Chapter 1

“Samantha,” he whispered in his dark silky voice. Sam’s skin tingled deliciously with just one word from him. A smile played at her lips as she waited for him to call her again. Her silent prayer was answered as he murmured her name. “Samantha.” That same delightful rush washed over her like the warm waves that rippled by her feet. She stretched languidly on the sandy beach, and her eyes fluttered open. She was home.

She sat up and glanced at the familiar seashore of her childhood home. Sam knew it was only a dream. It had become a familiar one. The ocean glowed with unnatural shades of blue as if it was lit from beneath. The sky swirled with clouds of lilac and lavender. She stood up and relished the way the soft, pebble-free sand felt on her bare feet. A gentle breeze blew Sam’s golden hair off her naked shoulders, and her long white nightgown fluttered lightly over her legs.

She closed her eyes and breathed in the salty air. He was near. She could feel it. Her blood hummed, and the air around her thickened. She’d come so close to seeing him many times, but she always woke up just before she found him.

Not this time.

This time she would stay on the beach and call him to her. It was her dream after all, and she was getting tired of coming up empty-handed. Eyes closed, she tilted her face to the watercolor sky and waited. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears in perfect time with the pounding waves.

“Samantha,” he whispered into her ear. She stilled, and her mouth went dry. He was standing right behind her. How the hell did he get there? Where did he come from? Why couldn’t he stand right in front of her where she could actually see him? This was supposed to be her dream, her fantasy. Jeez. Can you say intimacy issues?

Sam jumped slightly and sucked in a sharp breath as large hands gently cupped her shoulders. She should open her eyes. She wanted to open her eyes, but the onslaught of sensations to her body and mind had her on overload. Samantha shuddered as he brushed his fingers lightly down her arms leaving bright trails of fire in their wake. He tangled his fingers in hers and pulled her back gently. Sam swallowed hard as his long muscular body pressed up against hers. He was tall, really tall. She sighed. If he looked half as good as he felt, she was in big trouble.

“It would seem that you’ve finally found me,” he murmured into her ear.

Sam nodded, unable to find her voice amid the rush of his. She licked her dry lips and mustered up some courage. It was a dream after all. Nothing to be afraid of. She could always wake up. But that’s what she was afraid of.

“Why don’t you ever let me see you?” she said in a much huskier tone than she’d intended. She pressed her body harder against his and relished the way his fingers felt entwined with hers.

He nuzzled her hair away from her neck and placed a warm kiss on the edge of her ear. “Come home,” he whispered. His tantalizing voice washed over her and he seemed to surround her completely. Body. Mind. Soul. Every single inch of her lit up like the Fourth of July.

“Please,” she said in a rush of air. Sam wrapped his arms around her waist and relished the feel of him. It was like being cradled in cashmere covered steel. Leaning into him, she rubbed her head gently against his arm. He moaned softly and held her tighter. The muscles in his chest rippled behind her, and his bicep flexed deliciously against her cheek. “I need to see you.”

Eyes still closed, she turned in his arms as he said softly “Samantha.”


Sam tumbled out of bed and landed on the floor with a thud. Breathing heavily and lying amid her tangled bedclothes, Sam stared at the bland white ceiling of her soon-to-be former apartment.

“Talk about a buzz kill,” she said to the empty room. “Typical. I can’t even get good sex in my dreams.” She puffed the hair from her face and pushed herself up to a sitting position. Sam grabbed her cell phone off the nightstand and swore softly when she saw the time. She was going to be late. Crap.


The steamy August air swamped Samantha the moment she stepped foot onto the cracked New York City sidewalk. On any other day the stifling summer streets of Manhattan would drive her crazy—but not today. Sam smiled. Today was her last day of work. No more horrid tourists with even more horrid tipping skills. No more nights spent fending off her married and truly unfortunate looking boss. No more waitressing at T.G.I. Friday’s in Times Square. Thank God!

