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First pages

1.

When the phone rang in the middle of the night, I had no idea that call was going to change my life forever.

I fumbled in the dark keeping my eyes closed, since I knew by the ringtone it was Danny, my agent. The silly tune was a Donald Duck voice that quacked: “Don’t answer, don’t answer, don’t answer! What if it’s somebody?

I was tempted to ignore it, but since Danny never called at such an ungodly hour, I thought this might be an emergency.

“Do you have any idea what time it is?” I asked, my voice sounding rusty with sleep.

“Do you have any idea what great news I have?” he countered in his perfectly articulated, slick businessman’s voice.

My ears pricked. “It better be damn good for me to lose my beauty sleep.”

“You know you’re beautiful anyway. But this, my dear, is going to make your day. No, actually it will make your career.” He paused for dramatic effect, knowing that habit drove me crazy. Then he said, “Miss Kensington, I just got you a contract for ‘Ruined Innocence’ with MBM Movie World.”

I sat up straight in bed, shoving waves of tousled hair off my face. “Get out! You didn’t.”

“Oh, yes I did,” he said smugly. “As we speak, I am in cloudy London and have just finished a late breakfast with Marie Bell, the producer. I’ve no idea what time it is in Chicago right now…”

“It’s five in the morning,” I supplied.

“… but I thought this was important enough to bother you at any hour.”

“God, you bet your ass it is.” I rubbed a hand over my face, trying to control the mad thumping of my heart as the monumental realization struck me. My novel was going to become a movie!

Danny said, “The deal is this: the movie is going to be produced by MBM’s Los Angeles subsidiary. It’s lucky that I live in L.A, because next week I want to meet with the director, assistant producer, and so on. But first,” he added with emphasis, “you will need to sign the contract and receive your advance.”

“How much?” I whispered, holding my breath.

“A million dollars.”

I think my heart actually stopped for a second or two. My mouth worked like a fish’s for several moments before I could scream, “Holy shit! Holy crap. Are you serious? A million?”

I could hear the satisfaction in his voice. “Yep. One million, darling.”

“Oh, my God!” I let out a long breath to steady myself. I switched on the bedside lamp and stretched my hand in front of me. It was shaking. My whole body was shivering with excitement.

“Jesus, Danny, I never… I never thought we could pull this off. All those rejections, of all my novels and scripts… I couldn’t even write for the past months. I was so discouraged,” I said, still breathless. “I don’t know how to thank you.”

“O, ye of little faith. Didn’t I tell you I was going to sell your script? You’re a good writer, Kendra. I knew that the first time I read your work. And even if you don’t believe it, good stuff always prevails. Well, most of the time,” he amended. “And only if you have me as an agent.”

Laughter vibrated in my chest, and I found I couldn’t stop the happy giggles. I let myself fall back in bed and did a little happy dance with my legs in the air. I probably looked ridiculous, but I was so delighted I didn’t care.

“Danny, this is the happiest day of my life,” I said when I could finally speak. “You’ve done something unbelievable for me.”

“And for me too, darling. My biggest problem right now is how to spend my fat commission.”

“I’m sure you’ll find a way,” I replied, laughing again. “So, what now?”

“Now you get back to sleep, then you book the first flight to London. I want you here ASAP to sign the contract. I’ve revised it and it’s okay, but we need to discuss some terms. Anyway, I hope you can be here tomorrow.”

“I will be, even if I have to sprout wings and fly.”

“Okay, then. I’ll see you when you get here. Oh, and, Kendra… Congratulations,” he said seriously.

“To you too, Danny. You made this possible. Thank you.”

I put the phone on the nightstand, still feeling as though I was in a dream. A marvelous dream that overshadowed all the misery and agony of the past months, when I’d struggled with my self confidence, with the impression that all I wrote was crap, with writer’s block and all the nightmares every artist has to overcome. But now I felt like a new person. It wasn’t just the 500k advance—though that would surely improve my lifestyle drastically and get me out of the small apartment I rented on a month-to-month basis in downtown Chicago. It was the euphoria of having my work appreciated, turned into something tangible to reach millions of viewers.

A movie! I lay back with a heartfelt smile that stretched my face and made my chest expand with joy and fulfillment. I wondered what actors the producer would cast to play Hunter—the broody, sexy cameraman with a troubled past, and Serena—the feisty but ingenuous broadcast journalist. I smiled to myself, remembering the short summary of the script word for word: A captivating modern-day romantic suspense tale set in Transylvania—a love story is born on a background of fierce history, in a ruined castle formerly belonging to The Blood Countess—

 the most prolific female serial killer in history. The two strangers assigned by a TV network to make a documentary about Countess Báthory embark on a journey of mutual discovery, then stumble upon murder and horror.

