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Eden O'Neill

Pretty Like a Devil

Pretty Like a Devil

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 270 5-Star Reviews

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Thatcher Reed is unhinged. I’ve known that since he held me captive in a cabin at twelve years old. We were both left with the scars from that summer but pardon me for not having sympathy for my kidnapper.


It took years and countless therapy sessions to finally move on from Thatcher, only for me to find myself within his reach again.

I’m known all over the world for selling out concert halls and arenas, and when I receive threats on my life, I thought hiding out at Pembroke University as a student would be my solace. It ends up being the place where my previous captor hails supreme.

Thatcher’s a god to this place, whether he’s on the football field or not. He and his circle of friends are collegiate royalty, and it turns out he’s just as untouchable now as he was when we were kids. Thatcher Reed has gone from a disturbed twelve-year-old to a campus king to these people…

And he unfortunately… hasn’t forgotten me.

Warning: Pretty Like A Devil is an enemies-to-lovers, college romance. Please see the author’s website upon release for content warnings. The book is recommended for readers 18+ and is book six in Eden O’Neill’s Court Legacy series. Pretty Like A Devil is a standalone romance and can be read by itself.

Author's Note: Court Legacy is a spin-off series about the children of characters featured in Eden O'Neill's Court High and Court University series. It's not necessary to read the previously released series to enjoy Court Legacy. This is a new series that can be read completely on its own.

*Hardcover and Paperback books purchased after 1/26/24 will include author's stamped signature

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Read a Sample


Aspen - age 12

I held my legs, shaking.
Oh, please. Oh, please. Oh, please.
My eyes shut tight, “Jupiter” by Mozart playing in my head. Symphony No. 41 was always my favorite. It always helped. This entire summer it helped.
Please. Please. Please.
My nails bit into my legs, my fear a white-hot current. He wouldn’t hurt me. He didn’t hurt me.
But he did chase me.
The last time he was here he did, and when the leaves crunched outside the cabin, I hid my face in my lap. I cried. I sobbed. I just wanted my mama. I wanted my—
The door crept open, and I couldn’t even look. The fear overtook me, and I pressed myself so hard into the corner. I didn’t know what I’d do if he chased me again. I wouldn’t run again. I promised him I wouldn’t run.
I won’t run. I won’t run. I won’t run.
I rocked while I thought it. I rocked while I said it. I knew I was saying it. Over and over, I was saying it out loud, but I wasn’t sure if he could even hear me. I was crying too loud, my wails too loud.
He’ll get mad.
I tried to silence myself, but as the floorboards of the small cabin creaked beneath me, I wasn’t sure I could. He was getting closer. He was…
“Please. I won’t run. I won’t run. I won’t—”
I jumped when a hand touched me, my voice instantly cutting off. In fact, I slammed into the wall so hard a searing pain shot into my shoulder. I groaned, gripping my arm, but even still, I couldn’t look at him. I just sobbed.
My head shot up. It wasn’t his voice but someone else’s. That someone else was my mama, and I leaped from the floor, my body shaking.
Mom grabbed me, burying me in the ruffles of her dress. She was crying too, and she didn’t cry.
“Baby girl. My baby.” Tear trails ran down her dark cheeks, her hands gripping me, my locs. My mama was crying, really crying.
She fell to the floor, me in her arms like I was five instead of twelve.
“Baby girl, did he hurt you?” she asked me, and I gasped.
She knew about him. She knew about what he’d done.
I couldn’t say anything. Well, I did say something, but it was just her name over and over. I kept saying mama. That was all I could hear in my head. That and “Jupiter.” “Jupiter” saved me. It kept me from crying most nights being here, screaming.
“Mama.” I absolutely shook in my mom’s arms, and I wasn’t aware when she finally got me up off the floor. Once we did, we moved steadfast, her directing me, holding me.
We weren’t alone.
There were lights outside, flashing lights, cop cars. I saw so many, their lights blinding me in a forest of trees and cabins.
So many cabins.
The one I had been in was one of many, vast, and I was sure that was why he’d chosen it. No one would find me out here, not when the new cabins were being used on the other side of the campgrounds.
I buried my face in my mama’s chest. My mama didn’t have a lot of body to hug, but she held me so hard. She kept me safe, and I hid my face from all the cop cars. I hid my face from all the campers. I saw them too, boys of various ages both older than me and younger in shorts and T-shirts. They all watched my mama and me alongside camp counselors.
Everyone was out of bed for this.
I couldn’t stop shaking, and it was only when I was in the back of a cop car with my mom’s arms and a blanket around me that I finally looked up. I looked up just in time to see another cop car pulling away. Someone was in the back of that car too, but he was alone.
My physical nightmare was by himself.
He looked so unusual back there, a kid like me. He glanced over his shoulder at me, the car putting distance between us, and as soon as he made eye contact, I pressed my face back into my mom’s shoulder. I couldn’t look at those cold blue eyes. I’d stared at them every day for an entire summer, and I couldn’t look at them again.
Instead, I let fear take me again because I only glanced up after his own cop car took him away. I saw nothing but a head of dark hair while a boy no older than me was driven into the night. The other campers saw him too. They saw what he did too. Thatcher Reed was a monster.
And now everyone else knew it.

