"Mason Doyle…the Ladies' Man"
"Mason…Mason, wake the hell up please."
Kayland Woolsey narrowed her hazel eyes furiously and studied the couch that Mason Doyle's long body was stretched across, his forearm strewn across his forehead. Mason was still dressed in the dark jeans and white Lacoste polo that he'd worn last night, and Kayland would have bet her last pair of True Religion jeans that he hadn't moved since she'd helped him collapse on that very couch at about four o'clock that morning. Sighing, Kayland looked around at the expensive décor of her friend's family room; it really should have been referred to as a lounge for the Fraley teenagers, since it had never been used by the entire family as far as Kayland could remember, but, nevertheless, the room was called the family room.
"Mason…" Kayland reached down and shook her friend's shoulder without any form of gentleness. "It's almost two in the afternoon, Mason. You can wake up and enjoy your hangover anytime now."
When Mason didn't even pretend to move, Kayland cursed under her breath and threw herself onto a nearby chair so that she could stare Mason down until he decided to get up. The door to the family room opened to reveal Madelyn Mesa, who appeared just as unsuccessful in her own goal as Kayland was in hers.
"I can't wake up Emerson," Madelyn informed Kayland, biting her lower lip gently. Genuine worry pooled in Madelyn's chocolaty eyes as she walked toward her friends. "You don't think she overdosed, do you? I mean—oh, no. Mason looks just as dead as Emerson does. Should we call an ambulance?"
Kayland offered Madelyn a gentle smile; the petite brunette normally avoided the 'mornings after' of her friends, but Kayland was used to it. "I don't think so. Both of them got pretty crazy last night. I honestly wouldn't be shocked if they slept for a few more hours."
Innocent Madelyn crossed her arms and sat on the floor between Mason's couch and Kayland's chair, frowning heavily. "I don't understand them. I really don't."
"I can hear you, you know."
The sleepy grumbling of Mason triggered Kayland to glare at him. "It's about time."
Mason heaved a sigh of exhaustion and opened his blue eyes reluctantly. "Yes, Maddy, I got royally fucked up last night. Yes, I'm pretty sure that Em did too. Most importantly, yes, you can stop criticizing us right now." With a forced effort, Mason sat up and rubbed his eyes. "Is it really afternoon already?
"Yes." Kayland looked at her white gold Cartier watch in order to give him an exact time. "It's ten minutes till two. You've been sleeping since…well, I put you to bed at like four, but you and Emerson were both passed out in the cab on the way here, so you've had plenty of sleep."
Madelyn shook her head gently. "You guys really should've just gone to dinner with the rest of us last night."
The rest of us. It took most of Mason's self control to restrain the face that he longed to pull in response to that. 'The rest of us' referred to the other members of his exclusive circle of friends. It just so happened that he and Emerson Fraley were the only two members of their clique to secure invitations to the big rave last night, since Eli and Edgar were out of town. Although the entire group was supposed to go to dinner and then hang out, Emerson and Mason had opted out when they decided that they were going to the rave instead, and Kayland—who used to party as hard as they did—had been sent along to keep an eye on them, as Mason and Emerson had long histories of finding themselves in trouble at parties. That was the rumor anyway, but both of them swore that they could keep themselves out of trouble if they wanted to; they normally just didn't want to. Last night, however, Mason could say with confidence that he'd behaved himself.
"That probably would have been a better idea," Kayland agreed.
Uh-oh. Mason snapped his head toward Kayland; there was an icy glow in her hazel eyes that usually wasn't there. Maybe he hadn't stayed out of trouble after all; that would explain why Kayland wasn't being her normal self. "Where's Emerson?" he asked.
"In bed," Madelyn answered. "I can't get her to wake up."
Mason sat up and reached into the pocket of his jeans and removed his cell phone. "I'm on it. She'll be up in a minute."
"Whatever." Kayland wrinkled her nose in disagreement, further proving Mason's theory that she was mad about whatever had happened at the rave. "A cell phone call is not going to get her up."
