To the outside world, Taylor Hudson has it all: beauty, money, and social status. But Taylor's privileged life is far lonelier than it appears. Levi is the inside man on a job to steal $15 million from one of the town's wealthiest families, putting him on a crash course with Taylor. Neither of them believes in love, but lust...that's undeniable. Now they're locked in a wicked game of seduction, and it's unclear who is playing whom. But neither of them expected the affair to lead to the deepest connection they've ever experienced. Because beneath Taylor's perfect exterior lies a need for love that mirrors Levi's own. As the heist approaches, how can Levi protect Taylor from the truth? Is he willing to give up everything to save the one girl who's made him want to be a better man?
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.50(h) x 5.00(d)|
About the Author
SEASON VINING is the author of the New Adult romances Beautiful Addictions and Held Against You. She is a bookworm, a cook, a night owl and always a student. She lives in New York City, where she works as a graphic designer
Read an Excerpt
By Season Vining
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Season Vining
All rights reserved.
1. fistfights and tomorrows
"Whoa. You chasing something away, honey?"
Levi set down his nearly empty beer bottle and looked over to find a pretty brunette perched at the bar next to him. She was an older woman, but attractive and well aware of it. Levi's gaze dropped to her cleavage before snapping to her eyes again.
"It's okay. You can look," she said, leaning over just a bit. "These babies cost so much, everyone should get a peek."
He chuckled and shook his head. Levi's knee bounced up and down, rattling the barstool. It was the only outward sign of the buzzing excitement inside his head. He downed the rest of his cold beer and waved at the bartender for another. When it was delivered, he swallowed half of it in one long pull.
"Definitely chasing some demons," the woman offered.
"Hell is empty, and all the devils are here," he said.
The woman placed her hand on Levi's forearm, her red nails tracing the lines of ink. "Let me know if I can help in any way." Her smile was infectious. Before he knew what he was doing, Levi was smiling back.
"What the hell is this?"
Levi looked over his shoulder to find a giant of a man glaring at them, his eyes focused on where the woman was touching Levi.
"We're just talking," she said, removing her hand and sliding two seats away. "Calm down, Gary."
"Don't tell me to be calm, Maggie." The man's chest heaved with deep breaths while his fingers stretched and curled into fists. Levi recognized the habits of a violent man. He grinned.
"You should listen to your old lady before you have a stroke or something." Levi finished his beer and swung around on his barstool to face the man now. Though Gary was only a little taller, he had about fifty pounds on Levi.
"Mind your business," Gary shouted. He turned to Maggie. "I work a double, come in here to grab a beer, and find you cuddled up with some piece of trash?"
Levi was on his feet in a flash. Blood pumping, adrenaline singeing his already frayed nerves.
"What the fuck did you call me?" Levi growled.
"A punk kid piece of trash that doesn't know when to shut his mouth."
It wasn't a conscious decision to throw the first punch. It never was with Levi. His temper was short, and once the fuse was lit, there was no stopping him. The cracking sound was heard even above the conversations and music of the bar. Levi wasn't sure if it was his hand or the guy's face.
"You son of a —" Gary roared, but he didn't finish his thought as he swung.
Levi was too fast for the big, slow beast. He dodged the man's effort and threw his right hand forward again, this time landing in Gary's gut.
"Oomph," was all the man could get out as he folded over in pain.
Levi felt the euphoria wash over him, the physical manifestation of everything churning inside him. The bar had gone silent now, and as he checked on the lady who started all this, he missed the telltale sign of Gary's retaliation.
The blow hit Levi's mouth, snapping his head back. Blood coated his tongue and he spit it onto the floor between them. He brought his thumb to his bottom lip and swiped away the crimson there. Gary was waiting, fists raised. Levi smiled, a dark and sinister kind of grin.
"Out! The both of you!" the bartender shouted. "I'll call the cops!"
Gary grunted and shoved his way out the door, giving up easily, while Levi reached for his wallet.
"Get out!" the bartender repeated.
"I'm just paying my tab."
Levi threw a twenty down and tucked his wallet away. He then turned to Maggie, who was still sitting at the bar, wearing a guilty look.
