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To Love Jason Thorn

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Jason Thorn… My brother’s childhood friend.

Oh, how stupidly in love with that boy I was. He was the first boy that made me blush, my first official crush. Sounds beautiful so far, right? That excitement that bubbles up inside you, those famous butterflies you feel for the very first time—he was the reason for them all. But, you only get to live in that fairytale world until they crush your hopes and dreams and then stomp on your heart for good measure. And boy did he crush my little heart into pieces.

After the stomping part he became the boy I did my best to stay away from—and let me tell you, it was pretty hard to do when he slept in the room right across from mine.
When tragedy struck his family and they moved away, I was ready to forget he ever existed.

Now he is a movie star, the one who makes women of all ages go into a screaming frenzy, the one who makes everyone swoon with that dimpled smile of his. Do you think that’s dreamy? I certainly don’t think so. How about me coming face to face with him? Nope still not dreamy. Not when I can’t even manage to look him in the eye.

Me? I’m Olive, a new writer. Actually, I’m THE writer of the book that inspired the movie he is about to star in on the big screen. As of late, I am also referred to as the oh-so-very-lucky girl who is about to become the wife of Jason Thorn.
Maybe you’re thinking yet again that this is all so dreamy? Nope, nothing dreamy going on here. Not even close.

To Love Jason Thorn is a full-length standalone, which also contains some pretty hot and descriptive sex scenes. *winks*

self published
Love and Hate
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Jason Thorn… My brother’s childhood friend.

Oh, how stupidly in love with that boy I was. He was the first boy that made me blush, my first official crush. Sounds beautiful so far, right? That excitement that bubbles up inside you, those famous butterflies you feel for the very first time—he was the reason for them all. But, you only get to live in that fairytale world until they crush your hopes and dreams and then stomp on your heart for good measure. And boy did he crush my little heart into pieces.

After the stomping part he became the boy I did my best to stay away from—and let me tell you, it was pretty hard to do when he slept in the room right across from mine.
When tragedy struck his family and they moved away, I was ready to forget he ever existed.

Now he is a movie star, the one who makes women of all ages go into a screaming frenzy, the one who makes everyone swoon with that dimpled smile of his. Do you think that’s dreamy? I certainly don’t think so. How about me coming face to face with him? Nope still not dreamy. Not when I can’t even manage to look him in the eye.

Me? I’m Olive, a new writer. Actually, I’m THE writer of the book that inspired the movie he is about to star in on the big screen. As of late, I am also referred to as the oh-so-very-lucky girl who is about to become the wife of Jason Thorn.
Maybe you’re thinking yet again that this is all so dreamy? Nope, nothing dreamy going on here. Not even close.

To Love Jason Thorn is a full-length standalone, which also contains some pretty hot and descriptive sex scenes. *winks*
15 August 2021 (02:31) 
loved the childhood friends to lovers but wanted to see what happened to Charlotte and lily
31 August 2021 (17:01) 
Cul girl
Naaa not it for me. Couldn't even finish it.
20 October 2021 (22:21) 
I've read this book so much timessss, It's not for EVERYONE but I personally loved It.
11 November 2021 (05:28) 
Maren Legeros
I can't really describe it, but this book is just... clunky. Everything about the characters seem forced, the pacing is weird, and the relationships are bizarre. It's just over contrived. And the male lead calling the female lead "Little One" as a nickname makes me gag, what is he, her grandfather? I stopped reading after they meet in a professional setting, and instead of addressing her formally as a peer, its right back to "Little One". How demeaning.
15 November 2021 (19:11) 
nah not for me, it was terrible
06 December 2021 (06:51) 
i am a huge fan of childhood friends to lovers but this one was terrible. i really couldn't feel close enough to the characters and this ruined the book for me. also writer's language was too wattpaddy
14 December 2021 (13:41) 
Iam AMAZED. Really truely AMAZED.
20 December 2021 (17:26) 
Thanks god for the comments, they save from reading this
24 December 2021 (03:46) 
Writing is awful. Weak plot. Overall bleh
25 December 2021 (05:09) 
i tried. i REALLY tried to give it a chance. But its just soooo bad. My friend would tell me it gets better, but it really doesn't. it made me want to shove my head in a blender.
01 January 2022 (19:52) 
piya tann
k ill update this one sec elmme grab my book
08 January 2022 (06:11) 
it is not as bad as everyone describes it to be, but it does have a cliché romance novel plot with expected twist and turns. i wouldn't say it was bad, but i wouldn't say it was very good either. it was fast paced, for me, and i read it in a few hours. if you're having a reader's block, maybe you can read this book to come out of it. honestly, it was fiiiiine.
and also, heads up, not very good writing. the grammar didn't make any sense at places but you can always choose to ignore it, like i did ?
28 January 2022 (22:18) 

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To Love Jason Thorn


Ella Maise


Copyright © 2015 by Ella Maise

All rights reserved.

Editor: Editing by C. Marie

Cover Design: Ella Maise

Permission from this author must be granted before any part of this book can be used for advertising purposes. This includes the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be resold or given away to other people. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it to the seller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.


Usually when a book is optioned for the movie rights, it can take years to get to the production process—so many hoops to jump through. However, in this book, I didn’t want to make you wait for a year—or quite possibly longer—for the filming to begin, which is why you’ll see that it was a fairly quick process. Or maybe…just maybe Olive’s book was just that awesome…

Table of Contents



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three


Books by Ella Maise

About the Author


This book;  is for everyone who once loved a boy and felt those butterflies overwhelm them in the best possible way.

And, well, if the boy didn’t love you back, shame on him! What a jerk.

Chapter One


Up to the day I met Jason Thorn, my dreams were made of fluffy white clouds, pretty pink dresses, tasty apple pies, and of course, our neighbor Kara’s big brother.

“I don’t want to hear another word about this, Jason. You are always welcome to stay here, sweetheart.”

I was about to go down to help my mom set the table when their voices carried up to me and I stopped.

“See, I told you it would be okay. Come on, let’s go up to my room.”

“Hold on, Dylan. Not so fast.”

I heard mom’s coffee cup softly clink on the kitchen counter a few seconds before I heard her speak again.

“Jason, are you sure you don’t want us to call anyone? Maybe they should check on your mom and make sure everything is okay, or we can call your father and let him know that you are spending the night with us. I bet he would be worried if he called your house and couldn’t reach either one of you.”

My mom was a soft, compassionate woman—soft as in she carried a heart that was purely made of shiny liquid gold. I’d heard my grandpa tell her so countless times for putting up with my father, so as a child I knew it had to be true. There was also a side of her that could be seen as vicious at times, as she was fiercely protective of the ones she counted as her family.

Other than that, she was a sweetheart, as my father liked to call her. She had this secret way of making anyone smile, even when they were sad about something. I knew that because she always made me laugh when we were at the dentist, which was a big scary place for a six-year-old (almost seven!). If she was in the room, chances were she’d have you beaming up at her in no time.

It wasn’t just me and my brother; she had the same effect on my friends too. Whenever it was her turn to pick us up from school, they all looked up at her with these big, silly smiles stretched across their faces. Actually, now that I think about it, they reminded me of Buzz, the puppy Kara had gotten a few weeks before. Oh, how much I loved watching Kara’s brother Noah play with that puppy; I’d always thought we could buy a few puppies for ourselves after he asked me to marry him.


Anyway, I hadn’t been allowed to have the puppy in the house, and of course I would never ever sneak him in whenever my mom was out—sshh, don’t tell anyone—but I did see the faces the little guy made when he wanted something from Kara.

All in all, back then, I believed it was tough to be a kid, but having a mom like mine made everything a bit easier. That’s why I’d always wanted to be like her. I’d wanted to make people happy, make them forget about their worries for a while, be their sunshine, as she was ours.

There had been only one teeny-tiny issue…the blaring fact that I didn’t have a golden heart because I was never good at being peaceful or graceful, where my mom, on the other hand, was the epitome of those traits.

It wasn’t my fault though; it was always Dylan who made me angry. If blame were to be assigned, it would fall squarely on Dylan’s shoulders, not mine.

Dylan was my big brother, the one who kept ruining everything for me, probably since the day I was born. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember those early years of my existence, but I was pretty sure that he’d been messing with me back then, too. According to my mom and dad, a few days after they brought me home from the hospital, he told them they should take me back to where they’d found me—next to the garbage cans.

Can you believe the audacity? My loving big brother.

It didn’t even end with a cleverly veiled threat either. I remembered myself that he would steal my stroller and run around with me in the park. Why, he was probably trying to kill me with sheer excitement!

At an early age, I’d come to the conclusion that I would get to have my own golden heart when Dylan wouldn’t be around to throw me off of my game. Whenever he was around, chances were he’d do something and I’d lose my cool, which would lead to us getting into a screaming match.

There was nothing graceful about screaming your little heart out at someone because they wouldn’t play My Little Pony with you.

Jason’s carefully chosen words brought me back to the present where I was plastered to the wall just to the left of the staircase, listening in on them.

“Thank you, Mrs. Taylor, but I don’t think my father cares about where I’m spending the night. And…um…my mom will probably be okay in the morning. I’m sure she just fell asleep. It’s my fault really; I should’ve checked the time and made sure I was home before six.”

“We were playing catch on the street, Jason. Like, right in front of your house. I don’t think you are the one to blame here. And who goes to sleep at six, Mom? Even Olive stays up later than that.”

“Dylan,” my mom said in a low voice before sighing.

I grinned, feeling proud. I could stay up pretty late. Sometimes I could even go until nine.

There was complete silence for a few moments, and then the feet of the chair scraped the floor as someone got up from the table.

“Okay, Jason.” I heard mom’s strained voice breaking the thick silence. Who was this boy they kept calling Jason? Maybe he was part of the family that had moved in across the street a few houses down a few days ago?

How come Dylan hadn’t introduced me to his new friend?

“You are always welcome in this house. I want you to remember that, okay?”

“Thank you Mrs. Taylor. I appreciate it.”

“Why don’t you go and get cleaned up while I get dinner ready? After dinner we’ll call your dad and make sure he knows you are safe.”

“That’s not really necess—”

“Let’s say it’s for my own peace of mind.”

“Come on, Jason.” I heard my brother murmur. “I’ll show you the new video game my dad bought me.”

Oh, about that…I’d always thought it was quite rude of him to hoard all the toys. He never let me play with him.

I turned on my heels and was about to run back to my room to check out who the new boy was through the small opening of my door when my mom said, “Dylan, can you stay and help me set the table first? Then you can join Jason upstairs until I call you guys down for dinner.”

“Sure, Mom,” my brother answered readily. “The bathroom is the second door to the left, Jason. My room is next to it. I’ll be right up.”

“Is there anything I can help with, Mrs. Taylor? I wouldn’t mind.”

“Oh, you are too sweet, Jason. How about you be our guest for tonight, and any time you come by after today, you’ll give me a hand, too, okay? And you call me Emily from now on.”

“Okay, Mrs. Tay—umm…Emily. Thank you so much for letting me stay here tonight. I’ll be in your room, then, Dylan.” His footsteps started up the stairs.

I stood still and patiently waited for the owner of those footsteps to reach me. Since Dylan wasn’t with him, I could say hi and welcome him to our neighborhood without getting into trouble.

Argh Dylan… Just because he was four years older didn’t make him the boss of me.

Would he be blond? Maybe he would have dark eyes and dark hair and be all dreamy, exactly like Kara’s big brother, Noah, who had turned eighteen just a few weeks before. My mom thought he was a little too old for me, but she had also once said a girl should always dream big. While I loved my mom dearly, clearly she wasn’t right all the time.