Chapter One

Aspen - the present

“Excuse me. Are you incompetent? My daughter’s dresses go in her closet. Not on her coffee table, honestly.”
Eugena Davis spun on her red-bottom heels. The middle-aged black woman directed her staff with a firm hand while she questioned their intelligence. She waved at another, her expression terse, frustrated. “And you definitely be careful with that. One string on that cello matters more than your life. I assure you.”
Jesus Christ.
“Mom,” I gritted. One would think after so many years of hearing my mother speak to people as if they were below her wouldn’t faze me, but I could honestly say the opposite. I cringed. “Please.”
She was embarrassing herself and me. I didn’t want people to think I was above them. Never had. Even with all the attention my career had gotten in the past few years.
My mama grunted, twisting in my direction. She popped her curled fists on her designer jeans, seemingly ready to tell me off. That was until someone came into the room with another one of my cellos and set it on the couch of all places.
I had to rub my temple when she told them what an idiot they were, how accidents could happen and someone could sit on it. Again, the cello itself mattered more than his life. At least to my mama, and what was sad was I knew she believed that.
Instead of losing my fucking mind, I sat on the couch next to the cello case. I continued to let my mother direct bags upon bags into my new dorm room like I was some royal princess. She’d had our staff pack up my entire life.
She glared at a man with hat boxes. “You set those down gently. The pearls on that…”
“Matter more than his life.” I was smart enough to keep the quip under my breath, but I got the attention of Franklin Jones. He was surveying the room like he was supposed to, his suit polished, professional. The guy was jacked and looked like he belonged elbows deep in dirt while he dragged himself through trenches. Actually, that was how I’d first come across his work, a war film.
Keeping that thought to myself, I watched Franklin’s eyes flare wide when my mom literally grabbed something out of someone’s hands. She once again called them incompetent, and I palmed my face.
Not long now and she’ll be gone.
I’d be counting the minutes. I had been counting the minutes and long before the decision was made for me to go to college this semester. I’d always planned to go to school, but life had different plans for me.
I didn’t think either my mom or I thought those cello lessons she’d invested in for me when I was five would amount to anything. Most kids got involved with music at a young age, but I’d taken really well to it. In fact, so well that people now paid me to perform. This little dream my mom and I’d had turned into a career and a lifestyle I certainly hadn’t been ready for. My life had seemingly changed overnight in a matter of years. The cover of music magazines. Award shows and sold-out arenas…
I’d actually gone on tour with some of the biggest hip-hop artists in the game. I played with people I’d grown up watching, and now, people paid to see just me. It was crazy, overwhelming.
My mouth dry, I continued to study my mom’s frustrations. People said we looked alike, but I thought I resembled more old photos of my dad. Not that I could compare since he dipped when I was a kid. A judge, he had another life and apparently Mama and me didn’t fit into it. He actually only started calling when he saw me at an award show, which was honestly just embarrassing. He had another family too, according to the tabloids, and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for them.
I wished I looked more like my mother. She was that classic American beauty featured in jeans ads in the nineties. Literally, she used to do modeling before she put everything on hold for me and my career. We also both had locs and people compared us, said we looked more like sisters on red carpets than mom and daughter. This was also the reason she was rail thin, and though I didn’t get those genes, I was happy with my curves. They were modest, and I wasn’t anything more than a C-cup, but I liked to eat and wasn’t willing to sacrifice them. If things were up to my mom, though, that would be different. I had to look a certain way with this life, cameras and all that.