Smirking, Mason shrugged. "When it's a call from me? It will." Sure enough, after just a couple of rings, Emerson answered her phone, albeit with a very pissy tone. A sudden chill ran through Mason's body; what if Emerson and Kayland were both mad at him for something he'd done? He worried only momentarily though, because Emerson wouldn't team up against him, no matter what had happened. She was probably just mad that her sleeping had been interrupted. "Come to the family room, Em."
After Mason hung up, Kayland shook her head sadly. "Unbelievable. Since when can Madelyn trashing you wake you up, Mason? And since when does a cell phone get Emerson to even consider getting out of bed? This is messed up."
Madelyn smiled winningly. "It's my presence."
Unable to stop a grin, Mason laughed and ran a hand through his golden brown hair; he knew without doubt how ruffled it had to be, if only because he had realized that he couldn't remember much of what had happened last night, and that was always a sign of bad hair—and bad things, come to think of it. Kay land's anger probably was justified after all.
"So, um, Kayland…" Mason sat up a little straighter on the couch and tried to ignore the throbbing pain in his head; a headache was another bad sign, since his hangovers rarely included headaches, especially to this level of agony. "Before Em gets in here—how bad was last night? On a scale to ten."
The corner of Kayland's mouth quirked, and that—her trademark for being mad—confirmed to Mason that he'd had more than just another wild night. "I'm probably going to go with an eleven," Kayland answered. "But that's being super generous and saying that your usual is kind of more like a five—which it's not."
Mason's brow furrowed pensively, and he thought about his other best friends, twin brothers that he'd known since birth. "Is this an eleven that I'm going to want to brag to Eli and Edgar about?"
"Unfortunately, probably." Kayland frowned. "Mason…think hard. Did you hook up with Hazel or Heidi last night?"
Madelyn's eyes widened. "Hazel and Heidi Bilbrey? Our friends?" The shrill sound of her exclamation made Mason wince. "Mason, you told me once that you never hook up with our friends! Always strangers. What happened to that?"
"Which sister?" Kayland insisted, saving Mason from Madelyn's hurt; she'd forget about it if the scandal was juicy enough. "Hazel or Heidi?"
If they didn't look so damned much alike… The more Mason thought about it, tidbits came back to him, and he vaguely recalled the hook-up in question. "Heidi," he replied confidently. "It was definitely Heidi."
The door burst open, and Emerson Fraley entered, rubbing her head. "Oh my God, I think I'm dying," she moaned, throwing herself onto the floor next to Madelyn. She stretched out on her stomach, her long legs reaching across the floor in full view thanks to her short pajama shorts. "Good morning, everybody."
Kayland pounced immediately. "Emerson, what do you remember from last night?"
Visibly, Emerson's shoulders tensed. "Uh-oh. It sounds like someone's pissed off, and that can only mean that I did bad things that I can't remember, not good things that I can't remember." Emerson rolled onto her back and pushed her dark brown hair away from her face. "Lay it on me, Kayland. What am I going to hell for this time?"
Chuckling softly, Mason gently tossed a pillow at Emerson's stomach. "Other than illegal drugs and alcohol, right?"
"Illegal drugs?" Madelyn repeated shrilly, her back going rigid with straightness. Her tanned face was pale. "You guys getting so drunk is bad enough. You're telling me that there were illegal drugs involved too?"
Irritated with the commotion that had been created, Emerson slung the pillow roughly back at Mason, asking lightly, "What kind of a failure of a rave would it be without some LSD and ecstasy, Maddy?"
"Don't taunt her," Kayland scolded. She lifted her honey blonde hair off of the back of her neck and fashioned it into a loose ponytail. "You still bat straight, right, Em?"
Mason cracked up. "Aw, did Emerson pick girls over guys last night?"
"Shut up!" Emerson's face was burning with embarrassment, which she covered with her hands. "That definitely didn't happen again!"
Kayland shrugged. "Oh, but it did."
"It's okay, Emerson," Mason consoled lightly. "We all know that you only go trisexual when you're crazy drunk. Someday, it's going to make for a great story to tell your grandchildren."
