Sugar Baby Beautiful

CHAPTER ONE

Unleashing Felicity Harper

Felicity

It was quiet.

I glanced away from the book in my hand to the cat-shaped clock, which sat on my bedside table next to a potted cactus and lava lamp: 8:53 p.m.

Sitting up, I listened, but I didn’t hear any giggling, moans, or cursing. Something was wrong. A person with normal roommates wouldn’t think much of this; however, I could think of a thousands words to describe Mark and Cleo, and normal would not be on that list. It was never quiet here unless they were up to something, and if they were, I would be the one suffering.

“Guys!” I called, jumping off my bed and rushing to the door. As I pulled it open, Cleo placed Mark’s laptop behind her back.

Shit. I knew it.

It was May. My birthday had already passed, so they couldn’t be planning a party. And I hadn’t gotten a new job or anything.

“Hey, Felicity, what’s up?” Cleo Owen lifted her dark, dyed red hair—this month’s color—into a ponytail before turning to face me. She had an oval-shaped face covered with little freckles.

“Why is it so quiet?” I asked, crossing my arms.

Mark, Cleo’s cousin, stood up and went to the kitchen. “I’ll never fucking understand you women. Didn’t you say you wanted to rest?”

“Nice try.” I eyed him. He stood about an inch taller than me. I was five nine, which made me tall for a girl, but as a guy around here he was considered short. He had messy blond hair and bright blue eyes, and was always rocking the California surfer look. It worked, seeing as how this was Los Angeles.

“Nothing is going on, Felicity. I swear, you’re so paranoid sometimes.” Cleo shook her head at me as I followed her.

I was screwed. Damn. Whatever they were doing, it was already done.

“I never said anything was going on, but thanks for confirming my suspicions. Spit it out. What did you do?”

Mark glanced at Cleo before reaching into a white kitchen cabinet to grab the margarita mix.

“Guys! Is it that bad?”

“Oh, calm down. It’s not bad. Just...” Cleo looked at Mark, who grinned as he grabbed the ice. She smacked his shoulders. “We said we would do this together.”

“Do what?”

They had a mental fight, and for a second, you would have thought they were both teenagers and not twenty-three. I was only a year older than them, and sometimes I felt as though I were their mother.

“Do what?” I repeated louder.

Mark rolled his eye. “For fuck’s sake, Cleo, you’re freaking her out more. Nothing, Felicity, we just made sure you were invited to a party tonight. We know you aren’t a party person, but we wanted to show you a new spot.”

“That’s it?”

He nodded, putting ice into the blender.

“Then why does she look like she stole something?” I pointed at Cleo, who was trying to pretend she was invisible.

“Because she’s a klepto.” He laughed and threw a small piece of ice at her.

“A reformed klepto, thank you very much!” she snapped.

She wasn’t lying. Cleo had been a kleptomaniac. She was diagnosed while we were both serving time at the Nidorf Juvenile Detention Facility.

She’d been only fifteen when she first came in, and her first big act was to steal Bambi’s lip-gloss. No one stole from Bambi. So she got her ass kicked. She came over to our bunk bed and cried, and the next morning I slipped her some extra meds. I don’t know why I did it. Maybe it was because she looked so pitiful, or maybe I was as lonely as she was—I’m still not sure. But after that, she followed me everywhere. When I was released on my eighteenth birthday, she and her cousin were waiting for me since I had nowhere else to go. She had been released a month earlier, but she hadn’t forgotten about me.

God, that was six years ago. Sometimes it really did feel like only yesterday. Since then, it’s been the three of us, our own weird little makeshift family.

“Felicity?” Cleo snapped her fingers in front of my face.

“Where did you go?” Mark asked.

“Nowhere.” I shook my head. “Fine about the party or club. Whatever. I’ll go. I’ve been working double shifts at the diner and high school all week. I need to blow off some steam.”

Cleo jumped onto me like a koala. “Really? You won’t bitch out?”

“Yes, really! I’ll go see what’s in my closet.” I laughed and pried her off of me. I made it three steps before I noticed the laptop on the couch.

If it was just about the club, why were they hiding this?

“Mark, can I use your computer for a second?” I asked, already moving toward it.

“No!” they both yelled, and like a fucking cat, Cleo leaped for it while Mark spun me around as if we were dancing. As a distraction, he handed me a yellow margarita.

“What she means is it’s broken,” Mark said before drinking his from his glass. He was also avoiding my gaze.

“You’re busted! What did you guys really do?” I glared, but neither of them spoke. “Fine. If you won’t talk, I’m going to have fun in your closets.”

I went to get the kitchen scissors, but Mark caught my hand. “Let’s not do anything we’ll regret or anything that will make me look bad.”

“Well?”

“Urgh! In your next life, you should be a detective,” Cleo muttered. “Honestly, it really isn’t that big a deal. There’s a party in the Hills tonight where people just meet up.”

“And when you say people?” I thought for second, and then it hit me. “Guys, I’m not going to one of your sugar daddy parties.”

“There are some fine mommies there too. Don’t discriminate. God knows I don’t. ” Mark said with a wink. His motto was if he or she made him feel good, he was all in.

“No. And double hell no.” I trotted back up the stairs toward my room.

Cleo and Mark were what could only be described as sugar babies, which meant, according to Mark, a relationship where the younger party was financially cared for in return for “companionship,” aka sex. And it was the type of sex you couldn’t confess to in church.

“Felicity.” Cleo walked in after me. I jumped onto my bed and picked up my book. “Come on, live a little. You have no idea—”

“No sharing.”

Mark fell onto the bed next to me and propped himself up on one arm. “As your friends, it’s our duty to tell you that you can’t live like this anymore. It hurts us.”

