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Sweet Filthy Boy (Wild Seasons #1)

By´╝ÜChristina Lauren

h questionably sober men."

I nod, wrapping my arms around Harlow from behind and squeezing. She pretends to choke, but puts her hand over mine so I can't get away. No one rejects cuddles less convincingly than Harlow.

"I love you psychos," I say, and even though with anyone else, the words would get lost in the wind and street dust blowing into the car, Harlow bends to kiss my hand and Lola glances over to smile at me. It's like they're programmed to ignore my long pauses and pluck my voice out of chaos.




"You have to make me a promise, Mia," Lola says. "Are you listening?"

"This doesn't involve me running off and becoming a showgirl, does it?"

"Sadly no."

We've been planning this trip for months-one last rush before grown-up life and responsibility catch up with us. I'm ready for whatever she's got for me. I stretch my neck, take a deep breath, pretend to crack my knuckles. "Too bad. I could work a pole like you don't even know. But okay, hit me."

"Leave everything else back in San Diego tonight," she says. "Don't worry about your dad or which fangirl Luke is banging this weekend."

My stomach tilts slightly at this mention of my ex, even though we parted on good terms nearly two years ago. It's just that Luke was my first, I was his, and we learned everything together. I feel like I should be earning royalties on his current parade of conquests.

Lola continues. "Don't think about packing for Boston. Don't think about anything but the fact that we're done with college-college, Mia! We did it. Just put the rest of it in a proverbial box and shove it under the proverbial bed."

"I like this talk of shoving and beds," Harlow says.

Under any other circumstance, this would have made me laugh. But as unintentional as it may have been, Lola's mention of Boston has just obliterated the tiny window of anxiety-free space I'd somehow managed to find. It immediately dwarfs any discomfort I felt over the subject of my dad's early departure from the biggest ceremony of my life or Luke and his newfound slutty side. I have a rising tide of panic about the future, and now that we've graduated, it's impossible to ignore it anymore. Every time I think about what comes next, my stomach turns inside out, ignites, chars. The feeling happens so much these days I feel like I should give it a name.

In three weeks I'm leaving for Boston, to business school of all places, and about as far from my childhood dreams as I could have imagined. I'll have plenty of time to find an apartment and a job that will pay my bills and accommodate a full schedule of classes in the fall when I finally do what my father has always wanted and join the river of business-types doing business things. He's even paying for my apartment, happily. "Two bedrooms," he'd insisted, magnanimously, "so your mother and I and the boys can visit."

"Mia?" Lola prompts.

"Okay," I say and nod, wondering when, out of the three of us, I became the person with so much baggage. Lola's dad is a war veteran. Harlow's parents are Hollywood. I'm just the girl from La Jolla who used to dance. "I'm shoving it under the proverbial bed." Saying the words out loud seems to put more weight behind them. "I'll put it into the box with Harlow's scary sex toys."

Harlow throws me a sassy kiss and Lola nods, resolute. Lola knows better than any of us about stress and responsibility, but if she can put it away for the weekend, I can, too.

WE PULL UP to the hotel and Lola and I tumble from the car, holding our simple duffel bags and looking like we just emerged from a dust storm. I feel gross and filthy. Only Harlow looks like she belongs here, climbing from the old Chevy as if she's exiting a shiny black town car, somehow still presentable and wheeling a glossy suitcase behind her.

Once we get upstairs, we're all speechless, even Harlow-clearly this is the surprised form of her silence. There are only a couple of other rooms on the floor and our Sky Suite is enormous.

Harlow's father, a big-shot cinematographer, booked it for us as a graduation present. We thought we were getting a standard Vegas hotel room, some complimentary shampoo, maybe we'd even go crazy and raid the minibar, charging it to his card. Snickers and tiny vodkas for everyone!

We were not expecting this. In the entryway (there's an entryway), and tucked next to a decadent fruit basket and a complimentary bottle of champagne, there's a note. It says we have a butler on speed dial, a masseuse to come to the room when we need it, and Harlow's dad is more than happy to provide unlimited room service. If Alexander Vega wasn't the father of my best friend and happily married, I might offer sex acts to thank him.

Remind me not to tell Harlow that.

I GREW UP wearing barely anything onstage in front of hundreds of people where I could pretend to be someone else. So even with a long, jagged scar on my leg, I'm decidedly more comfortable in one of the dresses Harlow chose for us than Lola is. She won't even put hers on.

"It's your graduation present," Harlow says. "How would you have felt if I turned down the journal you got me?"

Lola laughs, throwing a pillow at her from across the room. "If I'd asked you to tear out the pages and make them into a dress that barely covers your ass, yes, you would have been free to turn down the gift."

I tug at the hem of my dress, silently siding with Lola and wishing it was just a touch longer. I rarely show so much thigh anymore.

"Mia's wearing hers," Harlow points out and I groan.

"Mia grew up in leotards; she's pocket-sized and built like a gazelle," Lola reasons. "Also? I'm sure if I looked hard enough, I could see her vagina. If I'm five inches taller than she is, you'll practically be able to see my birth canal in this dress."

"You're so stubborn."

"You're so slutty."

I listen to them argue from where I stand near the window, content, w

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