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Authors: Shiloh Walker

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BOOK: Wrecked
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Chapter One

Standing in front of the neat little writing desk,
Abigale Applegate stared at the journal. Back when she’d made out the list, she hadn’t had much of an idea of what a business plan was. Oh, she’d heard the term. Her agent had tossed it around during brainstorming sessions with her mother. Her mother would then loftily discuss it with people in whatever social circle she’d decided to torment with her presence.

After
all
, a
business plan
, a
life
plan . . . some sort of
plan
was necessary for a child star. Because a
child
star wasn’t going to be a
real
star once she grew up without having some sort of plan, her mother had liked to point out.

Yeah, she’d heard the phrase before. Over and over,
ad nauseum
.

But Abigale hadn’t understood it.

There had been times when she’d heard the damn phrase so much, she’d just wanted to scream. But then she’d come to realize, it wasn’t the
planning
that bothered her.

It was the fact that somebody else was doing the planning.

Somebody else was in control.

Right up until she turned seventeen and seized control herself. Wrested it away from her mother in an ugly court battle and made her life her own. She’d left the house only hours after her father’s funeral, but it had taken months to finalize everything in court, and her mother had fought it every step of the way. Of
course
she’d fought it; if Abigale was on her own, then her dearest mother couldn’t spend all the money Abigale had made. It was during those long, endless months of fighting everything out in court that Abigale had come up with her
own
plan. She would plan out her own life. Get away from her mother, the life her mother had mapped out, and all those manipulative plans to control her life and force her back into a world where she no longer belonged.

Abigale Applegate had grown up and at seventeen she was no longer cute little Kate from a show that had once made millions of people laugh.

Back when she was a kid, she’d been “discovered,” landing a starring role in a sitcom,
Kate
+
Nate
, but those two cute kids no longer existed. Kate had grown up. Nate had joined the army and died a heroic death.

Her co-star Zach Barnes had done some bit acting for a while and then decided to call it quits and go to school.

Abigale had called it quits and run as far away from Hollywood as she could get. She didn’t want to be an actress.

She just wanted a normal life. A normal job. A home. A husband. Kids.

And up until two hours ago, she’d thought it was all within her reach. That final goal, only two months away: get married. A knot the size of the Grand Canyon seemed to have settled in her throat and she couldn’t breathe around it.

Her fiancé had just dumped her, the son of a bitch. That egotistical, stupid,
blind
son of a bitch.

I’m sorry, Abigale, but you’re not being true to yourself. How can I marry a woman who won’t be true to herself? How can I trust you to be true to
me
?
Roger had watched her with sad, compassionate eyes and the entire time she’d wanted to hit him.

She’d kept the wild impulse under control, just like she kept all her wild impulses under control. She didn’t give in to crazy urges and she didn’t dance in the rain; she’d never had a torrid affair and she hated chaos. That didn’t mean she wasn’t being true to herself.

Abigale knew what she wanted, damn it.

Tears burned her eyes and she blinked them away.

You are an actress . . . a star. Why do you pretend otherwise?

“Conceited ass.” She dashed the back of one hand across her eyes. A
star
? She tried not to think about how often he’d thrown in lines like
Abigale is an actress
and the little jokes he’d liked to make about how they wouldn’t always be in Arizona—
bigger and better things ahead for Abigale!

She’d told him more than once that she was done with that life. And how many times had he patted her hand, running off at the mouth about how she just needed to think of the
right way back
. She’d tried to tell herself he was just being supportive in case she
wanted
to go back, to let her know he’d be there for her.

Feeling nauseated, and
so
damned angry, she had to acknowledge the truth now. He wasn’t being
supportive
. He’d wanted her back in that life. It was his way of catching the limelight; she’d met too many users not to realize it, but how could it have taken her so
long
? Had he loved her
at all
, or had he just been with her because of the life she used to live?

The son of a bitch had no idea what being a
star
meant. It had been hard back then and it would be even harder now.

Anger burned inside her even now. He was
wrong
. She didn’t miss anything about that life. She didn’t miss the early morning calls, the invasion of her privacy—and
hello
, that still happened. And although it hadn’t been as much of an issue during her career, she knew she’d never be able to deal with the current physical standards being impressed on women in the entertainment industry.

Abigale kept in shape because she enjoyed it, but she was a size ten and by Hollywood’s standards, that was borderline grotesque. She’d seen some of the gossip rags when they caught pictures of her. They only bothered when there was nothing else going on because she was old news and she only showed up in California when she was visiting friends. Their main bitch was her weight.

