Life Renewed Chapters 1-9

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Life Renewed (Chapters 1-9)

By StefB

Sara Collins had finally come to terms with the changes that occurred to her on her eighteenth birthday and built a comfortable life for her and her son but seeing the twin sister of the woman who turned her world upside down brought on an onslaught of painful memories.
Her life changes drastically afterwards but through the joy and the pain she sees the chance at a life renewed.
This story takes place within my Goddess Realm

This is the first part of a new storyline taking place within my Goddess Realm. It is not necessary to read Saved by a Goddess or Saved By a Goddess: Gifts to enjoy this story but admittedly it does help and is recommended.

Thank You LorasPa6 for your wonderful help editing and being there to bounce ideas off of.

Chapter One

"This is why you moved home." I reassured myself as I paused just outside the large ornate wooden and glass door.

My lunch meeting was at Union Junction inside Market Station with Kevin Snider, CEO of Axis Music Group. Axis was a small but growing record label, they had a limited but very talented stable of artists and many industry insiders say it is at the precipice of greatness.

Originally an old train depot, Market Station had been repurposed into a hotel and restaurant. It was gorgeous with arched 22-foot ceilings lined with exquisite crystal chandeliers and detailed walnut paneling. A large stone fireplace rested in one corner with large leather couches on either side that begged for intimate conversations. It was rather elegant and would be such a romantic destination for a date but it felt a bit odd for a business luncheon.

It would be my job to convince Mr. Snider that our ad agency had the ability to take his record label to the next level. I didn't feel that nervous as I possessed confidence in our company and having started at the bottom, I carried an understanding that allowed me to assure potential clients of our abilities as well as the knowledge to put any questions they may have to rest with relative ease.

From what I discovered through mutual business contacts, Kevin was a very hands-on and unconventional leader who started his company from a studio he built in his garage. Almost everyone I talked to told me that, contrary to his youthful appearance, he would not be easily swayed and was a very shrewd businessman.

After being seated at a table in the center of the room I informed the waiter that I would prefer to wait until my party arrived before making any orders.

I recognized him as soon as he walked through the doors. He was younger and far more laid back with his appearance than any of my other clients. He strolled in with an easy confidence and the physique of a man who enjoyed running. Although you'd never tell from his looks, he was thirty-three years old. After seeing him in person I believed my sources lied, he easily appeared twenty-five.

He possessed a boyish quality in his hazel eyes that were partially hidden by stylish black-framed glasses. His light auburn hair rested just below his collar and he kept it in the unkempt manner that had become popular. He conveyed a comfortable attractiveness in his distressed gray Mickey Mouse tee shirt, blue sports coat and black jeans. I laughed to myself when I noticed he wore black Chuck Taylor high tops instead of the cowboy boots so many men in this area prefer.

Everything I saw about him conflicted with a man who exhibited enough drive to own his own successful business. Kevin Snider was definitely the type of man my mind attempted to be attracted to these days.

Well… he would be if I allowed myself to be attracted to men… which I would not.

Never again.

I hoped he had a pleasant personality but if not, there were much worse things to do over lunch than to have to look across the table at him.

I noticed my reflection in one of the many mirrors lining the walls. It really hit me how his casual appearance was in stark contrast to my professional look. I smoothed my black knee length skirt and lightly tugged on the pink silk blouse I wore beneath the jacket that matched my skirt. I discreetly checked that my hair was still pulled properly into a chignon bun and my minimal makeup was unblemished. I quickly glanced around the room. My attire was in line with most of the patrons but compared to Kevin, I was definitely overdressed.

I rose as he arrived at our table and greeted him confidently. "Hello Mr. Snider, very nice to meet you. I’m Sara Collins thank you for taking the time to meet with me."

I quickly noticed that in one inch-inch flats he was at least two inches shorter which put him at about five foot eleven.

"Mrs. Collins, it’s a pleasure." He nodded as his eyes locked onto mine and his fingertips gently embraced my hand.

I inwardly cringed at the often mistaken assumption that I was married. Marriage is fine for other people, just not me. "Actually it's Miss Collins but please call me Sara."

He did not even try to hide his pleasure with my words and his eyes drifted the length of my body. "In that case Sara, please call me Kevin."

I couldn’t help but to blush under his scrutiny. "Thank you Kevin."

With the pleasantries out of the way we settled into our chairs and a calm businesslike demeanor enveloped him as we started discussing business. My sources were correct when they warned me that he was a shrewd business man who did his homework. His knowledge of what he required of our company was so detailed that I wondered, more than once, why he needed our services in the first place. About midway through our meal an associate of Kevin's interrupted us.

I had to do a double take when I saw him. Damn, I had no idea such men actually existed. This man was gorgeous. Truth be told, calling this man gorgeous would be an insult since he was so much more than simply gorgeous.

Standing in front of me wearing an untucked black cotton western shirt and black jeans that were tight in all the right places was lean, mean and muscular manliness piled at least six foot five inches high. He appeared to be about the same age as Kevin, maybe younger.

His long sleeves pushed past his elbows, accented a sculpted upper body and dark tan skin tone. His beautiful facial features told me there had to be a large amount of Native American in his family tree. He possessed long straight black hair and had the warmest brown eyes surrounded by the longest lashes I had ever seen on a man.

I was mesmerized and regretting the vow of celibacy I had taken soon after my son's birth.

The sexy man that filled my vision looked like bad news served up in a delicious package. I gasped sharply and it took everything I had within me to maintain a professional demeanor as I gazed upon this dark God before me.

A very attractive bleached blonde with a rather pale complexion who rivaled my six foot height accompanied him. She had crystal blue eyes set above high cheekbones and possessed full lips that, as my uncle would say, could suck the chrome off a 57 Chevy. Her build was more athletic than my curvier fame. She could easily be a model and definitely dressed to impress in a short black dress that hugged every curve and she completed her look with four-inch heels. I felt more than a tinge of jealousy creep within as I looked at her.

I remember when I used to look like that.

Kevin looked up, he seemed surprised by the interruption. "Hey Zeus, how ya been?"

Oh so this epitome of manliness has a name and that name is Zeus.

The name fit him like a glove.

"I’m good, it’s been awhile. How about you?"

"Good man, real good."

Zeus glanced over at me with a glorious smile. "Who is your friend?"

Kevin's expression fluttered with annoyance only long enough for me to think he either didn't want to introduce me or he did not feel I was worthy of an introduction. Before I had a chance to allow it to bother me his smile returned. "Oh where are my manners? Zeus, allow me to introduce Miss Sara Collins."

I found it difficult to remain professional in his proximity but I believed I succeeded as I extended my hand. "Very nice to meet you Zeus."

I felt a stirring in a place that had not stirred in quite some time as our hands touched. My pupils dilated as I looked into his commanding bedroom eyes.

The smile he gave me would make a nun forgo her vows and his deep voice rumbled deep into my never regions. "Please call me Adam. My name is Adam Carson. Zeus is a nickname that unfortunately stuck,"

Yep, that name fits too because "Ah Damn" was what I thought as soon as I saw him.

Kevin began to laugh. "Oh come on man you used to like the name, claiming it fit a sex god like you."

The blonde on Adam’s arm shot him a look as if the verify his status as a supernatural sexual being.

I realized I was staring so I quickly looked away from Adam and felt my cheeks begin to warm.

Why am I blushing? I never blush! Oh man, this can't be good. Okay mind, time to take control cause body can't be trusted.

I politely endeavored to include the young woman into our conversation to allow myself a momentary distraction from her companion. "Hello, I'm Sara."

I wanted to laugh after it became painfully obvious that she was not used to female attention when she was with Adam. She jumped slightly and nodded awkwardly. I continued to stare at her until she remembered she was expected to speak. "Oh sorry, nice to meet you. I'm Britney."

I turned my attention back to Adam who shifted uncomfortably in place. It seemed he was rather ill at ease and eager to end the conversation. "That was a long time ago man, anyways it’s always good to see you. We finally opened the club last week, you should swing by one night."

He casually glanced back in my direction in manner that, if not for the fact his very essence oozed self confidence, would appear shy. I knew from experience that for men like him, shyness was definitely not an issue he dealt with so there had to be another reason.

Had he forgotten I was sitting here?

My lips settled into a grim line as the thought entered my mind and he offered his hand. "Take care and it was a true pleasure to meet you Ms. Collins."

Even though I knew he was out of my league and so not my type anymore, I secretly pouted at the perceived slight. How could he not feel the connection?

I know how. Just look at the young leggy blonde with him. Well, he's not my type either…

At least not anymore.

I accepted his hand in mine and the stirrings began anew. "Oh please, call me Sara. Don’t worry Adam, I know all about unwanted nicknames." I started to ramble and stopped quickly with an inward groan. "The pleasure is mine."

Adam stared at me for a moment without releasing my hand. It felt as if he were searching for something, his scrutiny was uncomfortable but seeing how this was my only chance to be so near perfection and I could not turn away.

His hand closed a little tighter and he leaned a little closer as he spoke. "Have we met before Sara?"

His question as well as his proximity caught me off guard. "Not that I'm aware of. I don't think the world could handle two of me so it's a good thing I'm an only child." I felt myself rambling again. "Why do you ask?"

What is wrong with me? Mind, you are slipping on your job.

Adam continued to stare. "I used to know another girl with the same build, same general features and she has the same exquisite eyes only hers are blue."

I pursed my lips. My eyes are unique, I always considered them my best feature. Truth be told, my large deep set electric blue eyes were the only part of me I truly liked about myself but they were also why I wore brown colored contacts. I stood out enough as it was.

I started to flush under his gaze as I shook my head. "I don't know, I have my father's eyes and I don't have any girl cousins on his side of the family that I know of."

Adam smiled briefly before he released my hand "Sorry, you remind of someone. You sure we haven't met before?"

My eyes scanned him from head to toe. I have no doubt that I would have remembered him. This conversation started to feel like it should be taking place in a bar instead of a fancy restaurant.

I stilled my overactive pheromones to resume my businesslike demeanor before I stared into his tempting pools. "Sorry, I think had we met it wouldn't be something I could easily forget."

Where did that come from?

I felt myself flush again as Adam nodded his head as if he weren't so sure. "it could have happened in another life I guess."

I was about to ask what he meant until a couple of women walking up caught his eye.

One was a very attractive, rather petite red haired women with the most exquisite eyes I had ever seen. I do not know how to describe them other than to say they looked like someone captured two rainbows and placed one behind each of her eyelids.

I had never coveted another woman's looks before but I found myself wishing I could be half as beautiful.

Something about the woman's friend seemed familiar. I studied her dark brown hair and tan skin trying to remember where I knew her from. I mean, there can't be that many women that rivaled my six foot one inch height. We were like in a secret club and usually remembered each other the next time we met.

An anger I thought I had let go of long ago resurfaced as I looked into her lavender color eyes.

It was the day of my eighteenth birthday…

Chapter Two

"You know Mom, if you… Oh I don't know… Actually got a job, you would not have to call me with these harassing phone calls every month." I said angrily into the phone.

"Sean Lawrence Collins, how dare you say that to me! As my only son, it is up to you to take care of your disabled mother." She screeched in my ear.

I held the phone away from my face as I mumbled. "I didn't realize being an alcoholic slut was a disability."

"What did you say?" Mama said angrily. "All it would take is one call to the police and I can report you as a runaway. I bet your mouth wouldn't be as smart if you were standing in front of me."

I sighed at her tired warning, especially now that I had reached the age it would no longer work. She always threatened to call the authorities and let them know I was living in Los Angeles using a false ID. She claimed many times she was going to report me as a runaway because I moved away when I was only sixteen but we both knew her threats were hollow. She was glad to have me out of her hair and so long as I sent her a few hundred dollars a month to buy her liquor, she was content as someone like my mother could be.

I decided it was best to let it go rather than continue the pointless argument. "I'm sorry Mama, I'm broke right now but I'll wire you some money at the end of the week as soon as I get paid. Happy now?"

"If that's the best you can do then I guess I have no choice. I reckon I'll let you get back to doing nothing." Mama said before hanging up without even waiting for me to reply.

"Thank you for wishing me a happy birthday. I love you too." I said to the silence on the other end of the receiver before I placed it back into the cradle.

"I don't have to guess who that was Brah." My roommate Matt said as he walked in the room hugging a cup of coffee.

Matt and I met within a week of me moving to L.A. when I walked by him playing his guitar on a street corner. I started up a conversation and a fast friendship formed. I found out he was bouncing from house to house so I offered him the couch in my rundown apartment.

Matt was a great guy but always tried to hide behind different personalities. When we met, he pretended to be Australian a few months later he started talking in an English accent. Lately, he had been trying to sound like a surfer.

He was slightly taller than me at six foot three with long dark unkempt hair, chocolate brown eyes and a perpetual tan that, to my dismay, stood in contrast to my porcelain complexion. Matt could tan at the thought of the sun whereas I would develop second degree burns after an hour outside without sunscreen.

He had the looks and personality to get any girl he wanted but more times than not, he left the club alone. He claimed he was choosy instead of living by my golden rule of…If they were willing then I was able.

I was okay with his apparent lack of interest because the more women he turned away, the greater my chances.

I glared at him as I walked to the refrigerator and retrieved a can of Mountain Dew. "Nope, that was my Mommy Dearest. I'm so sick of hearing how it's my duty as a son to take care of her when she never took care of me."

Matt looked at me sympathetically and spoke with his attempt at a laid back California accent, I wanted to laugh when he did it because I knew he had been born and raised in Oklahoma.

"Sorry Brah, I wish I knew what to say. When is your old man's parole hearing? Maybe he can take care of her once he gets out."

I shuddered again thinking of my father. My entire life he always acted as a buffer between me and Mama.

He was a good man who made a bad decision.

Dad had always been the stability in my life. He was the one who gave me my love of music and also taught me all he knew about motorcycles, which was alot. I had happy childhood until the night he accidently killed a man in a bar fight after he found the man in the back room of a bar he worked at as a bouncer making out with my mother.

That happened a week after I turned thirteen and life went downhill after that. With him gone, Mom went off the deep end and tried to bring me with her. She often went on drunken rants, hitting me with whatever she could get her hands on while telling me I ruined her life and everything was perfect until I came along.

I crossed my fingers on both hands and held them in front of me. "Dad's parole hearing is in two weeks. I pray he gets out."

Matt smiled and nodded. "I hope he does too, I never met the man but he doesn't sound like he deserves to be there."

I poured four aspirin from the bottle as I shook my head. "No he doesn't." The quick movement made me wince. "Why did you let me drink so much last night?"

Matt laughed. "I tried to stop you but after your fight with Tiffany, you were on a mission."

I grimaced thinking of my now ex-girlfriend as I swallowed the painkillers. "What a bitch." I glanced at the clock to notice I was cutting it close on time before I had to be at my modeling shoot. "Any idea where my car is?"

Matt laughed. "Right where you parked it last night. You refused to drive and decided the rest of us were too drunk too."

I nodded as I walked to the bathroom for a quick shower. "Oh yeah, I remember now."

"By the way, Happy Birthday Brah. We're going to get you even drunker tonight since you're finally an adult." Matt called out to me.

"I don't know about that Brah." I relied in a tone mocking his attempted accent. "Dude, I'm telling you this as a friend, stop talking like that. Just be yourself."

---

With my long blonde hair still wet, I went to retrieve my car from the parking lot where I left it. I might have been young and definitely wild but I was not stupid. L.A. was hard enough to drive in when you're sober, I was not about to try it when I could barely walk.

I panicked when I walked to where my cherry red nineteen eighty-five Pontiac Fiero should have been, only to find it was gone.

I noticed a street vendor setting up on the sidewalk next to where I had been parked. "Excuse me, you did not happen to see a red Fiero when you arrived this morning?"

The man nodded. "Yeah, the owner of the lot had it towed away about an hour ago."

"Damn." I muttered under my breath before I started to walk away. "Thanks."

The vendor laughed lightly. "Your girlfriend is going to be pissed that you didn't take care of her car."

I paused and looked back at him angrily. "What's that supposed to mean? That's my car."

He laughed even harder. "Let me give you some advice son, let the city keep it and get a real man's automobile. Fieros are a chick car if there ever was one."

I glared at the man. My father bought that car before he went to jail in the hopes that we could fix it up together. I ended up doing the work myself along with bartering with a couple of his friends after he got locked up. I traded working on their bikes for them doing the major mechanical work or painting on my car.

My Fiero and I had a connection he could never understand. That car was my freedom when I had none, it was my escape when I needed to get away to think.

"Whatever." I replied as I turned to make my way to the bus stop.

By the time I caught a bus, I ended up with barely enough time to grab a sandwich and get to my modeling shoot on time.

I cursed my luck and regretted ever getting out of bed when I walked in the studio and saw who I would be working with.

"Hello Regina." I said almost bitterly when her eyes made contact with mine.

All I received in return was the slightest head nod. In her mind, I was not worth the extra effort.

"Bitch." I muttered to myself as I started walking across the open room filled with the latest style clothes sent in from various designers hoping to have their wares displayed in whatever magazine bought the photos.

Regina Van Burke was gorgeous, almost the perfect height at five foot nine with long brown hair and clear blue eyes. The fact she had the body of most men's dreams allowed her to bend them to her will with a wink of her beautiful eyes.

"Don't forget we are supposed to be onstage at seven tonight." I said to Regina as I took a seat in the makeup chair next to her.

She rolled her eyes and sighed. "I know, you don't have to remind me every time you see me."

Actually I did. Regina was an excellent singer but tended to be a temperamental artist, with an emphasis on the mental part.

