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Authors: Krista Ritchie,Becca Ritchie

Hothouse Flower

BOOK: Hothouse Flower
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HOTHOUSE FLOWER

KRISTA & BECCA RITCHIE

Hothouse Flower
  
Copyright © 2014 by K.B. Ritchie

 

All rights reserved. This book may not be
reproduced or transmitted in any capacity without written permission by the
publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review
purposes.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Any names, places,
characters, resemblance to events or persons, living or dead, are coincidental
and originate from the authors' imagination and are used fictitiously.

 

Cover image ©
Shutterstock

Book cover design by Twin Cove Designs

 

A NOTE FROM THE AUTHORS

 

Hothouse
Flower
is a spin-off of the Addicted series. It follows
Ryke
and Daisy, secondary characters in the Addicted series, who meet in
Ricochet
(Addicted #1.5)
. It is recommended, but not necessary, to read the Addicted
books beforehand. However, it is necessary to read the first Addicted series spin-off
book—
Kiss
the Sky
—before reading
Hothouse Flower
. The full recommended
reading order is on our
Tumblr
and in the back of the book.

A NOTE FROM THE AUTHORS – PART DEUX

 

To all of our kind-hearted, easily lovable fans:

 

From this point on, this book is yours. It’s a fat
one, containing more than just a romance. It wouldn’t be fair to give you
anything less than what our books are—a series about family, brothers and
sisters, friends and real forces trying to break everything apart. Hothouse
Flower started as just a romance, but these people wouldn’t feel real to you or
to us if you didn’t know all of them. Every relationship. Every strain. Every
struggle. And love. We wanted to give it all to you and not cheat you out of
anything. So as you reach that last page, we hope you can understand why
there’s so much and why we refused to give you anything less.

 

So here it is. This is yours and all yours.

 

Happy reading :)

 

xoxo
Krista &
Becca

 

A NOTE FROM RYKE

 

My life is full of unconventionalities,
abnormalities and awkward fucking situations.

If you’re easily offended by crude language and
inappropriate talks, you’ve taken a wrong fucking turn somewhere. You won’t
understand me if you can’t handle me, and I’m not going to try to explain
myself.

I’m raw.

I’m hard.

I’m the thing you shy away from.

So I’m warning you now. Back away.

Because once you enter my life, I won’t ever let you leave.

 

 

< Prologue >

RYKE MEADOWS

Every Monday was fucking identical to the last. No
matter if I was ten or twelve. Fifteen or seventeen. A driver named Anderson
came to my house in a suburb of Philly at noon. He dropped me off at a country
club ten minutes later, and my father sat in that same fucking table in the
back corner, by that same fucking window that overlooked two red and green
tennis courts. He ordered the same fucking food (filet mignon with
hundred-year-old scotch) and he asked the same fucking questions.

“How has school been treating you?”

“Fine,” I said. I had a 4.0 GPA. I was only seventeen, and
college recruiters were scouting me for track and field. I rock climbed with
any spare time I had, and I juggled both sports. I built this plan in my head since
high school. I’d go to college to run. I wouldn’t touch a dime of his fucking
money. I’d let my trust fund rot. I’d get as far away from my father and my
mother as I possibly could. I’d finally find peace and forget about all the
lies that clung to me.

My dad sipped his scotch. “Your mom isn’t going to tell me
how you are, and you won’t open your goddamn mouth to say more than
monosyllabic words. So what am I going to have to do? Call strangers to ask
about you? Your teacher? They’re going to think I’m a terrible fucking parent.”

I glared at the table, not touching my chicken sandwich. I
accepted the food when I was ten. I always ate the burgers when I was eleven.
But when I was fifteen, I woke up, and I finally accepted that I was eating
with a fucking monster. “I have nothing to say,” I told him.

“Are you suddenly deaf now? How was your
week?
What’d you fucking do? It’s not
that hard of a question.” He downed his scotch. “Ridiculous,” he muttered and
pointed at me, a finger extending off his glass. “You’re supposed to be the
intelligent son.” Then he motioned to a waiter for another round.

My muscles flexed at the mention of Loren, unresolved hate
flooding me and heating my whole body.

I had no control over this anger. It just consumed me like a
fucking forest fire.

“Can we cut this short?” I asked. “I have fucking places to
be.”

The waiter arrived, filling my father’s glass a quarter. He
urged him to continue, and he poured more, three-quarters full. “He’ll take
one,” my dad said.

Jonathan Hale was swimming in billions of dollars from Hale
Co., a baby supply company. He paid the country club staff to stay quiet about
the underage drinking. It was fucking normal by now.

My stomach clenched at the sight of the alcohol. I decided
only four days ago to stop drinking for good. I knew every Monday I’d be tested
by my father. And I wouldn’t tell him that I quit. I didn’t want to talk about
it. I would just avoid the fucking drink. I’d ignore it.

