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       The Consequence of Loving Colton, p.1

         Part #1 of Consequence series by Rachel Van Dyken
 
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The Consequence of Loving Colton


  ALSO BY RACHEL VAN DYKEN

  The Bet Series

  The Bet

  The Wager

  The Dare

  The Ruin Series

  Ruin

  Toxic

  Fearless

  Shame

  The Elite Series

  Elite

  Elect

  Entice

  Elicit

  Bang Bang

  Enforce

  Ember

  The Seaside Series

  Tear

  Pull

  Shatter

  Forever

  Fall

  Eternal

  Renwick House

  The Ugly Duckling Debutante

  The Seduction of Sebastian St. James

  The Redemption of Lord Rawlings

  An Unlikely Alliance

  The Devil Duke Takes a Bride

  London Fairy Tales

  Upon a Midnight Dream

  Whispered Music

  The Wolf’s Pursuit

  When Ash Falls

  Seasons of Paleo

  Savage Winter

  Wallflower Series

  Waltzing with the Wallflower

  Beguiling Bridget

  Taming Wilde

  Stand-Alones:

  Every Girl Does It

  The Parting Gift

  Compromising Kessen

  Divine Uprising

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  Text copyright © 2015 Rachel Van Dyken

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

  Published by Skyscape, New York

  www.apub.com

  Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Skyscape are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc., or its affiliates.

  ISBN-13: 9781477829110

  ISBN-10: 1477829113

  Cover design by Kerrie Robertson

  Library of Congress Control Number: 2014956180

  To the Rachel’s Rockin Readers group on Facebook: This book would not be possible without you guys! I appreciate your encouragement and hilarious input. Who knew that with a little help from my friends (aka readers) we’d knock out what should have been a year-long process in a month :) Love you guys HARD!

  CONTENTS

  PROLOGUE

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY

  CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

  CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

  CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

  CHAPTER THIRTY

  CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

  CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

  CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

  CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

  CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

  CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

  CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

  CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

  CHAPTER THIRTY-NINE

  CHAPTER FORTY

  CHAPTER FORTY-ONE

  CHAPTER FORTY-TWO

  CHAPTER FORTY-THREE

  CHAPTER FORTY-FOUR

  CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

  CHAPTER FORTY-SIX

  CHAPTER FORTY-SEVEN

  CHAPTER FORTY-EIGHT

  CHAPTER FORTY-NINE

  CHAPTER FIFTY

  CHAPTER FIFTY-ONE

  CHAPTER FIFTY-TWO

  CHAPTER FIFTY-THREE

  CHAPTER FIFTY-FOUR

  EPILOGUE

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  PROLOGUE

  Summer 2009

  “I can’t believe you’re really going to college, Milo.” Colton’s teasing smile flashed right in front of me, rendering me temporarily blind. Man, he was beautiful. His normally dark-brown hair had shots of gold from the summer sun. Dimples peeked out from his mega-white smile and I was pretty confident that I saw a twinkle in his green eyes meant just for me. He’d been home for two months since graduation and was already off saving the world one fire at a time. I watched his full lips curve around the mouth of his Corona. He and my brother Jason had organized a going-away party for me. Apparently me getting accepted into NYU was a big deal: they’d even gone so far as to get a Star Wars–themed cake from Dairy Queen and a princess tiara that said “Pretty” across it. It was always their joke with me. I was a complete and total tomboy—I loved picking fights and getting muddy—yet still demanded they treat me like a princess.

  With a sigh I leaned back on the picnic blanket and looked up at the stars. My crown fell to the side of my head, causing my hair to fall all over my face. The party had been over for a few hours, leaving me, Colt, and Jason. I should have been happy: after all, who does that for his little sister? What brother would even care? Furthermore, the fact that it had all been Colt’s idea, someone who wasn’t even family, was huge. But . . . maybe that’s the part that left me feeling empty. I might as well be family to Colton. I was the little sister he’d never had—and secretly, I’d always wanted to be so much more.

  “Aw, you messed up your hair,” Colton teased, lifting the crown with the tip of his finger and giving me a sexy wink.

  “Whatever shall I do?” I huffed.

  “I’ll save you.” His voice was just above a whisper. “I’ve always wanted to save a princess.”

  “You did.” My grin was huge. “You saved me a least a hundred times when we were little—slew the dragon at the top of the stairs and did it all without getting a scratch.”

  “Messy job.” He let out a long, exaggerated sigh. “I don’t know how I made it to my nineteenth birthday without getting singed.”

  “Donald didn’t breathe fire. He was a fireless dragon, remember?”

  “Oh, right.” His eyes twinkled. “How is the old dragon anyway?”

  I shrugged and chewed on my lower lip. “Haven’t been in the attic since you guys left for school. I’ve been busy.”

  “Too busy to play?”

  I rolled my eyes. “Too busy graduating to play, yeah.”

  “Where’s the fun in that?”

