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Black Ties and White Lies: Chapter 51


I dodge a few people offering congratulations as I search for Beck. When he’d ran off at first, I hadn’t been too worried. I figured he was set off by Carter showing up. Now I’m not so sure.

My steps are quick as I walk the perimeter of the party, smiling at people I’ve never met before as they tell me how happy they are for Beck and me. Most of these people were invited by Beck. I recognize some from work, but for the most part, it’s all new faces stopping me for a quick chat as I look for my fiancé.

After not finding Beck anywhere in the grand ballroom, I search the small rooms that connect to the main room. I come up empty handed, having no idea where he ended up. My last-ditch effort is to search the outside terrace after I don’t find him out front on the stairs.

I step out onto the terrace. It’s eerily quiet. My arms wrap around my middle, trying to keep myself warm in the frigid air. I should’ve grabbed my coat from the coat check, but I hadn’t expected to be out in the air for long enough to need one.

I loop around a corner, disappointed when I don’t see him anywhere. Turning around, I decide to go back inside to the party and wait for him to find me. He probably had to end up taking a work call or something like that. There has to be a reason he left me alone at the party far longer than the five minutes he’d originally told me.

A pair of cold hands grab my arms as I walk straight into a warm chest.

“Woah there. Careful, Margo,” Carter says, his hands holding my biceps tightly.

I try to pull free from his grip, but it’s too tight. Deciding not to cause a scene, or set him off, I allow his hands to stay where they are, no matter how uncomfortable they make me.

“Hi, Carter.” I greet him calmly, trying to keep my voice steady even though there’s an unhinged look in his eyes as he glares down at me. I can smell alcohol on his breath. It wafts around us. My eyes look over his shoulder, searching for any other person on the terrace. I come up empty, completely alone with my appearing to be drunk and angry ex-boyfriend.

“What are you doing out here alone?” There’s a slight slur to his words, but less than I was expecting by the smell surrounding us. Maybe he hasn’t had as much to drink as I’d originally thought.

I attempt to take a step away from him, trying to put some distance between our bodies, but he doesn’t allow it. For every step I take backward, he takes one forward, keeping a tight grip on me.

“I was just looking for Beck.” I manage to pull one arm from him, his fingers staying locked around my other bicep. Reaching up, I move hair from my face so I can see him better.

His eyes flash when he zeroes in on my hand. Before I can even register the sudden rage in his gaze, he’s grabbing my hand and pulling it to his face.

“No he didn’t,” he spits. He inspects the ring on my finger, sliding his thumb over the large diamond.

I try to pull my hand, but his icy hands won’t let me. They’ve got a viselike hold on my fingers. “You already knew we were engaged, Carter. I didn’t think you’d care. You cheated on me for years, remember?”

Carter laughs. It’s cold and daunting, making my spine shiver in fear. It’s a sound I’ve never heard from him. “This is our grandmother’s ring. Did he tell you that?”

My lips part. He hadn’t told me that at all. I’d thought it was something he’d designed himself. Not a family heirloom.

“He didn’t,” he notes, answering his own question. He clicks his tongue, throwing my hands down roughly.

I scurry backwards, relieved he’s no longer touching me.

“How do you know?” I ask, my voice hoarse with nerves.

“My grandfather showed it to us all the time. He’d told us all about how he fell in love with our grandmother. He’d been devastated when she passed away when I was in middle school. From that moment on, he told us that the first woman to steal one of our hearts would have the honor of wearing the ring.”

I fight the urge to play with the ring, to inspect it with new eyes. Why would Beck give me something so meaningful if the engagement was supposed to be fake all along?

I’m at a loss for what to say back. Beck never told me that the ring was sentimental. I hadn’t ever even asked—the thought never crossed my mind that it could be. It doesn’t make sense why he’d give me something so special for something that’s meant to be fake. I don’t say any of this out loud. Even though my head is reeling, I have my head on straight enough to know that I shouldn’t admit anything to Carter and jeopardize everything falling apart.

“It seems there’s a lot he hasn’t told you, Margo.”

He unbuttons the first few buttons of his wrinkled dress shirt. It brings attention to how disheveled he looks.