Anyway, since this Jason seemed to be friends with Dylan, I highly doubted he would be something to dream about.

Suddenly my stomach got all fluttery for some reason. I frowned and smoothed down my dress. Dylan’s friend or not, he would be a guest in our house and I thought I should be welcoming since he sounded very stressed out about staying with us.

Tommy, one of my best friends from school, believed that we would get married one day, but I’d never said yes to him. I’d never even gotten excited whenever we were on playdates.

First, I saw Jason’s sneakers. I still remember: they were white and very clean for a boy his age. I thought maybe he wouldn’t be that bad and make fun of me like Dylan’s other friends.

Putting on my best smile, I slowly lifted my head up to meet his eyes. His steps faltered when he saw me hiding next to the wall. I got a good look at him and my smile slowly vanished as my mouth dropped open.

Jason? Jason what?

Butterflies? Were those tiny flutters in my stomach butterflies? The ones my mom had told me about? It sure felt like it. Thousands of them. Were these the same butterflies my mom had felt when she’d met my father?

What was his last name?

I wanted—no scratch that, I needed his last name to be my last name.

Not the day after, not ten years or twenty years later. I needed it to happen that day—right at that moment to be exact.

He seemed surprised to see me for a second, but recovered faster than I did. He gave me a stupidly cute smile with a dimple showing on his left cheek.

“You have a dimple,” I breathed out, totally lost in that tiny little crevice. It was almost magical.

I closed my mouth and felt the heat rise up to my cheeks. I managed to return his smile with a wobbly one.

“Hey, little one. You must be Dylan’s little sister. I’m Jason.”

“Hi,” I greeted sheepishly as I gave him a small wave.

His smile picked up a notch, and I felt my face flush again. Tucking a loose hair behind my ear, I smiled bigger.

Oh, boy.

He was so cute.

I cleared my throat and extended my hand, just like I saw my dad do when he was meeting someone new. “I’m Olive. My friends call me Liv or Oli because they think I have a weird name.”

Quirking his brow, he looked at my hand then up to my eyes as he gave it a good shake. “Do they now?” he asked, and I nodded enthusiastically, hiding my hand behind my back again. “I think you have a good name, little Olive. It would be hard for someone to forget a name like Olive. You have very beautiful green eyes; I’d say the name suits you.”



I was never going to wash my hand again.

My smile got bigger, and I believe it was the first moment I fell in love with the mysterious boy who had an adorable dimple and was going to spend the night right across from my room.

“Are you our new neighbor?” I asked. He had to be our new neighbor. I had to see him again.

“Yes, we moved in last week.”

I nodded. That was good news—more time for us to be together.

“Since you like my name, would you like to marry me?” I asked.

His face turned red and he opened and closed his mouth a few times.

Finally he laughed and said, “What?”

I shrugged. “My dad doesn’t want me to get married for at least another thirty years, but I don’t think we should wait that long. So, can we get married sooner?”

He scratched his head and even made that look cute. “I think we are too young to get married, little one.”

Crushed, I looked down at my feet. “My dad says that, too. I’ve always thought I would marry Noah, our neighbor, but my dad is pretty set against that. Even my mom thinks he is too old for me. I think I can wait for you to get older, though.” I nodded to myself. “Make sure you wait for me too. Okay. I’m gonna go down and help mom with dinner. Dylan always screws it up. You know,” I started, clutching my hands behind my back as my eyes fell to his shoes. “I helped her bake the apple pie and the vanilla sauce earlier. I’ll make sure you’ll get the biggest slice. You’ll love it, and I’ll give it to you first.”

I knew guys cared about food because my dad had always appreciated a good home-cooked meal. My little heart had fallen in love for the first time and I was hoping Jason would fall for me, too, after he tasted the pie.

He chuckled and touched his finger to my chin. Surprised at the contact, my head flew up, my eyes huge. When I saw his smiling face, I had to bite down on my lip so I wouldn’t grin like a little girl, which would surely be a dead giveaway that I was in love with him.

“Thank you, little one. I’m sure it’s delicious if you had a hand in it. I better let you go then. I’ll look forward to seeing you at dinner.”

Passing by me, he tugged a piece of my hair, his smile still going strong on his lips as he headed for the bathroom.

I fidgeted with my hands so I wouldn’t wave him a goodbye and sigh like my friend Amanda did whenever she saw Dylan.

Inside, I was dancing on the clouds.

He had touched my hair.

He had touched my chin and looked into my eyes.


Our one-dimpled new neighbor. Had. Touched. Me.


I was pretty sure he’d fallen in love with me, too. I mean why else would he smile, look into my eyes, and touch me, if he hadn’t?



Chapter Two


Seven years later…

“Thank you for letting me have your phone, Amanda,” I whispered as I was hiding in my closet.

“Why are we whispering?”

“So Dylan and Jason can’t hear me.”

“Are you sure you want to do this? I mean, come on Olive, what if he realizes it’s you texting him?”

“But I do want him to realize it’s me.” I thought about that for a second, and then changed my mind. “Well, okay, maybe not at first, but eventually.”

Amanda sighed on the other end of the line. “I’m not so sure this is a good idea, Liv. What if he tells Dylan?” She gasped. “What if they recognize the number and think it’s me?”

“Oh, stop it. How could they possibly recognize your cousin’s number? If you don’t open your mouth, no one will know. And it’s just for tonight. I won’t text him again. My parents are gone, he is staying over, it’s the perfect timing.”

“Olive!” My brother banged on my door. “The pizza is here, come down if you don’t want to find an empty box.”

“Break the door down, why don’t you,” I muttered to myself. Opening the door of my little closet, I yelled back, “I’m coming!”

“Okay, I’m heading downstairs. What time is it?” I asked Amanda, getting up from the floor.

“Nine. When will you text him? You have to let me know what he is saying.”

“I can’t text you while I’m texting him. I’ll be too excited. I’ll call you tomorrow to let you know how it went.”

“Nope, I’m coming for breakfast then, who knows when you’ll call me. Plus, I need to get the phone back to my cousin. They are leaving tomorrow afternoon.”

“Fine, then I’ll see you tomorrow. Wish me luck.”

Throwing the phone on my bed, I took a deep breath and looked at myself in the mirror. My strawberry blonde hair was falling down on my shoulders in soft waves, my eyes were sparkling, and my face was flushed with excitement over the possibility of what might happen later that night.

I looked down at my shaky hands and laughed at myself.

All I wanted for that night was to text Jason and talk to him as if I was someone else, like an admirer. You see, I’d had it all planned for days. I was going to text him, of course keeping my identity a secret, preferably when Dylan was not by his side, and then simply talk to him. Maybe I could ask him who he would want his admirer to be… Wouldn’t it be something else if he said me?

So far the plan was working smoothly. Depending on how the rest of the night went, I would make my move accordingly.

“Olive!” my brother thundered from downstairs.

Closing my eyes, I took a deep refreshing breath, hid the phone under my pillow, and walked out of my room.

“What are you yelling for? I said I was coming,” I said when I spotted Dylan sitting alone in front of the TV.

“Pour the drinks and bring out the pizza,” he answered, not even looking at me.

“Why can’t you get up and do it yourself?” I shot back.

“Just get on with it already. I’m about to start the movie.”

I opened my mouth to—

“Hi little Olive,” someone whispered right next to my ear, causing me to jump.

“Jason,” I whispered back, my hands jumping to my chest to keep my heart in place. “You scared me.”

He chuckled, showing me the dimple. “I know.”

I laughed back, my eyes shining with love for the boy I’d known for seven years now.

Tugging at a piece of my hair, he winked and walked past me with a cold water bottle in his hand. He pushed over Dylan and sat right next to him.

Eyeing the small seat next to Jason, I asked, “Do you want anything other than water?”

Turning his head, he smiled at me. “Thank you, beautiful. I’m good.”

I melted into a small, very happy puddle on my mother’s favorite carpet.

“Stop flirting with my sister, you shithead,” Dylan muttered, but I was too occupied with my dreams to tell Dylan to shush—not that he would listen to me.

Grabbing Dylan’s soda and a few paper plates for the pizza, I went back into the living room.

“Pour your own drink,” I said, dropping the bottle a little too harshly on the coffee table in front of him.

“How many slices do you want, Jason?” I asked, kneeling on the floor and not quite meeting his eyes.

Dylan sighed and muttered, “Here we go again.”

He didn’t like that I always gave the first slice of pizza—or cake, or pie, or any type of food actually—to Jason.

Putting his water bottle down, Jason reached out to help me up. “You are not sitting on the floor.” He pulled me up to the couch. “I’ll handle the pizza.”

Plopping down next to him, I let him divvy up the slices between the three of us.

“Two slices good?” he asked, giving me the first share.

Be still my heart.

“Yes, thank you.”

When he leaned back and shot me another quick wink, I forgot all about my pizza and reveled in the fact that I was about to spend two hours sitting right next to Jason watching a movie. It was the perfect night to text him.

“What are we watching?” I asked, taking a small bite from the huge slice.

“Nothing you’ll enjoy. We are already spending our Friday night babysitting your ass so you don’t have a say in the movie choices.”

“Don’t be an asshole, Dylan,” Jason murmured with his mouth full.

“So you’re saying you prefer to stay in tonight instead of going out with the girls?”

As my eyes filled with tears of embarrassment and something else I couldn’t name, I put my plate down and attempted to get up, only to be pulled back by Jason.

“Children,” he said in a tone similar to my dad’s. His warm hand was still closed over my wrist, keeping me seated—or more like paralyzed. “I promised Emily I would babysit both of you just in case you decided today was the day to kill each other. So, cut the crap and start the movie already. The girls aren’t going anywhere, Dylan.”

Still embarrassed, I cleared my throat to get their attention. “You guys don’t have to stay in for me. I’ll be okay, Dylan. You know I don’t mind staying alone.”

Looking at my miserable face, Dylan finally shook his head and reached for his plate. “Nah, it’s okay. Jason is right; the girls aren’t going anywhere and we’ve wanted to watch this for weeks, now is as good a time as any.”

The movie started and they both settled back as all my excitement for the night slowly trickled out of me.

When Dylan jumped up and said, “I’ll get the lights,” I was still playing with the paper plate in my lap.

Could he have a girlfriend?

I was sure he didn’t have one. Neither did Dylan actually, not since he’d broken up with his on-again, off-again girlfriend Vicky.

“Don’t worry, little one, it’s not a horror movie or anything. It’s action, you’ll like it,” Jason whispered into my ear before Dylan took his seat again.

Hearing him use the pet name he’d always liked to call me, I managed to put a sincere smile on my face when I looked up at him.

“Thank you. You guys can leave after the movie, you know. I won’t tell Mom and Dad when they come back tomorrow.”

“Are you kidding? I was looking forward to a quiet night in. Pizza and a movie with a beautiful green-eyed girl by my side?” He gave me a light shove with his shoulder. “Your brother is the stupid one, not me.”

Dylan turned off the lights and hopped back onto his seat. Luckily this time I was melting into another puddle on my mother’s not-so-favorite couch. I stayed that way until the end of the movie because Jason’s shoulder stayed plastered to mine the entire time.

About to die from sensory overload, I still had a stupid smile on my face as I headed to my room for the night.

Let the texting begin…


Around 1:30 AM, huddled under my covers, I listened to Dylan’s bedroom door open and close for the second time. The TV in his bedroom was on, but their voices were low. Either they didn’t want to wake me up or they were about to go to sleep, though I highly doubted that was the case.