Sam let out a large sigh, a mixture of exhaustion and relief, and slipped her aviators on with a cursory glance up to the towering buildings. She squirmed slightly as sweat began to bead on her brow and trickle down her back. Adjusting the heavy backpack, she wove her way through the pedestrian-riddled city and nestled the small iPhone ear buds snuggly into her ears. She hit shuffle on the slim iPod. A familiar tune filled her head; she couldn’t help but walk to the beat as she wove her way through the minefield of tourists. Samantha mumbled the occasional “pardon me, excuse me” as she navigated the slow-moving gawkers in Times Square. Why did they feel the need to stop and look at every skyscraper? This was another part of living and working in New York City she definitely would not miss.

Sam trotted down the steps into the subway station and pushed her sunglasses up onto her sweaty head. She swiped her card in the turnstile and slid through the narrow gateway toward the platform. Stealing cursory glances at the various subway-goers, her attention was captured by a young woman who was clearly fresh out of college. She reminded her of herself—about ten years ago. Sam smiled and shook her head as the train screeched its way up to the platform. The hot air blast that accompanied it actually provided momentary relief from her sweaty state. She pushed her way into the crowded train with the rest of the subway rats, and her gaze wandered back to the young co-ed. She sat almost expectantly on the seat across from her, as if her lifelong dream may come leaping to life right in front of her at any moment.

Sam vaguely remembered that feeling. She had moved to the city right after college graduation. The moment she had that BFA in hand she packed it all up and moved to the Big Apple. As a young artist with age-old dreams, the city seemed the only logical place to go. It held the promise of excitement and glamour, a far cry from the sleepy seaside town she grew up in. Clearly promises were made to be broken. The young girl glanced up and caught Sam’s eye. She delivered a quick, shy smile before looking away. Sam couldn’t blame her. No woman in her right mind would maintain eye contact with a total stranger on a city subway.

The train shuddered to a stop in Grand Central Station, and Sam made a speedy escape into the muggy, bustling crowd as she switched trains for SoHo. She had one more loose end to tie up before she could officially leave NYC.

Gunther’s Gallery.

Sam exited at the Spring Street station and hustled along the narrow side streets, grateful that the pedestrian traffic wasn’t quite as crazy here as it was in midtown. She turned onto Thompson Street, and the small, but sweet gallery came into view. Sam smiled, and her heart gave an odd little squeeze, knowing that this was really it.

She opened the heavy black lacquered door with an audible grunt and stumbled into the refreshingly cool gallery. The heat made the wood swell every summer, and a body slam was commonplace to open the damn door. She was instantly greeted by a shrieking Gunther.

“Kitten,” he squealed and pulled her into a vigorous hug, which was immediately followed by a kiss on both cheeks. “You’re late…” He released her with a playful shove. “I can’t believe you’re leaving me here all alone in this big bad city.” He stuck out his lower lip in a dramatic pout, crossed his delicate arms across his chest, and stamped his foot.

Sam chuckled and dropped her backpack onto the black leather bench by the door. “Oh, please.” She rolled her eyes. “You’ve got Milton to keep you company. He is the gardener to your flower, isn’t he,” she teased.

“Bitch.” Gunther stuck his pierced tongue out at her, turned on his heels, and huffed back to the reception desk. “You’re just jealous because my boyfriend is cuter than that douche you’re dating.”

Sam held up both hands in protest. “Excuse me, douche I was dating. I broke up with him like a month ago.” Sam leaned onto the reception desk with her elbows and placed her chin in her hands. “We can’t all be gorgeous and in high demand like you Gunther,” she said, batting her eyelashes dramatically.

Gunther patted her on the head. “That’s true, kitten.” He sighed and brushed a stray lock of hair off her face. “Maybe if you gave yourself as much attention as you gave to your artwork, you’d find a hottie too.”

Sam glared at him through narrowed eyes. “Now who’s being a bitch? Besides, my experience with Roger is just the latest example of how bad my taste in men is.” She let out a sound of defeat. “I give up.”

