Read Degradation Online

Authors: Stylo Fantôme




Published by Battleaxe Productions

First Edition

Copyright 2014

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Mission Statement

I not only write, I read. A lot. Probably more than is healthy. There are a lot of things I love about self-publishing/indie authors, and a lot of things I'm not a fan of. Just personal preferences, no disrespect meant. So when I decided to self-publish, I made some promises to myself to try my hardest to avoid doing those things I didn't like seeing/happening in other stories. Now I would like to make those promises to you, the reader:

I promise
to never leave you hanging. If I write a story with a cliffhanger ending, I will only publish it when the second part is completely written.

I promise
that all
cliffhanger sequels
will be published within 16 weeks –
– of the first part. You will never have to wait six months, or a year, or
, for a sequel to any cliffhangers that I might write.

I promise
that, while I am an
unsigned indie
author, I will never raise the price of any part of a
above $2.99. I will not “hook you” with book one, two, and three at $1.99 and/or $2.99, and then suddenly book four is $4.99. I refuse to pay for series that are like that, so I will never do that to you.

I promise
that if I am lucky enough and blessed enough to have fans, I will interact and communicate with them as much as possible – you are who this is all for, after all.

If at any point in time, I fail to live up to any of these promises, you have my permission to tar and feather me, beat me, leave me for dead, or worst of all – call me out.

No work is ever really completed, no story ever completely told, but I will always try my hardest to bring you my best.

Thank you for reading.

Dedication Page

To The Book Blogs

What you all do is amazing. My mere mortal Facebook page follows many of you - probably most of you - and there are no words for the support you give to indie authors. Without you all, I would never have found the confidence to hit the "publish" button – literally, I can remember stumbling upon a book blog and my mind was blown, my life a little changed. There are people out there that actually like to read the same kind of stuff that I like to read and write!? AMAZING! Mind. Blown.

Thank you.


I also want to dedicate this to the AMAZING people I have met. I thought when I sent out my ARCs, I might make a fan or two, or a connection here and there – I never counted on meeting a bunch of new friends. So even though I didn't know you when I wrote it, this book goes out to my friends/street team:
Rebekah – no one is a better HBIC. I would sincerely be lost without you. Someday, if I am lucky enough to be rich and famous, I am going to steal you away and make you my PA and we shall travel the world, dropping F-bombs and selling books.

Jolene – I'm not famous, but can I call you my #1 fan? You're relentless in promoting me, and also seem like a party in a body. Can't wait to meet you, as I think we might be soulmates.

Ange, Beatriz, Betsy, Letty, ALL the girls at Cover To Cover – I have never laughed so much in my life. You guys are awesome, and everyone should be lucky enough to know people like you ladies.

Caryn – since we have “met”, I think we have spoken every single day, despite an 18 hour time difference. A new author, a new blogger, I think we have been a good team.

Shannon – kinda ride-or-die, been with me since the beginning, have read a lot of stuff I've written; thanks for sticking around for this crazy ride!


And I would like to particularly dedicate this book to a special kind of friend – Sue M.

You offered to beta read for me, no trade necessary, which is always like a gem to find. You always have amazing feedback and creative criticism. You have a gift for pointing out simple things that always manage to escape my notice, but really make a huge difference to the story. You respond to all my e-mails and questions promptly, even though sometimes I don't return the favor. We have never met in real life, but you know my real name, have my personal e-mail address, and I think you have read almost every single thing I have written, so really, you have been here since the beginning.

Thank you so much, I couldn't have done this without you.

~Seven Years Ago~

She had come over to their apartment just to drop off some boxes of stuff for her sister, Eloise -
. Tatum had just turned eighteen and was moving to her own apartment in downtown Boston. She had been in a dorm room for her first semester at Harvard, but her parents didn't “
” of her roommate, so her father had rented an apartment off campus for her. When Tate's father said jump, all she was ever allowed to say was “how high?”, so, she was moving.

Her sister Ellie was four years older, and they had never gotten along very well. About two years ago, Ellie had started dating Jameson Kane –
, as just about everyone called him. The relationship was strange to Tate; Ellie and Jameson seemed more like acquaintances than people who slept with each other, but who was she to judge? She didn't even really like her own boyfriend.

Tate didn't really know what to make of Jameson. He was so good looking, it was probably illegal. She worried if she looked at him too long, she'd go blind. He was also
smart – he had graduated early from Yale with an MBA, and was taking some time off to work on, and review, his job prospects. He came from old money, his father was some sort of big wig on Wall Street, and the talk was that Jameson would follow in his footsteps.

In the two years he had been dating her sister, Jameson hadn't seemed to take much notice of Tate. He ignored her, treated her with indifference. When he had to deal with her, it was almost like an after thought, like he had forgotten that she existed. He was tall, and handsome, and experienced, and smart. Tate was a brainy, naive, clueless girl, fresh out of high school, no real experience with the world or worldly people. He intimidated her.

