Scandal never sleeps, p.1
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       Scandal Never Sleeps, p.1
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         Part #1 of The Perfect Gentlemen series by Shayla Black  



  PROLOGUE

  Creighton Academy

  22 years ago

  Gabriel Bond really wanted to murder his best friend. He even knew how he’d do it—by beating Maddox to death with that damn camcorder.

  “Do you understand the trouble you’ve caused, Mr. Bond?” The very fussy school counselor Mr. Ogilvie sat back, his bushy gray brows rising over his eyes like judgmental twin caterpillars.

  Gabe had always loathed his last name since no one at the exalted Creighton Academy would call him anything but “Mr. Bond.” It made him sound like some kind of stupid secret agent. Currently, they’d come to the point in the James Bond film when the floor opened and dropped him into a vat of man-eating sharks while the bad guy monologued. Gabe was fairly certain he would rather swim into the Great White’s mouth and allow himself to be eaten alive so he didn’t have to hear the horror about to transpire.

  He should have known nothing good would come from screwing a member of the rival debate team. Especially when it hadn’t been a student of the all-girls Murray Heights Academy for Young Women, but their faculty sponsor. Damn, she’d looked maybe twenty, and in exceptional shape. She’d had the most gorgeous pair of breasts he’d ever seen in his young life.

  Roman Calder stepped up beside him. “I don’t think my client should answer any questions.”

  Sometimes Roman took his position as the president of the Creighton chapter of the Future Lawyers of America way too seriously.

  “Mr. Calder, you’re in trouble, too. All of you boys are. This is a serious offense. While Mr. Bond has shamed our academy, the rest of you broke the rules as well. What did you think you were doing, sneaking off to a bar? What will your parents think?”

  His father would likely high five him and breathe a sigh of relief because he now had confirmation that his only son was neither asexual nor gay. His mother would roll her eyes and take another drink from her ever present “coffee” mug that smelled suspiciously like vodka. Only his younger sister would worry.

  This entire incident was Mad’s fault. Mad the instigator. Mad, the dude who’d taped his best friend’s one-night stand without bothering to ask first. Fucker. Gabe felt his face flush slightly, but he’d learned enough about the world to know when to bluster his way through.

  Yeah, Mad had taught him that, too.

  “Mr. Ogilvie, I don’t understand why my friends are here. Maybe they were out after curfew, but it’s no secret that nearly every student is from time to time.” Another thing Gabe had learned was when to throw himself on his sword. God, he was going to miss his friends. If his stupid dick got him expelled, he had no illusions about what would happen. His parents would ship him to another prep school, and he would have to start all over. “Please, if you’ll let them off the hook, I’ll admit to everything.”

  “Martyr,” Mad coughed like the idiotic douche he could be.

  Gabe very slowly lifted his hand behind his back and shot his bestie the middle finger.

  Connor Sparks stepped up. “No, Gabe. We went into this together. We go down together.” He frowned. “I wish I could have played against Exeter. It’s going to be hard to miss out on the league championship.”

  Daxton Spencer shook his head, following Connor’s lead. “Yeah, I think the whole school will be deeply disappointed. Without our captain, we’re sure to lose.”

  Smart bastards. Gabe repressed a smile and couldn’t help but feel a spark of hope. Creighton took lacrosse and the league championship very seriously. It brought money and prestige to a school that valued both greatly.

  The counselor, who in Gabe’s opinion had always had it out for them, leaned forward. “If you think for one second that sports will save you from the punishment you’ve earned, you’re wrong. This establishment has rules, and I follow them. I’ve seen the video evidence. It’s disgusting. Perverse. What is wrong with you boys?”

  Dax and Connor looked around, then at one another, and shrugged.

  Mad grinned as if silently admitting their list of faults was long and distinguished.

  “You think this is funny? Expulsion is the only acceptable outcome for this mess. We raise gentlemen at this school, and you six have proven you’re anything but. And you, Mr. Hayes . . .” Ogilvie turned to Zachary Hayes, the quietest of the six.

  Their contemplative buddy never made a move without thinking through the outcomes and consequences first. Zack frowned.

  Gabe felt his stomach drop. God, he was getting Zack kicked out. Zack, the freaking class president and valedictorian. The one with the brightest future.

  “I’m surprised at you,” the counselor continued. “I knew you would find nothing but trouble when you fell in with this crowd. I believe I warned you.”

  All eyes turned back to Zack. With dark hair and winter blue eyes, Zack often seemed ready to permanently retreat inward. He’d been at Creighton for two months before Gabe had really talked to him. Mad had been the one to bring the quiet kid into their group. Gabe had soon realized that Zack was smart and funny . . . and could sometimes figure a way out of a bind. For five years, it had been the six of them against the world. They shouldn’t have fit. Connor and Dax had naturally become pals because they were both athletes. Roman and Zack were the obviously ambitious types. And somehow he’d been the nerd taken under the wing of the most obnoxious, devious-minded rich boy at school, Maddox Crawford.

  They felt like brothers, and he couldn’t be the one who fucked up everything. In a year, they would graduate and they had plans to attend Yale together. They’d coached Connor through trig and made sure he’d gotten an A so they wouldn’t be separated in the future. One for all and all for one, and all that shit.

