King of Regret by Jacie Lennon

 

1

Brock

End of Summer before Senior Year

“I’m trying to protect you and the interest of this family,” I say, seething with anger as my dad studies me carefully. “How will I learn the ins and outs of the business—the businessI’m taking over one day—if you make me an intern on par with all the other interns?”

“Brock, I understand—”

“No, you don’t understand. You can’t make me your bitch, getting you coffee and special lunch items whenever you want them.” I know I’m blowing this out of proportion, but I’m fucking steaming. I have been dreaming of this day forever—when I get to go in and work with Dad, learning what he knows, finding my place in Montgomery Properties. But now, he’s told me I’ll be an entry-level intern, which is business speak for gofer, and I can’t believe it.

“Let me talk.” Dad’s tone brooks no argument, and I let out a groan of frustration as I cross my arms, leaning back against the counter.

We are standing in the kitchen, and my twin brother, Bodhi, is the only one at ease as he tucks into his bowl of spaghetti, not paying any attention to us. Corbin, our best friend, is leaning on the other side of the island, looking like he doesn’t want to be here right now. I don’t care though. This family needs an intervention even if I’m the one who has to do it.

“It’s my company, and I will do what’s best for it. I can’t bring you in at a higher level than others who are also starting. That shows nepotism, and I won’t be accused of that. You have a lot to learn before you can run a company, and you would do well to remember that. You are only seventeen. You have room to grow.”

“I won’t be able to grow, fetching you coffee,” I growl, and Dad shakes his head at me.

“I don’t understand this obsession about fetching coffee. I don’t think I’ve ever had an intern bring me coffee,” Dad says, grabbing a bowl from the cabinet and fixing some spaghetti in it.

Our housekeeper, Ms. Anderson, makes some bomb-ass spaghetti, and everyone here knows it.

“I love you, son,” Dad says calmly, irritating me even further that he’s not upset like I am. “But I’m doing you a favor, making you start from the bottom.”

“That’s not a favor. I’ll learn nothing.”

“You’ll learn that not everything is about you.” Dad strides from the room, putting an end to my protests.

“Fuck,” I growl, pounding a fist onto the counter. Fuck his views. It is about me. I’m the one who’s going to take it over one day.

I know I’m not technically the firstborn, but Bodhi has no interest in the business. He couldn’t care less if I took it over.

“Ah shit,” Bodhi says, breaking into the tense silence as he scrolls on his phone. “Party tonight at Loredo warehouse.”

Case in point. He wasn’t even paying attention to our argument.

Corbin blows out a long breath, leveling him with a look. “I’m out. You know how they feel about me.”

Corbin is a scholarship student at Almadale Prep, our school. But he’s from the Loredo side of town, and they didn’t take too kindly to him jumping ship.

“I’m out too. You know who is in Loredo.” I cross my arms over my chest, my fingers flexing before tightening into fists.

“Ah, come on. Don’t be a downer,” Bodhi says, jumping up and putting his bowl in the sink.

“Aren’t there any other parties literally anywhere else?” Corbin asks.

“None that will be this fun. Come on,” Bodhi begs.

Finally, I give in to his whining. I could use a break, some time to let go of the stress of finding out I’m going to be a lowly intern. I want to gag at the thought.

“Fine.” I look at Corbin.

He groans, rolling his eyes, but then he finally agrees.

“Let’s go,” I say, grabbing the Maserati keys from the hook, Bodhi and Corbin following behind. I need a break from these thoughts anyway.

Corbin rides shotgun while Bodhi leans forward, putting in the address of the current warehouse party. They change locations each time—I guess to keep it exciting or some shit.

It takes a lot to excite me. Not to be a prick, but we have money, and at the snap of my fingers, I can have whatever I want. I usually take advantage of it too. But lately, it doesn’t feel the same. It doesn’t sate my hunger like it used to, and I can’t decide if I want to chase a different high or chase my passions.

My dad, Chester Montgomery, built up his dad’s empire, turning it from a million-dollar company into a billion-dollar company, and I respect that ambition. I aim for that kind of ambition in my own life. I’m on top at Almadale, and one day, I want to be on top at Montgomery Properties. It comes with perks but also with downsides. I’m more feared than respected by my classmates—my own doing, I realize in retrospect, but it’s not something I can undo now. I can only move forward and try to keep my good life going.