It could be a spectacular movie with the right settings and actors. It was all about atmosphere, and chemistry, and tension. I had done a ton of research about Countess Báthory when I’d written the novel, then the script (urged by Danny, who said it was brilliant and very filmable).

When I wrote, I always imagined my characters in 3D, saw their faces, saw them moving, speaking, heard their voices. I frowned a little. What if the movie didn’t exactly capture my vision of the story and the characters? What if they chose actors I didn’t like, or didn’t find suitable for the roles? Danny would say that for a million bucks I shouldn’t give a damn, but I did. After all, it was my story and no one could bring it to life better than I. I had to make sure I was involved in every aspect of the production process. But the movie was to be produced in L.A… I hoped they could at least find a real castle, not just improvise a studio set. Oh, well. I gave a little mental shrug. I’d always wanted to visit L.A., and now I could afford it.

I had to tell Richard. Just as I reached for the phone again, I stopped. This wasn’t just some piece of ordinary news to be told on the phone. This had to be told in person and celebrated with mad sex and gallons of champagne! I rolled out of bed and headed to the bathroom. Richard would get an early wakeup call, but I doubted very much it would bother him.

****

Twenty minutes later I was rushing down the two flights of stairs, my hair fluttering behind me, still damp from the hasty shower. I stood on the sidewalk waving at taxis, careful not to get splashed by the puddles of a rainy April. To my relief, a cab rolled to a stop in front of me. I bent to look inside through the open window, and saw a middle aged woman with thick eyeglasses and gray hair pulled back in a bun.

“Are you free?” I asked her.

“Sure am, hon. Hop in! Where to?”

I gave her Richard’s address as I fastened my seatbelt, trying not to bump her considerable bulk with my elbow.

“We’ll be there in ten minutes, hon,” she assured me, skillfully slaloming the car in the busy traffic. “Is that where you work? You’re so pretty, I reckon you must be a model or something. You kinda look like Morticia Addams, especially with this tight black dress and red lipstick.”

I laughed lightly. My mother always said she’d given me an exotic name because she knew I would inherit her exotic looks. Mostly I had, but I always thought of myself as a more washed out version of her gypsy-like beauty. My eyes were the color of dark chocolate, while hers seemed black as pitch. My hair was falling straight over my shoulders, unlike the unruly mass of curls I envied my mom for. Our coloring was different too, because while she resembled a caramel statue, I had my father’s pale, translucent skin. It worked for me though. Actually, the cab lady was right. I liked to think of myself as a more telluric version of Morticia Addams—sans the gorgeous, passionate Gomez, and the zillions.

“Thank you,” I said. “No, I’m not a model, just a writer. And this is where my boyfriend lives.”

“He’s a very lucky young man.”

“I hope he feels the same.”

Richard was no Gomez, but in the twelve months or so since we’d been dating, he was a nice alternative to loneliness. Like me, he was thirty, single and weird. We had a comfortable relationship and, although we didn’t exactly have much in common, we didn’t spend enough time together to let that bother us. We went out three or four times a week, sometimes spent the night together—though each of us valued our privacy and we weren’t pushy or clingy. I guess anyone would find this kind of relationship boring, but it worked for us.

As a matter of fact, I should start spicing up things between us right this morning, I thought, smoothing my dress over the thigh-high black lace stockings I wore underneath. I had a key from Richard’s apartment, so I intended to just let myself in, and into his bed.

When we reached his building, I paid the driver—adding a generous tip—and climbed out. Richard’s neighborhood was a scale up from mine, with well-groomed buildings and a lot of polished windows. However, there was always a shortage of parking places. This was the reason I’d opted to take a cab instead of my ’95 POS Volvo—which stood for Piece of Shit, and did not match my glamorous appearance this morning.

I walked into the building and took the elevator up to the 9th floor. I knew Richard wasn’t supposed to be at work before nine, so we had plenty of time. His job as a criminal lawyer kept him busy and decently paid, especially since he’d opened his own practice.

When the elevator stopped, I smiled at my reflection in the mirror and stepped out. I took Richard’s key out of my purse and inserted it into the lock as silently as possible. I was sure he was still asleep, but I didn’t think he’d mind being awakened earlier.

