The Consequence of Seduction
PRAISE FOR THE CONSEQUENCE OF LOVING COLTON, BOOK 1 IN THE CONSEQUENCES SERIES
“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
“Absolutely brilliant! Laugh-out-loud funny, with the perfect amount of tenderness and heat to keep me captivated to the very end.”
—J. L. Berg, 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
“From the very first page you will be hooked! Milo and Colton’s story had me laughing out loud, swooning, then back to laughing. It was an amazing ride that I didn’t want to end. Rachel Van Dyken outdid herself with this one!”
—Kelly Elliott, New York Times bestselling author
ALSO BY #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR RACHEL VAN DYKEN
The Consequences Series
The Consequence of Loving Colton
The Consequence of Revenge
The Consequence of Seduction
The Consequence of Rejection (Coming Soon)
The Matchmaker’s Playbook (April 2016)
The Matchmaker’s Replacement (July 2016)
The Bet Series
The Ruin Series
The Elite Series
The Seaside Series
House of Renwick
The Ugly Duckling Debutante
The Seduction of Sebastian St. James
The Redemption of Lord Rawlings
An Unlikely Alliance
The Devil Duke Takes a Bride
London Fairy Tales
Upon a Midnight Dream
The Wolf’s Pursuit
When Ash Falls
Seasons of Paleo
Waltzing with the Wallflower
The Dark Ones
Every Girl Does It
The Parting Gift
Alexander King (Coming Soon)
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 © 2016 by Rachel Van Dyken
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be crane reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic crane, 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 .com, Inc., or its affiliates.
Cover design by Jason Blackburn
This series would not have even happened had the Rockin’ Readers fan group not decided to jump in and help do a group beta read. What started with one book has now turned into four. Thanks for being down for anything and for being the best fan group in the world! Love you girls and David (our one male member, who’s pretty amazing).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I was told the nurses swooned when I was born, something about being the most beautiful baby they’d ever seen. It was my jumping-off point, and in a way it set the course for the rest of my young life, making me believe that if you were good-looking and well liked, you held the world in the palm of your chubby, chocolate-covered hand. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea that my mom told me their reaction. It caused me to expect a certain amount of attention everywhere I went, attention that, no matter where we went—grocery store, doctor’s office, school—I always had.
Things got progressively worse as I got older, because when I wasn’t on the receiving end of admiration, it upset me. Girls adored me, and in return, from a young age, I adored them. I was immature and rarely rejected, so it never occurred to me that I needed more than good looks, nice eyes, and a killer smile to get by. I used my charm on everyone from my own parents to schoolteachers. If someone told me no, I helped them understand why they should change that to a yes, and usually I was successful. Eventually my mom noticed she had raised a spoiled monster, so when I turned sixteen she tried to keep me in check by talking my teacher out of changing a bad grade. I may have flirted with said teacher, I may have sat on her desk, and I may have slightly come on to her—then again, she was really young and I was desperate to pass the class. My ear still burns when I think about my mom pulling me out of the principal’s office headfirst.
I learned an important lesson that day, one that stuck with me. She said looks would fade, but you were stuck with a personality forever.
As the whiskey seared its way down my throat, I winced, swallowed, then poured myself another shot.
My chest still hurt. I rubbed the spot where my heart was trying
“Reid,” my mother’s voice whispered in my head. “Girls are going to love you, and you’re going to love them, but there will come a time in your life when you have to choose one.”
“But I don’t want to choose one!” I said, absolutely horrified at the prospect. Would it be like choosing a best friend? Or picking out my favorite G.I. Joe? How did people survive making those types of choices? I mean, when Dad asked if I wanted orange juice or milk, I hid under the table and cried!
“Honey.” Mom rolled her eyes. “Believe me, by then you’ll be a grown man, mature. You’ll know your own mind. Trust me on this. You’ll know.”
I laughed bitterly and tilted my head back, pouring another shot down my throat.
