Beautiful Boy

By: Leddy Harper

Prologue




December 2000





A massive iron gate blocked his driveway from the road, and I stood in front of it, completely awestruck as I waited for it to open. I knew Nolan Richards had money, but this went beyond any amount I could have ever imagined. It seemed too much…too flashy. And I made a promise to myself right then and there—if I ever possessed as much money as the Richards, I would never flaunt it the way they did.

The thought was so ridiculous it made me laugh. No way would I ever have as much money as the Richards. Nolan’s father, Douglas Richards, was a US Senator, and if you believed the rumors, he aspired to put his name in the hat for the next presidential race. The man had more money than God. More power, too.

The gate slowly opened and I walked through, waving to my mom as she drove away. I silently questioned myself again as to why I had agreed to come here. It wasn’t like Nolan and I were friends. Quite the opposite, actually. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he didn’t even know my name. But when Mr. Connolly paired us together for a project in our photography class, Nolan suggested I come to his house. Taking in the intimidating monstrosity before me, it was now a decision I regretted.

I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans and moved forward. My heart thundered in my chest, beating erratically against my ribcage. In minutes, I’d be up close and personal with the hottest guy in school, in his house, alone.

The large, wooden front door opened, and there stood the heartthrob of Jacobson High, Nolan Richards. My mouth went dry as I took him in. He leaned against the doorframe, sans shirt and only a pair of jeans slung low on his hips. His brown hair was mused and his eyes lingered on me. The way his gaze appraised me left my body prickling with excitement and fear.

“Ready to get started, Novah?” His deep voice echoed through the marbled entryway outside the front door. It bounced off the stone around him and enveloped me like a blanket, cocooning me in its warmth.

I walked closer to him, hoping my shaky legs weren’t evident with every step I took. “What do you have in mind?” I immediately regretted the question, knowing it made me sound pathetic.

But it’s exactly what I was—pathetic.

Invisible.

He smiled and the brilliance of it blinded me, clearing any useful thought from my brain. “Well, we’re supposed to find the beauty in something. I figured we’d start in the back yard. My mom has lots of plants and flowers. I’m sure there are butterflies or birds or some other kind of shit back there we could make pretty on film.”

I hiked my camera bag higher on my shoulder and followed him inside. My breath caught in my throat as I glanced around. I had never seen anything like it. Elaborate marble covered the floor, ornate mirrors and pictures lined the walls, and expensive-looking furniture filled the rooms. The crisp white couches and chairs seemed to have the sole purpose of decoration, and I bet not one person had ever sat on any of them. Chandeliers and fancy light fixtures hung above me, giving the space a soft glow, despite the natural afternoon sun shining in through the windows. The light hit the crystal chandeliers perfectly, making them glitter across the room like thousands of exquisitely crafted rainbows.

“Did you want anything to drink before we get started? I’m not sure what all we have, but I know we do have Coke.” His words interrupted my gawking and I shook my head, too nervous to drink anything in front of him.

Maybe I had judged Nolan wrong. Yes, he was popular, had the cheerleaders hanging all over him, seemed cocky in his better-than-thou swagger as he strutted up and down the halls at school, but right now, in front of me, he seemed nice. Genuine. Not at all like the asshole I had pegged him to be.

“Okay, well, my camera is already on the patio waiting. I’m ready when you are,” he said, leading me to the back door.

I placed my bag on a table outside and pulled out my own camera. It was nothing fancy, but it did the trick. I had saved up money for an entire year to buy it, and it was my most prized possession. However, it was inferior to the professional SLR Nolan had casually draped around his neck. I guess it hadn’t been a bad thing that Mr. Connolly had chosen him to be my partner. If one good thing came from this, at least it would be a decent grade.

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