Chapter 1

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Gretchen's story niggled at the back of my mind. I saw the world I wanted to create around her. The modest home, a black and white kitten, a demanding boyfriend, and a forbidden apple. Combined, it would make an explosive story.

If my muse stopped sending me on random writing sprees that had nothing in common with my current train of thought, of course.

I released a pent-up breath and cracked my knuckles, scooting my chair closer to my desk. Biting down on my lower lip, I envisioned the scene I kept trying to work on. The smallest details grew brighter, and I saw what my muse had been trying to make me see for several days now. I leaned forward and started typing what I saw inside my head.

Gretchen slammed the glass down on the kitchen counter. She ran an unsteady hand through her tangled blonde curls and turned to face Jackson.

"I told you, I want nothing to do with you. Why can't you get that through your thick head?"

Jackson smirked and crossed his arms upon his chest. "Because we're good together, Gretchen."

She sighed and shook her head. "No, we're not. I'm tired of you telling me what to do, what to wear, even who I can or can't see. Because of you, I haven't seen my mom in months."

He straightened, and his smile vanished. "'Cause I know what's best for you, babe. Your mom's never cared for you." Jackson strode in my direction and curled his hands around my flushed cheeks. "But I do, Gretchen. I do."

His lips descended on hers, forcefully drawing a response from her.

Gretchen's body flared to life. Her nipples tightened, and her pussy ached for fulfillment.

I stopped typing and straightened in my seat. The story I was writing was unlike anything I'd previously written. I tended to write erotic romances, the kind that titillated the senses and left the reader wanting more.

This, however, was dark and gritty. It spoke about topics I'd never thought I'd write about. Part of what I saw in my mind came from experience. Stuff I rarely talked about with anyone. Experiences, I realized, that needed to be told in one form or another.

I squared my shoulders and shook the tension from my arms. Letting go of a pent-up breath, I dove into the writing once more.

She kissed him, remembering the moments when he'd made her happy. The times he'd shown her that she meant more to him than life itself. All that had changed the moment they'd moved in together. He'd become overbearing and controlling, forcing her to do whatever he asked of her.

Her mind rebelled as each thought rose to the surface. Gretchen flattened her hands against Jackson's shoulders, pushing him away.

Jackson growled and grabbed her wrists, spinning her around so that her stomach pressed against the counter's edge.

"Writing again?" a warm voice asked, breaking through the fog that surrounded me.

I looked up and smiled.

My best friend leaned against the doorjamb, her blue eyes full of amusement. The tips of her short brown hair were curled outward, a sign that the humidity outside was hotter than normal.

"Pretty much. I didn't hear you come in."

Myrla chuckled and strode into the room. "With you being so focused, I doubt you would have. Anything worth reading?"

I spun the laptop around.

She approached the desk and leaned forward to read what I'd written. "Is that . . . ?"

"It's just a story."

"Are you sure you want to tell that story?"

I shrugged. "Not all of it. Just using some parts of my past to tell a good story."

Myrla pursed her lips. "Yeah, but that scene . . That happened, Chance."

My cheeks grew warm. "Yes, I know, but it fits with the rest of the story."

Her eyes narrowed. "If he ever reads this book, he'll know you've made Jackson just like him."

"I meant to, and he'll never read it. He was never interested in what I do. In his mind, my writing was a waste of whatever talents he thought God gave me."

She clasped my hands and yanked me to my feet, pulling me to her. "You were too good for him anyway. I'm glad you got away."

I hugged her, inhaling the scent of mint and lemon that surrounded her. Myrla was my Rock of Gibraltar. Without her, I wouldn't be where I am now. Letting go of her, I took a step back and smiled.

"Yes, well, that's over and done with. Anything on the books tonight?"

She grinned. "I thought I'd catch Dana's show at the House of Blues. Wanna come?"

The House of Blues was a place that caught my interest back when Dillon Mackenzie, my favorite musician-turned-actor, had gone there several years ago. He'd mentioned the lively atmosphere, riveting Rock, Blues, and Jazz music, as well as the delicious Southern food prepared on the premises. Unfortunately, the premises here in Los Angeles was no longer in service. If my memory served, the place was scheduled to be demolished to make way for a project called Sunset Times, which was said to contain hotel rooms, rental apartments, and condos.

Which means . . .

"We're going to Las Vegas?"

Myrla's grin broadened. "Yup. Guess who's taking us."

I pursed my lips and tilted my head at her in contemplation. "Who?"

"Guess."

A sigh of exasperation escaped me. "I don't know, Myr, so tell me."

She threw her hands up in the air and shook her head with dismay. "You're hopeless, Chance. Can't you play along for once?"

I crossed my arms upon my chest and tapped my foot with impatience. "No. That's not how I roll. So . . ."

"Fine," she said, pinching the bridge of her nose between a thumb and forefinger. "I met Aiden Snow down at The Grove last night."

My heart raced, and my mouth grew dry. "Isn't he . . . ?"

Myrla nodded. "Dillon Mackenzie's best friend."

"Well, if this doesn't beat all!"

"I know, right? I bumped into him near the Nike store. We struck up a conversation, and he mentioned wanting to catch Dana's show tonight. I told him she was a friend of mine. Aiden happened to have a few extra tickets in his pocket, and I managed to snag one for you and me. The best part is, he'll be picking us up at two-thirty."

I glanced at the clock sitting on top of the fireplace's mantle. "That's in an hour."

"Uh-huh," she said, clapping her hands with excitement. "So you better get to it. We've a date with destiny!"

She turned and ran out of the room, screaming Aiden's name at the top of her lungs.

A mournful sigh burst from my lips. If Aiden Snow was taking us to Las Vegas, chances were I'd come face-to-face with Dillon himself. Part of me hoped such a thing would happen. I'd be meeting the one person who's fascinated me for as long as I could remember. Another part of me dreaded thinking about it.

What if he doesn't like me?

Shaking my head to clear it, I snapped the laptop closed and pushed myself to my feet. I walked out of my office and headed for the bathroom. Whatever happened, I'd make the most of it. We only lived once, right?

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