The waiter poured me a glass and corked the crystal bottle.

He left us without another word.

“Drink,” my dad insisted.

“I don’t like scotch.”

My father cocked his head. “Since when?”

“Since it became your favorite fucking drink.”

He shook his head. “You and your brother love to rebel like
little punks.”

I glared. “I’m
nothing
like that prick.”

“And how would you know?” he retorted easily. “You’ve never
met him.”

“I just fucking know.” I gripped my knee that started to
bounce. I wanted to get out of there. I couldn’t stand talking about Loren. I
always knew I had a half-brother. It wasn’t fucking hard to deduce that the kid
of Jonathan Hale would also be related to me. We shared a fucking father. But
my dad and mom never said it outright until I was fifteen. After my mom bitched
about that “bastard” kid, I asked my dad to elaborate. He finally gave me three
facts that cleared up a picture I’d already started to construct.

One: Jonathan cheated on Sara, my mom, with some other woman
when I was a few months old.

Two: The “other” woman got pregnant. Loren was born a year
after me, and she left her son with Jonathan. Bolted. No longer in the picture.

Three: I lived with Sara. My half-brother lived with our
dad. And the whole fucking world believed Sara’s kid was Loren Hale. Not me. I
was Meadows. I shared the last name with my mom’s deadbeat family in New
Jersey, all of which wanted nothing to do with her.

My mom was Sara Hale.

My dad was Jonathan Hale.

I was no one’s son.

After the truth became painfully clear, my father
always
brought up Loren. He
always
asked the same fucking question,
and I didn’t want to hear it today.

He swished his glass. “What’s made you into such a pussy?”

My nose flared. I couldn’t believe I thought he was fucking
cool when I was nine years old. He had acted like we were bonding, letting me
drink his whiskey. Father and son. Like he loved me enough to let me break some
fucking rules. But I wondered if it was all just some ploy to make me as
miserable as him.

“I got into a car accident,” I suddenly said.

He choked on his scotch and cleared his throat. “What?” He
glowered. “Why am I just now hearing about this?”

I shrugged. “Ask Mom.”

“That bitch—”


Hey
,” I cut him
off, fire in my eyes. I was fucking sick of hearing him degrade her. I was
fucking tired of listening to my mom denigrate him. I just wanted them both to
stop.
They’d been divorced since I was a
kid, not even a year old. When was the fighting supposed to end?

He rolled his eyes, but he looked serious again, more
concerned. If there was a heart in Jonathan
Hale’s
chest, it was fucking submerged beneath an ocean of booze. “What happened?”

“I drove into the neighbor’s mailbox.” I have no recollection
of how I arrived home. I apparently ran four red lights. I fucking knocked over
a fence. I basically passed out at the wheel, and I woke up when I crashed.

I wasn’t driving home from a fucking party.

I had been drinking alone on the soccer fields of Loren’s
prep school. I fucking hated Dalton Academy. I was forced to go to
Maybelwood
Preparatory, an hour from where I lived because
my mom didn’t want me to see Loren’s face every fucking day. And because no one
could know that I was her son.

So Loren had gone to the closer school, where
I
should have been, while I was banished
and cast out.

And I fucking hated him. I fucking
loathed
him to the core of my fucking body. My mom helped stir this
sickening wrath. She constantly said, “Your brother is full of himself,
swimming in
our
money. You want to be
surrounded by Jonathan
Hale’s
brat, then you’ll be
headed nowhere good.”

I’d nod and think,
Yeah,
that fucker.

And then days would pass, and I’d begin to question
everything.

Maybe I should meet
him.

Maybe I should talk to
him.

But he’s a spoiled
rich kid.

Like me.

Not like you.

He doesn’t care about
anything but himself.

Like me.

Not like you.

He’s a drunk loser.

Like me.

Yesterday, I thought about going to my mom and saying
something. I thought about telling her to just get over this moronic feud, to
stop ranting about Jonathan
Hale’s
infidelity and to
quit being consumed by the life of his bastard kid.

 
“Loren Hale got
suspended for missing too much class, did you hear that?” she’d ask me with a
sick gleam in her eye. His failure was Jonathan’s failure. And to her, that
equaled fucking success.

But I couldn’t say anything. Who was I to tell a woman to
forget something like that? She had been cheated on. She deserved to be mad,
but I had to watch that hate eat at her for almost two decades. There was no
justice in her pain. There was just loneliness.

But deep in the pit of my fucking heart, I just wished she
would let go, so I could too.

So yeah. My father, he fucking ruined my mom. And maybe if
she was stronger, she could have moved on. Maybe if I was a better son, I could
have helped her.

I’d driven past Dalton, and I was ambushed with this hot
rage. Because nobody knew the
real
me
at
Maybelwood
. They saw
Ryke
fucking Meadows, an all-American track star, an honor student, a kid who got
detention for cursing almost every other day.