As it turned out, I was wrong in both assumptions. The moment I entered the apartment I realized two things: Richard was not asleep, and he was not alone. Judging by the noises coming from the bedroom, he was either watching a porn flick, or he had company. I stood motionless, struck dumb and still by this discovery. I even stopped breathing, while my heartbeats accelerated madly.

Then I was jarred out of my shocked stillness by a particularly high-pitched moan. Feeling as though rolls of steam were coming out of my ears, I walked to the bedroom and pushed open the door. For a moment, I just stared stupidly at the way Richard and his blonde, huge-breasted partner were tangled. It crossed my mind that he’d never been this inventive and… energetic with me. Then the adrenaline kicked in, and with it, a wave of fury that made my pulse and breathing go into overdrive.

“You motherfucking piece of shit!” I screamed, advancing into the room, clutching my purse like a weapon.

The rocking stopped abruptly. The blonde let out a girlie scream, but my attention was all on Richard. His eyes were as big as saucers, as he was trying to yank a sheet to cover himself.

“Kendra… It’s not what you think,” he stammered. “I-I can explain…”

“You whore-fucking, cock-sucking, pencil-dick son of a bitch! Is this why you never had enough energy for me?”

I grabbed the first handy thing—which happened to be an inoffensive stack of files—and threw them at the bed. Sheets of paper spread everywhere, but without doing any damage.

“Kendra, listen to me…”

“Shut up, you lousy, cheating louse! And you,” I turned to the blonde, who was uselessly trying to cover up her tits. “I hope he’s better with you than he ever was with me. I haven’t faked it so much in my life as I did with this lousy bastard!”

I whirled around and stormed out, slamming the door as hard as I could behind me.

****

I don’t know how long I walked, but at one point I realized I had to stop before I had a heart attack. My breathing and heart rate were much too fast, and the tapping of my heels on the sidewalk was obliterated by the roar in my ears. I took a few more steps toward a patch of trees and grass, then sat on one of the benches sprinkled here and there in the miniature park, which was thankfully deserted. People had other things to do in the morning on a week day. Like cheating their partners, for instance.

I rested my back against the backrest, trying to take deep, calming breaths. I let my head lean on the curved wood and closed my eyes. Forcing myself to clear my mind, I tried not to think about anything, just breathe. A few minutes later I began feeling better. My pulse slowed down, my chest and throat didn’t feel tight anymore because of unspilled tears.

Why should I cry? I didn’t even love Richard. None of us had ever spoken the L word during the time we’d been together. I wasn’t sure I’d ever been in love, but I certainly was not in love with this guy.

Then why the hell did it hurt so much? Why was I feeling as though my heart had been sliced with a dull sword? I opened my eyes and stared at the gray sky, where a shy ray of sun struggled to sneak through the clouds. I understood, deep inside. It was the betrayal that hurt so much. And the blow to my self-esteem. That Richard would choose another woman over me was humiliating. I mean, what could a silly blonde offer him that I couldn’t? A pair of bigger tits? Was that all that mattered to him? Did my intelligence, vivacity and sense of humor mean nothing? Besides, my tits were pretty good too, I though, looking down at my discreet cleavage. Not too big, but definitely noticeable.

Oh, what does it matter? One of the angels on my shoulders said. I didn’t know if it was the stupid one or the smart one. You don’t love the guy, for crying out loud! And you really had to fake it most of the time, just to stroke his insecure lawyer ego. This parody of a relationship had to end, and this is as good a reason as any. Get over it already! You have a great movie contract and a million bucks to spend. What are you waiting for?

It was a good question. This was definitely the smart angel. I blew out a long sigh, grabbed my purse and stood. I winced, only now realizing the killer shoes had dug tracks into my feet. I hadn’t felt any pain as I was walking aimlessly like a mad woman, but now I was limping, probably looking ridiculous in my evening dress and slut heels. Not that I cared anyway.

After stopping a taxi, I gave the pudgy, middle-aged driver directions to my parents’ house. As we were navigating the streets, I called the airport and reserved a flight to London for the next day at seven a.m. When we arrived, I paid the cabby, took off my shoes and walked in my stockings toward the pretty, two-storey house my mom and dad had bought a few years back. It was a lovely spot that had a generous yard, which my mom had decorated with colorful flower beds. She was just trimming the hedge when she spotted me. Her beautiful face illuminated, and she moved forward to hug me, careful not to mess me up with her muddy gloves.

“Playing in the dirt?” I joked, giving her a tight embrace.

