The Devil Hides in Plain Sight...
He was my childhood crush. I was his best friend's little sister.
I had no idea that when I got into a stolen car with Reynolds McAllister, it would cause me a lifetime of pain.
There's no escaping my injuries from that night. I can cover the scars, but the limp in my leg is a constant reminder of what he did to me. The law may have punished him for his crime, but there's only one thing that's managed to help me function; a steady, addictive stream of painkillers.
Stealing is what Reyn McAllister does. Objects, cars, hearts.
Or I did, until I was sent away for breaking Vandy Hall.
I spent three long, hard years paying for my crime; first at juvie, then at military school. It wasn't nearly long enough, but now I'm returning home to Preston Prep and to my childhood home next door to the girl I never meant to hurt.
It should be easy for us to avoid one another. We have nothing in common, except her brother and a single tragic night. But, when an opportunity arises at Preston to revive the Devils, we make a deal that will seal our fate once and for all.
Sometimes, the person you know the best is the one who's hurt you most.
A Deal with the Devil is a standalone novel in the Boys of Preston Prep series; an angsty, brother's best friend, dark romance by USA Today Best-Selling Author, Angel Lawson and Samantha Rue.
Release date: August 20, 2020
Publisher: Independently published
Print pages: 548
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
A Deal With the Devil
The night it all changes begins like a fairytale.
It’s warm for late spring, even for the south, and it’s the first time I’ve seen fireflies this year. They twinkle across the rolling green of the golf course, like tiny fairy lights beckoning me into the dark. I watch them for a long moment, transfixed, feeling the bloom of awareness that always arrives with the changing of the season, as if suddenly realizing the world has taken a gulp of time. Without thinking, I wander away from the patio, the dessert buffet, and my parents, to follow the blinking bugs in an attempt to catch one.
Even at thirteen, I’m still the kind of kid who’s more interested in chasing fireflies than talking about gossip, looks, and boys. I’m just not into hanging out with the other tweens at The Club, which is not to imply that my parents would let me anyway. In a world of excess and privilege, I’ve been blessed with two obnoxiously overbearing parents who expect—no, demand—good, appropriate behavior. Especially for a girl. If others think I’m bland and boring, then it just means my parents are succeeding.
It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m more comfortable on my own, anyway. I can’t compete with the other girls my age, with their push-up bras from Victoria’s Secret, or their high-heeled wedges that make them three inches taller. My best friend, Sydney, is all in the thick of it, a cornerstone of their whispered bathroom conversations about sneaking alcohol and giving guys blow jobs. Along with all the stuffed bras, I suspect they’re making it up—well, I know Sydney is—but regardless, there has to be a certain level of confidence to even pretend to live that life. It’s something I definitely lack.
The firefly slips through the cracks in the wrought iron gate leading out to the parking lot. I push through unthinkingly, continuing to follow it, but jolt to a stop when I hear a voice.
“I bet you can’t do it,” I hear a boy whisper.
No, not just a boy. My brother, Emory.
Someone else scoffs. “Sure, I can.”
I freeze at the sound of this voice, my heartbeat stuttering at the low cadence. Reynolds McAllister is many things. He’s our next-door neighbor. He’s my brother’s best friend. He’s our neighborhood's biggest troublemaker. He is, I suspect, the focus of many of those whispered bathroom discussions among the girls. But most of all, Reynolds McAllister is this:
My soul mate.
Reynolds whispers, “I just need a distraction.”
I shift a little so I can get a better view. It’s already dark out—hence the fireflies—but the moon is bright and full enough that I can see both of their profiles in a thicket of sculpted bushes. They’re crouched low, peering out at the parking lot, and I can just barely make out the confident, loose smile curving Reynolds' lips.
“Are you down, or what?” he challenges.
I watch as Emory gnaws at a thumbnail, silent for a moment, before agreeing, “I’ll distract the attendant and you’ll snag the keys.”
Reynolds turns to him to say, “Remember what I taught you. Nothing too big. Don’t draw outside attention.”
“Yeah, yeah.” My brother flaps a dismissive hand, adding, “And you can’t just grab any key. It has to be something really nice, like a Porsche or Tesla.”
“Hey, hold the fuck up. Now there’s criteria?” Reynolds’ voice is already deep for a fourteen-year-old. He makes my brother sound like he’s still in middle school, with me—not a freshman at Preston Prep. His deep voice and penchant for curse words always makes Reynolds sound confident and a little commanding, like he’s the one in charge, older somehow. It also frequently makes my cheeks heat, but that started long before he hit puberty.