"Thanks. I really needed that." He shot her a wink. The bartender glared. "I'm going," he said, raising his hands in surrender.
As Levi stepped out into the cool night air, he felt empowered. He took in the boarded-up buildings covered in graffiti and the dark streets and knew that he would always belong here. In this impoverished neighborhood, Levi had always earned an honest living. He didn't have much, but what he had, he had worked for. He used to think there was honor in that. There were only two places to go from here, over to greener pastures or upstate to prison. Either way, Levi was determined to leave behind this life and start new.
Sometimes opportunities come along that call to your most basic desires — to be better, to take control. They are too tempting, too promising to pass up. Tomorrow would bring that opportunity.
* * *
Taylor moved around the edges of the room, the fruity drink growing warm in her glass. She wasn't interested in getting drunk tonight — though, the longer she stayed here, the more she wanted to drink. Bodies huddled in the middle of the room, dancing and grinding away their inhibitions, surrounded by antique furniture and priceless artwork. Each face she passed gave her a practiced smile, all wanting a piece of her.
"This party is so lame," Reese said as she leaned against the wall and stared out over the crowd.
"It is," Taylor agreed.
"So why are we still here?"
Taylor sighed and set her drink down on a nearby table. "It's our last party with these people. The end of an era."
"Thank God," Reese said. "High school is over. I'm going to get another drink. You want?"
Taylor shook her head. "No. I'll be out of here soon."
Beau spotted the girls from across the room. The crowd parted as he moved toward Taylor and her friend. By the time he reached them, Reese was gone.
"Where'd your BBF go?" he asked, his sandy blond hair standing up in all directions.
"It's BFF, Beau."
"Not with her. Bitch Best Friend. BBF."
Taylor rolled her eyes. "I'm ready to go."
"Already?" he asked.
People passed by, slapping Beau on the shoulder or offering a fist to bump. The girls looked at him with stars in their eyes, lovesick and completely docile.
"Aren't you tired of all this?" Taylor asked.
He leaned one hand against the wall and tipped back his drink. The permasmile and glassy eyes meant she'd be driving tonight.
"Tired of what exactly? Being loved by everyone? Being captain of the soccer team?" He lowered his voice and brought his lips to her ear. "Being able to land any girl I want?"
"And who do you want?" Taylor asked. She knew his answer. It was always her. And in this moment, she would take advantage of that.
"Let's get out of here," he said, like it was his idea.
Taylor nodded and turned toward the front door. The house was so crowded now, it was hard to navigate their way through. Mentally, she said good-bye to each person she passed, knowing that — with any luck — she would never see them again. Nameless faces who knew way too much about her passed in a blur. Good-bye, girl who copied Taylor's haircut. Good-bye, guy who always had gum. So long, chick who slept with teachers.
Once they made it outside, Beau led them through a maze of high-end cars until finally locating his. Taylor grabbed the keys from his pocket, unlocked the doors, and they both climbed in.
"No one drives my car," Beau said from the passenger seat.
"I'm not 'no one,'" Taylor clarified. "And you're drunk."
She rolled down the windows and backed out of the space. Just when Taylor put the car in drive, a group of boys blocked their exit.
"You're leaving? Dude!" one of them shouted.
"Beau, you can't go yet!" another said dramatically, throwing himself on the hood of the car.
Beau laughed at their antics while Taylor revved the engine.
"Move," she said through gritted teeth.
"But how can we party without the Party Master?"
Taylor honked the horn.
"Fine, fine. Just go!" a blond guy, still wearing his graduation cap, yelled.
They moved out of the way and Taylor floored it, leaving them all behind.
"How can you be tired of that?" Beau asked, a satisfied grin on his face.
Taylor shook her head and kept quiet. She didn't want any of it. She was exhausted from being this girl, playing this role. With their adolescence behind them, Taylor was holding out for something bigger and more meaningful. She was ready. With summer officially here, tomorrow would be different.CHAPTER 2
2. the look and the inside man
Monday morning, Levi used the provided four-digit code and waited as the large iron gate slid open. It creaked and groaned like an eerie warning of what lay beyond. The camera perched above the entrance looked down on him, and he felt judged. Levi kept his eyes averted, a nervous tell in this poker game he was anteing up to. He drove his poor excuse for a truck down the driveway and parked behind the garage as he was instructed to do. Before him was an enormous house surrounded by a perfectly manicured lawn, a tennis court, and a pool with accompanying pool house.
