Home > Scandalous (Sinners of Saint #3)

Scandalous (Sinners of Saint #3)
Author: L.J. Shen



1: excess in eating or drinking

2: greedy or excessive indulgence accused the nation of energy gluttony.

THE WORST OUT OF THE seven deadly sins. In my opinion, anyway. And my opinion was the one that mattered in that moment, under the unforgiving sun of SoCal on a May afternoon on Todos Santos’ promenade, when I was in desperate need of some cash. Leaning against the white railing separating the bustling boardwalk from the shimmering ocean and dazzling yachts, I people-watched.

Fendi, Dior, Versace, Chanel, Burberry, Bvlgari, Louboutin, Rolex.

Greed. Excess. Corruption. Vice. Fraud. Deception.

I judged them. The way they drank their organic, ten-buck smoothies and glided on custom-made multi-colored skateboards signed by Tony Hawk. I judged them, knowing full well they couldn’t do the same to me. I was in hiding. Veiled beneath a thick black hoodie, my hands shoved deep inside my pockets. I wore black skinny jeans, an old pair of unlaced Dr. Martens, and a tattered JanSport backpack held together with safety pins.

I looked androgynous.

I moved like a ghost.

I felt like a hoax.

And today, I was about to do something that’d make living with myself harder.

As with any dangerous game, there were rules to abide by: no children, no elderly, no struggling, average folk. I thrived on the rich, targeting the prototypes of my parents. The women with the Gucci bags and the men in the Brunello Cucinelli suits. The ladies with the poodles peeking out from their studded Michael Kors handbags, and the gentlemen who looked like they were comfortable spending on a cigar what a normal person would put toward their monthly rent.

Spotting potential victims at the promenade was embarrassingly easy. Todos Santos was the richest town in California, as of the 2018 census, and much to the old money’s dismay, Nouveau Riches like my father had come settling on this piece of land, armed with monstrous, Italian-imported vehicles and enough jewelry to sink a battleship.

I shook my head, staring at the explosion of colors, scents and tan, half-clothed bodies. Focus, Edie, focus.

Prey. A good hunter could smell it from miles away.

My meal for the day had passed me briskly, unknowingly drawing attention to herself. She threw her head back, revealing a straight row of pearly whites. A middle-aged, Chanel-wearing trophy wife, wrapped head-to-toe in the latest season’s garments. I wasn’t big on fashion, but my father loved spoiling his beloved mistresses with luxurious garbs and parading them around at social events, introducing them as his very personal assistants. My mother would buy these designer items herself in a desperate plea to resemble the younger women who entertained him. I knew wealth when I saw it. And this woman? She wasn’t hungry. Not for food and not for love, the only two things that mattered.

Little did she know, her money was going to buy me love. Her soon-to-be empty wallet was going to fill my heart to the brim.

“I’ve been dying for a duck salad at The Brasserie. Think we can go there tomorrow? Maybe Dar will tag along,” she drawled, puffing her chin-length platinum bob with her manicured hand.

Her back was already to me when I noticed her arm was linked with that of a tall, dark, and handsome type, at least twenty years her junior. Built like Robocop and dressed like a dapper David Beckham. Was he her boy toy? Husband? Old friend? Son? It made little-to-no difference to me.

She was the perfect victim. Distracted, disordered, and overbearing; parting ways with her wallet would be merely an inconvenience for this lady. She probably had a PA or some other form of poor, unfortunate soul on her payroll to deal with the consequences. Someone who would order new credit cards and issue a new driver’s license and unburden her from the nuisance of bureaucracy.

Someone like Camila.

Stealing was much like walking a tight rope. The secret was in your poise and ability to not look into the abyss, or in my case, the victim’s eyes. I was lean, short, and nimble. I navigated through the throng of boisterous teenyboppers in bikinis and families licking ice cream, my eyes trained on the black and gold YSL bag dangling from her arm.

Sounds became muffled, bodies and food trucks vanished from my vision, and all I saw was that bag and my goal.

Recalling everything I’d learned from Bane, I inhaled deeply and lunged for the purse. I yanked it from her arm and made a beeline to one of the many alleyways slicing the shops and restaurants on the boardwalk. I didn’t look back. I ran blindly, desperately, furiously.

Tap, tap, tap, tap. My Docs were heavy against the sizzling concrete beneath me, but the consequences of not coming up with the money I needed sat heftier on my heart. The thick sound of girls laughing on the promenade evaporated as I put more space between me and my target.

I could have been one of them. I still can. Why am I doing this? Why can’t I just let it go?

