The Artist(The Game Changers #2)

By: Shealy James

The Game Changers Series Book Two



Prologue





See that girl? The blonde beauty in the champagne Oscar de la Renta gown laughing at yet another lame money joke? That’s me.

You know that leggy blonde you hated because your boyfriend kept trying to ogle her without you noticing? Yeah, that girl was also me, except take away the double D’s you might be imagining. Think Princess Charlene of Monaco, without the curvy figure and the bald husband. Oh, and the whole royalty thing. Yeah, this girl? Rich. Not royalty.

This was my life. Surprisingly, there was a name for it. People called me a socialite, because what else would you call it? I flitted from charity function to business dinner, making appearances on my parents’ behalf, because it was good for business. It was good for the family. I kept up with the gossip. I knew who’d been in bed with whom. I paid attention to who exchanged money, and more importantly, who was trading information. From the time I was old enough to speak, I was in training to be some wealthy man’s eye candy and secret weapon in business. The good woman behind the man, so to speak.

The sad part? Because of who my father was, men wanted to climb in bed with me. My father made it no secret that he would leave his multi-million dollar company to a man, preferably one in the family. That meant that every money-hungry man who had come across my father had been a potential suitor, and they all wanted a piece of me. Well, everyone except for one man—the man I was supposed to marry. Our mothers had been planning our wedding since I was in diapers. I should be disappointed that he didn’t want me. Maybe I should be hurt. The only problem…I had no interest in this life.





Chapter One





Last summer



“Iris, this is unacceptable. We have been planning their wedding since the day my daughter was born. Just because you can’t get your son to do what is expected of him doesn’t mean my daughter should suffer. Richard will not appreciate this when he hears about it. Maybe I need to remind you that Richard and your disobedient son are the only reasons you and Harrison are still afloat.”

My mother paused as she listened to Iris Mitchell speak again. Iris Mitchell had finally jumped on board with her son marrying Eve Bryant, his actual girlfriend, instead of me, the woman betrothed to him since he was a toddler. Who could blame him? He met someone and fell in love. If anything, I would say he was lucky. But, no one asked for my opinion, and if I knew anything, it was to keep my mouth shut.

“You never were a very good mother, were you, Iris?” My mother continued her tirade, waving her perfectly manicured hand around, so her unnecessarily large diamonds caught the light coming from the window. “Your children always rebelled against your wishes. It’s a wonder you convinced your girls to marry such successful men.” My mother slammed down the phone and looked at me. “It isn’t enough that you gained three pounds over the last two weeks and your hair looks like a homeless person cut it, but you couldn’t even land the man who had been yours since birth. What’s wrong with you, Kitty? Have I taught you nothing about keeping a man’s attention?”

No, she wasn’t saying those things out of anger or frustration toward her longtime best friend, Iris Mitchell. That was how she always spoke to me. This was my life in a nutshell. In fact, today was a good day.

I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I didn’t know why I was not married at twenty-eight to some handsome millionaire, but for as long as I have lived, perfection had been my mother’s goal for me. Settling for less was never an option. Unfortunately, I’d always fallen short of the mark and somehow lived to hear about it. No amount of money, makeup, or dressing-free lettuce would make me into the woman my parents wanted me to be. And now, thanks to Grant Mitchell, my life just became hell. He just confirmed what my parents always believed—I was unlovable. What else is new?





Chapter Two





Winter



The knock on my door was unwelcome and unexpected. I was writing—the one thing I really enjoyed. Unbeknownst to my parents, I wrote a small column for an online magazine. I reported on the social scene in and around Seattle. The focus of my column was generally how much money was donated to the charity du jour and what everyone was wearing to this event or that dinner, but nothing was off-limits. My editor, Sue, loved gossip.

Of course, the name Kitty Peters wasn’t on any of it. Protecting my identity was the only way for me to keep writing. Rufus Levine was the name of the reporter, and it was all from the male perspective. Rufus may have been the most flamboyant man to ever live, but he wasn’t really living, was he? The truth was, neither was I. I merely existed at best.

If my parents ever found out that I was Rufus, they’d find a way to ruin it, which was why the knock on my door was unwelcome. My friends were practically spies for my mother. I groaned when I heard their voices outside my door, then I quickly started shoving my notes and laptop into a decorative wooden trunk that also acted as my coffee table. Just as I closed the lid, the second knock resounded through my condo.

I opened the door to find two of my girlfriends smiling brightly and wearing sky-high heels, their version of designer casual.

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