Fraud (Antihero Inferno #2) by Lily White

NINTH CIRCLE (TREACHERY)

TANNER CAINE





fraud

noun



A person who intends to deceive others





I’m going to start this story with a warning.

You all deserve it.

Every woman does.

We have to look out for each other when it comes to men, and I’m doing you all a huge favor by telling you this.

Jerome Gabriel Dane, IV is a two-faced liar.

Oh, sure, he’ll walk up to you with his peacock strut, his tail so high and wide that you are mesmerized by all his pretty colors. But I can promise you, that behind his charming smile and those bright green eyes, there’s a man who plans to wreck your world without one ounce of guilt for doing it.

I should know.

He’s wrecked mine more than once.

It’s okay, though.

I’ve wrecked his back.

The sad truth is I have no idea why all of this started.

He’s hated me since the day we met.

What I do know is that he’s locked me in his sights again with a promise to destroy me. Maybe it’s my fault he’s out for blood this time.

Maybe not.

I like to think we’re both to blame. But that’s because I’m fair.

Not Gabriel.

He’s just a monster disguised in gorgeous wrappings.

A man that wouldn’t know the truth if it slapped him in the face.

Don’t believe anything he tells you. About me or anybody else. And whatever you do, don’t fall for him. I’m telling you now, you’ll live to regret it.

If you do fall - if you believe his pretty lies - don’t come back to me looking for a shoulder to cry on.

I told you the truth.

I warned you.

It’s not my fault if you choose not to listen.

. . .

Ivy

Pasting on a fake smile to flash at Mrs. Gilmore as she passes by in her sparkling, vintage gown, her arm wrapped with that of her elitist husband, Reginald Paul Gilmore, I can only think one thing:

If I don’t get out of this party soon, I’ll scream and lose my mind.

I can’t take it anymore.

The pretending.

The pandering.

This ridiculous group of wealthy, snobby people with their noses tipped up and their elbows rubbing.

They all have greased palms and wear paper-thin masks. Not one of them caring about the world beyond their stock portfolios, bank accounts and illustrious assets that are nothing more than convenient toys.

It’s always the same with them. And I often think that if they were stripped of their finery, of their cosmetic surgery, of the diamonds that sparkle and their tailored clothes, these people would wither under the stare of true public scrutiny.

Then again, I’m one of them. Always have been.

Being the daughter of a high-power attorney turned career politician has rooted me to this life, regardless of whether I’ve wanted it.

My existence comes with a rulebook that not many have to follow. I was bottle-fed expectations as an infant, weighed down with highbrow manners and proper behavior growing up.

By the time I hit high school, my life felt more like a constant audition than anything resembling freedom.

Although, I’m not quite sure what I was auditioning for.

Certainly not to be the center of attention like I’ve become. I never asked to be a miniature model of the socialite heiress who pretended to raise me, but only when people were watching.

Yet here I am, standing among my many admirers, a fake smile plastered to my face, my gown shimmering just like theirs, as I say all the expected things so that my parents will be proud of me.

Just like always.

“Did you hear about Julie Cotter?”

My eyes slide right at Emily’s question. I’m not sure I want to know what she’ll say next.

Julie is second tier to our first, a girl we met in prep school who was fighting to work her way up the social ladder but could never quite make it. Her family didn’t have enough money, and she never wore the right clothes. Yet, she’d always been in the periphery of our view, like a wildflower most considered a weed where she grew among the precious, prized roses.

In truth, I always kind of liked Julie, and I was jealous of her in a way. While I was forced to walk a line that was frustratingly straight and narrow, she could afford to veer off the path without catching too much hell for it.

She was also a wild child like me, except she never had to hide it.

“What did she do now?”

Emily smirks, her turquoise eyes glimmering as much as the black strapless gown she’s wearing.