He could keep it. Let it serve as a reminder not to be an asshole.

I sent one last smile at the artist, and then headed for the street.

I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. Who knew all it took to cheer me up was to put some punk-ass kid in his place?

I glanced down the street, contemplating where I should go next, when I caught sight of a familiar buzzed head.


My heart skyrocketed up into my throat, and I took a step in his direction before a touch at my elbow pulled my attention. I stared at the guy that I thought was Hunt for a second longer before glancing behind me.

It was the little artist.

Before I could even open my mouth to ask what he wanted, he shoved a paper into my hands and ran. I looked down, and my heart melted back down into my chest at the sight of his fountain sketch, torn from the pages of his book. I turned to watch him join the group of boys, this time to a high five and cheers.

I held the sketch close to my chest and waved at him. He must have been braver for the distance because he waved back enthusiastically.

When I turned in the other direction, my phantom Hunt was nowhere to be seen. I sighed. It probably wasn’t him anyway. The odds of seeing him again, and on the street no less, had to be minuscule.

Maybe I should hold off on going to that hotel and stay in the hostel a little while longer. Because if Hunt did try to find me, that’s where he would go. I mean . . . he probably wouldn’t. Not after the ass I’d made out of myself, but just in case. It wouldn’t kill me to stay a few more days.


Hopefully, I could keep myself from killing Creeper Chris in the meantime.


Hunt didn’t find me that day.

Not that I was broken up over it or anything.

He was one guy. Hardly the first guy to catch my attention here, and definitely not the last.

I didn’t see Katalin or the guys again either. I wasn’t interested in getting my mouth vacuumed for the second time.

Instead, I made friends with another group staying in my hostel: Jenny, who was staying in my room, was Canadian; her brother John, along with their friend Tau, who was dark- skinned, gorgeous, and Australian.

I followed them to a pub crawl that night. It was easy to just blend into their group and give my brain a break by listening to their conversations about the summer film program they were attending in Prague. I put up with the normal get-to-know-you questions for a little while, but by the time we got to the second pub, we’d all had enough to drink that we acted like old friends even though we didn’t know each other.

Something in me must have been broken, though, because I couldn’t even stay interested in what Tau was saying, and the guy was a beautiful specimen of man with a to-die-for accent. John was a bit on the nerdy side, still kind of cute, but there was definitely nothing there either.

I talked to a few guys at each pub we hit, but my eyes were constantly drawn to the door, waiting for someone else to enter.

A very specific someone else.

But that was stupid. He wasn’t just going to walk in at random. I knew that, but I couldn’t seem to get my head or my heart into the evening.

Between pubs, I must have seen a dozen Internet cafés, each one whispering to me, calling me to go lose myself in messages to friends and the comfort of home (or as close as I could get to it here anyway). I resisted, and made myself do a shot every time my mind wandered to Hunt or Home, both of which were recipes for disaster.

Needless to say, I felt like the walking dead the next day when Jenny plopped herself down at my feet, and pulled the blankets down off my head.

I groaned, and buried my head into my pillow.

“Fuck. Too bright.”

She clucked. “Hangover. That blows.”

I turned my head sideways, just enough so that I could talk and keep from suffocating on my pillow.

“I’m going to blow your brains out if you don’t talk a little quieter.”

She smiled like I hadn’t just taken a stroll into homicidal territory. I had learned one thing the night before . . . Jenny and I were really alike. Scary alike. It was a little like hanging out with my clone. Well . . . a clone that wasn’t hung up on some guy she was never going to see again.

She said, “I have a solution.”

“Does it involve ritual suicide? I’ve always thought that would be an interesting way to go.”

“Damn. You’re morbid the morning after. No wonder you say you never have any issues ditching your one-nighters. They’re probably actually in a ditch somewhere.”

“Ha. Ha.”

In a much quieter voice, she said, “So, I was thinking we’d get some coffee, maybe add a little something special to yours. You know, a little hair of the dog. Then we’re going shopping because we’ve got plans tonight. Epic plans.”

Whoo-hoo. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. Epic plans.

“I’d rather take an epic nap.”

“Come on!”

I wanted to bury my head under my pillow and forget the world.

I said, “Go shopping with your friends.” “They’re guys. They’ll just be obnoxious and impatient the whole time. Besides . . . you’ll like this. Trust me. Close your eyes.”


“Picture a gorgeous guy. Are you picturing him?”

Despite all attempts to do otherwise, I was picturing a very particular gorgeous guy. The same guy who’d been stuck in my head for two days now.

“Now picture him shirtless, in swim shorts, and dripping wet.”

Damn it. Why did my imagination have to be so good? There was no way I was going to get out of my rut if I kept this up.

“Now multiply that times a hundred, add some music and alcohol, and that’s what you and I are doing tonight.”

“Uh . . . Jenny. I don’t know what kind of geography they taught you in Canada, but Hungary is landlocked. I don’t see any beach parties in our future.”

“Who said anything about a beach, drunky? We’re going here.”

She literally shoved a flyer into my face. My head ached as I tried to focus on the writing.

I saw the picture first. Some kind of rave with tons of people in bathing suits looking like they were having the time of their lives.