Not true. Not at all. Because when it finally came down to picking one girl, I’d hit a little . . . snag. Yes, let’s call it a snag. I mean, to call it a mistake makes me look bad, and I’m not the bad guy in this scenario. Believe me, if there ever was a villain to name all villains? A monster kids talked about around the campfire? Whispered about in front of a mirror?
Look no further than Jordan Litwright.
I took three more gulps straight from the Jack Daniel’s bottle, hoping to erase my own memory.
My story starts like a lot of people’s do: with a bad decision.
Followed by several more bad decisions.
And then guilt.
A few tears . . . not on my end. Please, I’m a guy; I don’t cry. Hell, my eyes may . . . fill with water, but I have bad allergies.
The thing about picking one girl? The thing about growing up and knowing that it’s time to retire your college sweatshirt and grab a tie?
Well, it sucks.
It makes a man feel trapped.
And when men feel trapped, they do stupid shit.
When men like me feel trapped? Well, we say yes when we should say no.
I said yes.
And now I’m sitting in my penthouse apartment in New York, alone.
A shrill bark interrupted my pity party.
The dog didn’t count.
He was hers.
Didn’t belong to me.
Just part of the bet, part of the ruse, part of the seduction, if you will. I’d taken that bastard in just like I’d taken the princess—made an honest dog out of him—and when it came time to bail, she left the little monster with me.
“Come on, Otis, let’s go.”
The shit zoo—hell, who names a dog breed after crap? The shih tzu, whatever—ran circles around my legs, pink leash in its mouth, waiting to go outside.
“Lucky bitch,” I grumbled, reaching down and patting his head. “I do everything for you, feed you, clothe you, love you, and in return, what do I get?”
The dog whimpered and then began to pee.
Otis had a tendency to show his approval via bodily functions.
“Yup.” I sighed. “That’s about right. I get pissed on.”
Jordan would have liked that. But she wasn’t here to see it. Not anymore.
But that’s the end of the story.
I need to start at the beginning.
Actually, let’s start before the beginning. With the first bad choice.
Which, of course, was . . . listening to my brother, Max.
“You’re like a fish out of water, man. A dog without a bone. A mermaid without her—” Max turned and looked to his fiancée, Becca.
“Merman?” she suggested. I rolled my eyes. Great, just give Max more ammo.
“Yes.” Max snapped his fingers. “By God, you’re brilliant.”
She rolled her eyes. “It’s why you keep me.”
“Oh.” Max put his arm around her. “And here I thought I kept you for sex. My bad.”
“Clearly your sex isn’t enough to keep the woman trapped,” I offered in a condescending voice. “She needed diamonds too.”
“Nobody asked the Reid gallery,” Max snapped. “And we weren’t talking about me, we’re talking about you.”
“My favorite subject.” I winked at Becca.
Max threw a chip at my face. “Put sunglasses on those things before she throws her bra at you. I don’t want my fiancée launching herself across the table because you don’t know how to train those eyes. Feel me?”
“Do it again,” Becca whispered.
“What’s Reid doing?” Milo asked, plopping down next to me with Colt and Jason in tow. We were having our weekly meeting at our favorite bar in the city.
I still wasn’t sure how it had happened. Four months ago I was invited to Jason’s wedding. The plan was simple: break up the bride and groom. The bride in question just so happened to be an ex from hell. The type of ex you order a hit on just because the mere fact that they’re alive and breathing offends the shit out of you.
I would never go as far as to do something like that . . . but I did try to break them up. In doing so, I experienced some of the most traumatizing moments of my life at the hands of an eighty-six-year-old woman who truly had the strength of ten men.
I’m not exactly sure what happened, because I was high most of the weekend on antianxiety pills Max crushed into my drinks, but there were ants, trees, at one point I think she rubbed Bengay on me, and when I opened my eyes one fateful Sunday afternoon, the woman had no top on.
She was also putting on a Superwoman wig.
But that’s not the point.
