Book 1 – The Lost Series

 

Liz Lovelock

Prologue

23 September, 2010

I don’t know how I’ll get through this day. It’s like I’ve been living in my own personal kind of hell over the last two weeks. Since finding out my sister, Abby, is gone, my world is so empty. My heart feels as though it has been ripped out and stomped on a hundred times over. I never imagined my life without her. She was my best friend, someone I could always trust, and now…she’s gone. Abby was a friend to everyone. On my bad days, I would find myself feeding off her happy, fun-loving spirit to help build me up. That is, until Jacob Smith came along and ruined her life, and mine. I knew things were not right with him. Every time I saw him, the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach set off alarm bells, but Abby was so happy after she met him. She said he treated her like a princess, always sending her flowers and bringing her lovely gifts. One night when she came home after seeing Jacob, she had a bruised cheek. I questioned her about it, but she told me it was an accident and he didn’t mean it. From that night on, she began to shut down and close herself off from her friends, and even me. She would come home straight from work and shut herself in her room. She wasn’t there for me like usual, and wouldn’t let me be there for her either. I wanted to, especially when I heard her crying in her room late at night. She would never tell me what was bothering her. It hurt and made me angry how she wouldn’t confide in me. The day she came to me and said she was planning to leave Jacob, made me super happy. I noticed a change in her during the weeks leading up to the day she was going to leave him. She was happier and brighter than I had seen her in months. But she was unsure how to tell him, she was scared of his reaction. He was the type who flew off the handle, and no one knew what would happen. She started opening up to me before she left, telling me what he was capable of. It gave me chills, sending shivers down my spine, to think of what he might do to her. I told her I was going with her, but she didn’t want me to come. Hurt and afraid, I gave in and let her go alone. That is why I am to blame for what happened. When she left that night, I never thought it would be the last time I would get to see her. Then she was gone, missing. My world has never been the same again, and my heart is broken, shattered into a million pieces. We searched for her, put flyers around and even went to the local television stations, but found nothing. The hardest thing was hearing the police say they were now starting an investigation for a missing person since she had been gone for more than seventy-two hours. When they interviewed me, I told them about Jacob and how Abby started coming home with bruises and how her personality drastically changed. I informed them of her plan to break up with him the night she disappeared. Upon searching his place, they found the locket I had given her for her eighteenth birthday in a pool of blood, along with blood-covered towels. He was arrested on the spot and charged with her murder.