“You know how I love it. How come you’re up at this hour? And what’s the special occasion? You look fabulous! Don’t tell me you spent the night at a party,” she said, slipping her gloves off. Then she took me by the shoulders and we headed toward the kitchen door.

“No, I just had an early wakeup call.” I sat at the kitchen table, placing my shoes and bag next to me on the shiny wooden floor.

“Oh?”

“Good news. Actually, fantastic news.”

My mom sat on a chair facing me, arranging curls of black hair back in the messy knot on top of her head. Her dark eyes were inquisitive, as were her beautifully arched eyebrows.

“It was Danny,” I went on. “He got me a contract with a big production company. They’re going to make a movie after my latest novel. For starters, I’ll receive an advance of five hundred thousand.”

Her shapely lips parted comically. “What? Five hundred thousand what?”

I burst out laughing. “Dollars, mama. A million dollars.”

“Holy mother of God!” She started to rise, then dropped back in her chair and reached for my hands. “My God, Kendra, you made it. You made it big!” she squeaked, and pushed to her feet to pull me into her arms. “My baby is a genius!”

We laughed together, holding on tightly while tears of joy ran down our cheeks. When we finally drew apart, she looked closely at me.

“Something’s wrong. Why aren’t you happy?”

She knew me too well. I don’t know if every mother has this incredible knowledge of her child’s every emotion, but my mother could tell my state of mind from miles away, let alone when we were face to face.

I looked away, letting go of her. I moved idly to the window, looking out through the lacy curtains at the neatly kempt back yard.

“I am happy, Mama. I just… I caught Richard in bed with another woman.”

2.

A beat of silence. Then my mom’s incredulous voice, “What?”

“Yep. I went to his apartment this morning to tell him the good news. Turns out I was the surprised one. He was very… engaged with a huge-boobed blonde.”

“Why, that… That…” Her face turned red and I could see she was struggling not to break her habit of never cursing in front of me. Her hands curled into fists, clenching and unclenching.

Finally, she said, “That whore-fucking, cock-sucking son of a bitch!”

Despite the seriousness of the situation, I hooted with laughter.

“Mama! Those were the exact words I used! It’s almost worth it, only to hear you say that. I’ve always known the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

She gave me a reluctant smile, then hugged me again. “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.” She took my shoulders and looked at me. After a moment, she shook her head. “No, wait. Actually I’m not sorry. Richard is an idiot. And what’s worse, he’s an idiot who’s never made you happy. Not even contented. I think it’s wonderful that you’re rid of him and free to find yourself a real man.”

My lips curved in the ghost of a smile. I sat down again, as Mom moved to the stove and started to brew coffee.

“I know you’re right, Mama. He didn’t make me happy. That’s why I’m not crying my heart out and pulling my hair off. Richard isn’t a great loss. As for finding another man… I don’t—can’t—think about that now. The only thing I want to focus on is my work. This contract, this movie, they’re my biggest accomplishments. I plan to get involved in everything. Oh, I forgot to tell you, tomorrow I’m flying to London to sign the contract.”

“That’s lovely! You know how I always wanted to visit the British Museum. You can go and take pictures for me,” she said, putting a mug in front of me. She took out a half-eaten chocolate cake from the fridge and placed it on the table, then poured the coffee. “When are you coming back?”

I took a deep breath as I cut into the cake with the bread knife.

“I’m not.”

She froze with the pot of coffee in her hand. “What do you mean you’re not coming back?”

Poor Mom… She’d had several shocks already, and I was giving her jolt after jolt. But it had been a jolt to me too. I only realized my decision when the words had rolled out of my mouth.

“The movie will be filmed in Los Angeles,” I said, taking the pot from her and filling her mug. “I decided to move there, at least for a while. This way I can get involved as a consultant. Besides, I want to start over, Mama. It’s not just this business with Richard. This was only the last straw. My life needs a makeover, and now I have the chance to do it.”

She stared into her cup for several moments, thoughtfully. When she looked back up at me, her eyes were shiny with tears.

“You’re right, Kendra. You need to live your life, live your dreams. I always knew the time would come when you would have to leave the nest. I cried for days when you moved out. I told myself I hated that horrible little apartment you live in, but it was actually the pain of losing you.”

I reached out and squeezed her hand. “Mama, you never told me that.”

“Because I wasn’t supposed to. This is what kids do. They grow up and leave to build their own lives. Every parent knows that, from the first beat of their children’s hearts. But that doesn’t make it easier to accept.” She sniffed back tears, wiping her eyes with the backs of her hands. “I’m happy for you, baby. I really am. It’s time you made your way. God knows you worked hard enough and deserve the best.”