Reaching for the phone under my pillow, I tried to get a handle on my breathing and erratic heartbeats.

As much as I was dying to text Jason, I was also scared out of my mind.

My fingers as cold as ice, I quickly sent the first text of the night.

Me: Hi Jason.

Original, I know.

I waited to see if I would hear his phone go off, but I couldn’t hear anything. My heart in my throat, I sat up in bed and dropped my head back on the headboard. Maybe Amanda was right. Maybe, this wasn’t the best idea I’d ever come up with…

Jason: Who is this?

There might have been a squeak that escaped from my mouth when the phone lit up in my hand without a sound. In the darkness of my room, an unexplainable rush going through my body, I started talking to Jason as a stranger.

Me: I don’t think you’d know even if I said my name.

Jason: We can’t know if you don’t try me.

Me: My name is Michelle. We go to the same school.

Jason: Hmm… You’re right. I don’t think I know a Michelle.

Me: Can’t exactly say I’m surprised.

Jason: And why would that be, my new friend Michelle?

Already lost in a different world, my fingers stopped flying over the buttons when I heard Dylan’s door open and close quietly. Not knowing whether it was my brother or Jason, I hid the phone under the covers so the light wouldn’t draw attention.

Me: There are always so many people around you. Doesn’t give many opportunities for new people to introduce themselves, I guess. But then again, maybe you already know me.

Jason: That’s interesting. Our friendship is so new, Michelle who is not really Michelle, and you’re already lying to me?

Me: I wouldn’t say it’s lying. Let’s say I’m one of your many admirers and a little shy one at that. Just wanted to talk to you.

Jason: Let’s play your game. What would you like to talk about?

Me: I have no idea. Maybe you can start with where you are and what you are doing?

Jason: Easy enough. As I’m already sure you are not a Michelle, you must already know my friend Dylan, I’m over his place.

Me: I know of him and I know that you are close friends, that’s about it.

Jason: Would you like me to introduce you two? It’ll be like a second introduction for us, too.

Me: Not necessary.

Jason: As you wish, new shy friend. What else would you like to talk about?

Me: Do you have any guesses as to who I could be?

Jason: Oh, another game. You sure are full of games tonight, mystery girl.

Me: It’s not exactly a game for me.

Five minutes passed but no texts came in. When it hit the ten-minute mark, I got anxious, worrying if he already knew who I was and had put a stop it. Getting up from my bed, I started pacing my small bedroom. When the space wasn’t enough, I sneaked out of my room and quietly went downstairs to grab a bottle of water and distract myself with something else.

Padding into the kitchen in a tank top and pajama bottoms, I stopped short when I found Jason staring out the small window over the sink.

“Jason?” I whispered.

Turning to me, he whispered back, “Hey, little one.” His chocolate eyes looked tired for his young age. “What are you doing up so late?”

Spying his phone on the kitchen counter, I forced my gaze away. “Bad dream, I guess. Couldn’t go back to sleep.” Acting nonchalant, I opened the fridge and took out a bottle of water. “What were you looking at?”

“Just at my house.”

“Your mom okay?”

“I don’t know, Olive. I really don’t know.” Letting out a deep sigh, he absently reached for his phone and walked over to me.

“You can talk to me if something’s on your mind.”

He stopped right in front of me, his eyes almost invisible in the dark.

“I can?”

“Of course. I know you worry about your parents sometimes. I can listen if you need to.”

“You’re right, little Olive. I do worry about them, but they are the last thing I want to talk about.”

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, looking down at the floor.

“No need to be. Come and get us if you need anything, all right? I don’t think we’ll go to sleep for a few hours yet.” A gentle tug at my hair and he was gone.

I waited a few minutes before I padded back upstairs.

Just as I was about to go into my room and run for the phone, Dylan peeked out of his room.

“What are you doing, Olive?”

Damn it! Didn’t he have anything else to do other than make my life miserable?

“What are you doing?” I asked back, a little peeved and a little nervous.

He cocked his head, his eyebrows knitted.

“Go back to bed, Olive. It’s late.”

“I was doing exactly that before you stopped me.” I lifted the water bottle in my hand so he could see. “I went downstairs to get a drink, Dylan. I wasn’t doing anything.”

Neither one of us backed up. Just because his friend was staying over, I couldn’t leave my room to get a drink?

“Leave her alone, man.” I heard Jason’s voice coming from behind Dylan.

“Goodnight, Dylan,” I said at last, then slipped into my room without waiting for an answer. Who knew what was up his ass…

Jumping into my bed, I searched for the phone under my covers and had a small freak out when I couldn’t find it. I relaxed when I realized it was under my pillow.

The silly excitement rushing over me once again, I checked the messages only to find no new text messages from Jason.

Settling down, I told myself that I would only send one other text and then maybe try my luck in the morning before Amanda came to get the phone.

Me: What? No guesses? I’m surprised.

Jason: Sorry, I was busy. Which game were we playing again?

Seeing my first opening, I couldn’t help myself and jumped on it. Would he mention me?

Me: Busy? Busy with what? Already found a new friend, huh? You really are quick.

Jason: You amuse me. I was cornered by Dylan’s sister. Not exactly in the arms of another girl.

Not knowing my heart was about to get broken for the very first time, I swallowed the pain the word ‘cornered’ had caused and forced myself to text him back.

Me: It’s almost 2 AM, and you were with Dylan’s sister? This sounds good. Do tell me more.

Jason: She is just a little kid. A clingy one maybe, since she always follows me around, but still a kid. She sometimes forgets that. I’m much more interested in who you are. I’m ready to play. Are you ready to be discovered by me?

I read the text a thousand times, or maybe it was a million. A tear escaped from the corner of my eye, and I drew the covers over myself and lay back.

Gently, I put the phone down and pushed the covers off of my face to stare at my dark ceiling. At some point it buzzed with two new messages, but I ignored them. No, that’s not true, I remember reaching for the phone and deleting everything before the unexpected words could hurt me again, but at that point it was all blurry for me. I couldn’t read them even if I wanted to torture myself.



My heart broken into pieces, suddenly I couldn’t bear to see Jason in the morning. Couldn’t bear to sleep in the room across from him again.

Swinging my legs down from the bed, I didn’t realize I had kicked my own phone into my closet door.

Seconds later, Dylan burst into my room.

“Did you hea—Olive, what happened?”

Wiping at my tears, I looked up at my brother and more fresh tears slid down my already wet cheeks.

When he sat down on my bed and gently put his hand on my back, I threw my arms around him and hid my face in his neck. His arms came around me.

Warm and safe.

I heard footsteps at my door, but I was too scared to lift my head and come face to face with Jason. I didn’t think I would ever be able to look him in the eye again.

My breath hitching against Dylan’s neck, I said, “I’m sorry, just a bad dream.”

“It’s okay, little sis,” Dylan said. He hesitated, then added, “I’m sorry, too.”

The next few days were pure hell for me, having Jason sleep right across the room from mine, sitting right next to him at the dinner table. The worst was when I looked at him and found him smiling at me but knew it meant nothing at all.

Maybe it never had.

Chapter Three


The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was Emily’s worried face hovering over me.

“Good morning,” I said, yawning through the words. “What time is it? Did we miss breakfast?” Sitting up on the makeshift bed I’d made use of almost every other day for the last seven years, I rubbed my eyes and tried to wake up.

“Jason. Honey.” I heard Emily’s struggle with those simple words and became alert at once.

Then my gaze fell on Dylan, who was sitting on the edge of his bed, his head in his hands. I looked up and saw his father, Logan Taylor—a fireman, a man I respected more than my old man—standing in the doorway. His eyes were as hard as steel.

“What’s going on?” I asked no one in particular as something ugly started to find its way into me.

Emily, the woman I loved quite possibly more than my own mom, sat down next to me and gripped my hand in her small, delicate one. She had burn marks on that arm, almost up to her shoulder, but they never bothered me like they surprisingly bothered a lot of people, young and old.

“Jason, I don’t know how to say this.”

Another burst of silence.

“Can someone please say something? Dylan? What’s going on, man?” Still no sound. “Okay, you guys are starting to scare me.”

“Logan,” Emily murmured next to me, her eyes desperately focused on her husband.

Dylan’s father shook his head, dropped his arms, and stepped into the room to sit next to Dylan, right across from me.

When my best friend lifted his head, I saw his bloodshot eyes.

My gaze went back to his father’s steely ones. They were easier to look at. Anger was always easier to handle than emotion; I had learned that from my own family.

“I’m ready,” I said, keeping my eyes on Logan. “Please tell me what’s wrong.”

I didn’t know it, but I was not actually ready for the words he would give me. Nowhere near ready.

“Son,” he started, because that’s what I was to him. “You can handle this.”

It wasn’t a question, but I nodded anyway.

“Your mother overdosed on her sleeping pills last night. She is gone.”

I blinked, once.

I nodded.

My voice thick and rough, I asked, “Who found her?”

“Apparently your father came back from his trip this morning. He called an ambulance, but Lorelai was already gone.”

“I understand. Where is my father?”

“He is at the hospital. I talked to him a few minutes ago.”

Helpless, I nodded again. What else could I do? What else was I supposed to do?

“Thank you,” I said, giving Emily’s hand a quick squeeze. “Thank you for being the ones to tell me.”

Every single person in the room I was sitting in had been more of a family to me than my own could ever be. I appreciated the fact that I could see the concern in their eyes, their concern for me. I never saw anything even close to it in my own mother’s eyes. Her alcohol meant more to her than her own son.

I slowly got up. “I should get back…home, I guess.”

But I had never had a home, had I? This was a home. The house across the street? Not so much.

Dylan and Logan got up with me, but I looked down at Mrs. Taylor. Her eyes were full of tears. She had the same shade of green eyes as her daughter, just as striking as Olive’s. It was soothing to look at.

I leaned down and, surprising myself, brushed a small kiss on her cheek.

“Please don’t cry, Emily. It’s okay. It’ll be okay.”

It sounded more like a question to my ears.

She slowly got up and brushed a tear away, my tear. I wasn’t even aware that I was crying. Her warm hand cupped my cheek and she stared right into my eyes. “Of course it will be okay, Jason. You have us.”

I nodded.

Unexpectedly, I found myself in Dylan’s arms next. “I’m so sorry, man,” he said, holding on to me. I felt Emily’s hand at my back, a soothing caress. Logan was standing next to us, watching over his family.

I was family to them.

I’d earned that place among them.


“Are you sure you don’t want to stay here and finish school with Dylan? I can talk to your dad again,” offered Logan.

The Taylor family was out on their front lawn. Even little Olive had come out to say goodbye with tear-filled eyes. I smiled at her. I could see sparkles in her eyes, sad sparkles maybe, but sparkles nonetheless. She was so full of life and had the most beautiful, captivating green eyes. So rich and alive. The kind that you looked at and let yourself happily drown in. I knew some idiot was bound to break her heart very soon, but I wouldn’t be there to protect her heart right alongside her brother. I wouldn’t be with the people I considered my family.

Instead, I would be in Los Angeles living in an unfamiliar house with a stranger I called Dad who I had never had the chance to get to know. For a quick second I wondered if he was blaming himself for her death. He certainly hadn’t been there when his presence could’ve made a difference. Maybe the ending wouldn’t have changed, maybe a few years down we would’ve still ended up in the same situation, but we would never know. It was too late for everything.