“Sounds to me like someone needs to get laid,” he said with haughty confidence.

Sam slapped his cheek playfully. “Gunther, not all of us think with our libidos. You know me well enough by now to understand that a man has to get me here,” she said pointing to her heart, “before he can get me here.” She punctuated by grabbing both of her breasts.

“Honey, you just haven’t met the right man. Trust me, the right guy will get you here, there, and everywhere,” he said with a flourish.

Sam laughed and shook her head doubtfully. “I don’t think so, honey, at least not for me. I’ll take a good book and a hot bath over sex any day.”

“Clearly, you’ve never had good sex.” He sighed and made a tsking sound.

Sam opened her mouth to protest but stopped before she said anything because the cold hard truth was that he was absolutely right.

Sam pushed herself away from the desk and turned her back on him. Worried he’d see right through her, she pretended to admire the artwork that currently occupied the tiny gallery.

Sam stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of various brown paper-wrapped pieces leaning against the back wall. Her throat tightened, and tears pricked at the back of her eyes. She stuffed her hands into the pockets of her khaki pants in an effort to get control over her conflicting emotions.

“Hey, you don’t have to leave you know.” Gunther’s gentle tone matched the comforting arm he wrapped around her.

Sam laid her head on his shoulder and sniffled. “Well, no one can say I didn’t at least give it a shot.” She lifted her head up and planted a kiss on his ridiculously smooth cheek. “You gave me lots of shots. Thanks, Gunther.”

Gunther snapped his fingers. “Honey, my family owns this building in which I live and work. If I can’t occasionally share these luxuries with my friends then what the hell good is it? Am I right? Yes,” he said, confidently answering his own question. “I am.”

He smacked her on the butt as she walked away from him toward the back of the gallery.

Sam smiled and wiped at her eyes. “I’m going to miss you.” She took a deep breath, hoping to steady herself. She ran her fingers along the smooth brown paper and took a mental count. One was missing, and she could tell by the sizes that it was her favorite one.

“Gunther,” she said in a slightly panic-laced voice. “Where’s my mother’s portrait?” Woman and the Wolf. It was her favorite and most personal piece. The woman and the wolf stood side by side looking out over a stormy ocean. Her mother’s hand lay gently upon the massive head of an enormous gray wolf, long golden hair blowing in the breeze. Although a storm and the ocean raged around them, both the woman and the wolf exuded serenity amid chaos.

Smiling broadly, he clapped his hands. “I was wondering how long it was going to take you to notice that piece was missing.”

Sam tilted her head and gave him a confused smile. “Well, don’t keep me in suspense. Where is it?”

“I sold it,” he said proudly.

“Sold it? When?”

“This morning,” he said with obvious satisfaction. “As soon as I opened, this guy came in and bought it. Boy, oh boy, what a hottie too.” He fanned himself dramatically.

Sam shook her head. “I don’t get it? If you had the pieces all wrapped up, how did he even see it?”

“Well, I know it’s your favorite, but it’s mine too. I was really, really hoping you’d let me keep it here. It would’ve been like having you with me all the time. So I had it hung behind the gallery desk.” He gave her a self-satisfied smile and brushed past her to the front desk.

Sam stared after him with a dumbfounded look on her face.

He glanced over his shoulder at her. “Kitten, you look like you’re catching flies.”

Embarrassed by her obvious shock, Sam snapped her mouth shut.

“Here’s your check,” he said holding an envelope out to her. “Minus my commission, of course.”

Sam took the envelope from him. She rubbed the paper between her fingers. She should’ve been happy, thrilled in fact, but it was sad too. That portrait had been the most personal piece she’d ever created, and it tugged at her heart to know she’d never see it again.

“I really did adore it, but I do have one question though. Why the wolf?” He placed his hands on his slim hips. “I mean, I get that it’s your mother and the beach where you grew up and all of that,” he said quickly. “But why the wolf? You don’t see a lot of wolves at the seashore.”