  “Fun.” I snorted. “The last time I had fun was when we snuck into your parents’ pool and—” I clamped my mouth shut before the words could tumble out on their own. Crap. Crap. Crap.

  “Skinny-dipped.” He finished my thought. “Yeah, that was a blast.”

  “Hey, guys!” Jason called as he ran out of the house. “Dad needs me to grab Mom from work so I’ll be right back! Don’t do anything fun without me! I mean it!”

  The loud roar from his truck filled the night air for a brief second and then slowly dissipated as the vehicle barreled down the driveway.

  “You thinking what I’m thinking?” Colton asked.

  If his thoughts were along the line of finally getting him alone, away from my brother? “Absolutely.
I grinned as he grabbed my hand and helped me off the blanket.

  “Come on. Let’s go have fun.”

  Curious, I followed Colt as we ran through a few backyards and finally ended up at his house.

  “What are we doing?” I asked in a hushed voice.

  “Having fun.” I swear his grin made my heart almost stop. “Now strip, Milo, we don’t have all night and Jason’s going to be pissed he isn’t with us.”

  Laughing, I took off my shirt and shorts—I’d spent years swimming with the guys in my sports bra and underwear, though as we got older it became weird, but only on my end. It felt strange to strip down to nothing, knowing that my feelings for Colton were very real whereas his were nonexistent. I mean, it was Colton. Sure, I had a crush on him, but he never, ever thought of me that way. Ever.

  “Last one in’s a rotten—”

  I didn’t hear him finish—but I did beat him into the water. His mom and stepdad’s pool was always my favorite place to swim. It had a little waterfall in the deep end that you could swim under that always made me think of fairy tales and the movies. Then again, that could be because every time I broke through the water it was Colton’s face I saw, and his smile that drew me. He was my own personal Prince Charming.

  Laughing, Colton splashed around, then hauled himself out of the pool and did a cannonball right by my face. I was glad that it was dark—I must have been beet-red. Man, the guy was ripped.

  “Wanna race?” he asked, out of breath.

  “Wanna lose?” I countered.

  “Never.”

  “Um, it’s an everyday occurrence.” I swam over to the edge. “Ready, set—”

  “—go!” He ran instead of swam and then dove under water.

  Bastard! Arms burning, I tried to make it to the other end of the pool. I usually didn’t open my eyes under water, but this time I did to see where I was going.

  His body was a blur in front of me. All I saw was hard-lined muscle.

  I stopped right in front of him and jumped to the surface. “You cheated.”

  “I like to call it winning.” He beamed triumphantly.

  “Cheating.” My teeth ground together as I pushed against his chest. Laughing, he fell backward, pulling me with him. Our bodies ground together, heat against heat, skin against skin.

  And suddenly sneaking away from Jason wasn’t funny anymore.

  Neither of us was laughing.

  His hands moved from my waist slowly up my body until they rested on my face. With a curse he pulled my head toward his. “We should . . .”

  “Yeah,” I whispered.

  Neither of us pulled away.

  His lips brushed mine, just enough to make me strain toward him—I needed him like I needed air.

  “Kids!” His stepdad’s voice rang through the night air. “You out here making noise?”

  Colton pushed me away and I nearly hit my head on the waterfall rocks.

  “Yeah, just . . . hanging out!” Colton called. “I’m with Jason’s sister.”

  I froze. He’d never called me that before. He even said it in such a final way, as if that was all I would ever be. Period. My heart didn’t just sink . . . it shuddered, then combusted, as all the hopes I’d harbored since I was thirteen came to a crushing world-altering halt. My suspicions were finally confirmed. Out loud. On the day the boy I liked had thought enough to throw me a party.

  The line had been drawn. And I might as well be on the other side of the universe.

  That was the day I lost Colton Mathews—forever.

  CHAPTER ONE

  MILO

  Four years later

  I gripped the steering wheel with both hands. Actually, I would have gripped it with my teeth, toes, and ankles had my brain actually fired fast enough to send the message: Red alert! Red alert!

  Instead, mouth dry, I just sat there like an idiot.

  I couldn’t think of anything to say to make it better—anything. I couldn’t even give the guy a smile, which really was a shame considering it was my best asset.

  “Milo!” Colton tapped the door of my light-blue Mercedes. “You look good.”

  I blinked. Well, I thought I blinked, I wasn’t really sure. The car was still running, you’d think I would at least have enough sense to take my foot off the pedal and put it into park, but all I could do was stare. Fantastic. Twenty-one years old and still dealing with sweaty palms because Colton Mathews had said my name.

  One thing I was sure of—my mouth was still hanging slightly ajar. Drool would soon follow and then Colton would have just one more reason to make fun of me—Jason’s little sister.

  “You all right?” He leaned his muscled forearms against the open window and stuck his head in. Merciful God in heaven, he still smelled the same. His spicy cologne blending with his perfect tan skin would have made any girl pause, or swallow her tongue, or sweat; really, take your pick. “You do realize at some point you need to turn off the car and go inside the house, right, little girl?”