****

Then my two weeks of hell began. I’ve been sitting in this courtroom day in and day out, listening to the endless questioning from the lawyers to Abby’s colleagues and friends. How was Abby’s behaviour in weeks before she disappeared? Had anyone met the defendant, Jacob? Did they seem happy? Did she seem afraid of him? Hearing their responses has been excruciating, and I’m surprised to learn of all the things I didn’t notice, such as how she had stopped going to work and often called off sick. I had no idea, because she wasn’t at home much. What kind of sister am I? When they call me to the stand, my nerves are all over the place. I’m not sure if I am going to burst into tears or vomit. After I’m sworn in, the prosecutor is first up with the questioning. “Miss White, Abby is your sister, correct?” She is an elderly lady with kind, brown eyes that urge me to answer her question. “Yes,” I respond, my voice cracking. “Did Abby confide in you about her relationship with the defendant?” “No. Not about what happened in their relationship. Not long after they started dating, she began shutting me out. She only opened up to me the night she left, telling me how scared she was at how Jacob was going to react.” My heart is pounding in my chest and I’m sure everyone in the courtroom can hear it. “Why did she shut you out?” “I questioned her about bruises she began showing up with.” I look at Jacob, and his heartless, green eyes are staring back at me. I wish I could wipe that smug look off his face. “How often did she show up with new injuries?” “I can’t be too sure. I only saw them every now and then, so perhaps once a week, but then she started wearing more clothes and keeping herself covered.” “Describe Abby’s behaviour in the weeks leading up to her disappearance.” “Her personality and even her appearance changed. She didn’t seem to care anymore and dropped her normal standard. It was like her happy and caring soul had been taken from her. Seeing it broke my heart.” My voice breaks and tears begin to fall. “Sorry,” I mumble into the tissue. “It’s okay. When you’re ready, could you tell us about the night she disappeared?” I nod and focus only on the prosecutor. I don’t want to look at my parents. I know my mum will be a complete mess. “Something with Abby had changed. She was a little happier, and she told me she was planning on leaving him.” I glance toward Jacob, giving him an ice-cold glare. I wish looks could kill. “I offered to go with her, but she assured me everything would be okay and she would see me later, but—” tears burn my cheeks again, “—later never came. I haven’t seen my sister since.” The prosecutor thanks me and I’m allowed to leave the stand since Jacob’s lawyer has no questions for me. I return to my seat beside my mum. Jacob is next to be called to the stand. When he gets up, he looks around at my family with an arrogant look on his face. Arrogant arse. The anger within me is slowly reaching a boiling point. I have so much hate and bitterness toward this man. I hope he gets what is coming to him. I hope karma comes around and punches him right in the face. I’m not usually a violent person, but my parents and I have been through so much lately, and I can’t take much more. Jacob is sworn in and takes his seat. His lawyer is first up with questioning. “Mr Smith, please tell the court your relationship with Abby White.” His lawyer is young, and I can only hope he is fresh out of law school and does a terrible job. “We were in a relationship, a happy one and so very much in love.” His voice is full of confidence. Liar! He sits there all sure of himself. He has jet-black hair, with shining green fearless eyes. If I had met him on the street, not knowing what I do now, I would have considered him a nice guy. “Were you in anyway abusive toward Abby?” “No.” “How do you explain the bruises?” “Well, let’s just say she was a little clumsy at times and she also enjoyed things rough.” WHAT? He is so full of it! My hands begin to shake with my anger and I start looking at my hands, picking at my nails to keep my hands busy. “Do you mean sexually?” “Yes.” There is no way she was like that at all. The questions continue to fly at him, and still he expresses no emotion as he sits up there and lies. All I hear are lies. They make my ears want to bleed. I hope they are just as clear to the jury. After both lawyers have finished, the jury is ushered away to make their decision. I sit in silence, praying it will all work out in our favour. “Please stand,” I hear the court officer addressing the courtroom, pulling me out of my thoughts. I focus on the judge entering, followed by the jury. Feeling very anxious of what the outcome might be, my heart is racing and my stomach is twisting in multiple knots. “Please be seated,” said the judge, slamming his hammer down for order in the courtroom. I actually feel like I might be sick or pass out; I’m not too sure at this point. I feel my mother’s hand grab mine and squeeze. It’s a good comfort, and I feel myself calm a little. I look at my parents. Dad has his arm around her for support, and both look worn out from this whole ordeal, as I’m sure I do as well. Looking at Mum’s deep red hair, now with some grey spots through it, I notice how similar we look with our hair and crystal blue eyes. Abby was the opposite, even though we were twins. We weren’t identical twins, but fraternal. She had beautiful brown hair like Dad. So she gained most her features from Dad, while I gained mine from Mum, but we had the same clear blue eyes. As we sit, all I can do is hope Jacob is found guilty. Then justice will be served for my sister. I look over at him, looking all calm and relaxed. He glances over his shoulder, catching my eye, and smiles. I feel the bile rise in my throat, and quickly look away, taking a few deep breaths to settle my stomach. I grip Mum’s hand harder. “Has the jury reached a verdict?” asks the judge, looking toward the jury panel. The spokesperson for the jury approaches the front, handing a piece of paper to the court officer, who takes it to the judge. My stomach is feeling like the sea in the middle of a storm. No matter how much breathing I do, it won’t calm, and if I keep the deep breaths happening, I might hyperventilate. The judge unfolds the piece of paper that holds the fate of that pathetic excuse of a human. He reads it before he hands it back to the court officer to give back to the spokesperson. “We, the jury, find the defendant, Jacob Smith, not guilty.” “NO! That’s