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Chapter One

“The prince slid the glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot, and of course it was a perfect fit. So then he carried Cinderella to his waiting carriage and his castle where they wed. But the prince ended up being a cheating asshat, and Cinderella, who really wasn’t all that sweet in the first place, moved out, taking the prince for half his kingdom and his entire fleet of carriages. Which served him right because he should’ve kept his dick in his damn pants in the first place. The End.”

Morgan Lett finished the fairy tale—or her embittered version of it—with great relish and satisfaction. Even the heavy sigh emanating from the speaker on her cell phone couldn’t dim her grin.

“Really, Morgan?” Her best friend Khloe Hunter’s drawl rolled over the line. “When you said you wanted to read the baby a bedtime story, I was kind of expecting the more traditional, profanity-free, less Real Housewives of Ever After account.”

“What?” Morgan shrugged, lounging against the back of the limo’s black leather seat. The vehicle paused at a stop light, and she stared out the dark, smoked windows to the mixture of old churches and glass and steel towers that made up Boston’s Copley Square neighborhood. “I think my goddaughter deserves to hear the unvarnished truth instead of some watered-down story with sewing mice and crystal castles that are probably mortgaged to the hilt with Rent-to-Own thrones and crowns.”

A soft snuffling sound echoed in the limo, and a warm sensation like sweet, buttered syrup slid through her chest. “Aww. See? Sinead agrees with me. Don’t you, sweetheart?” Morgan cooed to the newborn baby girl whom Khloe had just given birth to a couple of weeks earlier. Morgan had traveled all the way to Dublin, Ireland for her goddaughter’s entrance into the world and had fallen in love at first sight with her pink, wrinkly, gorgeous face. She sighed. “I miss you guys.”

“I know. I miss you, too. We’ll be in Boston in a few weeks so my parents can see the baby,” Khloe said. A heavy pause emanated through the trans-Atlantic call, and Morgan gritted her teeth, knowing the question that would come even before her friend voiced it. “Morgan, are you okay?”

Are you okay? How are you? Is there anything I can do for you? All variations of the same question, which was: How fucked up are you since your fiancé dumped you for your stepsister?

As if that could be answered with a simple reply.

If she said, “I’m hanging in there. It’s not the easiest situation in the world to deal with, but I am,” people would think she was lying.

But if she said, “Well, honestly, I’m not going to be satisfied until I have his balls pried off with a rusty spoon,” then they would look at her like she’d gone all Wives with Knives on them.

With either impression, they wouldn’t be wrong. Finding your fiancé and stepsister declaring their undying love for one another and sharing a passionate kiss kind of made a girl swing from morose to numb to rage-a-holic in alarmingly short intervals.

So instead, Morgan just said, “I’m fine.” Khloe was her closest friend, but admitting how stupid and humiliated she felt was tough. Damn near impossible. “Listen, I’m almost to the hotel, so I have to go. But I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“All right. Have fun tonight,” Khloe said and sighed. “Part of me wishes I could be there with you. After all, it was the bachelor auction that brought Niall and I back together. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find your Prince Charming tonight.”

A year ago, Morgan had coerced Khloe into attending the Rhodonite’s Society annual Masquerade Bachelor Auction. Donations from the charity event provided much-needed funds to the Blake Literary Foundation…and served up ten bachelors on silver platters. Khloe had found the man of her dreams. The chances of Morgan finding similar happiness? Pretty much nonexistent.

Morgan snorted. “Uh, pass. I’m only going because Mom is forcing me to attend. This is just the latest party in a whirlwind of parties. She wants to show a united front and mitigate the embarrassment of having a daughter who was dumped by her high-society fiancé. And what better way to do that than force me to prey on another man?”

Her mother loved her—of that Morgan had no doubt—but contrary to what she believed, no number of appearances at philanthropic galas, political fund-raisers, and cocktail mixers could strip away the coat of humiliation that rejection had painted on her.

Instead, they only presented people with more opportunities to gawk and gossip. Seeing the former untouchable darling of Boston’s social elite brought low gave them a lot of fodder.

The only saving grace was that each party allowed her the opportunity to schmooze and network for Phoenix House, a nonprofit organization that assisted women who were fresh out of abusive relationships or homelessness in gaining their independence and solid footing in a fast-moving world. What had started as writing a check for a charity had blossomed into volunteering—and from there into a passionate advocacy. Through her time there, she’d met such brave, loving, self-sacrificing women who were survivors…warriors. So yeah, Morgan’s suffering did have one silver lining.

No. Make that two.

Cynthia and Troy, her stepsister and fiancé—ex-fiancé, damn it—hadn’t attended any of these parties. Keeping a stiff upper lip could only go so far.

“Morgan,” Khloe murmured.

“Nope,” she said, slicing a hand through the air although her friend couldn’t see the gesture. God, she hadn’t meant to say all that about her mom. Hadn’t meant to reveal she gave a damn. “Not going there. And I’m here and have to put on my resting bitch face, so talk to you soon.”

With another sigh, Khloe conceded. “Call me, and let me know how it went.”

Morgan hit the end button and tucked the phone into her postage stamp-sized sequined purse. The limo slowed to a halt in front of the luxury hotel where the bachelor auction was being held. Butterflies slam-danced in her belly, and she inhaled a deep breath, hoping to suffocate the little beasties.

One more night to get through. You can do this. It can’t break you.

“I’m fine,” she whispered as the chauffeur opened the rear door. Was she practicing or trying to convince herself? She didn’t know, but if she had a fifth of Vodka for every time she’d repeated those two words, she’d be drunk off her ass and really fine.

 
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