“Are you okay, Carter?” No matter how much he hurt me in the past, I still care about him. Seeing him like this hurts. Through the years we dated I never saw him look so…tortured.

He laughs again, this time louder, the sound bouncing off the stone exterior wall. It’s ominous. My heart beats erratically in fear.

“You’re asking the wrong fucking question. Ask me what he hasn’t told you.” He smiles sinisterly. “C’mon. I know you want to.”

I shake my head, trying to stay calm. If I were to try to walk around him, would he let me? Any other time, I’d be confident that he wouldn’t hurt me. But there’s unrest in his eyes I’ve never seen before. It makes me hesitant to do anything sudden.

Why can’t someone come out here and find us?

Goosebumps pop up all over my skin thanks to the chill in the air and the ice in Carter’s eyes. “You’re not making any sense, Carter.”

“He’s been lying to you.”

“Why don’t we go inside and talk about this?” I brave trying to step around him, giving him a wide berth. He quickly reaches out and grabs me once again, bringing my body flush to his.

His fingertips press so deep into my forearm it hurts. “You’re hurting me,” I cry.

“We’ll go inside when I’ve said what I wanted to say,” he hisses.

I nod, trying to keep the tears that are well up in my eyes at bay. I swore I’d never shed another tear for Carter Sinclair, but this shouldn’t count. The tears are from fear, from the unease at the unhinged look on his face.

“Tell me,” I plead, my voice trembling. I’m willing to do whatever it takes at this point if it means he’ll let go. Or better, that he’ll let us go back inside where we won’t be alone.

Where is Beck?

“How did the two of you even start a relationship?”

“I was—or am—his assistant. After working long hours and nights together, it just hap—”

“Lies!” he shouts, shaking my body against his. “You know that’s a lie, don’t you?”

A tear runs down my cheek as I look at the man I loved for years. For all the ways he betrayed me, we still had some great times together. The late night study sessions at the library where he’d feed me snacks because my hands were dirty from shading my drawings. The nights we danced the night away with our group of friends, the two of us racing to see who could hail a cab home quicker. Even after finding out how deep his betrayals cut, he still took center stage in some of my favorite memories.

There’s not a hint of those happy times in his eyes right now. They’re black, a deep void as his lips press into a thin line as he stares coldly back at me. The Carter I thought I knew is all but gone.

“I don’t understand,” I answer, trying to keep my voice as level as possible despite the fear taking over my body. My legs shake, and one more tug of my arm by him will send my pulse spiraling. “I’m not lying, Carter.” I am lying, but there’s no way he could know that. Plus, it’s only a half lie. The truth is, I did develop feelings for Beckham in the late nights we spent together, the constant work meetings and time spent in his penthouse. All of that led to me falling for him. It really isn’t a lie at all.

“Do you remember when we first met?”

I nod my head, trying to keep up with the conversation we’re having. He’s going from one topic to the next, making it extremely difficult to follow his train of thought. “Of course I do,” I answer. “Why?”

He wipes at his face with the back of his forearm, letting out a low laugh. “Because my brother is the one that saw you first that night.”

My head rocks back and forth as I stare at him in confusion. “What?” I try to think back to that night, to that bar, but I don’t recall Beck even being there that night. “You’re not making any sense.”

“Beckham had offered for my friends and I to join him and his friends that night at the bar. I’d said what the hell. Him and I weren’t close, but we knew it’d make our parents happy to know we went out together.”

I wait silently, trying to fit the pieces of his story together. There’s no way Beckham was there that night. I would’ve remembered him there. Wouldn’t I?

“It was just you,” I finally manage to get out.

His fingers tighten around me angrily. “No, it wasn’t. I just made you think it was.”

My eyebrows pinch together as I stare into the dark abyss of his eyes. The smell of vodka permeating from his mouth makes me want to vomit, the multiple glasses of champagne and the small hors d’oeuvres I snacked on are not settling well in my stomach.

“I hadn’t even noticed you that night until I noticed him watching you. You were chugging beers with those dumb friends of yours. I’d been having an argument with my buddy about a class we were both taking when I noticed Beckham staring at something. I’d never seen something catch his eye. When I followed his gaze, he was staring at you.”

That isn’t possible. The first time we ever met, the first time he ever saw me, had to have been when Carter took me home to The Hamptons.

