I nodded. “I know, Dad.”

He returned the nod, as though I was an equal, and I sat up straighter.

“Talk to Zoe. Keep us informed. This will all work out.” He offered a half-grin to my mother, who sat stoically across from him. “It’s not like all three of you were planned, after all.” Mom smirked back at him. That was the end of the family meeting.

Zoe was convinced she was going to be “just like Juno.” We told her parents our decision, and since they’d given Zoe everything she wanted since the day she was born, it was easy enough to convince them to go along. There were moments during the next few months when she was pissed and blaming me for talking her into having the baby. Like the weeks she spent part of second period in the bathroom, throwing up, every day. Or when she got a new stretch mark. Or when she realized she’d gained forty pounds and the baby wouldn’t weigh more than eight.

We weren’t together-together, but Ross Stewart was no longer hanging around (which somehow confused Zoe), and I was convinced that part of everything working out would include Zoe and me getting back together. That didn’t happen, of course.

Once Cara was born, Zoe handed her over, signed the legal papers terminating her parental rights, and went to spend a month in the south of France with her parents. When she returned to New York, she spent several weeks in the Hamptons before heading off to Florida for college. She never called or came by. It was like Cara never happened. Like I never happened.


Once I’ve pulled my suitcase across the threshold of my room, I speed-dial Graham to tell him my room number. Waiting for him, I pace the length of the suite, door to window, window to door, my stomach in knots and my face as flushed as if I had a fever.

As he predicted, we’ve texted and talked and Skyped for the past ten days. I know so much more about him than I did a month ago. I didn’t know him at all last fall. I only knew the comfort I felt in his presence, as though he’d always been a part of my life, a part of me. Maybe this is how it feels to lose your memory—only impressions and shadowed inclinations remain, with no factual signals to back them up.

A knock sounds at my door and my heart stops and falls to my knees, starting back up violently as I walk to the door and pull it open. For the barest moment we stand there drinking each other in, before I take a step backwards into the room and he follows as though there’s a cord attached to his chest. The door snaps closed behind him.

Every detail about him has sharpened, my brain having played my mental pictures of him over and over. His dark hair is messy and falls over his forehead. His eyes are deep caramel in this late afternoon room, but they’ll be black in low light. Slight stubble on his chin, and across his jaw. His mouth is set—if I was a stranger to him I’d think he was angry, but I know he’s not. His nostrils flare just the slightest bit and I back up another step.


“Is it… okay… if I lock the door?” His voice is so low, and I recognize it as the voice he uses when we’re talking late at night.

I nod, and he turns to twist the bolt and slam the interior lock home, the sleeve of his black t-shirt drawing back to expose the taut, defined muscles of his upper arm. My mouth goes dry with a longing so strong it makes my breath catch. When he steps towards me, I’m stock still, torn between swaying towards him and taking another step back.

His arms slip around me as he bends and buries his face in my neck. “I’ve missed you.” His voice hums along my collar bone, soaks into my shoulder.

“I’ve missed you, too,” I say, my voice a whisper, like smoke.

He pulls back, his arms still locked at my lower back, and grins. “I’ve missed you more.” I remember this promise from him as he walked away from me last fall in the airport, after we exchanged goodbyes and I told him I’d miss him. I’ll miss you more, he’d said.

I give him a mock-stern look and flash my eyes to his. “I don’t believe you. I think you should have to prove a statement like that.”

His mouth turns up on one side as he stares down at me, that expression so familiar and beautiful it impedes my breath. “Oh?” he says, one eyebrow angling up.

My hands have been inching up his arms, which are tensed and tight around me still. He’s not loosened his hold since he slid them around me. I take fistfuls of his sleeves on both sides and revel in the feel of his shoulders, broad and solid and so different from mine that I feel soft and small.

Pulling me closer, Graham lifts me onto my toes as his mouth crashes down on mine. The feel of his lips, insistent and giving no quarter, stuns me for a split-second, and then I’m matching his movements, opening my mouth, a restrained moan building in my throat as our tongues meet. My hands glide into his hair, the dark strands like ink spilling over my fingers as I urge him closer. “Emma,” he breathes, wrapping one arm around my lower back, his fingers stroking over the skin at my waist as his opposite hand cradles my head, thrusting through the hair at my nape. His touch gentles then, kisses shifting to slow-motion, pulling me along like a subtle current, unhurried.

Without realizing I’ve even moved, I feel the mattress pressing into my calves, and he breaks his mouth from mine long enough to lift me onto it, rising over me in the center of the bed. “I just want to kiss you,” he murmurs, his lips tracing a path from under my chin to my ear before he rolls onto his back and pulls me across him. My knee is between both of his, anchoring him to the bed as his hands run over my back and my shoulders before framing my face and pulling me down for a long, languid kiss.

