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Home > The Billionaire's Christmas (The Sinclairs 0.5)

The Billionaire's Christmas (The Sinclairs 0.5)
Author: J.S. Scott

PROLOGUE

Boston, Massachusetts ~ December 22, 2000

Grady Sinclair pushed a stray lock of hair from his eyes impatiently, straightened his glasses with a frown, and then resumed tapping at lightning speed over the computer keyboard in front of him. He was so close, so very close to solving the problem that he’d been wrestling with on this Internet project. He could feel it, and his intuition always made him doggedly driven to solve the puzzle. In fact, being involved in computer projects was about the only place he felt at home, able to forget that he was imperfect, and so much less than his parents wanted him to be.

“I thought I told you to get your stupid ass downstairs and join the party!” a furious male voice exploded from the doorway of his bedroom, causing Grady to flinch.

Grady froze at the sound of his father’s displeasure, although he really should be used to it by now. When it came to his second-born son, Martin Sinclair was always disapproving, and usually downright hostile. “I’m working on something important,” he answered his father quietly and carefully, his stomach dropping to his feet because he already knew what his father was going to say.

The large, gray-haired man folded him arms in front of him, his face red with fury. “Every member of this family attends the Sinclair annual Christmas party. Your sister and brothers are doing their duty, while you’re up here hiding away like a coward, an embarrassment to the whole Sinclair name, as usual. My son, the idiot, is not at our party because he’s too dim-witted to have a conversation. That’s what people are saying.” Martin stopped to take a wheezing breath before adding, “You’ll show yourself downstairs now and try to act like a Sinclair.”

Grady tried not to flinch again as he met his father’s cold, gray-eyed stare, eyes so very much like his own. “I don’t like parties,” he stated flatly, knowing it went much deeper than that, but he wasn’t about to try to explain. His father had never understood him, and he never would.

“I don’t give a shit about what you like and don’t like. No son of mine is going to be an idiot and a coward. Man up and do what’s expected of you,” his father growled. “Downstairs. Five minutes. And try not to act like a fool for a change.” Martin Sinclair turned around and left without another word.

Grady let out a huge sigh, glad that his father was hosting the annual Christmas party and probably didn’t have more time to rake him over the coals for not being the man he wanted all of his sons to be.

Martin Sinclair wanted every one of his children to be just like him, and Grady knew he was . . . different. He didn’t want to be, but he was, and at the age of eighteen, he knew he’d never be like his father.

Walking to his closet, Grady pulled out a suit and tie, shucking his jeans and T-shirt to put on the more formal clothing. Nothing less than a suit and tie would do, and if he couldn’t act like a Sinclair, at least he would dress like one.

The Sinclair annual Christmas party was something he dreaded every year. And by the age of eighteen, he’d attended a lot of them, every one of them torture. He knew his sister and brothers would rally around him for support. His father would say cutting, degrading things, especially as the evening wore on and Martin Sinclair drank more and more alcohol. His father was a mean drunk, even nastier than when he was sober, which wasn’t very often. His mother would be the perfect hostess, just like she always was, never naysaying his father. She never did. She was probably as terrified of his father as her children were, but if she was, she never let on. Her plastic smile would stay affixed to her mouth like it was painted on, a smile that would never quite reach her eyes. Sometimes Grady wondered if his mother was really happy. It was hard to tell.

The Sinclairs were old money, and as high in social status as a family could get. His older brother, Evan, was already off to Harvard, home only for Christmas break. Grady envied him, and was counting the days until he could leave for college. Honestly, if he were Evan, he wasn’t sure he would come home for breaks at all. Maybe he could make up reasons why he had to stay on campus when he went to college, avoid the humiliation that always occurred at the Christmas parties. The thing was, Evan didn’t feel the same revulsion that Grady did over parties and gatherings. In fact, Grady was pretty sure that Evan was probably downstairs charming every person at the party. His brother might not be enjoying himself, but Evan could put on the Sinclair demeanor at will, a trait that Grady admired but couldn’t seem to master. All of his siblings could act the part of a proper Sinclair, a talent that Grady would give his right testicle to have. Hell, maybe he’d give up both of them if he could get relief from his father’s constant criticism. Grimacing, Grady cupped his genitals, thinking about losing both of his balls. Okay, maybe not that. He was an eighteen-year-old guy, and that part of his anatomy seemed pretty critical right now. But he’d give almost anything to not be the atypical Sinclair in his family. If he could just fit in, he wouldn’t draw anyone’s notice.

I’m the odd one out, the disappointing Sinclair.

Grady looked in the full-length mirror, straightening his tie and trying to finger-comb his unruly raven hair into place. He was tall, gangly, and awkward, not yet accustomed to how fast his body had grown in the last two years. He thought about taking off his glasses because then he might not look like such a nerd, and maybe if he couldn’t see, it might help block out some of the condescending looks from his father and the guests. But then he’d be stumbling around, unable to see things clearly, which would probably make him look that much more clumsy and stupid. He shook his head, knowing his fear was showing in his eyes, and he hated himself for it. If he could see his own terror in the mirror, he knew everyone else would notice it.

I can do this. I can do this. I do it every year.

Grady stiffened his spine and walked through his bedroom door, the noise of the party assaulting him as he descended the stairs.

His palms grew moist and he swallowed hard, trying to dislodge the lump in his throat as he advanced closer to the crowd, a horde of people who he barely knew. And, as usual, they would be unforgiving, laughing at his bizarre behavior, pitying his father for having a pathetic son. His father only mingled with people who had status and wealth, and for the most part, they were as artificial as his father was, and many were just as cruel.

Why do I have to be different? Why can’t I just fit in?

Grady could feel his heart thundering against his chest wall, and he tried to control his rapid breathing, willing himself to take slow, deep breaths.

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