Fake. Phony. Liar.
And, once upon a time, he was mine. He’s the fearsome jester of Westbrook High, and I’m the spoiled princess.
They don’t know the real Cole—not the way I did. He’s been a stranger to me for years, pretending to be one of them. And I’m desperate for him to see me again.
Until he moved in down the hall. Now, there’s no escaping his hungry emerald gaze or wickedly sexy smile.
Gwendolyn Rhodes is one of the rich elite.
Privileged. Entitled. Pampered.
She’s out of my league. No matter what I do to fit in, they’ll always see me as the housekeeper’s son. I’ve tried to forget about her—to move on with my life.
But I let her games pull me back in. All bets were off the second I got too close to her.
She’s been messing with my head, but I’ve changed the rules.
She didn’t plan to wager her heart.
But I’m playing for keeps.
A shadowy figure on the top of my mattress catches my eye as I enter my room, and my stomach does a free fall. I freeze, but the fear strangling my throat keeps my scream from escaping.
The shape moves and there’s a click before my lamp lights the room. My lashes flutter as my eyes adjust, my panic increasing once I finally get a good look at what or who is on my bed.
“Welcome home, Princess.”
He looks very comfortable, all sprawled out with his arms folded behind his head and feet crossed. The buttons on his shirt are undone, putting his bare chest and abdomen on display. His sandy blond hair is disheveled in a way that makes him look insanely gorgeous. The jeans he’s wearing rest low on his hips, the top band of his Calvin Klein boxers peeking out.
The image is much like the ones I’ve imagined countless times before, and for a brief moment I wonder if this is all a dream. Until I notice the sparkle of mischief in his emerald eyes as his lips curl into a villainous grin.
This is no dream, it’s a nightmare.
Oh god. He knows it was me.
Icy panic floods my veins, my mind scrambling for a plausible excuse or explanation for what I’ve done. I merely wanted to talk to him. Not the exchange of blows that seems to be our normal form of communication these days. A real conversation. Yes, it was deceptive. But it’s not like I intentionally tricked him.
“Cole?” Terror is palpable in my voice, and I clear my throat, feigning a calm indifference to his presence as I continue. “What the hell are you doing in my house?”
“Technically, this is our house.” The cavalier response holds a sinister tone, warning me of his cruel intentions.
My limbs begin to tremble, fighting off the chill of my fright. “You haven’t lived here for two years, Cole.”
It feels more like a lifetime; the nearly ten years we shared here nothing more than fading memories I’m desperately clinging to.
I try to recall the last time we were in my bedroom together. Had we laughed? Did he hold me? Tell me he loved me? Had I said it back?
But the only memory I can grasp is the very one I’d like to forget forever. The night I made him believe I didn’t want him. The one that changed him. When I lost his love and earned his hate.
“A crushed soul and broken heart are no good to me.”
“True.” He stretches like a cat lazing about and sits up, locking his hard glare onto me as he places his feet on the floor. “And I know you’ve been so torn up over it. But the good news is I’m back. All moved in right down the hall.”
He stands, and I instinctively scoot back as my head shakes in protest. “You’re lying. I talked to my mom this morning. She didn’t say anything about you living here.”
“Yeah…I asked Nina and Mark to let me surprise you.” His dark chuckle keeps me rooted while he moves closer, the heat of his body blanketing over my exposed skin as he invades my space. “Surprise.”
His proximity makes me acutely aware that the only thing covering me is a small floral towel, and I cross my arms over my chest. “Get out of my room.”
He snorts at my feeble attempt to sound stern. “No need to be modest on my account. I rather enjoyed your little striptease when you came in.” My veins heat with embarrassment, and Cole’s lips spread wide as he reaches out to brush his thumb over my reddening cheek. “Don’t be shy. It’s not like I haven’t seen it all before, Princess. In fact, there isn’t a single inch of this luscious body of yours I haven’t touched or tasted.”
My eyelids fall as his fingertips run down my neck, across my collarbone, and over my shoulder. It’s been so long since I’ve felt his touch, and I revel in it. Once upon a time, he was mine—my everything.
When I open my eyes again, the resentment and malice in Cole’s gaze is gone. They’ve been replaced with a swirl of lust and sadness, his brow stiff with contemplation. The air in my lungs stills as he leans in like he’s about to kiss me, but his lips bypass mine and land on my temple instead.
“Playing with you is going to be so much fun,” he whispers in my ear.
There’s a wickedly sexy grin on his face as he backs away, his eyes hungrily roaming over me. Then he turns on his heel and strolls out of my room, his laughter echoing through the hallway.