“You can go. In fact, please go,” my mom said, and I could breathe now that all my stuff was finally in the room. All my mom’s dictating was doing was stressing me the fuck out. Everyone but Franklin left the room, and once they had, Mom got out her phone. “I’m obviously going to have to look into hiring some new help when I get back to LA. Honestly, we’ll be lucky if they didn’t break anything.”
These people were new, and that was due to the staff’s choice. No one wanted to work for us since my mom was so strict. She liked things a certain way and was the epitome of a momanager.
“Everything looks fine,” I said, pretending to look and appease my mom.
I got a look from Franklin along the way, the man doing his own pretending. I had to say he’d done a lot of research for his role. He actually looked like a bodyguard over there with the way he studied the windows and peered outside at college students like he was making mental notes about them.
I guess that’s why you’re paying him.
That was why I was paying him, and he kept his mouth shut when my mom came over and asked him if he saw anything out of the ordinary outside. He probably wasn’t seeing much, which was the point, of course. Queenstown Village was a college town, and that was what was down there on Pembroke University’s quad. People were studying and listening to music below down on the grass while others played Frisbee nearby. It was a typical fall semester in the Midwest. At least, I believed it was typical. I’d only seen college on TV before this.
One thing the TV got right was how quiet things were, how normal. It all was the complete opposite of the busy and often frantic lifestyle I normally led in the music industry. I literally felt my body seep free of stress when I’d gotten here, and it’d been nice.
So nice.
This was another comment I kept to myself, and when Franklin gave my mother canned answers about the lay of the land outside, I breathed another sigh of relief. He was doing his job very well.
“Everything looks on the up-and-up, ma’am,” Franklin said before dismissing himself. My mom had worked out a two-bedroom dorm so my hired security could have a room nearby. He was to stay with me all semester while I was here.
Little did my mother know that room wouldn’t be needed. She needed to believe I needed it, though.
Mom allowed Franklin to leave. He stated he was going to analyze the perimeter again. It felt like he’d said he had already done that a few times, but I wasn’t going to out his lies.
Play it cool.
Mom joined me on the couch. “So I’ve spoken to the chancellor personally,” she said, her tone serious. She was serious, and I knew she was. She frowned. “He’s kept the details of you being here on the low. Not even any of the professors know. You’ll be able to attend classes like everyone else as long as you remain discreet.”
I’d already been told about that. I was to keep to myself and not draw attention. No one was supposed to know I was here. I was to blend in.
Mom touched my shoulder, her fingers twisting one of my locs. “You’ll be safe, Aspen, and we will get to the bottom of those threats.”
A pang of tightness hit my stomach, the threats the reason I was actually here and blending in as a student this term. I was at Pembroke-U to go to school, but I wouldn’t be going to school if what happened at Carnegie Hall hadn’t occurred. I’d been playing the biggest concert of my life, my literal dream. I’d done a lot in my career, but the opportunity to play Carnegie Hall hadn’t come right away. It eventually had, and it proved to be the worst night of my life.
My mouth dried as my mother studied my face, actual concern there, and I knew she had it. I mean, if my daughter’s life had been threatened on the biggest night of her career, I’d be unnerved too, and this wasn’t the first time I’d put her through the wringer. I’d been kidnapped once. She almost lost me once.
Of course, that was a long time ago, but neither of us forgot. I mean, how could we, how could I? My mother and her overbearing nature kicked into overdrive after the summer I turned twelve. She’d already been that way since it had just been us for so long. I was my mom’s life, and I knew that.