not fair. He killed my sister!” I shout at the jury. I can hear my mother trying to calm me down, but all I feel right now is rage, rage and hate toward Jacob Smith. I watch him as he’s thanking his lawyer, shaking their hands, and smiling. Oh, how I wish I could wipe that smile off his face. I don’t realise I’m crying sobbing actually, until my mother pulls me into her, and we cry together, standing here holding each other. Dad walks out after the verdict is read. He knows he won’t be able to control himself. I guess I get my temper from him. I sense someone standing behind me. “I’m sorry for your loss. I did love Abby very much.” I whip my head around to face the scum of the earth. Did he just say he loved her? I look Jacob in the face. There’s no compassion in his eyes; he never cared for her. I don’t know what comes over me. I just see red. I straighten up, turning my entire body toward him, and before he knows what’s happening, I clench my fist and let it fly right at his face, hitting him square in between the eyes. I smile at him. Take that, you pathetic excuse of a man! I look around to see the officers looking my way, but they don’t come toward me. It actually looks like they enjoyed the show. “Oww, you bitch!” he yells, while clutching his nose. I don’t think it’s broken, but it is pouring out blood. Man that makes me feel much better seeing him in pain. I nearly laugh in his face, but think better of it. It was a dumb thing to do, but I feel so much anger toward him, and he deserves every bit of pain that comes his way. “Don’t you ever speak to us again, and you have no right speaking about Abby at all. It’s your fault she is gone!” I yell at him as my mother grabs my arm, pulling me out of the courtroom doors. “You may have got off today, but we know the truth!” I continue yelling at him. “Stop, Melodi, you’re going to make things worse. Abby wouldn’t want you to be like this,” I hear Mum say as she finally gets me out the doors and into the parking lot before I can do more damage. We walk to the car in silence. I see Dad waiting for us near the car, pacing, anger written all over his face, his eyes glazed over with hate. I have never seen him looking so outraged in all my life. I look at Mum and see she is fighting off tears. I wish there is something I can do to take away their pain. “I’m sorry, Mum. I know I shouldn’t have done that; something in me snapped and it just happened.” I grab her, stopping her from walking any further. I pull her to me, wrapping my arms around her. We stand there for a short time, holding each other, giving the support we both need right now. Dad comes over, joining in on the hug, and supports Mum and me while we cry. He always tries to be the tough one. Mum pulls me out at arm’s length, looking at me with a mischievous smile on her face. She has red eyes and blotchy cheeks, but there is a little shining light in her eyes. Looking toward Dad, she says, “You would be super proud of the punch she just gave that lowlife, honey.” She gives a sad chuckle, which sets me off giggling. Dad looks surprised and confused; then pulls me into a Dad bear hug, laughing. It feels good to be smiling and laughing with Mum and Dad again. I know it will take a while to get over our loss, but we have each other. “Wish I could have seen it,” he beams proudly. We let go, walking to the car. “I love you, Mum and Dad.” “We love you too, honey. We’re always here for you, no matter what. We need, more now than ever, to stick together.” Mum says, taking my hand giving it a light squeeze. Someone standing near us clears their throat. “Excuse me, Mr and Mrs White?” We all turn and face a police officer standing before us. My heart sinks. Oh, gosh, that punch has come back be bite me on the arse. I look to Mum and Dad, who look concerned, as I’m sure I do too. “Yes, that’s us,” my dad says formally. “Can we help you?” The police officer looks really nervous; I can see small sweat beads forming on his brow. He looks young, maybe too young, to be a police officer. Perhaps he is a newbie. He has a strong build, about six foot tall, jet black hair, and bright green, sad but kind, eyes. Maybe it isn’t to do with my incident. “Ah…yes, I just wanted to let you know how sorry I am for your loss. I—” his voice catches as though he is on the verge of tears, and he clears his throat, “—I knew Abby. I met her one day at the park. I was doing my normal rounds and I saw her sitting there alone…crying. I approached her and noticed bruises on her arms. We got talking and I tried to get her to put a Domestic Violence Order out on this guy and she said she would. I even gave her my number if she ever needed anything. I’m terribly sorry I didn’t do more.” He hangs his head in shame. Each word spoken is low and touches my heart. I am on the verge of tears and my mother has tears streaming down her face, but Dad stands tall and walks over to the young, handsome police officer. “What’s your name, son?” Dad asks. “Blake Johnson, sir.” His voice shakes from emotion, or fear; I’m not sure. I do know my dad can be a scary person sometimes. Blake is taken completely by surprise when Dad, who is not a hugging kind of guy, pulls him into a short, manly hug. A lump forms in my throat at the sight of two grown men shedding a few tears. “You did what you could, son. Don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s no one’s fault but that lowlife’s sitting in that courtroom now with a broken nose… hopefully.” He beams proudly at me. I give a weak smile. “I know. I guess I will always think I could, no should, have done more to help her.” “It’s all right. Just pick yourself up and go help those you can help now. Don’t live in the past.” “Thank you, sir.” He stretches out his hand and Dad takes it. Blake then turns toward Mum and me. “You and your sister are both beautiful women. She talked about all of you that day, how much she loved you and appreciated all your support and encouragement. She was smiling when I left her,” he says with a sad smile of his own. ”Again, I’m sorry for your loss.” Mum and I are standing here with tears still flowing down our face. I am so grateful he approached us. To know she felt our love and found this stranger to confide in makes me happy. Hearing she still had smiling moments lifts some of the weight off my heart. We both hug this stranger and thank him for his kind words. He walks away looking a little more relieved than before. I leave feeling the first glimmer of peace since the night Abby disappeared.