I felt hot tears sting my eyes and start rolling down my cheeks as I held on to my mother’s hand.

“Thank you, Mama. You’re the best mother in the world. I have no idea what I’m going to do without you and Dad.”

“Oh, chin up, honey! It’s not like you’re moving at the end of the world.”

“No, just the other side of the continent,” I muttered.

“We’ll visit as often as we can. Besides, with all this technology and video calls, you won’t even feel the difference.”

We smiled at one another across the square wooden table, across the distance that would soon separate us. I already felt homesick, but there was a small part of me that was getting more and more excited. I was standing on the edge of a drastic change of my future. Even though I didn’t know if it was going to be good or bad, I was beginning to look forward to it.

“Where’s Daddy?” I asked. “I want to give him the big news.”

****

After lunch, my mom and I said our teary goodbyes, as we parted with a lot of hugs and my repeated promises to be careful. One would think I was moving to Hell instead of the City of Angels. My father drove me to my apartment in his battle-scarred SUV, and gave me more sensible advice.

“Don’t even look at strangers, let alone talk to them,” he instructed in his authoritarian voice, which he’d perfected during his years as an Air Force captain. “And if anyone bothers you, let me know.”

“Don’t worry, Daddy. I’m a big girl. I can take care of myself. Besides, Danny lives in L.A. too. He’ll look after me.”

“Yeah, right. There’s nothing more appealing to a guy than a vulnerable, lonely young woman. You’ve only met this character twice. Don’t trust him.”

“He’s gotten me this contract, you know. Besides, we talk for hours at a time on Facebook.”

“Facebook.” My dad sniggered, as he slid the car to a stop in front of my building. “Don’t tell me about this Internet stuff. I showed you that picture with the tiger stalking the gazelle from behind a computer screen, didn’t I? You were supposed to learn something from that.”

I smiled, leaning over to give him a hug. Poor old Dad. He’d taken care of me and Mom all of our lives. This must be tougher on him than he wanted to let on.

“I did. I’ll be careful, I promise. Listen, I need you to do something for me. I’m going to take with me only what I need for now, but I’ll pack the rest of my things. Could you pick them up tomorrow and take them home?”

“Sure.”

I gave him the spare key. When I tried to give him money to pay my last month’s rent, he waved it away.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”

I protested, but didn’t manage to change his mind, so I thanked him and climbed out of the car.

“Do you need any help with packing?” he asked, climbing out too.

“Nope. I’m gonna travel light. Oh, one more thing.” I took the keys to my car and handed them over. “Could you make sure my hunk o’ junk car gets to Car Heaven? Sell it, burn it, donate it, whatever you want, but get rid of it, okay?”

“Okay. Goodbye, princess. I love you.”

The grim sadness in his brown eyes seeped into my heart. I hugged him tightly, hiding my face against his wide, strong chest. The very center of my life had been there during my first years, as he told me stories, cuddled me to sleep, or wiped off my tears before he departed for months at a time. Despite the long absences, he was the best dad in the world.

“Bye, Daddy. I love you too.”

I took one last look at his beloved face, then turned and walked quickly into my building.

****

The thought this was the last time I climbed those rickety stairs resulted in mixed feelings. I had gotten used to this dump, where I’d known my first freedom as an adult, along with the misery of making rent money and struggling to build a career. When I’d graduated from the Humanities Division of the Chicago University, I got a job as a journalist at a small-change newspaper, but soon the stars in my eyes faded and I realized that was no way to make a living. Maybe it was the ambition inherited from my father that drove me to make an outstanding professional statement, so I was never able to settle for an ordinary life. Though I respected her more than anyone in the world, I never wanted to be like my mom, who’d always been a housewife. She had a special vocation for it, and had never wanted to be anything else.

Her only regret was not being able to have more children. After I was born, she had recurrent ovarian cysts, and in the end had to get a hysterectomy. It had been very hard on her, especially since she was so young, but my dad’s unconditional support had finally helped her move on. I often wished I had siblings, but since my parents showered me with enough love to supply an army of children, I couldn’t complain. On the contrary—I wanted to make them the proudest parents on earth.

So, guided by the strong urge to do something significant with my life, I started writing poetry on the side, then a couple of novels, and so I found my vocation as a writer. In fact, it seemed a more realistic way to success. What was more important, I was good at it and I liked it. Things improved when Danny Gonzales—the major partner at a famous literary agency—had replied to one of my submissions, impressed by the number of contests my scripts had won. He immediately got me a contract for a short movie, then I wrote the outlines for a couple of commercials. And now, my most important contract awaited my signature. The timing was perfect.