Some days she would show up early and be a joy to work with, but other days, she would show up whenever she felt like it and act like she was doing everyone a huge favor by being there. Her erratic behavior had cost our band a few gigs and I would have kicked her crazy ass out of the band months ago but she had had the other guys eating from her perfectly manicured hands.

The reason I did not really like her was simple, she was a bitch. A complete diva who thought the world revolved around her and owed her a favor.

I figured that out long before the other guys asked her to join the band. I knew how she was because I had to work with her on modeling shoots like the one we were about to do.

I rolled my eyes as I took the wrapper off my sandwich. "Whatever, just don't be late this time."

"That's just mean Sean, how can you eat that in front of me?" Regina scolded as she waited for Polina, the makeup artist our agency preferred, to start preparing her for our photo shoot.

I never understood why Polina did not model herself because she was breathtaking. She was the same height as me which made her about six foot one, with long dark brown hair, golden skin and the most amazing eyes I had ever seen. I asked her once why she stayed behind the camera and she laughed off my question saying she was better at making other people beautiful.

I took another bite of my meatball sub before I looked at Regina. "What? I'm hungry?"

"Uhg." She sighed with mild disgust. "At least swallow your food before you speak."

Regina watched me take another large mouthful and shook her head. "Must be nice to be able to eat like that without having to worry about gaining weight. I have to watch every single calorie."

Polina rolled her violet colored eyes. "Not this again."

I could not fault her reaction. Regina always had a chip on her shoulder about how much better men had it than women. Every time she started one of her rants I would egg her on with snide comments or pointing out where women clearly possessed the advantage.

I would never admit it to Regina but she had a point. No matter how much I ate I always managed to keep my lean build. I was lucky in that regard. I was lucky in many ways actually. I had always been considered good looking with my blonde hair that I had let grow out to shoulder length and electric blue eyes. I also happened to be on the tall side, which also helped in the looks department.

My looks are what saved me from living with an alcoholic mother who cared more about her next drink than she did her only child.

A modeling agent saw me one day at a mall in the small Nashville suburb I grew up in and asked me if I would be interested in working with her. I figured…pretty lady, job offer, why not? I lied and told her I was eighteen, she didn't question it because of my size and before my head had a chance to catch up to what was going on, I found myself in a small, rundown apartment in L.A.

I enjoyed my life overall now. My passion is music and there are plenty of clubs where I can play until I make it big one day but for the time being, I am able to use modeling, as well as a part-time job working on motorcycles, to support my fledging music career.

I smiled at Regina as I swallowed. "You don't hear me complaining."

She started to glare at me. "God, guys have it so easy. You can eat whatever you want, You can roll out of bed, throw a brush through your hair and your good to go. Plus you can get away with anything."

I laughed, partly at her audacity but mostly to piss her off. "You're kidding right? Women have it easier than men. You're the one who can get away with anything. All you have to do is flash your baby blues and every man around you bends to your will. You never have to pay for a drink at the club, you make almost twice as much as me on the modeling gigs and let me tell you, it takes a lot of work to get my hair like this."

It was Regina's turn to roll her eyes. "You must be gay or something if you spend more time on your hair than I do. It's the nineties now, metal is dead. Get a haircut. For the record, every drink bought for me comes with the expectation of something more and modeling is about the only profession where women make more than men."

"Yeah right." I replied. "Men don't expect anything, we might hope for the opportunity but we don't expect a woman to drop their panties simply because we buy a drink. If men do make more it's because when we become involved with a woman it is expected we pay for everything. Women have the power because they can say no, I can't think of a single man outside of myself who would say no to you once you turn on your charms."

Knowing Regina like I did, I was glad Polina was working on her because if not, something would be flying towards my head. I could see the anger and hatred in her eyes as she glared at me. "Fucking idiot. You are such a country bumpkin with no clue how the real world works. I wish you could spend one day as a woman Sean Collins and I bet you would see it's not as easy as it looks."

I shoved the last of my meatball sub in my mouth to taunt the woman who had been a bane to my very existence ever since I moved to Los Angeles. "I'd do a damn sight better than you. It might be nice to have nobody depending on me and the lower insurance rates would be great too. I think I could handle not having to worry about everything as much."

Regina started laughing. "You wish it was that easy. You wouldn't last a week as a woman."

I rolled my eyes. "Shit bitch, you wouldn't last a day as man. Someone would kick your ass for acting like a arrogant douche."

Polina's eye's narrowed as she glared at the two of us bickering. She grabbed both of our hands simultaneous. "I've heard this argument for the last time. It is time to teach both of you a lesson."

---

I slowly opened my eyes wondering where I was and what had happened. Slowly the fog lifted as I looked around. I noticed I was at the studio and remembered I had been arguing with Regina.

I looked toward her and jumped when she was no longer there. In her place was a man who could pass as her brother and she was staring at me with a magnificent smile. I marveled at how attractive he was with his long dark hair and ocean blue eyes I could set sail in for days.

I swallowed hard at the fact I found a man undeniably attractive.

I was still trying to figure out what was going on when the gorgeous man, I suddenly remembered being named Reginald, spoke. "Happy Rebirthday. Look in the mirror Bumpkin."

My eyes cut to what could not possibly be my reflection. I ended up sprawled across the floor after rising from my seat quickly and losing my balance trying to get away from what I saw.

"What the hell?" I shrieked.

Reginald laughed. "It looks like we got our wish."

I slowly got to my feet and moved back to the mirror. Staring back at me was an absolutely gorgeous woman who could have easily passed as my twin sister. She was obviously very tall and still had my crystal blue eyes as well as my high cheek bones and blonde hair.

The similarities stopped there though because the woman in the mirror possessed full lips, long dark lashes and a body to die for.

I cautiously ran my hands down my body over my new curves and ran to the restroom to see if everything had changed.

As soon as the door closed behind me I lifted my tee shirt to two large breasts encased in a white padded underwire bra.

"How the…" I asked aloud trying to understand why I was wearing female underwear in addition to the obvious.

I frantically tried to drop my pants but they were so tight it took some wiggling on my part to get the denim past my new hips. I wanted to scream when I saw the white silk panties hugging a very flat area between my legs.

"Isn't it great Bumpkin?" Reginald said from behind me.

I tried to quickly pull up my jeans as I glared at him. "What are you doing in here? Get out!"

He laughed. "Hey, I am right where I am supposed to be. This is the men's room."

My eyes pled with him as I spoke. "Can I have a moment Reginald?"

His blue eyes narrowed and he started to raise his hand toward me. "Nobody calls me that. My name is Razor now."

I wanted to give him a smart ass remark but did not feel like fighting at the moment. "I'm sorry Razor. May I please have a moment? Obviously you are happy with what has happened but I'm slightly freaked out."

In a rare show of compassion the man who only a short time ago was Regina nodded his head as he walked from the room.

As soon as the door closed my hand went between my legs. Even though the region was covered in silk and denim, I could still feel an odd sensation as I cupped the area where my member should have been. My free hand grabbed my right breast and once again odd sensations ran throughout my body.

"This can't be happening to me. What was in that sandwich?" I asked myself as I stared at the stunning blonde Amazon beauty feeling herself up in the mirror.

I slowly redressed and gathered my composure enough to walk back out to the studio. When I reached the open area, I saw Razor talking to Polina with a wide smile on his face.

"Wow Sara, you look even better than I thought you would. I'm quite proud of myself." Polina said with a smile after turning to see me.

My brows furrowed as I stared at the woman. "What do you mean you're proud of yourself? Are you saying you did this?"

I continued to intently look at her but it was odd because I was no longer consumed with desire at the sight of her. I no longer went weak in the knees at the sound of her deep European accent. If anything I felt a tinge of jealousy that she was so perfect.

Polina nodded proudly. "I was tired of listening to you two bicker all the time so when the two of you started talking about changing places I thought it was a wonderful idea."

She motioned to the chairs. "Take a seat and I will explain the rules. First, all aspects of your life have changed. I could have simply done a straight up switch of your bodies but I have always wondered what you would look like as a girl Sara. This way will be easier for both of you since it will allow your friends and family to remain the same except their memories are of the way you are now. Your total identity has changed. Your mindset, preferences and body language have been rewired to better allow you to understand what it is like the be the opposite sex without the burden of having to relearn the rules society places on people from birth."

I sat in stunned silence listening to her. I don't think it had quite set in that everything was real. I was still convinced I would soon awaken from the craziest dream I had ever had.

"That means…" Polina continued, oblivious to the inner turmoil I was feeling at the moment. "Both of you will find yourself acting in a manner that does not quite match with what you consider your normal behavior. The reason that will occur is because you will now act in the exact manner you would have if you had been raised as the gender you are now. As you become accustomed to the new you, your actions will not be so automatic."

Inwardly I wanted so badly to jump from my seat and wrap my newly feminine fingers around Polina's long, elegant neck. Instead I found myself sitting quietly while my anger seethed.

I glanced at Razor and noticed him leaning back smugly. I swiftly came to the conclusion that I thought as little of him as a guy as I did when he was Regina.

Polina snapped her fingers in my face to direct my attention solely back on her. "You can only speak of your changes with each other. If you try to talk about it to anyone else, what they will hear will be a deep confession you never wanted anyone to know."

"Is this permanent?" I asked when there was a pause in her speech.

Polina smiled. "That depends on both of you. When you Sara…" She cut her lavender eyes at Razor. "And you Reggie can equally come to the conclusion that both sexes have it rough then I will change you back, but until that time…you get to learn how the other half lives."

Tears started to trickle down my cheeks. "Why are you doing this to me…I mean us?"

Polina showed no remorse as she grinned. "Because for the last three months all I have heard when you two are together is how lucky the other is. I figured I would allow you to see for yourself. I am granting you a rare gift. You should be thankful for allowing you an insight most never receive. It will make you a better person in the long run."

"I was only trying to tweak Regina." I implored in the hopes of getting her to change her mind. "I didn't seriously mean any of the things I said."

Polina pursed her lips as she stared at me. "Yes, you only said those things to annoy her but deep down you believed every word of it."

I sighed knowing she saw through my flimsy argument. "What if I learn my lesson and Razor doesn't?" I asked timidly.

Polina shook her head. "It doesn't work like that. It's both or nothing."

Razor smiled and started to stand. "I don't know why you are crying Bumpkin, you look better than I ever did." He turned to the dark haired devil in disguise. "Thank you Polina but I doubt you will need to change us back because I have the feeling I'm going to like it better like this."

Polina looked at him skeptically. "You say that now but keep in mind that I will hear you if you disagree with that sentiment."

Razor started to laugh. "Listen all you want sexy lady but you will never hear me complaining."

The statuesque demoness laughed at him. "You are a cocky one."

Razor grabbed the package between his legs. "Yes I am, thanks to you."

I rolled my eyes. "Giving you a dick didn't cause that. Your attitude hasn't changed that much if you ask me."

The back of a masculine hand across my cheek knocked me to the floor. "Shut the hell up. You better be glad you're cute because you are still a stupid country bumpkin."

Small flickers of flames danced from the ends on Polina's hair as she glared at Razor. "Reggie, never place your hands on her in my presence again or you will regret it."

He backed away quickly with fear in his eyes.

I was still on the floor cradling my cheek as Polina stooped beside me. "Let me help you."

She placed her hand over where I had been hit and suddenly it felt slightly warm as small tingles replaced the pain.

"Thank you." I meekly said as she helped me to my feet. "What did I do to make you hate me so much?"

For the first time, I saw compassion in Polina's eyes as she replied. "No child, I do not hate you in the least. In fact I see that you are capable of great things. I am only trying to provide you with an insight that will help you grow as a person. I hope that, in time, you will see that."

"I hope so too." I said under my breath.

"Now that we have established the rules I believe it is time to get back to work." Polina said with a smile.

Next thing I knew I was being led to a large rack of dresses while an assistant scolded me for still being in my street clothes. I wanted to explain to her what was going on but Polina's warning echoed in my mind so instead of screaming that five minutes ago I was a man, I kept my mouth shut and nodded apologetically.

I noticed Razor starting to walk out.

"Where are you going?" I asked before he reached the exit.

He turned to me and laughed. "I'm out of here. As you often told me, male models don't make shit so I'm not wasting my time. By the way, I won't be at the gig tonight either. I'll see you when I see you Bumpkin. Have a nice life."

I started to protest before Polina walked to my side. "Let him go. This may be the best way for him to learn his lesson."

I nodded. "I hope so."

Chapter Three

Adam greeting his friends interrupted my thoughts.

I continued to stare a hole through the brown haired Amazon demoness until she shifted uncomfortably and offered me her hand. "Hello, I am..."

I rolled my eyes and did not allow her to finish as I leaned forward so only the evil woman could hear me. "I know who you are Polina. I wish I could say it is nice to see you again after all these years."

The woman appeared troubled but I did not really care. She started to say something else but before she could reply I looked to Kevin as I rose from my seat, "If you will excuse me for a moment, nature calls."

He nodded and I turned to walk out of the restaurant as quickly as possible without attracting unwanted attention.

I had become so used to who I was now that I rarely thought of it anymore but seeing that awful woman brought it all back at once.

I barely made it to the restroom before years of pent up anguish flowed through my body while I thought more about the day immediately following what that awful woman had done to me...

---

After Razor walked out, the photographer decided, that with no male model and my not fitting his initial desire for a brunette model, to cancel the shoot.

I wanted to ask Polina more questions but she was nowhere to be found. I walked to the back of the building away from anyone and released an anguished cry over what had been done to me against my will.

After I realized crying was not accomplishing anything, I found myself walking toward the bus stop so I could pick up my car from the impound lot.

I caught a full glimpse of myself as I walked past a mirrored building. It amazed me how absolutely stunning I had become and how I strutted like I knew it. Inwardly I was freaking out beyond compare, yet on the outside I appeared cool, calm and collected.

As I waited on the bus to arrive, I could not help but notice how the women stared at me with no small amount of jealousy in their eyes while the men stared at me just as hard, if not harder, but seemed to lack the courage to talk to me. Not that I minded, they could look all they wanted so long as they did it from afar.

Once I stepped on the bus I fumbled for correct change, apologizing for holding up the line as I did so.

The gruff older looking driver smiled and dropped a few coins in the bucket for me. "It's not a problem Miss. You can take a seat, I took care of it for you."

I grinned earnestly as I placed my hand gently over his. "Thank you very much sir. I'll try to have correct change ready next time."

He nodded as his eyes roamed the length of my body. "I'm sure you will."

As I took an empty seat it suddenly dawned on me how I had just flirted with the man as a way of saying thank you. I looked at the small bag in my hand with amazement that I was not only carrying a purse, but all the contents I had been rummaging through were familiar to me.

Another one of the she-devil's tricks I supposed. I looked at the large mirror at the front corner of the bus. I could not get over seeing the blonde beauty sitting calmly like all was right with the world while in my mind , I was still crying my eyes out.

Twenty minutes later I thanked the driver again before I stepped off the bus and walked into the office of the impound lot.

It was a large open room with chairs in the center and small teller windows along the right hand wall. Luckily I was the only customer at the moment so I did not have to wait.

A friendly looking middle aged gentleman greeted me from an open window. "Yes young lady, how may I help you?"

I smiled and presented him all the necessary information. "Yes sir, I need to pick up my car please."

He gathered my paperwork and nodded as he started to type in the information.

"Where in the south are you from? You sound like my wife." The man asked.

"Middle Tennessee, a little north of Nashville." I replied.

"I thought so. That's a nice area." The man said to me. "I was stationed there when I was in the army. My wife is from Clarksville."

I smiled. "It's nice to meet someone with a connection to home. I don't meet many people who know of it."

He nodded. "Becky feels the same way. Maybe you two can meet and reminisce."

The thought of talking to someone who would not make fun of my accent gave me a rare moment of happiness on an otherwise horrible day. "I would like that very much." I reached into my purse and found a pen and some paper where I quickly wrote my name and number.

I momentarily stared at the name Sara Liberty Collins written in a feminine script by my hand with disbelief before I handed it to the man. "Please give this to your wife."

He looked at it and smiled. "I will be sure to do that Sara. I know she will be pleased. My name is Gary Trimble by the way."

I offered my now smaller hand through the tiny window. "Nice to meet you Mr. Trimble."

He shook his head. "Please call me Gary and it will be two hundred and fifty dollars."

I frowned and was almost able to cry in front of someone. "I don't have that much. Can I make payments?"

He shook his head sadly. "No, I'm sorry but you can't. Is there anybody that would loan you the money because the cost will increase each day because of storage fees."

Tiny droplets escaped my eyes because I knew I was screwed. Nobody cared enough about me to lend me a hand.

For a brief moment I was glad I was in a female body because the tears would have escaped regardless and at least now, it was not nearly as embarrassing.

I tried to do the right thing by not driving while I was drunk and this was the way karma paid me back. It was starting to feel like no matter how hard I tried to do the right thing, the harder I got knocked down.

I tried to smile as I placed the paperwork back in my purse. "No, there isn't anyone. Thank you, it was nice to meet you. Have a good day."

I turned to walk to the door when Gary yelled for me. "Sara wait. Let me see if there is anything I can do."

As Gary disappeared out a door in the back of the large open room I tried not to get my hopes up. It would be a huge relief if he could help me but from the moment I opened my eyes that morning, nothing had gone right.

A few moments later Gary reappeared with a wide smile.

"We don't seem to have a record of your car being towed this morning but it just so happens that someone left a red Fiero parked outside our gates. If you will accompany me, we can see if it is your car."

I waited until we were outside and I saw my car next to the road before I hugged him tightly. "Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been having the worst day of my life and your kindness has made it better. I had almost forgotten what compassion felt like."

