Chapter One

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She groaned as the light filtered through her eyelids. Her head pounded a demonic cadence as her stomach churned in agony. Without conscious thought, she rolled to the left and crawled over whoever was in the bed-which coincidentally wasn’t hers-and stumbled toward the door she was fairly sure led to the bathroom.

Her stomach heaved as she dropped to her knees, wrenching the toilet lid up with a resounding clang as it hit the tank. The acid and alcohol burned as she expelled it, the stench infiltrating her nose.

Her red hair hung limp around her face and she groaned as she caught sight of a few tendrils dangling precariously close to the surface of the water tainted with alcoholic bile. Her hands raked through the tangled mess, pulling it back roughly as she wretched again.

A few minutes later as her forehead rested against the cool porcelain seat, she heard a shuffle and then a knock at the door.

“Clare?”

Wincing, she squeezed her eyes shut tighter as she tried to block out the annoying voice filtering through the door. The knob rattled, then footsteps retreated across the plush carpet. And she groaned again as she heard the sharp click of a pick being inserted into the lock.

The door swung inward, the dim sunlight filtering in through the windows spilling onto the tile floor. A shadow blocked her vision as he stepped inside.

“Come on Clare-Bear. Let’s get you home.” Ignoring her pitiful protests, he gripped under her arms as he hauled her to her feet. She swayed listlessly to the side as her vision swam dangerously and he propped her slightly against the counter as he pulled a wad of fabric out of his back pocket. As gently as possible, he tugged the soft cotton shirt over her head, hiding her nudity as best he could.

His arm wrapped around her waist and she stumbled forward with him, her bare feet dragging slightly against the tile and then the carpet. She glanced toward the bed to see the bare back of another random stranger amid the disheveled sheets. He was attractive enough she supposed, though she held nothing more than a passing interest in him.

After all-she’d gotten what she wanted.

They paused near the sofa as Jon slung a bag full of what looked like her wrinkled clothes from the night before. She shook her head as her brother led her out of the stranger’s apartment, ushering her out the door and down the hallway silently. He glanced sideways at her as he leaned her against the wall while they waited for the elevator to come.

She lifted her head listlessly, glancing up at him through her lashes as he sighed in disappointment. “I’m sorry Jon. But you really shouldn’t have bothered.”

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