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Chapter Two

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Veronica

The soft warmth of sunlight on my skin woke me. I savored the clean, white sheets covering me, thinking of how sweet my mom was for changing them. Content, I smiled and burrowed.

My mom. It wasn't possible. My mom was dead.

I shot up from the bed, dazed. Blinking several times, I looked around the unfamiliar room and swallowed the panic climbing up my throat. Where the hell am I? And what is that horrible smell?

"It would really help right now if you don't panic," I muttered, taken aback by the foul taste in my mouth. I took several deep breaths to calm my pounding heart and tried to assess my situation.

At least I still had my clothes on, even though they were soiled with dry...vomit. That stink was coming from me. Good God.

I could recall everything that happened yesterday, but what happened at the club was a blur of fuzzy images. Getting kicked out of my apartment because I couldn't pay the rent for two months was brutal. Leaving most of my belongings wasn't so hard since most of them were old and cheap anyway. I had only taken my good clothes and mementos of my mother, stowing everything in my campus locker.

For the first time in my life, I'd stepped into a club not to serve drinks or wipe tables but to get drunk. It was my version of giving life the finger. I was a lightweight, and it hadn't taken long for the alcohol to hit my system.

Since paranoia was my best friend, I inspected my arms and was relieved that I still had all my fingers. A dark-­blue duvet covered my legs, making me wonder if I still had legs. I wiggled my toes. Great—­still worked. Lifting my dress, I made sure I didn't have any fresh stitches or feel any pain. Someone could have stolen my precious organs. Satisfied that all my body parts were intact, I studied the room more closely.

To call it a room seemed an understatement. It was larger than my whole apartment, furnished with expensive, tasteful things. A wide window with heavy, pale-­blue curtains encompassed almost the whole wall to my right, showcasing a prime view of the city. I realized I must be in a high-­rise building.

Did I do something wilder than getting drunk last night? Like maybe—­God forbid—­sleep with a stranger? Lifting my butt, I did some Kegel exercises as if that would tell me if I had lost my virginity. Well, I wasn't sore.

I was panicking again...

"Deep breaths, Veronica. Deep breaths," I muttered, looking around the room again.

I scooted to the edge of the bed and stood, my bare feet sinking into a plush rug. Whoever owned this place must be loaded—­and I had no intention of meeting him. What if he was a drug lord? Someone this rich must be. What if he wanted to fatten me up before selling my organs?

Calm down!

I spotted the en-­suite bathroom and took advantage of it. When I was done, I slowly crept to the bedroom door and peeked out. Even in my panicked state, I couldn't help noticing the incredible surroundings. Everything looked sleek and modern. The space was wide and open. Bright sunlight slanted through the tall, wide windows. Paintings hung strategically on industrial-­gray concrete walls, and an enormous flat-­screen TV sat in front of an L-­shaped black leather couch. Hardwood floors gleamed.

I sneered at the luxury of it.

Life is unfair, I mused as I walked through a hallway that opened into another wide-­open space.

Where is the front door?

I stopped when I reached the kitchen. It had the same modern industrial feel as the rest of the place. There was a bar on the left side of the room with barstools tucked underneath. Crisp, white cupboards, granite countertops, glass pendant lights hanging from the vaulted ceiling, stainless-­steel appliances—­the whole works. My breath caught as I set eyes on someone standing in the corner. He was tall, his shirtless back showing he had tan skin, and I could see his muscles were rippling when he moved his arm.

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