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EXCERPT

 

There’s a knock on my motel room door, even though it’s almost nine at night. I rub my eyes, which are starting to hurt, and walk to my door.

Jackson Cody is standing there, smiling down at me. My heart bangs against my ribcage, because no man has a right to look this good in just a work shirt, jeans, and boots.

“Evenin’,” he says, and holds up a bottle of wine wrapped in a paper bag, the two flimsy plastic cups from his own motel room balanced upside-down on top of it.

“I don’t even drink,” I say, looking at the bottle. It’s the first thing I think of.

As much as that deep, needy part of me wants to invite him in, I can’t. Nobody can see Jackson Cody going into my motel room. It’s extraordinarily bad form to sleep with the people you’re hired to photograph, especially when the whole article is focused on them.

He looks down at the bottle.

“Whoops,” he says, and pulls the bag off, crumpling it in his other hand.

It’s a bottle of peach-flavored Boone’s Farm Wine Drink. They changed the packaging, but as soon as I read it, my heart lurches.

I look from the bottle to Jackson, then back at the bottle.

“What the hell?” I finally ask, my voice a whisper.

“I want to start over,” he says.

I cross my arms and glare.

“Not like that,” he says. “I just want to talk. Clear the air, get both of us on the same page.”

I’m just staring at the bottle of wine.

“When did you remember?” I ask, my voice low.

“The moment you opened your mouth,” he says.

“You remembered this whole time?” I hiss.

A car pulls into the parking lot behind him, its headlights washing over us for a quick moment.

“Mae, I just want to talk. I swear,” he says.

“You can’t come in,” I say. “Everyone will know, and then they’ll talk.”

“Can we talk somewhere else?” he asks.

I take a deep breath. He’s probably right. We’ll just get everything out in the open, and then I can go back to pretending I don’t want to sleep with him.

“Okay,” I say.

“You know the west gate to the arena?” he asks.

I nod.

“Meet me there in five minutes,” he says. “Give me a head start.”

He walks away and I close the door to my motel room, and then I just stand there for a minute, reevaluating everything that’s happened in the last two days.

When he shook my hand at the breakfast table, he knew who I was. When he hit on me afterward, when he rescued my camera, when he invited me out drinking.

He remembered me, drunk and horny in the back of his pickup, the whole time.

I put on shoes and grab a jacket. I close my laptop and put my camera in its case, even though it feels weird not to take it with me.

After exactly five minutes, I walk toward the arena. I try to look like I’m on official photography business, but I don’t know if anyone cares or not. Probably not. It’s dark out there except for the occasional street light. The sky is full of stars even though the carnival is in the lot next door.

I round a corner and see a shape standing up against the gate. The shape’s holding a bottle of wine.

“Ready to break some rules?” Jackson asks, a smile in his voice.


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