Authors: Alyssa Rose Ivy
Tags: #The Forged Chronicles, #Book 1
2015 Alyssa Rose Ivy
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written approval of the author.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Photo and cover design by Sara Eirew Photographer
he Crescent Chronicles
Flight (The Crescent Chronicles #1)
Focus (The Crescent Chronicles #2)
Found (The Crescent Chronicles #3)
First & Forever (The Crescent Chronicles #4)
he Empire Chronicles
Soar (The Empire Chronicles #1)
Search (The Empire Chronicles #2)
Stay (The Empire Chronicles #3)
Savor (The Empire Chronicles #4)
he Allure Chronicles
Seduction’s Kiss (The Allure Chronicles #0.5)
Lure (The Allure Chronicles #1)
he Dire Wolves Chronicles
Dire (The Dire Wolves Chronicles #1)
Dusk (The Dire Wolves Chronicles #2)
he Hazards Series
The Hazards of Skinny Dipping
The Hazards of a One Night Stand
The Hazards of Sex on the Beach
The Hazards of Mistletoe
The Hazards of Sleeping with a Friend
Shaken Not Stirred
On The Rocks
he Afterglow Trilogy
Beckoning Light (The Afterglow Trilogy #1)
Perilous Light (The Afterglow Trilogy #2)
Enduring Light (The Afterglow Trilogy #3)
who has ever wanted to step through the gate.
he dated rock
music was giving me a headache. If not for the alcohol still left in my glass I would have been out of the bar already. Even the redhead hanging on my every word was getting to me. Did girls no longer believe in the chase?
“James?” she said my name with an exaggerated southern drawl that came across as almost fake. It probably was.
“Yes?” I blinked a few times trying to bring things back into focus. I had drunk far too much, but there was nothing I could do about that now.
“Are you even listening to me?” She tapped her fingers on the bar top between us.
“No.” I took in the faded blue paint on the walls. The place had seen better days, but it served my needs perfectly. No one thought anything of the quiet guy getting plastered at the bar. I blended in.
“I asked you if you wanted to take me home. I only live a few blocks from here.” She put her hand on my upper thigh.
I looked into her glazed over green eyes. “Probably not.”
“Oh.” Hurt marred her overly made-up face, and for a second I felt bad, but then it faded. She would be even more hurt when I left her in the morning. Besides, if she was half as drunk as I was, she had no idea what she was asking.
“I am doing you a favor.” I downed the rest of my beer. It was some crappy lager I had no plans to try again. I had chosen it as an alternative to the whiskey that had filled my glass earlier in the evening.
“Oh.” She stared at me blankly. She clearly liked that word.
“See you around.” I moved over a stool to make sure she got the less than subtle hint. I did not particularly enjoy being mean, but I had no time or energy to play nice.
Loud laughter got my attention. “Cold.”
I looked at the aging bartender chuckling in front of me before glancing down at the now vacant stool the redhead had been seated on. “Honesty.”
“You have to admit that was harsh.” He leaned on his elbows. “Do you usually treat pretty girls that way?”
“Would it have been better to have bedded her and never spoken to her again?”
He straightened up. “No, but there is an in-between. There is value in politeness.”
“And what value is that?” I pushed my empty beer glass toward the bartender. “Give me something stronger this time.”
“I can’t serve you more. We both know that.”
“And we both know you make exceptions.” I was drunk. There was no question about that, but I needed more to numb the emptiness. Otherwise there was no point in having made the trip into Charleston.
“I can’t serve you more booze, but I don’t mind listening.”
“Listening?” I raised an eyebrow. “Do I look like I want someone to listen?”
“You’re wasted before nine o’clock at night. You need someone to talk to.”
“Next time I will wait until later to get intoxicated.” I tossed down enough money to cover double my tab and stumbled out of the bar.
The cool night was a welcome change from the stifling heat of the overcrowded dive. It had been years since I lived in the city of Charleston, South Carolina, but one thing remained the same. They still insisted on pumping heat into buildings the second the temperature dropped south of sixty degrees. I doubted that most of the people at the bar could survive long where I came from.
The city portion of my walk should not have taken long, but it did. I guess that happens when you get pissed drunk. I knew Charleston well from the months I lived there in high school—and the few nights I spent there now. I spent most of my time in an altogether different place, a place that had stopped feeling like home years ago. A place that was literally another world.
I was far too exhausted to make it all the way back home, so I stopped at the one place I could in the city. I had no key, but I had another plan to get in. I went around back, taking one cursory look into the withering garden before starting my climb up the thick ivy that wound its way all the way up to the third story balcony.
