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The Initiation (Filthy Rich Americans #1)
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No one knows how new members are selected to the board of Hale Banking and Holding. But there are rumors of a sordid rite of initiation.
Whispers how one woman and nine men disappear into a boardroom.
This time, that woman will be me.
The Hale family owns everything—the eighth largest bank in the world, everyone in our town, even the mortgage on my parents’ mansion. And now Royce Hale wants to own me.
He is charming. Seductive. Ruthless. But above all, he’s the prince of lies. My body may tighten with white-hot desire under his penetrating gaze, but I refuse to enjoy it.
I’ll make a deal with the devil to save my family and sell myself to the Hales. But Royce will never own my heart.
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RAIN STREAKED ACROSS THE WINDOW, blurring the view of the landscape out the back seat of the car as it hurried my sister Emily and me past the front gate. The drive leading up to the Hale estate was long, straight, and lined with tall, manicured hedges. It was a tunnel of green. The only escape was the impressive fountain at the end where the driveway circled, and the historic stone mansion loomed beyond.
I clutched the book in my lap tighter, my fingers tensing on the edges of the hardcover, making the dust jacket crinkle against the skirt of my dress. The sound drew my sister’s attention, and she shot me one of her famous disapproving looks. It was the same one my father had wilted under earlier this evening when he’d suggested Emily find something more appropriate to wear.
Her cocktail dress was as black as the limo we were traveling in. The fabric plunged deep down her chest, flaunting her impressive cleavage. The flouncy skirt was cut short in the front, teasing well above her knees, and hemmed longer in the back. It showed off her legs and the precariously tall heels she wore. Her lips were stained a vivid red. She had blue undertones in her pale skin, so it looked terrific on her.
In theory, that same lip color would work on me. My sister was only fifteen months older than I was, and although we weren’t twins, people often asked if we were. Except we were easier to tell apart these days. On a whim, I’d dyed my hair an unnatural shade of deep green during spring break. It had faded since the last time I’d had it colored, but the hue was still there.
As I’d discovered with the hair color, I could pull off bold colors like Emily. We had the same sable hair and crystal blue eyes, but in stark contrast to her, tonight I wore a white dress with lace cap sleeves. It was fitting. I was the weird, virginal loner, and she was the confident, sexy bombshell.
We looked nothing alike on the inside.
She was friendly, quick-witted, and a pleaser. She had a knack for putting people at ease.
I had the ability to make everyone uncomfortable with my awkward bluntness but had learned not to care what others thought. My sister was the darling of the social scene, and she was destined to be the queen of Cape Hill—one of the wealthiest villages in Massachusetts. It had bay views, sprawling estates, and private golf courses, and each year the housing market climbed closer to matching the Hamptons.
My destiny, however, was to be left alone. I could do whatever I wanted, which suited me just fine. I’d never have to fulfill obligations or handle the family duties. I’d been given my mother’s maiden name as my first name to appease my rich grandparents. That was the only responsibility I had to carry.
“Marist.” Emily placed her hand on my wrist and eyed the new Greek mythology book in my lap. “If that doesn’t fit in your purse, don’t take it inside. You can’t show up to a party with a book to read—and definitely not to Royce’s party.”
Because Royce Hale was a modern-day Gatsby. He’d thrown ragers nearly every weekend when he’d been in high school. I was several years behind him, but they’d still talked about it at our elite prep school, long after he’d gone off to Harvard.
I stared at Emily as the car promenaded around the fountain. When it pulled to a stop, my sister’s dangling earrings swayed and glinted in the fading sunlight.
“It fits in my purse,” I said softly. “Don’t worry.”
Even though I didn’t give a shit what people thought of me, this was a huge night for my sister. I wasn’t about to screw it up for her. I was fiercely protective of her, and she was my best friend.
The door on Emily’s side opened and a man stood at the ready, an oversized black umbrella in one hand, and his other extended to help her out. “Good evening,” he said.
As she took his hand, I shoved the book into my bag. I watched the pair of them as he ushered her up the stone steps, sheltered under the umbrella so her hair and makeup wouldn’t be ruined by the drizzle.
I was out of the car before she’d gone inside, and when the man turned and saw me walking toward the house in the rain, he sprinted in a panic, rushing to get me safely under his protection. It was ridiculous. Besides the fact it was basically misting, no one really cared how I looked—most of all me. I was only here for my sister’s benefit. The invitation had been for both Northcott sisters, and it would have been rude for me to decline.