Gary awkwardly returned my hug. "I am glad I could help. I can't help it but when I look at you I see my little Doodle Bug in ten or fifteen years and I hope if she is ever in a jam someone will lend a hand."

I raised my brow as I looked at him. "Doodle Bug?"

He laughed. "My daughter Olivia Nicole. She's only five but I can see her looking like you when she is your age. The two of you share the same hair and eye color."

I wanted to frown at the thought of looking like someone's daughter but instead smiled as I dug my keys from my purse. "Let's hope she doesn't turn out like me. I am in your debt Gary. Please have your wife call me."

He nodded as he waited for me to get in my car. "I promise I will."

As I drove the motorcycle shop where I worked a few hours a day as a mechanic, I was able to scream and cry over what that evil witch had done to me but I knew that as soon as I saw someone the tears would dissipate and again I would be trapped within myself. In many ways I felt like I was ensnared within a bad dream.

As I drove I tried pinching myself, hitting myself and eventually resorted to cutting myself with the small knife I kept in my purse but nothing I did allowed me to awaken from my living nightmare.

I pulled in front of the bike shop where Snake, the owner, came outside to greet me before I even had the chance to get out of the car. "What are you doing here so early?"

My father and Snake were old friends from high school and when I told Daddy I was moving to L.A., he told me to reach out to him in the hopes that he would watch out for me and give me a job.

I smiled at the large muscular man covered with tattoos as I stepped out and closed my door. "I'm coming to work."

He nervously tugged at his long hair that he kept in a single braid. "I've been thinking about that. A dirty old bike shop is no place for a lady, I'm afraid of what might happen to you if someone comes in when I'm not around or what I would do to anyone who tried to hurt you. Your old man and I go way back and I'm afraid I would end up like him if anyone tried anything on you in my shop."

I stared at him. "What are you saying Snake? Are you firing me?"

He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a billfold that was attached by a chain to his belt and retrieved a few bills. "Take this to hold you over until you find a respectable job."

I glared at him as I started to get back in my car. "Don't do me any favors."

He quickly opened the passenger's side door and placed the money on my seat. "Don't be that way. I'm trying to help you. This is no place for someone like you. Your father has high hopes for you and so do I. You can go far but not if you hang around people like me."

Tears started to flow again. The bitch Polina told me my life was going to basically be the same but it was becoming apparent she lied.

I looked at the currency spread across my seat and knew I could not accept it. I gathered the money and stood back up before I reached across and offered it back to him. "I'm not my mother, I don't take handouts."

He frowned as he crossed his large arms across his massive chest. "I know you're not which is the only reason I offered it to you."

I stormed around the car and threw the money at his chest. "If I am too good to work in your shop then I am too good to accept your money. I didn't want anything from you but friendship and chance to earn my way. I'm not some damn charity case because you and my father have a history."

I ran back to drivers side and hopped in to drive away while he scrambled to gather his money from the street.

---

"Are you okay?" someone asked from behind me.

I shrugged as I turned to see it was the petite red head. "It does not matter how I feel. That bitch friend of yours has made sure of that."

The woman took my hand in hers. "My name is Cali Zoyra and the woman that was by my side is my wife Dani. Polina is her twin sister." She frowned momentarily. "Your hate for Polina runs deep and I can't say it is not deserved. I am sorry for what she did to you."

I felt an odd tingle run through my body and immediately tensed up at the familiar sensation I had only felt in one other person's presence. "Are you like Polina? Stop whatever it is you are doing to me."

Her beautiful eyes filled with compassion. "In some ways I am but in others I am much like yourself."

My brows furrowed as I tried to comprehend. "How are you like me?"

Her voice was soft and warm. "I too was born a man. In fact you have met me before."

I should have been surprised by her words given how femininity oozed from every pore of her tiny body but I was not. I would believe anything after what had happened to me.

I started to open my mouth but Polina's warning echoed in my mind causing me to close it with a frown. "I can't talk about it."

Cali smiled. "You can with me since we have shared a similar gift."

I started toward the door. "It doesn't matter anyway. That was almost twenty years ago and I could not go back to that life even if I wanted to. I've now been female longer that I was male and I have a son I would not trade for anything on this earth. My life is what it is."

Cali stepped between me and the exit. "But are you happy?"

I shrugged. "Happy as the next person I guess. I'm happy to be a mother and to have a career I enjoy in these trying times."

She nodded skeptically. "I agree about being happy to be a mother. I hope to experience that myself one day. I love my daughter immensely but I never met her before I was changed so she will always see my brother as her Daddy and me as her aunt. Tell me Sara, what do you have outside of your son and your job?"

I suddenly became defensive. "I don't need anything else."

Cali sighed deeply. "Everyone needs someone to love them that they love back." When I started to protest she raised a finger to quiet me. "And kids don't count."

I rolled my eyes in disgust as I pushed past her to get to the door. "Fuck love. I'm not about to give another man that weapon to tear me down. Nobody will get close enough to hurt me again. If you will excuse me, I am in the middle of an important business lunch. Seeing your wife unlocked a lot of painful memories I thought I had successfully suppressed. I just needed a moment to regroup."

Pausing briefly outside the entrance of the restaurant, I painted on my professional smile and straightened my posture. I still had a meeting that needed to be concluded.

---

Callista slowly walked back into the lobby of the hotel contemplating the best way to help the tortured soul she had just met.

Her wife Danica and best friend Adam joined her side with a look of concern. Adam's lunch date Britney excused herself to use the restroom which was previously occupied by Sara and Cali.

"What is her problem?" Adam asked. "She totally freaked out when she saw Dani. It was like she knew her."

Cali shook her head sadly. "She thought she was seeing Polina." Cali then glanced at Dani. "Your sister did a number on her."

"I would like to do a number on her." Adam responded.

Cali glared at her lifelong friend. "Dammit Ry, I mean Adam, you leave that girl alone. She is a sweetheart and has been through enough without you using her like you have done every other woman since you changed."

Adam raised his hands defensively and his voice became serious. "Sorry Cali, but for the record I have not made any promises to any of the women you think I've used. They are using me for sex just as much or more than you think I am of them but if it makes you feel better, I promise not to make the first move."

He paused momentarily before he winked at the women. "All bets are off though if she comes on to me first."

Dani rolled her eyes. "I really hate your new ego sometimes Adam. Ryan was much more humble about his looks."

Cali laughed thinking of the man Adam used to be . "No honey, that part is still the same you just never heard it without a filter before."

Britney rarely experienced intimidation but she felt downright ugly as she rejoined the trio of beautiful people. Plus the woman who Adam made a beeline to meet also possessed an attractiveness that rivaled the three. Even though the brunette woman tried to hide her beauty, a blind man would be able to see her appeal.

Britney regretted agreeing to meet the man who could rock her world unlike any other. She wondered if her confidence would be able to recover.

Dani looked at Britney knowing they could not talk freely in front of her. "Adam why don't you go head back to the table. We will follow shortly."

He nodded as he led the attractive blonde back into the restaurant.

Once they were alone Dani turned to her wife. "What did you find out?"

Cali sighed sadly. "She had been a boy until the day she turned eighteen. Polina changed her and another then left the poor girl in the middle of hell to figure out her new place in life. Polina offered no guidance and only a sliver of hope she could change back. Sara held onto to that impossible hope entirely too long. Her hold on the one person that your sister said could change her back was almost her downfall. She has done extremely well for herself but it has been all on her own and the scar is deep."

Dani stared at Sara through the glass in the door. "Sister use my eyes, please be swift and remember this woman you damaged with a foolish gift."

Moments later Dani's phone started ringing. "What did you do?... Oh, she is the one…. No, do not come because the sight of me sent her in a rage, I can only imagine what seeing you will do… I will talk to mother for advice and let you know… I love you too…I will let her know... bye."

"We need to talk to mother after lunch." Dani said as she placed her phone back in her purse.

Cali nodded as she held the door open. "I hope we can help but in the meantime I think she needs to learn how to relax and I provided the desire to do so."

Chapter Four

"Are you okay?" Kevin asked as I rejoined him at the table.

I nodded. "Sorry about that but I needed some air."

"I understand. I usually need to get away from him too" Kevin sighed angrily as he glared at Adam and his friends.

"I thought you two are friends?"

Kevin shook his head. "Not really. Zeus and I are only business acquaintances."

I thought for a moment. "Maybe he's hoping you will allow your artists to perform for him or he's angling to host events for you."

Kevin smiled at my assumption. "I like your shrewd mind but no. I don't see him as the type to own a country rock establishment."

I laughed at that thought. "I can't either. If I had my guess he'd own something like the Tipsy."

Kevin nodded knowingly and joined me with his laughter. "I'd lay good money on that."

The duration of our lunch meeting was rather pleasurable as we discussed more business. My knowledge of the record industry impressed Kevin. His passion for music radiated when he talked. We discovered our varied tastes in music overlapped quite a few times giving us more in common that I would have imagined.

Surprisingly I found myself relaxing and really enjoying Kevin’s company. He turned out to be very intelligent and rather witty. We were having such a nice time that our lunch lasted longer than either of us had planned.

After we finally finished our delicious meal Kevin paused before placing his napkin on the table. "Sara, this has been a delightful diversion from my normal business engagements. These meetings are usually rather boring but I find myself truly enjoying your company."

I looked across the table feeling assured the meeting had been a success. "I feel the same."

Kevin smiled warmly. "I was wondering if you would do me the honor of joining me for a drink tonight?"

His request caught me completely off guard. Without a doubt, Kevin was very nice and quite attractive and if I wanted a man I could do a lot worse than him but this had bad idea written all over it. Given the nature of our meeting it was never recommended to mix business and pleasure. I needed to quickly come up with an excuse. "Kevin I'm flattered and have no doubt it would be fun but I already have plans tonight. I’m sorry but I can't."

I wasn't lying. My cousin Ellie and I had planned for tonight all week.

Kevin shifted in his seat, his confidence momentarily vanquished. "That was foolish of me, I should have known you have someone in your life." His vulnerability looked adorable in a boyish type of way.

Silently I cursed him for putting me in such an awkward position. He was not the first client to ask me out but he was the first who caused me to pause before I declined. It was like I was compelled to accept his offer.

If not for the business side of things I would not have hesitated to accept his invitation but seeing how there was, in fact, a potential conflict of interest I couldn’t see how it was possible to go out with him. I learned long ago that I needed to let him off easy. Most men's ego are fragile and must be handled gently otherwise it would affect our promising business arrangement.

I gave him a genuine smile as I placed my hand on his. "It's not that at all Kevin. I'm flattered and very much appreciate the offer but I'm afraid it would be a grossly negligent on my part to accept."

Kevin appeared amused and sly grin formed on his lips, "Look, I know I’m not exactly dressed properly but you don’t have to call me gross!"

I found myself laughing. "I like what you're wearing. I think you're cute but you know what I mean."

Oh my God, did I just tell him he's cute? How old am I?

His expression changed from amusement to one of determination in an instant. This was a man who was used to getting his way. "I know what you meant but to be clear, I don’t see it as a conflict at all so allow me to ask you one question if you don’t mind."

"Of course."

His smile reminded me of ones I had seen in past negotiations. It was a smile of utter confidence. "If I agree to give your company my business would you accept?"

Oh this man is playing dirty. I leaned forward slightly and twisted a cloth napkin in my hands to control my anger. "Kevin, that’s not a fair question and I don't appreciate the implication. I refuse to influence your decision with promises outside of what our company can offer."

He paused, taken aback by my words. He scratched underneath his bottom lip with his thumb but appeared as resolute as ever when he spoke again. "I'm sorry. That was never my intention, I had already decided to work with your agency before I ever arrived. Your proposals have been remarkable and I love what you have in mind. Today has been nothing more than a formality and a chance to meet you face to face so let me ask you this…If we had met somewhere other than via a business lunch with you vying for a contract would you have accepted an offer for a drink?"

This answer was an easy one so I responded immediately. "Absolutely."

Damn, what a time for my mouth to speak without first asking permission from my brain.

His enthusiastic hazel eyes lit up with satisfaction. "Great, I'll send a copy of the contract to my lawyer and provided there are no unforeseen complications consider yourself hired." I had little doubt a look of confusion crossed my face as he flashed a million dollar grin and leaned back. "Now that that is out of the way how about that drink?"

I felt nauseous and knew this would not end well. I wracked my brain but could not figure out how to get out of it. I finally managed to smile as sweetly as I could. "As I said before I already have plans for tonight."

Undeterred, his expression never faltered as he pressed forward with the intensity of either a shrewd businessman or a man-child who was used to getting his way. "How about tomorrow night then? When and where should I pick you up?"

I gave in, Kevin was obviously a man of determination and if I was being honest I found that trait rather sexy. Contrary to outward appearances, I have always preferred a man willing to take charge which is the very reason I had sworn off men. But… It could be fun but I’d rather drive in case I was totally wrong about him and needed an easy out.

I glanced at him with a warm smile. "Yes, I think tomorrow would be feasible but I'd be more comfortable meeting you there."

Kevin straightened in his seat and nodded, "I completely understand, how about The Palm at seven?"

I thought for a moment. If Mom didn’t want Hunter to spend the night again I would need to pick him up by nine which would not give us very long. Additionally the subject of my son had not come up and I would rather he knew up front so he could bail before feelings became hurt. "Any chance we could meet at six? I’m not sure I can get a sitter on late notice and I’d hate to show up then have to leave shortly afterward."

Kevin nodded. "I understand, see you at six."

---

I readied myself in the mirror and knew I was cutting it close on time. I stepped out into the hall and shouted down the stairs. "Honey, are you about ready? We need to leave in ten minutes."

I grabbed my tube of mascara and slowly applied it while wishing my lashes were longer when I heard a voice from just outside my door. "Almost ready Mom, just need to put on my shoes. Did you sign my permission slip for basketball?"

Hunter Robert Collins is twelve and the center of my universe. Very tall for his age at five foot nine, he had reached that age where he was taking charge of his appearance and decided to let his wavy brown hair grow out a little. With some effort he finally agreed to let me get him a textured cut so he could look like his favorite rock stars.

He was a little heart breaker with his 'sick' hair, as he called it, and my bright electric blue eyes. He was active in sports and he shared my love of music so I taught him how to play piano and guitar at a very early age. To my delight, he had become very well rounded and I thanked the Good Lord everyday he placed him in my life.

My son saved me and gave me purpose when I had none.

I popped my head out of my bedroom door. "It’s on the piano but don't touch it. You'll lose it before Monday."

I never knew it was possible to love someone so much.

I quickly put on my black leather skirt. It wasn't exactly a mini skirt but nobody would call it conservative either. Next I put on my red corset top and topped it off with a man's black suit jacket that had been custom tailored so that it was more figure flattering. When you are a size they don't carry on the racks of most stores you learn to become inventive if you don’t want to spend a fortune to look good plus it was a small connection to the person I used to be.

I often wondered if it was genetics or a by-product of what Polina had done to me but I was secretly pleased to appear far younger than my thirty-six years and thought that again as I gave myself a once over in the mirror before sticking my head out into the hall. "Are your shoes on? All I have to do is put on my boots and then we need to go."

I learned long ago to double check on Hunter. He had a bad habit of saying he was ready only to leave me waiting angrily at the door.

"I'm a man. I was ready ten minutes ago. As usual, I'm just waiting on you." My son replied in a sarcastic tone.

Yep, he was my kid.

"On my way Mr. Smartypants." I descended the stairs from my bedroom while putting silver hoops in my ears.

I ran into the smell of Curves for men as soon as my feet hit last step. I tried to fan the strong smell away from my nose. "My God Hunter, did you use the entire bottle? Go wash your neck and change your shirt."

A very angry almost teenager glared at me. "It's not that bad Mother."

I laughed. I'm Mom most of the time, Mama when he wants something but I'm Mother if he is pissed at me. "Listen sweetheart, sometimes less is more. You can get as mad at me as you want but I'm only trying to help. You're going to burn some poor girl's nose off smelling like that. Trust me on this and go do what you're told."

Hunter sulked to his bedroom without saying anything.

"Remember now, I'm going out with Aunt Ellie tonight. I'll have my phone on me. Are you ok with me going out?"

I rarely went out when we lived in New York but since my parents were so close and begging to watch Hunter every chance they had, I found my social life vastly improving.

Hunter emerged wearing his vintage New York Football Giants tee shirt and smiled his perfect smile, showing off the result of recently removed braces. "Sure, I like spending time with Granny and Papa. Papa said he’s taking me fishing in the morning." He walked toward me. "I’m glad we moved here."

I rubbed the back of his neck and leaned in to kiss him and to my surprise, found I didn't have to lean very far reach the top of his head. "I am too, I think. I forgot how nice it is to be around family. Do you like your new school?"

Nodding his head, Hunter responded, "Yeah, it’s pretty cool, I like the kids there." he suddenly became wistful. "I miss Nonna and Nonno though."

I smiled while thinking of our dear friends in New York. "I know, I do too. Maybe I can talk them into coming down for the holidays."

I knew he was going to be so surprised to see them next week when they came in for his birthday.

Hunter looked up at me while giving me a hug, "I'd like that. I love you Mom."

I reciprocated his embrace. "I love you too sweetheart."

In moments like these I could not hold any anger over what had happened in my past.

---

"Dang Libs, you are crazy!" Ellie screamed at me as I stepped off the stage "I can’t believe you did that! I mean fifteen years ago I’d expect you to act that way but not anymore!"

I tossed the tee shirt the band gave me over my shoulder. "Well, they asked for a volunteer and for once being the tallest girl in the room came in handy. You know they would have asked you if my big ass hadn't been blocking their view."

Ellie slapped my arm, "Would you hush with that nonsense, you're hot and you know it."

