She was running away. Part of me was glad, but the insane side of me wanted her to stay. I let out a sigh. “Sure, let me walk you to the door.”

She said her goodbye to Spider, and we walked to the foyer where I asked for her phone. She handed it over, and I typed in my digits.

“What are you doing?”

“Putting my number in so you can call me if you ever need anything. That’s a big house you live in. It worries me.”

She stared at me. “I think you made it quite clear last night that it's not a good idea for you to be alone with me at my house.”

I groaned at the memory. “I’m sorry for kissing you and then pushing you away. I never should have let it get that far.”

She nodded and stared at the ground. “No, it was my fault.”

“No, it was mine. I had to kiss you. I wanted to since the ice cream shop.”

She sent me a sly smile. “Well, if you change your mind about some super-hot-no-strings-attached-sex with me, I’m ready—” She burst out laughing. “I’m kidding. Oh my God, if you could see your face right now. It’s bright red and I swear some sweat just popped out on your forehead.”

“You’re a little devil,” I muttered and turned to the side—trying to hide my erection.

“Or a very good tease,” she said softly.

I licked my lips. “Do you want to spend the day with us? Maybe drive out to Malibu and catch some rays?” I had plans with Blair, but I’d chuck them.

She bit her lip and shook her head. “Maybe next time,” she said as she slipped out the door.

I watched her slowly disappear down the drive as Spider walked up behind me.

“You been lurking back there, listening?”

“You know it,” he said. “This is the most excitement we’ve had in this house since Monster rolled in her own shit and we had to take her to the puppy salon.”

I chuckled at the memory. “Poor thing. She was terrified of the blow dryer.”

“And the pink hair bow they put on her—bloody ridiculous. Her name is Monster.”

My eyes followed his to V. “Stop looking at her ass,” I said, trying to edge him out of the door as we jostled for the best view. Like kids.

He sent me a calculating look. “You missed it at the door when she said she liked my hair. I think I love her.”

“Stay away from V.” I’d tensed up. I wasn’t kidding anymore.

“Why? Maybe she wants to get on the Spider train. You aren’t interested in her—are you?”

“No,” I bit out, my jaw clenched.

“Bollocks. You’re a liar.”

I glared at him. “I can’t date anyone right now. Not with the media breathing down my throat, expecting to see me with Blair. I made a deal with her, and I can’t just break it off. It would cause a shitstorm of negative publicity.”

He rolled his eyes. “Okay, okay, I get it. But V’s the kind of chick that won’t stay single for long. And those eyes? I mean you could drown in them. Like fucking pansies.”

“Coming from the guy who only notices tit size?”

He cocked his head. “Maybe with her, I’d do it different.”

My hands fisted. When it came to V, something in me was wired to explode. I wanted to pound his face. “No joke. Stay away from her.”

Spider took a sip of his coffee, all Mr. Cool to my hothead. “She cares about people. You can tell by the way she waltzed in here and wanted to make me feel better.”

“Yeah? You know what else I noticed about her? She’s rich. And she has an ex-boyfriend who’s calling her. That remind you of anyone?”

“She’s nothing like Emma. First of all, cock sucking isn’t her primary talent. Second, V’s classy. Emma is nothing but a Dallas debutante with a hard-on for diamonds and social standing.”

I tried to tune him out. But it’s hard to tune out a blue-haired English dude in his underwear. “She could be the one for you,” he said, his tone serious.

The one? I reared back. His hangover had addled his brain. He didn’t sound like Spider at all. “Since when did you get all mushy?”

“Dammit, maybe you’re rubbing off on me,” he snapped and then stalked off to get dressed.

Okkaaay.

“I’d dropped out of college, had never had a real job, or even had a good orgasm. I didn’t know jack, but I did know that even after the people you love are torn from you, time keeps beating away at the black metronome that’s called life. It doesn’t care that you’ve cracked wide open, that you’re screaming for everyone to just stop. It doesn’t hear you. You are nothing. People still go to dinner, planes take off and land, lions roar, violins play. And you are left in your corner, hanging on to memories, nothing more than a speck of dust on the metronome’s base.”

—from the journal of Violet St. Lyons

THE PLANE TWISTS in the sky, spinning like a ballerina.

We fall and crash into the ocean.

I scream as my neck snaps forward.

Water fills up the gaping hole on the side of the craft.

My mother looks at me with sightless eyes. My father is gone from his seat.

Fear claws at me as I unclick and fight my way out of the hole.

I turn and watch the plane sink until it’s nothing but a white speck being swallowed by the sea.

My heart slams against my chest. Air. Lungs screaming.

Daddy. I kick harder.

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