By: Em Wolf

Chapter 1

Tacked amid a cloudless, blue canvass, the sun was a brilliant roasting badge of ninety degrees. Miles of unspoiled beach furled in either direction. White-capped tides slapped the shoreline coyly, the water’s bejeweled surface unfairly cheerful in the oppressive heat.

Despite the broiling conditions, Tess couldn’t help but admire the backdrop. Growing up in a one-bedroom apartment hemmed in by mortar, brick, and iron bars would do that to a girl.

As much as she’d enjoyed her stay, Tess had had her fill of the exclusive Montauk in all of its tragically self-conscious elegance. The picturesque town had provided a much-needed breather amidst a chaotic summer. But she missed the city—the noise, the smells, and most importantly, her bed.

As if on cue, a volleyball whizzed past her head. “My bad, T. Why don’t you get that sexy ass over here and join us. Maybe we’ll finally win a game.” Tristan glared at his teammates, having not quite retired the title of lacrosse captain.

“Don’t blame them. It’s the captain’s fault for leading them into folly,” she teased before kicking the ball to him, eliciting guffaws and jabs.

Tristan rolled with the punches and deferred to her ‘own’ with a sweeping bow before scooping up the ball and returning to his game. A minute later his team roared as the opposition’s spike smacked him square in the face.

It was probably a sign he should stick with lacrosse.

Although it was barely past noon, everyone was hydrated, or rather dehydrated, on liquored sweet treats mixed by some of the best bartenders this slice of the peninsula had to offer. The party had started out with four people at nine this morning. Eventually four became eight and eight became sixteen and Tess had stopped counting after her fifth rum and coke. Since then, the party had lurched from the deck to the beach.

Trussed in their vibrant, haute couture swimwear, sunlight blinked off carat rich jewelry and trendy accessories.

Her earlobes and wrists were naked by comparison. But she embraced her minimalist lifestyle. Unlike her silver spoon fed schoolmates, she was not the product of upper class breeding—more like illegitimate backwash. Hard to believe a bony-limbed girl from East Flatbush, Brooklyn could make it this far up the food chain.

Tess had her mother to thank for such an esteemed position. How a woman who’d barely scraped by for decades managed to ensnare an investment banker surpassed her comprehension.

But she was never one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Her mother married the summer before her junior year of high school and relocated her and her brother to their stepfather’s Upper East Side penthouse. In addition to adapting to their newfound affluence, they were forced to transfer from New York City’s public school system to one of the most sought after preparatory schools on the East Coast. Yet another handout, compliments of her generous stepfather, whose connections with his alma mater ensured a speedy entry.

Fast forward three years later and here she stood, shoring up a pretense she donned like a well-worn pair of shoes. Sipping from her cup, Tess surreptitiously scanned the crowd. It wasn’t out of boredom or obligation that she took up an offer to join her former prep schoolmates on a weeklong bender of debauchery.


There was really only one reason why she’d agreed. After seven weeks of globetrotting, her best friend would be stopping here first.

Cameron Reynolds had been her first friend in the foreign world of overindulgence.

Her first day of prep school had been something of an eye opener. At the behest of the school’s dress code, she was forced to remove her lip and eyebrow piercings and substitute her favorite pair of Doc Martins for a prissy set of flats.

It wasn’t enough. With no string of pearls adorning her neck, cashmere headband, or even a Chanel tote to beautify her uniform, she looked painfully out of place. And like sharks in the water, they’d scented her out.

One smartass comment about her earlobes, stretched by years of wearing plugs, was all it’d taken for her temper to flare. She’d spun around to deliver her thoughts on their supercilious establishment when her ankle twisted on the step. Flailing, she sailed backwards and landed in the arms of an innocent bystander. Warm, vividly shaded eyes had pulled the breath from her lungs and made her forget what she’d been angry about in the first place.

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