Chapter 1

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"I'm just saying, if this turns into a mob scene, I'm not coming in there to rescue you." Markus says firmly, his hands still resting on the steering wheel as he watches me slip on my sunglasses. "This isn't going to be another Starbucks fiasco."

I roll my eyes in a dramatic action, but still can't help the corner of my lip turning upwards into a smirk. Pulling a baseball cap over my signature brown waves, I check myself over in the rearview mirror. My disguise is hardly worthy of the term, but it will have to do. This entire trip was spur of the moment, so I didn't exactly have much time to plan how to complete it unrecognized. The sunglasses hide my green eyes, blocking them from any notice that may blow my cover. Coupled with my ball cap, it might just be enough to let me get in and out of the store undetected. It's not like anyone is expecting me to appear here, in this random bookshop in the middle of Los Angeles. In all reality, I could probably go in without the lame cover and still no one would notice, but I don't want to take any chances.

Glancing to Markus and his exasperated stare, I am pretty sure he is serious when he says he won't come in and save me if this turns into a shit show.

Tucking a few locks of hair behind my ears as they attempt to escape my hat, I reassure him for what feels like the millionth time since I first asked him to come with me to the store.

"It'll be fine. I'll be in and out of there in a couple of minutes. Quit being a drama queen."

Thankfully, he laughs, before leaning back in the drivers seat and pulling out his phone. "Hurry up then. We have a meeting at two."

I say nothing more as I shoulder the passenger door open and step out of the car into the California heat. It hits me like a weight descending over me, molding to cover every inch of my body. No matter how long I live here in L.A., I will never get used to the heat. Colorado never had these murderous heat waves that felt like they were coming straight from the fires of hell. It was only May, and I felt like the middle of summer on the equator.

I tried to ignore the way the air seemed to cling to me, causing sweat to glisten on my skin within moments. I was on a mission, and needed to get this over as quickly as possible. I keep my eyes down to the concrete below my feet, hands shoved in the pockets of my jeans as I hurry towards the entrance to the store.

Stepping through the front door, the reprieve of air conditioning chills the sheen of sweat that had clung to my skin. Despite my downcast eyes, I am hyper aware of everything around me as I enter the store. There is a faint hint of music playing overhead, the unmistakable scent of books, candles and coffee overtaking my senses. I bring my eyes up from my shoes to glance around, still hidden behind my glasses, and assess the situation. It is fairly quiet this lazy Wednesday afternoon, with a few customers and staff wandering about. No one takes notice of me entering, and I breathe a sigh of relief. To them, I am just another person looking for something to read to pass the time.

I need to make this quick, and most importantly, discrete. If Marcia finds out I came here on my own, she will kick my ass. And knowing Markus, he would sell me out to keep her blaming him as my accomplice.

My eyes turn to a computer kiosk at the end of an aisle of books, and I quickly make my way towards it. I guess it would have been a good idea to find out if this particular store even has the book I am looking for before showing up, but it wasn't exactly a planned adventure. Wouldn't that be hysterical? Come in here, get mobbed, and leave empty handed. Glancing at the screen, the previous search is still visible. 'New Year, New You' was the last title search. I cough back and laugh as I try to decide what is worse. That someone wrote a book with that title, or that someone was actually searching for it. Navigating to the search page, I quickly type in the title of my own need, immediately feeling a ripple of shame as I take another quick glance around to make sure I was still avoiding notice. God, if someone saw me looking for this, I would be mortified. Suddenly, the 'New Year, New You' doesn't seem so humiliating in retrospect.

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