“No,” she said absentmindedly. “You don’t.” She’d always had an affinity for animals, wolves in particular. They had haunted her dreams for years, but when she moved to the city the dreams had stopped—at least until recently. “I dreamed about them a lot as a child. They were never scary though. The wolf was always protective. I don’t know.” She sighed. “Like a talisman or something.”

“Talisman? Sounds hot!” He wiggled his eyebrows at her.

Sam gave him a slap on the arm. “No, you horn-dog, it wasn’t like that. They were comforting and peaceful.” Her thoughts went back to her painting and she could practically hear the waves. “Just like the ocean,” she murmured. “Wild and free, but somehow comforting at the same time.”

The phone rang, interrupting their conversation, and Gunther rushed over to answer it. As he chattered away with one of his buyers, her thoughts wandered to the evening of her thirtieth birthday. It was a memorable day simply for the milestone it was, but it was more. That night, for the first time in over ten years, she dreamed of the wolf.

Only this time, she was the wolf.

Gunther hung up and let out a loud exasperated sigh. “I hate dealing with new buyers. They always call up and ask such stupid questions. When are you open?” He mimicked with a grimace. “I mean honestly. What in gay hell? Haven’t they heard of the Internet? We have a website for a reason people!”

His rant pulled her from her memories. “Thanks for everything, Gunther,” she said with a small smile. “I’ll give you a call in a couple of days about where to send the others.”

“That’s another thing. I think we should keep these for a while. If we hang them up here, there’s a chance they’ll sell. Sitting in Nonie’s garage…ain’t nobody gonna buy ’em. Now come over here, and give me a hug.” He pulled her into his arms and planted a big wet kiss on her cheek. “You take care of yourself, kitten. Don’t forget to come home and visit Milton and me once in a while.”

“That’s just it,” she said quietly. “This city was never home for me.” Her thoughts went back to the portrait. “Tomorrow I’m going home.”


Malcolm stood stone still on the balcony of his family home. He overlooked the predawn ocean, which stretched endlessly before him. As he breathed in the cool, salty air, he closed his eyes and willed himself to relax. His hands gripped the railing, turning his knuckles white. He was beyond edgy, full of anticipation for the days ahead. He had waited years for her to arrive, and tomorrow she would finally be here. He shoved himself away from the railing and paced back and forth, mirroring the beast caged within. She would be here in just a few more hours.

Malcolm Drew was the last in his family’s branch of the Eagle Clan. His family was one of ten animal clans among the Amoveo, a powerful, ancient race of magical shapeshifters. Malcolm was a Golden Eagle, and more than anything he wanted to keep his clan’s bloodline running, but he could only do that with his mate. Without her, he was doomed to a painful, solitary existence, and eventually death. Malcolm had heard stories about those who went unmated. He shuddered at the images those nightmarish tales conjured up.

Finding female company was not a problem. He’d had many women before, but they were merely a momentary amusement that left him unsatisfied and lonely. Like all Amoveo, his uncommonly large eyes were his most striking feature. The women he dallied with always seemed to comment on them. His were an unusually light brown, and in the right light gleamed yellow. He never worried himself too much with his appearance. He considered clothing an annoying necessity and barely ran a brush through his long, shaggy hair.

He felt anxious, not just for her arrival, but for her safety. For generations his people had been hunted by the Caedo family, a fanatical group of humans who had discovered their existence. They had not lost anyone to a hunter in many years, but the threat always loomed. He shook his head in frustration and stood with his arms crossed tightly over his chest. So many obstacles lay before them.

His thoughts wandered to his parents. The story of their courtship and mating had been the stuff made of legends. Growing up he’d observed their obvious love for one another with intense curiosity. Given that mates among their people were predestined he often wondered if the love grew over time, or was it a lightning bolt, an instantaneous connection? They claimed that the bonding was immediate, but secretly he had always doubted it. He scoffed audibly at the very idea of it with no one but the gulls to hear him. He’d encountered several females, both human and Amoveo, but he never came close to feeling anything that resembled love. Lust? Sure. Love? Not a chance.

