Mad and marvelous, p.1

Mad & Marvelous, page 1


Mad & Marvelous

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Mad & Marvelous

  Mad & Marvelous

  By Elizabeth Varlet

  Hop Lovette isn’t afraid to take risks. Being the bastard son of New York royalty has never given him anything but heartache. So when the Sassy Boyz land a contract at club Switch, he knows it’s only a matter of time before his marvelous world is turned on its head: the owner is his childhood rival.

  Rafe Marson owes Hop’s father everything, and he’s on a mission to repay his debts. Nothing will stand in his way—not even a wild, beautiful, maddening blast from his past. Not even when Hop stirs up feelings better left dormant. Not even when Hop begs to be taken.

  When opportunity knocks, Hop is the one who needs to step up and help Rafe. But working together without being together is harder than they thought—and when everything they’ve been working toward is threatened, Rafe will need to prove that true love is one in a million.

  One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

  This book is approximately 87,000 words

  Carina Press acknowledges the editorial services of Deborah Nemeth


  This is for the unicorns, for the courageously colorful who inspire others with their fire, and for those who trust wholeheartedly even when it’s scary.


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chapter Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Chapter Thirty-Eight

  Chapter Thirty-Nine

  Chapter Forty


  Excerpt from Fierce & Fabulous by Elizabeth Varlet


  Also by Elizabeth Varlet

  About the Author

  Chapter One

  Rafe hung up the phone and sat back with a relieved sigh. They were one step closer.

  It seemed like he’d been working toward this goal forever even though it’d only been three years since his club, Switch, had opened.

  “Well?” Mark asked from his spot across Rafe’s polished metal desk. Mark was more than the club’s general manager; he was a good friend and confidant.

  “We’re in the running.” A smile stretched his cheeks. “They want to see our proposal a week from today.”

  “Shit, a week? That’s not enough time.”

  It was a lot to ask, but this was their chance to host a fashion week extravaganza. It’d mean exposure. It’d mean a huge contract with an influential new client and introductions to at least a dozen more. It’d mean paying off his debts and being released from Roland Lockwood’s control.

  “Let me bask for a minute, would you?” Rafe stared at the mirrored ceiling of his office, ignoring his tired reflection, the pleasure of having finally gotten this chance still coursing through his veins. Nothing, not even Mark’s pragmatism, would dull the sense of accomplishment.

  “Sorry, sorry.” Mark held his palms up. “You’re right. Take it in, you deserve it.”

  “We deserve it.”

  “This is all you, boss.”

  “Don’t be modest. These last three years wouldn’t have gone half as smoothly without you running the day to day, and you know it.”

  “Remember that when I ask for a raise.” Mark grinned. “Seriously, you should be proud of yourself. This is a big deal and you managed it two years before your projections.”

  “I’m nothing if not persistent.”

  Mark’s laugh was straight from his core. “Which is another word for dog-headed, right?”

  Rafe’s answering grin was all teeth. “All we have to do is nail the presentation.”

  “On that note, what are you thinking?”

  “Parker Prince fancies himself the next Marco Morante and we’re going to target his dream. I’m thinking major branding, big names, neon colors, lots of skin to titillate, artistic and modern with a sleek sexy edge. Push the envelope, you know?”

  “Like a 90s Rave and Cirque du Soleil had a baby?”

  “And it’s an androgynous alien masterpiece of rapture and frenzy.”

  The corner of Mark’s mouth tipped up. “Genius.”

  “Let’s hope our competition isn’t.”

  “Any idea which clubs we’re up against?”

  Rafe scratched his jaw. “Only suspicions.” He paused wondering exactly how short this shortlist was and who was on it with them. “Let’s keep this under wraps until the contract is signed.”

  Mark tilted his head. “Even from the staff and talent?”

  A single nod, hard and uncompromising. “For now.”

  “Whatever you say.” Mark didn’t bother hiding his eye roll.

  “You think I’m paranoid.”

  “You think I’m gullible.”

  “Not gullible, trusting.”

  “Same thing.” Mark frowned.

  “I don’t want to take any chances. I know the kind of temptation other owners could present.” Especially if his hunch was correct—and it usually was. His wasn’t the only club in the city bankrolled by the Lockwood fortune. “Until we’re sure, no one but you and I know how close we are to landing the Prince launch party.”

  “So what are we supposed to tell the performers when they ask why they need to come up with new routines in less than a week?”

  Rafe steepled his fingers. “Tell them we’re planning a themed event or we want to see what they can come up with on short notice. I don’t know.” He waved his hand. “Tell them whatever you want, except the truth.”

  Mark sucked his teeth, obviously unhappy. Too honest for his own good, Mark always complied, but never quietly. Rafe resigned himself to weeks of Mark’s complaining because landing this gig was more important than pandering to the staff’s sensitivities. Deep down, Mark understood too, which was likely why he kept his mouth shut—for now.