Chapter One

Three Years Later

Beep, beep. I hear my phone go off. I groan, rolling over, and reaching out for it on the bedside table. I open my eyes a little, noticing it’s still dark out. I groan again in frustration. Who messages this early? Squinting at the brightness, I try to see whom the message is from through blurry eyes. Mum: Hey, honey, good luck with the job interview today. I will call you later. Love you! Mum and Dad xo P.S. Sorry, I know it’s early. Trust Mum to message me this early. Looking at the time, I discover it’s five a.m.! “Are you kidding me? Come on, Mum. You knew I would be sleeping.” Feeling a little frustrated, I know Mum is working early shifts at the hospital, but she could have just rung me later. It’s been a month since I moved to New York. I needed a change; plus, I needed to get the bad memories of my hometown out of my mind, and living there was always a constant reminder of what happened to Abby. The anniversary of her death is coming up soon. I miss her every day and the pain is still unbearable at times. I find myself waking up crying some nights. The memory of that part of my life is always fresh in my mind, a constant reminder to never trust a guy, no matter how great he may seem. It was our shared dream to move to New York, work and party it up while we were young. Maybe even travel around a little. We always had a fascination with Europe, especially Italy, but now it’s just me. I feel lost and alone some days. I have met some great people since moving here. There’s Felicity, or Flick, as I like to call her. She works at the recruitment company that I applied to when I first moved here. We clicked right away. She loves hearing me talk with my Aussie accent. My family moved to America when Abby and I were eighteen. Dad got a transfer in the Army, so we moved to Philadelphia. Dad was away most of the time, but Mum, Abby, and I settled in pretty well in our new home state. It’s just Mum and Dad at home now since Dad retired. We got our green cards and decided to stay. Flick figured I knew nothing about New York, which I didn’t, so she took me under her wing, showing me the great restaurants, nightclubs, and the best shopping spots. I can’t believe the hot guys around. I still keep my distance, but can’t help looking. She has been putting my name in for all the high paying jobs, which is great, although nothing has come of it yet. Hopefully, today is my lucky day, I think as my stomach begins swarming with butterflies at the thought of today’s interview. The meeting today is with Case Constructions, a building development company, as a Personal Assistant to the head honcho. I know there will be plenty of other worthy applicants. Here’s hoping. Then there is Liam, smart, sexy, funny Liam. I get a little heart flutter thinking about him. We met on my first night out on the town with Flick. It was a pretty big night that night, with lots of tequila shots and dancing. Next thing I remember is waking up at home with Flick beside me in my bed. I walked into the living area and nearly died at the sight of this unknown shirtless guy asleep on my couch. Totally freaked, I ran back to my room, waking Flick up. I literally had to lift her up by her shoulders and shake her awake. While still half asleep, she proceeded to tell me how I invited him to stay, as his place was an hour out of town. And so began the adventures of Flick, Liam, and Melodi. Liam is a legal aid. I’m sure he has a thing for Flick, and either she is blind or just isn’t interested. When they are together, they flirt like nobody’s business; then if there is another guy who shows interest, she brushes Liam off, poor fella. I think I might need to intervene there only a little, but right now, I think I should get a few more hours sleep. Rolling over, placing my phone back on to the bedside table, and pulling my blankets up, I snuggle back into my large comfy bed. Then the wonderful feeling of wandering off into dreamland sets in.