However, that all changed in a flash the second he found Samantha. His body warmed at the mere memory of that moment, and he closed his eyes in an effort to recapture it. Last night’s connection in the dream realm had helped solidify their bond even further. However, his brow furrowed, and tension rippled up his back as one intruding thought returned. What if she refused him? His eyes snapped open, and he let out a low growl at the one thought that nagged at him relentlessly. Malcolm had heard that occasionally, a female would refuse the match. He shook his head at the futility of refusing. Why refuse what was imbedded in their souls? His skin suddenly felt two sizes too small as that question continued to beg at the back of his mind. His human form had become a prison from which he abruptly required release. He needed to fly. He stretched his arms wide, tilted his face to the twilight sky, and visualized his eagle form. Silently, he uttered the ancient word “verto” and shifted.

Instantly, he soared high over the crashing sea. He loved the feel of the salt air along his feathered body. His binocular vision spotted schools of fish as they moved through the waters below. The cool, early morning air caressed him and carried him along. His mind, body, and spirit relaxed. His tense muscles loosened to some extent. Malcolm closed his bright yellow eyes and reveled in the freedom and simplicity of the moment. He extended his wings to almost the brink of pain and rode the current with practiced ease. The image of his mate slipped into his mind and warmed his heart.

All too soon, he was torn from his revelry as an enormous muscle spasm tore through his feathered body. He wobbled midflight and struggled for control as his energy began to slip away. His body shuddered, and he knew the shift was coming. He struggled to maintain his clan form and immediately turned back toward his house. Malcolm strained against the shift and flapped his leaden wings with every ounce of energy he had. In a blinding flash of pain and frustration, Malcolm shifted just before he got to the deck of his home. He gritted his teeth, and in a flailing mass of arms and legs, he landed with an audible thud on the wooden planks. He lay there for a moment in a heap. Nice, he thought, very dignified.

Breathing heavily with sweat trickling down his spine, he stood and straightened out his clothing, thinking how nice it would be to have all of his abilities back. At full strength, he could shift smoothly and easily. He had recently passed his thirty-second birthday and was losing strength by the day. There was only one thing that could help him rejuvenate—being with his mate. Samantha. He had known who she was for many years. He’d dreamed of her since his adolescence. Under normal mating circumstances, she would’ve dreamed of him as well. The mate connection was always made in the dream plane first. If she had been a typical Amoveo female, she would’ve been looking for him as well. She would’ve recognized him the instant their dreams connected. His mate, however, was anything but ordinary.

Samantha was a hybrid and the first of her kind. Her mother had been a human. Her father had been the last of the Gray Wolf Clan, and they had been almost completely exterminated. Now that he was gone, she was the last. The most difficult part was that she didn’t know it.


After a record long good-bye with Gunther, Sam hopped the “4” train and picked up the “R,” which took her right into her Park Slope neighborhood. Well, according to her it was Park Slope, but there were many people who would’ve debated her on that. Once she moved to Brooklyn, Sam learned that the neighborhood lines were up for discussion. Where Sam lived was known by locals as anything from Park Slope to South Slope or Sunset Park or Windsor Terrace. In other words, it depended on which realtor you spoke to, but Sam didn’t care. She loved the neighborhood and would miss it—but not enough to stay.

She took her time walking back to her apartment on Prospect Avenue. After all, this was the last time she’d be doing it. Tomorrow she was going home. Back to Nonie and the beach.


The very idea of it made her smile. Sam fished the keys out of the side pocket of her pack, lost in her own reverie. As a result she didn’t see what was waiting for her on the building steps. Startled, she found herself face-to-face with what was quickly becoming the biggest mistake of her life.

“I’ve been waiting here for a God damned hour!” Roger’s contemptuous tone brought her to a screeching halt. “Where the hell have you been?”

Roger Van Dousen, a trust fund baby who never grew up, was the ex-boyfriend from hell. They had only dated for about a month and had been broken up for about as long, but apparently Roger didn’t get that memo.

