Raider Ennis straightened his tie, then pinned it neatly with the knock-off Bvulgari clip he hoped no one would realize was a fake. Unlike the other guests at Jordan LeHorne’s viewing party, Raider was hovering on dirt-poor. His suit and shoes were rentals, and he’d winced as he’d paid for a decent haircut.
But, he’d done what he’d had to. God knew someone had to get the goods on LeHorne.
Raider gave himself one more glance in the mirror. He looked okay, which was the best he could hope for. The man in the reflection was just… weird. Raider wrinkled his nose at himself. He was certain everyone at LeHorne’s would spot him for a fraud right off the bat.
Thanks to social media, Raider had managed to find what he hoped was a real photo of an invitation to LeHorne’s, and he’d made a perfect copy of it.
Jared LeHorne’s youngest son, Mogul LeHorne, had invited his friends, which meant most of his fraternity, to the viewing.
Mogul. Raider laughed, as he always did when he thought of that name, because who named their kids such weird shit? Rich people, apparently. Mogul’s brothers were Emperor and Tycoon, and his sisters were Sovereign, Majesty and of course, Queen.
Raider was just named after his dad’s favorite football team. And when shortened, after bug spray. He winced.
Tonight, he wasn’t Raider Ennis. Tonight, he was Sascha Tolvec. He just hoped he remembered that.
“Are you going to come to your senses and give up on this crazy plan?”
Raider glared at his roommate and best friend, Chellie. “No, and it’s not a crazy plan.” It was, but he’d die before admitting it.
Chellie rolled her eyes so hard it was a miracle they didn’t slip back behind her brain. “Right,” she drawled, idly scratching at her ribs. “Because sneaking into a party at some reclusive, nutty billionaire’s mansion isn’t insane enough, add in the fact that a shit-ton of guys from the snooty fraternity will be there. The chances of you going unrecognized—“ Chellie stopped and looked him up and down, then she shrugged. “Eh. The haircut helps, and ditching the facial fungus did too.”
“Hey,” Raider protested, touching his chin. “It took me years to grow that beard out!”
“Hipster,” Chellie muttered. “And if it took you years to grow that scraggly thing out, then you ought to give up on ever having a real beard.”
“Ouch.” Raider gave her his best innocent look. “Maybe I can just borrow your mustache?”
“Fuck off,” Chellie said as she tossed a couch pillow at him. “You’re just jealous.”
“Probably,” Raider agreed. “Do you really think I look like…like me?”
Chellie walked over to him and cupped his cheek. She turned his head to one side, then the other. “Maybe just because I know you,” she admitted. “With your hair short and your face shaved, you look about twelve. You have the ID I made you?”
Raider nodded. “Yes, I do. Are you ever going to tell me how you learned to do that?”
“Not hardly.” Chellie snickered and moved away from him. “Just like I won’t tell you how I hacked into the LeHorne’s invites to get you on the list. Or to get Sascha on there.”
“You had to pick Sascha,” Raider muttered. He didn’t really mind, but Chellie got a kick out of teasing him.
Chellie was smiling fit to be tied. “Damn right. That’s what best friends do.”
“Call each other Sascha?” Raider asked, tucking his hands into his slacks’ pockets. “Because we’ve bene friends a long time and never done that until just recently.”
“We’ve been best friends since second grade,” Chellie corrected, pointing at him. “When you were about to get your ass kicked by Sheila by the swings.”
Raider shivered. “Sheila was scary as hell.”
“And twice your size.” Chellie lowered her hand. “Still is. I saw her at McDonald’s last night. She must be seven feet tall.”
Whereas Raider barely hit five-seven.
“She had this chick with her and they were holding hands,” Chellie said. “Guess she moved past her homophobia.”
“We were little kids,” Raider felt compelled to say. “I don’t think it’d be fair to hold her to what she said back then any more than it would be to hold me to calling her a pregnant cow, or you calling her—“
“Yeah, the word I regret saying. Ugh. I was such a dumb kid.” Chellie flopped onto the couch. “We do tend to repeat what our parents say. The r-word was mom’s favorite, quickly followed by all racial slurs.” She closed her eyes and leaned her head back. “I know some people regret being disowned, but I thank God for it every day. Fortunately I have a fabulous aunt.”
Not everyone else was so lucky, but Raider didn’t need to mention that. Chellie knew it. She volunteered at the LGBTQ Youth Shelter three days a week.
“Misha is a fabulous aunt,” Raider agreed. “And I have to go. I want to get there before the place gets too crowded.”
“Don’t get busted,” Chellie advised. “I don’t have the money to bail you out of jail.”
Raider sincerely hoped he didn’t wind up in jail. All he was doing was some recon—and Chellie had laughed her ass off at him for calling it such.
“Got it. No getting arrested.” Raider made sure he had everything he needed, including the tiny spy camera he had tucked into his pocket.
“Yup. Just get your proof that Jared LeHorne is collecting endangered bugs, and good luck getting him prosecuted.” Chellie snorted and Raider gritted his teeth.
He knew she was right, that it’d be difficult, if not impossible, to make Jared LeHorne be held accountable for trafficking endangered species of butterflies and other insects and animals.
All of Raider’s calls and emails to the organizations and agencies dealing with such issues had been ignored. Granted, he didn’t have proof—he only had the bits of conversation he’d overheard when Mogul had been bragging to one of his friends.
It had been enough to make Raider’s stomach turn, though.
And if it took proof to get some justice, then he’d get that proof. Hopefully.
“Stay outta jail!” Chellie hollered after him as Raider left their small apartment.
Raider flinched when Mrs. Jennings opened her door and shook a finger at him.
“You better stop doing those drugs!” she warned.
Raider flung his hands up. “I don’t do drugs! I’ve told you that before, Mrs. Jennings!”
Mrs. Jennings cocked her head to the left. “Wait. Who the hell are you? I thought you were that bug-spray boy, but he has long, greasy hair and fuzz on his face that he thinks is a beard.”
“Greasy—“ Raider sputtered as Mrs. Jennings threatened to call the police on him.
The night was not looking promising so far. Raider didn’t waste more time dealing with his neighbor. He turned on his heel and rushed out of the building. Mrs. Jennings was likely to follow through on her threat, and Raider wasn’t going to be anywhere around when the cops arrived.
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