Like any enterprising woman, Bea knows what she’s worth and is determined to get all she deserves—it just so happens that what she deserves is to marry rich. Filthy rich. After years of forced instruction by her mother in the art of swindling men, a now-solo Bea wants nothing more than to close and lock the door on their sordid partnership so she can disappear safely into old-money domesticity, sealing the final phase of her escape.
When Bea chooses her ultimate target in the fully-loaded, thoroughly dull and blue-blooded Collin Case, she’s ready to deploy all of her tricks one last time. The challenge isn’t getting the ring, but rather the approval of Collin’s family and everyone else in their 1 percent tax bracket, particularly his childhood best friend, Gale Wallace-Leicester. Going toe-to-toe with Gale isn’t a threat to an expert like Bea, but what begins as an amusing cat-and-mouse game quickly develops into a dangerous pursuit of the grisly truth. Finding herself at a literal life-and-death crossroads, with everything on the line, Bea must finally decide who she really wants to be. Like mother, like daughter?
By the time I happened upon Collin Case, I had already dated more than my fair share of New York “somebodies” with middling personalities and big-enough bank accounts. They were relatively easy to find when you looked like me. I spent hundreds of my hard-earned dollars on fresh highlights every four to six weeks. I mastered an authentic feminine titter for jokes that weren’t remotely amusing as I grazed nearly non-existent biceps with my perfectly manicured hands, an almond shape on each nail. And I regularly choked down liquid meals with organic ingredients on the regular to stave off a bloated belly and thighs that touch. I did everything I had observed as a child because ultimately it works. I watched her do it for years. But what I learned rather quickly is that dating men in that particular orbit is no picnic at all.
They truly believe the entire universe revolves around them and their underwhelming penises and that everything they do all the time is just so fucking great. It’s exhausting having to exalt those types of men, day in and day out, just to secure a Harry Winston diamond, a generous allowance for fillers, Botox and other miscellaneous body maintenance and most importantly, a life of true leisure without a care in the world. The ultimate safety net. Impenetrable. Though many of my attempts were ill-fated, I stayed the course because I believed wholeheartedly that it would be well worth it, due to a past I never wanted to relive, and I had to make my future different from hers. But none of those relationships with the so-called “alphas” of New York City panned out in the way I had hoped.
Philip Hartley, an Ed Harris dupe with a Cialis prescription, dumped me after I deigned to ask his sister-in-law about the family trust when we were blitzed on rosé at their vacation home in Palm Beach. Like we were competitors on The Bachelor, that “recovering” bulimic with a benzo problem told him I was there for “the wrong reasons.” Busted.
That’s what I got for trusting a woman. Sloppy work on my part. Deserving of the scathing critique she definitely would have given me. I could just hear her, but I always heard her, even when I didn’t want to. The words floating out of her mouth, in that light and airy tone of hers, nearly always in complete juxtaposition to the dark and deprecatory language in my direction. A verbal lashing disguised as care or concern to anyone else’s ear but my own.
Dan Felix was a high-profile litigator that had previously court-appointed anger management classes and he flat-out smacked me across the face when I got a text from a male co-worker after midnight asking for my dealer’s info. Dan didn’t actually care about the content of the message — he was the one with the coke problem whereas my own usage was rather infrequent and purely recreational in cases where I thought it could bond me with someone useful — and Dan wrongly assumed I was cheating on him. As if I would waste my time on some junior account executive that shared his place with three roommates in Dumbo. Please.
But I was learning. An angry man simply would not do.
Speaking of cheating, Morris Haley III, a real estate developer, chronically cheated on me, which I knew would happen on occasion and the act didn’t outright bother me, but there was nothing discreet about his dalliances. I didn’t take kindly to openly looking like a fool in front of others, even though he was outrageously handsome, a rarity, and had one of those Kohler shower rooms with seemingly endless streams of water shooting out from all angles. Pure luxury.
She would have approved of Morris, but my reputation mattered too much to me to carry on with him. Meanwhile, that woman had no concept of a reputation at all. Why would she? Her end game was not like mine. For her, it was about the count. One after another after another after another, for as long as she could. But I wanted something different. I relished in any differences between us; truth be told I craved them. Clung to every last one.
Excerpted from STONE COLD FOX by Rachel Koller Croft, published by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2023