He seemed like quite the catch at first. Wealthy, educated, polite, and handsome. However, his true nature became glaringly clear after just a few short weeks. Roger was a controlling, self-indulgent asshole with an overblown sense of entitlement. He should be the poster child for how-not-to-raise-your-child-if-you-have-lots-of-money. Essentially, he was a forty-year-old toddler.

His face, almost purple with anger, was covered in sweat. His perfectly coiffed salt and pepper hair was slicked back against his head. Sweat had seeped through his starched shirt, and his hands were stuffed into the pockets of his dark suit pants. She had heard the expression seething with anger but had never actually witnessed it until just this moment.

Sam removed the ear buds of her iPhone and looked him up and down through narrow eyes.

“Well, Roger. I’m really sorry to hear that,” she said in the most calm and condescending tone she could muster. “I’m not quite sure how you can be upset about waiting for me since I didn’t even know you were coming over. Besides, we broke up over a month ago.”

He made a loud scoffing noise and crossed his arms over his chest. “Oh really? What about our conversation last night? I told you I was coming to see you and that this breaking up nonsense had to stop.”

Sam cocked her head slightly and rolled her eyes. “What the hell are you talking about? Our conversation consisted of me hanging up on you after telling you—for the one hundredth time—that I never want to see you again.”

He loomed over her and moved down one step closer in a clear effort to intimidate her. He blocked her path up to the door of her building, and his face, quivering lips and all, was just inches from hers. She couldn’t believe that she’d ever been remotely attracted to him. Oh, he was handsome. No one would argue with that. The guy looked like he just stepped out of a Tommy Hilfiger ad. Perfect clothes, strong jawline, suntanned, and well-manicured from head to toe. However, his short fuse and sense of entitlement had quickly made him the most unattractive man she’d ever met.

Sam wanted nothing more than to back away and put some physical space between them. Her heart was beating a mile a minute, and the sweat trickling down her back was no longer from the heat. She stood her ground. He’d never hit her, but Sam suspected it was only a matter of time before he did. If people really could smell fear, she probably stunk to high heaven.

Sam didn’t take her big blue eyes off of his. She swallowed hard before she spoke and prayed her voice wouldn’t quiver and betray her growing fear. He was a bully, plain and simple. The worst thing she could do would be to let him know that he scared her. Like all bullies, fear only fanned the flames of his perceived power.

“Get out of my way, Roger,” she said in a low and surprisingly deadly tone. “You and I are over, and if you don’t stop harassing me, I’m going to file a restraining order.”

Mustering up her last shred of courage, Sam attempted to shoulder past him to her door. Before she could get by and make an escape into her building, he grabbed her arm and yanked her against him. His fingers dug mercilessly into her bicep, and his alcohol-stained breath blew hotly on her cheek. Sam winced away from him.

“Don’t you dare try and walk away from me,” he seethed. “You think you can get a restraining order against me? A Van Dousen? My family is hooked into everything in this city.”

She glanced around, frantically hoping to spot someone, anyone, who might be walking by but only the occasional car sped past. Her predicament going completely unnoticed was a cold, hard reality of this city. Another thing she would not be missing.

He shook her again, hard enough to make her teeth rattle. “Look at me when I’m speaking to you. I know that you plan on moving back home.”

Her shocked eyes darted back to his face, and he grinned.

“You can’t hack it here in the city, so you’re going to move back home with your old Grandma? You’ve failed here in New York. No one wanted your art. Your ridiculous attempts at showing in the galleries failed miserably.”

The truth of his words stung. She had failed to make it as a real artist. The critics had said her work lacked imagination and soul. Too realistic and not enough heart—that was the quote that haunted her. But it was from her heart, and that’s what hurt so much. Having her work criticized like that was too much, more than she could stand. How could she paint things that were so personal, so intimately a part of her, but no one else could see it? She could paint a picture with the same precision as a digital camera, but who the hell wanted a painting of something that they could get from a photograph? Tears of humiliation and failure stung the back of her eyes. She blinked them back, refusing to allow this son of a bitch to see her cry.

