Home > Hothouse Flower (Calloway Sisters #2)

Hothouse Flower (Calloway Sisters #2)
Author: Krista Ritchie

Prologue

RYKE MEADOWS

Every Monday was f**king identical to the last. No matter if I was ten or twelve. Fifteen or seventeen. A driver named Anderson came to my house in a suburb of Philly at noon. He dropped me off at a country club ten minutes later, and my father sat in that same f**king table in the back corner, by that same f**king window that overlooked two red and green tennis courts. He ordered the same f**king food (filet mignon with hundred-year-old scotch) and he asked the same f**king questions.

“How has school been treating you?”

“Fine,” I said. I had a 4.0 GPA. I was only seventeen, and college recruiters were scouting me for track and field. I rock climbed with any spare time I had, and I juggled both sports. I built this plan in my head since high school. I’d go to college to run. I wouldn’t touch a dime of his f**king money. I’d let my trust fund rot. I’d get as far away from my father and my mother as I possibly could. I’d finally find peace and forget about all the lies that clung to me.

My dad sipped his scotch. “Your mom isn’t going to tell me how you are, and you won’t open your goddamn mouth to say more than monosyllabic words. So what am I going to have to do? Call strangers to ask about you? Your teacher? They’re going to think I’m a terrible f**king parent.”

I glared at the table, not touching my chicken sandwich. I accepted the food when I was ten. I always ate the burgers when I was eleven. But when I was fifteen, I woke up, and I finally accepted that I was eating with a f**king monster. “I have nothing to say,” I told him.

“Are you suddenly deaf now? How was your week? What’d you f**king do? It’s not that hard of a question.” He downed his scotch. “Ridiculous,” he muttered and pointed at me, a finger extending off his glass. “You’re supposed to be the intelligent son.” Then he motioned to a waiter for another round.

My muscles flexed at the mention of Loren, unresolved hate flooding me and heating my whole body.

I had no control over this anger. It just consumed me like a f**king forest fire.

“Can we cut this short?” I asked. “I have f**king places to be.”

The waiter arrived, filling my father’s glass a quarter. He urged him to continue, and he poured more, three-quarters full. “He’ll take one,” my dad said.

Jonathan Hale was swimming in billions of dollars from Hale Co., a baby supply company. He paid the country club staff to stay quiet about the underage drinking. It was f**king normal by now.

My stomach clenched at the sight of the alcohol. I decided only four days ago to stop drinking for good. I knew every Monday I’d be tested by my father. And I wouldn’t tell him that I quit. I didn’t want to talk about it. I would just avoid the f**king drink. I’d ignore it.

The waiter poured me a glass and corked the crystal bottle.

He left us without another word.

“Drink,” my dad insisted.

“I don’t like scotch.”

My father cocked his head. “Since when?”

“Since it became your favorite f**king drink.”

He shook his head. “You and your brother love to rebel like little punks.”

I glared. “I’m nothing like that prick.”

“And how would you know?” he retorted easily. “You’ve never met him.”

“I just f**king know.” I gripped my knee that started to bounce. I wanted to get out of there. I couldn’t stand talking about Loren. I always knew I had a half-brother. It wasn’t f**king hard to deduce that the kid of Jonathan Hale would also be related to me. We shared a f**king father. But my dad and mom never said it outright until I was fifteen. After my mom bitched about that “bastard” kid, I asked my dad to elaborate. He finally gave me three facts that cleared up a picture I’d already started to construct.

One: Jonathan cheated on Sara, my mom, with some other woman when I was a few months old.

Two: The “other” woman got pregnant. Loren was born a year after me, and she left her son with Jonathan. Bolted. No longer in the picture.

Three: I lived with Sara. My half-brother lived with our dad. And the whole f**king world believed Sara’s kid was Loren Hale. Not me. I was Meadows. I shared the last name with my mom’s deadbeat family in New Jersey, all of which wanted nothing to do with her.

My mom was Sara Hale.

My dad was Jonathan Hale.

I was no one’s son.

After the truth became painfully clear, my father always brought up Loren. He always asked the same f**king question, and I didn’t want to hear it today.

He swished his glass. “What’s made you into such a pu**y?”

My nose flared. I couldn’t believe I thought he was f**king cool when I was nine years old. He had acted like we were bonding, letting me drink his whiskey. Father and son. Like he loved me enough to let me break some f**king rules. But I wondered if it was all just some ploy to make me as miserable as him.

“I got into a car accident,” I suddenly said.

He choked on his scotch and cleared his throat. “What?” He glowered. “Why am I just now hearing about this?”

I shrugged. “Ask Mom.”

“That bitch—”

“Hey,” I cut him off, fire in my eyes. I was f**king sick of hearing him degrade her. I was f**king tired of listening to my mom denigrate him. I just wanted them both to stop. They’d been divorced since I was a kid, not even a year old. When was the fighting supposed to end?

He rolled his eyes, but he looked serious again, more concerned. If there was a heart in Jonathan Hale’s chest, it was f**king submerged beneath an ocean of booze. “What happened?”

“I drove into the neighbor’s mailbox.” I have no recollection of how I arrived home. I apparently ran four red lights. I f**king knocked over a fence. I basically passed out at the wheel, and I woke up when I crashed.

I wasn’t driving home from a f**king party.

I had been drinking alone on the soccer fields of Loren’s prep school. I f**king hated Dalton Academy. I was forced to go to Maybelwood Preparatory, an hour from where I lived because my mom didn’t want me to see Loren’s face every f**king day. And because no one could know that I was her son.

So Loren had gone to the closer school, where I should have been, while I was banished and cast out.

And I f**king hated him. I f**king loathed him to the core of my f**king body. My mom helped stir this sickening wrath. She constantly said, “Your brother is full of himself, swimming in our money. You want to be surrounded by Jonathan Hale’s brat, then you’ll be headed nowhere good.”

I’d nod and think, Yeah, that f**ker.

And then days would pass, and I’d begin to question everything.

Maybe I should meet him.

Maybe I should talk to him.

But he’s a spoiled rich kid.

Like me.

Not like you.

He doesn’t care about anything but himself.

Like me.

Not like you.

He’s a drunk loser.

Like me.

Yesterday, I thought about going to my mom and saying something. I thought about telling her to just get over this moronic feud, to stop ranting about Jonathan Hale’s infidelity and to quit being consumed by the life of his bastard kid.

“Loren Hale got suspended for missing too much class, did you hear that?” she’d ask me with a sick gleam in her eye. His failure was Jonathan’s failure. And to her, that equaled f**king success.

 

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