Since as far back as I can remember, I’ve always had a crush on Reynolds McAllister. It isn’t just his easy smile, nor is it the deep-set dimples on his cheeks, both of which are likely a useful distraction, as once he sets them loose, you’re rendered temporarily unable to wonder what he’s up to—though the answer is usually ‘stealing something’. It’s not his messy hair, or that he’s got the dreamiest green eyes, or the way he always slouches when he sits, with his legs spread wide, like he’s just too cool to care about anything. It’s not even that he somehow knows a lot about things that fourteen-year-olds shouldn’t.
It’s about the way he looks at me sometimes, assured and trusting, like I’m not a child—like I’m more than the neighbor’s bratty kid sister. Emory and the rest of his friends have no tolerance for me. I can’t even count the amount of times Emory has wanted to do something and our parents have asked him to take me along. I can’t ignore the way my brother and his friends react with deep groans and barely-veiled glowers.
But not him.
Reynolds will just give me one of those easy smiles, gesture with a nod at the door, and wait for me to follow.
“Bro, look,” Emory explains, “if we’re going to jack one of these cars, it may as well be worth it. We’re both already on strike two.”
I gape at their shadowy forms, knowing that one of the biggest reasons my parents are so overprotective is that my idiot brother can’t seem to stay out of trouble. It’s like a moth to a flame. Which is why, despite the fact I’m not the least bit surprised the guys are talking about stealing a car, I am surprised they’re stupid enough to actually do it.
This has been going on for a year now already, and they’re both close to getting into real trouble—the serious kind of trouble that can’t just be wiped away with a phone call from our dad and a donation to whatever institution has fallen victim to their next antic. It comes as no surprise that Reynolds is orchestrating it, though. There are a finite amount of certainties in life; the grass is green, the sky is blue, and Reynolds McAllister will steal anything that isn’t bolted down.
Not that bolts would stop him from trying.
It’d started as a running joke in the community—little Sticky Fingers McAllister—but Reynolds isn’t little anymore, and no one is laughing now. It’s grown obvious that this is more than good-natured pranks, more than material desire. Reynolds just keeps taking things, no matter the punishment. Whether it’s for the fun of it, the challenge of it, or some weird compulsion, this is what it’s escalated to, and he’s dragging my brother along.
But Emory isn’t stupid, and unlike many of our other friends’ parents, ours would follow through on a serious punishment if he got busted one more time.
But I don’t need to wonder why they’re taking the risk. They’ve both been vying for a chance to be part of the exclusive group of Devils at the high school. The Devils are a bunch of popular jocks, which is something Emory and Reynolds already are, so it doesn’t even make sense to me. They’ve already made the football team. They’ve dated the prettiest girls, have worn the matching letterman jackets, and have driven the expensive cars. They’re already legendary, even by middle-school standards. But, from what I understand, trivial schoolyard shenanigans are far below the cruel caliber of the Devils’ usual fare.
A prank like this would look great on their resume.
The second I decide to step in and do something, my heart starts pounding, palms growing sweaty, but I have to stop them before this goes too far. I don’t want either of them to get a third strike—whatever that means, it doesn’t sound good.
I take a deep breath and march down the sidewalk, having to cut around the shrubbery to meet them. But when I reach the bush, the only person I see is Reynolds, peering over at the valet attendant’s stand.
“Where’s Emory?” I whisper.
Reynolds jerks in surprise, whipping around to meet my gaze. When he does, he releases a slow exhale, shoulders slumping in relief. His green eyes sweep over me, then dart back to the attendant’s stand where my brother has suddenly appeared. “Get out of here, Baby V.”
Ugh, I hate when he calls me that. “I know what you’re doing,” I say, crossing my arms defiantly, “and you two need to stop.”
“If you know what we’re doing,” he says, sparing me a rapid glance, “then you need to get the hell out of here.”
From the attendant’s stand, my brother suddenly shouts, “Goddamnit, Bryan!” sounding much older than fourteen. “There’s a scratch on my father’s BMW! Do you want to explain how that got there?”
We come to this country club often enough to know that Bryan is new. “A scratch? Where?” Bryan narrows his eyes suspiciously at my brother, but it’s clear from the way they dart around that he’s worried.
Emory gestures wildly. “Down the whole side panel!”
My teeth grind in frustration at having been blown off by Reynolds, so I give up and just march toward the valet stand instead. If I can’t stop Reynolds, maybe I can talk some sense into my idiot brother.
“Why were you at the car, anyway?” the guy checked his clipboard. “I still have the keys here.”
Emory’s gaze jumps to mine as I approach, never flinching. “I was getting a sweater out of the car for my sister, and that’s when I saw it. If you don’t believe me, come see it for yourself.”
