Everyone knows Gwendolyn and Hamilton are enemies... what happens when the whole school finds out their secret?
Gwendolyn Adams has been canceled.
The Preston Prep Devils made that clear after the incident that forced my sister, Skylar, to leave our academy. They wanted me to leave, too, but I refused. I'm sticking around to make sure they follow through on the deal the snobby, elite crew of jocks made with the administration.
The arrangement is simple. No one ever speaks about what happened to Skylar again, and no one gets punished.
But that's not exactly true, is it? I still get punished, each and every day that I walk down the halls. No one speaks to me. No one looks at me. No one even admits I exist.
It doesn't matter. I know what they did. And I know who's in charge; Hamilton Bates.
Handsome, smart, and ridiculously privileged.
He's the lead Devil, and my hatred for him is all in the details.
All it takes is one slip, one heated argument, one mistake, and everything gets even more complicated.
We get complicated.
Is this love or has the Devil found a new plaything?
Devil May Care is the gripping, angsty, enemies to lovers, bully romance, by USA Today Best Selling Author, Angel Lawson and Samantha Rue, you've been waiting for!
Release date: June 13, 2020
Publisher: Independently published
Print pages: 368
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Devil May Care
Obligation makes a person do stupid things.
Like walk into a party with dozens of people who hate my guts.
Like lowering myself to walking through puddles of beer and wafts of smoke, wading through kids whose tongues are shoved down one another’s throats, and worst of all, forcing myself to talk to the Devil.
Or one of the Devils. I’ve only been in this house—smaller and less opulent than the usual Devil fare—for mere minutes, and I can already feel the familiar tension at the base of my spine building. It makes my stride choppy, mechanical, driven by purpose and little else.
I find Xavier first, with his swoopy hair and cute but infuriatingly smug expression. His red and black letterman jacket shines with a whole array of varsity letter pins. There’s a patch with an interlocked PP on the left side, Preston Prep, the bottom of the second P extended into a devil’s pitchfork; the mark of the beasts. Their identities. Xavier should know where Skylar is, though. He’s the one who brought her.
He eyes me with surprise. “Oh look, Morticia’s here. Didn’t know they let the freaks out at night.”
An Addams Family joke. Wow. How incredibly original. Perfectly elementary school. About the place Xavier’s maturity stopped. I have no idea what Sky sees in him. “Where is she?”
“Where’s who?” He takes a sip of beer, the foam lingering on his upper lip.
“I know she came with you, Xavier.” I skim the crowded room. There’s a line of people going down the hall. Headed to the bathroom, I presume. “She thinks you like her.”
The guy next to him, another Devil, Ansel Davenport, elbows him and makes kissy faces. He’s wearing the same jacket. Xavier’s cheeks heat—embarrassed to be associated with Sky—with me.
“You’re useless,” I sneer, turning on my heel. Before I get far, a hand grabs my upper arm and stops me. I turn. Xavier followed me.
He clucks his tongue, rolls his eyes. “She disappeared, okay? Bailed on me. Once she saw there were a bunch of Northridge kids here, she started drinking with them and took off.”
“Sky wouldn’t ditch you for a Northridge kid,” I reply. She’d been ecstatic about this date. New outfit. Hours on her shiny blonde hair. She even convinced me to help her with her makeup. It was literally hours sitting in our shared bathroom, me trying to talk her out of this while Sky just preened and gushed, “I feel like a princess!”
There’s no way.
His face goes shuttered. “Well, she did, and I’m done with her,” he says, walking off.
As if he ever wanted her. I’d been suspicious from day one. These guys don’t slum. They don’t have to. And that’s what it would be considered, going out with one of the Adams girls: slumming.
“Party must be over, guys, someone let the trash in.”
The voice makes my skin crawl. I’d misrepresented before. Xavier, Ansel, Emory, Heston…they aren’t the real Devil—they’re simply his minions. Hamilton Bates, the asshole currently standing before me, he’s the real Devil. The leader of the pack. You’d know him anywhere. Face of an angel, body of a Greek god, personality of a root canal.
“Of course,” he continues in a rich southern drawl, ignoring the fact a girl, some junior, is sucking on his earlobe as he speaks, “someone had already let the trash in. It’s an epidemic. These Northridge kids will let anyone come to their parties. Zero standards, if I’m being honest.”
“I’m not here to party.”
His steel gray eyes sweep over me. “In that outfit, you’re not fit to do anything but scrub floors.”