"Shoot girl, I don’t deserve to even be in your shadow."

I truly believed my words. Ellie was a year younger and gorgeous. She had long, straight, very dark brown hair with intense big green eyes to die for. I had no idea how she maintained a perpetual tan compared to my consistently fair complexion. At five foot two her curves were just right for driving men crazy in her low cut bright orange mini dress. She quickly reminded me I was back in Tennessee when I laughed at the color after we met up.

A lot of people considered Ellie an acquired taste. She had a tendency to speak her mind at all times without a filter and I loved her for it. We were first cousins who grew up together. Even before my change, she was the yin to my yang. For as beautiful as she was on the outside, to me she was even more so on the inside.

She had been married and divorced more than most yet she was still an incurable romantic, which was in complete contrast to my never going to get married cynical view of love. She always wore bright cheery colors, whereas I drifted to black or dark hues. She remained ever the optimist while I always expected the worst.

We had been best friends our entire lives.

We were close before what happened to me but afterwards she became an anchor who showed me how to enjoy life even though she had no idea she was doing it.

Ellie rolled her eyes at me before she leaned in. "Whatever! It’s just great to see you acting like your old self!"

I cringed. I am NOT acting like my old self. My old self was someone I worked hard to leave behind. I must have had more to drink than I thought. I only lost control when I drank too much.

I did a lot of drinking the first few years after my change as I tried to cope. My worries and inhibitions disappeared when I drank so the actions I could not control did not bother me as much.

I threw the shirt the band had just given me at her. "You mean my drunk self? You know damn good and well it’s just the alcohol making me act like this."

Ellie rolled her eyes again before she hugged me. "WHATEVER! Like there was any difference back then! If it's the alcohol then we need to get you another drink cause I've missed my bestest friend. You're so much fun like this!"

It occurred to me that I was having more fun than I'd had in years. "The band’s just about finished. Let’s wait til we go to the next bar to get a drink. Where'd you want to go anyways?" I had to shout to be heard over the crowd.

Ellie leaned into me so I could hear. "There's a new bar that just opened around the corner called Anthracite they say it’s really cool and some friends from work are supposed to be there. Sounds like your kind of place or at least it used to be."

Her final four words caused me to groan. I knew that was her way of saying it was a dark dingy rock bar with little comfort and lots of attitude. She was right with what she said, but that was a life I spent many years trying to put behind me…

---

When Razor disappeared after our transformation, the band I was in disbanded. Without the group of guys who had been my only friends, another connection to my past life disappeared.

I needed something to keep me busy at night so I would not drink myself to death and a job at a dingy little rock club on the strip provided me that opportunity.

Working at the Tipsy was great for a few reasons… It kept me in an environment where I felt comfortable. It provided much needed positive cash flow. It allowed me to hang out with many of the biggest stars of the day. By hang out I mean sleep with because apparently had I been born a girl, I would have been a slut.

Most importantly that life allowed me to empty my mind and not think about the life I lost

I shuddered as I thought about being an angry, redneck tramp who would fight at the drop of a hat because most nights that first year, if I was not fucking some random star. I was fighting some random slut.

Chapter Five

I glanced at Ellie again who was now wearing her patented sad puppy dog look that she knew I never could resist. "Do you really want to go there?"

Giddiness overcame Ellie as she buzzed with excitement. "Yes, it’ll be fun and what trouble can you get into? I’ll be there to keep you straight."

I blew a stray strand of hair from my face and dropped my head. "Famous last words."

Ellie squealed and grabbed me by the hand to drag me toward the door. "Chin up girly, it’ll be a blast."

We walked down the brick lined sidewalk arm in arm and turned the corner. As the club came into view I could see a long line and a guy working the door talking to a group of girls who appeared to hang on his every word. He looked familiar but I could not really tell from this distance.

Due to my stigmatism, my contacts didn't work as well as they should. The only way to see properly was to wear glasses or get custom made clear lenses. Neither were an option I wanted.

Once we moved closer I understood why the man had a co-ed congregation. His body was perfect, he was wearing sexy black jeans that fit in all the right places and had on a white tank that hugged a magnificently muscular chest that boasted many sexy tattoos. His long shiny black hair that he had pulled back into a low ponytail was icing on a scrumptious looking cake.

He looked like both my most erotic dream and my worst nightmare wrapped up in one delicious package. He glanced in our direction followed by a double take when he saw me. His dark sensual eyes locked with mine.

I stopped dead in my tracks.

Dammit Jesus I am only human.

Why would you tease me with such a delectable sight twice in one day?

Because our arms were wrapped together Ellie jerked back when my feet refused to take one more step. "Why’d you stop? Is something wrong?"

My survival instincts kicked in and I became anxious to get as far away from the man I knew deep down owned a custom made key to my Pandora's box. "Um, no. I’m not sure going here is a good idea, Let’s go back to the Wagon Wheel."

This had bad idea written all over it. Adam was everything I found sexy in a man and he was also everything that made me leave LA. I needed to keep him at a comfortable distance. That sexy beast was the type of man who should be admired from afar.

Ellie tried to drag me forward. "No way, I want to check this club out." She halted her progress and fury raged across her face when she saw him. I flinched, preparing myself for the inevitable earful when she spun around. "Oh hell no girl, don’t tell me you still go for that type."

I threw my arms up. "What type?" All the while knowing exactly what she was talking about. I was bound and determined to feign ignorance.

Ellie placed her hands on her hips and glared at me with a look that told me she thought I'd lost my mind. "You know damned full well what type! You think I don’t see him? Damn, you're thirty-six years old with a wonderful son and a great career. I can't believe you still get all weak in the knees when you see a bad boy. Grow the hell up!"

Ellie’s look became more exasperated than angry. "I thought you learned your lesson years ago. Come on, we're going and you're gonna have fun. You can't keep hiding from yourself. I refuse to let you go home with anyone but me. We came together we leave together! Am I clear on this?"

She wore a look of determination that time had taught me… No matter how hard I tried, there was no way in hell that I was going to win this fight. I knew I was going in that club and I was going to have fun even if she had to drag me kicking and screaming.

I thought about the only man I had ever loved and how I vowed from my hospital bed to never let anyone hurt me like that again.

With resignation evident in my tone I dropped my head. "Crystal clear. You're right, that was a long time ago."

There was no doubt that I was stronger than I was back then. I knew I could resist his charms. His arms weren’t that big and did not have me wondering what they would feel like around my bare body. Those tattoos weren’t that sexy and did not have me wondering if he has more in places I couldn't see at the moment. His abs weren't that ripped and did not have me wanting to run my hands all over them. His eyes did not cause my body to want to betray me by stripping off my clothes providing him something to really look at. His smile did not make me wonder what his lips would feel like touching mine. His butt did not make me want to grab it and pull him toward me. His touch did not cause me to want to…

Oh hell who was I kidding? I was so screwed!

I was in trouble and for the second time in one day, my brain could not think of a way out. I was being called by the male equivalent of a siren's song. Something about him reached a dark part of me. I wanted to go to him but needed to resist. I wanted to run away but Ellie was not about to let me out of this, that much I knew.

I finally stopped pretending I had a snowball's chance in hell of winning the argument and tossed my arms up in defeat. "Fine then! Let’s go have fun even if it kills me!"

Ellie laughed and pushed me toward the club. "That’s more like it. Look I totally see your attraction to Zeus but don't worry. You're not his type anymore."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Ellie smiled. "Let's just say he is a man of singular tastes and leave it at that."

I stared at her expecting more of an explanation but she said nothing as she pulled me to the end of the line.

As we started getting closer, Adam glanced up at us and grinned before going back to checking on those in front of us. I used the opportunity to study this perfect specimen of a man. He was even more striking than I remembered. I chewed on my bottom lip as my mind wandered to the many things I would like to do to him with my body. Ellie nudged me from my erotic fantasy as we reached him.

His attention shifted from all the young girls and focused solely on us. A sly smile turned on his full, kissable lips as he greeted us. "Hi ladies, I need to see your ID’s."

"Come on now Zeus. Why do you need our ID’s? Don’t we look old enough?" Ellie asked in her usual flirty approach.

"That’s a trick question which I refuse to answer Elle." Adam's polite laugh told me, not only did they know each other but also that Ellie's flirtation had no effect. "Besides it’s the law. I have to ID everyone. " His eyes then turned to me as his voice took on a seductive edge. "But I’ll let you in on a secret it’s also a tactic I use to learn the names of beautiful women."

With a wink he turned to me and accepted my license while silently commanding my shy falsely hued eyes to meet his tempting dark brown ones. Goosebumps covered my entire body. It felt as if he was looking into my very soul.

An indiscernible expression crossed his face.

Oh, maybe he remembers me.

I gave him my sexiest smile.

After looking at my ID, his eyes darted to meet mine momentarily, then back down before staring at me dumbfounded. "Sara? Did I meet you during lunch today?"

Shit, so much for that theory.

My smile faded into a grimace. "Wow, I must not have left much of an impression," I knew I was probably showing my hurt feelings that this sexy man didn’t immediately recognize me.

He looked at me apologetically. "No that's not it, I’m sorry it’s just you look so different tonight."

I look different? What the hell?

Yes, yes my hair was down tonight and I fluffed it out so that it flowed well below my shoulder blades. Granted, I had done my eyes heavier than normal and I agree that instead of my usual business suit that really does my body no favors, I was showing a little cleavage and a lot of leg.

I didn’t look that different did I?

I looked the same to me anyways.

How dare he not remember me!

I blame all the alcohol that was coursing through my veins for making me brave. I decided to make him squirm for this oversight on his part.

"Different good or different bad?" I teased as I twisted my hair around my index finger and smiled demurely.

A shyness washed over him. On most men it would have been a very cute look but not on this man. Shyness on him closely resembled a shark wearing clown makeup. It should put you at ease and make you laugh but you inherently knew the danger was still lurking.

With no hint of sarcasm or machismo he responded, "You look beautiful either way but for my tastes, I like what you have on now much better."

Okay, he was actually honest. That was not the reply I was expecting. So much for making him squirm.

I couldn't believe myself as I started to giggle. "Good answer."

His cockiness returned as his face and eyes returned to normal when he spoke again. "What is your poison of choice tonight Sara?"

I fidgeted for a second as all the moisture in my body migrated south. I inadvertently licked my dry lips, I knew he was my poison but it took years to recover from my last taste so it could never happen again.

How can someone I just met have this effect on me?

He flashed his mesmerizing smile and my brain shut down. My face flushed yet again before I responded. "I’m not sure I know what you mean?"

Adam laughed at me. Not a chuckle but a full on, out loud laugh. It was a deep roar that inexplicably made me grin when I should have been mortified.

"What's your drink of choice tonight?"

Duh! I knew that! What is wrong with me?

My next words stumbled out before I even had a chance to process them. My voice sounded huskier than usual as I responded. "Oh! I’m all about some Sex tonight!"

Damn Mouth! Get permission from brain before speaking!

Adam had the slightest hint of an evil grin on his gorgeous face. "I believe I am as well. Sounds like fun, maybe I can join you later to find out."

My jaw dropped from his inappropriate yet extremely arousing comment. "Um, I mean I'm drinking Sex on the Beach."

I could feel my face turn a very bright shade of red.

Ellie just rolled her eyes at me…again. She seemed to be doing that a lot lately.

He laughed again and waved his hand toward the doorway. "The bar is at the top of the stairs on the left ladies, enjoy yourselves."

"Thanks." Ellie huffed as she snatched her license. It was obvious she's not used to being ignored, especially not in favor of me.

She jerked my arm and we were half way up the stairs before she started in on me. "What was that? How do you know Zeus? You flirted like you were back in high school."

I tried to act offended but inwardly whimpered knowing she was right again. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I met Adam during lunch. He's a friend of a client. I obviously didn’t make much of an impact since he didn’t even remember me til he saw my name."

"Forget it, some things never change." Ellie waved her hands in the air as if to emphasize her point then paused, "Wow the music sounds great! This club has potential already."

As we topped the stairs I could not help but notice the club was not the cleanest or the classiest. Huge banners advertising bail bondsmen and DUI attorneys as well as different types of liquors adorned the flat black walls. It was narrow and deep. The chairs were the typical basic wooden variety you’d find in a dive bar. The band was loud and the people were rowdy. The club featured a huge open area in front of the stage. This was definitely not like my usual hangouts these days but once upon a time I undoubtedly would have proudly called this place home.

Ellie nudged me in the ribs bringing me from my thoughts. "Been awhile since you've been anywhere like this huh?"

I gawked at my surroundings with a small amount of awe. "Yeah, it takes me back. Oddly, it feels like I belong."

My cousin tugged my arm laughing. "Right now we belong next to the bar getting another drink."

As we approached the large counter along the back wall, a very attractive woman approached us. She greeted me with deep brown eyes that were definitely sizing me up. She looked to be my age but totally owned her body in a way I envied. She boasted a petite gorgeous figure in a tight black tank and very short shorts. With her shiny raven hair pulled into a high ponytail she asked. "Are you Sara?" after we were within earshot.

"Yes" My eyebrows rose, her question caught me by surprise. "Have we met?"

She shook her head and smiled. "No, I’m Jane. Nice to meet you. Adam called up and said he wanted to give you some Sex…" She paused before continuing, "on the Beach’." She winked as she pushed a drink towards me. "On the house, welcome to Anthracite."

Jane was funny. I liked her already.

"Um, thanks and tell Adam I said thanks too."

Ellie walked over and looked to Jane as if she expected a free drink as well. After Jane said nothing Ellie sighed before giving Jane some attitude in her tone. "I need a Bud Light please."

I could tell she was slightly put out but Ellie tried to play off the snub with her usual humor. "Good thing it was my turn to buy the rounds. Looks like I got off cheap."

I couldn't help myself as I bumped my shoulder into hers. "I've seen some of your boyfriends, you get off cheap a lot."

Jane overheard what I said and smirked at me before turning away so Ellie wouldn't see her laugh.

Yep, I really liked her.

Ellie glared at me with fake indignation before laughing. "I know right!"

After we made our way to a table Ellie noticed a few of her friends and motioned them over. We all hugged before taking our seats.

Moments after we sat down the lead singer walked up to the microphone. "We're going to dig into our retro vault for this next song and ask Janet to come up to sing for you guys. I know we don’t usually reach this far back but it’s a classic folks. Hope you enjoy it."

A female singer made her way to the front as the band began to play a song called ‘Out of the Dark’ from back in the day by a band named Bellero.

I moaned before I emptied my drink in one large, unladylike gulp. That song was one of my all time favorites and would always hold a special place within me. I dropped my head to the table and covered it with my hands. If it wasn’t bad enough they made a point of mentioning how old it was, the singer began to massacre the song. I could only imagine what a judge would tell her if she was on one of those TV talent shows.

Ellie noticed my reaction and started laughing, "You ought to go on stage and show her how it's meant to be sung."

I shook my head. "He said it was retro!"

Ellie stared at me, obviously confused. "So?"

I turned to her with desperation on my face. "That song can’t be retro, it’s not that old."

Ellie cackled at me even more. "Girl, anything over ten years old is considered retro these days and that song is way older than that."

I glared at Ellie. "You’re not helping me feel better and fourteen years is not way older." I grabbed my empty glass and started to stand. "You need another beer?"

Ellie laughed again. "Yeah, just grab my money from your suitcase." She liked to tease me because I carried such large purses.

I grinned, "You mean from your coin pouch?" So, in turn, I teased her about carrying such small ones.

She shoved me toward the bar with a smile. "Whatever, just get my beer bitch."

"I got it since my last one was free, besides it’s my turn to buy." I responded over my shoulder without breaking stride.

"If you're buying then get me a shot of Jager too!" Ellie yelled as I was almost out of earshot.

I laughed all the way to the bar. My dear cousin was right, I needed tonight. I had not felt as relaxed in ages.

While waiting for Jane, I started to sing the song the band was playing and danced in the spot where I was waiting. I traveled back in time and quickly became caught up in the music, the singer may have sucked but the band was really good.

I was so into the music that I wasn't really paying attention to anything or anyone around me. "Wow you sound just like the girl who originally sang that song," Jane said, bringing me back out of my musical reverie.

"I wish!" I responded, "Hey can I get another Bud, a shot of Jager and a Sex on the Beach please?"

"You're a damned sight better than that girl singing on stage." Jane continued. "Have you ever thought of singing professionally?"

I rolled my eyes. "Yeah, just like every other person in this town that can carry a tune, but as for being better that that girl, that’s not saying much."

Jane laughed, "I guess you're right. She must be doing the lead singer or something cause a cat in heat sounds better than her." She turned away, "Be right back with your drinks."

As she placed my beverages in front of me she wore a smirk. "That'll be eight fifty."

I met her smirk with a puzzled look.

"I told you Adam has your drinks covered tonight." She replied to my unasked question.

I grimaced slightly then tilted my head and allowed a wide grin to settle. "Thanks but one drink from a cute guy is my limit. More than that and they expect something in return."

Jane laughed as I slid a twenty across the bar and walked away before she could give me any change.

Later on after Ellie took her turn going to the bar, she returned with my drink and handed me eleven dollars and fifty cents.

"Don’t ask me, the bartender insisted I give you this." Ellie said, knowing my question before I even had to ask.

I looked back at Jane who was staring at me with a triumphant grin. Her eyes no longer sized me up, instead they overflowed with approval.

I shook my head and dropped the money to the table.

Ellie brought my attention back to the table when she said. "Look, if you don’t want it I’ll keep it. I need to get my car out of the shop."

I glared at her. "Why didn't you tell me? You know I wouldn’t have minded paying tonight."