****

Glancing at my watch for the hundredth time, I struggle to sit still. There are still three girls to go, plus myself. There were seven of us here for interviews. Nerves are beginning to kick in. My stomach feels likes there are a million butterflies waiting to escape up my throat and out my mouth. Case Constructions is a big, snazzy, high-rise building. It has maybe thirty floors, although, not all are Case Construction. I’m worried I may not get off on the right floor. I really hate interviews, but I really need this job. I can’t keep relying on Mum and Dad to pay for everything, especially my nights out on the town. When I walk into the room where the other girls are waiting, I feel all the girls’ eyes on me, kind of like they are sizing me up. I take the first seat closest to the door. That way, I am out of the line of fire from all the judgemental looks, not only toward me, but toward each other also. Some are pretty, well groomed, and are probably hoping to get the job based solely on their looks. Then there is the average Joe, who has her hair pulled back into a basic ponytail, along with her basic black pencil-skirt and red silk, button-up shirt. Okay, maybe there is only one girl like that, me. I’m your average girl; the rest are the rich bitch looking type. As each agonising minute ticks by, I watch as all the other girls go in before me, all leaving giggly and confident. Seriously, why did I even try? One of these other girls is sure to get this job. I can’t sit still anymore. It’s me and one other girl remaining. I’m ready to get up and pace the room, or run laps, actually. I’m not a silly girl. I know how people with companies as large as Case Constructions prefer the super models who have the perfect face, which attracts more business for the company. I’m not saying I’m ugly. I’m happy in my own skin, and if these people aren’t happy with me, then they can get stuffed, big time. “Melodi White?” I hear a lady call from the doorway. I glance up; she is maybe in her thirties and has a kind face. “Yes, that’s me.” My shaking hands reach for my folder. Nerves kicking into overdrive once again, I take a deep breath, hoping to calm myself, and then walk toward her. I reach the doorway, and she extends her hand toward me. “Hi, I’m Helen. I’m the human resources coordinator, and I will be one of your interviewers today.” I take her hand, hoping she doesn’t notice my clammy palms. “Have you filled out your paperwork? And do you have any questions about it?” Handing the folder over, I answer, “Hi, here is the paperwork. I didn’t have any problems, but I could have missed something. Please let me know if anything isn’t correct.” I can’t seem to calm my nerves no matter what I do. Maybe once I’m in there and the interview begins, I might calm down. “That’s great. Please follow me.” She turns and walks down a hallway. It’s so silent, apart from the clicking of our heels on the tiled floor. She stops, and then holds open a door for me. Walking in, my heart drops to ground floor. So much for my nerves settling down. In front of me are three other interviewers. There is another lady and two men sitting behind a table, with notebooks and bottles of water in front of them, and a telephone. Helen takes her place among them. There’s a lone, daunting seat placed in front of them. I stay standing until I’m told otherwise. “Please, be seated,” says the grumpy old man with grey hair and wrinkly skin. He must be over this whole event. “Thank you,” I reply, taking my seat. “Hello, Ms White,” says the other woman beside Helen. She seems very professional and an upfront type of person, but her eyes give the vibe of being just plain unkind or uncaring. I might need to steer clear of her. “I am Jenny Ford, office manager. This is Helen, the human resources manager.” Then pointing to the old man, she says, “Tim is executive assistant and beside him is Jared, chief financial officer.” She points toward the young fella on the end who looks young to be the chief financial officer. “And on telephone conference we have our CEO, Mr Andrews.” “Good Morning,” I address them all in my most professional voice, trying not to sound how my insides feel. I begin to fidget, tangling my fingers together and untangling then repeat, something I do to calm myself in certain situations, and this is one of those kinds of situations. Deep down, I’m hoping I answer their questions in a pleasing manner to them. They all greet me, and then turn their attention to making notes. What could they seriously be writing down? The questions haven’t even begun yet! Helen takes over now. “So, please, tell us a bit about your previous employment?” she says, preparing her pen to make more notes. Taking a deep breath, I reply, “I worked in a law firm as personal assistant to one of the partners. I had been there for about a year before deciding to move to New York.” “And what were your sole responsibilities?” “I assisted the partner by booking his appointments, answering phone calls, minutes for meetings, booking flights and accommodations for business trips, and preparing notes and paperwork for all meetings. These are the main things I undertook, as well as general admin duties,” I answer confidently. For the next half hour, the questions keep coming from each of the interviewers. Answering them, I try to lighten the mood with a few little giggles and smiles here and there. All in all, it’s a very good interview. I feel very pleased with myself, although the big CEO on the phone never spoke, which I find odd. I would think he would be the one with all the questions, seeing as it could be him I end up working for. With the interview finished, I shake their hands. “Thank you for the opportunity,” I say, turning toward the door. Leaving the building, I pull out my phone and call Flick. I promised I would call when I finished. It goes to her message bank. “Hey, it’s me. Soooo, the interview went well. They will contact me in the next week to let me know the outcome, although I’m not too hopeful. Will fill you in later, catch ya.”