Loren had both my parents on paper.

He had the last name.

He had the billion-dollar legacy.

I didn’t even know how much they told him—whether he knew
about me or not. I didn’t fixate on that. I couldn’t get over the fact that all
this time, he stole them from me. I had
nothing
but the yelling and screaming of a complicated divorce. I was the
real
fucking child of Jonathan and Sara
Hale.

So why the fuck did I have to pretend to be the bastard? Why
was Loren given the life that I was meant to live?

On the field, I had
chugged
a bottle of whiskey. I was numb to the burn. I had broken the bottle over
the goal post, hoping Loren was a soccer player, hoping it’d cut up his fucking
feet, and every time he felt pain, it’d be my doing.

And then the next morning, I woke up after nearly killing
myself and anyone in the wake of my swerving car, drinking too fucking much. I
was cold inside. Just fucking dead. I didn’t want to be like that. I made a
promise to myself. My father wasn’t going to destroy me, and neither was my
half-brother. Or my mother. I was going to get my shit together.

I’d run.

I’d go to college.

And I’d find my peace.

Fuck. Them. All.

My dad relaxed. “A mailbox isn’t a big deal. Your brother
has done worse things.” He shook his head at the mental images. And then his
eyes flickered up to me, and I knew
the
question was about to come. “Do you want to meet him?”

I opened my mouth, but he cut me off.

“Before you say no, hear me out. He’s had it much different
than you—”

“I’m fucking over it.” I didn’t want to waste my energy on
Loren anymore. I was done.

“It’s not easy growing up with the Hale name. Our money
comes from
baby
products. He endures
a lot of teasing—”

“I don’t
give
a
shit,” I sneered. We were both living a lie, but mine was worse. “I was never
allowed to tell people who
you
were.
Did he have to do that? Mom used to say that people would treat me differently
if they knew my dad was a billion-dollar CEO, but really, you both were trying
to fucking
hide
me.” I leaned back in
my chair and crossed my arms. For fuck’s sake, she had to keep
Hale
as her surname, a stipulation in
the divorce settlement, while I remained a Meadows.

“Not exactly,” he said. “We were trying to cover the fact
that Loren wasn’t Sara’s child. She was only pregnant once. We couldn’t justify
both of you without ruining my reputation.”

That was why my mom had to keep her mouth shut about the
cheating, to protect Jonathan. And every day she had to help this soulless
prick, it fucking ate her up again. But she did it for the money. I didn’t
think any amount of cash was worth the fucking pain of these
lies.

Everything was to save face.

“Why choose him?” I asked. “Why isn’t Loren the one being
hidden?”
You love him more.

His face remained blank, all the hard edges not revealing
anything to me. He wore a dapper suit that made him look as expensive as he
was. “It’s just how things worked out. It was easier for you to take your
mother’s maiden name. Loren only had one option. And that was me.”

I ground my teeth. “You know, I just tell all my friends
that my dad died. Sometimes, I even find clever ways to kill you off.
Oh yeah, my dad, he drowned on a fucking
boat accident; perished in his golden fucking yacht while he was shitting on
the toilet.

He became a ghost or demon I’d meet on Mondays. Nothing
more.

He licked his lips and swished his scotch, not meeting my
gaze. He almost laughed. He found that fucking funny. “Listen, Jonathan,” he said.
 

“It’s
Ryke
,”
I shot back. “How many fucking times do I have to tell you that?” I didn’t want
his name any more than I wanted his genes. I planned to use my middle name
forever.

He rolled his eyes again and then sighed. “Loren isn’t like
you. He’s not good at sports. I don’t think he’s ever
aced
a test in his life. He’s wasting his potential by going to parties. If you’d
meet him, you could help—”


No
,” I forced. I
put my forearms on the table and leaned close. “I don’t want
anything
to do with your son. So stop
fucking asking.”

He took out his wallet and passed me a picture, one he’d
shown me a couple times before. Loren was sitting on the stairs of our father’s
mansion, where he grew up. I always looked for similarities in our features and
felt sickened by them.

We had the same eye color, only his were more amber than my
brown. My face was harder cut, but our builds were more alike, lean not bulky.
He wore a navy blue tie and a white button-down, the Dalton Academy uniform. He
wasn’t staring at the camera, but his jaw was so sharp, unlike anything I’d
seen before. He looked like a fucking douchebag, like he’d much rather be
popping open beers with his buddies than sitting there.

“He’s your brother—”

I slid the picture back to him. “He’s
no one
to me.”

Jonathan downed the second glass of scotch, pocketing the
photo. And he grumbled under his breath about my “bitch” of a mother. She never
wanted me to meet Loren, just the same way that she refused to come into
contact with him. As far as I knew, Loren thought Sara was his mom like the
rest of the world. Or maybe someone finally told him the truth. That
he’s
the fucking bastard.

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