“Shut up. Jorge and Daniel are coming, too. We’l hit a couple of the clubs near UCLA, grab a few col ege girls who wil be swayed by my buttload of charm and your passable looks and il ustrious celebrity status.”

“Ah, buttload of charm,” I laughed. God, I’d missed John.

He’s such a jackass. “That’l have them lining up.” When four guys in a Hummer limo pul up in front of a nightclub—three trust fund babies and one celebrity—there is no standing in line. John, Daniel and Jorge fal in behind me, and it’s as though I never left this life. Once we’re inside, I lean to John. “You guys gather whoever you want to bring with us. I’m getting a few shots in before I decide to ditch this whole night.”

He narrows his eyes. “No ditching al owed. It’s like riding a bike, Reid. Jump on and pedal like hel , man.” I shrug. “Whatever. I’l be at the bar. And, uh, don’t mention my name to any of them, okay? I’m not in the mood.”

“Not in the mood for sex?” He looks appal ed.

“Not in the mood for some chick who just wants to have sex with Reid Alexander. Find me a cute girl who has no idea who I am, and I’l consider it.”

He shakes his head, dark hair fal ing into his eyes. “You, son, are il , and we’re going to get you the cure tonight if it kil s me. Or you.”

I sigh. “Give me enough time to get a little numb first, wil ya?”


I’ve avoided the LA club scene for years, while most of my friends were doing anything to get in. The music is so loud that I almost can’t hear it. I feel it, though. Kayla did my makeup and styled my hair in long waves, and Aimee dressed me in a black miniskirt and fuchsia tank so tight that I feel claustrophobic. I’m teetering on heels that could give me a nosebleed.

Holding Deb’s driver’s license, I try to appear like a confident 26-year-old. Kayla and Aimee swear that despite the age difference, Deb and I look (looked) similar enough


—same coloring, height, bone structure—and that using her ID is better than trying to sneak a fake past a bouncer. I hope the intimidating guy at the door doesn’t examine it too closely. Any direct interrogation and I’l col apse into a heap and start confessing.

He inspects the license itself more closely than he examines me. Three cover charges later, we’re through the door, Aimee with her cousin’s license and Kayla with a fake from Arizona that cost a fortune.

Step One—get in—was easier than I thought it would be.

Step Two: drink until I stop thinking about Deb. Stop thinking about Reid. Stop thinking about the future I can no longer clearly see, and the faith I no longer feel.

“I haven’t seen you here before, beautiful girl.” I’ve danced with at least a dozen guys, and here’s lucky number thirteen.

I’m not used to strangers standing so close. Or cal ing me beautiful. Leaning one elbow on the table in interested nonchalance, I sip the drink in my hand, which looks like a coke and tastes like a coke with a side of ingestible flames. I think it’s my third, maybe fourth. Over the rim of the glass I see blondish hair and bluish eyes. The eyes regard me in the lazy manner of a predator sizing up dinner, and al of my instincts say run. Which is exactly why I do the opposite. Because my instincts are overly protective and useless.

A tilt of my head and a little smile back, and he’s moved even closer.

“Let’s dance,” he says. Here we go again.

I put the drink down, glance at Kayla (who gives me an eyebrow waggle and a thumbs up) and Aimee (whose eyes are wandering over tonight’s selection of hot guys), and slip from the barstool into this stranger’s arms. He slides an arm around my waist as I balance myself. As we move towards the dance floor, I could swear I hear Aimee say,

“Oh my God. Kayla, look—have I had too many shots of tequila or is that Reid—”

I don’t catch the end of her sentence before I’m out of earshot. She can’t mean who I think she means, even if she did say his name, which is debatable, as difficult as it is to hear anything over the music. I glance around, but everything is a whirl of color and noise and then this guy’s hands are on my hips, and we’re grinding into each other, fol owing the beat. Closing my eyes, I hook my arms around his neck.

“What’s your name?” he asks, leaning in close.

My eyes open and his face is close enough to see his eyes. Ice blue, not like Reid’s stormy blue at al . I don’t want to think about Reid. “Dori,” I answer.

“Dori. Cute, just like you. I’m Reece.”

Rats. Too close to Reid. I don’t want to think about him.

I dance with Reece-who-is-not-Reid until I’m hot and thirsty, breaking off mid-song and heading for the table. I resist the urge to look back and see if he’s fol owing. I don’t real y care. If he doesn’t, someone else wil .

I’m downing the rest of the rum and coke and Reece settles a hip on Aimee’s barstool as she leads another guy to the dance floor. Always another guy. Did I notice this before, how many there are? I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, trying to make a difference, never doing anything reckless or pleasurable, not since Colin. Wel . That’s not quite true. Reid was reckless and pleasurable. But I’m not thinking about him.

In the end I just wasted my time trying to better the world, and so did Deb.