Capturing his wrists, I mash them into the mattress, my hair falling over my shoulder and tickling along the side of his jaw. “That’s all you want? Are you sure?” I ask, brazen in a way I’ve never been. Because this is Graham, and he’s real and here and touching me—not a face on a screen, thousands of miles away.

He chuckles, his eyes closing as he turns his head and nuzzles my forearm, leaving soft kisses on my wrist, grazing my skin with his teeth and igniting an eruption of goose bumps straight up my arm. His eyes open and he stares at me, all heat. “No. I want everything from you, with you.” He turns his hands until they imprison my wrists, curving over me until I’m under him again. “But right now, I’m just going to keep kissing you until you make me stop.”

If he’s waiting for an objection, he isn’t going to get one. I lick my lips, a signal for kiss me please. And he does.

Chapter 9


I scroll to Reid and hit talk. Just when I think he’s letting it go to voicemail, he says, “Yeah.”

“Time to bump up the interference,” I say. “His flight landed a couple of hours ago, but he’s not answering his phone.”

There’s a pause. Reid never looks at his phone before answering, and obviously, he’s not yet reacquainted with my voice. A rather unreasonable hostility bubbles to the surface, though I suppose I should feel privileged—his skanks don’t score his phone number at all. He learned that the hard way, I’m sure. Not that I can talk. I had to change my number half a dozen times before I finally comprehended that hot guys can turn as psycho as any girl. “Brooke?”

I puff out a sigh. “For chrissake, Reid, who do you think it is? And haven’t you put me into your contacts yet?”

“Yeah... It just says Satan, though, and I forgot I’d assigned that title to you.”

I would dearly love to choke the ever-lovin’ life out of him. “That’s very funny. You’re hilarious. Can we move on from the juvenile name-calling?”

“Sure. But really, you should consider it a compliment to your level of evil.”

“Anyway. I think we should check into the hotel. Recreate the atmosphere from Austin last fall.”

He laughs once, condescension saturating his tone. “Because that worked out so well for each of us.”

True, asshole. But beside the point. “We weren’t working together then—hello.”

He sighs into the phone. “I’d venture to say that at least on your end, we were doing the opposite of working together. I might even suggest that one of us was actively engaged in sabotage of the other.”

I knew he could hold a grudge, justified or not, but hell’s bells. “Okay, fine, I helped screw it up for you. But I couldn’t have if you hadn’t done most of it to yourself. You could have salvaged it.”

“Says you.”

I grip the phone tighter, bound by my own designs for reconnecting with him in the first place. If he doesn’t go along with this scheme, it could prove impossible. Who am I kidding? It will prove impossible. “Reid, if you don’t believe me on this, then you won’t trust what I tell you to do to get her back and we might as well give up now. In which case I might just have to kill you.”


“Yeah, well.” I don’t hear any noise on his end, which strikes me as odd. “Where are you?”

“Driving. Going to pick up a couple of guys, do some clubs…”

“Do some girls, you mean.”

He barks a laugh. “Hey, I consider tonight my bachelor party. You told me I have to be good once I’m luring Emma into my lair, right? This may be my last night to get laid for a while.”

“Classy.” I throw his assessment of me back at him.

“Well, you asked. So. You think we need to check into the hotel where everyone else is—even though we both live in LA. Proximity to the victims makes sense, I suppose.”

Victims? “Shit, Reid. Talk about harsh. I don’t just want to screw Graham, you know.”

“I guess I don’t know. Especially considering your MO.”

For half a second, I consider hurling my phone at the wall. “Look, I’ve had it with the snide comments. I’m not any more of a slut than you are, so just lay the hell off.” Dammit, there goes my stupid twang. I can be a cold bitch all day long and sound like the perfect LA native, but get me actually pissed and I go all Texan, which just pisses me off more. If he mentions it, I swear to God…

“Okay, okay. I’ll stop. And Brooke?” His voice has turned husky, and the sound of it slams me right in the solar plexus. “That accent still gets me hot, damn you.”

I take a deep breath and shake it off. I’m not playing that game with him. “Enjoy your last night of freedom, ha ha. I’ll set up reservations for both of us at the hotel. Our story is that the studio wants us there with everyone else. No one will question it. Text me once you’re in tomorrow morning and we’ll review strategy. You remember morning, right? That brightish space of time between eight and noon when you’re usually sleeping off a hangover?”

“I’m saluting, in case you’re wondering.”

I imagine clearly the exact gesture he’s making. “Put your middle finger down, asshat, before someone thinks you’re flipping them off and drives your ass off the road. I need you.”

“No comment.”

“None expected.”

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