  Maybe his dream was about to be dashed, but he wasn’t going to screw over his friends. They had a pact.

  “It’s my fault. I blackmailed them into sneaking out with me.” He was willing to tell any lie that might work.

  “Dude, that was weak.” Dax rolled his eyes. “Like anyone would believe that. Look, Mr. Ogilvie, you know how the press is, willing to say anything salacious about us rich boys to make a buck. Do you really want People magazine running an article that exaggerates about Creighton’s super entitled boys running wild and taking women who have barely given their dubious consent to bed?”

  Gabe gaped at his friend. What the hell? “Her consent wasn’t dubious, asshole.”

  “The press won’t care,” Roman pointed out, then turned to the counselor. “That scandal won’t look good for the school, either.”

  “I don’t make my decisions based on the press, only the rules of this school. And I fully intend to talk to my counterpart at Murray Heights this afternoon. Miss Jones will be dismissed by the end of the day. I have no doubt they will call the proper authorities as well. No school worth a whit wants a sex offender working on campus.”

  Shit. He’d landed a nice, remarkably limber young lady in a heap of trouble. Hell, he’d come on to her. She’d simply been trying to help a guy have fun. Why should her good deed be punished?

  Gabe raked a hand through his hair. His day sucked. He needed to hang it up and become the loner he’d been before Mad had taken him in and shown him how to stand up for himself. “Please don’t do that.”

  “He can’t for two reasons: First, the age of consent in the state of New York is seventeen, so engaging in sexual relations with Miss Jones wasn’t illegal, and she is, therefore, not a sex offender. Second, I don’t recall that sexual intercourse with another consenting adult is an offense one can be expelled for. If that’s the case, Ogilvie would have to expel most of the senior class, especially if they’ve met Augustine Spencer.”

  “Hey! That’s my sister you’re talking about,” Dax objected.

&nbs
p; “What? She’s a giver. I mean that in the nicest possible way,” Roman assured. “But back to the point. Ogilvie could probably have Ms. Jones fired . . . but he has no proof the incident ever occurred.”

  “Of course I have proof. I saw the tape.”

  Roman turned with the smooth expertise of a kid who’d spent his share of time in mock trials and won them all. “Mr. Bond, did you sign a release or in any way give Mr. Crawford permission to tape you in coitus with the lovely Miss Jones?”

  He shot a nasty look Mad’s way. “No. Hell no, and don’t be stupid. If I had known, I would have clocked the fucker.” Ogilvie’s bushy brows slashed down in a judgmental scowl, and Gabe remembered where he was. “I mean, I was entirely unaware and would have protested vociferously had I realized the encounter was being taped.”

  Gabe had decked him afterward. He’d broken Mad’s nose, but Mad just seemed to view it as one more story he could tell over beers someday. He’d shrugged it away, like he did everything else—with the negligent grace of a man who knew there was a billion dollar trust fund waiting for him at the end of the yellow brick road of prep school.

  “I might have forgotten to ask.” Mad smiled benignly. “You know art doesn’t apologize.”

  And neither did Mad.

  Roman slapped his hands together in jubilation. “I believe we’ll discover that Miss Jones was unaware as well. In this state, no recordings, video or audio, may be made or used as evidence in a civil trial without the informed consent of one of the participants. They can fire her for moral turpitude, but they need that tape to hold up in a court of law. Since there was no consent to tape the encounter and it happened out of the public eye, that tape won’t hold up and Murray Heights lawyers will likely advise the administrators not to open the school to a lawsuit they can’t win. I’m afraid you don’t have a tape.”

  Ogilvie’s face had turned a florid shade. “Listen here, you little shit, this isn’t some court case. I don’t need permission. You’re all being expelled and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. This school turns out not simply gentlemen, but perfect gentlemen. Do you know how long I’ve wanted to get rid of you, Maddox Crawford? I’ve anticipated this day, longed for it, since the moment you walked through those doors, you overindulged bastard. I’m taking you down—and sending your friends with you just to make you miserable.”

  “Is this because I pulled that prank on your car your first year here? You need to get over that.” Mad rolled his eyes.

  Of course this was happening because Mad had done something stupid.

  What the hell was Gabe going to do without them? He couldn’t fathom it. He even hated summer breaks. He would go to his parents’ place in the Hamptons and sit like a piece of furniture because he didn’t fit in there. The only part of going home he enjoyed was seeing his little sister, Sara. Besides her, he’d only ever fit with these five guys. One way or another, they’d all been on the outside. Gabe studied too much. Zack was an introvert. Roman spent much of his time with his head in a law text. Dax’s father was some bigwig in the navy and his mother was a New Orleans socialite. Connor was a scholarship kid with nothing in his pockets. And to most, Mad was an asswipe . . . though a strangely likeable one. Gabe had never been more attached to other people in his life and he had zero idea how he would survive without them.

  They all stopped, looking at each other as though trying to process the fact that their prep school cocoon was over.