It felt weird, showing up at Ellie's apartment without her being there. Jameson had let Tate in, and then pretty much ignored her.
Such a gentleman
. Tate had to haul several heavy boxes from the parking lot to the building, and then down a long hall to their apartment, all by herself. When she got to the last box, she dropped it by their bed, huffing and puffing.

“Did you want me to help?” Jameson asked, appearing in the doorway. Tate whirled around, startled.

“No, that was the last box,” she replied, straightening out her cardigan. He always made her feel nervous. His eyes wandered over her face.

“You look really red. Want something to drink?” he asked. She felt herself turn even redder than she apparently already was; she was never prepared for his blunt manners.

“If you have any tea, that would be great,” she replied, and then followed him to the kitchen. She thought he was going to pour it for her, but he just gestured to the fridge.

“I don't know what Ellie has in there, lots of health food shit. Dig around,” he offered. She made a face at his back.

“Water is fine,” she told him, and then just filled a glass from the tap.

“So. New apartment, all alone in a big city. You ready?” he asked. She nodded and turned to face him. His piercing blue eyes were wandering over her face and she resisted the urge to wipe at her skin. Was she dribbling water down her chin?

“As I'll ever be, I guess. I'm pretty self-reliant, so I think I'm ready,” she replied, taking delicate sips of her water. He chuckled.

“C'mon, you look like you're dying. Let's sit down, you can chug it,” he told her, leading her to a table. He even shocked her by pulling out a chair for her.

“Thanks,” Tate said, before following his instructions and downing the water in a few gulps. Without asking, he pulled the glass from her hands and refilled it before sitting down across from her.

“Don't you have like a boyfriend, or something? Is he in Boston?” Jameson asked, sliding her glass back across the table. She shook her head.

“No, Drew stayed in state,” she replied.

“You guys have been going out for a while – how is it, being in a long distance relationship?” Jameson asked. She was surprised at the question. Jameson never cared about anything she did.

“We've been together three years, but I don't know how long it's gonna last. He didn't want me to go to Harvard, wanted me to just follow him to Penn State. We argued about it a lot. He wants to try to work it out, but I think it's just time to get over it. Move on. We're in college now, I don't have time for that kind of crap,” she let it all spill out. Jameson raised an eyebrow.

“Wow, very mature approach. How old are you again?” he asked. Tate rolled her eyes.

“You've known me for two years, Jameson, and you can't even remember my age?” she responded with a question. He shrugged.

“I don't think I even know Ellie's age. How old?” he pressed.

“I just turned eighteen, two weeks ago. How could you not know Ellie's age? You've been together for so long,” Tate pointed out. He shrugged again.

I don't pay attention to things like that. So what are you going to school for?” he asked. Tate had to stop herself from pointing out,
, that he should already know these things – it had been discussed, many times, in front of him. She had never realized it before, but he was kind of self centered. Arrogant.

“Political science,” she said. He rolled his eyes.

“We'll see how long that lasts. Go in to economics, more money,” he told her. She narrowed her eyes.

“I'm not doing it for money,” she replied.

“Then you're stupid.”

“You're kind of a dick,” she blurted out, shocking herself. She wasn't prone to foul language most of the time, or being rude. She had just done both. He didn't seem bothered, though; he burst out laughing.

“You're just now realizing that?”

Tate smiled. He had a nice laugh, and a sexy smile. She could feel herself blushing. She could remember the first time Ellie had brought him home. Tate had developed a crush on him the instant she had seen him – tall, dark hair, bright blue eyes, killer smile; what girl wouldn't fall head over heels in love with him at first sight? But it had never gone beyond that, she knew Jameson was so far out of her league, she wasn't even visible to him. She didn't waste too much time fantasizing about him.

But now, sitting across the table from him, she felt herself getting hot under her sweater.

“Well, yeah, you never talk to me,” she pointed out.

“I talk to you.”


“Excuse me?”

When do you talk to me? When was the last time you talked to me?” Tate asked. He thought for a second, looking up at the ceiling.

“I asked if you were okay, after your dog died,” he replied, smiling at her.

“That was
last year
,” she told him. Jameson started laughing again.

“Hey, at least I remembered,” he pointed out. She found herself laughing as well.

“I guess that's something. Doesn't matter anyway, I'll be gone – no more awkward, silent family dinners to go to, thank god. You and Ellie will be on your own,” she warned him.

“Well, you'll have to come back sometimes.”

“No,” she shook her head, “I won't. I've decided, I'm not coming back till I'm done with school, if then. I'm trying to get through a masters program in four years, or less.”