“What?” I tried not to laugh at the pout on his face.

Cleo lay down on the other side of me, sandwiching me in between them. “What he means is that you are smart, funny, beautiful….”

“Not just any type of beautiful, but sugar baby beautiful,” Mark added, and she nodded in agreement.

I looked at them both. “Okay, I’m going to need a definition of that.”

Cleo spoke first. “Naturally stunning without even trying.”

“Absolutely radiant when you do try,” Mark continued. “Good boobs.”

“Flawless, sun-kissed skin.”

“Sweet, heart-shaped face.”

“Long, soft, honey-brown hair.”

“Not to mention your pretty hazel eyes.”

Cleo went on. “And we even haven’t even gotten to your body yet. You can eat whatever the hell you want and still have a tight ass and flat stomach.”

“She’s probably the only woman over twenty in L.A. with her real nose,” Mark replied.

Cleo grabbed her nose. “You can’t tell, right?”

“No, babe, he did you good,” Mark answered, and they reached over me, high-fiving each other before looking at the ceiling. Once again I found myself wondering how the hell I was friends with these people.

Trying to ignore them, I lifted my book and started to read in the hopes they would get the message, but they kept talking as if I wasn’t even there.

“You are sugar baby beautiful, Felicity. Any guy would walk through fire for the chance to be with you.” Cleo sighed.

“Plus, even though you can’t cook, you’re great at—”

“What’s the point of being a sugar baby if you have to cook and clean?” she questioned.

“Good point.” He chuckled and took the book from my hands.

“Hey!” I tried to reach for it.

“You’re not listening to us.”

“You all are talking crazy again. You make it seem like I’m God’s gift to—”

“Felicity.” Cleo sat up, looking at me seriously. “God put you on this earth to make the rest of the female race feel inferior.”

Mark laughed as he sat up. “She is the standard all photographers and magazines use when they Photoshop.”

“She would have been on Top Model, but the producers thought it wouldn’t be fair to the other contestants.”

“Oh! I’ve got one. She is—”

“Oh my God, stop!” I yelled with a smile on my face. It was hard not to smile when your friends thought so highly of you, but seriously, they were exaggerating. “Thank you both, but like I said, I don’t want to get involved with your dirty, secret lives.”

“Dirty, secret lives?” Mark’s eyebrow rose. “Babe, this is Los Angeles. This isn’t any secret. The SB community is a proud one. Hell, other than Las Vegas and maybe New York, I’m not sure there is any place in the world that’s as approving.”

“Felicity, I sent in your picture—”

“You did what?” I looked at her.

She reached for the laptop I hadn’t noticed that she’d put on the floor beside my bed.

“There is a standard level of beauty you have to be have in order to get into these parties, so they ask for a photo. Usually it takes a day to be approved by someone, but I swear to God with my hand on the Bible, I sent yours in, and not even two minutes later, you were approved.”

I stared at the photo of me waving at the camera, wearing jean shorts and a button-down white shirt. Mark had taken it only a few days ago when we’d gone to the beach.

“This is why you were taking my picture?”

He took the laptop. “It’s already live for tonight’s party?”

“Where’s the return-to-sender button?” I muttered, snatching the laptop from him. All they had put down for me was my name: Felicity, age: 24, height: 5’9”, interests: books, music, and the outdoors. There were no matches yet, but it showed I was one of sixty other women who would be part of that night’s event. There were no questions about where I went school or if I had any aspirations. Then again, they weren’t trying to get to know me. All they wanted to do was bend me over and screw me twelve ways to Sunday, and then maybe give me a purse or a car for my trouble.

“Don’t you miss sex?” Cleo asked me.

“Miss it? You make it seem like I haven’t screwed anyone in years.” I frowned. It had only been eleven months, give or take a few days. Before my dry spell, I’d put a few boyfriends and one-night stands under my belt. I just liked to do it on my own terms. “I’m saying no because it just feels like….”

Damn it, I couldn’t explain it.

“It only feels wrong because other people have labeled it that way,” Mark mused, getting up off my bed and going into my closet. “And if I gave a flying fuck about what they thought, I would explain that these people have more money than they know what to do with. They live in a world where they don’t know if people actually like them or their net worth. So they have us, attractive people who are upfront about what they expect. No one is stealing from them, and they aren’t taking advantage of us. It’s like any other relationship; I give to you and you give to me, and at the end of the day, we’re both happy. But since I don’t give a fuck, I say screw it, and while you’re at it, screw me, but only if you can pay my electric bill.”

I rolled my eyes. “I pay the electric bill.”

“Yeah, but you don’t have to. That’s what we’re saying.” Cleo grinned as she went to her old profile and clicked on her former list of matches. The first person that came up was maybe in his mid-to-late forties. “First myth of being a sugar baby: all the people you hook up with are old, rich, and white. This, my friend, is a lie we tell to keep the community small. If everyone knew there were studs looking for women and men to pamper and screw, we’d be in the hunger games.”

“Fighting for cock? Man, I read the wrong book!” Mark laughed, throwing the tight, short-sleeved white V-neck dress I was saving for a rainy day onto the bed. “You’re coming tonight.”

“Hopefully in more ways than one.” Cleo giggled.

“Nice!” They high-fived each other.

This was a bad idea.

I should not join this madness.

I took care of myself. I paid my own bills and bought myself nice things when I wanted or felt like it. I didn’t need anyone else for that.

But the sex. They always talked about it, and I was curious.

Oh, screw it. I sat up and reached for the dress. “I’m going to regret this.”

“Tonight we unleash Felicity Harper onto the world,” Cleo said, and the grin that spread across their faces reminded me of the Grinch when he stole Christmas.