"All right, Levi. Can you hear me?"
Levi pressed the tiny earpiece farther into his ear, securing its place. He tapped the hidden mic beneath the collar of his shirt. "Yeah. Sound is good. You getting me?"
"Loud and clear," Kyle answered.
"What about visual?" Levi asked. He studied his reflection in the rearview mirror, smiling as the adrenaline worked over his nerves.
"Affirmative, hat camera is functioning. You ready to do this?" Kyle asked. Levi nodded, knowing his friend could see it. "You look like a fucking janitor, dude."
"I look like your fucking dad, dude," Levi replied.
"Hey! You leave that dirty bastard out of this."
Levi laughed and exited the truck, slamming the door behind him. He adjusted his hat and straightened his posture as he readied himself to start his first day as head of maintenance at the Hudson residence.
Henry Hudson III had a lot of money — a shit ton, actually. The Boss got the inside scoop from Hudson's ex–financial adviser that Henry was overly paranoid. Against the advice of his accountant, he kept more than $15 million in cash inside the home. Rumor was that more than anything he feared a financial collapse and refused to risk his family's wealth by keeping all their funds tied up in the market. Some people called him crazy, some thought he was the smartest bastard alive. Either way, when they were done with him, he'd be $15 million lighter.
Growing up, Levi knew they were poor. Their home was old and in disrepair, but always clean. He almost never had anything new — his clothes, his toys, and even school supplies were often from thrift stores or yard sales. Still, Levi realized that their life wasn't so bad. He was kept safe, fed hot meals, and always made to feel he was loved. There was constant music and happiness in the home, even when his mother had gotten sick. To him if felt like he had everything he ever needed.
Levi made his way around to the front of the house. The words of a familiar song floated through his head as he followed the immaculate limestone path to the front door. This was his crutch, his calming device. The habit was Levi's anchor to calm, passed down from his father along with an inherited black lacquer 1939 Gibson acoustic. Melodies, poetry, any kind of rhythm kept his head cool and his focus sharp.
He rang the bell and wiped his palms on his green uniform pants while waiting. When the ostentatious door swung open, he was shocked to find a pretty girl smiling back at him. Her long brown hair was pulled into a braid that hung over one shoulder. She wore a uniform similar to his, and while it was much more flattering on her, it still looked like they worked in a prison.
"Hi! You must be Levi," she said excitedly, holding out her hand. He took it and shook once before dropping it.
"Welcome to the Hudson compound," she said, waving her arm in a sweeping motion. "I'm Amanda, housekeeping."
"Nice to meet you, Amanda Housekeeping." Levi hit her with his most charming smile, the one he'd perfected in sixth grade. She actually giggled. "Wow. You have to wear the same uniform as me?"
"Minus the hat," she said. "I think it's a requirement of Mrs. Hudson, something about not being a temptation. Come on in." Levi followed her inside. "You can call me Mandy. I just loved your uncle Zach. He was the sweetest man and could fix just about anything. Oh, look at me talking like he's dead or something. I'm sorry."
"He was ready to retire. I'm lucky I got to take his place," Levi said, having a look around the large space. The foyer floor was marble with an intricate pattern centered below a chandelier. Everything was pristine and looked brand-new.
Mandy led them into the kitchen and motioned for him to have a seat at the island.
"Good Lord, her ass is fantastic," Kyle said in his ear. Levi tilted his head, startled by the sudden commentary. "How does an ass look that good in janitor pants?"
"I'd show you around myself, but I'm right in the middle of cleaning out the fridge." She gestured to a row of condiments lined up on the counter. "Let me page Curtis."
She approached a panel on the wall and dialed a three-digit extension. There were two sharp beeps and then a male voice came over the speaker.
"Yeah?" he said.
"Curtis, Levi is here."
"Great, send him back."
Mandy gave him directions to a shed at the back of the property, where Curtis, the head groundskeeper worked. Curtis turned out to be a nice guy and gave Levi the lowdown on what to expect from his job. Levi smiled and nodded like he'd never heard it before. His uncle Zach had worked here for almost twenty years. Anything Levi needed to know, he already knew.
