Rival Page 2

Madoc zeroed in on me with his playful half-smile and relaxed eyes. “So are your frien—” he started, then stopped. “Oh, that’s right. You don’t have any friends.”

“Don’t need ’em,” I shot back. “I travel faster on my own. I’m going places. You know that.”

“Yeah, you’re going places. Just stop at the dry cleaners on your way, Fallon. I need my shirts picked up.” He smoothed an arrogant hand over his navy Abercrombie button-down. With his medium-wash boot-cut jeans, black Paracord bracelet, and styled dark blond hair, Madoc dressed to impress. Girls flocked to him because he looked good in clothes, could talk the ears off an elephant, and loved to play. For all intents and purposes, he was a fun guy.

And he always made me feel small.

I talked a lot of shit, but truth be told, it was more for my ears than anyone else’s. Madoc was designer. I was Target. He was Godiva. I was Snickers. And as far as he was concerned, he was entitled, and I was the freeloading daughter of the gold-digging whore who had snagged his father.

Madoc thought I was dirt under his shoe. Screw him.

I gave his outfit a condescending once-over. “Your shirts—which are super stylish, let me remind you. The g*y community would be proud.”

“You could get nice things, too. My dad pays your mom enough for her services, after all.”

“Nice things? Like the miniskirts you date?” I challenged. Time to educate the little shit. “Most guys, Madoc, like something different. You know why you want to see me in ‘nice,’ skimpy things? Because the more I show, the less I’m hiding. I scare you.”

He shook his head. “Nada, little sister.”

Little . . . I was only two months younger than him. He said shit like that to piss me off.

“I’m not your little sister.” I took a step forward. “And I do have friends. And plenty of guys interested. They like how I look. I don’t subscribe to you and our snotty parents’ stand—”

“Wow, I’m bored,” he cut me off with a sigh. “Your life doesn’t interest me, Fallon. Holiday dinners and once in a while around the house. Those are the only times I want to run in to you.”

I tipped my chin up, trying not to give anything away. It didn’t hurt. Not his words or his opinion of me. There was no ache in my throat that dropped down into my stomach and twisted the ever-present knots tighter. What he said didn’t matter. I liked who I was. No one told me how to dress, how to behave, what clubs to join . . . I made my own decisions. Madoc was a puppet. A drone.

I’m free.

When I said nothing, he started walking backward away from me. “The parents are out for the night. I’m having a party. Stay out of the way. Maybe hide out in the servants’ quarters where you belong.”

I watched him go, knowing I wouldn’t listen.

I would wish that I had.

CHAPTER 1

MADOC

2 years later

“Seriously?” I exclaimed. “Could she move any slower?” I asked Jared as I sat in the backseat of his girlfriend’s G8 with my hands locked on top of my head.

Tate twisted around in the driver’s seat, her eyes sharp like she wanted to drive a knife right through my skull. “I’m heading around a sharp turn at nearly fifty miles an hour on an unstable dirt road!” she yelled. “This isn’t even a real race. It’s practice. I told you that already!” Every muscle in her face was tight as she chewed me out.

I dropped my head back and let out a sigh. Jared sat in front of me with his elbow on the door and his head in his hand.

It was Saturday afternoon, a week before Tate’s first real race at our local, makeshift track—the Loop—and we’d been on Route Five for the last three hours. Every time the little twerp downshifted too soon or didn’t hit the gas fast enough, Jared kept quiet—but not me.

He didn’t want to hurt his girlfriend’s feelings, but I didn’t care. Why tiptoe around her? I wasn’t trying to get in her pants.

Not anymore, anyway.

Tate and Jared had spent most of high school hating each other. Battling with words and antics in the longest-running game of foreplay I’d ever seen. Now they were all up in each other’s shit like Romeo and Juliet. The  p**n o version.

Jared turned his head but not enough to meet my eyes. “Get out,” he ordered.

“What?” I blurted, my eyes widening. “But . . . but . . .” I stuttered, catching sight of Tate’s triumphant smile in the rearview mirror.

“But nothing,” Jared barked. “Go get your car. She can race you.”

The zing of adrenaline shot through me at the prospect of some real excitement. Tate could definitely race a chick who had no idea what she was doing, but she still had a lot to learn and some balls to grow.

Enter me. I wanted to smile, but I didn’t. Instead, I just rolled my eyes. “Well, that’ll be boring.”

“Oh, you’re so funny,” she mocked, gripping the steering wheel even tighter. “You make a great twelve-year-old girl when you whine.”

I opened the back door. “Speaking of whining . . . want to make a bet on who’ll be crying by the end of the day?”

“You will,” she answered.

“Not.”

She grabbed a package of travel tissues and threw them at me. “Here. Just in case.”

“Oh, I see you keep a ready stock,” I retorted. “Because you cry so much, right?”

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