Emerson took a deep breath and laughed. "You're actually right." She looked to Kayland easily, having lost embarrassment quickly—even for her. "Give me a rundown. Don't sugarcoat it. Let's hear what happened."
Madelyn clutched her ears with her hands. "I can't handle this."
"All right…" Kayland exhaled slowly and then said, "What's the last thing you both remember?"
Mason and Emerson shared a glance, both filled equally with dread and amusement. "Um…midnight make-outs," Emerson answered thoughtfully. "Mason and I were betting shots on who would end up breaking up because of it."
"Yeah…" Mason was also thoughtful. "But then we played liquor pong after that."
"Oh yeah!" Emerson laughed. "And I so kicked your ass."
"Not true," Mason argued, making a face. "I won. You started puking."
Emerson scowled. "I gagged. I never puked."
"And that's the last thing you remember?" Kayland asked in clear frustration.
Another glance passed between Emerson and Mason, but it was Mason who answered, "I think so. Start your recap from there anyway."
"Midnight make-outs were still going on close to two," Kayland informed them, as though they should be surprised by that tidbit. They weren't. "You both went back over there after liquor pong, and Thomas Dunn was there, trying to get Sienna to make out with Heidi. You know how he is." A murmur of agreement echoed around the room. "Emerson—little slut that she is—decided to make out with Heidi."
"I remember that," Mason commented, grinning. He paused, and his grin faded. "That's where it gets fuzzy."
Kayland raised her eyebrows at him. "I'd believe it. But I'll get to you in a minute." She directed her attention back to Emerson, stating significantly, "You and Heidi were making out, and then Sienna wanted to join in, and you three basically had a big orgy-fest."
Emerson shook her head as though it was no big deal. "Also known as a threesome."
"Not the first one for you ladies," Mason smirked.
Emerson glared at him and hit his arm as hard as she could with her fist. "Go to hell, Mason. You know it gets you hot."
"You, Mason…" Kayland sighed deeply. His smirk disappeared. "While Emerson was getting off in the circle of lust, you were getting off to Hazel. She spent most of the night after that in your lap."
"Damn." Mason shook his head. "I guessed the wrong sister."
"Actually, no," Kayland disagreed. "You hooked up with Heidi too."
Then Emerson began to laugh. "I remember some of that. He kept talking about how much Heidi and Hazel looked alike, and they were getting pissed off because Heidi looks like their mom and Hazel looks like their dad."
Mason's mouth dropped open in protest. "They're both blonde!"
"Emerson and Madelyn are both brunettes," Kayland pointed out obviously. "Do they look alike?"
"They're not sisters," Mason said pointedly. "Of course they don't."
Amused, Emerson reached up and patted Mason's leg gently. "It's all right, babe. You were trashed. That's the only excuse you need."
Mason smirked and rolled his eyes at his best friend. It was not a secret to anyone in the room that Mason didn't even need the excuse of being trashed to be a man-whore. Being Mason Doyle was excuse—and reason—enough to be with any amount of desirable females at one time. With his aristocratic good looks, unlimited access to funds from the Doyle bank account, and infectious, undeniable charm, it was inevitable that Mason would get around with the girls who flocked to him naturally.
"So that's the worst of it?" Emerson asked nonchalantly. She stole a pillow from the couch Mason was lying on and rolled back onto her stomach, curling her arms around the pillow and letting her eyes close.
Kayland, clearly disgusted, rolled her eyes. "Sure."
"Well…I'd say it's been worse." Mason closed his eyes again as well, eager to end the critique. "Hell, Kayland, you've been guilty of some heavy shit too."
Madelyn nibbled her lower lip gently; her expression displayed her concern and discomfort. She was the most innocent of the Golden Children—a name that Eli and Mason had created to refer to their exclusive group. Mason, Emerson, Eli, Edgar, Madelyn, Kayland, and Angelita were a closely knit group of friends and sometimes foes, all the offspring of elite parents on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The Golden Children referred to all of the offspring of the wealthy and fabulous, who had basically grown up together since their days of nursery school. Emerson had once decided that the Children of the Corn would be a more fitting title, though no one else referred to them as such.