I unlocked my door, put the keys on the shoe shelf next to the entry, then kicked off my shoes and padded to the bathroom on the worn, linoleum-covered floor. I studied myself in the small mirror, marveling at how much a person’s life can change in less than twenty-four hours. My eyes looked huge and black against my pale skin, outlined by smudged mascara. I’d cried a lot more over the separation from my parents than over Richard, but even though I decided to block thoughts of him from my mind, there was a raw wound in my heart. I knew time would heal it, especially now that I had the chance to start over, far away from here.

My phone rang. When I took it out of my small purse, I saw it was Richard. I didn’t want to hear anything he had to say. I wanted to shut my phone off, but I knew my parents or Danny would call me, so I waited for the ringing to stop, then blocked Richard’s number. Thank God for selective technology.

I slipped out of the black dress, turned the water on to fill the tub, then went into the small living room and put on some music. I tied my hair back in a messy ponytail as I returned to the bathroom to remove my makeup. The glamorous Morticia was gone, replaced by a girl who looked more twenty than thirty, despite the circles of fatigue under my eyes. I gazed closely at my reflection and decided I liked what I saw. My slim body was nicely curved and feminine. Even though I wasn’t voluptuous, I had a nice figure. My skin was smooth and translucent, much like an ivory statuette. Maybe my face was a tad too pale, but at least there were no wrinkles there. When I went out like this, with my hair pulled back and without makeup, there were still plenty of people who asked me what year I was in high school.

I sat on the rim of the tub, waiting for it to fill and massaging my aching feet. I didn’t wear heels often, not only because I didn’t have many opportunities, but because I was nearly six foot tall. Besides, Richard felt uncomfortable when I wore high shoes, which made me taller than him. Geez Louise! I couldn’t believe how much trouble I’d gone to stroking his insecure ego. And look where that got me, I thought grim-faced.

I sang along with Frankee, and her Fuck You Right Back message to her ex-boyfriend was straight on target. Well, almost. I hadn’t cheated on my worthless ex. It had never even crossed my mind. My parents had instilled in me since childhood a sense of fairness and loyalty that was embedded in my genes. And even though Mom was right about Richard never making me happy, I’d stuck by him and respected our commitment.

It occurred to me that I was in fact relieved the relationship wasn’t demanding, and left me time to bury myself in my work. Perhaps I had neglected Richard, but I thought he didn’t mind. He was just as career-driven as me. Or had he minded?

Oh, what did it matter now? It was all over anyway. I had absolutely no wish of dwelling on it, or of going back. That chapter of my life was kaput.

I was just getting into the tub when Gloria Gaynor’s strong voice started singing I Will Survive. Happy the music was loud enough, I sank into the hot, fragrant water.

I didn’t realize I was singing my lungs out until someone banged hard against the bathroom wall, shouting, “Will you keep it down in there, Tina?”

“Up yours! And it’s Gloria!” I yelled back laughing, knowing it was Pete Gallagher, who sang in the shower every morning and who was probably the most tone-deaf person I knew. He was a few years older than I, and a confirmed bachelor, though he’d tried to lure me on dates on more than one occasion. He was good-looking, but I always declined because of Richard. I asked myself now for a mad moment what would happen if I went over to his apartment wrapped in a towel and asked him to join me in the tub. That would give Richard tit for tat. And… I’d be no better than him.

Shaking my head in disgust because the thought had even crossed my mind, I reached for the phone to call Danny. I told him I was going to fly to London tomorrow and asked him to make hotel arrangements for me.

“It will be done,” he said cheerfully. “When do you plan to get back to Chicago?”

“I’m not. I’m flying back to L.A. with you.”

There was a significant pause. “Oh? Do you want to visit The Ultimate Dreamland?”

“Nope. I’m moving there.”

“You are?” Another pause. “How… When did you decide?” he asked, sounding puzzled but very pleased.

“Today,” I said on a sigh, moving my leg idly in the bubbly water. “It was an impulsive decision, but I’m sticking to it.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Melinda De Ross is an international author of Romanian origin. She writes in two languages, and her books combine the elegance specific to the European style with the modern appeal of the American culture. She has a Law degree and has been a professional target shooter for over a decade. Her favorite genre to read and write in is Romance, and anytime she prefers to watch a classic movie instead of going to a noisy club.


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