Chapter 1

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Chapter 1 ~ V­ince ~

Against his better judgment, Vince Kolya allowed Valery Yura to press her warm body against his as they moved around the dance floor.

Well, judgment had left the bar hours ago. Judgment and its close friends, logic and reasoning, went out the window — and any other exit route — whenever he drank, and tonight, he'd drained his mug and tossed back way too many vodka shots.

But it was his brother's engagement party, and never in a million years had he expected Valery to show up. He hadn't seen hide nor hair of his ex-girlfriend since their high school graduation twelve years ago, so why would he expect her to show up now? Even though her parents still lived in Falcon Run — well, her mother still lived; her father passed away about a month ago — Valery had disappeared without a trace.

As the stupid Ukrainian folk music that he'd had the DJ play so he could give Alex and Irene an engagement gift ended, a slow country number started.

Vince dropped his arms, trying not to think about how good Valery's slender fingers and full hips felt beneath his large hands. He had chosen not to embarrass her — or himself — by turning her down when she'd led him to the dance floor. But now, she could go back to wherever she'd been for the last twelve years.

Instead of disappearing down her mysterious rabbit hole again, she stepped forward, her hands moving up his chest, her fingers linking at the nape of his neck. "Are you only good for one dance, ?" she purred, her voice as breathy and seductive as ever. Once upon a time, just the sound of his Russian name on her lips would have gotten him to do anything she requested. Her warm fingers dipped beneath his collar, causing the hairs on the back of his neck to rise. Long ago, those fingers had heated his core, even on the coldest Alaska nights.

A smile quirked up her plum-tinted lips. "I remember a time when you partied all night."

"That was a long time ago, Valery." More than a decade of heavy drinking to forget how long ago it was. But he didn't want to make a scene and ruin his brother's night, so he returned his hands to her waist, navigating their bodies in a slow circle.

Weeks after their high school graduation, when she'd not shown up at his house or answered his calls, he had pummeled her parents' door, demanding to see her. Rarely had he gone to her parents' house; she'd always hung out with him at the Belgardes'. Neither of them wanted to live in their own homes.

When he'd gone to her house, her father, often drunk, just as Vince's father had always been, had appeared in the doorway behind Valery's mother, spitting obscenities, carrying on about how Vince wasn't good enough for his little girl. Vince had always gotten along with Valery's mother, but even she had refused to give him any info other than Valery had moved to Florida. For all he knew, her father had finally killed her, or she'd overdosed on the antidepressants she often lifted from her mother's purse.

"Not so long ago," Valery said, her tone taking on a drunken drawl. What some folks might mistake for a southern accent, he recognized as she'd had one too many drinks herself. Slurred speech had always been a dead giveaway that Valery was drunk. "Some things never change in Falcon Run," she continued. "The Belgarde brothers still frequent Grizz's, and you're still bemoaning your upbringing while doing your father's stupid dance."

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