Bryan argues, “I can’t leave the stand and Jeremy is on a break.”
Emory rolls his eyes, and I wonder if maybe he hasn’t been spending a bit too much time around Reynolds. He’s putting on a really convincing act. “My sister will wait here and just tell everyone you’ll be right back. Trust me, that’s a better option than my dad being the one to see that scratch first.”
Did he just drag me into this?
Bryan assesses me for a long moment, fingers carding through the papers on the clipboard, and must decide that I look trustworthy. Which, of course, I am. I’m just innocent little Baby V. Nothing to see here but an awkward thirteen-year-old giving her brother the stink-eye. Bryan mutters a curse under his breath but concedes to my worryingly persuasive brother. I’m left standing by the curb, arms crossed, as my brother walks toward the parking lot. He turns back to wink at me.
Before I can react, Reynolds darts out of the bushes, his dress shirt wrinkled and his club-mandated tie askew. He brushes past me without any acknowledgment, ducking behind the valet stand to run his finger down the clipboard. I watch uselessly as a slow, wicked smile appears on his face. A heartbeat later, he’s snatched a set of keys bearing a Porsche logo from the board at his back.
“This is a bad idea,” I say, wringing my hands to stop them from shaking. “I don’t want you guys to get in trouble.”
Every time Emory does something, my parents clamp down even more, and I’m usually the one who gets the brunt of their frustrations. It’s not fair. It’s not right. But that’s the way it’s always been.
Reynolds pauses just then, staring pensively at the keys in his hand, and for a moment I think maybe—just maybe—he’ll actually listen to me. Instead, he turns his mischievous smile, dimples and all, right on me. “You should come with me.”
I blink at him, gulping. “What?”
“Come on, Baby V.” He reaches out, grazing the soft knuckle of a curled forefinger beneath my chin. I’m momentarily struck speechless. Breathless. Senseless. He cocks his head, watching me. “Aren’t you tired of being the good girl who watches us have all the fun? Come with me, you’ll have a blast.” He holds out his hand, gesturing with a nod toward the parking lot. “It’s just one joyride, it’ll be fine.”
Through the thick fog of my screeching internal ‘oh my god, he touched me’, I’m only distantly aware of what he’s doing. Reynolds wants me, at the very least, out of the way. And at the very most… complicit. Reynolds may be a thief and a troublemaker, but he isn’t dumb. I’m a witness now, a liability. What better way to shut me up than to make me an accomplice?
Even more distant is the awareness that Reynolds must know how hard it is for me to say no to him. It always has been, and it certainly isn’t the first time he’s leveled me with one of those dimpled grins and found a convenient blind eye to his and my brother’s antics.
It is, however,the first time he’s asked me to go along for the ride.
I look at his outstretched hand, at long fingers that have picked pockets and locks and pretty high school girls, and I know it’s not real, but this is Reynolds.
This is Reynolds picking me.
My heart bangs wildly as I slip my hand into his, finally meeting his gaze, and I wonder if I look as panicked and unhinged as I feel. “Okay.”
“Sweet.” He grasps my hand and turns, leading me away, and I follow without question.
Because the thing about Reynolds McAllister is that even when he’s doing bad things—even if being nice to me is merely a means to an end—he still has a way of making me feel like I’m special.
Later—after the sirens and the pain and the tears—I’ll look back on this moment and remember how it all began. I’ll remember the way his smile makes me go all soft inside, and I’ll remember the way he laughs—low and breathless—when I stumble over a dip in the asphalt. I’ll remember the way my heart feels like a hummingbird when he squeezes my hand, and feeling scared and thrilled and like I’m finally a part of something. I’ll remember all of it, and I’ll wonder how I ever thought the beginning of my own personal nightmare had ever felt like a fairytale.
In my periphery, I see a firefly hovering just within reach.
I walk faster.
You’d never know from looking at me that I’m broken.
In fact, on the surface, I’m probably quite enviable. I’ve got long, blonde hair that isn’t too straight, nor too curly. My teeth are perfect, the result of extensive adolescent orthodontia. My nose is thin and aligned. More than once my eyes have been described as ‘strikingly blue’, and spoken with tones of wonderment. I have a nice body. I know I look good in a one-piece bathing suit, when my scars are hidden. Once, over the summer, I caught the lifeguard checking me out by the pool. Even the basic school uniform is flattering on my figure. So yeah, on the outside—at least the visible parts—Vandy Hall is the kind of seventeen-year-old most girls want to be.
At least, I am until I walk.