“Carter.” My voice trembles, his name coming out shaky and unsure.

He reaches up and pushes hair from my face. The feel of his fingertips against my skin has me feeling sick. I hate it. I want to get out of here, to get far away from this man who isn’t acting like the man I once loved.

“In that moment I knew he wanted you. And I hated my brother. I hated how successful he was. How proud my father was of him. I’d never be able to measure up to him. So I got to you first. It was obvious how interested he was in you. I wanted to take something from him. I’d never have my own company—but I could have you.”

Words fail me. He seems drunk. He could be making all of this up, but it doesn’t seem that way. Not with the taunt in his tone, in the way he watches me with morbid satisfaction with telling me that information.

I try to process what he’s saying, what his words mean. Is he telling the truth? “You don’t know he wanted me,” I accuse, grasping for straws at this point. I don’t know why it even matters to begin with. Does he just want to be able to say he stole the woman his brother noticed first? It seems extremely petty and irrelevant because in the end, Beckham still got me.

“Oh, I did. I could tell. He wanted you bad. I wanted to hurt him more.”

“Why does any of that matter now?”

“It matters because you should know that Beckham lied to you.”


‘Did you see the woman I showed up with tonight? The hot blonde in the blue dress?”

I think I hear the sound of footsteps behind him, but no one appears before us. Disappointment settles deep in my bones. For a brief moment, I had hope that this confrontation was going to be over.

“Did you?” Carter raises his voice, making me flinch.

“Yes,” I yelp.

“Do you know who she is?”

I shake my head, my tongue feeling heavy with nerves.

“She’s the top reporter for a gossip site. She knows everything about everyone.”

“Good for her,” I respond in defeat. At this point I have no idea where any of this is going, what he’s trying to achieve with the boomerang of questions.

“She told me something about that fiancé of yours that I think you’d want to know.”

Maybe he knows why Beck and I became engaged in the first place. I don’t know how he or she could’ve found out about the agreement, but I guess it’s possible. I keep my mouth shut, however, in case that’s not where he’s going with this.

“I’m sorry, Carter,” I apologize, walking on eggshells with his turbulent mood right now. “I don’t know where you’re going with any of this.”

“You might know her for the article she ran on him. The one with all the women. I’m sure you saw it.”

“I’ve heard about it.”

“Did you know that Beckham paid Ruby to run it?”

My body goes absolutely still with shock. I couldn’t have heard him correctly. That’d make no sense. That article was the entire reason Beck was pressured by his board to clean up his image. There’s no way he’d be the one to run it in the first place.

My teeth dig into my lip as I try and think of a response. I don’t believe Carter’s delusions, but he also doesn’t seem to be in a stable state of mind. It probably wouldn’t be the best idea to tell him he’s wrong.

“Why would he do that?”

Carter clicks his tongue disapprovingly. He taps my forehead. “You’re smarter than this, Margo. Think. What happened after that article ran on Beck?”

I hold my tongue. I know exactly what happened. After that article ran, Beck was told by his board he needed to clean up his image or they’d risk losing investors. I knew all of this. It’s the entire reason Beck came to me to begin with. But why would Beck ever want it to run in the first place?

He grabs me by the shoulders, bringing his face inches from mine. “You can cut the act. I know that Beck told you he needed a fake fiancée after that article ran to get the board off his back. He deceived you, Margo. The only reason the board was ever after him was because of him. He found a way for him to finally have you and he took it.”

“No,” I whisper, suddenly feeling dizzy. I don’t know if it’s from fear, shock, or the alcohol, but it feels like I’m moments away from passing out.

“He schemed to get you. He hated knowing that I ever had you, from the moment he first saw you at the bar. All of this was him trying to get back at me. He’s been obsessed with it from the moment we met. He doesn’t give a shit about you. It’s always been that he was jealous I got to you first. He never forgave me for that.”

My heart pounds in my chest as I feel like I could throw up. Too much is happening at once. I don’t want to believe a word he’s saying, but I can’t help but question everything now.

“You can ask Ruby if you want,” Carter adds, pulling me against him.

His breath hits my face. We’re way too close. He’s too much in my personal space.

“I need a moment,” I beg, pushing against his chest. If anything, it backfires. He takes it as a sign that I want him closer.