Ellie shook her head. "It's my problem. I didn't plan to even tell you. I'm drunk and it slipped out. I know how you are. I'll just have to work an extra shift or two. It's MY problem, not yours."

Yes she did plan to tell me, she just had to work up her liquid courage. If I lived to be a hundred, I would never understand why she could not just come right out and ask. I'd do anything for her because I knew she'd do anything for me. The only thing that annoyed me was how she always made it such a challenge to help her.

I took a breath, preparing to play her game. "I don't mind. Which shop is it at?"

She shook her head again. "I'm not telling you?"

I slammed my hand on the table. "Why not?"

Ellie spun around so we were face to face. "Because I know you. If I tell you where it is you'll go there first thing in the morning and pay my bill. I'm not letting you do that anymore."

I grabbed her hand. "I'm happy to do it, you know that. Lord knows you bailed me out enough when I've been in a jam. It's no problem. I can afford it." Ellie said nothing so I decided to offer her my other car. "You want to borrow the 911?"

I knew I caught her attention when her eyes lit up. "You still have that?"

I received my brand new, top of the line, cherry red nineteen ninety-eight Porsche 911 Carrera all wheel drive convertible when I lived in L.A.. I shipped it to my parents house when I moved to New York. It did not even have ten thousand miles on it since it had not been driven regularly in over twelve years. Daddy talked me into buying my Mini explaining that since the Porsche had so few miles it might be worth some money one of these days.

Poor Hunter drooled over that car every time Daddy opened the garage door.

I nodded, "Did you think I'd ever get rid of it? It's in Daddy's garage, been there since I moved to New York."

Ellie thought hard for a moment and I knew she was tempted before she shook her head, "I can't. I know what it means to you and I'd never forgive myself if anything happened to it."

I became adamant. "It's just parked in the garage, it would do it some good for it to be driven."

She remained silent and my drunken state along with a stressful day made me tire of the charade quicker than usual. "Dammit Elle, I'm not in the mood for your games. If you won't drive the 911 then just tell me the name of the damned shop."

Ellie gasped at my words and grabbed the nearest guy before storming toward the dance floor. I sighed and gave up trying to help her for the night.

After a couple of hours of dancing and drinking Ellie had finally calmed down. At almost midnight leaned over to me "Hey, you about ready to head to the Big Bang? Greg just texted me. He says he's almost done with whatever he's working on and wants to meet there."

Greg McPhee was Ellie’s boyfriend of the week. I think he claimed to be a big time contractor and apparently well off. If I had my guesses, since he has waited so long to meet up, I'd say he's very married but it did no good to point out the obvious to her.

If I was being honest I stopped really pay attention to the details about her men a long time ago since they usually aren’t around long enough. She was constantly looking for Mr. Right but far too often settled for Mr. Right Now. I lost count of how many times my shoulder became pruny from her crying on it after some guy broke her heart.

Another reason I did not need a man.

I nodded knowing that I was getting way to comfortable and entirely too drunk. "Sure let’s get out of here, this place could get me in trouble."

Ellie winked and gave me a mischievous grin. "Are you going to thank Zeus for your drinks? Did you even have to pay for one tonight?"

I nodded my head to let her know that all my drinks had been paid for. "You mean Adam? Of course I am but not like you're suggesting."

She waved me off dismissively as she stood. "So how are you gonna thank that massive stack of hotness at the bottom of the stairs?"

I know how I’d like to thank him but that was so not going to happen.

I smiled at her as I got out of my seat and in my sexiest voice said, "I might walk up to him so close our bodies almost touch."

Ellie started to smile. "That's what I'm talking about."

"Then I will run my hand up and down that perfect muscled arm of his."

Ellie nodded enthusiastically. "You go girl."

"And with my free hand I'll gently grab his hand and…" I saw Ellie's grin widen before I finished my sentence. "shake it."

Ellie gave me a look of disgust. "Oh come on, you're no fun."

I rolled my eyes at her.

She stared up at me. "It’s not like you're gonna fuck him on the street are you? Just make sure he remembers you next time he sees you."

A thought that went against everything I felt concerning men like Adam ran through my mind. I smiled slightly thinking of turning the tables on him.

It must have been all the free drinks the sexy beast plied me with leaving me far more uninhibited than I had been in years. "You think I should?"

Ellie’s look became serious. "I can't believe I'm saying this but heck yeah you should! Girl, all you ever do anymore is work and be there for Hunter. I admire the hell out of you for that. I can't say that I wouldn't be the same way if he was mine but you need to have some fun for a change."

She paused and appeared as if she had an epiphany. "I never really paid it any mind til tonight but seeing you so relaxed, so much like the old you, I think you have been unhappy for a long time." She placed her hands on both of my shoulders. "Show me the wild girl I used to know! Show me…"

I placed my hand over her mouth and couldn’t help but to scowl at what she was about to call me. "Dammit! You know I hate that name. She's long gone!"

Ellie’s smile faded and she bowed her head as she realized she stepped over the line. "I know, I’m sorry, but you get the idea. Look at it this way. We're out on the town. You look super hot. Nobody you know is around. So just for once, take that stick out of your ass and have some fun. You deserve it. Shit, you need it!"

I rolled what Ellie said over in my mind and knew she had a point. I had become somewhat of a prude. No, not somewhat, I really had become a big old fun-sucking prude. I worried so much about putting the past behind me that I stopped living in the present.

My lips curved into a mischievous grin. "You’re right, come on and watch this!"

I slinked down the stairs to Adam who had his back to me.

He may not have remembered me from lunch but I was going to make damn sure he knew me the next time he saw me.

I slipped behind Adam unnoticed and wrapped my arms around his neck and nibbled on his ear while in my sexiest voice purred "Thanks for the drinks sexy, I’m not sure how to properly thank you. Do you have any ideas?"

Adam froze for a second and his reaction made me wonder if I just screwed it up. Could it be that I did not know how to tease a guy anymore?

He turned his head and gazed up into my eyes. His expression told me that my actions shocked him. Before he had a chance to regain his composure I placed my lips on his while at the same time urging him to stand. As he did so I embraced him tightly while deepening the kiss.

He tasted like a combination of cigarettes, whiskey and pure manliness. To my surprise, I liked it.

He slowly moved one arm up and grabbed a handful of my hair pulling me even closer as his tongue searched for mine. As he expertly explored my willing mouth I could not help but to let a soft moan escape.

That one kiss released desires that had been buried for years. Completely forgetting about where we were, I placed my arms around his waist, pulled him even closer, and ran my fingers through his thick mane as our kiss continued.

Slowly Adam pulled back with his dark eyes looking almost black. In my thirty-six years I had never seen such desire in a man’s eyes aimed in my direction. "I can think of a few ideas. I'm just not sure if you can handle them. I get off work in a couple of hours. Why don’t you come back and we can discuss our options then."

I smiled at him wickedly. "I have a few ideas of my own. I'm just wondering if you're man enough."

His entire body stiffened as I roughly pulled him tight.

Before the kiss was his. This time the kiss was all mine.

His eyes were wide as we separated. "Damn, you have to come back now."

I slipped back to reality after our second kiss and noticed we had acquired quite an audience so I shifted uncomfortably. "I’d like that."

Adam gave me a seductive smile as he winked. "See you in a couple of hours."

---

After Sara and Ellie walked far enough away, Cali and Dani walked back around from the corner of the building where they had gone when they noticed Sara walking down the stairs.

Cali frowned and punched Adam in the arm. "What did I tell you about her? Don't you dare play that woman, the last thing she needs is your games."

Adam rubbed his arm where he had been hit. "Damn sis, you pack quite a punch. For the record, I said I would not make the first move and I didn't. You saw it, she kissed me first. I can't help it I am irresistible."

Dani sighed. "I need to talk to my mother about giving you a snout and a curly tail you pig. You have plenty of other opportunities. Leave her alone."

Adam sighed. "I can't. There is something about her. She feels it too, I can tell."

Cali rolled her eyes. "Talking to you is useless but I am telling you right now that if you hurt her I am making you feel her pain. Transference of feelings is one of my gifts."

Chapter Six

"What the hell was that? I thought you were just going to mess with his head not dry hump him on the sidewalk!" Ellie screamed at me as we walked away.

I found myself on the verge of tears. "I don’t know! I got carried away. I wasn’t expecting to kiss him like that."

How could a single kiss release such desire?

Ellie’s anger faded quickly. I blamed the alcohol in her system and for once found myself thankful she was so drunk. "That was hot though, so are you going back?"

It was my turn to roll my eyes but deep inside I knew that really was a great kiss. I had not felt like that in years, if ever.

He was, without a doubt, the sexiest man I had ever laid my eyes on and his touch did things to me. I knew there was no way I could go back. He was just a doorman at a ratty club and I was so over that scene. I knew the bad things men like that could do to my psyche.

On the other hand, I could always let my parents watch my son when we went out. Hunter never had to know. It couldn't hurt just to have a little fun so long as we kept things on my terms.

Damn, I'd been home for all of two months and already I found myself falling back into my old ways.

Why am I even debating this?

I can’t allow myself to go back.

I tried to convince myself this was a bad idea but the alcohol combined with a burning desire within kept dropping my defenses.

How many chances would I ever have to be with a man who looked like that?

Having those massive arms wrapped around me would be exquisite.

No! I can’t do this, what am I thinking?

My last defense was sarcasm. "Yeah right, you know I'm just counting the minutes til he gets off so I can soon after."

Frustration washed over Ellie as she lightly smacked me on the side of my head. "Damn, what is wrong with you? He's hot, it’s obvious he wants you. It’s been Lord knows how long since you've been laid and hell even my toes curled from that kiss he planted on you. You’d be a fool not to go back!"

In an instant I could feel my blood start to boil. I’m not sure whom it was I was mad at but I knew I was as mad as I'd been in years.

Since Ellie was the person in front of me, she received my wrath.

"What is wrong with me? I'm drunker than I've been in years thanks to you! I went to a club I had no business being in thanks to you!"

I found myself yelling at this point. "To top it all off I just made out with a guy that I just met on the freaking sidewalk. It’s as if I am back in Los Angeles acting like that terrible person I used to be again." My voice rose even higher as my anger raged full force. "And it’s none of your damned business how long it’s been!"

I turned to walk away but stopped and faced her again. "What happened to ‘we came together, we leave together. Don’t worry I’ll keep you straight?’"

Ellie just stood in front of me wincing as if I slapped her. The expression on her face made my anger evaporate as quickly as it appeared.

I knew it was not her fault, why was I taking it out on her?

"Look I’m sorry. You know that’s not me anymore. I don’t just do random hot guys. I lost control and I hate losing control. Nothing good has ever happened when I get like this! You should know that better than anyone, you've seen it."

Ellie reached over pulling me into a hug "I know girl and I'm sorry too. I know I promised but seeing you so relaxed made me change my mind. You can’t be such a tight ass all the time. You've been miserable for awhile and have to find a balance. The first step in finding that balance is to get you laid."

When I didn't respond she stood on the tips of her toes to kiss my cheek. "Come on Greg is waiting on us."

---

My mind raced as I nursed my drink and looked over lower Broadway from our seats on the balcony of the Big Bang.

What is wrong with me?

How can a kiss affect me so much?

Ellie had a point, I needed to find a balance but was Adam that balance?

Undoubtedly he was everything I found physically attractive in a man but I had sworn off men and even if I hadn't, he lived in a world I fought hard to forget.

Ellie looked down at her phone as it buzzed and frowned. "Well damn, Greg says he's too tired and is going home. It looks like you won’t get to meet him after all."

I was still in my own little world. Instead of pointing out that his excuse sounded like something a married man would do; I remained silent, trying to figure out how I got in this mess.

Ellie waved her hand in front of my face. "Earth to Liberty. Are you still at Anthracite?"

I nodded. "Yeah, I think so but I don’t understand why."

Ellie leaned over and put her arm over my shoulder. "I do, he’s hot, he’s sexy, he wants you and did I mention he is hot?"

I laughed lightly. "You might have brought that up a time or two, but why me? You saw those young girls hanging all over him. Why would he want me when he can have his choice of any young girl with pert tits and a tight ass?"

Ellie glared at me as if I missed the point. "Maybe he wants a woman? I know you don’t want to hear this but you've still got it. You could have any guy you wanted if you just tried but you let one shitty boyfriend convince you that you are less than the beautiful, wonderful woman you really are."

I shook my head. "I could see if he wanted you. I mean look at you, you are beautiful and the proper size of a woman but why in the world would someone like him want me? I am nothing more than a freakishly tall reformed slut."

I could see the rage in Ellie’s eyes as she stood and started in on me. "That’s bullshit and you know it."

I flinched. Oh hell, she… was… PISSED.

"You're just as hot if not hotter now than you ever were. How can you even say you are unattractive after everything back then? I never compared to you before, and even now with you trying to ugly yourself up, I don't stand a chance. Girl you could easily pass for twenty-five if you tried. I don’t know what I can do to convince you, but damn girl you have got to drop the ugly duckling routine cause it’s just not working."

I blew a stray piece of hair from my face. "Whatever."

She glared at me. "So, are you going back or not?"

I groaned and dropped my head in my hands. "It has bad idea written all over it."

Her expression did not falter. "Yeah it does but when was the last time you did anything dumb and impulsive?"

I looked up through my fingers and gave her a crooked grin. "I’d say the last time was back in LA."

Ellie could tell she had gotten her point across so she gave me a sly smile. "Then I think you're due. Go, have fun, get laid and call me in the morning but not too early."

She had a point. I could do this! I deserved this! What was one night going to hurt?

I gave Ellie a hug. "You're the best, I've missed you so much."

She returned my embrace. "I’m so glad you finally moved home, it’s great to have my best friend back. Have fun, be careless, and remember I love you."

I handed her the small purse that I had been keeping in my large one. "I love you too."

"Hey" she yelled out before I reached the door.

I turned around slowly, bracing myself for another onslaught. She must have found the extra cash I slipped in her purse.

"If you find yourself unsure how to act tonight just ask yourself what would Ellie do. If whatever you think makes your eyes roll then go with that thought."

I laughed and nodded my head. "I'll keep that in mind."

---

As I nervously walked back to Anthracite I couldn’t help but wonder what I was doing.

Could I do this? I wanted to do this but could I?

To take my mind off things I quickly called a mutual friend of Ellie and I.

Tina worked as a bartender at the club Ellie danced in. If anyone knew where she took her car to be repaired it would be Tina.

"Is something wrong?" Tina asked as soon as she answered.

"No, sorry for calling so late but I have a question."

Tina laughed. "It's not late, it's just late for you. What can I help you with?"

I took a deep breath and prayed she knew the answer. "Do you know what shop Ellie took her car to?"

"Yeah it's at Manny's tranny shop on Elliston Pike. It needs a new transmission and Manny is a regular here so he's giving her a good deal."

I released a triumphant sigh of relief. "Thanks. How are you?"

"I'm good, why did you ask?"

I laughed. "Cause I want to know how you are silly."

Tina knew I was up to no good. "No, I meant about her car."

I tried to play it off. "No reason. I'm sure you're busy so I'll let you go. Thanks again."

Tina sounded confused. "No problem. Talk to you soon."

When I turned the corner I noticed Adam was no longer working the door. I paused to gather my thoughts then made up my mind to go in and grab one more drink before I caught a cab home.

The crowd had thinned out considerably from earlier. I took a seat at the bar and Jane looked up and smiled at me knowingly. "Hey Sara, if you're looking for Adam he'll be out in a minute. Want another sex?"

I blushed thinking she probably heard about our little display outside. "Yeah, that would be great thanks."

Jane slid a drink across the bar. "Here you go, this one's on me."

I couldn't help but wonder if she was trying to keep me loosened up. "Thanks but let me pay."

She shook her head. "No, I insist, it’s on me and I promise I won't expect anything later."

I laughed at her turning my joke back on me. "You sure? I might be persuaded if you ask nicely."

Thankfully she got my joke as she was also laughing when she replied. "As tempting of an offer as that is I don't think either of us have the equipment required for a fulfilling evening."

She had me laughing so hard my eyes started to water. "Good point but I didn't come back here with the hope of a free drink."

I pushed a twenty toward her before she placed her hand over mine to stop me and provided a perceptive smile. "I’m sure you didn’t."

I felt my cheeks flush yet again as I put the twenty in the tip jar.

Jane shot me a frown and I gave her the same triumphant grin she gave me earlier.

"Everything is all set, after you close just lock everything in the safe and I'll take care of it tomorrow afternoon." Adam said as he emerged from a door behind the bar.

He was all business as he continued without noticing my presence. "Looks like I got stood up so I’m just going to head…" His gorgeous eyes met mine. "Oh hi, I didn’t see you there."

I grinned at him. He thought I wasn’t coming back so I decided to have fun.

"Someone stood you up?" I asked innocently.

Adam looked at the floor while he shuffled his feet. "Um…. well…. no, not now I guess."

I feigned offense and stuck my bottom lip out. "Oh ye of little faith. I told you I'd come back and now it sounds like you doubted me." I held up my phone showing the time, "As a matter of fact I'm ten minutes early."

I leaned back and crossed my arms under my chest, causing them to become even more prominent. "That means, if I had been on time, you would have stood me up."

Jane laughed as Adam rubbed his neck while grinning embarrassingly. "Would you like to go somewhere else? I've seen enough of this place for one night."

I nodded at him. "Sure, what'd you have in mind?"

His glorious smile returned in earnest as he reached for my hand. "Come, it’s a surprise."

I quickly finished my drink and told Jane goodnight as I moved to his side. He placed his large arm around my waist and started rubbing his hand over my ribs. The confused look on his face was priceless. I decided to answer his unspoken question. "It’s a corset."