She moved a few of my lengthy locs over my shoulder. “Now, mind Franklin. You can have fun but be responsible about it.”
Be responsible meant blending in. I was to wear a disguise at all times. Again, no one was supposed to know I was here. I nodded. “I will.”
“And of course, stay militant about your practice schedule. Your music isn’t your focus here, but we don’t want you getting loosey goosey and obliterating everything you’ve worked for,” she continued.
No, we wouldn’t want me getting loosey goosey, which was why she’d arranged for my teacher, Deborah Hays, to send me weekly emails of all the rigorous sheet music she wanted me to perfect while I was here. They ranged in difficulty, but knowing Deborah, they’d be challenging. I was also to keep up on my workout schedule and various appointments with my trainer, which would be conducted via Zoom now that I was here instead of in LA.
“The Peloton is in your room,” Mom informed, the perfect place for it to stare me down when I didn’t feel like doing it. She studied me in my jeans and tube top. “We wouldn’t want you gaining the freshman fifteen while you’re here, and dear God, don’t eat anything you can’t pronounce or that has additives. Basically, stay out of that cafeteria. That’s why we got you a meal delivery service. You don’t need to get fat just because you’re here.”
Franklin came back in right around the time Mom said that, and though his attention averted to the room, that didn’t mean he failed to hear Mom’s comment.
“Then there’s your medications, Aspen. You have a lot of responsibility being here on your own, and we don’t want you having a—”
“I’ll be fine.” I stood, adjusting my shirt, adjusting everything. She made me feel so fucking self-conscious sometimes and like a child more often than not. Between the schedules and the appointments, it was just too fucking much.
Calm down.
I focused on the positive thoughts that soon my mother and her habits would be gone. She’d leave me alone, and she’d look into those threats.
She’d leave.
That was when the guilt hit, sharp, and it always did when I got frustrated with her. I knew she was only this way because she cared.
Because of that, I didn’t fight her hug before she finally left. She told me she loved me, and I truly believed she wanted me to have fun. Her delivery was just crap sometimes, and she mentioned for me to have a good time again before she left. She told me not to worry about anything and that she would find out who’d threatened me that night at Carnegie Hall. There’d been letters. Ones she’d found…
“Your fee as promise,” I said to Franklin, who’d waited after my mom departed. We made sure she had before I got my purse. I nodded at the check. “And there’s extra there. For your discretion?”
He’d already signed an NDA, but he’d had to deal with a lot in the few days he’d been with Mom and me. My mom could be a lot, and I got that.
The white man’s eyes flashed. I assumed at the amount. It was worth it if he kept our agreement on the low.
Opening his jacket, he pocketed the check. “No problem. Though, I’m confused why you wouldn’t actually hire security for yourself.”
I was sure he was. The whole world had heard about those threats I’d gotten. It’d been a few letters. The words on them had been cut out from magazines and pasted on the paper like something out of a psycho killer film. The threats had also been graphic about what the person would do to me if they found me.
My throat got thick all of a sudden, my heart racing. I was scared, but I was sure not for the reason Franklin believed. “I appreciate your concern, but I’ll be fine.”
Gratefully for me, Franklin wasn’t being paid for his opinions, and I was sure he didn’t care enough to make any more. He took his money. He left, and I was also grateful for something else after he did. I was grateful my mom didn’t have time to watch movies. More specifically, war films like the ones Franklin, the actor I’d just paid, starred in. It’d definitely set off red flags for her.
And she’d probably question the same thing Franklin did before exiting my life.

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