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Melody Stanton had several problems.

The first was that the sun was in her eyes.

The second was that when she rolled over to get away from the sun, her head swam atrociously.

The third was that she was naked, and not in her own bed.

“Oh, hell,” she muttered. She lay on a spongy mattress with her head pressed into a soft pillow. A white, fluffy comforter rested across her legs and half her torso. Next to her, the sheets were rumpled in the vague, curving shape of another human being.

She moved her head again, and her stomach roiled.

So she stopped moving and tried to piece together the final hours of the previous night. She remembered dancing with her friends at Spec, where the plexiglass bartops were lit from below in ever-changing colors. The music had been good. There had been six of them. She’d had a few drinks—

And then someone had bought a round of tequila.


The pillow muffled her voice. She could hear someone moving around outside the bedroom she’d awoken in. The ceiling above the bed was mouse-colored and flaking. An outsize picture of Orlando, Florida, had been stuck to it with careful haphazardry.

The first round of tequila had been followed by a second, then a third, and then Melody had told her friends she was going home. They’d gone to the door of the club with her and watched as the bouncer flagged her a cab. Then they’d gone back inside, and she’d told the cabbie to take her to Gertrude’s, a few blocks away.

There was never a line at Gertrude’s. Melody had walked straight in and bought herself another shot of tequila.

That was all she remembered.

Carefully, she rolled over and looked out the window. She was seven or eight floors up, at least. Directly across a small alley, she could see a brick building with an old, wrought-iron fire escape zigzagging up it. A black cat perched on the bars of the escape, licking its paws and staring at her.

Her calves felt rock hard. So did her ass. Both problems, she assumed, had come from spending too many hours in high heels.

A pint glass full of water sat on the floor near the bed, and she reached for it and drank as much as she thought was prudent, given the state of her stomach. Her mouth tasted like an old sock.

The bed sagged as someone sat on it. A small, soft hand caressed Melody’s back.

“You okay?” someone asked, and Melody rolled over and blinked through the morning light at a round, soft face wreathed in blonde hair.

Christ, she can’t be more than twenty. What the hell is wrong with me?

Melody nodded and swished a little water around her mouth before swallowing.

“Yeah,” she muttered. “I guess.”

“You want some breakfast? I could fry some eggs.”

I want to get the hell out of here, Melody thought.

She shook her head.

“No thanks. What time is it?”

The blonde girl looked toward a cluttered desk in the corner of the room. “A little after nine-thirty.”

“Shit. I’ve gotta get going.”

That was a lie. Melody didn’t have anywhere to be other than her own bed, in her own apartment, where she should’ve been for about seven hours already.

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