"Anyway." Kayland sighed as she stood up, evidently unwilling to discuss her days of partying. She directed her gaze to Madelyn. "Are you ready to go meet Angelita?"
Emerson snorted, prompting a smirk to appear on Mason's handsome face. "What are you doing with that bitch?"
"Aw, don't say mean things about Angelita," Madelyn pleaded. It was no longer added that Angelita was Emerson's first cousin; Emerson denied that, regardless of how true it was. "She's not a mean girl."
"We're getting our nails done," Kayland informed Emerson, believing that answering her question would prevent another nasty comment about Angelita as disagreement with Madelyn's opinion. "And then probably getting dinner."
Yawning, Emerson gave a slight wave. "Have a blast."
The dryness of Emerson's comment made Mason laugh. "Shut up, bitch," he scolded her playfully, dropping another pillow on her. He sat up and smiled pleasantly, charmingly at Madelyn and Kayland. "Have fun, ladies. That sounds like a lovely evening."
Giggling, Madelyn pecked a quick kiss on Mason's cheek, and Kayland even smiled and waved at Mason as the two girls departed from Emerson's family's penthouse. When they were out of sight, Mason laid back and rested his throbbing head, grateful for some quiet to ease the pain of his hangover.
Mason and Emerson laid in silence for several minutes. Mason suspected that Emerson was pondering the events of the party they'd attended last night; he was anyway. He was also thinking of how jealous Edgar and Eli, who were out of town with their parents for the weekend, would be when they learned that he'd snagged both Heidi and Hazel. Suppressing a grin at that, Mason lifted his head and looked down at Emerson; he half suspected that she was sleeping again, though her sudden sigh convinced him otherwise.
"Are we hellions, Mason?"
"Do we care if we are?"
Emerson rolled onto her back again and looked up at Mason with a sly smile. "Not really." She stood and effortlessly repositioned herself so that was straddling Mason's lap. Easily, she ran her hands under his white polo, caressing his toned stomach. When Emerson's eyes drifted to Mason's face, he was looking back at her. Almost instantly, Emerson stripped Mason free of his shirt and leaned down to kiss him passionately.
Mason's left hand went to the back of Emerson's neck, holding her close so that he could deepen their kiss. His right hand finagled with the thin dark gray camisole that hugged Emerson's body, slipping it off to reveal her lacy bra. They kissed lengthily, unconcerned with anyone walking into the family room. Never breaking their kiss, Emerson trailed her nails lightly down Mason's chest and across his abs, letting her hands rest at his jeans for the slightest of moments before she began unbuttoning them.
"Em…" Mason's moan was low and seemed to only encourage Emerson, who had a real flair for unzipping jeans. He kissed down her neck intensely, eager to continue with the removal of clothing.
Emerson flicked at Mason's clothing as though it were worthless until he was bare while he had no trouble taking off what little still clung to Emerson's body. His hands rested at the curve of her lower back, while hers skimmed every inch of his torso. Mason kissed Emerson roughly, almost smiling when he felt her grip on his shoulders grow more intent. He knew her body well enough to know exactly how to handle her.
For the briefest of moments, Emerson's eyes drifted to the door of the family room, and Mason felt her anxiety for a family member walking in on them. It was, after all, a possibility in most homes. But just as suddenly as her gaze had gone there, it left, and Mason and Emerson continued getting lost in each other.
- - -
The noise of the streets of Manhattan hit Mason's ears as soon as he exited Emerson's apartment building. People were bustling everywhere, the streets full of early evening traffic. He bypassed a couple of starry-eyed high school kids who were holding hands, completely oblivious to the people they were nearly running into. Mason rolled his eyes at them and started his walk further uptown, as his family's townhouse was a couple streets up and a block over from where Emerson lived with her parents and brother.