“You’re pathetic. You know that? Do you really think you’ll do better than me?” His incredulous tone matched the look of disgust twisted into his features. “You’re just a waitress.” Sam cringed. He said the word waitress as if it were something filthy he’d just stepped in. “You’re not an artist. You serve people. You’re ‘the help.’” He laughed cruelly and continued his tirade. “In fact, you should be down on your fucking hands and knees, thanking your lucky stars that I picked you. You could be with me in a penthouse overlooking Central Park, but you choose to stay here.” He nodded his head toward her building. He spun her violently and grabbed her with both hands. “We’re not over unless I say we’re over. I decide. Not you,” he screamed. “Not you!

Pain flashed hotly up her arms and into her shoulders as his fingers dug deeper into her. Sam fought to keep the tears at bay. Her face burned with a potent combination of fear, embarrassment, and anger. However, the fear that he might actually hit her was overtaken by raw anger. How dare he treat her this way? She wasn’t a piece of meat or something he could just order out of a catalog. He didn’t own her, and she didn’t owe this rat bastard anything. This selfish bully represented every sleazy art dealer, salesman, and bar patron she had been forced to endure over the last eight years.

No more.

Her existence was hers and no one else’s. Her life, her successes, and her failures were all hers. She belonged to nobody but herself.

“You would rather stay in this hovel or go live with some pathetic old woman than be with me?”

Nonie? This bastard had the audacity to call her grandmother pathetic? The moment he dragged Nonie into his venomous tirade, something dormant inside of her sparked to life.

A low rumbling noise seemed to come out of nowhere and surround them. Samantha’s eyes tingled, and the rumbling grew louder. The sound vibrated through her chest and radiated throughout the rest of her body. Somewhere in the back of her mind she rationalized that a subway must be going by at a most opportune moment.

Okay. One point for NYC.

“Don’t you dare talk about my grandmother that way,” she ground out. Her voice sounded so odd, almost like a growl. If she didn’t feel her lips moving, she wouldn’t even believe that she was the one speaking. “Now, you take your filthy hands off of me.”

Roger’s eyes grew as big as saucers, and his face went ashen. He snatched his hands back from her arm as if she’d burned him. He shook his head furiously and mumbled something she couldn’t quite make out. She watched with smug satisfaction as he half ran, half stumbled down the steps away from her. The rumbling subsided as Roger disappeared around the corner.

“And don’t come back,” she shouted victoriously in a voice she actually recognized. Sam did a little happy dance as she slipped the key into the door of her soon-to-be former building. Time to throw out the rest of the trash.


Roger didn’t stop running until he reached the limo. He threw the door open and dove inside, slamming it shut quickly and locking it behind him. He opened the small refrigerator, grabbed the bottle of single malt Scotch, and proceeded to swig directly from the bottle.

His driver, Rudolph, who didn’t even have time to get out and open the door for him, braced himself for the tongue lashing that was sure to come next.

“I’m so sorry, sir. It won’t ever happen again, Mr. Van Dousen.” He sat perfectly still, braced for impact. However, no temper tantrum came. Rudolph glanced into the rearview reluctantly. “Will your girlfriend be joining us, sir?” He hated to ask anything about this artist chick because it always seemed to send him over the edge.

“Her eyes,” he hissed. “Her eyes. You should’ve seen her eyes.” Roger leaned forward and pointed at Rudolph with the bottle of Scotch still firmly in his grip. He rocked back and forth and continued mumbling to himself.

Rudolph cleared his throat to stifle the laugh that began to bubble up. If it came out within earshot of his employer, it would lead directly to the unemployment line.

“Yes sir, Mr. Van Dousen. I’ll just give you some privacy for the ride home, sir.”

He hit the button for the privacy divider and held back on his laughter until it closed with an audible thump. The Golden Boy had finally lost it.