Adam looked me up and down incredulously. "You don’t look like you need one of those."

I unbuttoned my jacket revealing the red satin corset top and the leather skirt I was wearing underneath. "I don’t, it looks cute if I get too hot for the jacket."

I could not help wondering where my bravery was coming from.

Adam's pupils expanded and I could have sworn his breathing hitched as he lightly rubbed the back of his fingers over the soft fabric. The effect of his touch sent chills throughout my body quickly replaced by the intense heat of lust. "Cute doesn't adequately fit the description. Come on."

I started to refasten my jacket before he placed his hand on mine. "Please, leave it open. You look fantastic like that."

I blushed and clasped his offered hand, leaving my front unfastened. "Where are we going? I’m not a fan of surprises."

Adam grinned and I drank in the sight of him yet again. "Some friends are having an after party and I promised to make an appearance. It's a music thing, you don’t mind do you? It shouldn't take long and afterwards we can do whatever you want."

I shifted nervously because I hated those types of gatherings. "No, not at all. Sounds like fun."

Without warning Adam wrapped me up and again pulled me close before placing his lips upon mine, granting me too brief a taste of that which I desired so deeply.

As we walked to the club that was only across the street, Adam kept a possessive arm around my waist with his hand resting comfortably at the top of my hip. We were immediately waved past the long line and he escorted me to a roped off area in the back where a bald man rivaling Adam’s massive bulk stood guard. He looked very familiar wearing a vintage concert tee with faded jeans and had more tats than Adam but I couldn't place where I knew him from.

His stern expression faded quickly when we approached. "Hey Zeus, we were wondering if you’d make it." He then looked at me closely as if he knew me but couldn't place where. "Who's your friend?"

Adam responded as if he was offended. "Hey Zack, this is Sara. I told you I would be here didn’t I? Oh ye of little faith!"

I poked him in the ribs. "Hey, that’s my line."

Zack suddenly paled and his eyes appeared to gloss over as he spoke. "Oh my God. Is it really you?"

Adam saying his name caused me to pale. The man in front of me had put on even more muscle and shaved all his glorious hair but I remembered exactly where I knew him from.

Zack used to be a bouncer at the Tipsy and had always looked after me like I was his baby sister. Eventually, after I started dating a rock star, he became my personal body guard. For a couple of years, I spent more time with Zack than anyone else.

I resisted the urge to hug the neck of my old friend and backed away quickly. "You must have me confused with someone else. Have we met?"

He did not appear satisfied with my answer. "Why are you being like this? I'm sorry for what happened. There hasn't been a day in my life I haven't wondered how I could have prevented it."

I wanted to cry from his heartfelt apology over what happened the last day we had seen each other but the last thing I needed was for my past to find me. "What are you talking about?"

"After everything that happened and all the years that have passed, you are going to pretend you don't know me?" He asked.

I shook my head nervously. "I'm sorry but I don't."

Zack moved closer, determined to get me to admit we knew each other. I tensed under his scrutiny and slid closer to Adam.

Adam pulled me into his side for protection and his voice took on an edge as he spoke again. "Damn Zack, back the fuck off."

Zack tensed and stared at me. I felt terrible as his determination slowly became confusion before it changed to resignation. "Sorry Zeus. I thought she was someone I used to know."

Adam squeezed my hip as he looked into my eyes. "More sex?"

I was shaken but couldn't let any emotions show which might give anything away so I answered quickly. "Yes please."

I did not even realize what I said until Adam lifted his brows amusingly and Zack started laughing.

I playfully slapped Adam’s generously proportioned chest and concentrated on my accent to make sure I did not slip up. "Damn, I did it again. Yes I would like another sex on the beach."

Adam’s teasing continued as we stepped away. "On a beach, in a bed, anywhere you wish milady. Location matters not."

While guiding me to a pair of empty seats he introduced me to a few people he knew.

"Everybody this is Sara. Sara this is Terry." He pointed toward a handsome man with copper colored hair and hazel eyes wearing an old concert tee and jeans. "And that is Annie" He pointed to a rather plain looking brunette girl wearing an oversized tee and jeans. He then directed my attention to a young sandy haired guy wearing an oxford shirt and khakis "and that is Troy."

I waved shyly and felt out of my element not knowing a soul in the place. "Hi everyone."

They all waved and returned my greeting.

I sat down as Adam leaned in to kiss me on top of the head. "I’ll be right back don't go anywhere."

I watched as he worked his way to the bar. I couldn't help but to laugh and yet felt a tinge of jealousy at the number of girls who were shameless in how they were throwing themselves at him.

I was startled from my thoughts by someone placing a hand on my shoulder. "Hi, I’m Mitch nice to meet you."

Mitch appeared to be around my age with long dirty blonde hair. You could tell that he'd been hot when he was younger but had lived a rough life. He was entirely too thin for his frame but possessed gorgeous green eyes that twinkled with mischief.

I tried to gather my best ‘I’m friendly but not interested in you’ voice. "Hi, I’m Sara."

He stared at me for a moment as if he already used his best line and didn't know what to say next. "What brings you in here tonight Sara?"

Sheesh, did he not see who I walked in with?

Normally this was the point where I would politely excuse myself but seeing how I was waiting where Adam asked, I decided to answer his lame question. "Not what but who brought me in here. Adam did, he’s gone to get drinks at the moment."

It sure was taking him long enough.

It was obvious from his confused expression that he had no idea know who Adam was so I turned and pointed in his direction.

Mitch's eyes widened as realization set in and he leaned back into his chair. All interest in me dissipated immediately. "Oh, you're one of Zeus’s girls? My bad. You’re not blonde so I didn’t realize. I’m sorry if you were offended. I was just being friendly. Please don’t say anything."

What did he mean one of Zeus’s girls? Why did he start backing up like that?

I creased my brows. "Why would I be offended? You were just saying hi."

Mitch shifted nervously. "I don’t know. Sometimes Zeus’s girls don’t know how to take me. I honestly wasn’t hitting on you."

Of course he was hitting on me, why would he suddenly deny it?

My shoulders fell in defeat as a light turned on clearing the lust-fueled fog in my mind.

I was just one in a long line.

What was I doing here?

The questions running through my mind seemed endless and it was then that I realized if I allowed it, I was about to become just another notch on his bedpost.

My pride and my past pushed my hormones out of the way and screamed NO at the top of their lungs. GET OUT OF HERE they continued to yell at me.

Damn the night was heading south fast.

I didn’t notice Adam walking back til he was standing beside me.

"Mitch giving you a hard time? I thought that was going to be my job tonight." He gave me a knowing wink suggesting what he expected to happen later.

Mitch looked pale "No way Zeus, I was just saying hi I swear!"

Yep, he considered me just a notch.

Adam took his seat and handed my drink over before leaning in for a kiss.

I backed away from him. "Thank you."

Adam looked genuinely perplexed. "What’s wrong Sara?"

"Nothing, why do you ask?" I might have been snippy when I said it but I knew I was not about to be converted into just another one of ‘Zeus’s girls’.

I quickly became aware that his confusion could easily turn to anger as he gave me a hard stare. "You were all friendly when I went to the bar and now you act like you don’t want to be here."

He was right. I did not want to be there. What in the Hell was I thinking?

If looks could kill, poor Mitch would have been dead when Adam stared at him. "What did you say to her?"

Before Mitch had a chance to reply I spoke up. "He only said hello. He didn’t hit on me nor say anything bad at all so stow your thunderbolt Zeus."

Adam’s lip curled slightly at my comment. "I have an idea where I can stow it."

I blushed slightly then decided that honesty was the best policy. "Here's the deal Zeus, you're all kinds of sexy and desirable but I haven't been a notch on some man’s bedpost for years and have no desire to become one tonight." My tone softened somewhat, "While I'm sure your thunderbolt is quite impressive, I'm afraid of the clap your lightning will give me. I thought I could do this but I can’t. I’m sorry for leading you on."

Adam then smirked at me. That ass had the nerve to smirk at me.

"You think I’m sexy and desirable?"

Oh he was such a man!

Out of everything I just said the only thing he heard was that!

The man who would undoubtedly become the subject my late night personal time flashed his glorious smile and my resolve weakened. "Well yeah, like you didn’t know it already. Every girl in this place swoons as you walk by." I mimicked fluttering my lashes at him to emphasize my point.

I directed his attention to a few of his female admirers to back up my argument.

I saw smoke coming from his sultry eyes as he fixed his gaze back upon me. "But I don’t want them."

Argh! This conversation seemed to be going nowhere.

"Don’t you mean you don’t want them tonight?"

He paused to consider what I said before he continued, "You may be right but there's something different about you, something I can’t quite put my finger on. Something special." He lightly rubbed his fingers across my upper thigh causing the need within me to intensify. "You're an itch I have to scratch."

I had heard so many pickup lines in my life that his words had no effect. His touch was a different story altogether. My resolve was weakening to the point of no return when a scantily dressed, very attractive, very young, very tall blonde approached and invited herself to his lap. Given the comfort level between them it was obvious she had been there a few times.

I immediately recognized Britney from lunch.

She placed one arm around his neck. "Hey Zeus whatcha doing tonight?" Britney said, sounding like a drunk Betty Boop.

I hated the fake voice she used so much that it made me want to jerk her out of his lap by her peroxided roots. That was not the voice she used when we spoke during lunch.

Adam was rather terse in his reply. "I was trying to talk to a friend before we were so rudely interrupted."

I smiled at her. "Good to see you again Britney."

Britney was so drunk she didn't recognize me. Instead she looked to Adam. "Do I know her?"

I saw this as a perfect opportunity to remove myself from the situation I rather stupidly placed myself in.

"If you’ll excuse me I’ll give you two some space."

Adam looked at me with the blonde still comfortably sitting in his lap. "You are coming back aren’t you?"

"I don’t think so. You look rather… " My eyes moved to the blonde and then evenly into his dark tempting pools, "busy but thanks for the drinks. I’m sure Brit here will be happy to scratch that itch for you. This night was… special."

While making no attempt to remove Britney from his lap he responded, "Stick around and I'll really make it special."

I smiled sweetly and leaned so we were face to face. I gently placed my hand on his left cheek and gently traced the outside of his ear with my thumb causing his head to tilt toward my touch. "I just figured out why your eyes are so brown."

Adam grinned wickedly, "You did huh? Tell me."

My expression became serious. "Cause you are so full of shit."

How in the hell did I get back to where I was drunk in a bar and arguing with a guy who considered me as nothing more than an easily replaceable piece of ass?

Adam's mouth turned downward into an adorable pout. It was so cute and out of character that I started laughing at the crazy situation I had placed myself in.

"What's so funny?" he asked with a small gleam of hope in his eye.

I shook my head. "You, me, this whole scene."

"Why?"

I leaned across Britney so Adam and I were face to face. "I'm so glad you brought me here tonight."

I grabbed the sides of his head and pulled his lips to mine. I poured all the desire I could muster into that one kiss before I released him. "Thank you for reminding me why I grew up. Maybe you can call me after you try it for yourself."

I dramatically buttoned up my jacket before turning to walk away without looking back.

As I worked my way through the crowd I began cursing my own ignorance yet I was also thankful that I had the strength to walk away and proud of myself for getting the last word.

There was a time when I would not have been able to do so…

---

We were on the road where I had a job as a backup dancer for my boyfriend's group. After the show I took a quick shower at the arena before I headed back to the bus we shared.

As usual, there was a large party going on when I arrived. I looked for the man I loved and found him in a corner with two women in his lap. The three of them were being very friendly with each other.

I grabbed both bitches by the hair and dragged them away from him and commenced to kicking both of their asses. It was not that difficult since they were both very drunk and possibly on something.

After I finished with them I started walking to the exit when my boyfriend grabbed me by the arm. "Where are you going baby?"

I sighed angrily. "To find a place so I can get some rest."

He pulled me into a hug. "Don't be mad. I'm a star and as such I have certain expectations. You know you can't do better than me so you need to calm down and enjoy the party."

I started to protest when he lifted a small spoon to my nose. "Come on baby, take this and come party with me."

I resisted until he ran his lips up and down my neck. "You told me you loved me and would do anything for me. Do this and come back to our seats."

A small tear escape as I inhaled the white powder. "I'm sorry for getting so upset. You're right. I don't deserve you."

He smiled. "No you don't but I put up with you anyway."

Chapter Seven

I stirred the following morning amazed to feel as good as I did.

I quickly showered and went to pay for Ellie's car.

After returning I decided to go for a run. I always believed there wasn't a problem that could not be worked out over a good run. I bounced to my bedroom and put on my gray biker shorts and a black tank before pulling my hair back into a ponytail. I transferred my keys and iPhone from my purse to a fanny pack before heading out.

As I ran it seemed as if my thoughts were more disorganized than usual. I was so confused.

The events from the night before ran through my mind.

It was great hanging with Ellie…

I had forgotten just how much I missed partying with her…

I'm glad we stayed in touch after I moved to New York but phone calls were no match to seeing her in person….

Wonder what Hunter is doing?

What was I thinking kissing Adam?

I should have known he was bad news when I saw him with Polina's sister…

I know what I was thinking…

He’s gorgeous, what woman wouldn’t want to kiss him along with doing much more…

Why would someone like him even be interested in me?

Adam seems to like tall blondes…

Mitch said he likes blondes…

Adam really was a good kisser…

Why did I kiss him….

Anthracite was fun….

Why did I quit going to bars like that….

You know why you quit, don’t even go there….

Guys like Adam are at bars like that….

Oh Shit I’m supposed to meet Kevin for drinks tonight….

If I want a guy then I need a guy like Kevin, not a guy like Adam….

Why do I want a guy all of the sudden?...

Why do I keep thinking about Adam….

I think it’s his eyes…

Could be his hair…

Could be his body…

Could be his tats…

Why do tattoos turn me on?

I need to go to Mom and Dad’s to see Hunter and ask if I can come back later to get him after I meet Kevin…

They always say yes easier in person than on the phone…

That was a close call with Zack…

I need to take Hunter shopping tomorrow, he has his first dance next week…

He's asked a girl to go with him to the dance…

Actually she asked him to go…

My precious boy has a girlfriend…

Hunter is growing into a man so fast…

I'm going to make sure he becomes a good man…

Kevin seems like a good man…

Adam is probably a jerk, gorgeous guys like that usually are...

Seeing his friends have forced me to think about things I thought I had put behind me…

I need to put what the terrible woman did to me out of my mind…

He must be a jerk for Mitch to be so scared of him…

Why did I agree to meet Kevin for drinks?

I should never mix business and pleasure….

Why can’t I be attracted to guys like Kevin?

Actually I think I could be attracted to Kevin if I let myself…

Why am I attracted to guys like Adam….

Have I not learned anything….

At least a guy like that gave me Hunter….

I wonder how many fish Hunter has caught…

He seems happier here….

I like seeing Hunter happy…

I wonder what Kevin is like…

He seems nice enough….

He looks too young for me….

The phone ringing interrupted my inner conversation. Looking down I was greeted by Ellie's smiling face on my display. I frowned knowing she wanted an update on my night.

Uhg this won’t go well.

"Hey Chica, what’s up?" I tried to sound cheery.

"You're a bitch, you know that?"

I started laughing. "That's not a big secret but why am I a bitch today?"

"You know why. How did you find out?"

I made a lame attempt to sound coy. "Find out what?"

Ellie became frustrated. "Come on, Manny called me a few minutes ago and said some freakishly tall, stunning, brunette chick came in and paid for the repairs to my car."

I laughed again. "See that right there tells you it couldn’t have been me. He said stunning."

Ellie didn’t find it as amusing as I did. "We talked about this last night so cut the crap."

I didn’t want to talk about my issues. "That's great. You need a ride to pick it up? "

"No, I’ll get Greg to take me and I only know one, and I quote… Really tall, smoking hot, classy, brunette with a rewards credit card in the name of Sara Liberty Collins."

I was glad she couldn't see the guilty look on my face. "I guess I'm busted."

Ellie's tone became appreciative. "Yes you are. You didn't have to do that. I didn't tell you so you'd take care of it."

Yes she did but I could tell she actually felt guilty about it this time so I let it slide. "I know you didn't but I could help. You hurt my feelings when you didn’t ask. You'd do the same for me if you could."

The sadness in her voice made me feel awful, not for helping her because I'd always do that without regret. My feelings were for the helplessness I heard when she spoke. "Yeah, I would. I just hate always running to you when I get in a bind."

I needed her to see things through my eyes. "Why? Are you not the first person I call when I need anything?"

"Well yeah but you only need advice or to vent."

"So are you saying that if I called you up and said I needed twenty dollars you wouldn’t give it to me?"

"No. You know damn well that anything I have is yours."

Praise Jesus, I was finally able to get through to her. "Exactly! I have the money to help so let me and instead of bitching just say thank you."

Ellie laughed and I knew she was fine. "Thanks. How was last night?"

I attempted to avoid the subject. "Hey, did you know Zack is in town?"

Ellie didn't sound surprised. "Yeah, he's been here about a year I guess. How did you know?"

"I saw him last night."

"Did he recognize you?"

"Of course but thankfully I was able to convince him he was crazy."

Much to my dismay Ellie steered to conversation back on course. "I'll talk to him next time I see him and help. You're avoiding the subject. How was last night?"

"How was what?" I feigned ignorance in a desperate hope that she was asking about something else. Not the smartest tactic I'll admit, and it never worked with her, but I did it anyway.

"You know what, did you get some or not?"

"Not" I sighed and braced myself for the inevitable butt chewing I knew would follow.