Vibrations shook the back pocket of his jeans, and Mason pulled his cell phone out to see that Eli Pruitt was calling him. "Hello?"
"Mason. You're not gonna believe what the hell just happened."
"What the hell just happened?"
"Well, Mom is drunk off her ass, okay? You know how she gets." Indeed, Mason did. The Pruitts were spending a bit of family time away at their vacation home in the Virgin Islands, and Mrs. Pruitt was quite the alcoholic sometimes. "She saw that Edgar kept eying this little brunette girl on the beach, right? Of course Edgar wasn't going to make the first move. Cowardly bastard. So Mom—that drunk-ass bitch—dared me to, get this—because she's always been against this bullshit—pretend to be Edgar and set him up with the girl."
This story made Mason laugh on many counts. First, Jane Pruitt was notorious for her bouts of alcoholism, and her sons, usually Eli, shared them at every opportunity he had. Second, Edgar was notorious for being too shy and even more notorious for being embarrassed by his outgoing twin. Eli was notorious for embarrassing his brother, but he was infamous for never being able to turn down a dare, which his mother had clearly played on.
"Oh, Eli…" Mason shook his head, picturing this event easily. "What did Edgar do?"
Eli scoffed, and Mason realized that he was a little bit drunk himself. "Hell. Shit. I don't fucking know. I ran like hell when I saw him coming toward me with that look in his eye. You know the look."
Of course Mason knew Edgar's angry eyes. "You'd better be careful. He'll kill you."
"Nah. I run fast after all these years of practice."
"Good point," Mason agreed. He raised his middle finger to a man in a black car that honked at him as he crossed the street, barely clearing the white lines before the light changed. "Dude. Come back to New York. You're missing too many parties."
"I know, I know," Eli grumbled. "But the beach is awesome."
Mason looked around the city; it was summertime, and the weather was warmer than usual. He imagined that he'd enjoy being able to run into the ocean as well. "Yeah…"
"We'll be home the day after tomorrow though." Eli was silent for a moment, and commotion could be heard in the background before Eli dissolved into laughter. "Oh shit, Mason, I gotta go. Edgar just found me."
The line was dead before Mason could reply, but he found himself smiling at the thought as he pocketed his cell phone. He, Eli, and Edgar had been the best of friends since they were in diapers. The twins were the closest things to brothers that Mason had.
There she was. Mason had just passed the little outdoor corner café where he had seen his mystery girl so many, many times. Just as always, she was sitting at table four—he only knew the number because Kayland had waitressed there for two days before she realized she was 'a spoiled rich bitch' and quit. Mystery Girl sat there in a coral sundress, her blonde hair brushing her shoulders and blowing gently in the breeze, while she read a thick book. Mason contemplated stopping in to get coffee, but then he quickly lost his nerve. There was something that always drew him in about the mystery girl, but something always pulled him away just as quickly; he'd probably never approach her.
Arriving home a few minutes later, Mason reached his hand into his back pocket again, thankful that he always remembered his house keys, no matter what situations he found himself in—or how many drinks he'd had. He unlocked the front door of his parents' townhouse and immediately smelled something baking.
"Mason!" his young niece, Carissa, cried, running instantly toward the front door.
"Hey, babe." Mason swung the three year old up from the floor and into his arms. He grinned at her and messed up some of her dark curls. "What are you doing?"
Carissa beamed up at him. "Watching Mama sleep and baking cookies with Grandma."
"What kind of cookies?" Mason asked, secretly thinking that cookies could be the perfect remedy to ease his hangover. They sounded delicious.
Carissa wiggled her way out of Mason's arms and ran off into the kitchen. Mason followed her, noting his very pregnant older sister sleeping on the living room couch. His sister, Elizabeth, had impulsively eloped with an Italian man that she'd met while studying abroad four years ago. Carissa was the first product of the marriage, and they were expecting another baby girl any time now.
"There you are, Mason." Lydia Doyle, his mother, greeted him with a tired, gentle smile, probably knowing that he'd spend the night inebriated somewhere. She was a very pretty, quite petite woman with brown hair, brown eyes, and an unusually warm smile. "How are you doing today?"
