“Honestly, I have no idea what you are.”

What did that mean? He didn’t know what kind of girl I was? (Because I would totally tell him what kind of girl I was.)

Based on the set of his shoulders and the fact that he barely looked at me, I was guessing he meant something a bit more serious.

I didn’t know how to answer, so I didn’t try. I’d spilled enough to him already.

Together, we walked. I didn’t really know where we were going, and he stayed silent, following me when I chose to turn at random. I let my mind wander from the brooding gothic architecture to where I might travel next to home and then back to the man next to me.


What kind of name was that?

Predatory. That’s what kind.

I really should be scared, walking around a dark, unfamiliar city with a complete stranger. But there were a lot of things that I should be and wasn’t. And when I looked over at him, I couldn’t seem to conjure an ounce of the fear I knew I should have. Dad always accused me of having a death wish. Maybe he was right.

A glow began to creep across the sky, and we exited a narrow street into open air. A winding river bisected the city, and the sunrise peeked its head above it.

There was too much to see, and I slowed to a stop to take it all in. The sky breathed in pink and purple, and a soft gold glinted off the river. I couldn’t remember the name, but it was the same river that was only a block or two from my hostel. Despite my wandering, we’d ended up fairly close to the home to which Hunt was supposed to be taking me.


I swallowed, still feeling antsy at the idea of returning to the hostel. So, rather than walking north toward bed, I pointed south. “There’s a club a little ways that way that’s open until six.”

He gave me a hard look. “I think you’ve partied enough tonight.”

The judgment in his tone made me squirm, mostly because I knew he was right. If another drop of alcohol passed my lips, I’d be sick again in no time.

But that buzzing was there at the back of my mind, telling me I needed to do something. It was always safer to do than to think. I turned away from Hunt and jogged into the street toward the riverbank.

“Where are you going?” Hunt called after me.

I turned, walking backward again, and said, “Absolutely no idea.”

I was raising my shoulders in a shrug and my lips in a smile when he darted out into the street and grabbed me by the elbow. With a forceful tug, he turned me around and pulled me up onto the sidewalk on the other side of the road.

“Are you crazy? Don’t walk across a fucking road without looking where you’re going!”

I pulled my elbow out of his grasp and stepped away from him. “Relax. I’m fine. There’s no one out this time of morning anyway.”

Then the universe one-upped me as a sports car zoomed past, wind rushing around us in its wake. Hunt raised his eyebrows at me. His jaw was tense with anger, and I couldn’t tell whether I wanted to push it away or press my lips to it.

“You don’t have to say it,” I said, turning before he could say, I told you so. “I’m a piece of work. Got it.” I jogged ahead toward the river. “But you know what? I’m so good at it.”

I reached down and slipped off one heel, and then the other. My feet ached against the flat, cool stone, but I didn’t mind. I held both of my shoes in one hand and skipped toward the river, Hunt following behind.

I screamed just to hear the sound echo out over the water.

“You’re ridiculous,” he said.

I didn’t like the way he said it. Like he pitied me.

“Correction: I’m fun.”

I left him behind, running for the water. I thought briefly of just diving in or perhaps skinny-dipping in the river, but decided people would be coming out soon, and there was no telling what was in that water.

Dark and deep, like a bruise, the river had a quiet energy that made me slow down and stare. It was beautiful and silent and solemn with just a dab of pain written in the current. Even the rising sun only broke through the first layer, the light swallowed by the dark just a few inches below the surface.

A little ways down the riverside, small dark shapes lined the edge of the walkway, and I moved toward them, curious. But when I got there, I didn’t understand any more by seeing them up close.

There were shoes. Dozens of them. Black and cast in iron, lining the river’s edge. Empty shoes.

It was a sculpture of some kind, but I was at a loss for what it meant. The shoes ranged in size and shape, belonging to both men and women. Some were small, made for the tiny feet of children. Some were simple and others elaborate. I took a step forward to walk among them, but something held me back. If the river was a bruise, these were grief. Loss. There were no feet in them, but they were far from empty.

“It’s a holocaust memorial,” Hunt said from behind me.

I sucked in a breath, the cold air was slightly tangy on my tongue. All those shoes. I knew they were just replicas, just pieces of metal, but they spoke. They sang.

You don’t realize how small you really are until you’re faced with something like that. We live our lives as if we’re at the center of our own universe, but we’re just tiny pieces of a shattered whole. Here I was . . . worried about how I was going to survive life post-college. God, it didn’t even seem right anymore to think of it as surviving, not with this reminder of all the people that hadn’t. I pushed my fingers back through my hair, lacing them behind my neck.

I knew I was lucky. Blessed, even. But it was a lot of pressure . . . trying not to waste what you’ve been given. I wanted to accomplish something. To love something. To be something. But I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what.

All of my friends were off chasing their dreams, moving into their futures, and I just wanted to want something with that kind of desperation, that kind of fire. I was an actress. I’d spent nearly half my life stepping into a character, searching out her desires, finding what drives her. But for the life of me, I couldn’t do the same for myself. It had been a long, long time since I’d let myself want something enough for it to matter.