I’m well aware that the oversized cardigan, ratty jeans, and scuffed boots aren’t up to Preston standards. Of course, nothing about me ever has been. I push my glasses up my nose. I’d already taken out my contacts when I’d tried to contact my younger sister Skylar, who’d promised to keep in touch if she came here tonight. Six texts. No response. Yeah, I’d jumped in the car without looking in the mirror.
“Although,” he gives me a sidelong glance, “the sexy secretary thing can be hot—you know, on the right kind of girl.”
Right kind = pedigree.
Which, I think, no matter how wealthy and educated and successful my parents are, I’ll never be, because it’s about one thing. Blood. Mine isn’t the right shade.
I roll my eyes, long ago accustomed to not letting it get to me. “I get it. You think I’m repulsive. Where the hell is she?”
He drinks from his cup. “Who?”
His mouth curves into a prickish smirk. “You mean one of the rejects your parents raised you with?”
“Hamilton, I swear to god.”
His eyes dart over my shoulder to where Xavier and Ansel are standing. “I saw her—earlier—but not in a while. I think she left with some Northridge kid.”
“You know how much she likes Xavier,” I argue through gritted teeth. “There’s no way she left with someone else.”
When people look at Sky, they see someone who’s beautiful. Fun. A chameleon who can adapt to any crowd. The cheerleaders, the drama kids, the dance squad, the preps. They see a girl who’s bubbly and kind.
But me? I see the little girl who, at age five, was asked to clean her plate and ended up vomiting an entire serving of green beans back up ten minutes later. I see the girl who, at age six, witnessed me getting an inkling of praise for learning to swim so quickly and nearly drowning in an attempt trying to get the same. I see the girl who, at age eight, accidentally got a marker stain on the bathroom tile and scrubbed at it for five hours, until her nailbeds began to bleed. I see the girl who’d do anything to belong, to be appreciated, accepted, praised, wanted.
No one in this room really wants her, and it makes me anxious in some frenzied, abstract way, as if something is terribly wrong but hasn’t happened quite yet.
“I may be the prince of this school,” Hamilton says without a trace of irony, “but you and your sister aren’t my concern. You’re not one of us. You never will be. Xavier shouldn’t have even asked her to this party, really. Completely out of line. Naturally, he ditched her.” He jerks his thumb toward the row of kids in the hall. “The last time I saw her, she was down that way.”
If Xavier rejected her, Sky would take it hard. Really hard. I swallow back my anger. “If anything happens to her, I’m going to—"
“Do what, Gwendolyn?”
My name makes his face pinch, like just saying it tastes bitter on his tongue. His demeanor changes, going from lazy to terrifying in a blink. He towers over me, his swimmer shoulders broad enough to cast a shadow. His glare is ice cold, void of compassion or empathy. I search them futilely for a touch of the boy I knew a long time ago, but long gone is the carefree childhood laughter shared between two imaginary pirates on a picturesque playground. Now it’s just this: Hamilton’s stony face and my clenched fists. I don’t even know why I’ve wasted time talking to him.
I go in the direction he gestured, more worried about Sky than a discarded childhood friendship. The line to the bathroom is still a long, serpentine thing, and as I get closer, I realize it’s also noticeably male. I see another Devil, Emory Hall, a junior, pinning in his girlfriend, the Queen of Hell herself, Campbell Clarke, just outside a closed door. A guy in a Northridge shirt suddenly exits the room, but another guy enters just as quickly, door closing behind him with a resounding ‘snick’. Emory turns from Campbell to smirk at the exiting Northridge boy, their palms meeting in a congratulatory high-five.
An eerie chill falls over me.
You don’t get a high five for taking a piss.
I stop by one of the Northridge kids standing in line. “Is this for the bathroom?”
“Nah,” the kid says, looking nervously at his friend. They’re holding forties and one takes a drag from a vape pen.
I’m about to turn away when the vaper adds, “There’s a chick in there sucking dick. One after the other.”
My stomach bottoms out, because I know.
I wish I didn’t. For that split second between ignorance and acceptance, I hope everything would just end right here, right now, because it’d be better than knowing. But I do.
I know. I know. I know.
I lurch past them, vaguely noting they’re all unfamiliar faces—all from the public school. But that red devil jacket is only a few feet away. When Emory sees me, he jerks up, grabbing Campbell’s hand and bolting the other way. I glance back down the hall and all the Preston Devils are suddenly missing, including their prince.
I reach for the doorknob, but a figure blocks me.
“No cuts, bitch,” a kid says. He’s wearing a Northridge football sweatshirt. Number 29 stamped in the middle. I file that away in case I need it.
“Move.” The word comes out shaky, hissed, a barely restrained verbal punch.