"Why not? You were all hot and bothered when you left last night"

"I sobered up after I got there I think. He is such a player girl; he tried to talk me into staying while he had a hot blonde sitting in his lap. I don’t want to be that girl again. Been there done that and didn't even get the damned shirt."

"You and your romantic ideals. You have spent too much time with your damned romance novels."

"I have been used my whole life, what's wrong with wanting a little romance every now and then? I'm not asking for a lot, just something besides ‘Hey baby here’s a drink. Wanna fuck?’"

Ellie’s anger rose as she snapped. "You have some unattainable idea of romance. There ain't nothing wrong with just raw sex every once in awhile. I love you, you know this, but dammit you need to get laid. You're too uptight."

I snapped right back at her. "Look just because I’m not like you, who can be happy with Mr. Right Now, doesn’t mean I am wrong."

"Ouch, that one hurt."

I sighed, she just was not getting it "I’m sorry but you know what I mean."

"No I don’t. I probably wouldn't have the guts to say this if we were face to face given your temper but you need to hear this." She took a deep breath as she mustered her courage. "I know he hurt you and that you think he used you but you brought a lot of that on yourself. You let him continue to treat you that way. Plus that was years ago. You need to let it go. I understand you were head over heels for him. I get that, I really do, but you haven't even really put yourself out there since. Not every guy in the world is going to hurt you."

I started to argue but she cut me off. "You turned your life around. You're smart, beautiful and successful. You have a wonderful son and while I don't understand why, you're close with your parents again."

I tried to speak again but she wasn't giving me a chance. "You surprised everyone. You deserve happiness more than anyone I know. You made mistakes and learned from them. You would NEVER allow yourself to make those mistakes again. You wouldn’t dare put Hunter in that situation. For the past twelve years you've devoted all you have to him and your job with no time left for yourself. It's time to quit your damn pity party and do something for yourself, if only for one night."

I could feel the tears well up in my eyes, she was right. Leave it to Ellie to take my turmoil and wrap it up into such a succinct package. "Since when did you start making so much sense this early in the morning?"

She released a relieved laugh, "Since my crazy cousin FINALLY came to her senses and moved home. Whatcha doing tonight? We can go out after I get off work."

"I’m supposed to meet a guy for drinks at six if Mom and Dad will watch Hunter again which they will probably will. I may swing by the club and wait for you if he turns out to be a dick."

"What guy? Who is he? Why didn’t you tell me?"

I couldn’t help but to giggle. "Slow down and take a breath. He’s the guy I was meeting with when I met Adam, his name is Kevin Snider." Ellie gasped when I mentioned Kevin’s name but I continued. "And I guess it slipped my mind since you were so busy telling me about Greg and then there was that train wreck that was Adam."

"Axis Music’s Kevin Snider?" Ellie asked eagerly.

Her reaction caught me by surprise. Kevin was a nice guy and kind of cute but not really anyone worthy of this type of response. Then again, he was right up her alley since she usually went for the young pretty boy types. "Yes, that’s him. Why do you say it like that? Do you know him?"

Ellie became emphatic. "Oh girl, he's only one of the hottest, most eligible men in town. You’re messing with me. He seriously asked you out?"

Ellie confirmed my feelings that I wasn’t anything special. "Why do you have to say it like that? Dang, I hope he was serious, I’d feel foolish going to the Palm by myself. Maybe I should call and cancel before I get stood up."

Ellie gasped, "The Palm? Oh hell, forget all about Zeus and what I said about just needing to get laid. You have a nibble from the biggest fish in the pond. Why in the world would you cancel?"

"You said, he’s one of the most eligible men in town. You make it sound like he can do better."

"Better than who?" Ellie wasn’t getting it.

I started to fill with dread that this might be cruel joke. "Better than me. You’re right. This is a bad idea. I’m going to call and cancel."

"Whoa. Back the truck up. When did I say it was a bad idea? I didn’t say any such thing. I’m happy he asked you out. I only meant that all the girls at work would love a chance at him and nobody ever hears of him dating. It makes sense he’d be picky and wait til he met someone like you."

My mood soured even more. Ellie worked as an exotic dancer, it paid damned good money and she enjoyed it. I would never do it again but I never once thought anything bad of her doing it. As a matter of fact, most of the friends I made since moving back had been her coworkers. My problem was not with the girls who danced there, I just never trusted guys who frequent places like that.

"Oh, he hangs out where you work?" I attempted for nonchalant and failed miserably.

"Yeah but he just watches. He comes in with some of the artists on his label. He’s a good tipper and is never forward with any of us and never gets a private dance."

I sighed again and Ellie noticed. "A lot of guys come into the club but that doesn’t mean they're bad people, you of all people should know that. Don’t judge him just because he comes here occasionally. Stop trying to talk yourself out of this. Go meet him, talk to him and you be the judge."

I laughed lightly. "Why do you always have to be right? I spent many blissful years in New York not knowing how wrong I always am."

The softness of my wonderful best friend's voice enveloped me like one of her hugs. "Because I know you better than you know yourself. I need to get going, it sounds like Greg's waking up and if I'm lucky he's gonna make my morning bright. Call me if you don’t come by tonight. Love you bunches and thanks again for my car."

What would I do without her? "You’re crazy and you’re welcome, love you too."

I grinned as I hit end on my phone but the smile was short-lived as I remembered my days as an exotic dancer…

---

"Do you have any extra cash?" My boyfriend asked as he started rummaging through my purse.

I shook my head. "No, it was a slow night at the club. Maybe if you got a job to help out we would not be broke all the time."

The back of his hand struck my cheek. "Don't get smart with me. You know I have to focus on my music."

I fell across our bed and cradled my face. "Get out! I don't need you."

He sat down next me. "Yes you do Bumpkin. You would be nothing without me. This is only temporary, as soon as we make it big you can relax in our huge mansion. Until then you need to pull your share. I have a friend who can give you an extra job. It won't be that hard and the money is great."

I looked up at him through my tears. "What will I be doing?"

He smiled as he leaned down to kiss me gently where he had struck me only moments before. "Just dancing sweetheart."

I frowned. "I don't want to do anything like that."

His hand started running up and down my back. "I know you don't but you love me don't you? "

I sighed as I rested my head on his shoulder. "You know I do."

"You have told me often that you would do anything for me. You need to do this so I can focus on my music. There are plenty of women who would happily do this for me but I picked you. Did I make the wrong choice?"

I started to cry. "No you didn't. I'll do it for you. I love you."

He smiled as he rose from the bed. "I know you do."

The next day I sat nervously at a makeshift makeup table wearing next to nothing trying to drink up enough courage to face the crowd of horny men waiting just outside the room. I took a deep breath as I heard my name being called to the main stage.

I timidly walked out trying to ignore the sounds of excited men trying to get my attention as I hugged the wall to make my way to the center of the large open room. I silently cursed Polina for ever putting me in a body that made having this job a possibility.

The sound of Motley Crue's Girls, Girls, Girls filled the speakers as the DJ called my name and introduced me to the crowd. I closed my eyes and pretended I was dancing for my boyfriend as I started to gyrate my hips in time with the loud metal music.

I knew I would never get used to feeling strange men groping me as they handed over small bills as a reward for my showing them a body I should have never had.

As soon as the song ended I walked swiftly back to the dressing room before I broke down in hysterics.

"You did really well for your first time." A woman said from behind me. "I broke down before the song ended my first night."

I dug my nails into my arm trying to tear away the skin that felt so dirty. "I hated it. I feel like I need to take a week long shower."

She nodded knowingly and handed me a light blue oval shaped pill. "Take this, it really helps."

I was desperate for anything to make the feelings go away. I popped the pill in my mouth and chased it down with my vodka and cranberry. "Thank you."

She rested a kind hand on my shoulder. "I know you don't want to hear this but it does get easier. Give the pill a chance to kick in then come on out, the real money is in private dances. I'll show you how to reel in the sharks."

I wiped away fresh tears as I jumped in the shower after my run. Sweat was not the only thing that I needed to wash away at that moment.

Chapter Eight

As soon as I stepped out onto the patio of the home I bought my parents a few years ago Hunter came running. "Mama, Mama, Mama."

Uh oh, he only called me Mama when he wanted something.

"Can I stay again tonight please? Papa said he has Titans tickets." My precious son said with his eyes wide in a pleading manner.

I raised an eyebrow and looked toward my father who was walking away from his bright blue 1978 Harley Davidson FXE Superglide Shovel Head with an awkward smile on his rugged face. I swear he spent every spare moment working on that bike or Big Red, his cherry red 1970 Olds Cutlass. More than once I had questioned which he loved more, me or them.

He had owned both as long as I could remember and both were in better condition than the day he bought them. If I had to guess, I'd say he'd choose his vehicles over me.

Robert Collins, or Daddy to me, was a large man, standing 6 foot 5 and weighing 350 lbs. His height, along with the many tattoos and deep booming voice always scared my friends. The fact he was usually a mean drunk back then didn't help either.

The thing was, now that he had been sober for fifteen years, he was just a big teddy bear. Too laid back for his own good. I had his eyes but his once black hair was now replaced with a bright white. If Daddy grew a beard he would have kids of the world handing him their Christmas list.

Daddy looked to me with trepidation. "Liberty, I know this is short notice but Snake called and said he couldn't make it and offered me the tickets."

It shouldn't bother me but I still could not really get used to being called by my middle name again. Everyone in my family called me Liberty or some variation and I always hated it. I finally managed to start going by Sara after I moved to New York but nobody would change how they addressed me after I moved back.

"Yeah I guess you're right. You don’t mind him spending another night?"

Daddy gawked at me as if I asked him if the earth was flat. "Mind? I never mind spending time with that boy, I just wish you'd come to your senses and moved home sooner. I never knew what I was missing until you two moved back." He pulled me in and kissed my forehead. "I can't begin to tell you how happy I am to have you home and back in my life."

I looked up at him apologetically. "I know Daddy, I’m sorry it took so long."

"I thought I heard you out here." Mom said as she stepped out from the garage.

Carol Collins, or Mom as I liked to call her, was as small as Daddy was large. She might have been five foot two if she wore heels and would barely weigh one hundred and ten pounds soaking wet. I was taller than her by the time I was ten. Her hair was still the same shade as mine used to be but her color now came from a bottle since I made her gray when I was in high school.

Mom was a little spitfire who would not hesitate to put up a fight if she thought she was right, hell, she'd put up a fight even if she was wrong. I think she just enjoyed confrontation. She was wound as tight as Daddy was laid back. I may have gotten most of my looks from my Daddy but my temper came straight from Mama.

My parents always made such an odd couple but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

"I was coming to get Hunter but apparently he'd rather spend time with Papa than with me." I faked a pout in Hunter’s direction.

No need to tell them my real reason for coming over now.

"Don’t be that way Mom." Hunter exclaimed as he ran over to hug me, "I love you!"

"I’m just teasing baby." I ran my nails through the back of his hair scratching his head, he always loved it when I did that. "I love you too sweetheart."

He smiled up at me. "So can I stay Mom?" The single greatest accomplishment in my life had such happiness in his eyes that I could not have refused even if I wanted to.

"Of course you can but make sure Papa drops you off on the way home, do you hear me? You still have homework to do." I cut my eyes to Daddy so he knew that was more for his benefit than for Hunter.

They both nodded their head before Hunter hugged me even tighter, "Thanks Mom, You’re the best!"

I swatted his behind as he took off toward all the neighborhood kids who always seemed to congregate when Hunter was around. "Now, go play and I’ll see you tomorrow. Have fun. Love you."

He yelled over his shoulder since he was already halfway across the yard. "Love you too."

Mom walked over and put her arm around my waist. She wore a contented smile as she gazed at her grandson playing with his friends. "God I just love that boy."

I looked at my son running and having fun and it warmed my heart. "Me too, I didn’t know it was possible to love someone so much."

A tear formed in her eye as she watched her only grandson play football with his friends. "Believe me. I understand."

I gently squeezed Mom’s hand. "I’m sorry."

I moved away from home before I could graduate high school. I thought we had a good life until Mom and Daddy separated right before he accidently killed that man. Everything crumbled after that because Mom was too focused on her grief and anger, she spent as much time in a bottle as she did trying to be a parent and that did not change after I did.

When I was growing up, instead of trying to be supportive and understanding I went wild. Mom had big plans for her only child but I fought her at every turn. She didn’t like my friends, my clothes, or my taste in music. I didn't like her waking up every morning and pouring herself a drink. I was mad that she had kicked Daddy out for drinking too much then she started doing the very same thing.

It was like we had no common ground whatsoever. The one thing we did agree upon was our desire to tear each other apart. I used words to hurt her while she used her hands. Our matching fiery tempers made for many rough nights with me ending up with more than my share of bruises. As a result, when the time came where I could escape I ran as fast as I could, as far as I could.

I was always headstrong and independent. I blamed it on my middle name and on Daddy raising me more as a son than a daughter. I marched to the beat of my own drummer. The stories I could tell from back in high school were how I went from that cute quiet blonde girl to that crazy dark haired Goth chick who always wore black and had heavy eye makeup. I caused trouble in school, never hesitating to fight anyone, boys included, if I thought they were out of line.

I decided to embrace my misfit status and fought anybody who picked on another simply because they were considered different.

I had told the story enough that the memory seemed real whenever I used to tell people about how I had terrible taste in boys. If there were one jerk in a roomful of fifty nice guys I would find him easily. Usually I would pick him out because he would be the one with long hair, muscles and tattoos. I definitely had a type back then. Always being singled out for being the tallest and the skinniest girl in class damaged my self-esteem; it didn't help when puberty hit me sooner than the other girls. I was treated like an outsider so instead of trying to fit in, I embraced my misfit status and inevitably found myself drawn to guys who strayed from the norm.

My parents reunited soon after Daddy was released from prison and I barely spoke to them for many years. Instead of calling me lazy and saying I need to take care of her, she would often call me a drunk slut who refused to spare a dime for her family.

It wasn’t until I became pregnant with Hunter that the ice between us began to thaw. When I eventually told Mom, she asked me to come home immediately, but the damage between us was too great and my pride, as well as, my independent spirit would not allow it. I was stubborn and refused to allow anyone, especially her, to take care of me. I got myself into it and I would get myself out.

Mom wiped away a stray tear before adopting her patented ‘No Worries’ face then turned and patted the back of my hand. "I'm sorry too. We both made mistakes back then, me more than you. We paid for them and now we're good again. Let’s not open old wounds." She pulled me down to her so she could kiss me on the cheek before she continued, "What are you going to do with yourself tonight since we have Hunter?"

We never had a typical mother/daughter relationship. We were more like good friends and I debated whether to tell Mom my plans.

I decided to be honest. "Actually I was coming over to see if Hunter could spend the night again but he beat me to it. I’m meeting a guy for drinks and depending how that goes I may or may not go see Ellie after she gets off work."

All our family, except Daddy, thinks Ellie works as a waitress at a bar downtown. Daddy recently found out after going out riding with a few friends on his scooter and they stopped into the bar she worked at for a little while the first weekend I moved back to town. I wish I could say I wasn't there to calm him down when she came on stage but then again I think the shock of seeing me there saved my dear cousin's life. After a lot of begging and pleading he finally agreed not to tell anyone.

If he ever found out how she first stepped into that world he'd kill me…

The day Ellie graduated she hopped on a bus to California and one day I came home from work to find her sitting in the hall outside my door.

I was ecstatic to have her close but tried my best to talk her out of it when she followed me to the club I danced in. When I saw there would be no changing her mind I took her under my wing and I cried as much as I did my first time when I saw her debut performance.

Sadly, because of my assistance, she became one of the most popular dancers they had.

Mom’s eyes lifted in surprise. "A date? Do tell."

I rolled my eyes and braced for the inquisition that was to come. "No no, not a date. Just meeting a guy for a drink. I don't want to commit to a date until I know if I like him."

Mom’s eyes filled with amusement. "Only you would consider drinks like an interview."

I slapped her shoulder playfully. "Stop laughing at me. He's a client for my company I’m not even sure it’s a good idea but he was very persuasive."

"Persuasive huh? I like him already. What does he do?"

"He’s in the music business."

Mom rolled her eyes. "Of course he is, every unmarried man in this town is in the music business."

Experience taught me that if I allowed this conversation to continue Mom would have me walking down the aisle before I left so I needed to get out of there. I kissed the top of her head. "I gotta go before you start picking out china patterns, I’m supposed to meet him in a couple of hours and still have a few errands to run before I get ready."

She frowned. "What's wrong with wanting you to be happy?"

"I am happy. You have your grandson so quit nagging me to get a husband."

Suddenly we heard the back door slam followed by Daddy's loud cursing before he yelled. "Carol can you get me a rag and a band aid?"

"Dammit Rob, you're helpless. I'm busy talking to Lib. They're in the bathroom under the sink get them yourself."

I laughed. "See what I mean? I only have to chase after Hunter and he's controllable."

Mom smirked and made it blatantly obvious she was only placating me. "Whatever you say sweetheart, I'll try not to laugh when he becomes a teenager. And I'll have you know there will be a day when you'll meet a man who will cause you to happily drop everything when he says your name."

I rolled my eyes. "If you say so Mom. I need to go."

She winked at me. "Okay, love you, I’ll call tomorrow but not too early just in case."

I giggled as I turned to leave. "I love you too and we'll ignore that last part."

I stuck my head in the bathroom and kissed my father. "That doesn't look too bad. I'm leaving, love you Daddy."

Daddy focused on what could best be described as a papercut as he responded. "Love you too Liberty. If it's not raining tomorrow I'm going to take the 911. Hunter's been after me forever to take him for a spin. Is that okay?"