"We got a picnic table out back," Curtis said while motioning over his shoulder. "Me and my helper have lunch there on nice days. Feel free to join us. Any tools or supplies you need will be here in this shed or in the garage. Nice lip, by the way. You get any hits in?"
Levi smirked, his fingers rubbing his battle wound. It was a little swollen and the cut was sensitive.
Curtis grinned and told him where to find his list of jobs each day and sent him on his way with a slap on the back and a mumbled bid of luck.
"That guy seemed sketchy," Kyle said. Levi's shoulders jumped, startled again by the comment.
"No, he didn't. And I don't think I'll ever get used to having you in my ear all day."
"What about that big scar down the side of his face? Looks gang related to me."
"We did background checks on all employees here. We know more about them than their own mothers do. Are you insinuating that a man is sketchy just because he has a scar?" Levi asked.
"Seems legit to me."
"And how would you know if his is gang related or not?"
"I don't trust him."
"Okay, well, I'm going to get to work on my job list while you get your paranoia in check," Levi said, making his way back to the house.
"Copy that. I'll be here if you need me."
As he walked, Levi thought about the real reason he was here. When his uncle's plan to retire was announced, the Boss had approached him. Levi was wanted for a scheme to rob one of the richest men in Southern California. Since he was a child, Levi had heard his uncle's complaints about working for the Hudson family. According to Zach, they were terribly selfish people who treated their employees like dirt. They used their money and privilege to live above everyone else. His whole life, Levi had wanted to punish people like the Hudsons. This was his opportunity.
Soon, Levi had persuaded his closest friends, Kyle and Crystal, to join in, and instantly they formed their own merry band of misfits. The three of them had known each other since high school, bonding over the course of a Saturday detention their freshman year. All had endured pain and loss in their home life. On top of that, the trio were all from the same neighborhood — where crime was rampant and money was not. They had what they considered a poor man's kinship.
For the last six months, the team had worked together, prepping for this job. They knew the house would be mostly empty all summer except for the daughter, Taylor. Their research had shown that she'd just graduated from high school and would be moving to the East Coast for college. She was valedictorian of her class and was active in several clubs. Other than that, they had no idea how much she'd be around the house or what kind of interference she could cause. Levi dismissed the kid, not worried about her presence one bit.
He reached the laundry room door and entered, wiping his feet on the mat. Pinned to the corkboard next to the sink was Levi's list of duties for the day. Curtis informed him that the list was made by other members of the staff and, when they were around, the Hudson family. He read over the list and the attached grounds map, then grabbed his newly appointed toolbox and headed outside.
The first thing on the list was a broken sprinkler head. Levi hummed a beat that matched his footsteps as he followed the diagram and set his tools down in the grass.
"This sucks, get to the good stuff," Kyle said, yawning in his ear.
"It might help solidify my position as a maintenance man if I actually maintain some shit first."
"Yeah, the Boss will be pissed if we screw this up before finding that safe. Carry on."
Excerpted from Perfect Betrayal by Season Vining. Copyright © 2015 Season Vining. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Fistfights and Tomorrows,
2. The Look and the Inside Man,
3. The New Guy and Introductions,
4. Open Mics and Polyester Blend,
5. Louboutin and Nurse Taylor,
6. Mutual Attraction and Just Friends,
7. Hustler and Quivering Jelly,
8. On the Prowl and Passion Theory,
9. Radiohead and Hurricanes,
10. Carnal Desires and Plan B,
11. Sexual Pun and 1989,
12. False Bottoms and Friday,
13. Foreshadowing and Home Services,
14. File Folder and Eye Candies,
15. Happy Birthday and Good-bye,
16. Balconies and Prison,
17. Googlin' and Good-bye Again,
18. Cougar Bait and the Laundry Chute,
19. Stacks on Stacks and Retribution,
20. Julia Hudson and Banished,
21. Bergamo and Robbery,
22. Lebron James and Postcards,
23. Juliet and Happy Christmas,
24. Suspects and Declarations,
About the Author,
Also by Season Vining,
Praise for the Author,