Savage Delight (Lovely Vicious #2) by Sara Wolf

-1-

3 Years

25 Weeks

5 Days

“Are you alright, sir?”

I look up at the voice. A bellboy smiles cheerily at me. He has no idea who I am, or what I’ve been through, yet he has the nerve to smile. It’s been nineteen days since Isis Blake forgot about me. And yet he has the nerve to ask if I’m alright.

I light another cigarette.

“Get out of my face.”

His expression falls, and he backs away. “S-Sure. Have a nice night.”

I scoff and lean against a pillar of the grand marble roundabout of the Hilton hotel. I watch ridiculously fancy black cars shuffle in and out, dropping off equally puffed-up old rich people. Bellboys and concierges scurry around, calling taxis and directing valets. Revolving glass doors with gold accents constantly whirr and hiss over the mindless chatter. Women shriek with laughter, men guffaw; all of them oblivious, happy idiots. I can see the truth in their clothes and posture – five of the men are cheating on their wives. Two of them with far younger women, one of them exclusively with prostitutes. He not-so-subtly taps the ass of a passing blonde in a peacoat. She hides her grimace with an actress’ grace. When she sees me, she clips over in her heels with a mildly happier smile.

“Jaden! Oh my god! It’s been forever!”

“Three months, Lily.” I correct.

“Three months, forever, same difference.” She laughs. Perfume wafts off her - the expensive, strong kind. The kind you buy when you have to cover up the pervasive smell of sex.

“Finished with work?” I ask, and jerk my head at the man still watching her lecherously, his wife oblivious and clinging to his arm. Lily sighs.

“Yeah, for the night. I’m about to head back to my place. What about you?”

“Mayor’s daughter.” I motion to my tuxedo. “Winter ball.”

“Bet you were the hottest guy there.”

“It was a Catholic girls’ school.”

“And the hottest guy she’ll ever have.”

Lily is just a few years older than me, but she’s been in the Rose Club far longer. Lily isn’t her real name, just like Jaden isn’t mine. I don’t know her in real life, and she doesn’t know me. But sometimes we work in the same hotels, and she’s one of the few girls in the Rose Club who isn’t annoyingly bland. So we talk.

“Seriously.” Lily elbows me. “I’ve seen her. She looks like an inbred Pomeranian on her best days.”

“Now now,” I blow smoke into the sky. “Let’s not be nasty. She paid good money. And I respect and appreciate money.”

Lily watches my face carefully as she waits for a taxi to cycle past. She furrows her thin brows.

“What about your own prom?” She asks.

“What about it?”

“Are you going to that? Do you have a girlfriend? Or a date?”

I took Sophia to my Junior prom. But it’s not Sophia who pops into my head. An image of Isis grows strong, dressed up in some silk dress. Red? Or blue? Purple, probably, to match her hair. She’d dance and drink and start at least four fights. It would be awful. It would be hilarious. I smirk at the thought, but it quickly fades.

“No. I’m not going to the Senior one. It’s pointless – I’m graduating in five months, anyway. High school barely matters anymore.”

She plucks the cigarette from my lips and grinds it under her heel. “When did you start smoking?”

“When did you start seeing fit to mother me?” I snarl.

“It’s not good for you.”

“Neither is whoring.”

Lily glowers. “We both have our reasons for doing that. You don’t have a reason to smoke. Unless you want to die early and painfully.”

“And if I did, it would be none of your business.”

Lily looks wounded. She hails a passing cab, and pauses in its open door to look back at me.

“You’re one of us, Jaden,” She murmurs. “Society looks down on us. Customers objectify us. All we have is each other. So it is my business.” She pulls out her Rose Club card – white with pale gold stripes – and hands it to me. “If you ever need anything, or if you wanna talk, call me.”

She’s gone before I can throw it back at her - gone before the gaping chasm in my chest has the chance to begin to bleed. I shake it off. I’m Jack Hunter. No one makes me bleed.

Except one girl, at a party, nearly five months ago.

I light another cigarette to cover the stench of weakness emanating off me. The women at the hotel’s entrance are eyeing me. If I so much as flinch in their direction, they’ll accost me, flirting with tired tactics and worn eagerness. They are just as bad as the men. They covet things that look nice. And when they can’t have what they covet, they squabble; quickly turning on each other in sickening displays of predatory possessiveness.

I consider throwing Lily’s card in a nearby puddle. She has no idea what I’m going through. I have no idea what I’m going through. She can’t help me. Besides, her help is offered solely because she has designs on me. Even an idiot can see that much.

‘Not everything with a vagina likes you, dipshit!’

I whirl around at the sound of the voice. It’s so clear, so perfectly loud and obnoxious that it has to be her. But no purple streaks bob out of the crowd to greet me. No warm brown eyes crinkle with a smirk.

I fall against the pillar again and laugh, putting my head in my hands as reality slips through my fingers. Get it together, Jack Hunter. You’re going to Harvard in seven months. Your mother is waiting for you to come home. Sophia is counting on you. Her surgery is imminent. You can’t go crazy. Belina needs your help. People are depending on you. You have a life to live, and no matter how much you wish on stars, no matter how much you bargain with God, or with the doctors, that life does not include Isis Blake any longer. You’re a stranger to her.

The hole she burned in the ice must be mended.

There is no warmth, anymore. You barely tasted it, barely felt it on your skin. It brushed against you for a single second. Something so small should not retain this much weight. It is illogical. You are illogical for letting it affect you so much.

There is no warmth, Jack Hunter. Not for the likes of you.

You have blood on your hands. You have duty, and guilt, and you can’t escape that. No one can help you escape.

Not even her.

“Jaden!” A shrill voice makes me look up. Cynthia, the Mayor’s daughter, waves me over to the limo. Her dark hair is over-curled and looks ridiculous. Her pink dress is too tight and low cut. Her circle of simpering friends have dropped their purses off and re-touched their makeup, and now they’re on their way to an after-party. We’re on our way. I’m being paid to be one of them, after all.

I stub my cigarette out and put on my best smile.

***

My life has become a series of people asking me if I’m better.

Except I’m sitting in a hospital bed with a massive bandage around my head like a turban. So no, I’m not better.

But people keep asking anyway because it’s how you show concern for someone you care about, I guess, but frankly a giant box of chocolate truffles and reign over a small kingdom would be acceptable stand-ins.

No school. No home. All I do is sit in bed all day and watch crappy soap operas in which people faint dramatically all the time. Like, damn. That shit’s an epidemic. I get so bored I try to mimic their faints except the nurses catch me and say stuff like ‘you have a head injury’ and ‘contrary to popular belief, the floor is hard’, or some nonsense, so nobody can blame me when I steal the nearest wheelchair and bolt down the hall at top speeds. NASCAR ain’t got nothing on me. Except the backing of huge corporations who give them money to go fast. But still. I’m twice as cool and my ride is pimped as hell – a worn-out shit stain on the seat from somebody’s dead someone and the stuffing pulled slightly out of the armrest.