn’t me.
“I, uh . . .” She bit down on her bottom lip, then nearly ran into another customer. “Should get back to work. Are we still on for next week?”
“Of course.” I hated her insecurity. Then again, I wasn’t exactly helping that situation, now, was I? “We’ll do dinner. How’s that sound?”
“Good.” Her smile was bright. “Really good. Have a nice day, Lucas Thorn.”
I tried not to laugh out loud. Always both names.
I should have picked up on the seriousness of Jess’s tone; she’d called me by just my first name.
And she’d used it again for the first time since we’d met at a bar a few months back.
I turned around just in time to see Jess wipe away a tear and look down at her coffee.
She’d seen the kiss.
But she knew the rules.
I refused to feel guilty about the way I dated—the life I lived.
“So . . .” I sat down. “You were saying.”
“How can you do it?” She didn’t make eye contact, just stared down at her coffee again, then grabbed a green straw and started twisting it tightly between her fingers. “You have seven girls for seven days. And you’ve never fallen in love with one of them? Not ever?”
“Jess . . .” Honestly, I didn’t want to have this conversation with her. She’d been one of my favorites, always positive, exuberant in bed, willing to try anything, and I do mean anything, but sometimes, you need to cut the apron strings. “When we started dating, I told you, if you weren’t comfortable with my lifestyle that you always had an option to leave. It’s not like you signed some sort of psychotic ironclad contract that says I own you.”
She stared me down, eyebrows both arched. “You do realize that sounds exactly like something you would do, right?”
“Very funny.” She didn’t need to know that I once went to a lawyer and asked if I needed some sort of contract so I couldn’t get sued if one of the girls got pissed or something.
But as long as I had a verbal agreement from every girl that she fully understood I was dating a plethora of women and that she was one of many, I was good to go. Lucky me! Lucky them.
“Go.” I grabbed her hand and kissed it. “You know, Fridays always were my favorite,” I said, laying it on thick.
“Oh please.” She snorted out a laugh. “I’ve seen your Monday, remember?”
“Ah, Molly.” I laughed. “You’re all beautiful.”
“I think that’s the problem.” Jess frowned. “We’re all interchangeable. We may look different, have different body types, represent various races and demographics, but in the end, we’re just another way for you to please yourself. Not that you don’t please us, or me, I just . . .” She shook her head. “It’s too confusing, like being on The Bachelor without the possibility of getting you in the end.”
“Trust me, you don’t want me all to yourself. Done that once, it didn’t end well. I can’t be trusted, and that’s the truth.”
“That,” she said, standing, “makes me sad.”
“It shouldn’t.” I shrugged it off. “It’s life, Jess.”
“Are you sure about that?” I winked, then eyed her up and down. “Because I’m pretty sure I love it.”
“Love you too, beautiful.” I pulled her into my arms and kissed her temple. “Don’t be a stranger.”
“Hah!” She swatted me on the chest. “You’ll have a new Friday by lunch.”
“Maybe, maybe not.” I pulled my sunglasses from my pocket and put them on before grabbing my coffee. “Let me walk you out.”
“And there it is.”
“What?” I opened the door for her and followed. “There what is?”
The Seattle morning was perfect; sun peeked through the thin clouds, causing a pretty glow to land across Jess’s face. “You’re a total asshole yet a complete gentleman at the same time. What’s worse is I can’t hate you. Even when I saw you kiss another woman five minutes ago, my only thought was, ‘She seems nice—I see what he sees in her.’ That’s the Lucas Thorn effect.” She stabbed at my chest with a finger. “You make cheating okay.”
“If you know about it—and all parties agree to it—it’s okay.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.” She shrugged. “Because I got you Fridays, but every other day? You belonged to someone else. That is never okay, no matter how charming you are.”
“A compliment—I’m touched.” I shoved a hand in my pocket. “So what will you do now? Get married? Have a ton of kids? Buy a house?”
Her smile was warm. “Maybe.”
“Good. Don’t forget to invite me to the wedding.”
She burst out laughing. “You know? I just might.”
“They all do.”
Her laughter stopped, and she stared at me, her eyes sad. “I hope one day you find what you’re looking for.”
“Bye, Jess.” I turned and didn’t look back.
I never did.
“Just one more time,” I pleaded, my eyes filled with tears. I seriously needed this internship since the last company I worked for—an Internet start-up—had to let go of ten of its lower-level employees.
Since I was just out of college and had only worked there for a few months.
I was shown the door.
At least it was a nice door.
And big enough to fit at least three of us side by side as they quite literally pushed us out of the building.