Cerberus by M.E. Clayton

Chapter 1

Ross~

My phone was on silent, but I knew it was lighting up like a sonofabitch. While Banks was always calling and texting me, he knew my senior year at Hales University was going to be different. He knew that I was going to be under pressure like never before. Still, from the way he’s been calling me these past few days, he’s either forgotten or didn’t care.

My bet was on the latter.

Being a Carmichael wasn’t an easy thing to do. The last name came with a mountain of restrictions, conditions, and demands. From birth, our lives have revolved around a series of agendas and obligations, and the weight of being a Carmichael wasn’t going to lessen any time soon.

My father was Mitchel Carmichael, but everyone knew him as U.S. Senator Mitchel Carmichael, and he never let us forget it. My mother was Margaret Carmichael, and she was exactly what you’d expect her to be as a senator’s wife. She was the perfect socialite and social crusader for my father’s political agendas. So, yeah, being a Carmichael wasn’t easy.

However, I’ve always been up to the task.

My brother, Banks, not so much.

Last year, he’d come out as gay, and my parents had not taken it well. In fact, for all of my father’s commercial bullshit, he’d been quick to disown Banks the second that he realized that my brother had been serious about his sexual orientation. It was one of the bravest things that I’ve ever seen my younger brother do, but it had also been the stupidest.

Banks was two years younger than I was at only nineteen, and while I’d been proud of him for standing up for himself and sticking to his convictions, he could have waited two more years before coming out. If he could have just waited until I had graduated from college, he wouldn’t be in the mess that he was in now.

While I had my own money, I still answered to my parents. My life’s plan was to go into politics, but I didn’t want to become one of many. I wanted to run the country, and everyone knew that a run-of-the-mill senator didn’t do that. You needed to be the Speaker of the House. You needed to be the Secretary of State. You needed to be the Federal Reserve Chairman. My father was just a senator, and my plan was to exceed even all that he’s accomplished.

To guarantee that, I needed my membership in The Order of the Cronus to go off without a hitch. While I didn’t relish being beholden to anyone, even I knew that I needed help to get where I was heading. The Order could help me do that, and I was counting on it.

However, my brother was jeopardizing that with all his fucking drama. If he had just waited until after I had graduated, my membership would have been cemented, and my parents wouldn’t matter at that point. I would have been able to help Banks without the threat of my father coming down on my head. My money would be all mine-free and clear-and he would have had no say in how I chose to help my brother.

Banks hadn’t waited, though.

He’d been in his feelings, had blurted out his secret, and has been getting into various kinds of trouble ever since our parents disowned him.

Privately, Banks had been disowned in the coldest act that I’ve ever seen.

Publicly, Banks had mental health issues that my parents were exploiting for the sympathy votes.

Still, I loved my brother, and though I wasn’t responsible for what he got himself into, I couldn’t be just another person who’s abandoned him. Sure, he was drama. Sure, it was of his own making. Sure, he was ungrateful.

However, he was still my little brother.

With the ceremony finally over, I went to congratulate Stone. “Congratulations, man.”

He grinned. “Thanks.”

“I hate to eat and run, but I got my brother blowing up my phone,” I told him honestly. It wasn’t like he didn’t know about Banks. Well, he didn’t know that he’d been disowned for being gay, but he knew I had major shit with him. They all knew. Well, all, except August Remington. Stone, Saxton, and Fox were a different breed, and I trusted them. If I were going to go into The Order as a member, there were no better men to join it with me than Stone, Saxton, and Fox.

“I understand,” he replied. “It’s not like this is a festive occasion anyway.”

I grinned. “Oh, c’mon, Lexington,” I chuckled. “You got the girl, didn’t you?”

His eyes darted over to where his bride was laughing with her wedding party, and the look in them said it all. When he looked back at me, he said, “That, I did.”

I knew it wasn’t that he was upset about marrying Rylee. In fact, he’d practically forced the poor girl to marry him, so that wasn’t the cause behind his grated remark. They’d gone through some shit to get to this point, and Stone was marrying her in a hurriedly fashion, so that nothing could ever come between them again. While Rylee didn’t seem upset to be getting married at midnight in casual wear, Stone was very aware that she wasn’t getting the grand wedding that most girls dreamed about.

“Well, I gotta go,” I repeated. “I’ll meet up with you guys tomorrow, yeah?”

Stone nodded. “I’ll let the others know that you had to leave.”

“Thanks.” I turned to leave but stopped. “Hey, Stone?”

“Yeah?”

“You know that we’re not going to let anything happen to her, right?”

His back straightened as he gave me a tight nod. “I do.”

“As long as you know,” I finished before heading out of the church.

The second that my feet hit the sidewalk, I pulled my phone out, and there were seven missed calls from Banks, and six text notifications. I cursed under my breath as I made my way to my white Koenigsegg Regera.

I called Banks back, and he answered on the first ring. “It’s about fucking time.”

A lot of people said that I had the patience of a saint, and for the most part, I did. I wasn’t big on flying off the handle. I preferred having shit work out in my favor, and patience played a big part in making that happen. I knew my road to becoming a powerful political player was going to take some time, and I was prepared for that.

However, dealing with my brother had a way of testing that patience I was so proud of. “Are you serious?” I snapped. “It’s past one in the morning, Banks. Why would you think that I’d be awake to answer your phone call any-damn-way?”

“Well, you’re answering it, aren’t you?” he tossed back, and I had to close my eyes and take a deep breath.

“What do you want, Banks?” I finally asked. “What is so goddamn important that you’re calling me at this time of the night?”

“I need some money,” he answered shamelessly.

It was always money.

“Then get a fucking job,” I replied. “How many times are we going to go over this?”

“I do have a job, asshole,” he sniffed. “It doesn’t pay me enough.”

Banks was supposedly working as a nightclub host, and from what he’s told me about it, the pay should be enough to pay his bills. Especially, considering that he shared an apartment with a roommate. So, if he needed money, it was because he was partying and spending his paychecks on dick and drugs.

“You said it did,” I reminded him. “The last time we spoke, you told me that you’d found a great job that paid you plenty. So, what’s changed?”

Banks was silent for a bit, more than likely hating that I remembered that part of our conversation and regretting that he’d ever told me that detail. Finally, he said, “I went over my budget this month.”

“Your budget, Banks? Really?” I deadpanned.

“I just need a couple of thousand,” he said, ignoring my sarcasm. “It’s not like you don’t have it, Ross.”

The way he said a couple of thousand burned my gut. He said it as if it was an insignificant amount of money, and it wasn’t. Sure, my family had billions, what with my mother’s inheritance, but that didn’t mean I didn’t know the value of a dollar. I had more money than any twenty-one-year-old student should have, but that didn’t mean I was a dick about it.

I debated not giving it to him, but I didn’t need him distracting me from all the shit that was going on right now. “I’ll send it over,” I told him. “But after that, I need you to handle your own shit, Banks. You know I got a lot of stuff going on right now.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he replied flippantly. “The Order and everything.” I could hear the resentment loud and clear. “Mom and Dad must be so proud.”

I hung up on the entitled asshole.

I didn’t need this shit.