Chapter One

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As I spill my blood on these pages, songs for recital on pointless stages, the grim reaper of my past, a sunset speaks the end. -Jackson Killian

Chapter One

It wasn't hard to leave Vegas. Not really. Not emotionally. It was like closing the door on an era. The Vegas Years, if my life were a novel.

Chapter over.

A chapter spanning from my wedding, following me through my honeymoon—and all the tiny moments wherein I fell for that bright, boisterous city—right up to the day I rumbled out. Like the beginning of an affair, my love for Vegas acted like a drug upon my body. My head swam. My knees lost their sturdiness in every elevator trip; buffet slop tasted divine, the candy was dandy, the liquor was quicker. Long vodka-soaked days zoomed by; leaving me married and misjudging the deceptive city's true magic.

"Stay," Vegas had whispered. "Know me." And I did. We did. Jackson and I.

Sometimes the more you know someone, the less you like them. It was that way with Vegas. It should have been a one-night stand, me and Vegas, but it wasn't. It turned into a relationship. It turned co-dependent.

I got married there. I got pregnant there. I got divorced there.

I left with no compunction, in a battered two-tone Bronco Jared sold to me for five hundred dollars and all my David Bowie vinyl. It came with a Wild Cherry fragrance card dangling from the rearview mirror and a full tank of premium unleaded.

"You have to baby the clutch a little, Katie–find 'er sweet spot and she'll never let you down. Oh, and reverse is a little finicky, might take you a few tries of putting her in fourth before you find it. All the way right, wiggle a little, and then pull the stick towards the passenger door handle, diagonal-like."

Jared made air-shifting gestures as he spoke, trying to show me by body memory, exactly how to find the elusive reverse.

No airbags, so Quinn's car seat was belted in right next to me. He babbled and played with his own fingers as Jared's grandfather leaned into the open driver's side window and instructed, "High-test only, girl."

"You got it, Carl."

He gave me a stern nod, the clean part of his dark hair shining in the glow of early morning. "Safe trip. Don't pick up hitchers, don't sleep in rest-stops after dark."

I put the Bronco in gear with only a mild grinding of gears, and watched the two of them grow smaller in my mirrors until the bulk of my U-Haul trailer blotted them out entirely.

Behind me the sprawl of Vegas became an indistinguishable blot against the horizon, and then it was gone. My tiny apartment, home to me for seven years, sequestered in my past. With shampooed carpets and laundered curtains and the majority of my security deposit back in my checking account.

With me in the trailer, packed to the gills, so full not even a pencil would fit, was all of Vegas I wanted to take. My stuff. Quinn's.

And some boxes I didn't bother opening—Jack's stuff—but I didn't dare leave them.

We plodded up Interstate 5, slow and steady, watching as people with more horsepower and less patience whipped around me, zooming towards the horizon like the road behind them was aflame.

I'd considered going up 95 and hitting the old haunts, but there wasn't anything in Tahoe for me anymore.

The thing about cheating on your husband is—you pretty much lose all your friends.

To the cuckolded go the spoils of adultery.

Plus, not only is it where I met Jack, where I was caught in bed with Evan, but it's also where I grew up. Being there holds an eerie nostalgia, not entirely bad—but not really good either.

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