The Billionaire's Holiday Obsession

By: Nadia Lee


Thirteen years ago

The two most common reasons why people drank were to feel good or to forget. With Iain Pryce it was always the latter, but for whatever reason he couldn’t seem to forget right now.

Damn it. He should’ve never gone to his parents’ place. His mother always prepared a lavish gift for his birthday, and he hated her for it. It was like she wanted to buy her way back into his good graces. So the wisest thing would’ve been to just skip it and hang out with people he actually liked. But he just couldn’t pass up the vicious thrill of watching his mother cringe in horror as he reenacted how he’d beaten the crap out of the other guy in his most recent cage match.

His mother had tried very hard to fit in with the wealthy and powerful Pryce family, so it upset her that Iain had dropped out of college to fight like an animal in a pit. A sneer pulled at his mouth. He would have bet any two of his limbs what she was really upset about was the way his grandmother, Shirley Pryce, blamed her for his “horrid” fascination with crass violence.

So after each match, he visited his parents’ place. Usually only his mother was home, except when she was out seeing some gentleman friend. He showed her his bloody knuckles, displayed the cuts and bruises on his face and body and gave her a highly descriptive blow-by-blow description of the match, always doing his best to highlight the most disgusting and gruesome details.

And as her face turned pale and pain filled her eyes, the bitter pleasure never failed to twist in his belly. Laughter and bile choked him. He could never forgive her for cheating on his father and creating the mess at home.

But his mother hadn’t been home alone with only servants around that night. His father had been home too. Iain had stopped in front of their room and heard the familiar scenario play out—the door was always closed, but his parents’ words never stayed in.

“You’re never home,” his mother would say. Accusing.

“I’ve been busy,” his father would say. Uncaring.

“What business interest could you possibly have in Georgia?”

“I have business interests everywhere. Don’t you know that by now? Let’s not forget our agreement. My finances are my own—just spend the money and have yourself a good time.”

There was laughter from one of the tables behind him. “Yo mama been cocked more times than a shotgun.”

Iain’s hand tightened around the shot glass. His phone pinged, and he glanced at the text: Hey, where are you? I thought we were going out to celebrate your birthday?

Iain downed the vodka. The liquor incinerated his throat and burned his sinuses. He wasn’t in the mood to celebrate, and he certainly didn’t want to tell his younger brother, Mark, he was at a bar using a fake ID.

The bartender ambled over. Despite his thinness, wiry muscle ran along his arms. Both of his forearms had black tats with skulls and some other designs Iain couldn’t quite make out in the dim light. “Another,” Iain said.

The bartender poured him a fresh drink, collected the empty glass and left to serve other customers.

“Yo mama so nasty, she pours salt water down her pants to keep her crabs fresh.” Laughter and beer steins being thumped on the table.

Why the hell did I choose this bar? It wasn’t that close to his place, and the liquor tasted like piss. The crowd was mostly male. Cheap shirts and jeans strained against thick chests and legs. In a custom-tailored shirt and slacks from Milan, Iain stood out like a cleaver among butter knives.

“Yo, purty boy!” a drunken guy yelled from behind him. “You even got a mama?”

Iain ignored him. Not worth the hassle. The guy’s two friends started trash talking, and Iain let it roll off his shoulders. He felt like shit right now, but he didn’t want to fight those morons. It’d be unfair—in his favor—even with three on one. If he kept ignoring them, they’d eventually get bored and move on to a more receptive target.

“Hey, skinny boy, yo mama so nasty, they call her the carpenters’ delight,” the leader of the trio called out.

The taunt pushed Iain back to a time four years before, when he’d found his mother naked with a carpenter who’d come to install shelves in the library. Neither of them had seen him, but he’d seen and heard more than enough. Bile rose in his throat.

Another of the trio added, “Flat as a board and easy to nail.” Snickers and laughter followed.

Maybe worth the hassle after all.

He got up and walked over to the table. Rage—white and hot—was building up, burning his nerve-endings and dragging him back to the present. But he knew how to appear calm on the outside.

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