The Bet Book 3
by Rachel Van Dyken
Copyright © 2014 RACHEL VAN DYKEN
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
Copyright © 2014 RACHEL VAN DYKEN
ISBN 13: 978-0-9915872-4-7
Cover Art by P.S. Cover Design
Edited by Kay Springsteen and Paula Buckendorf
High School Prom 2000
I pressed my hands against the sleek white dress my mom had purchased for me. Char looked on, her eyes skeptical as she eyed the dress and then my face.
"Are you sure he asked you?"
"Char!" I rolled my eyes. "For the second time… yes, he asked me last week in biology class."
Like I would actually forget one of the coolest moments of my teenage life. My crush had actually spoken to me, and it wasn't even something stupid like asking me to do his homework or pass a note to the hotter girl. It was because he'd noticed me.
I knew the new clothes were paying off. It was the only explanation. I'd traded my old jeans for new designer ones and bought a few Abercrombie screen t-shirts.
"And you're sure?" Char's voice was high-pitched, meaning she was stressed out.
"Why do you keep asking me that?"
Char twirled a piece of dark wavy hair in her finger. "It's just that I could have sworn I heard that he was going with Jessica."
"Well," I spritzed some perfume on my neck and sighed, "you heard wrong. Now how do I look?"
Char smiled. "Beautiful. Like a fairy princess."
Giddy, I clapped my gloved hands together. Prom's theme was a black and white ball. My gown was a strapless white Cinderella-like dress with glitter across the bodice, and my gloves were black.
I couldn't contain my excitement. I was going to prom with Brett Xander. Basically the hottest guy at my school. He'd asked me! I mean, I wasn't a total nerd, but it wasn't as if I was high on the totem pole either. I was valedictorian and the president of the Future Business Leaders of America. But he'd noticed me, he'd asked me, and yesterday when he'd called me to finalize plans, I'd about died.
The doorbell rang.
I ran down the stairs, nearly tripping on the last one, before taking a deep breath and opening the door.
"Beth," Brett's smile dazzled, making me feel weak in the knees, "you look beautiful."
Licking my lips, I made a sound that sounded a lot like a girlish sigh and offered my arm. I'd specifically told my parents that if they as much as snapped one picture, I'd refuse to get married and give them grandchildren. So they'd reluctantly stayed in the study, allowing me this one moment, just for myself.
"So, you ready?" Brett took my arm and began walking me toward the waiting limo.
A freaking limo.
I was sighing again.
Unable to form a sentence, I nodded as he opened the door. The plush leather seat beckoned me. Maybe I was going to get my first kiss? Or a sip of wine? Or a—
"Hey, Beth!" a chorus of voices sang out.
Huh? I dipped into the limo and nearly choked on my tongue. Four girls were sitting demurely around, sipping soda. Each of them from my biology class. None of them were popular.Iif anything, they were less popular than me.
Confused, I looked to Brett for an answer, but the door slammed in my face.
"He's not riding with us?" I asked, full-fledged panic setting in.
"You're kidding, right?" One of the girls laughed. "Brett Xander? With us? Breathing the same air? Um, no, this is his good deed for the year. He was short a biology credit, and it seems Miss Sims has a soft spot for all us girls and the hard work we've had for our AP class. His extra credit was doing something nice for the biology department, and since it's Brett Xander, well, you can imagine what his something nice was."
"Us," I mumbled. "So what? He's taking all of us to prom?"
"Nope." The same girl slurped her Mountain Dew. "He picks us up in a limo, joins his girlfriend in the other limo, and walks into the gym with us. But at least we each get a dance with him. I mean, he is going to be Prom King, everyone says so."
"Right." I licked my lips and debated whether or not I should jump out of the limo, but just as I was reaching for the door, the car started barreling down the road.
Suddenly, my dress felt too tight, and I felt like an idiot. After all, what guy would want a super-geek control-freak who had a preference for cats? Not Brett Xander. I was kidding myself to think he would even look twice at me.
"Hey, you want a soda?" One of the girls threw a Pepsi in my direction. I caught it but set it on the seat.
"No, thanks." I left out the long lecture about soda causing cancer and instead focused on my black gloves. The same black gloves my mom had spent over thirty dollars on because she was so excited I had a date.
I couldn't bail now. I couldn't go home and tell them the truth.
I'd just have to be brave and smile. One day.
One day, a guy hotter than Brett would notice me. I'd make sure of it. I wouldn't be the crazy cat lady, or the girl who went all through college without making out with at least a few guys.
I just needed to find the right one.
One that wouldn't break my heart into a million pieces.
One who wasn't too good-looking.
Scratch that. One who wasn't better looking than me.
And someone I could trust.
So basically, I couldn't date a lawyer, doctor, model, celebrity, or firefighter. And abatove all cost — I could never marry a politician.
I mean, who would ever be that desperate?
"You've been charged with the kidnapping of a United States senator. How do you plead?"