  They couldn’t afford to be anything but ruthless. The waters Rafe navigated, and had for the past fifteen years, were teeming with vicious bloodthirsty sharks. They’d taken a bite out of him more than once when he’d been naive, and even his benefactor’s influence hadn’t stopped the hemorrhaging. He wouldn’t let it happen again. He had too much on the line this time, too many people counted on him, too many years lost and effort put in, too much goddamn money spent for his plans to go down in flames for the sake of being nice.

  Nice was no longer part of Rafe’s vocabulary anyway. After all, he
d learned from the best. He liked meticulous and professional far better. Nice was useless. Nice was weak.

  Nice was submissive.

  With an internal grunt, he straightened his tie and sat forward. “Let’s get started.”

  * * *


  It was in his blood. The rhythmic beat was his heart—his life. It was so loud it shook the walls and rippled through his pulse. The glass-paneled floor flashed with colorful lights, and above them spun a dazzling swirl of beams and shadows. Switch was a psychedelic paradise where his inner troublemaker felt right at home.

  Hop moved to the DJ’s tunes, in turn grinding on the body in front of him or leaning against the sweaty chest behind him. Sandwiched between two wannabe leather daddies, he reveled in the heat as sweat slicked his skin. Their hands explored his chest and hips getting excitingly close to his cock. Their mouths scorched his neck and bare shoulder as they rubbed their crotches into him. The air was heavy, a mix of desire and exhilaration as addicting as the music.

  He sank into the trance. The club was packed to bursting and had been since way before the Sassy Boyz’ performances earlier. Switch was a perfect playground. Obviously, he wasn’t the only one who thought so.

  Part of Hop hated how much he loved it.

  A big part.

  Resentment soured his mood so he danced harder, chasing the adrenaline high he needed to forget where he was. It was bad enough he had to perform here every night, he didn’t need to voluntarily spend his spare time in the one place in New York he should be avoiding at all costs.

  Except it was fucking perfect.

  Goddamn it.

  “You’re a kinky hellion, aren’t you?” The guy behind him spoke loudly in Hop’s ear. Hop hadn’t bothered to get his name. Even if the night ended in bed, names would be irrelevant.

  Hop laughed and spun to face him. “Baby, my freak-streak runs as deep as the Grand Canyon.”

  “I bet you fuck like a fairy on acid.” His smile was all expectation and no delivery. This guy didn’t have what Hop needed.

  “You’ll never find out, Daddy.” He patted the guy’s cheek.

  The guy’s thick fingers dug into Hop’s arms hard enough to bruise. “Dick tease,” he said, pushing Hop.

  Even in five-inch heels, Hop was quick on his feet. He turned as gracefully as he could and smiled at Front Guy, whose biceps looked delicious in his tight T-shirt. “Guess I’m too much for him. How ’bout you, babe? Can you handle me?”

  Front Guy smirked and pulled him closer with those big arms. “I doubt anyone can.”

  “Good answer.” Hop pressed in so they swayed as one.

  “You were amazing. I couldn’t keep my eyes off you.” He leaned in enough so his breath fanned Hop’s cheek. It smelled of stale beer and something salty.

  Hop forced himself to reply. “That’s sweet.”

  As much as he loved a good flattery shower, the compliment was wasted on him. He knew he was the worst member of the group. He still hadn’t reached the level of grace and stamina the other Sassy Boyz achieved. For them, picking up choreo seemed to come easy. And yeah, Hop loved dance—breathed it, but he had to work his ass off to be at their level. One day they’d finally realize he was dragging them down.

  “I didn’t take you for the modest type.”

  “I’m full of surprises.” Hop was already searching the crowd for distraction. One of the worst things about partying at the same place you worked? Über-fans, who expected you to eat the attention up. In reality, it was super awkward to smile and nod when all you wanted to do was be anonymous.

  Hop didn’t want the reminder of his inadequacy. He didn’t want to talk. He didn’t want his behavior to reflect on the group. He didn’t want to think.

  He wanted to dance.

  He wanted to indulge.

  He wanted to be bad. ’Cause he was so damn good at it.

  And this was another reason he needed to stop fucking around at Switch after hours.

  From the corner of his eye he spotted movement on the balcony high above the main floor.

  Rafe Marson.

  Hop’s fists tightened. His gaze was drawn to the solid imposing shadow against his will.

  Fucking Rafe.

  Hop gritted his teeth and tracked Rafe’s loose gait until he disappeared into the darkness of the stairwell.

  The tiny glimpse sent angry sparks of wild emotions storming through him. He was tempting fate. It was part of what kept him coming back. Each time he got away with partying at Switch, right under Rafe’s nose, it filled him with a high that kept him floating for days. The ultimate form of rebellion, even if it was in secret.