I felt like such a failure. Every shoe before me represented a dream that would never be lived, a life that would never be loved. I’d never faced that kind of oppression or struggle.

This place bled with history and tragedy, and in comparison it made the wounds of my past seem like scratches.


Are you okay?”

Hunt stood right next to me. On instinct, I turned my back to him. I was glad for it as I wiped my cheeks and my hands came back wet.

I cleared my throat.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Just yawned. Maybe I’m a little tired after all.”

“You mean I finally get to walk you home?”

I composed my face into a smile and turned. “Come on, then, Prince Charming. Let’s see what this chivalry stuff is all about. I hear good things.”

His lips tipped in a smile. “I haven’t been called chivalrous in a long time.”

I raised an eyebrow as we crossed the road back to the other sidewalk. “Fine by me. Chivalry sounded pretty boring anyway.” I was much more intrigued by the not-so-nice side of him.

He laughed, and I took a moment to get my bearings. We weren’t far from my hostel at all. I was pretty sure it was just a block or two north. Once we’d set off walking again, I looked at Hunt. “Tell me something. If you’re not walking me home because it’s the gentlemanly thing to do, why are you here?”

We crossed over another side street and he said, “Back on the serial-killer bent, are we?”

I surveyed him for a second. In my sobering state, he wasn’t any less muscular or intimidating, but he didn’t seem dangerous. He could be, definitely. His hands were probably big enough to crush someone’s skull, but all that power seemed dormant, locked under multiple layers of control.

“Nah, you’re not a serial killer. Too soft for that.”


I grinned, and turned the corner. There was my hostel, tucked inconspicuously between a tourist shop and a restaurant.

“Hold on, now,” Hunt said. “Did you just call me soft?”

He took hold of my shoulder and spun me around to face him. I braced a hand against his stomach and— Holy mother of washboard abs! I looked up at him, at those penetrating eyes.

“Well, I wouldn’t call this part of you soft.”

His playful expression turned dark, the tension creeping back along his jaw.

His tone full of warning, he said,” Kelsey.”

I wasn’t sure what he was warning me against, nor did I particularly care. I tilted my head to look up at him, the colorful early morning sky still painting itself behind him.

“How did you know my name?”

“That girl said it. The one you came to the bar with.”


I smiled, and touched my free hand to his shoulder. “Well, then. You know my name, and I know yours. How else could we get to know each other?”

I let the hand on his stomach slide up until his chest arced outward. God, if his body looked half as perfect as it felt, I wanted to use it as a dinner table.

He swayed toward me, and the scent of him, woodsy and masculine, meshed perfectly with the morning air. His fingers touched my rib cage, and I shivered. Long and strong, those fingers could play me like a piano, and it would be a masterpiece.

He exhaled a heavy breath, and I nearly groaned at the way his muscles moved beneath his skin. I gripped the back of his neck, and a low rumble resonated in his chest.

I lifted myself up on my toes, my lips level with his chin, and said, “Feel free to keep showing me how not soft you are.”

The hand on my ribs flexed, and my shirt bunched in his fingers.

“Goddamn it.” He groaned, and tipped his head back away from mine.

Was that a good sign?

I resisted the urge to crawl up his body, and settled instead for wrapping my arms more fully around his shoulders. I tipped his head back down toward mine, and his breath puffed across my lips, warm and sweet. I pulled myself closer, and I felt the start of something pressing against my stomach.

I let out a breathy sigh at the same time that he pulled away.

He put several feet between us, and then in a low voice said, “You should go. Get some sleep.”

I blinked. “What?”

“You’ve had a long night.”

I blinked again. I had hoped it would become an even longer night.

“That sounds an awful lot like chivalry to me. Boring chivalry.”

He took another step away from me. “This is you, right?” He pointed to the hostel at my back.

“Uh, yeah, it is, but—”

“Good. Then I’ll leave you alone.”

But what if I didn’t want to be left alone?

He took a few more steps backward, until he stood in the sunlight that washed the main street.

“Good night, Kelsey. Or Good morning.”

Then he left, leaving me alone, still a little drunk, and mind-numbingly turned on.

“What the fuck?” I said aloud, my words echoing through the small street just as a tiny old lady opened up a second-floor window on the building across from me. I waved a hand at her, and called out an apology before heading to the hostel entrance.

What had just happened? He wanted me. I’d felt that much, and there was no way that was a cell phone or something else in his pocket. Unless they’d started making pockets in a very awkward spot.

I rubbed my hands over my eyes and up into my hair.

Well, that made it official. Tonight sucked balls.

After a pitiful few hours tossing on my hostel bed, I gave up and rose as the rest of my room was waking. I dressed quickly before Creeper Chris could wake up and watch. He’d been staying in this hostel for several months already when I arrived, like a bad case of bed bugs they couldn’t seem to shake. And after the night I’d had, I might end up punching him if he looked at me longer than two seconds.

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