The Design (A Heart Novel)

by R.S. Grey


Five Years Earlier

Grayson watched the lights dance above his head. Neon blue, green, pink. He was two drinks past sober and the club’s lights were starting to become more interesting than the dancers below.

Brooklyn took a seat beside him and he nudged her with his shoulder.

“How ya holding up, champ?” he asked, eyeing the young pop star as if she were about to pass out on the spot.

Everyone else had deserted them for the dance floor a few minutes earlier, so he hoped she’d speak the truth for once.

“Fine,” she said.

He nudged her again, a little harder this time.

“I’m really worried about my sister,” she said, hiding her face against her shoulder.

Before Grayson spoke, he surveyed the crowd around them. They were the young Hollywood type: sons and daughters of media moguls. The most they had to worry about in a day was whether they wanted their $8 coffee with or without an extra shot of espresso. Not Brooklyn.

After she lost her parents at eighteen, she’d become the sole guardian of her little sister, Cammie. It was obvious that she felt the weight of that burden every day, even though it’d been nearly ten years since their death.

“What’s wrong with her?” Grayson asked. The few times he’d been around Brooklyn’s little sister he’d seen a wild streak lurking beneath the surface. She was beautiful and sharp; there was no denying it. Something about her had Grayson enamored from the very start—a fact he tried to deny every time she slipped into his thoughts.

“I have a lot of people supporting me—my managers, my assistants, and my friends—but it seems like Cammie has no one. She ditched her old friends one by one after our parents’ accident and I’m just scared that I’m not enough for her.” By that point, tears were slipping down Brooklyn’s cheeks and Grayson wrestled with how to best console her. They were just friends, nothing more, but he’d known her for years and it still hurt to see her upset.

Brooklyn turned to him with determination in her eyes. “She’s so smart, Grayson. She wants to study architecture, just like you did, but I think it might be too late. She’s been so... unfocused these past few years.”

Grayson nodded, already appraising the answer starting to claw its way to the front of his thoughts. Immediately following their parents’ car accident, he had thought about stepping in to help Brooklyn and Cammie, but he hadn’t had the resources to affect any real change. Now things were different. He had the connections to really make a difference in Cammie’s life.

A few drinks later, Grayson’s mind was made up. He’d step in and help Cammie. He told himself that he was doing it for the right reasons, though deep down he knew that not to be true. He wanted to be close to Cammie any way that he could, but taking advantage of a young, vulnerable girl wasn’t something his morality would let him get away with. To keep temptation at bay, he made a pact with himself to help Cammie from afar and keep his distance whenever possible.

Even with the utmost precautions in place, he knew his morality was bound to fail him one day. After all, the moral high ground does get awfully lonely.

Chapter One


I dreamed of leaving. I dreamed of filling a giant backpack with the essentials (my sketchbook and my favorite Black Keys album) and setting off for destinations unknown.

I was one week out of college, where I’d completed a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program in architecture. After all the long nights, I wanted to change gears and travel, finally check off a destination or two on my bucket list.

I already had a plan in place. I just had to work long enough to save up a little nest egg. From my calculations—assuming I didn’t turn to prostituting myself in Europe—I’d need to work for about three months before I could purchase a one-way ticket to Paris.

Technically, I didn’t need to save at all. My parents had left Brooklyn and I with plenty of money after the car accident, but I hadn’t touched my portion yet, and I wouldn’t. I wanted to board that plane to Paris knowing that I was doing it completely on my own.

While my plan seemed to be coming together, I had no clue what I’d do with myself once I actually got to Paris. There was a 50% chance that I’d immediately cave and fly back home… right back into Brooklyn’s waiting arms.

Brooklyn was my big sister, mother, father, sidekick, best friend, and most importantly, my security blanket. She didn’t know about my plan to leave for Paris, but there was no way around the deceit. If she found out that I was planning to move across the world, she’d lock me up inside of her condo. (Which, for the record, wouldn’t be that bad. She had satellite TV and her fridge was always stocked with fancy cheeses.)