Chapter One


"Are you going to tell me where the money came from?" Becca looks at me expectantly over the rim of her third glass of Chardonnay.

"Colton," my liquor-loosened tongue reveals before I can filter it. "He and I had a kind of arrangement."

"How did you meet him?" Becca asks, her gaze inquisitive.

"Next question." I might be several drinks past drunk but there’s no way I’m telling her about the auction. I needed to maintain some dignity in this shameful situation.

Her eyes never stray from mine as she takes another contemplative sip. We’re sitting at a tiny bar in the lobby of our hotel. When I’d found out about Colton’s marital status, I’d fled for home, broken hearted and destroyed. Becca convinced me we needed a girl’s weekend away. I’d done one better and flew us to Rome on a whim. So here we sit, halfway around the world and all we can think to discuss is the exact topic that sent me running in the first place. Awesome. I take another healthy swig of my beverage. God, don’t they have anything stronger than wine in this country?

"What kind of arrangement can you make with a man where he just gives you half a million dollars, Soph?" Her tone is accusatory. Good thing she doesn’t know about the rest of the money, which is tucked inside my own bank account. I know my family has a lot of questions about where the money for Becca’s treatment came from, and so far, I haven’t said a word. Until now. Her eyes grow wide and she slaps a hand over her mouth. "Oh my God, were you like, his sex slave?" She giggles.

My cheeks burn brightly, but I shake my head. "You’d have to actually have sex for that to be the case, I’d think…"

She’s still giggling, so I know she has no idea she’s hit the nail on the head. Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner.

"Let’s not talk about the money, Becca. It’s not important. Colton was willing to provide it, and I don’t regret anything because it helped you get better. Please just let it go," I plead with her to let it drop.  Her health is cooperating for once and I want to enjoy this trip – just us. I don’t want to even think about the name Colton Drake. It's much too painful.


"If he’s as hot as you’ve said he is, I would have had a hard time not ripping his clothes off and jumping him. Oops, I’m sorry, my vagina accidentally landed on your penis."

I crack a smile at her change in topic. Of course it’s about sex. Becca’s not a virgin and she’s much more forward about sex than I am. You’d think it’d be the opposite, but somehow, I’m the cautious one, whereas being sick from a young age taught her to grab life by the balls and live it to the fullest. I envy her in that.

Her first sexual experience was with a boy in the cancer treatment center. He was seventeen and she was just fifteen at the time. She’d told me every single detail, a proud gleam in her eye. It was inspiring how she let nothing stand in her way. I’d summoned her inner strength the night I stood on that auction block waiting to be sold.

"Soph?" she asks, drawing me back from my faraway thoughts. "Are you okay?"

"I miss him," I admit softly. "That’s crazy, right?"

"Not crazy. That’s normal when you break up with someone, from what I hear."

"I didn’t break up with him. He wasn’t my boyfriend. He’s married, remember?" I’d told Becca nearly everything – about me living with him, us growing closer, and about being naked in the pool when his wife arrived home one afternoon. Of course Colton tried to stop me, all but tackling me in the hallway of his mansion that suddenly felt cold and foreign to me. I waited for him to try and deny it, to explain it all to me, but sadly, it was all true. Stella was his wife. He'd been married the entire time.

"Technically. But I still think you need the rest of the story. Obviously his wife wasn’t living there. How long have they been separated?"

I shrug. "He hasn’t had sex in two years." Unless he was lying about that too. I don’t know what to believe anymore.

"Damn, that’s quite a dry spell. And if he’s as hot as you’ve said he is…it’s not like he didn’t have offers, right?"

I was one of those offering. I blush, realizing I’d practically put my vagina on a silver platter for him and he repeatedly turned it down. It’s enough to give a girl low self-esteem.

"Listen, it’s okay to miss him. It’s okay to feel confused." She reaches across the space between us and grabs my hand. Despite being six minutes younger than me, Becca has always been wise beyond her years. Her advice is thoughtful and spot on. She downs the last of her wine. "But we’re in frickin Rome for a once in a lifetime girls trip, so there will be no moping allowed. We’re going to have fun."

Yay, fun. My heart feels like it’s been fed through a paper shredder. I nod and force a smile onto my face. Becca’s right. This really could be a once in a lifetime trip for me and her. Who knows what the future holds. I can’t waste time feeling sorry for myself. Of course that’s easier said than done.

I miss Colton’s bed, his scent, the feel of his rough stubble against my cheek when we kissed. I miss everything about him. Just as we’d started to grow close, everything I’d come to love was ripped away from me, leaving a gaping hole in my chest.

Forcing the thoughts of him from my mind, I throw back the rest of my wine and glance at the charming ambience of the bar around us, hoping this trip will be the distraction I need.