  And there it was, I wasn’t any girl. To Colt, I was Jason’s little sister. Nothing more.

  It didn’t matter that my boobs cheerfully filled out a C cup or that I’d had my braces off for over seven years. I still wasn’t a woman to him.

  God must have taken pity on me, because for some reason, in that instant, when the smell of Acqua Di Gio floated into my car, I snapped out of my insane moment and smiled.

  “Fine. Great. Awesome. Perfect. You?” Too many answers, Milo. Too many answers.

  Colton chuckled. It was a deep chuckle. The type that makes girls sigh while simultaneously trying to figure out how to get out of their clothes and trap the man into marriage. Seriously. His smile was one that made girls want the condom to break.

  Great, now I was thinking about condoms.

  Condoms and Colton.

  A barking dog interrupted my sexual daydreams. It was Max’s ringtone. “Um, one second.” I put up my finger and shooed Colton away from the window as I pressed “Answer” and let the window close. He smiled, seemingly amused, and leaned against the car.

  “How goes the first day of childhood hell, my friend?”

  “That depends,” I whispered into the phone, not taking my eyes off Colton as he stood facing the window. He was tall enough that I was basically staring at his lower abs and lower . . . body. Heat flooded my face, informing me without a doubt that crimson decorated my cheeks.

  “Why are we whispering?” asked Max, my best friend from college.

  “Because we are in the car.”

  “You are in the car. I’m at Starbucks.”

  “Whatever,” I conceded with a snort, waving my hand in the air flippantly. “And it’s not going well. In fact, I’m pretty sure Colton thinks I have a learning disability.”

  “Why would he think that?”

  I sighed into the phone and tried to concentrate on anything but the fact that Colton was standing a few inches away from me. So freaking close. “I kind of, sort of . . . blacked out when he was talking to me.”

  “So where are you now?”

  “We’ve established this. I’m in the car.”

  Max sighed. “Then where’s Colton?”

  “Outside the car.”

  “I’m confused.”

  “I’m an idiot.” I groaned and smacked my hand against my forehead. “When the phone rang I closed the window to answer it but now he’s not moving.”

  “Well . . .” Max cleared his throat. “I guess there are worse things in life than a hot guy standing outside your window, right?”

  “Right.” My voice wavered. “But he’s like facing the door. All of him.”

  “All of him?”

  “His parts,” I clarified. Swear I felt my entire body go up in flames. Great, so now I was going to hell for looking at his parts. His very nice parts. His yummy, tight, straining—I needed to stop before I gave myself a stroke. “He’s facing the window and leaning against the car and I swear, Max, the whole front of his body i
s pressed up against . . . my car.”

  “Naked?”

  “What?” I yelled.

  “Well, you said his parts.”

  “Not his parts-parts,” I clarified. Shoot me now. Could this conversation get any more awkward? “Never mind, I mean—oh, crap.”

  “What? What’s happening?”

  I could see Max now, coffee thrust in the air, pacing the Starbucks floor like a crazy person.

  “He’s stretching across the car and—” I stopped mid-sentence. “Shit, my brother’s on the other side.”

  “Let me get this straight.” Max chuckled. “You have your lifelong crush, who just so happens to be your brother’s best friend, on one side, his parts pressed firmly against your hot little Mercedes, and your brother, who has no idea of this sad infatuation, on the other side, making it possible for you to ogle his best friend’s goodies?”

  “Yup.” My breathing picked up as I heard Colton laugh and then his front pressed against my door. “Good Lord, I’m sweating. He’s—”

  “Please don’t finish that sentence. It makes me want to puke, and as much as you make fun of me for not having a girlfriend, it’s not because I prefer men, so please . . . spare me the details.”

  “Fine.”

  “Milo?”

  “What?” My eyes were glued to Colton’s hot body as his stomach stretched across an eight-pack straight off a glossy magazine cover.

  “Seduce him.”

  “With what?” I whisper-yelled. “I have nothing to offer him!”

  “It’s not like I want you to plant a chocolate trail from the ground to your lips, Milo.”

  “I know that!” I snapped. “Besides, he’s allergic to chocolate.”

  “Please tell me you don’t have his medical history memorized.”

  “I don’t,” I lied, suddenly finding great interest in the black leather steering wheel while my shame increased. “Besides, it doesn’t matter. His Facebook profile says he likes blondes. I have dark hair.”

  “I’m going to ignore the fact that you stalk him on Facebook and just help you fix the problem. So dye your hair.”

  “Yeah, let me just get the hair dye from the backseat, Max!”

  “Sheesh, touchy. You, my friend, need to get laid.”

  “Tell me about it,” I muttered. “I’m the one stuck in the damn car with nothing but my Kindle and a prayer to keep me occupied.”

 
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