Maybe I will help others in the long run. The classmates I deal with at Almadale have always had it good. They come from families that are the top one percent in the country. They haven’t suffered or known poverty. Maybe it’s why I became friends with Corbin. If I could help him, make his life better, then I would be a success.

Then, he became my best friend, other than Bodhi, who has always been there. But I feel numb. I feel like nothing. So, this party is another stepping-stone to the high I seek. And seek it I do.

We pull up, parking haphazardly, and I get out, pocketing the keys.

“Fuckin’ dope,” Bodhi says, his face lighting up as we step into the warehouse, strobe lights glancing off the walls and kids standing around, talking, drinking, doing body shots.

I grunt in reply, not impressed. I don’t know anyone here, and I’m beginning to regret agreeing to Bodhi’s demands. Although we’re twins, we have completely different personalities.

“If you say so,” Corbin says, walking behind us, his hands in his pockets.

“Yo, Montgomery,” a voice yells above the music, making me pause.

I swivel my neck, spotting the one person I didn’t want to see tonight. Drake is frowning down at me as he stands on a raised platform.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” he yells, his look turning more deadly by the second.

“Came to scout out the scene.” I look bored, but I’m very aware of my surroundings. My muscles bunched, readying for a fight.

“Bring anything?” he yells. “No entry without a gift.”

“Fuck—”

“Yeah,” Bodhi yells for me, finishing the sentence as he holds up a baggie. “But I don’t share with assholes.”

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

I turn, pinning my eyes on him, making sure that I don’t look mad as I stare at Bodhi.

“Really?” I say as calm as I can manage, and he grins at me.

“Really.”

“I thought we talked about this,” I say, my teeth clenched. I’m pissed. I don’t fuck with drugs, and the fact that Bodhi is flaunting it in front of my face is disrespectful to the Montgomery name.

“You talked, bro; I listened.” His gaze turns predatory as he wraps an arm around the closest girl to him, dipping his mouth to whisper in her ear as he leads her away, and I snarl.

“It’s fine. I’ll keep an eye out,” Corbin says, a hand on my shoulder before he walks off to follow Bodhi.

Glancing around, I don’t see anyone I know, so I head to the back of the room, where there is sure to be a bar set up. I find one, manned by three girls not wearing much but I don’t stare. They don’t interest me. I have had my share of girls throwing themselves at me, and honestly, it’s not fun if I don’t have to work for it. Tonight, I’m not looking for much, only a distraction from my thoughts.

“Well?” A girl’s voice claims my attention, and I swivel my head, looking at one of the bartenders.

“What?”

“I asked if you wanted something.”

“Yeah, scotch, neat.”

“Scotch, neat,” she mimics with a laugh. “We aren’t high-class like you.” She looks me up and down, a gleam in her eye, but I glare back, putting a stop to any of those thoughts on her end. “We got vodka, rum, or whiskey. Beer if you are feeling that.” She leans forward, pressing her breasts together with her arms as she stares me down.

“Whiskey, on the rocks,” I say, turning, leaning my elbows back on the counter as I wait. One ankle crossed over the other, I’m the picture of relaxation, but inside, I’m tense. I have a weird feeling about tonight.

“You look comfortable.” The voice hits my ears, close to my side. There’s something familiar about it, something I think I’ve heard before.

I slowly turn, meeting soft brown eyes behind wide-framed glasses, and then I narrow mine. Of course, it would be her. The one person I didn’t think I would see again, and if she knew what I knew, she wouldn’t be talking to me. But I guess it’s my fault for showing up on her side of town tonight.

“What are you doing here?” I ask, and she laughs before turning to order her drink.

“Don’t you remember, Montgomery? How you got what you wanted, letting the school get rid of me when I did nothing wrong?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

But I do.

“Don’t play dumb with me. The real question is, what are you doing at a Loredo party?”

She turns back around, a beer pressed to her lips, and I scowl, looking for my drink, which should have been ready by now. The girl behind the bar holds it up, shaking it a little with a smile.

“Take a sip,” I say to the bartender, and her eyes widen. “Do it.”

The girl frowns and brings the drink to her lips, sipping, and I extend my hand. She hands it to me, forehead still creased, confused.

“Still trusting, I see.” Her voice distracts me again, the sarcasm evident.

“People who trust get fucked over,” I say, leaning against the makeshift bar as I take a sip of the whiskey. It burns my throat, going down. Definitely not top shelf. “You should know that better than anyone, Peyton.”

“So, you do know my name.” She turns further toward me and cocks her head to the side. “I didn’t think you knew I existed outside your bubble of narcissism.”