  After all, Rafe was his boss now. Rafe had also held the number two spot on Hop’s grudge list for seven fucking years.

  Like a train wreck waiting to happen, it was just a matter of time before those things clashed. Being the gluttonous masochist he was, the anticipation of the inevitable destruction was more than Hop could resist.

  So he stayed. He danced his heart out.

  And he waited.

  * * *

  The next morning Hop shuffled into the kitchen with a pounding headache so bad he had to squint against the bright morning light reflected off the butter-yellow walls. His brain was fuzzy and his asshole burned—must have been one hell of a night. It’d been a long time since he’d partied so hard he needed to wear sunglasses simply to open the fridge.

  He found his mom drinking coffee at the teal Formica table she’d found on the sidewalk years ago.

  “You came in late again last night,” she said before taking another sip from her favorite mug. It said: Best Mom Evah. Hop had given it to her for Mother’s Day a few years back. She’d never used another since. Seeing it now made him wince.

  There was no judgment in her tone, as if she were making a scientific observation.

  Hop knew better.

  He turned his back on her to grab the package of bagels. “Sorry, did I wake you?” he asked, keeping his voice neutral.

  “No.” He could feel her appraising gaze as he slid the bagel into the toaster. His stomach was in knots, which was not doing much for his hangover-induced queasiness. Those last five shots had been a bad idea, but after seeing Rafe a habitual sense of unrest had cured him of any thoughts of discretion.

  He should have better control by now. It wasn’t like he didn’t know the risks.

  But when the thrill of disobedience ignited his inner wild child, he always threw caution to the wind and let bedlam reign supreme. Last night, it had led him to drink too much tequila and follow the clingy leather-bound amateur daddy home. They’d fucked.

  Or at least, he thought they had.

  Hop remembered passively taking what was given and not coming. He rarely came. By the time he was lying face down on a stranger’s bed, the entire point of his quiet rebellion was moot and the thrilling rage heating his blood cooled to a sickening shame.

  This, in itself, was its own kind of addiction. One he’d been fighting for too long.

  Whenever he sought what he really needed, it got him into trouble. And when he settled for something a little less provocative, he was never fulfilled.

  His bagel popped up, breaking him out of his own thoughts. The scent of onions and garlic didn’t help the wooziness. He grabbed the slices, quickly dropping them on the plate, then blew on his burnt fingertips.

  “Just promise me you’re being safe this time.” Her voice was tight with resignation. Hop couldn’t not look at her when she sounded like that.

  “It’s not like before.” Except it was, wasn’t it?

  It was almost exactly like before.

  Hop gripped the plate hard as the realization rolled through him. On its heels—guilt. Because he was staring at his mother, the goddess who loved him unconditionally, who raised
him by herself, worked three jobs so he could take dance classes, and supported his passions. And his choices made her worry. They added to the wrinkles already marring her face. They kept her up at night and gave her bags under her eyes.

  He couldn’t stand to see his mother so worn down.

  “I’m sorry, Mom.” He sat, placed his plate on the table, and then reached across to grab her hand. “I’ll get home early tonight, okay?”

  She glanced at her coffee. “You don’t need to do that, honey. You’re young. You should be out enjoying your life. It’s just a mother’s concern.”


  “No, it’s okay. I trust you.” She met his eyes.

  Hop swallowed a sudden lump in his throat. “Thanks.”

  If she knew...

  God, if she had any idea who his new boss was...

  Hop covered by taking a bite of his dry bagel. He wouldn’t let the coming explosion hit his mom. There was no reason she ever had to find out how close he was to the enemy.

  Although sometimes he thought it was only him who boiled for a confrontation. His mother was annoyingly content with the way things were.

  It didn’t matter that the man she’d loved had married another woman and had a legitimate son, leaving her to raise Hop all alone and in secret. It didn’t matter that Hop’s father was New York royalty and living on the Upper West Side with his perfect family while she and Hop had struggled every fucking day just to have enough to eat.

  It didn’t matter to her that he had abandoned his firstborn son but taken the chauffeur’s son under his wing and given him everything that should have been Hop’s.

  But it mattered to him. He might have been able to let the whole thing go if it’d just been Malcolm, but being replaced by someone who wasn’t even blood? No.

  Hop would never forgive any of them.

  Including Rafe.

  Chapter Two

  “Anyone know what’s going on?” Hop asked as he entered the club through the backstage door hours earlier than usual.

  The dressing room was packed with all of Switch’s regular performers, including the rest of the Sassy Boyz. As he made his way over to them, he pulled off the oversize teal scarf he’d wrapped around his neck and shoulders. Outside the temps might have sunk below freezing, but this tiny overcrowded room was a sauna.

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