He grabs my face, our bodies flush against one another. “Take me back, Margo. Fuck him. It’s never been about you for him. He won’t love you the way I love you. He’s incapable of it.”

Tears stream my face as I shake my head at him. “Carter, no.”

It’s sickening how one hand holds me so tight it’s painful while the other strokes the hair in my face delicately. “I won’t ever hurt you again. I love you. It’s supposed to be us.”

I try to turn my head to look away from him. He’s delusional. I don’t know what’s true when it comes to what he’s accusing Beck of, but even if everything he’s saying that I hope to be false actually is true, I still can’t be with him. I have no desire to.

I don’t love him anymore.

“I can’t.” My voice breaks. I hate it. He was never supposed to have power over me again. I’d already cried enough over him, yet here I am, falling apart in his grasp.

He roughly grabs my jaw, forcing me to look at him again. “You will,” he seethes, his eyes flicking to my lips.

No, no, no.

I attempt to push him off one more time, but it’s no use. He’s much stronger than I am. His lips press to mine angrily, his tongue swiping over my lips aggressively. I almost throw up, my hands punching at his chest to get him off me.

It doesn’t work. It fuels him as he assaults my mouth with his. Not knowing what to do, I bite down on his lip, doing anything to get him away from me.

“You bitch!” he hisses, pulling away and grabbing at his bleeding lip.

I run. Not looking back at him as I stumble on my heels, running toward the doors. He yells after me, but I don’t stop until I run right into Beck.

“Margo?” he asks worriedly.

I bury my face against him, letting out a large sob as his arms pull me into his body.

“What is it, baby? You’re worrying me.”

I hiccup, rocking my face back and forth against him. “Carter, he—”

Beck’s entire body tenses as he tenderly cups my face. A horrified look crosses his face. “Where is he?”

I don’t have to answer him because something over my shoulder catches his eye. Not something. Someone.

“If you fucking touched her,” Beck seethes, pulling me into his chest and shielding Carter from my view.

“She fucking bit me.”

A loud growl comes from Beck’s throat. “What I’ll do to you is much fucking worse.”

“No,” I plead, just wanting to leave. To not cause a scene in front of all the people here for the engagement party. “I just want to leave.”

Beck doesn’t seem to hear me. He’s busy glaring over the top of my head at his brother.

“Beck,” I plead, grabbing the lapels of his suit to get him to look at me. “I want you to take me home. Now.”

His shoulders rise and fall in a deep exhale. The tips of his fingers twitch against my neck as he opens his mouth to speak. “We’re not done here,” he threatens. “You’re lucky my fist isn’t already shoved down your throat.”

I cry, shaking my head. I look underneath his arm to find all of our guests watching us closely—too closely. Plastering on a fake smile, I try to get my shit together.

I will not fall apart here. I take a calming breath, pulling away from Beck. He doesn’t let me go far. His hand stays firm on my back as I make eye contact with those watching us closely. “I’m suddenly not feeling well,” I tell the bystanders. If it were just me standing here, they might actually believe me from all the blood that has drained from my face, but with Carter’s bleeding lip and Beck’s angry scowl, there’s no mistaking something else is happening here.

Emma shoulders through a cluster of people, her eyes pinned on me. She doesn’t look at a single soul as she bounds toward me, a determined set to her shoulders. “Mar,” she says softly. “Are you okay?”

I look at Beck, unable to wonder if Carter’s words were lies or not. “I’ll take her home,” he announces to the crowd.

“Are you okay with that?” Emma asks cautiously. Winnie stops next to her, watching me with anxious eyes.

I nod up and down, leaning slightly into Beck. I need to know that Carter lied about everything. That us getting in a fake engagement wasn’t part of some elaborate scheme of his to get revenge on his brother.

My stomach sinks all over again at the prospect of everything about us being even more fake than I’d already imagined.

We exchange goodbyes with those needed. Beck talking for me the entire time as I try to get my breathing even again.

When we slide into the car to go home, I melt into Beck’s arms instantly. I have so many questions for him. But for a few minutes, I want to take comfort in his embrace. I want to pretend none of that just happened, and that Carter hadn’t just thrown out accusations that could change everything.


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