Chapter 1

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"Loyalty and devotion lead to bravery. Bravery leads to the spirit of self-sacrifice. The spirit of self-sacrifice creates trust in the power of love."

- Morihei Ueshiba

***

I could barely remember why I was standing outside of the bar I had walked by so many times before.

Actually, that is a huge lie. I totally and completely remember why... or how I ended up there. But I was trying not to think about it.

I had no idea what the bar was even called. The name wasn't in flashing neon lights in the window and there was no large sign hanging above the door like at most places. Despite the nameless bar, people were lining up to get in every night. I had heard they had good food, attractive waitresses, and a bartender that could make any drink imaginable, but the fact that it was crowded every night never ceased to amaze me. After all, the bar didn't even have a name. From the outside, it looked about as run down as any other building on the block.

I considered not going in at all, but my feet were killing me, I hadn't eaten in two days, and it was so cold out that I could barely feel my fingers. I really wish I had grabbed a jacket before I had left, but it would have cost precious seconds. I looked back at the bar again and saw the Help Wanted sign in the window. Bingo.

The line hadn't started forming yet. In fact it was much too early for people to be drinking.

But I went in anyways.

I was bombarded with new sounds—noises—and smells the second I walked through the front door. I had never been in a bar before but I knew what to expect and this place certainly looked like a bar. Or, at the very least, smelled like one.

"Are you... lost?" Someone asked, her tone impatient.

I stopped scanning the room to find the person behind the voice. I blinked.

She had the most luminous blue eyes I had ever seen. Even in the dim glow of the bar they glowed brightly, like her pupils were some type of smooth stone at the bottom of a clear blue ocean. Within her blue there flickered tiny speckles of silver, which gave her an icy, somewhat stony appeal. But it was her slight, lopsided smile that erased any signs of wanting to be alone.

No wonder this bar was so popular.

"Uh, no," I said, holding up the Help Wanted sign I had snagged from the front window. The woman's cool eyes flickered between the sign and me. She didn't say anything, only looked slightly thoughtful as slender fingers raked through her long blonde hair.

"What can you do?" She finally asked, definitely not expecting me to be able to do much of anything at all. She'd be right.

"Anything and everything," I answered—lied—instantly, hoping I didn't look too desperate, didn't sound too eager. To be perfectly honest, I hadn't worked a day in my life. My hands were used to weekly manicures not hard labor.

But desperate times call for desperate measures.

The blonde appeared thoughtful again. Those magnificent eyes gave me a once over, slow and steady. You could see the cogs turning in her head as she considered it. I decided to try and sound more convincing.

"I have many skills," I added. Okay, so I stole that from Xena, but I was hoping it worked as well for me as it did for her.

The blonde lifted a sculpted brow and the smile was, once again, back on her lips. She seemed amused. Maybe she was a Xena fan?

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