As for what I thought…I blamed life, and him. He was the one who’d chosen to leave us behind when he could’ve been a lawyer in San Francisco just as easily. He was the one who’d chosen to ignore my mother’s quickly deteriorating mental health, or depression, whatever you wanted to call it. And then he’d been the one who’d ignored me when I said his wife was becoming an alcoholic.

In the end, the choices they had made were changing my life.

“He isn’t changing his mind. Believe me, I tried,” I said finally.

I shrugged. Everything had changed except my dad’s decision: we were leaving. Or, more accurately, he was forcing me to leave everything behind.

Kicking at the grass under my foot, I stopped in front of Emily, the kindest, most caring human being. A mother who could never be truly mine.

“I don’t know what to say,” I admitted, words burning in my chest as my eyes continued to look down at my sneakers.


Warm, gentle hands cupped my face and looked into my eyes.

“Do you remember what I said to you the first time we met?” She smiled, her eyes shining just like her daughter’s. “You’re always welcome here. That will never change. Los Angeles isn’t that far away; I’m expecting you to come back whenever you want to or need to. Do you hear what I’m saying?”

“Yes.” I nodded. “I don’t know how to thank you for everything you’ve done for me, for everything you’ve been for me.”

“I don’t need a thank you, Jason. Just make sure you come back to us.” She hesitated, only for half a second, then pulled me down and kissed my cheeks. “Make sure you take care of yourself.” One last look in my eyes, and she let me go.

I wished she wouldn’t.

“Son,” Logan said as he gave me a quick, unexpected hug. “You heard what Emily said, this is your home too. And you always come back to your home. Don’t forget that. We will miss you.”

It seemed like I wasn’t capable of doing anything other than nod that day.

I glanced at Olive and despite my situation, my lips tipped up.

“Cat got your tongue, too, huh?” She just stared at me with those sad, sad eyes. Olive Taylor always had something to say—always. “You’ve got nothing to say, little one?” I asked, chuckling, the sound completely wrong and rough.

“I’m really sorry about your mom, but I hope you’ll be happy in LA.”

The cold tone and what I was seeing in her eyes didn’t match, but before I could say anything, Dylan got up from the steps he was sitting on and Olive hugged her dad’s waist, shutting me out.

Even so, I reached out and gently touched her soft hair, tugging it gently before letting it go for the last time.

“I hope so too. And thank you, little one, I will never forget you.”

A tear slid down from her eye, and before I knew what I was doing, I reached out to capture it with my fingertip.

She closed her eyes and hugged her dad tighter when I touched her, but didn’t say anything.

I looked at the teardrop that rested on my fingertip for a long time and felt a tug on my heartstrings.

“Man,” Dylan said, saving me from my confusing thoughts.

I released a big breath and dropped my finger.

“This sucks,” he said.

I chuckled. “You’re tellin me.”

“I want you to come back the first chance you get, and you are keeping in touch.”

I snapped a sharp salute, causing his mouth to twitch.

Hitting my chin with his knuckles, he groaned. “Oh, man. I can’t believe I’m gonna miss seeing your shitty face every day.”

“Dylan!” Emily admonished.

“Sorry, Mom.” Rubbing the back of his neck, Dylan looked at me sheepishly. “We’ll talk?”

“We’ll talk,” I promised.

“Jason,” my father called out from the car waiting across the street.

“I better go,” I said, taking a few steps back.

Giving Dylan a quick hug and a slap on his back, I said, “Take care of your family, man.”

“You make sure you take care of yourself, too.”

My chest heavy, I looked at all of them one last time and walked away. I wasn’t strong enough to stride away from them without turning back. In the time it took me to cross the street, I looked back three times.

Did it make me a bad person to be happy to see them sad? Happy because I felt loved? Loved and welcome as I’d never been before?

How they stood together as a family was burned into my mind as a happy memory, and then I got into the car and disappeared from their life.

Chapter Four


My emotions waging a war inside me, I clung to my dad and watched Jason get into the black Mercedes. The image of him turning to look at us with a dimpled smile before he got into the car would be burned into my mind as a sad memory for years to come.

Then like every other fleeting moment in life, my first love slowly faded into time.

Chapter Five


Eight years later…

Pushing the private back door of the nightclub open with my shoulder, I dragged the giggling mess out with me. Since she was busy pawing at me with those claw-like fingers, she tripped over her own feet, righting herself at the last moment, her giggling getting even louder. Gripping her waist to make sure she didn’t face plant in those spiky-heeled shoes, I checked the alley to make sure we were alone. As soon as the door closed and the heavy bass of the music drifted away to a buzz, I took Jenna’s hand off my dick and slammed her back against the concrete wall, eating up her moan in a hungry kiss.

Wait, is her name Gemma?

“Take me home, Jason,” she said, her words slightly slurring. She wasn’t drunk—if she were, I wouldn’t do this with her—but for some reason she chose to act like she was. I didn’t care for her games. “Take me home and I’ll show you a few new tricks.”

More giggling.

Jamie maybe?


“This is better, babe. Don’t you feel the thrill?” I asked in a low voice as my lips ghosted over her skin against her throat. “Anyone can walk out on us. Doesn’t that excite you?”

What the hell is her name again? She hadn’t had a big role in the movie, but we’d shared the same set for about a month. She twirled and skipped around me whenever she found me alone in a corner, watching the crew work. She whispered dirty, dirty things in my ear—at least dirty for a girl her age—when no one was around. At last, after countless ‘fuck me eyes’ had been thrown my way at the wrap party that night, little brunette beauty Jessie (???) was about to get the fuck of her life against a concrete wall in the back alley of a club. Looking at her flushed skin and already dazed eyes, I could see that it wasn’t bothering her in the slightest that she was about to get fucked like a cheap hooker, out in the open.

That was all she would be for me, and most likely for the others that would come after me—producers, agents, etc.

“Aww, you can’t wait to slide your dick into my pussy, can you? I can’t wait either. I knew you were crazy about me Jason,” she whispered into my ear right before she licked it, trying to kill my ear with the stabbing motions of her tongue.


I pushed her face away.

Her high-pitched voice buzzed around in my head, making me too aware of the alcohol I had consumed.

Ignoring her words, I lifted Jenna’s skintight silver dress up and over her hips, making sure to caress her toned thighs as she moaned against my neck, her heart racing.

She kept mumbling in between sloppy kisses, but I tuned her out and let myself get lost in her body.

At that point, I wasn’t feeling much, just some sort of house music pounding in my head making it too hard to think clearly. My dick was definitely feeling something as it strained against my jeans, dying to get into her tight pussy.

“You knew you were gonna get fucked tonight, didn’t you…babe?”

Damn it! I still couldn’t remember her name.

“Yes. Yes. I knew you couldn’t stay away.” She gasped as my fingers found their way to her…butterfly? What the hell? Normally I wouldn’t care, but, well, sue me, I was a curious bastard.

I took a step back from her octopus arms and looked down to find a sparkling butterfly holding two flimsy straps around it wings. Her pussy was open for all to see in her crotchless panties—if you could even call them panties, that is.

“Huh,” I muttered. “I guess that makes my job easier.”

My dick was still roaring to get into action so I shrugged her hands off my shoulders and took out a condom from my back pocket, pulling it on pretty quickly considering my buzzed state.

Lifting her thigh as high as it would wrap around me, I entered her in a quick deep thrust as she gasped in delight.

“Jesus, you filled me,” she said in surprise.

“You like that, babe? Is that what you’ve been after for so long? Getting filled up properly?” Another thrust and her eyes fluttered close.

“Yeah, it’s better than what I’ve heard.” Her voice was all dreamy, which made me hesitant to keep fucking her. I didn’t do dreamy. A one-time quick fuck that would get us both off was more my kinda thing. Dreamy led to complicated stuff, and even though I liked to believe that as an actor I could sell a good dream, or hell, even be a good dream, I wasn’t fucked up enough to think that I would find my own happy ending with my career choice. Not everyone would tolerate the lifestyle I led.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job. It was the only thing that made any sort of sense in my life. However, everything else? The constant isolation forced on you, the paparazzi hounding you, everyone dissecting your every little move… After a while it felt like there was a noose around your throat that was being tightened by everyone in your life.

Yes. That’s exactly how I felt.

Indifferent. Tired.

The only time it seemed like I was breathing again was when I was on a movie set, pretending to be someone else.

In a way, my life was a play.

“Oh my god, Jason. Yes. Yes, I knew it would be like this with you.” She moaned as her words slurred. I picked up my pace. This was the only time she’d be getting fucked senseless by me; I should’ve been focused on her.

“Keep it quiet,” I hissed in her ear as her cries started to get higher. “You don’t want to get caught getting fucked in the street, do you?”

“I do. I do. Yes! Yes!”

I dropped my head to her shoulder and raced for the finish line. The quicker this was over, the quicker I could get back to my house.

Grabbing her ass, I wrapped both of her skinny legs around my waist and kept drilling into her. Her sharp cries echoed in the dark alley, blending with the music that was coming through the walls of the nightclub her back was against.

“Oh, fuck me, Jason,” she screeched in my ear.

“That’s what I’m trying to do,” I said through gritted teeth. With all her shrieking, I was already sobering up.

I closed my eyes and tried to focus on the task at hand. When she suddenly tipped over the edge to fucking dreamland, I swore and came after her as she kept squeezing my dick rhythmically.

Tipping my head back, I felt every muscle in my body relax and experienced the bliss I appreciated so much, even if it was only for a few seconds.

That’s exactly when I heard the running footsteps coming from behind us. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the first of many blinding flashlights.

“Fuck,” I swore, my hands quickly getting rid of the condom before they could get to us.

Jenna slumped back on the wall and sighed, an even more doped up smile beginning to form on her lips as she started to fix her hair.

Zipping up my fly, I pulled down her skirt for her as she was too busy already beaming up to our intruders over my shoulder.

Shit! They were almost on us. Thankfully, my body was big enough to hide her from their cameras so I doubted they had gotten any shots of what we’d been doing just seconds before. At best, they would think I’d taken her out for a quick make out session.

“Jason! Jason! Is this a new relationship?” the one with the mustache yelled.

Click. Click. Click.

“Did your love start on set? Are the rumors true?”

“When are you goin’ public with this?”

Click. Click.

“Did you start a relationship to promote your new movie?”

“Jason! Talk to us man! What were you guys doing back here?”

A few of them snickered.

Click. Click. Click.

What’s-her-name threw her arms around my neck and beamed at the cameras. “How did you find us back here? This was supposed to be secret. We were being clever.”

My face a mask of calm, I gently shrugged off her arms yet again and opened the private back door to push her back into the club.

Her eyes were as big as saucers and she couldn’t do anything but gape at me as I closed the door on her face and turned to face the paps still shouting questions at me. Thankfully, there were only seven or eight of them.

“Jason! There is a clip of you with Zoey where it looks like you are getting busy in your car. Now you are with Jennifer, any comments?”

Ah! So that was her name.

“Have a nice evening, guys,” I said in a bored tone, ignoring their questions. I put my hands in my pockets and they parted for me to pass, their voices getting higher and higher in my head. I didn’t specifically hear what they were saying, but I knew I would be getting a phone call first thing the next morning from my agent, Tom Symond, who had become a good friend over the years, and of course my publicist, Megan.

A few minutes later, I was in my car racing back to Bel Air, still as edgy and empty as I’d been at the beginning of the night.

Chapter Six


“Can you please remind me why you couldn’t come with me again?” I whispered to Lucy on the phone as I pressed my forehead to the wall in the corner of the white waiting room where I sat, waiting to be called in.