There was a time during freshman and sophomore years that I used a cane, but I’ve gotten well enough to not need it. Even so, my limp is severe enough to draw stares. And if people could see past my normal exterior, and even further, past the stilted way I walk, all the way deep into the heart of me? It’s ugliness, all the way down.
People somehow see it, regardless. I inspect my face in the mirror and try to find out how, but I don’t really need to wonder. I’m not just the girl who survived the accident. I’m the girl with the scars. The girl with a secret. The quiet girl with the dead eyes who has to be treated ever so carefully.
“Vandy!” my brother shouts down the hall. “I’m leaving in five minutes! AIS or I’m leaving.”
I roll my eyes at my own reflection.
AIS: Ass In Seat.
He’ll do it, too. God forbid Emory miss the five minutes before the bell rings to ogle and flirt with girls on the quad before class starts. It’s always been bad, but now that he’s a senior, he’s completely unbearable.
“I’m coming!” I yell, running my fingers through my hair one last time. Yes. Shiny hair, spotless face, and crisp uniform. Everything seemingly in order, I reach for the little pouch hidden in my jewelry box, pulling it open. I don’t need to count, but I do anyway, like some kind of compulsion. Twenty-eight pills for fourteen days. Two per day. One in the morning, one at night. No more. No less.
Or at least, that’s what I promise myself.
I’d spent all summer weaning myself to an acceptable amount of Oxycontin. Two pills isn’t a problem—not when you’ve been through what I’ve been through. I swallow the small circular pill dry, then tuck the pouch back in the box, snapping the lid shut. I walk across the room, one leg refusing to function the same as the other, and grab my backpack, heavy with first-day essentials.
My mother waits in the kitchen, already dressed in her bright, camera-ready outfit. I know she has a big interview today—something to do with a collapsed multi-million-dollar utility project that has possibly been the front for some shady dealings. The thing about our mom being a big-time news reporter is that she’s brushed fame a few too many times, but has never been able to really hold on to it. Instead, she has to constantly search for the next big scoop, hoping something juicy and significant will fall into her lap.
In many ways, I really respect that about her. My mom is the hardest-working parent I know who’s also still involved in, like, parenting.
“I made your lunch!” She says as she closes the fridge. The stainless-steel door is covered in an enormous, post-it riddled, color-coded calendar. Every single activity has been micromanaged down to the minute, up to and including ‘pick up lunch for the kids’. My mom cuts her eyes to the bag on the island. “Well, I packed your lunch. Spicy tuna roll, a little bit of rice, and that yogurt with the honey that you like.”
“Thanks, Mom,” I say, kissing her on the cheek. I take the bag and tuck it in my backpack. She leans over to help and I jerk around in a twist to prevent it. The horn blares from the garage, eliciting my groan.
“Your brother is anxious,” she says, rolling her eyes as well. “You know how he gets.”
“Oh, I know.” I dig a fist into the small of my back, trying to reacquaint my spine with the weight of a backpack. “Now that Campbell’s in college and they are ‘keeping their options open’,” I use finger quotes here, “he’s on the prowl.”
Mom’s nose wrinkles. “Honey, don’t talk about your brother like that. And Campbell is a sweet girl.” She frowns as she says this, as if she could will it to be true.
Sometimes it’s easier for my mom to live in a delusion than face reality, especially when it comes to my brother. Campbell Clarke is a bitch, through and through. She has my brother completely wrapped around her well-manicured finger. But if Mom looked beneath the surface of that choice, she’d have to acknowledge a lot of the other crap my brother does, and that would take the attention off me for a second. God forbid.
Preston Prep is everything to Emory. He’d been instantly accepted when he arrived as a freshman, his social status secured by his position on the football team and admittance into the quasi-legit fraternity, The Devils. He lived and breathed Preston Prep, the letterman jacket, and the older, more experienced girlfriend. He fully embraced the entitled, privileged attitude of the majority of our classmates.
He’d live in the dorms if he could—if he were allowed to. But there was no way my parents would allow me to live on campus, which meant there was no way he could live there either. Even for my parents, some tit-for-tats are just inevitable. Ultimately, that was probably a good decision. Last year, during Emory’s junior and my sophomore year, the Devils outdid themselves, ultimately getting disbanded. The administration finally stepped in after a series of events that not only violated school policy, but brushed with illegal. To be honest, I wasn’t paying much attention at the time. I spent my days trying to catch up on the schoolwork I fell behind on as a freshman, and my afternoons in physical therapy. I also spent the majority of time blissed out on painkillers, to the point that most of my classmates thought I was an idiot.
Or, so I learned over summer break. I’d been in the country club locker room when I overheard Amanda Brown ask Sydney if the accident had caused a brain injury. Apparently, she didn’t remember me being so slow.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...