“I know everyone’s name.”

“In the world?” That joking tone is back, and I scowl.

“At Almadale. What are you getting at? You aren’t at Almadale anymore.”

Her laughter brushes across me, tingling my skin, and I almost growl. No one affects me like this. There’s no reason she should bring out these reactions in me. I don’t even like her. I don’t like her infuriating attitude or the way she’s challenging me. I’m used to never being questioned.

“Not getting at anything, just trying to catch up with an old classmate.”

“Cut the bullshit. There’s a reason you are talking to me. Do you need something from me? I’m not in the business of handing out favors.”

“Oh, believe me, I know. I would never expect a favor from you. No, what I want is in both of our best interests.”

“What is that?”

“A distraction. My ex is here and—”

“You want to make him jealous?”

“No. I want him to know that he and I are through.”

“So, what do you want me to do? Rough him up?” I stare down at my hands. It’s been a while since I punched someone who needed it.

“I want you to fuck me.” Her request makes me freeze, and I bring my eyes back to hers.

Surely, I didn’t hear her right. This is Peyton Rossman. Ex-student of Almadale Prep. Expelled on grounds of fighting, and I wasn’t on her side. It could be argued that I was the reason she got expelled, not that she knows that.

Why would she want anything to do with me?

“So, the mutually beneficial part of this agreement is that I get to fuck and you get back at your ex?”

“Not exactly.” She shifts her weight from one foot to the other—the first sign of nervousness I’ve seen from her during this conversation. “My ex is Drake.”

Of course. Drake fuckin’ Portley. We hate him; he hates us. It’s partly the rich kids and poor kids don’t mix kind of mentality. But we have family beef, and he’s a bully. Takes one to know one. He used to torment Corbin before he got big enough to defend himself. I don’t think he’d come at us now, but with what Peyton is suggesting, it seems kind of like a setup.

“Yeah, I don’t think so,” I say with a shrug as I look at her.

This time, I really look at her—the way her brown eyes pull me in, her dirty-blonde hair falling in waves that stop at her shoulders, a pair of oversize glasses perched on her nose. She succeeds with the nerdy look, but I know she’s not a wallflower. Hell, to even suggest this to me takes balls. I’m almost starting to reconsider. She would reconsider, too, if she knew what I knew.

“I don’t beg, Montgomery. This is a one-time offer. You get to piss off Drake, and I get to have my revenge.”

That word piques my interest. Revenge. One doesn’t usually want revenge unless something horrible was done to them.

“What do you want revenge for?”

“We all have our secrets, don’t we?” she says with a sad smile over the top of her beer can.

I drum my index finger against my glass as I study her. This seems like something she needs, and I can’t say it would be disagreeable for me. She’s probably a wildcat in the sack, and that’s not an opportunity that I should pass up so quickly.

“You know this means nothing if I say yes. You are a warm hole to use, and I won’t call you in the morning.” I don’t want her to get any ideas about me.

“And you are a warm dick,” she says, a smile on her face.

I narrow my eyes. I think she called me a dick, not talking about the one on my body.

This is too easy.

“What’s your plan?” I ask, and she pauses, caught off guard.

Maybe she didn’t think I would even consider it. Or maybe she didn’t expect me to ask any questions.

“Plan?”

“There has to be some sort of plan. Otherwise, how would he find out? Video proof? Him ‘unexpectedly’ walking in to find us in a compromising position? You want me to fuck you in front of him?”

“I was going to let it slip in conversation,” she says quietly.

“And he will believe you? Why not tell him you fucked me and be done? Why go through with this whole charade?”

“Does it matter? I think that little kernel of doubt that he has to deal with will be punishment enough. He thinks he owns me, that we aren’t done. He thinks I will come crawling back on my hands and knees for him. But I won’t. And I want to forget for the night.”

“What does he have to offer you that you can’t get somewhere else?”

“Nothing. But not everything is about money.”

“Isn’t it?” I say with a smirk. “Money makes this world go round.”

“Money doesn’t fix some things. Now, do we have a deal?”

She sticks her hand between us, and I stare down at it, darting my tongue out to catch a drop of whiskey that gathered in the corner of my lips. I extend my palm, placing my hand in hers. The smallness of her fingers is a strange sight in my large one, smooth and cool to the touch. Instead of shaking, I jerk her to me, flush against my chest, and I dip my head down, pressing a kiss to her lips. She gasps, and I pull back with a scowl.

“Deal.”