Beauty and the Bachelor

By: Naima Simone



And from the information she’d read on the internet last night after arriving home, women petted often…and he allowed it. She’d scrolled through the images from the Boston society pages, and she’d never glimpsed the same woman on his arm twice. Still, his dates all seemed to have several things in common: supermodel beauty, skinny bodies, and big, happy smiles.

“He’s a reputable and very successful businessman, not a criminal,” she said, glancing at the clock on her bedside table. Four fifteen. Lucas should arrive in several minutes to pick her up. The play started at seven, and the helicopter ride would take about an hour and a half. “Besides, Dad knows him.”

“Knows about him,” Charlene corrected. “There’s a difference. And believe me, your father is not pleased with this by any means.” She paused, studied Sydney, and tapped a manicured fingertip against her bottom lip. “Do you think that’s the wisest choice for a dress? It’s not very…forgiving, is it?”

Heat blasted Sydney’s face, and she struggled not to flinch or betray the hurt that was like a punch to the chest. After years of the same criticisms, careless remarks, and thinly veiled insults, she should be numb to the pain and humiliating reminders she wasn’t a perfect size two or zero. Reminders she just wasn’t…perfect. Maybe in another twenty years, she would grow the Teflon skin required to exist and thrive in her social set—and her family.

“I don’t have time to change,” Sydney replied, erasing all hints of emotion from her voice. All her mother needed was the slightest indication that she’d scored a hit in Sydney’s armor, and Charlene would harp even more on Sydney’s weight and appearance, calling it motivation. “Lucas should be here in a few minutes.” She lowered to her bed and slipped her foot into her jewel-encrusted black shoe.

“Lucas,” her mother repeated, sneering. Sydney didn’t glance up from fastening the strap around her ankle. “Already you’re so familiar. When did that happen? When you walked off with him last night? You embarrassed Tyler, which to a man like him is unforgivable. And now you’re allowing him to go on a date with another woman? Foolish! You’re just handing him over as if there are men like him lining up around the corner. Sydney.” Charlene set a thin but strong palm on her shoulder. Molding her expression into a cool, detached mask, Sydney lifted her head and met her mother’s scrutiny. “We only want the best for you…for all of us.”

Her heart beat against her sternum like a caged animal, mirroring how she felt. Trapped. Imprisoned by duty, responsibility, and guilt. All of her life, she’d bowed to her father and mother’s expectations: earning great grades, attending the college of their choice, living at home after graduation and assisting her mother with her varied charities and social events instead of getting a job and a place of her own…dating and becoming engaged to a man they approved of. A man to whom marriage was both a social and financial coup.

Not rocking the boat had become an ingrained habit. Because the one time she’d disobeyed her parents and hadn’t listened to their order, it had resulted in catastrophic consequences, their lives forever altered.

The cost of her selfishness and defiance had been her little brother’s life.

A soft rap on the door prevented—or saved—her from responding to her mother’s pointed reminder of duty. And the memories.

“Come in,” Sydney called out.

A moment later, their housekeeper opened the door and poked her head inside the room.

“Ms. Sydney, a Mr. Lucas Oliver has arrived for you.”

“Thank you, Maddie.” After the other woman left, Sydney retrieved her wide-collared coat from her closet and headed for the door.

“Sydney—”

“Everything will be fine, Mom.” She grasped the knob before glancing over her shoulder with a small, reassuring smile. “It’s just one night. There’s no need to worry.”



“Thank you,” Sydney murmured as Lucas removed her coat and handed both of theirs to the New York restaurant’s coat check. He placed a hand to the small of her back, and they followed the host as he led them to their table. A shiver threatened to dance over her skin and through her body, but she stifled it. There was nothing she could do about the palm-sized circle of heat radiating from her skin where Lucas touched her, though.

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