Grandma Nadine smirked. Amateurs. She winked at the FBI agent and answered saucily, "Why, guilty, of course."
My legs ached something fierce, my face was smashed against a soft pillow that smelled a heck of a lot like a rich politician, and I distinctly remembered eating at least three cookies, or maybe it was four?
With a groan, I tried to move, but everything in my body, not to mention my brain, told me it would be a painfully terrible idea. I moved anyway.
Again, not my fault.
"What the hell?" A deep voice rumbled from somewhere underneath me.
I closed my eyes.
"You can't close your eyes. I already know you're awake."
"This is all a dream," I muttered, my voice sounding scratchy and unfamiliar. "I'm a figment of your imagination. Swear. In two seconds you're going to feel—"
"Shame," the voice said. "Isn't that what you were going to say? Absolute mind-shattering shame?"
I opened my eyes. "What?" I should have left them closed.
Really. It's the small things in life that get you. Close your mouth. Close your eyes. Pretend you don't see that. Crap. Some things just can't be forgotten.
And that face?
Bright blue eyes?
Blond hair that fell just below his ears?
Officially stored into my permanent memory until I died alone with all my cats.
"I was kidding."
Right, because lying across a complete stranger in nothing but a smile screamed Hey, let's joke around. I'm game. I quickly grabbed at the sheet and pulled away, kneeing the poor bastard in the process.
After a few expletives, his muscled body moved away from my catastrophe to the other side of the bed. "You can't tell anyone you know."
Right. Like I was really tempted to go to the media about my current state of undress.
"About?" I tried to make my voice all high-pitched and screechy like the stupid girls on TV. Basically, I was playing dumb.
"Really?" He turned; a dimple peeked out from the right side of his cheek as he eyed me with humor.
Hey, I didn't say I was good at playing dumb; I was a chemist, for crying out loud! My version of playing dumb was allowing the opposite sex the opportunity of pushing the elevator button, in hopes that he'd get laid by being so chivalrous. I believe it included twirling my hair and blinking more than once.
Yeah, that was my game.
"Well…" I shrugged. "I should, uh, be going." Why the heck couldn't I remember anything from the night before? I never did this. I was so NOT that girl. I quickly grabbed my bra from the floor, my bridesmaid dress from the chair — crap, and my heels from the bathroom, though they looked like someone puked on them. Great, was that my puke? Did I get drunk?
"Do you do that a lot?"
Sexy man-candy grabbed my arms, and that's when it happened. No, not what you're thinking. Gosh, I wish it was that easy: he grabs my arms, I swoon, fall into hopeless love, and get married in Vegas the next day to Chris Hemsworth's doppelganger.
Nope. Not my reality.
Again, let's revisit.
I don't do things like this.
I don't sleep with guys.
Correction. I've never slept with a guy. Ever. Never. Ever. Ever. Was that too many evers? Holy Batman and Robin, was I starting to sweat? How unattractive could I make myself to sex-god? And why the ever-loving hell was he entering into my personal space.
I closed my eyes to summon the memories of the previous night.
Bridesmaids' dress, good-looking groomsmen, Grandma giving me a drink. Cake, dancing, Grandma giving me another drink, and then Jace and me dancing, and laughing, and getting into a car and… aw hell. Cookies.
Damn it, politician Jace!
He'd grown up since I'd last seen him. Correction, he'd grown into the type of man-candy that makes people weep. I'd never told anyone about that night — the night he'd basically saved my soul from getting crushed by the quarterback of our football team. Was this how I thanked him? I'd met him once in my life. Once! Of all the dirty politicians to fall into bed with, why did it have to be Jace?
The same Jace that Grandma Nadine had convinced needed soothing after my sister broke his heart all over the place.
Well, I'd soothed him all right. Pretty sure Grandma didn't intend for me to seduce the groomsman then leave him ASAP.
Sleeping with a politician basically made me a whore.
Great, so I'd lost my virginity to a man who'd one day be president. Monica Lewinsky and I should be Facebook friends. Then again, I doubt she was a virgin if she and Bill got all—
"Did you hear me?"
"Yup." I nodded. "Loud and clear." I was so going to hell for lying to his face.
"Great, so let's just pack everything up."
Pack everything up? What? Like we had a sting operation going on in this hotel room? What happened to the Jace from high school? The one who'd rescued fair damsels and had ridden a white horse?
"I think it's what's best." Jace swore and grabbed his cell phone. "Just don't go outside. For the love of God, don't go outside. I'll have to call security. But I need to take a shower first. Eat a cookie. I know you like those."
"What?" I turned to face him. All of him. Another point in my life when I should have closed my eyes rather than ogled.
The only thing covering up his nakedness was a pair of black boxers. Everything else on his body? Fair game. I looked hard. Hey, don't judge me. Besides when would I ever get a chance to see perfection so up-close? I'd never seen a guy with so many muscles packed tightly around his midsection, or someone whose arms actually looked bigger than my head. Seemed Mr. Senator had a slight obsession with physical fitness, not that I minded.