I force my thoughts away from my sister, too, who sits in her chair and stares at nothing, with everything she’d learned, everything she’d become, everything she wanted to be—doctor, girlfriend, wife— gone. Reece signals a waitress for two more drinks when I begin to spin the ice in my otherwise empty glass. His fingers trail along my arm, back and forth, like a magician with a hypnotic watch. “Tel me more about you, Dori with the big innocent eyes.” I arch a brow at this. “So I look innocent, do I?”

“Are you?” Another lazy smile. His repertoire of facial expressions appears to be limited.

“Maybe. Is that a problem?”

His nostrils flare slightly, and his lazy smile has turned into the other one. The hungry one. Truth is, I’m a little afraid of him, but it doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.

“Depends.” The drinks arrive, and he throws his back, finishing half of it in one long swal ow.

“On?” I ask, slamming half of mine as wel , shuddering after. It’s amazing how easy it is to drink fire once you get accustomed to it.

He leans closer, and I feel his warm breath on my cheek.

“On whether you want to stay that way.” He doesn’t pul back, and neither do I, even as he begins to nuzzle my ear, his tongue swirling over the tip of it.

Too fast too fast my brain says, but my new powers of repression shut it up quick. I turn my face towards his and he’s kissing me, and within seconds, his hands are wandering, caressing too roughly. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. The music deafens me and his arm encircles me, pressing me to his side though I’m stil sitting on the high stool and he’s standing. He’s wearing too much cologne, and it’s not the right smel . Too sweet, almost. Not earthy.

“Let’s get out of here—the place a couple of doors down is way better.”

I don’t recal another club on this block, but it feels like days ago that we came in. I glance across the dance floor, spotting Aimee, and gesture that I’m leaving. She goes to mime call me with the wrong hand and almost spil s her drink in her ear.

Reece finishes his drink and points to my glass. “You’ve stil got half of yours.” I gulp the rest, tipping it back until the ice cubes bounce off of my upper lip. “Nice,” he says, leaning closer. “Time for innocent little Dori to learn some of leaning closer. “Time for innocent little Dori to learn some of the sweet facts of life.” My body is moving off of the barstool, and I look down and his hands are at my waist, large hands, holding me, keeping me from fal ing. Or from running away.

“Wait.” Gripping the table, I close my eyes and wish the room would quit spinning. Closing my eyes helps, but I worry that won’t be the case once this last drink finds its way into my bloodstream. I want to be numb, but al I am is dizzy and everything is loud and flashing and this isn’t how I thought it would be and I just want to sit back down and cry.

“You’l feel better when we’re outside,” he says, supporting my weight and guiding me towards the exit.

Chapter 37


I’ve been sitting at the bar, sipping shots of Armadale vodka while the guys round up girls to take to the party. The mirror across the back wal is angled slightly, reflecting the whole place, so I can face away from the crowd and contemplate the accumulated line of empty shot glasses, but stil watch everything going on. While deciding whether I want to go for al -out hammered or just buzzed enough to note everything going on but not give a crap about any of it, I caught sight of a girl on the dance floor.

Last summer, I conducted an unsuccessful search for a Dorcas Cantrel look-alike. The closest I came were a few girls with similar coloring. This girl resembles her in some obscure mannerisms I must have become aware of during the weeks we worked together, in addition to a striking physical similarity. But Dori would never dress or behave to be so blatantly seductive, though I imagined her that way more than once. By the end of my stint with Habitat, I found her appealing no matter what she was wearing—even her unreasonably shapeless t-shirts.

For the past hour, my attention has been riveted by this club girl. I lost interest in vodka shots, watching as she glided from her table to the dance floor and back with different guys. Final y, one of them decided to hang around more permanently, leaning on the table as she finished the drink she foolishly left there while they were dancing, which could have easily been roofied by one of his friends. It hadn’t—I would have noticed, but stil . He leaned in and kissed her, and when they started making out, I went from eighty percent sure this girl wasn’t Dori to one hundred percent sure. Even stil , I couldn’t look away.

When she turned to signal to another girl on the dance floor, I got a better view of her face. The resemblance to Dori was so strong, I felt like someone had just punched me in the gut. She downed the rest of her drink before the two of them headed for the door, his arm around her as she staggered in those stripper heels.

That stagger decides it. I slap a C-note on the bar and push it towards the bartender, pul ing out my phone and texting John to meet me up front. My eyes never leave the girl as I trail them towards the door. “Hey, Reid Alexander?” someone says, and I shake my head. I don’t have time for that shit now.

We al reach the exit at the same time and I grab the guy’s shoulder in the way you’d stop a friend to say hi.

“Excuse me.”

He turns, annoyed, holding the girl upright. She’s crashing fast, her head propped against his chest, her hair obscuring her face. “Yeah?”

I focus on him. “Yeah, man, you’re gonna have to find someone else.”

His eyes narrow. “What are you talking about? Do I know you?”

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