“She’s sucking dick, not eating pussy,” the door blocker says. “But if you wait in line, she may be willing to give it a go. ‘Cause like, straight up? I don’t think she’s that picky.”
My long, measured inhale releases in a grunt as I fist his shirt with both hands and shove him roughly aside. He slams into the guy behind him, footing lost in his surprise. The ensuing ripple effect as guy after guy gets knocked and bumped into elicits curses and complaints.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” the kid says, tipping himself to rights. “I’ve been in line for an hour!”
“Get the hell out of my way,” I spit, lunging for the door and flinging it open.
I stare at the scene inside. A guy sits on the bed, pants down at his ankles. My sister is bent before him, blonde ponytail bobbing in rhythm. His jaw is soft, mouth gaping. His eyes barely register me in the door.
I must say something. I must, but I don’t remember anything other than the guy finally pushing my sister away and fumbling to shove his cock in his pants. Sky looks back at me with glazed, confused eyes, and I see her then. The same girl I always see. So sweet and determined and desperate like a deep, gnawing ache. For a moment, I wonder how. How do other people not see this?
And then I wonder if... maybe I’m wrong.
Maybe they do.
She wipes her mouth and rasps, “Gwen?” and my eyes move to the boy. The ugly, pig-faced, sweaty boy.
I want to choke him. I want to choke all of them. I want to find something big and heavy and bludgeon my way through the house. Instead, I lunge for him, screeching, “Get the fuck out of here!”
He makes a pathetic squeaking sound as he rushes from the room, fingers fumbling with his jean buttons.
I follow him out to look down the hall, but the line of guys is gone. There’s only one person standing a few feet away, hands shoved in his red and black jacket; Hamilton Bates.
That deep bludgeoning urge returns in a dizzying rush, and I can almost imagine doing it, because never. Never in all the years he’s said cruel things to me, about my family, the vicious jabs day-to-day, the unending spew of his disdain, would I have ever thought Hamilton Bates of something so monstrous.
The worst thing is the odd sense of loss I feel in this moment. A deep-down pang of shocked hurt. As if he weren’t already lost to me, as if all the vile things he’s said and done over the years could have been wiped clean, maybe, some day. I hadn’t even known I’d been holding on to that, until right now. But now he’s finally gone to me. Wholly. He’s finally done something so entirely unforgiveable that it’s easy—easy as breathing—to level him with the same cold hateful stare he's giving me.
“It might not be today,” I say, voice eerily calm despite the tears in my eyes and the lump in my throat. “It might not even be tomorrow. But I swear to god, Hamilton, you’re going to pay for this.”
I don’t give him the chance for a witty retort, because I’m scared of myself, just then. Of what I might actually do. Instead, I go back into the room, closing the door behind me, to take care of a girl who’d felt like a princess.
Summer lasts forever in the south, inching way past Labor Day and almost to Halloween. I walk out of my residence hall on November first with a sweater on over my school uniform for the first time all year. The chill still caresses my bare legs. However, I’m grateful the orange and black decorations that have infected the dorm lobby for the last month will be taken down by the end of classes that day.
I hate Halloween. It’s too much of a reminder that I’m forced to wear a mask every day at this godforsaken school. For the students at Preston Prep, wearing a mask once a year is fun. For me it’s about survival. I won’t let these people see the real me. They can see the version of Gwen who overachieves, the Gwen who handily wins swim meets, the Gwen who keeps to herself, or most importantly, the Gwen who feels nothing. Because even the smallest inkling of vulnerability in this place is like blood in the water, and I won’t let them.
I won’t let them ruin me.
Not like they did Sky.
The good news is that I’m basically invisible anyway, especially after what happened last year. “Cancelled” is a more accurate word. I’d been cancelled after I busted up the party. Cancelled after taking my sister home and sitting through a tearful, gut clenched discussion with our parents about what had occurred. Cancelled after the school administrators, the board, the parents were all called in and forced to acknowledge the behavior of their star students and athletes.
I can’t imagine what would have happened if someone had actually called the police.
But on some indulgent nights, lying in bed and staring at the heart-shaped stain on my dorm room ceiling, I really do try.
For the last six months, since the fallout from the party, a wall of silence had been wrapped around me. I’d never been that popular to begin with. I was an Adams Family Freak, after all. One of five kids adopted by Mark and Becca Adams. That was enough to mark my siblings and I as different; born out of wedlock to four different dirt-poor, uneducated, addict parents, and worst of all; my twin siblings are bi-racial, so it’s not even like people can pretend. And the elite of this town, they really do love a good old-fashioned self-denial.