Mason plopped himself down at the kitchen table, where Carissa had also taken up residence. She sat beside him, coloring a picture of an angel. "Just fine, Mom. How're things going around here?"
Lydia smiled. "Quiet. For once."
"But not for long," Carissa chirped, obviously repeating a line she'd heard. She grinned a toothless grin—as she'd knocked out her two upper front teeth in an excruciating tricycle event two weeks prior. "Baby Gump will be here, and then it'll be loud all the time."
Amused, Mason's eyebrows rose. "Baby Gump?"
"Yup!" Carissa grinned and shoved her coloring book page at her uncle. "I colored this for the new baby."
"Your sister decided that the new baby is going to be a runner," Lydia informed Mason, using a potholder to remove the cookie sheet from the oven. She turned and shared a mischievous glance with her son. "Apparently, she kicks all the time, and Elizabeth thinks that means she'll be running marathons by the time she's out of diapers."
Mason rolled his eyes. "Always dramatic."
"It's genetic." Lydia shrugged.
Considering his sister, his niece, his mother, and himself, Mason figured that statement was pretty legitimate. All of them were prone to making big deals out of little events, which often drove his father insane. It was definitely a Greek trait, Mason's father had always said, handed down straight from Lydia's side of the family.
"Mason?" Carissa stuck her tiny pointer finger out, jabbing it right into Mason's cheek. "Mama said you're taking me to the park tomorrow. Did she lie to me?"
"Yes." Mason widened his eyes at his niece. "She definitely did. The last time I took you to the park, we ended up at the hospital getting five stitches in the back of your hand." He shook his head at the not-so-distant memory. "That's never happening again."
Carissa wrinkled her nose and admired the scar left on the back of her right hand from the gash of her monkey bar incident. "I thought it was fun. And isn't my scratch pretty?"
"I think you should stick to baking cookies here," Mason decided, though Carissa's quick scowl made him laugh. "It's safer for you." He stood and put a handful of chocolate chip cookies onto a plate. "I'm going to go take a nap." He pecked a kiss on his mother's cheek and then on the top of Carissa's head. "Let me know when it's dinner time."
Lydia rolled her eyes. "Always eating…"
Mason grinned and left the kitchen, heading up stairs to his bedroom. He ate a cookie whole and crashed onto his bed, rolling onto his back and closing his eyes. Finally. Rest was his. His body was a little achy from sleeping on Emerson's couch, and it felt good to stretch out; the tension in his neck immediately rolled away, though it may have been mental relief after having eaten the sugary goodness of homemade cookies. His phone vibrated, and Mason pulled it out to read a text message from Emerson.
Russell is bein an ass…bc phoenix showed up too. Fuck my life.
Grinning, Mason shook his head at his best friend; Emerson always managed to find herself in drama with the string of males that she dragged behind her at all times. Currently, she was semi-dating Russell, but Phoenix had been vying for her attention for weeks, and, of course, Emerson could not make up her mind about which boy she wanted to spend more time with, though 'settle down with' was never the term used when discussing the matter. Emerson Fraley would never settle down.
Mason texted her a sympathetic reply, despite the amusement he found in the situation—a situation that Emerson had probably staged herself for some sadistic entertainment. She was that type.
Setting his phone aside, Mason rolled onto his stomach, eager for a nap of any length. It was August, and school was rapidly approaching. It would be his sophomore year at Columbia, and Mason was not looking forward to the classes on his schedule. He'd taken the bare minimums in his freshman year, squeaking by with mediocre grades and colossal hangovers. This year, he promised himself that he'd get serious…but everyone—himself included—knew that Mason Doyle had never been serious about absolutely anything in his life and probably never would be.
Still. It was a nice thought. Especially considering that in a competition between him and Emerson, Mason would most certainly be the one to pull his life together. Maybe a friendly little competition was what he needed to get his life in order.
He guessed Kayland would even approve of that thought