Wow. Hell of a challenge, baby girl. You think you're up for that?” he asked. She shivered at his use of “
baby girl
”, he had never called her that before – never called her
. She cleared her throat.

“I think I'm up for anything I set my mind to,” she responded. He smiled.

“Good answer. Would you like a drink? Ellie should be home any minute, we could crack something open and have it ready for her,” he suddenly asked, getting out of his chair. Tate held up her glass.

“I have water right here,” she pointed out. He laughed as he pulled a bottle out of a cupboard.

“I meant a
drink, Tate. Seeing as how I've apparently '
' talked to you, I guess now is a good time to give you some congratulations. I'm assuming I never did that, right?” he asked, holding a bottle of champagne in his hand. She laughed.

“No, you weren't even at my graduation. And maybe just one glass,” she replied, pushing the water she had been drinking out of the way.

Having been too busy with school and all her extra classes, Tate had never been a party girl. No crazy parties and almost no experience with alcohol. Some champagne at Christmas with Granny O'Shea at the O'Shea farm in the Hamptons was about it. But she didn't want Jameson to know that – she wanted to seem mature, like a girl who had champagne all the time. It was silly, but she couldn't help it.

They polished off the first bottle, discussing politics and the current economic situation in the country. He disagreed vehemently with most of her views, but he never got heated or upset. He managed to get under her skin, though, and she found herself arguing just to get a rise out of him, but he was impossible to rile up. The champagne loosened her up a little, and she was a lot bolder with her opinions; or at least, more so than usual.

“No more after this, baby girl needs to be presentable for her family tomorrow,” Jameson said, taking out a second bottle. She made a face at him.

They drank and chatted some more. Ellie texted him that she would be late. She was a paralegal, and her hours were all over the place. Tate was fine with that, she never felt comfortable around her sister. Ellie was tall and beautiful, with dark blonde hair that was
done up in
the perfect style. She was
the most
stylish clothing.

Tate was average height, with dark hair, almost black, and she had never paid attention to what was stylish, just wore what her mother bought for her. She was intimidated by Ellie, plain and simple. That's why she was going in to an excelled program at Harvard – to beat Ellie. Ellie was the golden child, the favorite child. Tate had always had to work ten times harder, just to always fall slightly behind.

She wound up blabbering all that to Jameson. Then went onto tell him all about her boyfriend Drew, whom he couldn't remember ever meeting, even though he had –
several times
. How boring Drew was, how he always wanted to tell her what to do, but he never wanted to do
. Jameson nodded and listened to her prattle, sliding the champagne out of her reach.

“You're pretty funny, Tate. I never knew,” he laughed. She rolled her eyes, shrugging out of her cardigan.

. No one ever notices me, not when Ellie's around,” she snorted, pulling her hair in to a ponytail. He raised an eyebrow.

“I wouldn't say that, Ellie's not as great as you make her out to be,” he told her.

She looks like what would happen if Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington had a baby,” Tate pointed out.

“You're pretty, too.”

“You have to say that, you're her boyfriend. You have to be nice to me,” she laughed.

“No I don't. I'm hardly ever nice, and I almost never lie. You're an attractive girl, you just have bad self esteem, and worse taste in men,” he informed her. She shrugged.

“Maybe, but that doesn't change the fact that Ellie is still better in most peoples eyes,” she replied, fiddling with the stem of her champagne glass. Jameson leaned back in his chair, folding his arms across his chest.

I wouldn't say that. From a technical stand point, if we're being completely honest, I would have to say that you're
sexier than your sister,” he told her.

She didn't breathe for a moment. Did Jameson Kane really just say that to her? Or was it the champagne? She glanced at him, and he was staring right back at her, a small smile playing on his lips. She shook her head and shook off her nerves. No. He was just being nice. That had to be it – what kind of a guy would tell his
girlfriend's sister
that she was the sexier of the two? Not a very good guy, that's for sure.

“Whatever. It'll all be behind me in a couple weeks. It'll be like a new Tate, that's what I'm going for; Ellie can suck it,” Tate proclaimed, and then hiccuped. Jameson burst out laughing.

“See, now
funny. Your sister sucking something – would never happen,” he joked. Tate could feel her cheeks turning bright red.

“Gross,” she blurted out.

“Too much? I guess we're not that good of buddies yet,” he laughed.

“You shouldn't talk that way about your girlfriend, it's not very nice,” Tate told him. He shrugged.

“Sometimes she's not a very nice girlfriend,” he replied. Tate's eyes got wide as she had a realization.

“Are you going to dump my sister!?”

“Now, why would you ask that?” Jameson responded, his smile gone as his eyes stared in to her own.

“I don't know. Your voice, your attitude. Are you?” she pressed. He sighed, rubbing a hand over his face.

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