Chapter Two

When Flick calls me back, I’m already home doing some cleaning. She has twenty questions, about the interview. “So, was the ever handsome CEO present?” she coos. “No, he was on telephone conference, and even then, he said nothing,” I answer while scrubbing the kitchen counter top. I know this sounds crazy, but cleaning is my way of relaxing mentally. I know I get it from my mother; she is a clean freak. “Oh, well, wait till you see him. You’ll be drooling,” she laughs. She previously informed me how Mr Andrews is one sexy, God-like man, and quite the ladies’ man, out with different women on a regular basis. I myself have not even seen anything about him as I don’t keep up with the media. I prefer to read a book. Television doesn’t interest me much either. I do have one in the lounge room because I enjoy the odd movie, especially romantic and even horror or thriller. I’m a thrill seeker at heart. Although, when the scariness gets too much, I have to mute it so it doesn’t seem as bad; the music always makes it worse. Throwing the scrubber into the sink, I walk to the lounge room. I love my apartment. The lounge room may be tiny, but it has a white leather corner sofa, along with polished hardwood floors throughout the entire apartment. Entering the room, there is a wall of bookshelves with my vast book collection on the right, and the television to the left with a small set of shelves where my small Blu-ray collection lives. “So, what’s the plan tonight, we heading out?” Relaxing into my couch, I’m hoping she says yes, only because I wanna drown my sorrows with a few drinks. Abby’s anniversary is coming up, and I’ll have to head back to Philadelphia, which is one place I so desperately never want to go back to. Every time I do, my heart breaks all over again at the constant reminder of what happened there and the loss my family suffered. I clear my throat, trying to remove the lump that has formed there. I won’t allow myself to wallow. Abby wouldn’t want it. “Yeah! I’m totally up for it, especially after the day I’ve had. I need to unwind a little!” I hear the excitement in her voice. I can always rely on Flick; she is a loyal friend. Since I told her about Abby, she has been so supportive and understanding. I know we’ve only been friends a short while, but we just clicked like two long lost sisters who were separated at birth or something, not that she will ever replace Abby, though. She is a stubborn girl sometimes, especially when it comes to her and boys, especially Liam. Actually, tonight might be a good opportunity to get him to come along. I don’t know if they’re both blind to what they’re actually doing, but whenever I bring it up to Flick, she denies it till she is blue in the face. I think I will intervene, I laughingly think to myself, not realising I’m laughing out loud. “What are you laughing at?” Oh, crap! I don’t want her to know.Oh, ahh… nothing. My mind went somewhere else, sorry.” “All right, I’ll just get ready. See you soon!” “Sweet! We can go grab something to eat before we hit the clubs. Oh, and bring a wine, white please. See ya shortly.” Not giving her a chance to reply, I hang up. Pulling up Liam’s number, I send him a quick text. Me: Hey Liam! Flick and I are heading out tonight to The Phoenix for some drinks and dancing. Come join us around 11pm 🙂  Hope you can make it! I throw my phone on the lounge now to go freshen up for tonight. I enjoy dressing up nice. It makes me feel beautiful, and every girl should feel beautiful. Walking into my room after my shower, I see I have a message from Liam. I smile to myself at the nickname he has given me. Liam: Hey Aussie! Thanks for the invite. I will be there! When Flick arrives, I am in my room trying to decide what to wear. I’m normally a jeans and nice shirt with some fab heels kind of girl, but tonight I wanna let loose. All my dresses, few they may be, are sprawled over my queen-size bed. I’m trying on a red fitted halter, cocktail-length dress when Flick waltzes in. “Whoa! Look out boys, Mel is hitting the town in a dress tonight and looking smoking HOT, I might add!” She takes a seat on the end of the bed with glasses of wine in hand, handing one to me. “I would so go with that one. It totally brings out the blue in your eyes.” “This one, ya reckon? Do you think it’s too dressy for the club?” Standing in front of the mirror, I see my hair falling naturally over my shoulders with natural tone makeup. Yep, this is the one. Tonight is going to be epic; a ball of excitement builds within me. I’m ready for a good dance and a few drinks and, hopefully, some matchmaking. I smile to myself at the thought. “No way! It’s perfect.” Flick is wearing a stunning navy blue, one-shoulder, shorter than usual, figure-hugging dress with four-inch, black strappy heels. She looks stunning, as always. Flick is nicely toned, with black hair cut in a concave bob, blue eyes, and is about five foot nine. We are about the same height; I’m maybe a little taller, but not by much, which is why we both have shoe fetishes. Living very close to Times Square, I have easy access to all the good pubs and clubs. We decide to go to a little sushi bar a block away for dinner around eight. I love going there. I’ve gone at least once a week since moving here, so the staff knows me pretty well now. Stepping out of the apartment building, it’s a beautiful, clear, fresh Friday night. I love feeling the light breeze kissing my face; goose bumps rise on my arms and legs, even though it is still pretty warm out. We decide to walk to the sushi bar, chatting and catching up on the latest gossip happening. Flick usually has the stories. With her work, she gets some interesting invitations from clients wanting to take her out. I can just imagine a bum off the street hitting on her and her trying to let him down gently. But deep down, she would want to say, “Hell No!” to them in a not so nice way. “So why didn’t you let this one take you out? He sounds nice enough.” I asked. She is telling me he seemed very friendly and was decent looking, so I don’t know why she said no to this one. “Because, with a resume like his, we would be eating McDonald’s cheeseburgers on a park bench, ahh, no thanks!” she yells, slapping my arm. We both break out laughing. “Yeah, we wouldn’t want that, now would we, Miss High Maintenance?” I say with sarcasm. I hook my arm with hers, and we continue walking and laughing. “What about Liam?” I ask innocently, deciding to throw the idea out there. “Yeah, he isn’t bad looking and he has a good job, but I just don’t think he’s into me.” “Are you kidding me?” I practically yell at her, stopping in my tracks “What?” A shocked and confused expression is on her face. “Don’t you notice the way he flirts with you when we’re all together,” I ask, and begin walking again. “No, I guess I don’t notice things like that. I’ll take more notice next time I see him.” “Good, because he’ll be meeting us tonight,” I whisper, quietly smiling and doing a little dance of excitement within. “WHAT!” she yells. “What did you do? “Nothing. I invited him to meet us at The Phoenix a little later; there is no harm in that.” I shrug innocently, giving her a sheepish grin. “No, but now I’m nervous to be around him since you decided to mention the whole flirting thing,” she shyly says. I knew she liked him deep down, but I’ve not known her long enough to see this shy girl beside me; she is always outgoing and confident. “Don’t worry, I’ll be with you, and if you feel uncomfortable or anything, we will leave, okay?” She looks at me, smiles, and nods as her confidence grows again. We arrive at the sushi bar, take seats at the sushi train bar, and grab the first plate that comes by. I’m seriously starving now. I haven’t eaten since lunchtime, except for the odd chocolate. It looks like roasted chicken and avocado. Taking a bite, I savour its delicious flavour. “Mmm, this is so yum. I love this place,” I state, while taking another bite, not very ladylike though. “Yeah, it’s really good,” replies Flick. She is now on her second plate. So it isn’t just me starving. Boy, she can stuff her face and not put on any weight, and she doesn’t exercise much; she sometimes comes to the gym with me, but not often. Most girls would kill for a body like hers, where you can eat what you want. Me, I eat what I want, but I have to exercise regularly to keep it looking good. It’s hard work, but I enjoy the exercise. I begin thinking about Abby and how we were the same in so many ways. We had the same body build, except she became a lot skinnier after she met Jacob. Even thinking his name brings my blood to boiling point. He took her from me and I can never get her back. I can’t understand why, or even how, someone could do what he did. I feel a lump starting to form in my throat. NO! I don’t want to get upset tonight over sad times; I only want to remember the good times. “Hello? Earth to Melodi.” Flick is clicking her fingers in my face, trying to rope me back into the present. I’ve been in my own little world again, thinking about Abby. I guess this time of year is always hard for my parents and me. Abby was pronounced dead on the twentieth of August, 2010. That day was the worst in my life, earth shattering even, but I enjoy remembering Abby, the beautiful spirit she was. I feel a warm tickle fall down my cheek. Flick wipes it away before I get a chance. “Are you okay, Mel?” Concern is wrapped in her question. Shaking my head, I turn to her. “Yeah, I’m fine, just having an Abby moment. She has been gone three years this year, and it’s getting close to the anniversary. It should become easier by now, but not yet.” My heart is hurting. I swallow the lump in my throat, not allowing myself to get more upset. “Oh, honey, it’s all right. I’m always here for you.” She wraps her arm around my shoulder, pulling me to her. “We don’t have to go out tonight. We can go back home and watch movies instead?” she suggests with a smile. My heart swells, and I’m so grateful to have found her. “No, I want to go out and have fun; it’s what Abby would want,” I answer with a smile. “Abby would have wanted to join us if she were still here, so I’m going to have fun for her. Let’s go pay for this and go hit The Phoenix for some drinks and dancing,” I say as I grab my bag, ready for a good night.