One more corner to round and I’d be in my car, flipping the bag open and examining my treasure. Drunk on adrenaline and high on endorphins, a hysterical laugh bubbled from my throat. I hated mugging people. I hated the feeling that accompanied the act even more. But most of all—I hated myself. What had become of me. Yet, the liberating feeling of doing something bad and being good at getting away with it shot an arrow of elation straight to my heart.

My stomach dropped in relief at the sight of my car. The old, black Audi TT my father had purchased from his business partner Baron Spencer was the only thing he’d given me in the last three years, but even this gift was loaded with expectation. Seeing less of me in his mansion was his goal in life. Most nights, he opted for not coming home. Problem solved.

I scooped my keys from my backpack, panting the rest of the way like a sick dog.

I was mere inches from the driver’s door when my world spun in place and my knees gave out. It took me a few seconds to realize I hadn’t stumbled on my own gaucherie. A firm, large hand twisted me by the shoulder, knocking the air out of my lungs. The hand grabbed my arm in a bruising grip and pulled me into the alleyway between a fast-food joint and a French boutique before I could open my mouth and do something. Shout, bite, or worse. I dragged my boots in the opposite direction, desperately trying to wiggle free, but this guy was twice my size—and all muscle. I was too blinded by rage to take a good look at his face. Chaos brewed in my gut, shot flames to my eyes and momentarily blinded me. He slammed me against a building and I hissed, feeling the impact from my back to my tailbone. Instinctively, I sent my arms out, trying to claw at his face, kicking and screaming. My fear was a storm. Sailing through it was impossible. The stranger clutched my wrists and crashed them above my head, pinning them to the cool cement.

This is it, I thought. This is where you end. Over a stupid purse, on a Saturday afternoon, on one of the most legendarily crowded beaches in California.

Flinching, I waited for his fist to connect with my face, or worse—for his rotten breath to hover over my mouth, for his hand to yank my pants down.

Then the stranger chuckled.

I furrowed my brows, my eyes narrowing as I tried to regain focus and blink away the terror.

He came to me in pieces, like a painting in the works. His gray-blue eyes were the first to pop out from behind the fog of fear. They were sapphire and silver swirled together, the color of a moonstone. Next was his straight nose and symmetrical lips, his cheekbones sharp enough to cut diamonds. He was pungently masculine and intimidating in his looks, but that was not what made me recognize him immediately. It was what rolled off of him in dangerous quantities, the menace and the ruggedness. He was a dark knight made of coarse material. Cruel in his silence and punishing in his confidence. I’d only met him once, at a barbecue at Dean Cole’s house a few weeks ago, and we hadn’t spoken a word to each other.

He hadn’t spoken a word to anyone.

Trent Rexroth.

We were barely acquaintances, but every piece of information I knew about the guy, I also held against him. He was a millionaire, single and therefore probably a playboy. He was, in short, the younger version of my father, which meant that I was interested in getting to know him as much as I was in catching cholera.

“You have five seconds to explain why you were trying to mug my mother.” His voice was bone-dry, but his eyes? Fuming. “Five.”

His mother. Crap. I really was in trouble. Though I couldn’t find it in me to regret my decision, I’d been spot-on. She was a white, rich woman from suburbia who wouldn’t miss the cash nor the bag. But it was unfortunate that my father’s business partner for the past six months was her son.

“Let go of my wrists,” I hissed through still-clenched teeth, “before I knee you in the balls.”

“Four.” He ignored me completely, squeezing them harder together, his eyes daring me to do something we both knew I was too much of a coward to even try. I winced. He wasn’t really hurting me and he knew it. He squeezed just enough to make me seriously uncomfortable, and scare the bejesus out of me.

No one had ever hurt me physically before. It was the unwritten rule of the rich and noble. You could ignore your child, send them off to boarding school in Switzerland and leave them with the nanny until they reached eighteen, but God forbid you lay a hand on them. I looked around for the YSL bag, confusion and panic churning in my gut. Rexroth caught up with my plan quick enough, because he kicked the bag between us. It bumped into my boots with a thud.

“Don’t get too attached to it, sweetheart. Three.”

“My father would kill you if he knew you touched me,” I sputtered, trying to regain balance. “I’m—”

“Jordan Van Der Zee’s daughter,” he cut in matter-of-factly, saving me the introduction. “Hate to break it to you, but I don’t give two shits.”

My father was in business with Rexroth, and held forty-nine percent of Fiscal Heights Holdings, the company Trent incorporated with his high school friends. It made Jordan a threat to the man in front of me, even if he wasn’t exactly Rexroth’s boss. Trent’s intense frown confirmed he really wasn’t scared. But I knew my father would flip his shit if he knew Trent had touched me. Jordan Van Der Zee rarely spared me a look, but when he did, it was in order to assert power over me.

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