Sure, people put up a façade of politeness. We do live in the South after all. Manners are key. The truth is that, the twins even have a few genuine friends down in the middle school wing. But my class? Dominated by the Devils?
They’d been pacing like tigers in a cage for years, just looking for a reason. Snitching on them at the party was a gift on a silver platter.
Slinging my backpack over my shoulder, I follow the brick-paved sidewalks toward the courtyard by the carpool lanes. It really is a lovely campus, full of rich old architecture. You’d never know, just from looking at the facade, how much evil is contained in its walls. There are sprawling live oaks in the quad and behind the dorms, dressed to the nines in Spanish moss, and at just the right time of year, I can look out my window and see a delicate, pulsing swath of lightning bugs. Leaves crunch under my feet, dried from the summer heat. I briefly second-guess my decision to wear a sweater. It’ll probably be seventy by lunch. I’m just determined to make fall start even if I’m miserable. But I’m always miserable at Preston Prep. Why should today be any different?
It’s not long before the blue mini-van arcs through the driveway, intermingled with the Teslas and Lexuses and BMWs. It’s out of place, which is fitting. The Adams kids are square pegs trying to fit in the gaping round hole of this world. Debbie’s car pulls up to the curb and the back door flies open. My twelve-year-old twin siblings, Michaela and Micha, spill from inside. They run toward me as the passenger side window rolls down and Debbie leans toward me.
“Hey babe, how are you?”
This is one of the first times in my day I don’t need to force my smile. “I’m good.” Michaela runs toward me and gives me a hug. I squeeze her tight and tug on her twisted braids.
“We’re having my famous lasagna tonight, want to come?” Debbie asks hopefully, and truthfully, it is tempting. She’s a great cook, after all. It’s one of the reasons my mother hired her to be our nanny. That and the fact neither my mother nor father have the slightest idea of how to actually parent.
Nevertheless, my smile tightens. “I wish I could. I have a big test tomorrow.”
“Sure, you do,” she replies, skeptically. There’s no anger in her voice. Debbie understands why I moved on campus at the beginning of the year. She just doesn’t like it. “Don’t stay away too long, okay?”
I nod and the carpool monitor waves her forward. Michaela and I wave as she drives off.
“How was trick-or-treating?” I ask the twins. They had big plans for costumes and had been preparing them for weeks. They’d gone as Willow and Jaden Smith. Micha had been particularly excited about wearing a dress, which is understandable. Preston Prep has a pretty strict dress code. Individuality is frowned upon, and Micha definitely marches to the beat of his own drum. My little brother has had to learn to choose his fashion battles wisely from the start, and I doubt he understands yet just how unfair it is. Michaela can wear pants, boots, and graphic tees marketed to boys, and at most, she’s just a bit of a tomboy. But for Micha, a bit of glitter and lip gloss are the makings of a full-blown scandal.
“I got so much candy,” Micha says, gripping the straps of his bedazzled backpack. The sequins and glitter match the laces in his shoes, and something inside of me softens and glows. Because even with the strict dress code at Preston Prep, Micha finds his own little ways to do the complete opposite of me—not hide. “And Mom let us eat as much as we wanted before bed.”
I’m sure. Why set limits?
The twins talk about Halloween the whole way to their building—the middle school wing—giving me a breakdown of the best candy. Snickers are at an all-time high, but Milky Way futures are way down. Better invest in fun-size boxes of Nerds, as the trick-or-treat economy as it relates to our particular gated community is experiencing a serious chocolate deficit.
“When are you coming home?” Michaela asks. It’s a common question. My answer is the same every day.
“Not until after graduation.”
She gives me a sly look. “Mama said if you don’t move back by Christmas, she’ll let me have your room.”
It’s an empty threat. Debbie already told me that Michaela moved into my room three weeks ago. She’d brought in her blanket and a least a dozen stuffed animals. If anything, this is a test to see how soon she’ll have to move back into the room she shares with Micha. Because Micha is painfully earnest and unassuming, but Michaela... Michaela schemes.
I sigh overdramatically. “That’s a risk I’ll have to take. It’s not that I want to stay away. It’s just easier for me to do my schoolwork and swim practice when I live on campus.”
Micha gives me a long look but says nothing. It’s not that I haven’t noticed that things have been strained between us since I moved to the dorms. The twins see all our adopted siblings as their own. As twins, they’re innately used to having siblings, but to them, siblings should always be there. Me moving to the dorms makes the third of us to leave. Clearly, this is not proper siblinghood.
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