“Babe, calm down. If it wasn’t the little bitch’s class, you know I’d be there holding your hand every step of the way. The woman already has it out for me; I can’t give her more ammo. By the time you get home, I’ll have the tequila shots ready to celebrate. Focus on that. It’ll help.”

I closed my eyes. I was seconds away from throwing up. To calm down and focus on something else, I started to pace up and down in my little corner. Happy thoughts, I encouraged myself.

Happy, happy thoughts.

There was a blonde girl sitting on the U-shaped white couch. She’d been busy texting away and then taking useless selfies for the last ten minutes. She was all dolled up and had a so very obviously fake tan that was already going splotchy on her. She hadn’t let that thing—that phone that had mickey ears on it—down even for a second ever since she’d stepped in through the doors.

I mean, for god’s sake, how many freaking pictures can you take while sitting in the exact same spot, smiling the same fake smile? I’d stopped counting after thirty.

Looking at her making another pouty face as she squeezed her breasts together with her arms, I groaned.

“I think I’m gonna throw up,” I whispered into my phone.

“Oh shut up. Pull up your big girl panties and bra and wow them with your pretty little smile.”

“Since you are doing such a crappy job with the best friend gig, at least remind me why Char couldn’t come with me?”

Lucy let out a long breath. “Charlotte would be trembling right beside you if you took her with you. That’s why we didn’t tell her where you were going, remember?”

I did. She was right; if Charlotte were there, they would remember us as the shaking duo—not the best first impression you’d want to make with anyone, let alone the studio people who were interested in adapting your book into a fucking movie.

“I hate you.”

“I love you too, my anxious babe.”

“Lucy,” I started again in a miserable tone. “The meeting was at 2:30, it’s almost 3. Maybe I should leave? Maybe they made a mistake scheduling this. I mean, who am I kidding, right? Clearly, this isn’t happening. I don’t want to wait around to see someone jump out and scream, ‘Jokes on you, sucka!’ I just wanna come home. Can I come home, please?”

“No, you can’t come home. I forbid you to come home before you take that meeting and come back with good news and lotsa money. Now, close your eyes.”


“Do it, Olive.”

“Fine. My eyes are closed shut. You can come and pry them open if you want to win the best friend of the year award.”

“I already own the shit out of that award, babe, so that’s a useless threat. Are your eyes closed?”

“Yes,” I huffed.

“Ok. Now, imagine you are a river.”

“Ahhh,” I groaned. Not this crap again. “What are you doing?”

“Calming you the hell down.”

“By telling me I’m a river?”

“Yes. Now, shut up and imagine that you’re a river. You are flowing; no one and nothing can stop you. You feel the sunlight on your…whatever and it makes you happy. You are a twinkle of laughter in the air. Then, you turn into a small waterfall, no, you turn into a majestic waterfall and then yo—”

“Ok, ok, Lucy.” I cut her short before she could sputter more bullshit. “I’m calm. You calmed me down. I’m a cold river that hears twinkles of laughter in the air and then turns into a majestic waterfall thing.”

“Great, good for you. Now, I saw Jameson’s hot ass walk by me so I gotta go and take a bite out of that.” I tried to cut in, but she shushed me. “Make me proud and I’ll meet you at the house. Byeeeeee!”

I opened my mouth, but she had already hung up on me. I lowered my phone and smiled to myself. She hadn’t come anywhere near calming me down, but she always had a way of making me smile.

I looked around the black and white office. Everything looked so expensive: the art on the walls, the furniture, the carpet, even the damn windows looked all expensive and shiny. Feeling naked, nervous, scared, excited—did I mention naked?—I took a step forward to go sit down next to the clicker happy chick, but when I saw her take a selfie stick out of her bag, I decided against it.

Pacing it was.

My gaze landed on the women that sat behind the huge, crescent-shaped reception desk. They all looked like models, not secretaries. Not a single hair on their head was out of place while mine was a crazy wavy mess. I glanced down at my clothes… Well, obviously I didn’t fit in with their pencil skirt, blouse, and high-heeled office attire, but I looked good. Just a few hours before, Lucy had forced me to wear a black bandeau skirt with a simple white shirt and a thin leather jacket. Of course, she had tried to force me to wear high heels, but I had gotten away with wearing my lucky combat boots. I liked to think I looked chic and relaxed in a fashionable sort of way. However, it wasn’t helping me not feel out of place at all.

I focused on the brunette that had told me that I needed to wait a few minutes because the execs were running late. That few minutes had turned into forty minutes exactly one minute ago.

Please, don’t judge me. Normally I’m cool with waiting. Hell, any other time, I would’ve loved to sit down next to the photo chick and take pictures of her taking pictures of herself and have a laugh about it with Lucy and Charlotte when I got back home. But, minutes had a really slow way of moving when you were about to lose your cool and throw up in front of a handful of strangers. I couldn’t be held responsible for all the daggers I was throwing at the model-secretaries.

Hell, shame on them. What kind of cruel people were they that they were playing with my emotions like this? As far as I was concerned, they deserved all the imaginary sharp little daggers.

Finally the brunette met my eyes, held her finger to her ear to listen to whoever was talking on the other the end of her bluetooth thingy, then nodded once.

“Miss Taylor,” she called to me.

I closed my eyes, took a deep, shaky breath, and walked over to her.

She was already up from her seat and walking toward me. We met in the middle.

“I’m a river. I can flow peacefully,” I muttered to myself.

“Excuse me?”

“Oh, nothing. Sorry.” I gave her a shaky smile.

“I’ll walk you to Mr. Thomas’ office. They are ready for you.”

“Thank you,” I said, trying very, very hard to keep my hands at my sides instead of doing something crazy like slipping my hand into hers to steal some of her cool.

That wouldn’t be weird, right?

She gave me a sincere smile, the first one actually, and led the way down the long hallway.

We turned right, passing more expensive paintings, and some movie posters, then we took a left turn, this time passing a whole bunch of small offices. Each time we passed an open door, I was ready to jump out of my skin with nervousness. When we made yet another turn, I was starting to feel like a hamster trying to get to its treat. Then there was only a big door in front of us.

I came to a halt. Was I really doing this? Was this really happening?


Who was I kidding, this was going to be a complete disaster!

I was no majestic waterfall. Not even close.

The brunette stood next to the door and her hand paused on the handle before she pulled it open. Clearly, she was waiting for me to come closer, but I was having none of that. I lifted my eyes up to hers.

Fight or flight?

I was seconds away from flight.

Damn it!

How many turns had we made? Could I even find my way out of that labyrinth of hell without her?

I took an involuntary step back to test the waters and the next thing I knew she was standing right next to me, asking if I was okay, her hand surprisingly strong at my back.

I made an awful, awful mewling sound in my throat and then started coughing. When I was done with all that nonsense, her face had softened up.

“Sorry,” I murmured.

“You are nervous about the meeting?”

“It can’t be that obvious,” I said, trying to chuckle.

“You have nothing to be nervous about. I loved your book,” she stated, shocking the hell out of me.

My eyes widened. “What? You did? You read my book? You actually know who I am? Did you say you liked the book?” I asked, holding my breath. Well, she obviously had good taste; it was a damn good book after all.

“Yes, I did, and of course I know who you are. And right after this meeting, if you accept their offer, a lot more people will know about your story. You hit it big.”

I didn’t want to hit it big or get bigger. I didn’t want to get anything. At that moment, all I wanted was to get in my bed and hide under my covers.

“But you have to go in now.” I could see she was waiting for me to move already. “Mr. Thomas has a packed schedule and he is already behind.” She checked her dainty little watch then looked back at me. “Go on now, there isn’t much time until his next appointment.”

I wasn’t budging.

Before I knew what was happening, she had opened the door and was ushering me inside.

Catching myself before I fell down on my face, I came to a halt and heard the distinct sound of a door closing. I looked over my shoulder.

She was gone.

The traitor!

I turned around and found myself face to face with three suit-wearing men.

For a second I didn’t know what to do, but then I mentally shook myself off and walked toward them.

I was already in for it, might as well look like someone who knew what they were doing.

The bald one—I was assuming he was Bobby Thomas—came forward and met me halfway, quickly offering me his hand.

“Hello, Miss Taylor, I’m Bobby.” He greeted me with an easy smile on his face. If his eyes hadn’t been fixated on my breasts, I would have said he looked friendly.

Annoyed, I angled my face and caught his attention. “Nice to meet you Mr. Thomas,” I said pointedly.

“We’ll have none of that. Call me Bobby. By the end of all this we’ll get to know each other much better.”

I forced a smile on my face and gently pulled my hand out of his grasp.

The other two didn’t get up from their seat, but had their eyes on me again, assessing me.

Walking by my side, Bobby led me to the long table in front of the floor to ceiling windows.

Managing to look around, I noticed that we were in some kind of conference room, which did nothing to calm my nerves down. I was beyond out of my depth here.

“Olive, this is—can I call you Olive?”

“Sure,” I mumbled, distracted by his hand resting on the small of my back.

“Great. Olive, I’d like to introduce you to the youngest member of our company, Keith Cannon.”

With those pale blue eyes and sharp cheekbones, Keith Cannon made a very impressive first impression.

“Nice to meet you Keith. I’m Olive Taylor.”

I smiled up at him and shook his warm hand. He had long, strong fingers. His teeth looked a little too white, a little too blinding to be natural, but it was hard to find natural in LA.

Next to him, a shorter, younger guy who was busily typing away on his laptop got up and briskly shook my hand as Bobby continued with the introductions.

“This is probably very exciting for you, and if we agree on our terms, he will be the screenwriter for the movie. It’s important that we reflect everything in your story onto the big screen as well as you managed to do in a few hundred pages so I wanted you to meet Harry Schuman and hear out his ideas. He is actually here for our next meeting, but we’re running a little late today, so since he is already here, we wanted him to sit in on this with you.”

I nodded and after the pleasantries took my seat across from them.

“We understand that at this time you have no book agent, Olive. Is that right?” Keith asked.

“Yes,” I answered. “This wasn’t something I was expecting to happen. At all. I’m an indie author, and as you must already know, Soul Ache is my first novel, which makes all this even more surreal.”

“We understand that it could be a little overwhelming, but you definitely impressed us with your story and we wanted to get your attention before anyone else could steal you.”

“Keith is right.” Bobby took over again. “We want you to look at this as the first step of our partnership. You don’t have to decide on anything today, but you should know that we are extremely eager to take on this project. You should also be aware that—excuse me.” He paused when his phone pinged with a new text message. Lifting his eyes, he absently waved his hand in a gesture that said ‘keep going’.

“I need to check on something, but please go on without me for a few minutes and I’ll be right back. We might even have a surprise for you, Olive. I think you’ll like it.”

I forced a smile on my lips and then Boobie Bobby was gone.

“Let’s get to it, shall we?” Keith asked and got a nod from both Harry and me. “As Bobby just mentioned, we are interested in optioning your book. But—” He lifted his hand as if to stop me from cutting in.

I’m all ears, Keith. No one is stopping you.

“We wanted to set this meeting so we could get to know each other better and see if we can impress you. After today, if you like what you’re hearing, I’d be happy to set up a lunch meeting so we can go over the details and present you with an option agreement for the exclusive rights.”

“Okay,” I nodded, because that made sense, right? He wasn’t saying anything scary, not at all.