The point is that somehow, that experience had bonded me to everyone around the table. Jason was a local police officer and had had more than his fair share of bad luck when it came to relationships. Milo, his sister, had recently married Colton, his best friend since childhood. I wasn’t sure how that didn’t affect their friendship, but they all seemed completely okay with the fact that Colton was sharing Milo’s bed at night. I glanced to the right. That left my brother and his fiancée. Damn, a lot had changed in the last year. One weekend was all it took to transform my otherwise normal life to one where I scream when I smell Bengay and hide under the table whenever an elderly woman walks into the room.
“The eyes!” Becca explained to Milo. “He was doing the eyes again.”
“Damn your eyes!” Max exploded. “This night is about an intervention.”
I raised my hand.
Max swatted it down.
Sighing, I waited for his speech. Max never did anything halfway. His explanations were always—and I do mean always—long. And they usually involved lots of pictures, props, and hand gestures, all of which were more than likely illegal to use in public areas.
“My intervention six months ago was about getting my head out of my ass,” Max said thoughtfully as he tapped his fingertips against his chin.
“Hear, hear.” I lifted my glass in the air and smiled.
Max’s eyes narrowed. His intervention actually included more than getting his head out of his ass. We had signed him up for a reality dating show on which he got attacked by goats and sea life on a daily basis and nearly got clawed to death by twenty-five available and desperate women. Judging by the tic in his left eye, I imagined he was taking a stroll down memory lane.
“Continue.” I sipped.
Max shook his head as if returning to the present and pounded the table with his fist. “Reid’s intervention is about getting ass.”
Whiskey went flying out of my mouth before I could stop it—landing on Jason’s cheek and nose. Cursing, he wiped his face off and stumbled backward, landing on one of the waitresses.
Chips and salsa went sailing into the air.
Joining the whiskey on Jason’s face.
We waited in silence for Jason to set himself to rights. I ordered another whiskey. Milo yawned. Colt took out a few more napkins “just in case,” and Jason finally rejoined us at the table smelling like a Mexican fiesta gone wrong.
We often waited for Jason. He was so accident-prone that Max actually ordered giant-size bubble wrap for the guy as a birthday present.
Jason hadn’t been amused.
I’d laughed my ass off.
Also earning myself a black eye to match the one Jason had at the time.
“I get plenty,” I explained once Jason joined us again. “And why are you concerned?”
Max tilted his head, then covered my hand with his. “Bless your heart, you don’t even know.”
“Know?” I repeated.
“Your balls.” He nodded. “They’re getting old.”
“They are not!” I jerked away from him. “I’m twenty-eight!”
“Next stop forty,” Max said under his breath. “Should we pick out your coffin? I’d go with oak. It’s always so nice—soothing, really.”
“Funny, I’m a fan of the darker woods myself,” Milo piped up.
“I’m not dying!”
“Shh,” Max whispered. “It’s okay.”
Patience. Patience. Patience. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, when Max was born? No praise. In fact I’m pretty sure the doctor said, “Sorry, ma’am, we did everything we could.” He’d been a pain in my ass since birth. When he was an infant he did nothing but cry; even then he knew how to push all of my buttons, repeatedly.
Jason sat down on my other side. Smart move, since I was a few seconds away from committing fratricide, and at least now Jason’s body blocked me from getting a direct shot to Max’s head with my fork. “Honestly, he’s right. I mean, it’s time to settle down.”
My eyebrows shot up. “This, coming from the guy who almost married Satan last year and since then hasn’t been able to go on a date with anyone under the age of fifty?”
“Leave Cecil out of this!” Jason defended his elderly companion, with whom he had Friday-night dinner on a biweekly basis.
“What?” I snorted and glanced around the table. “You guys all have a clock or something?”
“It’s called biology,” Max said slowly. “Don’t you read?”
“Do I—” I licked my lips and looked down. “Max, what’s this about?”
He shrugged. “Ever since Grandma.”
I started shivering in my seat. Jason wrapped his arm around me.
“Don’t touch him!” Max yelled. “That makes it worse.”