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Appealed: Epilogue

Six months later

“Welcome Saint Arthur’s Class of 2000!”

The high school reunion: one of the most excruciatingly annoying experiences ever invented. You have to get all dressed up to see people you didn’t actually like enough to keep in touch with over the past fifteen years. Men worry if anyone will notice how bald they’re going—and the answer is yes. Women worry if they look the same as they did when they were eighteen. News flash—you don’t. Or, if you do, that’s some toxic fucking voodoo you’re pumping into your veins, so you should stop right away.

Vicki and Brian begged off, using the ultimate ironclad excuse of their kids to get out of going. Kennedy was reluctant too. But after my relentless oral persuasion—and two orgasms—she gave in.

I think it will be good for her to face those ghosts, so she can see that even bullies grow up, and more important, get old. She says she doesn’t need that, but I think deep down, she still carries a tiny open wound from those years. Coming back here, with me, might finally scab it over completely.

And to be honest—I want to be here with her. I want to show her the fuck off—her and the three-carat engagement ring I put on her finger last month. It’s not just because she’s drop-dead gorgeous either. I’d want her on my arm even if she was still wearing those old glasses and braces and big baggy sweaters. Because I’m proud of her—not just how she looks.

And—if everything goes like I think it will—I have an additional ulterior motive for coming back.

Cher blasts from the speakers as Kennedy and I step into the gymnasium, hand in hand. Since our boarding school costs a pretty penny, you’d think the event would have more elegance. Class.

But nope—it’s the typical streamers, dimly lit, candles on the table, occasional strobe lights flashing like we’re in a club, bad DJ, kind of setup. We get a drink from the bar and walk around—mingling with my old lacrosse teammates and even chatting for a few minutes with William fucking Penderghast. He’s a big-time CEO now, with a Victoria’s Secret model for a wife. Good for him.

But we both know I still got the better end of the deal.

“Holy shit, Brent Mason! Come here you handsome bastard!”

I’m accosted by a tan, blond woman in a sequined gown, wearing way too much Chanel No. 5. When she steps back, I see it’s my old girlfriend—Cashmere Champlaine. It’d be nice to say she got what she deserved—that the years hadn’t been kind to the face and body she valued so much. But that just wouldn’t be true. She’s still beautiful, with a tastefully medically enhanced face and a toned body without any obvious fat. I’d heard she’d married a professional football player a few years back, then divorced him. And married one of his teammates.

Her lips peel back in an aggressive smile, revealing glowing, straight teeth. She smacks the lapel of my suit. “How are you, stranger?”

“I’m good, Cazz,” I answer coolly. “How about yourself?”

“I’m amazing! I’m running my own modeling business now out in LA! Everyone thinks they’re going to be the next Giselle—though most of them couldn’t get a hemorrhoid cream commercial without blowing the photographer first. What are you doing with your fine self these days?”

And here’s where that ulterior motive comes into play.

“I got engaged recently.”

Her smile turns forced and her eyes harden. “Really? How nice.”

“It is.” Then I pull Kennedy around from behind me. “My fiancée is Kennedy Randolph. You remember her, don’t you, Cazz?”

Her pretense of good humor drops, melting into an ugly scowl.

“Hello, Cashmere.” Kennedy stares her down, her eyes hard like topaz. It’s similar to her court stance. Fearless.

“You have got to be fucking kidding me!” Cashmere screeches at me. “I knew it! I always knew you had a thing for her! Unbelievable!”

My voice is calm, and deceptively contrite. “Yeah, you’re right. I always did. The thing is, I have a little confession to make.”

“What?”

“I cheated on you, Cashmere. All through boarding school. All those nights when I said I had to practice late or my leg bothered me or I had to study—I was really with Kennedy.” I look right into her angry eyes. “It was always her. Always.”

When a stunned expression fills her face, I know she believes me. That my words struck her right in the heart. And Kennedy’s final dragon is slayed.

“Are you . . . are you serious?”

“Totally.” Then I shrug. “But it’s no big deal, right? Kids are assholes. They only care about themselves—they don’t give a damn how much they might hurt someone else. No hard feelings, right?”

Cashmere swallows whatever she was about to say, because we’re surrounded by her old groupies—and every one of them heard. So she saves face as best she can.

She smiles tightly. “Yeah. No hard feelings.”

“Great.” I stroke the back of Kennedy’s hair. “Oh—this is a good song. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to dance with the girl of my dreams. Later, Cazz.”

I turn around and lead Kennedy away.

Once we’re on the dance floor, with my arms around her, she smirks at me.

“Why did you do that?”

I press my lips against her hair. “I can’t go back and change those years for you, but I can change how she remembers them. She doesn’t get to think she was better than you—she never was.”

Kennedy’s sigh sounds content and grateful at the same time.

“Thank you.”

She lays her head on my chest and we dance for a few minutes. Then her head pops back up excitedly. “Hey, you know what we should do?”

“What?”

“We should drive back out to the overlook.” Her voice drops to sultry. Teasing. “We could . . . make out . . . like we did last time.”

I brush my nose against hers. “Will you let me go all the way this time?”

She bites her lip, like she has to think about it. “I’m not sure . . . I’m a good girl, you know.”

My hands slip down to her hips, squeezing. “But it’s so fun when you’re bad.”

And hot. She’s really fucking hot when she’s bad.

Kennedy’s head tilts back and her eyes sparkle. All for me. “You play your cards right, things could turn naughty.”

Sweet. I’m a kick-ass card player.

“You know what else I just realized?” she asks.

My hands slide up her thighs, cupping her ass. “What?”

“You never settled on a nickname for me.”

I kiss her softly, with the promise of more to come.

“But I did. The best nickname ever—and in a few months, I’m going to use it every chance I get.”

Her head angles to the side, trying to guess. Eventually she gives up.

“What is it?”

I raise Kennedy’s left hand to my lips, kissing the knuckles where her engagement ring sits. Where, very soon, a wedding ring will be.

“Wife.”


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