Keith nodded back at me with a big smile that showcased his blinding pearly whites again and kept going. “So, essentially, Olive, we want to stay true to your story as much as we can. You captured so many hearts from so many different age groups, so we want to keep the heart of your story. The only difference is that we want to elevate it even more. Polish the main characters, maybe do a few small changes here and there, add a few new secondary characters, big names from Hollywood of course. We haven’t decided if we want to change the ending yet, but that’s just the details I’m sure you’re not interested in.” Linking his hands together on top of the table, he looked straight at me. “We want the movie to get everyone’s attention.”

Somewhere in the middle of his explanation of the studio’s intentions with my book, had he just said that I wouldn’t be interested in the changes? What on earth was he talking about?

“It all sounds great, but maybe we should take a few steps back,” I said. “I really feel like I’m out of my depth here. When you say a few small changes…?”

“I’ve read your book, Miss Taylor, and while everything was great for a book format, for a movie it won’t translate the same way. Making changes will be necessary at certain parts,” Harry said, speaking for the first time.

“We’ll walk you through everything.” Keith assured me, cutting in. “Usually it takes time—around a year or possibly even more than a year—to gather funding for the movie, to find the right director for the story, the right actors, the production company, and many other steps…but we want to use the buzz of your book to our advantage and keep the momentum going. Since you don’t have a book agent, I would highly suggest you to find one or have a lawyer go over the contract we’ll be presenting you at our next meeting so there won’t be any issues in the future.”

“Sure, sure. But what about those changes?” I asked, feeling more overwhelmed by the second.

Keith must have seen something on my face because his smile softened.

“I don’t think we asked you, would you like to have something to drink? Something to celebrate, maybe?”

“No, I’m good. Thank you.”

“Next time then. So do you have any questions for me?”

I glanced at Harry, but he was having none of it.

“I think I do. First of all, it’s very exciting to hear that you’re interested in my book, but to be honest, the changes you mentioned you want to make are…I don’t know how to put it into words actually. The thing is, I’ve spent years on this novel. While I do want to see my characters come alive on the big screen, I’m not sure if it’s worth it to go through this whole thing only for it to end up completely unrecognizable.” Every word in that book held a special place in my heart.

“You are not interested in selling the movie rights?”

“I didn’t say that. Actually, I did some research and I believe in some cases authors can act as a consultant. Would that be an option for me? Will I have any say in the making of the movie?”

“Olive, trust me, all authors feel the same way as you do at first, but when the project goes forward and the production starts, everything changes. The screenplay isn’t written yet, so we can’t really comment on any changes, but I’ll definitely make sure that you are included in the process.”

Thankfully, I was smart enough to know that having a say in the screenplay and being ‘included in the process’ were nowhere the same thing.

“Let’s talk about the casting,” he said while I was still trying to decide how to answer.

“Isn’t it a little early for that?” I asked, fidgeting in my seat.

“That’s one of the first things we focus on because securing the right actor for the role will change everything. We already have a few names we think would be a perfect fit for Isaac and Genevieve.” He checked the notes in front of him. “For Isaac, your main character, we have one specific actor we are trying to get in touch with, but for Genevieve we have a pool of names we are going through. Do you have any ideas, maybe suggestions for the casting?”

“Well, when I picture them in my mind, I don’t see them as other people.”

Lie, Olive. Lie through your teeth.

“I would love to hear the names you’re considering though,” I added.

Right at the end of my sentence, the door to our left opened and Bobby walked back into the room with another man right beside him. Keith’s gaze shifted toward them too, and before I knew what was happening, Jason walked in behind them, playing with the phone in his hand.

As in Jason fucking Thorn.

My mouth dropped open.


My Jason.

Double, triple shit!

No, not my, my Jason.

Shit! Shit! Shit!

In shock and stuck in my seat, my mouth was still hanging wide open when Bobby chuckled, drawing my attention. I’m sure I was a sight to see.

“Olive, I want—” Bobby’s mouth was moving, but none of it was getting through to me.

Remember the peaceful waterfall Lucy tried to trick me into believing I was?

It was gone. All dried up. It was a disaster, really.

I was an avalanche—the mother of all avalanches to be precise.

Jumping up from my seat in a rush, I turned my back to them before Jason could notice me. Maybe I was acting crazy, but there weren’t that many Olives in the world. What if he remembered me? Remembered my name?

Damn it!

What if he saw my last name on the book cover that was sitting so prettily in the middle of the table?

Searching for a quick exit, I found none. Surely it would hurt a bit too much if I tried to break the window and jump out. Noticing the bar cart next to the window, I shakily made my way toward it.

Damn that Keith guy, why did he keep calling my name?

Reaching for the pitcher of water that had floating lemon and lime slices in it, I grabbed a glass and started pouring. Since my hands were shaking, some of it didn’t land in the glass, but who cared. As soon as it was half full, I chugged it down and poured another one.

Alcohol would’ve worked much better, but water was doing the trick.

Someone touched my arm, and I was ashamed to say I almost lost my grip on the pitcher, making an even bigger fool of myself.

“Olive, are you okay?”

Noticing it was just Keith, I slowly lowered the pitcher down and clung to my glass.

“Ah, sorry. I don’t know what came over me.” I tried to smile, but to him it probably looked more like a grimace.

Keith chuckled. “It’s not every day you see a movie star this close. I understand your excitement.”

He understood nothing. Why was he talking about Jason as if he was an animal in a zoo?

“Let’s take our seats again so we can introduce you two. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

Actually I’d hate that, thank you very much.

There went my hopes that maybe Keith would be nice enough to smuggle me out of there.

“Sure,” I mumbled, using the glass of water as a shield in front of my face.

When I glanced at the table, I saw that Harry was gone and Bobby had taken his seat. Next to him sat the man who had walked in next to Bobby.

And then, there was Jason…

I tried not to look at him at all.

Dear God, please help me breathe.

Still using the glass as my shield as I kept sipping water, I sat down right across from the unknown guy—who had an amused expression on his face—and then I jumped a little and sloshed water on myself when Keith pulled out the chair next to mine and sat down.

Jesus…get a grip, Olive.

I was ready to jump out of my skin and run away to find Lucy so I could kill her. Surely this was all happening because she hadn’t come with me.

Keith started the introductions. “This is Jason’s agent, Tom Symond, and this is the author I mentioned to you, Tom, Olive T—”

“So very nice to meet you,” I said in a louder voice than Keith’s, interrupting him before he could say my last name.

Tom Symond chuckled, rose up, and reached for my hand.

Then I had to get up, too. Don’t you just hate being civil sometimes? As we were shaking hands, I slipped and glanced at Jason since he was being so quiet. When I noticed he was looking at me with a frown on his face, I quickly looked away, sat down, and reached for my beloved water glass.

“Jason Thorn is who we want for the role of Isaac. We think he’ll be perfect,” Keith started up again.

Damn, but the guy talked too much.

“We still have a lot of things to talk about, Keith, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” said Tom.

I nodded enthusiastically. What kind of hell was I in that they had brought in the ONE actor that I would be—

“Olive Taylor?”

Oh, god…

Death could be so peaceful. My own heaven. Didn’t that sound nice? Breathing was so overrated anyway.

“Olive?” Jason asked again in a surprised voice. There was complete silence in the room.

My stomach grumbled.

Anyone up there? Kill me.

Kill me now.

“Nice to meet you…Mr. Jason Thorn,” I said miserably when nobody else spoke for several seconds, silently shaving off years of my life.

Of all the things I could’ve said at that moment, of all the things I could’ve been doing instead of sitting there shaking like a leaf…

“Little one,” he said once he got up from his seat. There was affection in his voice. Definitely surprise, too, but mostly affection.

All the hairs on my body stood up.

Jason was already rounding the table coming toward me. No escape now.

Defeated, I let go of my water glass and pushed my chair back to face Jason.

Once he reached me, only two steps separated us. Two short steps after not seeing him for so many years.

“Olive,” he said, his lips cracking into a big grin. His eyes took in every inch of my body, causing me to blush.

Then he was in my space, his hands cradling my already flushed face. Involuntarily, I took a step back, my ass almost sitting on the table. He just came with me.

“Little one, look at you.” He laughed, triggering a smile on my face. “I can’t believe it, Olive. Fuck, look at you,” he repeated again.

The dimple? It was still as heartwarming to see as it had been the first day I’d met him.

“Hi,” I said, lifting my hand in a little wave.

He threw back his head and laughed.


“Mr. Jason Thorn? That’s what you say to me?”

“Yeah, sorry about that,” I mumbled, my face heating up.

“Jason?” his agent asked from behind. “You know her?”

“Yeah, I know her,” Jason answered, his eyes still on me. “I was her favorite person in the whole wide world. She said so herself when she was eight years old.” He tilted his head, his eyes narrowing. “Or was it maybe seven?”

“Probably seven,” I muttered and closed my eyes. Yup, I had done that, because he had been exactly that for me.

“Oh, this is a nice surprise,” Bobby cut into our unexpected reunion. “We didn’t know you two knew each other. This will definitely be a plus for the project.”

Jason winked at me.

My heart fluttered.

Then his hands finally left my face alone, only to grab my hand and turn back to Tom.

“You can handle this?”

“Of course, but I think you should stay. We’ll keep it short,” Tom responded.


“You can take care of everything.”

“Jason, wait a minute.”

Yes, Jason! Wait a minute!

His gaze landed on Bobby. “I’m in. You can go over everything with Tom.”

He was in? In what? IN WHAT? Certainly not my book?

“Are you done with your meeting with Olive?” he asked Keith next.

Hello, people! Am I not still standing here?

Keith’s gaze found my startled one before he answered Jason’s question. “I’ll send you the contract and personally call you to schedule a lunch date. We’ll go over the optioning agreement with you and make the necessary changes then.”

I was starting to feel dizzy. Had I said okay to their proposal already?

Absentmindedly, I nodded.

“Call me when the meeting is done, Tom,” Jason said as he pulled me behind him.

“I can’t believe this,” he muttered as soon as we were out the door and in the maze again.

Other than being shocked into silence, I just hoped he had been in the building enough times to know how to get out of the damn thing.

One hand engulfed in Jason’s, the other flailing behind me with my handbag, I tried to keep up with his big strides.

Is this really happening?

Just when I saw the light and thought we were finally out, I was pulled into an empty office and those dark chocolate eyes of his focused completely on me.

“Olive, you are beautiful,” he said after we took in each other in the thick silence. “You’ve grown up so much.”


“I did do that. You look very good, Jason. It’s nice to see you.”

Was that my voice that was trembling? He was still my first crush and my first heartbreak, but he was also Jason Thorn. The Jason Thorn who was only twenty-six and had two Oscar nominations under his belt, but I wasn’t going to think about what was under his belt because that would be bad. Really bad. He was one of the most versatile leading actor in the industry. Did I mention he was the best? He was more than just an actor. He was a star—a troubled one, I should say, but still a big, shiny star. Any other woman would be jumping on him if they ever found themselves locked in a room with him, which I believed they usually did.

I, however, was slowly stepping back toward freedom.

“That’s it? That’s all you’re gonna say to me?”

The last day I’d smiled up at him, he had managed to stomp on my heart with a simple text message, not even knowing he was stomping on it. The last time he had tugged my hair as a goodbye had been the last time I’d ever heard from him.

Sure, he had texted and called Dylan for the following few weeks, but after that I don’t think even Dylan heard from him again. One year later, we had watched his first movie as a family in the same living room where he had spent countless hours with us.

“I’m too shocked, I don’t know what to say really,” I blurted before I could say something stupid.