I wasn't fond of the idea of my beautiful car being stuck in a parking lot for a few hours downtown and then getting jammed in traffic afterwards so I grinned at him playfully. "Yeah it's fine so long as I can take out Big Red."

Daddy laughed. "Well I guess we'll take the truck then."

I pretended to be offended. "What? You don't trust me?"

He shook his head. "It's not that. I trust you completely Baby Girl, it's just that I don't let anybody drive her but me."

I smiled. "I know. If Hunter wants to ride in it just take him for a spin tonight. Think of it like this… Would you drive Big Red in game day traffic?"

Daddy smiled. "No. It was a dumb idea, I was just thinking out loud cause Hunter's been asking about it so much."

I laughed lightly. "I dread when he turns sixteen. That will be the one thing I'll have to say no to."

Daddy chuckled. "That boy already has plans on it but that's too much car."

I kissed him again before I turned toward the door. "It definitely is but we still have three years and a week to worry about it. See ya tomorrow."

I waved to Hunter once I walked out the back door. He was at the back corner of my parent's yard playing football with a group of his friends while quite a few of the neighborhood girls looked on vying for my son's attention.

He stopped playing and took off towards me at a full run. I almost fell from the force once he reached me and wrapped me up in full hug. "Thanks for moving here Mom, thanks for everything. I love you."

I melted on the spot and poured all the love I had for my only child into the embrace. With a tear of joy in the corner of my eye I replied, "I love you too."

He released me and took off to rejoin his friends. I lingered for a moment just to watch and bask in one of those moments that, as a parent, you never forget.

He stopped abruptly and turned to face me again. "The guys are wanting to start a band and want me to be the lead singer and guitarist. Can I Mom?"

I laughed; I should have known he had ulterior motives. "So that's why I got the hug?"

Hunter quickly dashed back to my side. "No Mom, I meant everything but can I please join?"

I looked into the young and still pure version of my own eyes that were pleading for me to say yes. I knew a love of music was in his soul, he couldn't have avoided it even if he wanted too. It was in his blood. "Of course you can."

"Sweet! Thanks Mom!" He yelled out to his friends. "She said yes!"

I couldn't contain my amusement watching his friends meet him as he made his way back to the game with high-fives. I had to hurry around the corner when I heard one of his older friends say "Dude, your mom is kinda hot."

I pretended I didn't see Hunter punch him for saying it.

Chapter Nine

I nervously pulled my chili red Mini Cooper S into the parking lot. My Mini was one of the first things I bought when I moved home. I could easily afford a nicer car but I loved my Mini. It was cute, nimble, quick and small enough to fit into most parking spots.

In New York I had no need for a car and had forgotten how much I loved to drive. When I was a teenager, driving was my escape and my freedom. One of my happiest memories was the day Daddy found a used 1984 Pontiac Fiero in a junk yard that we planned to fix up. It took a lot of work on my part but oh it was perfect and that car took me places, including all the way to L.A.

I cried all day the day it broke down and I couldn't afford to fix it. I spent three hours on the phone with my father that night while he calmed me down, he was the only person who understood my attachment to a mechanical object.

Other than when I ran, I did my best thinking in my car.

I checked out my makeup in the mirror. "Well, you look as good as you can look."

I was wearing my little black dress. It had become my favorite fallback for when I wasn't sure what to wear. It matched almost any social occasion. It was shiny satin and low cut with spaghetti straps. I accented it with a silver bolero jacket and a simple silver chain.

Even though Kevin was shorter than myself, I felt comfortable breaking out my silver Jimmy Choo’s because he didn't seem the type to be intimidated with my height. They were the only expensive shoes I owned. I received them from a friend in New York who was gifted them after doing a modeling shoot. I drooled over the exquisite items so often I think she either took pity on me or had grown tired of cleaning my saliva off them. I never asked which since I was so happy they were finally mine.

"You ready for this?" I said to myself before closing my mirror and stepping out of the car to greet Arhan.

I met Arhan soon after I moved to town and started doing business downtown. He ran the lot I preferred to park at. It was convenient to everywhere I needed to go in the area and much safer than the parking garages. I had no idea where in the Middle East Arhan was from but I loved his accent. He stood 5 foot 10 with dark skin, brown eyes and jet-black hair that he kept brushed to the right side.

He approached me with a broad smile that even on my roughest days made me feel happy. "Ah ha Sara, I was hoping to see you tonight. You look so sexy, where is hug for Arhan?"

Arhan always had a parking spot for available for me. Even when the lot was full he would make a spot to park and beside the normal parking fee he only asked for a hug in return.

"Hey Arhan" I gave him the required hug which I never minded in the slightest. "How are you? Anything big going on tonight?"

"I am good now that I have seen a beauty such as yours." His look became serious. "There is some rock music concert happening so you be careful, odd looking people have been walking about, many of them had crazy tattoos and piercings in strange places. You listen to Arhan."

I could not help but to laugh at his take on the type of people who would attend a rock concert. "I will, thanks hon."

---

When I walked into the Palm I noticed Kevin right away. I may have been overdressed again since he was wearing dark blue jeans, a tight black tee shirt and a pair of cowboy boots.

After I thought about it I realized I was back in the south, good jeans and clean boots was considered dressing up. I should be thankful he did not break out his good NASCAR cap.

His shocked expression was troubling. I had no idea if the look he wore was good or bad so I fidgeted nervously and licked my lips as I always did when I was ill at ease until his appearance changed to one of admiration. I felt my cheeks redden under his gaze.

He quickly rose and motioned for me to join him at the bar.

As I approached he held his hand out to mine, "Wow Sara, you are simply stunning. Please have a seat."

I took a seat on the barstool. "Thank you, I believe I'm overdressed."

"No, not at all. You look fantastic. Would you like to get a table or is this ok?" He was obviously staring as I crossed my legs.

I smiled timidly as I attempted to gather my wits. "I'm good here but whichever you prefer is fine."

He couldn't have broadcasted what he was thinking any louder with the way he was looking everywhere on my body except my face. "I think I prefer here so I can look at your legs if for no other reason."

Maybe he could.

I felt myself flushing, I was doing that a lot lately. "Um, okay then. I guess we will stay here."

It was Kevin’s turn to blush. "Oh my God, I can’t believe I just said that. I apologize. I did it again. I seem to forget my manners around you." His brown eyes echoed his apology.

I smiled warmly since he looked so embarrassed that I could tell he wanted the floor to swallow him up. "It’s fine, no need to apologize for a compliment which is how I took it." Compared to things guys used to say to me in LA what he said was rather tame and I was the last person who could fault someone whose mouth spoke without input from the brain.

Kevin’s youthful eyes visibly relaxed. "Thank you, what would you like to drink?"

I felt the need to take it easy after the wild night prior. "A white Zinfandel please."

"Very well, would you like a menu as well? Surely you are hungry?"

His eagerness was apparent and slightly disconcerting. "Let’s start with the drink and go from there"

Kevin’s eyes betrayed him. "Yes, that sounds great." For a brief moment he looked like a sad child. That was definitely not a look I found attractive in a man.

"Tell me Sara, how long have you lived around here?"

Uhg, time for small talk.

Kevin looked as thrilled about it as I did. I knew he wanted make a good impression but it was my belief we passed that stage during lunch. I wanted to bypass all this "get to know you" junk and get back to the discussions we were having the day prior.

I half-heartedly answered his query. "I grew up here but moved away when I was sixteen. I've only been back a couple of months."

His brow lifted. "Oh really? I had no idea. You've lost your accent completely. I would have guessed you from the Midwest. Who could have presumed you're actually a southern belle."

I grimaced. I hate being called that but I explained my accent to him. "I moved to LA when I was sixteen and people teased me a lot about it. To avoid a repeat as soon as I moved to New York, I worked hard with a dialect coach. Between the lessons and twelve years there it disappeared completely." I held my wine up, "But if I have too much of this or get really mad it comes back full force."

As his focus sharpened I knew I had caught Kevin’s genuine interest. "What brought you back to Tennessee? Your family?"

I rolled my eyes. "No not my family. They were why I left in the first place. It was work, believe it or not. I had basically worked every job in the company when I became the personal assistant to Gabriel Moretti, the president of the company, who I've known for years. At first I thought it was a demotion but he said he did it to teach me everything about management. Mr. Moretti claimed I knew as much about the business as he did when he offered me an ownership stake if I would move down here to head up the Nashville office. Unconventional, I'll admit, but that's how I ended up here."

His brows rose slightly. "Sixteen seems abit young to strike out on your own."

I don't know why I felt comfortable talking to Kevin but this part of my life flowed from my mouth rather easily. "I didn't exactly have the best home life at the time."

Kevin stared at me intently, "A Tennessee girl, born and bred, who runs off to LA and then later relocates to New York. I never would have pictured you as the adventurous type. It takes courage to do something like that. Did you want to become an actress?"

I shook my head. "A model actually. One day I was walking through the mall and this guy approached me. He told me that with my height and build I could make a good living as a model. He gave me a card for an agency based in LA and asked me to give him a call on the following Monday. I did some test shots with a local photographer and the agency offered me a contract."

I smiled at that memory. I was so excited and so naive back then. If that happened today I would have accepted the card then thrown it away the first chance I had, figuring it was a lame pick-up attempt.

Kevin’s curiosity was definitely piqued. "So you just decided to up and move after you got a contract?"

"Yes, I was very much a wildchild back then. My parents and I didn't get along and it was my opportunity to get away from here."

"Did the agency know you were so young?"

"No. It's amazing how far a fake ID and the right build can take a person. Besides, I was so tall that it never crossed anyone's mind that I was so young."

He appeared confused. "And your parents didn't come to get you?"

I shook my head again. "No. My mother didn't care and my dad was in no position to fight me about it. I almost think it was a relief for them to have me out of their hair."

Kevin's eyes filled with sadness. "It had to be scary."

I shook my head again, "Actually not as much as you’d think. I was more excited than scared. I had all these illusions of grandeur. It was a fresh start. The agency gave me a new name and a new look as soon as I got there. I was expecting ‘Lifestyles Of The Rich and Famous’ to greet me as I arrived"

"So did it work out the way you had hoped?" Kevin noticed my drink was empty. "Oh, would you like another Zinfandel?"

"Yes please and no it didn’t, not even close. As typical for me back then I fell in with the wrong crowd. I did manage quite a few music video shoots. I mainly paid my bills by working at a small dive bar but the shoots came in handy for extra cash. It was fun for awhile."

That’s as sugar coated and vague as I could get. So what if I left out a few details and glossed over others. It wasn't any of his business.

Kevin slyly placed his hand on my knee. "What bar did you work at?"

I chuckled at the memory as I gently removed his hand and held it in order to keep it from wandering again. "A little dump of a place called The Tipsy, it was filthy, the customers were rowdy and I loved it."

The Tipsy was a total dive. It made Anthracite look like a five star establishment. What it lacked in size and class, it more than made up for with attitude. Most of the big time rock bands of the early to mid nineties had played there at some point when they started out. It was a fun place to work at for the most part and I met a ton of cool and interesting people plus more than my share of rock legends. If I ever wrote a book about my time there most people would swear it was a work of fiction.

Kevin’s eyes widened with what could best be described as a confirmation of something. "You mentioned it at lunch but I never imagined you actually worked at the Tipsy. That was THE place to be. I bet you've met all the greats."

His entire demeanor switched from suave businessman trying to act cool to one resembling Hunter when he became wound up and it confused the heck out of me.

"You've heard of it?" I was bewildered that anyone outside of the scene back then would know of that small hole in the wall.

"Heard of it? It was only one of the most influential bars of its time. You probably know all the legends. I bet you have some awesome stories. I have a couple of artists signed to my label that used to be into that scene back then and have since gone country. They've told me some tales but I bet they pale next to the ones you have." Kevin was as excited as a person could be without combusting.

I laughed. "Yeah I probably do but I'm not sure how many of them I’d legally be able to share."

Conversations about myself always made me uncomfortable. This conversation, in particular had me ready to flee, he actually knew people who I might have known. He left little doubt that he wanted to dig into my past and that is one mine that has been closed from any exploration. "Enough about me, tell me about you, where are you from?"

Kevin's shoulders slumped. "Not much to tell here, I grew up in Florida, Boca Raton to be exact. My parents worked for IBM. I was abit of a nerd but always loved music. I moved to Nashville to be a musician and quickly found out I was better at nurturing other's talent than of my own." His eyes developed a cloud over them. It was obvious he didn’t want to talk about himself either.

"You don’t look like a nerd to me, why would you say that?" I lied since I could totally see him as a nerd back in high school. I had to admit though, he grew up nicely.

Kevin jumped slightly and swore to himself as he fished his phone out of his pocket before apologizing and answering.

"Yeah, what’s up?… What do you mean he’s refusing?… Damn I’m busy, can’t you do it?" Kevin listened while his face contorted to a fretful look. I found his anxiousness cute until suddenly he became crestfallen before sighing into the phone, "I understand, give me about 30 minutes and I’ll take care of it."

He hit end on his phone before he glanced to me apologetically. "I'm having a great time, a really great time but one of my artists is having a temper tantrum and says he'll only talk to me. Is there a chance I could ask for a rain check on the rest of this evening?"

A part of me breathed a sigh of relief that the night was ending quickly with his desire to talk about my time in LA but another part wanted to get to know the man I caught a glimpse of at lunch. I smiled warmly and placed my hand over his. "Yes, I'd like that. Do you still have my number?"

The sparkle crept back in his eyes as he pulled me tightly in an embrace and leaned forward for a kiss. "I do and I'll make sure to use it very soon."

My body went rigid as I casually turned my head to the side so his lips met my cheek. "I look forward to it."

---

As I took my usual seat at the bar which was normally reserved for dancers at Charley’s Cabaret, the most upscale gentleman’s club in town, I was greeted by Tina. Her dark blue eyes twinkled with suppressed amusement and her full bright red lips twitched into a sly grin. "Hey girl, now I know why you called me last night."

Tina was three years older than myself and befriended me the first night I went out with Ellie after I moved back. She was the main reason I enjoyed waiting at the club.

I smirked as I leaned across the bar to give her a hug. "Yeah, I didn't tell her how I found out though so you're safe."

Tina laughed as she went back to mixing a drink. "No I'm not. I told on myself without even meaning to. As soon as she walked in I asked her why you'd want to know and she screamed 'So that's how she found out.' It was pretty funny." She pushed the drink she had been making toward me. "I assumed you'd want the usual."

One margarita wasn't going to lead to another crazy night.

I glanced around the almost empty club noticing how dead it was. I sipped the strawberry margarita. "Thanks. It looks like a slow night. I guess it'll pick up after the concert lets out."

She tilted her head from side to side causing her light brown ponytail to jump from one shoulder to the other. "I sure hope so. This is sooo boring right now."

I smirked at her, "Gee thanks, I enjoy your company too!"

Tina tossed her bar towel at me. "You know what I mean! I always like it when you're here to keep me company. So what’s this I hear about you and Kevin Snider?"

My eyes narrowed and I threw her towel back at her. "Ellie has a big mouth!"

Tina laughed loudly, "No, she didn’t say anything. Amber stopped by to see her boyfriend, who's a waiter at The Palm and saw you two sitting all cozy at the bar holding hands. So what is the deal with you two?"

"There's no deal between us, he's a client and asked me out for a drink. I held his hand to keep it from wandering. That’s it."

Tina glanced at my dress then looked at me incredulously. "Uh huh. You expect me to believe you dressed like that for a business meeting?"

I started to stammer, "Well, uh, I don’t know what it was but I only met him yesterday. He seems okay I guess."

Tina laughed at my discomfort and began to speak again when we heard someone yell, "Liberty!!!"

I turned away from Tina and toward Ellie who was running full speed in my direction, quite the feat in six-inch platforms.

"Details, I want details! How’d it go with sexy music guy? Please don't tell me he's a dick and that's why you're here."

I gave her my ‘shush up' look. "No, he's nice enough I guess. A little handsy and alot nosey but I've had worse dates. It was going okay til one of his artists suffered some sort of meltdown and he had to leave to sort them out."

Ellie’s face fell. "I’m sorry, I was hoping you’d have fun."

I smiled, hoping to lift her spirits. "I think I did, we were having a nice talk before he got the call. He insisted on a rain check and said he'll call me again soon."

Ellie lit up again. "Great, so what'd you two talk about?"

"Can you believe he's heard of the Tipsy?"

"No way! How can he know about that dump?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "I don’t know but he asked where I worked at in LA and when I told him he got all excited, he wanted me to tell him stories from there."

Ellie started laughing. "Oh Lord, I hope you didn’t tell him any. I doubt he’d believe them anyways, I was there and still don’t believe half the stuff we saw."

"I think he’d believe them, he says he has friends that hung out there back then and he's already heard a few but are you kidding? I’m not about to tell him anything."

Ellie suddenly looked concerned. "You don't think he knows do you?"

I thought for a second. "Maybe but I don't think so. I think I'd be able to tell if he did. There's no way someone can hide not knowing that."

Ellie’s eyebrows lifted as she nudged me with her shoulder. "Ain't that the truth? So do you like him?"

I felt myself blush. "Well yeah, I guess so. He’s kinda cute and seems nice."

She launched into me almost knocking me off my stool when she gave me a hug. "It’s about time! I gotta run, my next set starts in ten. I’ll be off in an hour or so."

"Sounds good I’ll be right here."

I turned back toward Tina and she had the silliest look on her face. When I was about to ask her about it I felt a pair of strong arms snake around my neck as a deep voice caused my nether regions to take notice. "Hey sexy, you look fantastic and I think you still owe me a thank you."

I dropped my head. I did not want to deal with this tonight.



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