The ivy swayed under my weight, but I made it onto the balcony without breaking my neck. I shook the doorknob with enough force to get it to budge. I pushed the door open, kicked off my boots, and tossed my shirt before collapsing on the queen sized bed. It was not my bed, but at the moment any bed would do.
the life of a TV sitcom friend. You know the type: the boring one that serves no purpose except to make the main character seem more interesting. I worked not one, but two dead end jobs. I didn’t know which was worse, serving frozen yogurt or working as an office assistant at a law firm. Neither had anything to do with my career goals, but as my mom always said, beggars can’t be choosers. My art history degree had proved as useful as it sounded. I couldn’t manage to land a job working in a gallery, let alone a museum. I’d eventually have to go back to school to get a degree in something useful, but the thought of spending time in a classroom wasn’t something I could stomach. At twenty-two, I was just happy to be paying the bills without moving back in with my parents. It was more than most of my friends could say. Or at least most of the friends I still had.
I waited impatiently as a couple stared at the flavor listing above my head. They’d been in the frozen yogurt shop for twenty minutes already. We only offered a dozen flavors. The decision couldn’t have been that hard to make. “We close at nine.” I used the most polite voice possible, but as it was 8:56 I figured they needed a reminder.
“That means you don’t let new customers in after nine. We’re already here. You can’t kick us out.” The guy wrapped his arm around his date’s waist. “Don’t worry baby, there’s no rush.”
I bit my tongue. Who did this clown think he was? If I wasn’t certain the guy would report me and get me fired, I would have given him a piece of my mind. Instead I started wiping up a sticky spot on the counter I’d overlooked earlier. Despite how boring the job was, it did pay decently, and I didn’t mind my boss.
“Can I try the vanilla again? I’m not sure I liked it.” The girl pointed at the hard yogurt in the case in front of her.
Seriously? Who tried vanilla twice? I mean everyone in the world knew what that flavor tasted like. I gritted my teeth. “Sure.” I picked up one of the small pink spoons and scooped a tiny amount. I handed it to her.
She tasted it. “I’m still not sure.”
I glanced at the neon colored clock by the door. It was two minutes after nine now. “I’m sorry, but I really have to close.”
“No you don’t. You’re going to let my girlfriend take her time and pick a flavor.” The guy puffed out his chest like that was supposed to intimidate me or something.
I sighed before glancing at the clock again. I was going to be late meeting my friends for drinks. Or really my friend Grace and her other friends. Saying it in the plural made it sound better.
“Is the chocolate chip cookie dough flavor good?” The girl batted her long eyelashes. I’d have bet a lot they were fake.
“If you like cookie dough, yes.”
She nodded as though I’d just shared some life altering secret. “Can I try that one too?”
I sighed again. “Sure.” I took out another pink spoon.
She tried it. “I changed my mind. I don’t want anything.” The girl turned toward the door.
“I agree. Horrible service here.” The guy followed her and slammed the door behind him.
I silently cursed them while I wiped down the rest of counter. There was a time in my life when I got along with everyone. That time had come and passed. Now I was lucky if I could handle being in the same room as someone who rubbed me the wrong way. It made working in the service industry dicey, especially when your customers were mostly tourists. I loved living in Charleston, but sometimes I wished I lived somewhere a little more off the beaten path.
I finished my clean up and checked the clock again. I didn’t have time to do much to help my appearance, but I changed into a black three-quarter length sleeve sweater rather than my Yogurt Love t-shirt. I checked the tip jar. There wasn’t much in there, which was the same way it was every shift. Clearly my sparkling personality wasn’t doing me any favors.
I locked up and hurried out to my car, checking the clock as soon as I started the engine. Nine twenty-two. I could still make nine-thirty if I didn’t hit too many lights.
I raced down to King Street, nearly destroying my car in an attempt to parallel park in the smallest spot known to man. Even my tiny Honda Fit barely found enough room. If it had been during the day, I could have avoided using my car completely, but I was far too paranoid to walk around the city alone at night. My step-dad the cop had shared countless horror stories with me.
I got out and booked it around the corner to the bar. Right before I reached the entrance I realized I hadn’t locked the car. I turned around, locked it, and walked into the bar half out of breath.
I took a moment to compose myself while I strained my neck to locate everyone. When I didn’t see anyone I went over to the bar and ordered a glass of wine. You always look less socially awkward when you have a drink in your hand.
So much for being late. I pulled out my phone and texted Grace.
She didn’t respond. I took another sip of wine. It was only ten minutes after the meeting time. They’d show up.
Twenty minutes later my wine was gone, as was any of my motivation to wait around. My phone buzzed.
Sorry. We had to cancel, but someone else is coming
My chest clenched. What was going on?
I promise you are going to love him. His name is Brad and he’s been dying to meet you since he saw your picture.
What? You know I’m not interested in dating.
Of course I know. Why else would I make up a girls’ night?
I silently cursed her before stuffing my phone back in my purse. Luckily I had a ten in my wallet, so I tossed down the cash and got up. Whoever this Brad was, I had no interest in meeting him.