Chapter Three

I can feel the sweat building under my hair; we’ve been dancing nonstop since we got to the club, except stopping for the odd drink. It’s one of our favourite places. We come here more often than anywhere else. It always has the best music and fast bar service. Flick is beside me, her hips grinding against Liam. They’ve been pretty cosy tonight. She was a little shy when he first arrived, but after she got a few drinks into her, she let loose and now look at her. I think she’ll be heading home with him tonight. Oh, yeah, matchmaker Melodi! I silently high five myself. But I’m beginning to feel like the third wheel, which is never fun. “I’m going to grab another drink, do you want one?” I yell at them as the music vibrates through my ears. I strain to hear them. “Yeah, get two shots and two beers for us please!” she yells back before going back to grinding her butt  up against Liam who, judging by the permanent grin on his face, is thoroughly enjoying himself tonight. Walking off the dance floor is another challenge in itself. It’s packed, and I can hardly move. Slowly pushing my way through the crowd, I decide to go to the bar upstairs. I might sit up there for a while and try to cool off and rest my feet, which are thoroughly killing me right now. Note to self: never wear heels out dancing again. The stairs are just as bad; the traffic up and down is continuous. I jump in behind some girl and make my way up. The throbbing through my feet is getting worse and my head is starting to feel a bit fuzzy, but I don’t want to end the night yet. I just need to have a little rest, and then get back out there. I’m in thought, and suddenly, my foot misses the next step and I feel myself fall down the few stairs I’ve managed to make it up. My face burns with embarrassment. Luckily, there doesn’t seem to be anyone directly behind me, so at least I don’t take anyone else out in the process. I take hold of the rail and begin picking my mortified self-up. A hand grabs my elbow to help me up. Warmth spreads through me, starting where the hand grabbed me, shooting through me like a hot liquid. My heart ignites like a sparkler. It’s something I’ve never experienced before. Feeling very humiliated, I turn to thank my helper. My mouth drops open at the sight in front of me; my heart is racing and my palms begin to sweat. Gee, I had to fall in front of him? He looks at me and his brow creases with concern. With his eyes burning into mine, my cheeks warm. Here in front of me has to be the most gorgeous man I have ever laid eyes on, and his piercing blue eyes are soft and caring. I realize my mouth is still hanging wide open like a proper fool. I snap it shut, and find my voice. “Er…thanks. Maybe I should stop the drinks now since I can’t even make it up the stairs,” I laugh nervously. My body begins to sway a little, the fuzzy feeling in my head becoming stronger. The gorgeous mystery man grips my arm a little tighter to steady me; boy, do I feel like an idiot right now. “That might be an idea, are you okay?” His voice is so calm and inviting. At the warmth of his touch on my arm, my heart feels so giddy, and what is with the dance going on in my stomach? I don’t normally get like this around guys, especially when I’m drunk. I’m usually more confident. I guess I did totally embarrass myself falling down the stairs. Remembering I haven’t answered his question, I glace at him. His eyes are glued to me as he waits patiently for me to respond. He doesn’t realize the effect he is having on my body and me. “Yes, I’m all right thanks, just a little unsteady in these heels.” I reply with a small laugh. A small smile spreads across his face. Watching me intently, his eyes glisten bright blue. His hair is dark brown and tied back, as it is a little longish, but not girly-length long, though. He looks super sexy wearing black jeans with a white buttoned up shirt. His arms are very toned, and I immediately want to run my hands up them, wrapping him in my arms while I place my lips against his luscious li— Wait. What the heck am I thinking? His hand still holds my arm. “Here, let me help you up the stairs to make sure you don’t fall again,” he says as he turns. Standing beside me, he places his arm around my waist to support me. In this moment, I don’t want to be anywhere else. There is something about him I instantly adore. I want to be near this stranger; there is an intense pull to him. I can feel his muscular body moving beside me, setting my heart on fire, spreading a new kind of feeling throughout my whole body, right down to my toes and across to my fingertips. We reach the top of the stairs; it felt like the longest walk. I did manage to stumble a few more times, which resulted in me feeling like a serious drunk and wishing this beautiful stranger beside me wasn’t the one helping me. Can I crawl into a hole and hide now? It feels like people are staring at us. I’m not sure what they’re looking at. My guess would be they’re checking out the guy helping out the drunk girl. Or they’re laughing at the girl who just went arse over tit down the stairs. I feel my face warming up again. He guides me to the nearest table helping me on to a seat. Looking up at him, I’m still feeling slightly dizzy as he reaches out, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. He glides his finger slowly down my cheek as his shining blue eyes take in every inch of my face. His touch erupts a yearning within me, something new I’ve never felt. I want to know who this stranger is, what he enjoys doing for fun, and what his lips would feel like on mine. And there is that insane thinking once again. Snapping out of my inappropriate thoughts, I shake my head slightly and instantly regret it. “I’m Melodi White. Thanks again for helping me.” Why did I tell him my full name? As I say it, something passes over his face. It’s there for only a second, but I’m sure it was there, recognition of my name perhaps? He can’t possibly know who I am. I would never forget a man like him. “That’s okay. I wouldn’t want a beautiful girl like you to fall and injure yourself,” he says with a devilish grin, which sends my heart racing again. His voice is like butter melting on hot pancakes, yum. He has a calming, cheeky nature about him. “Wait right here. I’ll be back in a second.” He stands and heads for the bar. There is a big line up, but when the server sees him approaching, she finishes who she‘s serving and goes straight to him. He must be someone important, or she probably fancies him much like I do, I think while smiling to myself. I realise I’m staring at him as he returns with a smile on his face, staring straight back at me. “Here, this will help you feel better,” he says, handing me a glass of ice-cold water. Taking a sip, it’s so good and refreshing, the coolness making me feel much more awake. “Thanks,” I reply, fiddling with the glass in my hand to avoid looking at him. He grabs another chair and pla ces it and then sits himself down in front of me. Why is this guy staying with me? I’m not anything special. I don’t think I’m in the league of women he would normally go for. I’m pretty sceptical about guys. I’ve become more cautious, especially with the nice, good-looking ones. I always thought Jacob was nice; boy was I wrong. Dead wrong. I stand quickly, taking him by surprise. He jumps up as well. Maybe not my best idea as my head begins to spin. I immediately grab on to the table to steady myself until it