Chapter 1.

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Chapter one The thing that could tear me and Justin apart for good.

I took a deep breath and stared at the door of apartment three-twelve. Whether or not I wanted to go any further, I hadn’t decided.

Actually, I couldn’t remember deciding to come this far. But here I was,  my heart pounding and hands sweating, debating the pros and cons of raising my fist to the wood and knocking. God, why was I so nervous?

Maybe more deep breaths were in order. I took several, in, out, in, out and examined my surroundings. The hall was long and empty. Gold-framed abstract art lined the walls.

Though the building was nice and in a good part of town, the carpet was old and threadbare. Rose petals were strewn across the floor in front of the threshold a few doors down. Must have been left over from someone’s romantic gesture. Sweet.

To the other side of me, the elevator opened. I looked over and saw a couple walking in the opposite direction. The man, dressed in a nice suit, held his hand to the small of the woman’s back. Her blonde hair was tied up in a perfect bun. Even from behind, they were beautiful to look at. It was obvious they were in love. Funny how I was seeing romance everywhere.

Perhaps it was my state of mind. I turned back to the door in front of me. It was plain and ordinary, but something about it felt ominous. Well, might as well get this over with. I pulled my bag higher on my shoulder and knocked.

Nearly a minute went by and no one answered. I leaned my ear against the door and listened. It was quiet. Maybe I had the wrong unit. I checked my hand where I’d scribbled the address in red pen, but it had rubbed off from my sweat. It didn’t matter. I knew I was in the right place. 

“Try the buzzer,” a man said from down the hall. 

“The buzzer?” I asked, but he had already gone into his own apartment. I hadn’t noticed a buzzer, but I searched the wall by the doorframe anyway.

There I found a small circular button. Strange I hadn’t seen it before. I brought a trembling finger up and pushed. A loud bark ripped through the air, and I nearly jumped out of my shoes, my heart pounding in my chest.

I wasn’t usually afraid of dogs, but I was already so anxious that it took very little to set me off. Movement sounded from inside and a voice talking sternly to the animal. Seconds later, the door opened. Stacy stood in the entryway, her face more welcoming than she normally was with me. Her overly bright smile sent a chill down my spine.

She was dressed casually in a faded t-shirt and jeans, not at all the attire I was used to seeing her in when she worked at Isabella’s boutique. She was barefoot and her toes were painted with a pale pink polish. She looked relaxed.

Comfortable. I felt just the opposite. Her grin widened. 

“You came.” 

“I guess I did.” She didn’t move to let me in, so I stood where I was, awkwardly shifting my weight from one foot to the other. Did she hear my knees knocking? I was sure she must. 

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