Above that, the title read, “Night of Baths.”

When I sat up to take a look at the flyer, Jenny took off rambling. “The guy at the front desk, you know the one with the eyebrow ring?” Oh, I knew him, all right. He’d provided an excellent welcome my first night in Budapest. “He said it’s similar to a pub crawl, but instead of bars you go to these thermal bath places that have been around, I don’t know, a bazillion years. Everyone wears bathing suits, gets trashed, and stays out all night long.”

At the moment, my stomach didn’t seem up to another all-nighter.

“I don’t know, Jen—”

“What do you mean you don’t know? This sounds amazing. Plus, it’s my last night in Budapest. And I could use a wing woman if I’m going to snag Tau.”

Right. I vaguely remembered her mentioning something about liking him the night before. I guessed it was good I couldn’t manage to drum up any attraction on my end, then.

“Come on, Kelsey. You’ll regret it if you don’t. This is like a once-in-a-lifetime party.”

Between the regrets I already had and the ones I was scared of having, life was starting to feel like an obstacle course of remorse.

“Okay. I’ll go.”

She squealed, and I swear my brain screamed in protest.

Quieter, she said, “Sorry. Got excited. You won’t regret this Kelsey. We’re going to find some hot swimwear, and this will be the highlight of your trip. Just wait.”

She was right. I just needed to get rid of this headache, and I’d be able to think a little clearer.

And maybe I would take it easy tonight. I could have fun at this party without alcohol. My liver could probably do with a bit of a break.

I’d help her get Tau and find a guy of my own. Then I’d be back on track, and could move forward.

Jenny, John, Tau, and I bought wristbands that allowed us entry into all of the baths and covered our transportation between the different venues. We shucked our cover-ups, checked our things, and then walked into what I could only assume was an alternate universe.

I’d opted against the sleazy bikini that had first caught my eye, and instead had bought a black-and-white wraparound number that crisscrossed over my chest, wrapped around my rib cage, and then crisscrossed at the small of my waist once more before tying to my bikini bottoms at each hip. I looked hot, but fashionable; and in the sea of skimpy triangles, I stood out as a challenge, which was exactly my intention.

This venue flashed with neon lights, thumped with remixed techno music, and shone with, dear Jesus, so much skin. I saw bikinis and Speedos and even an acrobat hanging from the ceiling. And the cherry on top? There were fire dancers along the edges of the open pool. As in people . . . dancing with flames. Serious insanity.

Set against mosaic tiles and marble columns, I felt like I’d time traveled back to the hedonistic festivals I’d studied in theatre history in honor of the Greek god Dionysus; though, I didn’t know enough to know if the architecture was Greek or Roman inspired, so I suppose it could have been Bacchus. Either way, it was like Woodstock meets Sea World meets Cirque du Soleil.

AKA fucking crazy pants.

“Is this for real?” Jenny asked.

“Right?” I stood, staring in awe. “Somebody pinch me.”

A man with a horrendously hairy chest and a Speedo so tight it was probably cutting off circulation passed by me at that moment, and did just that. I yelped and held a hand to my ass, gawking at his retreating back.

Jenny laughed. “Maybe this place is magic, and whatever we say comes true. Ryan Gosling, please!”

We waited.

The acrobat hanging from the top of the dome above the bath dropped backward, hanging on to her hoop with only her knees, but no celebrities magically appeared.

Jenny snapped her fingers. “Too bad. This is still pretty awesome, though.”

Awesome didn’t even begin to cover it. This was . . . incredible.

“Thanks for making me come.”

Jenny smiled. “Like I would have let you miss this!”

The guys seemed to be enjoying it too, though their eyes were glued more to bikinis than the visuals and pyrotechnics.

We walked farther into the room, past a bar and toward the steam-clouded bath. There were men and women of all shapes and sizes. A short guy with blond hair shouted and took a running leap into the water. He landed a few feet away from a chubby guy with a floaty around his waist like a neon green donut. My eyes kept catching on the girl curled around the hoop hanging from the top of the bath’s domed ceiling. It reminded me of one of those bird cages, with the circular perch in the middle. I kept waiting for her to sprout wings and fly.

Then there were the abs . . . sweet baby Jesus, it was like there was a factory with a conveyor belt spitting them out because they just kept coming. I didn’t even know where to begin. It was a buffet of well . . . buffness, and I was about to be guilty of gluttony.

“Should we get drinks?” Jenny asked.

I shook my head. “I’m okay. Let’s check out the water first.”

I took my first step into the bath, and I may have let out a strangled moan at the delicious heat. I smiled at Jenny and said, “Bet they don’t have things like this in Canada.”

“Are you kidding? I would still be in Canada if we had shit like this.”

I sank in the bath up to my waist and closed my eyes in satisfaction. The water lapped at my chest, and I could feel the tension in my muscles unraveling.

“Can I spend the rest of my life here?” I asked.

“You might get a bit pruney.”

“Worth it.”

We waded farther into the bath. There were bodies everywhere. People danced and laughed and splashed. With the heat and steam and music and lights—it was a sensual overload.

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