“I am too, but, god, look at you, little one.” Another slow perusal of my body. “I didn’t even recognize you when I first walked into the room. What are the odds?”

“Right?” I chuckled nervously. “What are the damn odds…”

“You have to tell me everything.”

“Everything? What do you mean?”

“Dylan? Is he here in LA. too? How about your mom and dad? Is everyone okay?”

“Yes. They are all fine. Mom and Dad still live in San Francisco. Same house, actually. Dylan is in D.C. He is a teacher, and married to the sweetest girl. Can you believe that?”

I kept walking backwards.

Small steps, Olive. You’re so close to freedom.

“Actually, I can.” His smile got even bigger as he sat on the edge of the office desk. “He wanted to be a teacher ever since middle school or something like that, and family was always important to him. No wonder he couldn’t wait to start his own.”

Finally reaching the door, I rested my back against it and waited for the perfect moment to escape.

“God, Olive, you can’t even imagine how much I missed you guys.”

“When you stopped calling, they missed you too.”

He arched an eyebrow. “So, you didn’t miss me?”

You hurt me, you big, sexy meanie, I wanted to say.

“Um, sure. Of course.”

His dimple disappeared and he straightened. When he started walking toward me, I had nowhere to run.

“What’s wrong with you, little Olive?” Reaching out, he tugged a strand of my hair, a gesture so old that it tugged at something in my heart. “I’m not your friend any more?”

He had remembered. The hair-tugging thing he had started doing every single time he saw me was like a warm ‘hello’ from him. I used to love it, thinking he couldn’t keep his hands off of me. I had been in love with him. You could call it a crush, but for me, it was pure love. He’d been my one and only wish on every single one of my birthdays.

“I would’ve thought you’d be happy to see me, too, Olive. If not happy, hell, maybe a little excited. My ego is taking a real beating.”

“Sorry,” I said, wincing a little. “It’s been a…a weird day, to say the least.”

“Still not admitting that she missed me,” he muttered almost to himself. His eyes seemed to be taking in every inch of my face, yet I chose to focus on a spot over his shoulder. His face wasn’t strange to me, as mine was to him. And I remembered that tender look all too well. Hell, it was just one of the things that made me swoon for him.

“You’re a writer,” he commented, as if the thought had just occurred to him.

“Looks like it.”

He hit me with that dimple again. “Tonight I’ll be reading your words.”

Panicking, I said, “Oh, you really don’t have to. It’s not even that good. It’s my first book and these people are plain crazy.” His smile got bigger and bigger. “I might even be getting punked right now. I’m being serious, you wouldn’t even like it, Jason. And what kind of a movie star are you that you have enough time to read a book?”

There was sex in that book! Pounding. Fucking. Sucking. Orgasming.

Oh, dear god. There were words like cock and pussy!

He chuckled. “Now you’ve intrigued me even more. I’ll have to read it as soon as I get home. Plus”—he lifted a finger when I opened my mouth to object again—“I just said I’m in to the studio execs who are interested in turning your book into a feature film. I think I should know what I’m signing up for, don’t you think?”

“Why did you even say that if you have no idea what it’s about?”

“My agent dragged me here, saying it was a good choice for me. I’m guessing he knows about your book and I trust him.”

“Fine. You go do that. I have to go.” Taking a step to my right, I opened the door. “It was so good to see you. Goodbye now.”

His eyes lit up. “There’s the little Olive I know.”

Before I could pull my hand away, he grabbed it as if he was getting ready to walk a kid across the road.

Why did my heart flutter so much every time he touched me even though it was obvious that he still saw me as his best friend’s little sister, the kiddo?

“What are you doing?” I asked as I was being pulled toward freedom.

“I’ll drop you off wherever you want to go.”

“You don’t even know where I live. What if it’s an hour away? I’m seriously starting to doubt your movie star status.”

Again, that chuckle. “It’ll be fun. I promise to entertain you the entire hour, little one.”

“It’s not an hour. Seriously, I can get there in like no time.”

“Then you won’t suffer too much in my presence.”

“Were you always this stubborn when you were little?” I asked, starting to get a little annoyed about being pulled around like a doll.

“Oh, sweetheart,” he said softly, looking over his shoulder, the annoying dimple winking at me. “You were always the little one, not me.”

Chapter Seven


After pushing a reluctant Olive into my car, I rounded it and got in as she was mumbling something about killing someone.

Amused, I asked, “Are we going on a killing spree?”

I still couldn’t believe my eyes, that she was actually there.

Frowning, she looked at me, her hand jerkily pulling on the seatbelt. “What?”

“Easy there killer.” I smiled and leaned over her to take care of her little dilemma.

My nose was almost touching her cheek. Mmm. She smelled like apples, fresh and sweet.

I felt her stiffen.

My little Olive.

Securing her, I leaned back and my eyes zeroed in on her parted lips. “There you go.”

“Thank you,” she mumbled, looking anywhere but me. I looked away, too.

“So, you were muttering about killing someone?”

“Lucy. My friend.”

“What did she do to deserve such a gruesome death?”

Starting the car, I discreetly glanced at her.

The little girl who had always given me the biggest smiles was long gone. While it looked like she hadn’t changed at all, I knew everything had changed. It looked like I wasn’t the receiver of any smiles any more.

“I can’t be that bad of company, can I?” I asked before she could reply about her friend.

She gave me a small smile. Not one of her beautiful ones that used to light up her eyes and flush her cheeks, but still a sincere one nonetheless.

“No, you are not that bad. You can drop me off at USC, I’ll find my friends.”

“You go there?”


“Come on, Olive. Don’t be like that. Tell me more about what you’ve been up to. I still can’t believe we found each other here out of all the other places in LA.”

“A coffee shop or something like that would’ve been more like it, wouldn’it?”

“Exactly. A studio exec’s office? No way in hell.”

She chuckled. “It is a little weird, isn’t it?”

“Weird? I don’t know, probably. You never were an ordinary girl, though.”

Stopping at the red light, I faced her. She was looking out the window, her hands resting on her lap in tight little fists. I tugged at a strand of her strawberry blonde hair—which looked much lighter than it had years before—and she looked at me. I smiled and said, “Hi.”

She bit on her lower lip and smiled back shyly. “Hi back.”

“I missed you, little one. I didn’t even know how much until I saw you.” Her smile faltered a bit, but she managed to turn it into a lopsided smile, which looked strangely attractive on her.

The light turned green and I had to give my attention to the road, special cargo and all that. Several minutes passed by with neither one of us saying anything, then we both spoke at the same time.

“Did you—”

“Can I—”

I chuckled. “You go first.”

“I just wanted to ask why you stopped calling Dylan. For a while there, he used to get touchy if someone mentioned you. I think he didn’t want to show how upset he was. I know it’s none of my business and you certainly don’t have to answer if you don’t want to, but I’ve always wondered.”

When the car in front of me stopped due to traffic, I changed lanes and slowed down. Rubbing the back of my neck, I let out a deep breath.

“You don’t have to answer,” she repeated before I could form an answer in my mind. I didn’t have a good enough reason to give to her.

“No, it’s okay, little one. I know it was a shitty thing to do after everything your family had done for me. To be honest, the first few weeks were really hard. Maybe you remember,” I said, glancing at her. “My father and I were never close, and my mother’s death didn’t change anything on that front. The day I left you guys, he didn’t even speak one word to me the entire ride here. When we finally made it, he showed me to an empty room in a big house and went back to his clients. Just like that. I barely saw him, and he certainly didn’t care what I was doing. Unfortunately, it only got worse after that. I didn’t want to be that kid who only called to complain. And, don’t tell your mom, but I think if I had talked to Emily about how I was doing, I would’ve broken down and cried like a baby when I heard her call me sweetheart in that tone of hers. Lying to Dylan was surprisingly easier.” When she didn’t say anything, I continued. “And in time, with school and then the movie stuff…”

It sounded lame even to my own ears.

“I’m sorry you had a rough time when you first got here, but you must be so happy now. I’m glad things turned out for the better. When we watched your first movie, I think I saw Mom wipe away tears more than a few times.”

“She cried for an action movie?”

“You were shot, and well, I think she cried because she was proud of you.”

An arrow straight to my chest. When my mother had passed out from her daily drinking, consequently locking me out for the night, Emily had taken me in. After that night, I’d stayed at their house more than I had at my own. She’d been a better mom to me than my own could ever be. Dylan was my brother and Olive…well, Olive had been my friend, too. They were the only family I’d known. It was as simple as that.

“You really didn’t miss me?” I asked, trying to diffuse the heavy quiet in the car. “Didn’t wait by the phone for my call? Come on, don’t be shy. You can tell me.” I watched her out of the corner of my eye.

She laughed. It was beautiful to watch.

“I definitely didn’t wait by the phone.”

“But you admit to missing me, don’t you?”

“Maybe,” she said so quietly that I wasn’t even sure if I’d heard her right.

When her phone rang, she gave me an apologetic look and answered it.

“Where are you? No. Okay. Yes, the meeting is over, I’m on my way back. Ok, I’ll be home soon. No! No, wait inside. Lucy, I swear to god, if I find you outside—Hello? Lucy? Damn you!”

“Something wrong?” I asked, amused.

“No, it’s okay. Well, good news for you, you don’t have to drive me all the way to USC. We’re closer to the house.”

“Lucy is your roommate?”

“One of them.”

“How many roommates do you have?”

“With Lucy, three.”

“Is it hard?”

“Not really. I mean, we’re all friends, so I guess it’s easier than it would be if they were complete strangers.”

After she gave me the address, we were quiet for the rest of the ride. Fuck, but I couldn’t stop glancing at her. She had the same little nose, that same spark in her eyes, yet she was so different than when I had last seen her. The worst part? She had boobs—boobs big enough that they’d cushioned my arm when I had accidentally encountered them as I secured her in.

Fuck me, but my little Olive—the same little girl I had protected from shitty bullies—was not so little any more.

“Is this the right street?” I asked when I took a right turn.

“Yes. You can stop here. I took enough of your time already.”

“Don’t be like that. Tell me which building it is.”

“Maybe I don’t want you to know where I live.”

I gave her an exasperated look, and she gave me an annoyed one, which only made me laugh.

She huffed and pointed to an old building. “Do you see those three people waiting there?”

“That old building?”

“Yeah that one.”

Coming to a stop in front of the building she had pointed out, I turned off the engine.

“Is this place safe?” I asked, leaning toward her to glance at the building through her window.

“Safe enough.” With a quickness I wasn’t expecting, she opened the door and got out. Leaning down to look at me through the open door, she said, “Thank you for dropping me off, Jason. It was really nice to see you again. I’m glad we did this. Don’t read the book because it kinda sucks if you ask me. Have a nice life. Bye.”

She shut the door on my smiling face. Ah. She was acting as if she could get away that easily now that I’d found her.

Chuckling to myself, I reached for my Ray-Bans and stepped out of the car. Following her, I watched a girl separate from the other two and run straight into Olive’s arms, all screaming and jumping.

The other girl had an equally big smile on her face when she finally reached the jumping duo. The guy? He didn’t look that happy at all.

“Start from the beginning, you have to tell us everything. Do they want the movie rights? Did you say yes? How much did they offer? Who will play Isaac?” I heard her friend ask rapidly. I couldn’t hear Olive’s answers, but I was aware that she was trying to herd them back toward the building.

And she hadn’t noticed me—yet.

“Olive,” I said next to her ear when her friend focused on the other two and was looking over her shoulder.

“Jesus!” she screamed turning around.