passes. Seriously, how could I have let myself get this bad? Stupid! I have a sudden urge to run. I want, no need, to find Flick and head home. That is unless she wants to go with Liam. “What’s your name, Mr Hot Stuff?” I blurt out without even registering my words. One minute I want to run, the next I want his name. Clearly, I’m not thinking straight. What the hell am I thinking! My hands go to my mouth as a little embarrassed giggle escapes my lips. I look at him, and he has the most beautiful half smile on his face. I can see the dimple in his cheek, and it makes my heart swell. His kind eyes burn into mine as I say, “Sorry, my mouth seems to have lost its filter.” “It’s okay,” he says with a slight chuckle. He is still in front of me. Placing his hand at the top of my arm, he slowly runs his hand down my arm, sending goose bumps over my body, and catching my hand in his. He rubs circular motions with his thumb over my knuckles. What is happening to me? I can feel myself letting the walls I’ve built up over the years crumble around me like a bulldozer crashing into a brick wall. His gentle touch warms me right to the pit of my stomach. “I’m Corban, nice to meet you, Melodi.” He places a feather-light kiss on my cheek. I melt instantly. He is still holding my hand, taking a step closer to me, his face inches from mine. I can see the stubble on his chin like he hasn’t shaved in a few days. It’s a hot look for him. I begin to lift my other hand, wanting to reach up and run my hand along it, caressing his face. I stop halfway not wanting to look like a fool touching a strangers face. He clears his throat, snapping me out of my desirous thoughts. Realising my mouth is slightly open again, I snap it closed and take a small step back, but not too far, as he still has my hand. “Nice to meet you too, Corban.” “Do you come here often?” he yells like the music just got louder. It must be that time of night where the DJ lets loose. I can barely hear him. I lean into him so close I can smell the beer along with maybe vodka and bourbon. I can even smell his cologne. His scent is driving me crazy! “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you very well,” I yell back. He places his free hand on my waist, swiftly pulling me closer to him. “Are you okay to walk?” he queries. I’m becoming a little short of breath from the proximity, so I just nod. I’m all giddy inside and excited that this damn fine piece of ass is interested in me! Amazing! He guides me back toward the bar and turns down a corridor. An anxious and uneasy feeling begins to settle within me. I don’t know him well enough; why did I agree to follow him? I stop dead in my tracks feeling silly and embarrassed by my abrupt stop. He stops and the look on my face must be enough for him to realize I’m freaking out. He comes back to me, taking both my hands in his own, which calms me down, but those feelings are still there. “Look, I’m just going to find my friend.” Pulling my hands from his, I turn to quickly walk back the way we came. I hear him coming after me. “Wait!” he pleads, grabbing my hand again to stop me from going any further. “I was only taking you down here to my office to get a little peace and quiet. See, I’m the owner of the club and I figured you just needed a minute or two to take a breath and refresh before you leave. That way I know you will have your head about you and you will get home safely.” He is watching me intently. I just stand there. How stupid am I? I will have to learn to trust again one day and repair what’s been broken from my past. I look up into those amazing eyes and say, “I’m sorry, that was rude of me. I find it hard to trust guys, especially after what happened to my…” I stop myself before I tell him my life story. Seriously!Telling this stranger about my life, and especially about Abby, is not like me. It’s not something I share with just anyone. I can’t do this. I quickly sidestep around him, not looking him in the eyes because I know I’ll melt straight into them once again. I get past him before he grabs my arm, pulling me into his firm chest. The electrical current between us has my body tingling all over. It’s as though my body is waking up with a new desire, so strong I’m not sure I can keep myself composed for much longer. “I would never hurt you,” he whispers in my ear with such force and determination. He places his hand on my cheek, I close my eyes for a second taking in his touch. Closing the space between us, he gently places his lips to mine. My heart races, pounding like a jackhammer. I’m sure he can feel it against his body. I taste the alcohol on his breath. My hands wrap around his neck and my body falls into him. Wanting more, I pull him to me, kissing him more forcefully. He reciprocates, running his hand up through my hair, holding the back of my neck. He trails his kisses from my lips down to my neck, and I release a slight groan. He pushes me up against the wall, grinding his body against mine, working his kisses around my neck and back up to my mouth. I open, letting his tongue wander freely. He tastes so good; kind of reminds me of lime cordial. Mmm, my favourite. His arms wrap around my waist. A feeling of safety washes over me, which is crazy since I just met him. Pulling away to catch my breath, our foreheads press together. He gives me another small kiss. I savour the feel of his soft lips and the taste of his breath. Letting out a sigh, I don’t want to leave his arms. “There you are!” Flick yells, startling me. When she reaches us, her eyes dance over Corban. Then she looks to me. “Nice! What a hottie.” She smiles toward me and at him, and I can’t help but smile back at her. I look back at Corban; he is smiling as well. Wow, what a heart-melting smile. “I have to go,” I say to Corban, who instantly looks worried and still hasn’t let me go. “Will you be okay getting down the stairs?” he jokes, his face relaxing. “Yes, I have Flick here to help,” I say, giving him a quick kiss and retreating with Flick. I look over my shoulder and catch his gaze watching me with a look that says he wants to come after me, but he doesn’t. Realising Flick is talking to me, I turn my attention back to her. “Who was the hottie?” she queries, ogling me, waiting for answers. “I couldn’t see him clearly. I’m not sure if that’s because it was dark or I’ve had too much to drink, but he surely did look fine!” She giggles. “He caught me as I fell down the stairs. I felt like such a fool,” I tell her, remembering that moment, but knowing I wouldn’t change it now since I probably wouldn’t have met Corban if I didn’t fall. “Are you serious? You fell down the stairs!” she laughs at me. “Shut up,” I say lightly, pushing her. We head for the door to catch a cab home. It’s close to four in the morning, and I’m beginning to feel totally buggered. I can’t get those blazing blue eyes out of my mind and his kiss…Oh, my goodness, talk about breathtaking! I so should have gotten his number. I’m totally kicking myself now. “Where’s Liam?” I ask, registering he isn’t with us, as we climb into a cab. “Oh, he is still there.” She is smiling like a fool. Something must have happened. “Oh , my goodness! You pair totally made out, didn’t you?” I squeal at her laughing; this cabbie must think we’re nuts. “Only a little and we have a date tomorrow night,” she replies excitedly. I’m glad I invited him now; otherwise, this probably wouldn’t have happened for a while.

Read the rest of the Book

More