When Emily Wayborn goes home to visit her mom while on hiatus from her hit TV show, she receives a voicemail from her former best friend, Amber. Though the two were once notorious party girls, they haven’t spoken in years. Although the message might sound benign to anyone else, Amber uses a safe word that Emily recognizes, a word they always used to get out of sticky situations during their wild days. And what’s more chilling than the voicemail: it turns out that Amber has gone missing.
Determined to track down her friend, Emily follows a chain of clues that lead her to the enigmatic billionaire Reeve Sallis, a hotelier known for his shady dealings and play boy reputation. Now, in order to find Amber, Emily must seduce Reeve to learn his secrets and discover the whereabouts of her friend. But as she finds herself more entangled with him, she finds she’s drawn to Reeve for more than just his connection to Amber, despite her growing fear that he may be the enemy. When she’s forced to choose where her loyalty lies, how will she decide between saving Amber and saving her heart?
The first time I shared a man with Amber had been on my seventeenth birthday.
She’d been hanging around the neighborhood for the better part of the six months before that, and we’d become friends. We had the same taste in food and music and movies and, unlike the other girls we knew, we both preferred a line of coke to a bowl of weed. “Champagne taste,” Amber would say. “That’s us.”
Though we were both the same age, our lives had been very different. I’d go to school during the day, trying to pretend that my grades were salvageable as she’d watched The Home Shopping Network and ate Cheetos on the neighbor’s couch. Amber had dropped out of high school, and since she’d also runaway from home, no one was pushing her to go while graduation was the one thing my mother demanded of me.
I’d hated everything back then. School. My mother. My neighborhood. My body. Everything but Amber. She’d been fun. Sassy. Sexy. She was electric and electrifying and everything I wanted to be. And she cared for me. Maybe even loved me. If I had gone to a shrink they probably would have said that was why I latched onto her—that I thought of her as the mother mine had never been. I knew how screwed up everything seemed. But who could ever know why a person fell for another? I only knew that I had been dull and dim and that Amber made me less so.
She’d also had things I didn’t. Things that money bought. The clothes she wore were designer, her nails were always done. She’d lowered her panties once to show me her Brazilian. Whenever I’d asked how she paid for things, she’d always answered simply, “My uncle.” Even as we’d grown closer to each other that was all she’d tell me about the mysterious relative.
“For your birthday,” she’d said two days before, “I’ve got a surprise. Plan to spend the weekend with me.”
So that Friday, I slipped out of school early and met Amber at the bus station where she purchased two tickets to Santa Monica. Though I couldn’t get her to give me even a hint as to where we were going or what we were doing, I spent the two-hour bus ride buzzing with excitement. Whatever Amber had in mind, I knew without a doubt that this trip would be the beginning of the next phase of my life. I was ready. I was so ready.
Outside the station in Santa Monica, Amber bummed a smoke off a street musician and I scanned the street, taking in the sights of a place I’d never been. A red convertible parked nearby caught my attention, more specifically, the man leaning against it. He was older, maybe as old as my mother, but attractive. Not because he was all that good looking, exactly—though his body was definitely fit and trim—but because of what he exuded. Confidence. Assurance. Money. He drew my attention, and in the way that a restless, sexually charged young girl often did, I found myself wondering about him. What it would be like to kiss a man like him. What it would feel like to be beneath him. I’d had plenty of sex before. With boys from school. I’d yet to meet one who knew what he was doing, and though I would never have admitted it out loud, I was dying for it, thoughts of it never far from my mind.
When Amber followed the line of my sight, she dropped her cigarette with a squeal and exclaimed, “There he is, Em! Come on.”
“There who is?” I asked as she tugged me toward the very man I’d been staring at.
“My uncle!” After throwing her duffle bag into the back seat, she jumped into the man’s arms, wrapping her legs around his waist. Then she proceeded to make out with him like I’d done on more than one occasion with the boys under the bleachers at school. Never out on a public street. Never with a man who had to shave everyday.
When they had finished their display and Amber was back on her feet again, she made introductions. “Rob this is Emily. Em, Rob.”
He may have said something to me. I didn’t really know because I’d been too busy staring at her, my jaw gaping.
“Oh, Emily, he’s not really my uncle,” she told me as she jumped into the passenger seat. “Get in.”
She’d misread the cause of my surprise. I grinned—only one of the many times I’d grin that day—and climbed in the backseat. If Amber hadn’t been the coolest person I’d ever met before that moment, she’d certainly proven herself now.
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Laurelin Paige is the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Fixed Trilogy. She’s a sucker for a good romance and gets giddy anytime there’s kissing, much to the embarrassment of her three daughters. Her husband doesn’t seem to complain, however. When she isn’t reading or writing sexy stories, she’s probably singing, watching Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead, or dreaming of Michael Fassbender. She’s also a proud member of Mensa International though she doesn’t do anything with the organization except use it as material for her bio.
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