  Ogilvie took a long breath. “Good. Now you understand how the world works, boys. When you fall in with a bad crowd, you get taken down with them. You may all go and pack. I’ll be speaking to your parents this afternoon. And good riddance to you, Crawford.”

  For once, Mad didn’t have a pithy comeback. He’d gone stony, his eyes blank.

  How was this happening? They weren’t bad guys. They looked after each other. They’d only wanted a drink, and Emily Jones had been so damn pretty, Gabe hadn’t thought twice.

  Gabe was about to turn around and walk out when Zack finally spoke, his voice low and filled with an authority none of them had ever heard before.

  “I know how the world works, Mr. Ogilvie.” Zack stood and straightened his tie. “Do you know about the Brighton Endowment?”

  The counselor snorted. “Of course. It’s an annual three-million-dollar grant. It means a great deal to this school.”

  “It does. Did you know my father is very good friends with the donors responsible for that endowment? They listen to him. William Markovic considers me a second son, in fact. If you go through with this, I will have a long conversation with Mr. Markovic, and this school will find itself three million dollars short next year—and every year thereafter. I’ll ensure the rest of the staff and faculty know exactly why. I think you might find yourself out of a job as well.”

  “You don’t have that kind of power,” Ogilvie blustered.

  “You think I don’t? My father was the ambassador to Russia for years. He’s been close friends with the last three presidents, including the current commander-in-chief. My father wants one thing and one thing only from me. Everyone who’s met him knows that he gets what he wants. My future is mapped out. If I do the right things—get the grades, remain class president, go to the appropriate college—then I accomplish everything I should. If you derail me from this path, I’ll get my ass kicked in ways that would make your head spin. But it will end even worse for you. I recently got my SATs back. I had a perfect score. I’m getting into Yale, and Skull and Bones will be waiting for me senior year because they know what my father’s friends have already figured out: I will be the president of the United States one day. Now, you can be my friend or my enemy. You decide.”

  Ogilvie said nothing for a long moment, then he cursed under his breath, not quite meeting Zack’s gaze.

  “I’m glad you understand me. You’re a low-level counselor, so I’m going to stop wasting my time here and make an appointment with the dean. He takes my calls, you see. You can’t get rid of us. I’ll also make sure the lovely Miss Jones suffers no ill effects. Since my friend here was smart enough to use a condom, I don’t expect any other complications. I’m also going to assume that Dax and Connor did the right thing and destroyed that tape.”

  Connor gave him a thumbs-up. “We burned it early this morning, but we’d planned to mention that later.” Because they’d had to break into Ogilvie’s office to finish the deed.

  “Damn it,” Mad cursed. “That was a good piece of film.”

  Zack sighed. “Someday you’re going to go too far, Mad, and I only hope we can save you then. As for this time, we didn’t do anything but be young and stupid. Miss Jones is single, and because Gabe has a five-o’clock shadow by noon and a surprisingly large dick, I understand how she might have believed he was older. The only one who did anything criminal was dumbass over here.” He pointed to Mad.

  “It was?” Mad tossed his head to flip his hair out of his eyes. “I just thought it was a beautiful act that should be recorded for posterity.”

  With a shake of his head, Zack went on. “We’re finished now, gentlemen. I believe it’s lunchtime and the cafeteria has likely done something amazing with gelatin. Let’s go.”

  Zack started for the door, and Gabe watched him openmouthed. Where the hell had that confident, convincing speech come from?

  “This isn’t over,” the counselor swore.

  Zack sent him a pitying look. “It is. I have a surprisingly shitty life, but this is one case where I have power and I’m going to wield it.”

  They followed Zack out, Mad nearly pulling Gabe along. Ogilvie didn’t challenge them. Lightning from the heavens didn’t strike them.

  “Guys, it can’t be that easy,” Gabe said as they emerged into the sunlight. They were suddenly surrounded by classmates pointing at them and chattering about the scandal.

  “Dude, did you really screw that blonde?” one asked.

  “I can’t believe you got into a bar,” another stated.
>
  Zack put a hand on Gabe’s arm as the rest started receiving high fives for sticking it to the man—and the chick—though Gabe was sure they meant two different things. “It is that easy. Let it go. You bent a few rules but didn’t do any real harm, man. It’s going to be okay. Ogilvie needs to understand there are no gentlemen here.”

  “That’s not true. Bond was a gentleman and allowed the lady to come first.” Maddox snorted. “I think I should get T-shirts made, plaster ‘Perfect Gentlemen of Creighton’ across our chests. The old curmudgeon would love that . . .”

  Gabe prayed the stupid moniker didn’t stick. “I’m still going to kill you, Mad.”

  Mad put an arm around him. “Promises, promises.”

  ONE

  New York City

  Present day

  Gabe stared at the urn and wondered what had gone so wrong. One minute, life had been something resembling normal. Well, normally fucked up. The next minute, he was standing in a church full of somber shock and lilies with at least seven hundred people at his back, waiting for the proper reaction to hit him. “You son of a bitch. How could you leave like this, Mad?”

  He kept his voice low, given the fact that most tabloids would love to run a story about Maddox Crawford’s best friend cursing his very name before he was laid to eternal rest.

 
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