“I haven’t slept with him—but I wanted to.”

Pain flashed across his face, but he seemed to readjust as he leaned down and touched my cheek. “You left me eighteen months ago because you needed more time to grieve. I rushed you—I see that now. You packed your bags and walked out of my life, but I’ve never forgotten you.” He took in a quick breath. “I—I want you back.”

“You want the old me back.” I couldn’t be the person he wanted.

“Let me get to know the new you,” he said softly, and kissed me on the lips. With gentleness, his lips parted mine, his tongue tasting me. The kiss took me by surprise, yet I fell into it and kissed him back, part of me yearning for my past and someone who had loved me—still loved me?

“At least that part of us hasn’t changed,” he whispered against my lips.

“I’m a college drop-out with a tapping problem,” I murmured.

“You can still go back.”

“You think the Manhattan School of Music would have me?”

A fire lit in his eyes. “I’ll hand in the application myself. Better yet, I’ll call up the chancellor and request a meeting. You were a prodigy, Violet. They’d be nuts to not let you in.”

I tried to picture me sitting in a classroom now. It seemed far-fetched, plus I’d burned bridges when I left. Friends I hadn’t called back. Professors I’d ignored.

“Come back to New York,” he implored.

I sighed. “I have the orphanage to think of. I haven’t been as active as I should have, but that’s going to change. I have a gala to plan.”

He grabbed my hand. “Open another one in New York.”

Perhaps.

But something—or someone—was holding me back.

And then there were all the memories.

My stomach knotted, and I closed my eyes briefly and then met his intense ones. “Geoff, my last night in New York, I stood on the ledge of my apartment building for two hours in the freezing cold debating if I was going to jump or not.”

His eyes flared. “God, I’m sorry. Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

I stared at my hands. “You didn’t want to know how far I’d cracked. You say you want to get to know me, but the thing is, you may not like the darkness.”

Emotion worked his face. “You’re my heart, Violet, since the moment I saw you. I can’t give up on you.”

And me? I still loved him—in the way you’d love an old movie or a favorite quilt.

Needing a topic change, I picked up our glasses and handed him his. “My parents named me after a comet, so let’s toast to that—to stepping out of the shadows and shining bright.”

“I say we throw a toast to us in there as well. To new beginnings.”

I inhaled sharply at his words, at the heaviness of them. Sebastian had liked new beginnings too.

Not knowing what to say, I held my glass up and we clinked them together.

“My heart is a reckless thing, willing to say or do anything to get the reaction it wants.”

—Sebastian Tate

SITTING INSIDE JAVA and Me, I stared down at the photos on my phone. A tingle of foreboding went up my spine.

Out of all the pic ops I’d posed for last night with Blair, the Hollywood Insider had run with three pictures I’d never posed for as the top story on their website. No doubt it would make their television show this evening.

The first was of me carrying V through Masquerade. The second was a fuzzier pic of us kissing in the manager’s office, obviously taken from the window outside the restaurant. Fucking reporters. And finally, the last photo was of me and Blair arguing outside the club when I’d told her I was taking her home.

Mystery Girl and Sebastian Tate was the tagline.

Disaster. All that time invested with Blair, and it had fallen apart in one day.

“I hate to say it, but Blair was right.” I inspected the pic of us in the office. I squinted as I turned the photo in different angles. “That could be anyone. Right?” I looked to Mila for help.

She leaned over my shoulder and patted my arm—not a good sign. “Hmmm, I can tell that’s your hands on V’s butt by your lion ring, and that’s definitely your big old head and blond hair.” She giggled. “What cracks me up is the little black-out line where V’s boob is.”

She pointed at the one of me carrying V after her attack. “What I find interesting is the way you look here. All Neanderthal like, ‘Me caveman. Me protect my woman,’” she joked in a deep voice.

I arched a brow. “Glad you’re amused. You’re not much help.”

Spider smirked at me as he sipped on his tea. “These pics explain why Blair ran out this morning—thank God.” He shuddered.

I nodded. She’d left as soon as her PR girl had gotten a tip from someone who worked at the Hollywood Insider.

Mila patted my hand. “Just read what it says out loud. Maybe we can spin it.” She tried to sound chipper, but I had a feeling that once Hing saw that I wasn’t with Blair anymore—that we were arguing—he’d think twice about hiring me.

“You just want to make fun of me,” I said as I scrolled down on my phone to get to the article.

“No, I want to help.”

“I want to make fun of you,” Spider snarked.

I flipped him off and read the article.

Spider whistled. “Blair’s going to piss herself when she sees this.”

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