Sleezeball loses interest in me the moment my competition walks in. Summer Langley. She’s tall, model thin, and her long, bleached blonde hair contrasts starkly with her olive skin. She’s pretty, I don’t blame him for drooling over her. But we’re not in a beauty competition, we’re competing for a job. And not just any job, one of the most coveted jobs in all of Chicago. And it’s down to just the two of us. My only alternative position is located in New York, almost a thousand miles from my family and friends.

My resume speaks for itself. A 4.0 in college and grad school, editor of my college newspaper, and TA to a renowned English professor while working on my Masters. Summer, on the other hand, has a resume with a slight edge. She has two things I can’t compete with. Her father sits on the board of the Daily Sun Times and she has no problem flirting with the boss.

But I’ve wanted this job since high school, so I force myself to believe that the best candidate, the one who does the best work, will actually get the job when this internship is over in seven weeks. Eleven hundred people applied for these two spots. Now it’s down to just the two of us. I’m so close I can taste it.

I’ve wanted to be a writer at the Daily Sun Times as long as I can remember. Writers here earn Pulitzers and chair literary guilds. I smile at Summer as she takes her seat next to me and we both wait for our new assignment from Sleezeball. She’s not qualified for the job. The reality is she wouldn’t even be here if her daddy didn’t sit on the Board. But there’s a sinking feeling in my stomach as we both receive our assignments. Summer will be interviewing a young up-and-coming entrepreneur, one who is about to take his cutting-edge internet marketing firm public. I, on the other hand, am being sent to the warehouse district to interview some troubled mixed martial arts fighter who beats the crap out of people for a living.

I smile at Sleezeball as I take the assignment sheet from his hand, pretending to not be affected by his giving Summer the better story to write.

“Thank you, James. Sounds like it could make for a very interesting story.” Yeah, right. Someone shoot me now and put me out of my misery.

James smiles back at me politely, but his attention is quickly refocused on Summer. He tells her to stay so they can talk about the angle she is going to write the story from. He asks me to close the door as I leave. He falls short of telling me not to let it hit me on the ass on the way out. Barely. I wonder if he even notices the steam coming from my ears as I walk out his door.


Some quick research revealed that the fighter volunteers to teach a self-defense class for women. Maybe I can work a good guy side of a bad boy fighter angle to this story, keep people from falling asleep before they reach the end of the article.

I get lost downtown and barely make it to the gym before the class I’m scheduled to attend starts. I was hoping to get to class early to speak to the instructor and set up an appointment to interview him for my article. But I’m late and the full class is already starting. So instead I slip into the back, toss my bag behind me, and quickly tie my long auburn hair back from my face.

I hear the instructor’s voice getting louder as he walks through the room in search of a volunteer to help him demonstrate moves. His voice is distracting, sexy with an edge to it, almost gravelly, like he’s been yelling all night and now he’s straining to have his deep voice heard. Then suddenly the voice goes quiet in mid-sentence. Finishing tying up my hair, I turn, curious to see what’s quieted the sexy voice. I almost fall when all of the air in my lungs is violently sucked out of my body by the vision of the man I find standing in front of me.


Chapter 3

Liv – 7 ½ years earlier

He walks into the library and, unconsciously, I hold my breath. I watch as he looks around the room, knowing he is looking for me. We’ve been meeting here at the same time every Thursday for the last five weeks. For a second I let myself pretend he scans the room for me because he’s mine. Not because Mr. Hunter is paying me to tutor him. He looks so different from the other boys, and it’s not just because he’s taller and wider. No, it’s definitely more than that. Something about the way he carries himself sets him apart. It’s hard to put into words what it is…he just has it. Strong, confident, unaffected by the normal high school stuff going on all around him.

I watch from a distance as he spots me and smiles in my direction. The way his dimples dip deep into his beautiful tan skin sends my mind racing. He makes me forget where I am. Hell, he makes me forget who I am with that smile. Vinny walks with purpose directly to the table I’m sitting at, completely unaware of the girls stopping in their tracks to watch him pass by.

“You okay, Liv?” I can see in his face he’s concerned, but I’m not sure why.

I don’t answer, but not because I don’t want to. Suddenly, I physically can’t respond. I’m lightheaded, the room begins to spin, and I feel as though I might pass out any second.

“Liv?” Vinny repeats himself, his voice louder, more urgent this time. It snaps me out of my daze and I realize I’m not breathing. A strong rush of air whooshes out of my lungs and I gasp to take my next breath. But the deep inhale after depriving my lungs of oxygen burns my throat, sending me into a coughing fit and I can’t seem to stop myself from coughing uncontrollably. The whole library is looking at me now and I want to climb under the table and hide. Vinny is holding my hand and hovering over me. He looks genuinely concerned.

It takes me a minute, but I finally catch my breath and my coughing fit slows enough to squeak out an answer. “I’m fine. I just choked on a cough drop,” I lie. I can’t tell him he steals my breath away and I forget to breathe sometimes when he’s around me. I’m sure he already thinks I’m a weirdo.

Vinny grabs a chair and turns it backwards to sit, his forearms leaning on the top of the chair back as he straddles it. Such a boy way to sit. “Jesus, Liv. I thought I was going to have to perform the Heimlich on you there for a minute. I was worried I might break you, you’re so tiny.” He leans in and whispers as he teases me with a devilish smile that makes my heart pound loudly in my chest.

“I’m fine.” Luckily, my face is still red from my coughing fit, so he can’t see that I’m heated from just feeling his breath on my neck as he speaks. “We better get started. We have a lot to cover today if you want to pass the English midterm next week.” That, and my heart just might explode if we don’t get back on track. I can’t think around this boy. He makes my brain turn to mush so that I forget to breathe. Who forgets to breathe? I’m such a dork.

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