I was never talking to Grace again. She may have been my last friend in town, but that didn’t make up for this. We’d been friends since the first week of our freshman year of college, and she set me up with no warning? How pathetic did she think I was?
I hurried toward the entrance, carefully maneuvering through the crowd until I walked into something—or rather into someone.
“Sorry,” I mumbled before I tried to walk around him.
“Ainsley?” A hand wrapped around my arm. I looked up at the sound of my name coming from a stranger’s mouth. “Am I that late?”
I glanced into the deep brown eyes of a guy I’d never met. “Uh, sorry, you’ve got the wrong person.” Was my luck really that bad? I literally ran into the blind date I was ditching.
“I’m Brad. Didn’t Grace tell you about me?” He still held onto my arm a little too tight.
“Not until a minute ago.”
“Wait. You didn’t know we had a date? Didn’t Grace show you my picture or anything? And why are you here then?” He glanced over my head as though someone else might somehow have the answers. The only one with the answers was Grace, and she was conveniently not there.
“I was supposed to be having drinks with friends.”
“Oh.” His eyes set on mine. “How about having drinks with me instead?” His lips twisted into a smile.
Talk about confidence. Too bad that wasn’t going to change the fact that I was angry and in no mood to deal with him. “Sorry, I’ve got to go.”
“Just one drink? I’ve been looking forward to this all week.”
All week? Grace was really going to get it. We’d only planned the night out a few days ago. “There are plenty of girls here, I’m sure you’ll find someone to occupy your time.” I put a hand over my mouth. Had I just sounded that bitchy? He probably had no clue what he’d stepped into.
He laughed. “Feisty. Nice.”
And any sympathy for him disappeared at the use of the word feisty. “Not feisty and not nice.” I shook my arm, but it didn’t budge from his grip. I swore I’d start working out with weights more. “Listen, I’m sorry if you’re disappointed, but I never agreed to meet you.”
“I get that, but why leave now? Might as well enjoy the evening, right?” He smiled.
I sighed. “Let go of my arm, and I’ll think about agreeing to a rain check.”
“A rain check?” He glanced at his watch. “But it’s early. Why not have a drink now?”
“Because I’m annoyed, and nothing good is going to come of anything I do when I’m annoyed.”
He laughed. “Fair enough. Can I get your number? Maybe set something up without involving Grace?”
“How about you give me yours, and I’ll call you?”
He raised an eyebrow. “You mean so you can lose my number and never call?”
I crossed my arms over my chest. “You don’t think I will?”
“I know you won’t.”
“Then why bother getting my number? I could blow you off that way too.” I gazed longingly at the exit. It was so close yet so far away.
“No, you like being chased. I understand girls like you, and I’m willing to play the game. Usually the reward is well worth the effort.”
“Ok, offer to take your number revoked. Goodnight.” I turned away. What an arrogant jerk.
He grabbed my arm again. “What? I’m just saying it like it is.”
“Like it is? No, what it’s like is that you’re going to let go of me and walk away right now. Preferably forget my name.”
I used his momentary shock to slip away. I made it to the door and stepped out into the cool night.
Holding on to my arm once was one thing, but twice? I’d done the whole Neanderthal guy thing before, and I wasn’t interested in going there again. He’d turned out to be the biggest mistake of my life, and Brad was no different. He screamed alpha male asshole, and I didn’t need that in my life. Boring was better than that.
I dared one glance over my shoulder before walking around the block to my car. At least I’d parked close. I tossed my phone on the passenger seat.
I spent two minutes getting my car out of the cramped spot, miraculously sparing my car and the others from any scratches. I drove home slowly, in no real rush to face the giant empty house. It wasn’t my house.
A former professor had talked me into house sitting for one of his old friends. I didn’t mind the rent free part, but there was something depressing about living alone in a giant house when you were single and nearly broke.
I marveled at the live oaks as I drove down the narrow streets. I loved Charleston, but there were some things about urban life I’d probably never get used to. The house came into view. It was gorgeous. Three floors and right near the battery. It was so close to the water that you could nearly taste it, and you got an amazing view from the upper balconies. I had no trouble understanding why it was a stop on the historical tours, even if it did get annoying when people parked out front to take pictures.
I pulled around to the side of the house and parked in the small drive. When I got out, I did what I always did, I checked over my shoulder before walking up the wraparound porch. Living alone in a city wasn’t good for an already paranoid person.
I unlocked the door and quickly locked it behind me. I glanced at the large kitchen. It was tastefully done, but I was surprised the owners hadn’t updated it. Then again there was something charming about the old countertops. Granite might have taken away from the overall feel of the place.
The thought of a late night snack appealed, but a glass of wine sounded even better. I filled a tumbler two-thirds full with some left over Cab Sav. Although I was broke, there were certain luxuries I indulged in. I walked down the hall to the living room. At least there was a big screen TV to keep me company.