I doubted anyone would mind the rippled six pack currently facing me in all its model-like glory.
"Beth?" Jace smirked. "You awake or are you sleepwalking?"
My head snapped up to his amused eyes. "Awake. Sorry, what was the question?"
"Cookies?" Jace smirked. "You cried into a box of them last night."
I officially want a do-over. I lose my virginity to a dirty politician, and I cried into a box of cookies? Where's the justice, God! The fairness! The—
"I think there's some left over in the corner." He pointed to the minibar.
Suddenly ravenous, I stalked over, still half-naked, mind you, and grabbed the small box. Great, so I officially consumed half my body weight of something that I know will most likely give me cancer in five to seven years. Stellar. I threw the box onto the ground. "I'm not so hungry."
"You should be after all that exercise."
"Excuse me?" I whipped around so fast that I had to steady myself with the mini-fridge.
Jace grabbed a shirt and threw it over his toned and tanned body. "Easy, Beth, not what I meant." His eyes twinkled with amusement.
Ha, this was me, amused. I kept my frown firmly in place and even put my hands on my hips to show my disapproval.
With a wink, Jace grabbed the half-empty box, pulled a cookie out, and dangled it in front of my face. "You were hungry. I told you to eat a cookie. You said no."
"So?" I shrugged.
"So, your reason for saying no was because you didn't get a workout in, so I offered to—"
"Pretty sure I know where that story ends." I held up my hand.
Jace ate the dangling cookie and then another, making my mouth water. Dirty rotten Clinton-lover!
"But, you turned me down. Said squats are just as good as… you know." He cleared his throat. "So you proceeded to—" He waved the cookie in the air and smirked.
"Please," I bit my lip and closed my eyes. "Please tell me I didn't do a naked workout in order to eat cookies."
"Okay." He ate another cookie and headed toward the bathroom.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the shower turn on.
I was about five seconds away from going into the fetal position when he called out, "You ate five cookies and, according to your extraordinary math, decided that thirty squats per cookie equaled to the caloric intake, though you did keep sputtering some sort of nonsense about how exercise doesn't kill cancer, and then you said a whole bunch of shit and finally passed out after yelling, Die, mutated cells, die." Much laughter followed. "Oh, and you thrust your fist into the air. I think you were trying to be dramatic."
And utter silence.
And I wanted to die.
"That's what you get for waking up in Vegas." A voice sang from the shower.
Great and now he was mockingly singing Katy Perry.
Things could not get worse.
"Guilty?" The FBI agent sighed heavily and reached for his coffee. "You do realize you'll be going to prison."
Grandma shrugged. "Wouldn't be the first time I've gone to the slammer for the greater good."
"The greater good?" the man asked, his eyes narrowing.
"Why yes. I served a few months in a Russian prison after The Cold War. I was a spy and was guilty of poisoning a government official. Then again, they could never prove it. I'd slipped something into his mouth during a heated kiss." She reached into her leopard purse. "Breath mint?"
"Great, they're going to put Cradle Robber on my tombstone," Beth yelle
I was trying to lighten the moment until she started having a panic attack in the middle of the bathroom. I was still trying to figure out how long it would take her to realize I was showering, naked, and she was standing there rocking back and forth like someone about to have a nervous breakdown.
"I can't believe I'm thirty and still can't make sound decisions!"
Something I'm guessing it was a shoe slammed against the wall. More cursing. Damn, it was hot when she cursed.
"Why the hell don't I have that drunk text thing? Wait. Does that exist yet? Son of a—" More banging around. And then silence.
To be honest, the silence freaked me out more than the nervous breakdown. Yelling I could deal with. I was a politician for shit's sake. I cut my teeth on people who yelled and bitched every day of their lives. But silence? Kryptonite. Superman was officially going to crash into the moon if Beth didn't pull herself together.
Her eyes were more green than I remembered them. Then again, my memory wasn't so great; it had been over ten years. Ten years, and I still couldn't get those damn eyes out of my head. Instinctively, I reached behind my ear and touched the scar; it may as well be a blazing red sign that read Danger. Last time I had a run-in with Beth, I landed in the hospital.
So we shared a one-night stand. Big deal. People did it all the time.
I mean, I didn't. But people did. They had to, right? Where else would Hollywood get all that shit about one-night stands and waking up in Vegas and the Ashton Kutchers falling in love with the Cameron Diazes?
I closed my eyes against the memories. Damn. It was her stupid dress that had done me in. It had reminded me of prom. It had reminded me of her sweet scent, and after a few drinks, I'd been done for.
"I'm going to die. And then I'll burn in hell," Beth wailed.
Well, at least she was talking again.
I cleared my throat and shook away the past regrets, burying them deep into the part of my brain where boxes sat with cobwebs. "Wait, why are you dying?"