Chapter Eight


My heart beating in my throat, I turned around to find Jason smiling at me.

“Not so fast, little one,” he said.

Grabbing his arm, I managed to pull him a few steps away. “What are you doing? They will recognize you!”

I chanced a look behind me. From what I could see of the three open mouths, it was already too late.

“So what? I want to meet your friends.”

“Jason. Are you sure you are okay? Shouldn’t you be…I don’t know, a little more concerned about being in public?”

“No one is around. It’s okay, Olive. Relax, I won’t embarrass you. I promise,” he said in a different tone.

My heart clenched. “It wasn’t that. I’m sorry. Let’s introduce you then.”

Lucy was the first one to close her mouth and grin like a cat that was about to bathe in the cream.

“You must be Lucy, the one who is facing a bloody death,” Jason said, giving her a sincere smile.

“Yep, that’s probably me.” Lucy had that starry look in her eyes when she finally shook Jason’s hand.

“This is Charlotte, and Marcus.” I took over when Lucy finally let go of his hand.

“Nice to meet you guys,” Jason said.

When Lucy glanced at me questioningly, I sighed, “Jason had a meeting after mine, and they were running late, and then he was in my meeting so he recognized me and offered to drop me off.”

That short but to the point explanation would only hold her off until we got into our apartment.

“You two know each other?” Marcus asked with a confused frown on his face.

Marcus was a completely different matter. He was my roommate and my ex, and the more my book took off, the more annoyed he got.

I felt Jason’s hand on the small of my back. It was a light touch, but it was enough to make my entire body buzz with excitement.

Stupid, traitorous body.

“Jason was my brother’s best friend. He used to practically live with us,” I said to Marcus.

“You never mentioned that.”

“I’m sorry? I didn’t think you would be interested in knowing that.”

Lucy cut in. “Oh, shut up, Marcus. I knew, and frankly, that’s enough. Would you like to come up?” she asked Jason, softening her tone.

“I would love to, but I’m afraid it will have to wait until next time.” Turning to me, he said, “Can I see your phone?”

“Why?” I asked suspiciously.

“I want to get Dylan’s number.”

Ah, right. It wasn’t like he would want mine. Nodding, I took it out of my bag and handed it over.

“Olive.” Getting my attention, Char touched my arm. “I’m dying to hear what happened at the meeting and if you said yes, but I have to meet with my study group…” She glanced down at her watch. “In half an hour. I’ll catch up with you when I get back, ok?”

“Sure, we’ll talk when you get back.”

Blowing us a quick kiss, she slipped away.

Before I could ask Jason why it was taking so long to get Dylan’s number, Marcus caught my eyes, shook his head, turned around, and left.

“What’s wrong with him?” I asked Lucy, making sure Jason couldn’t hear.

“Who knows? He is in one of his moods, I guess. Don’t worry about him.”

Jason handed my phone back, our fingers touching for a quick second.

Those old, childish butterflies I’d thought were long gone? They all came back with a vengeance, which scared me more than anything that had happened that day.

“I put my own number in there and I want you to call me whenever you need anything, ok?”

As if I would ever repeat that mistake again.

“Since I have a feeling you won’t do that, I’ll make sure to text you as soon as I start reading the book. I’ll let you know what I think.”

“You’re not going to let it go, are you?”

His grin grew bigger. “Not a chance in hell, little one.”

After he said goodbye to Lucy, he looked at me one more time. Then, cupping my face yet again, he pressed an unexpected kiss on my forehead, rendering me completely speechless.

“I’ll see you soon,” he said, and then he was gone.

“Now,” Lucy started as she hooked her arm in mine and started dragging me toward our building. “I’m gonna hold my tongue until we take those stairs up, get in your room, close your door, and lay next to each other on that bed. That should give both of us enough time to take in what just happened. However, when our hearts finally stop going haywire over that fine piece of ass, you’ll answer every single question I ask. Is that understood? Nod if it is.”

I nodded.


“Wait a minute. He pulled you out of the meeting? But did you say yes before he dragged you out? Is this awesome movie happening or not?”

I was just as baffled as she was. “It looks like it is.”

We were sitting next to each other on my bed, facing the window that looked out to an already darkening sky. My room was only big enough to fit a queen bed and a small closet/dresser, but since my bed was slightly bigger than her full one, it was our regular meeting spot for late night talks and snacks.

“And why are we not more excited about this huge, huge life-changing thing? You’re kinda making it sound like it’s nothing.”

“Seeing Jason eclipsed that little nugget. Oh, Lucy.” Closing my eyes, I sighed and fell back onto my pillows. “I acted like a total idiot. I was mortified when I saw him walk in that door, but then why did I feel that rush when he grabbed me by my hand, or when he looked at me as if he was really seeing me? Why did…” I struggled to find the right words. “Why did my heart feel like it was burning?” I threw my arm over my eyes and released a sigh. “But then I remembered how much it hurt to read what he thought of me that night, and I couldn’t look him in the eyes. I called him Mr. Jason Thorn for crying out loud! I made a complete fool of myself in front of everyone.”

Lucy gently lay down next to me and I opened my eyes to look into her stormy gray ones.

“But the waterfall trick worked, didn’t it? You were all calm and collected until Hotness Overload walked in and your ovaries exploded along with your heart.”

I smiled. “That’s one way to put it, I guess.”

“Do you still love him?” she asked after a long beat of silence.

I chuckled. “Along with millions of other women. Who doesn’t love Jason Thorn?” Lucy ignored my answer and pointedly kept looking at me until I gave up. “He is not the same kid who slept right across from my room, Lucy. I’m not in love with him like that any more.”

“I don’t believe you, my green Olive.” She bopped my nose with her fingertip.

“It doesn’t matter whether you do or not. I doubt I’ll see him again any time soon.” I patted her arm. “Don’t worry though, I’ll take you to see his next movie. You can still salivate while you are watching his abs. Isn’t that coming out like next month?”

After seeing and talking to him again after so many years, wouldn’t it be a solid kick in my stomach when I saw him kiss his costar? And right when I was starting to get used to seeing him in a lip lock.

She sighed. “No, still two months away. And anyway, it’s not the same as seeing him face to face. Do you think he would’ve taken his shirt off if you’d asked nicely? I’m forever ruined after seeing him show that dimple to you and then kiss your freaking forehead. If I didn’t know you still loved him—”

“I don’t love him.”

“I would’ve jumped on him and quite possibly licked that dimple while my hands accidentally wandered to places every girl would give their firstborn to get a peek at.” She did a whole body shudder.

“Ahh, don’t be disgusting.” I made a funny face at her. “And don’t do that to any guy when I’m around, please.”

“Why? Licking is a natural urge. When you think of it, you actually start to learn how to lick properly when you are just kid. All those lollies and ice creams you licked to death? That was just training. Do you think he wouldn’t love it if you licked his dimple and let your hands roam around for bit?”

“He sees me as his sister, Lucy. Of course he wouldn’t like having my tongue anywhere near his face, or my hand for that matter.”

“Says who?”

“Says every guy who’s had a best friend’s little sister fall in love with him. When you think about it, it actually does sound a little annoying. There he is trying to have a family moment, which he didn’t get at his own home, and there I am popping up wherever he goes, sticking to him like a glue. He was just nice enough not to say anything to my face.”

Lucy turned fully toward me, her eyes sparkling with mischief. “Maybe he’ll fall in love with you this time around. Then I could see his abs any time I wanted. Damn, I could quite possibly get away with copping a feel.”

“I’d say don’t hold your breath. I gave up on that dream exactly seven years…four months, and some days ago. Not that I’m counting or anything.”

Lucy snorted. “Of course not.”

My phone pinged with a new text message and before I could even lift my head off the pillows, Lucy was off the bed and digging into my handbag.

“Who is it?” I asked. “Is it Char? Can you text her back and remind her to buy toilet paper on her way back? There was no way I was going to ask the Jason Thorn to stop at the grocery store to buy some toilet paper. Why are you smirking, Lucy? What did she say?”

“Oh, I have a feeling I’m going to love this,” she replied with an evil grin on her face as she typed away an answer.

“What are you talking about?”

She threw the phone at me, almost breaking my chin in the process, and ran out of my room straight to her own.

Perplexed, I looked down at the text message I had gotten…and evidently answered.

Jason: The Marcus guy, your boyfriend?

Me: No, just the ex. I’m one hundred percent single.

“I hate you so much!” I yelled as I heard the answering cackle coming from her room. The phone pinged with a new one again.

Jason: Good. I don’t like him.

Quickly, I typed back.

Me: Why on earth?

Jason: I didn’t like the way he treated you.

Me: You only saw him for a few seconds, how would you know how he treats me?

Jason: I have eyes.

Me: How surprising. I hadn’t noticed.

Jason: Just got off the phone with your brother after talking to your parents. All is good. He says hi. After dinner, I’m going to download your book and start getting ready for my upcoming role.

Me: Glad you were able to patch things up. Talk to you in a few years.

“Olive?” I heard Lucy yell from the safety of her own room. “The suspense is killing me!”

“I still hate you,” I yelled back.

“Oh, I love you too, but, I meant what is he texting?”

“You’ll never know.”

She came out of her room and gave me the most innocent look with those pouty red lips and innocent eyes.

Just when she was about to sit down next to me, Marcus appeared at my door.

“Olive, can we talk for a second?”

I straightened up and invited him in.

Lucy eyed Marcus for a few seconds before she looked at me and said, “I’m going to hop in the shower before I go to bed, I have an early class in the morning. Before I sleep, I’m gonna stalk your Amazon ranking for a while. Talk to you later my green Olive.”

They threw each other hostile glances as Marcus entered my room and Lucy got out. It wasn’t that Lucy hated Marcus as a person—they’d actually been friends with each other longer than they had been with me—she just hated the fact that Marcus had dumped me because he thought I was spending too much time with the fictional characters I’d created in my mind. He never thought I would actually publish, let alone be successful on my first try as a writer. Honestly, neither had I, but that wasn’t the point.

Closing the door, he crossed his arms across his chest and leaned back on the wall, watching me with silent eyes. When he didn’t like something, he always did that. Always stared you down until you squirmed in your seat before he actually opened his mouth to let you know what was wrong.

“Is this what you want to do with your future, Liv?”

Oh and also, he never ever called me by my full name. He found it ridiculous.

“What do you mean?”

“Char said you skipped a class today.”

“Yes,” I said slowly, wondering where he was going with that. “I had a meeting.”

“Is that what’s important to you now? Hanging around movie stars and squealing with Lucy?”

“I know one movie star, Marcus, only one, and Jason insisting on giving me a ride home isn’t exactly hanging around a bunch of movie stars. Like I said downstairs, I was seven years old when we met him, as a family, not just me. He was barely eleven twelve himself. He was like a second brother to me.”

I wondered how many times I would have to lie with a straight face before the day would end. But it wasn’t exactly a lie, was it? He did see me as his sister. It was me and my heart who had muddled the waters in my own head, and all of that aside, I still cared what Marcus thought of me.

Despite what Lucy and Char thought, for the short year we were together, I’d been all in with Marcus. He was intelligent, interested in me, confident in himself, and had a vision for his future—one I wanted to be part of. Having a relationship with someone I already shared a house with had been oddly exciting. And the sex? That was good too, especially when we were sneaking around Char and Lucy.

It had felt like we were right for each other until he decided to slowly tear me down and mold me into something I wasn’t ever going to be.

He quirked his brow. “Are you sure? You didn’t look like someone who had seen her long lost brother to me down there.”

“Why do you