Her favorite headline was
THE SAD STATE OF CUTIE KATE’S CURRENT LIFE . . . HER WEIGHT HAS GONE OUT OF CONTROL
!

And Roger thought she missed that life?

Clenching her jaw, she reached for the pen on her desk and carefully drew a line through goal number four. Then she focused on the list itself. It was worn and faded, the paper thin from how often she’d handled it. It had been years since she’d all but run screaming from the home her mother had purchased. Ran away, just hours after her father’s funeral, and she didn’t regret leaving. Not once.

The writing blurred before her eyes but she blinked until it became clear and then she reached out, touching the faded ink. This list had been her guiding light, the driving force behind her entire life.

“Now what?” Abigale whispered.

Because she had absolutely no idea what to do next, she turned away and walked across the pale green carpet and sank down on the bed. She curled up on her side and pulled a pillow to her chest, closing her eyes.

She wasn’t going to cry about this, damn it.

She wasn’t.

* * *

Zach Barnes read the note. Then he dropped it,
pressed his fingers to his eyes, and rubbed. He’d been up late last night, working on some designs. He was tired. That was all. He’d read it again and the message would be different.

He knew it.

But when he picked it back up, the message remained the same.

Abby called. Wedding is off.

The wedding. The day he’d been dreading for the past year. He had it circled in black marker on his calendar and although nobody else knew, he’d taken to calling it “Black Saturday.” The bleakest fucking day of his entire life . . . the day the woman he loved was going to marry somebody else.

It was two months away and he’d been wishing like
hell
he could be anywhere else, do anything else, even if it involved hot coals, torture, and fire ants. But when your best friend was getting married, you had to be there. Especially when she’d asked you to give her away.

He was going to have to walk her down the aisle. He was going to have to lift her damn veil . . . So what if it was viscerally painful for him? It didn’t matter that he’d been in love with her his entire life. She’d found the man she wanted to marry and it wasn’t him. He had to deal with it, right?

Except this message said the wedding was off. It wasn’t adding up in his head. He’d wanted this, but hadn’t dared to hope. He wanted Abby to be happy, but happy meant not being with him, apparently. Talk about a conundrum, because for him to have what
he
wanted, it involved Abby not getting what
she
wanted. And now, he felt half sick with guilt, even though he’d never done or said anything to get in her way.

“Damn it,” he muttered, scrubbing a hand over his face.

Carefully, he folded the note into a neat little square, slid it into his back pocket, and then looked up. He’d gotten into work early. He usually did, even when he couldn’t sleep, because he still got a thrill when he walked through Steel Ink.

His own place. Yeah, it was a little tattoo shop tucked off 4th Avenue in Tucson near the university. It was one of probably close to a dozen and in the first few years, he hadn’t been sure if he’d make it or not. But he was doing fine.

Not a lot of people had taken him seriously when he’d decided this was what he wanted to do with his life. Well, his folks had. Even if his mother had been mildly horrified at first. She loved him dearly and he adored her, but she still couldn’t quite comprehend this part of him.

It didn’t matter, though. This place made him happy and that was all that mattered to her.

In the back, he saw a black-and-white striped head of hair. Keelie was the only other person who’d get in this early. They didn’t unlock the doors until one on Sundays, but she was like him, and just loved being here. She was his partner. She
should
love being here.

Zach’s boots thudded on the floor as he crossed over to where she was setting up for the day. She glanced up at him, her mismatched eyes glinting. One blue eye, one brown, and there was a sly smile in those eyes. “You look intense there, superstar.”

“You talked to Abby?”

“Nobody else here to talk to her.” She shrugged. “Called about twenty minutes ago.”

“What exactly did she say?”

Keelie rolled her eyes. “She called and asked for you. I told her that you weren’t in, to try your cell. She said she’d already tried that—you forgot to charge it again, didn’t you?”

Zach glared at her. Hell, he didn’t know if he’d forgotten to charge it. He’d left the damn thing in his office again. “Not the point, Keelie,” he said edgily.

“You’re grouchy. You didn’t sleep again?” As he continued to glare, she sighed and lifted her hands. Her black bangs fell into her face and she impatiently shoved them back as she met his gaze. “Lighten up. Man. Anyway, she said she just wanted to let you know that the wedding was off—and seriously off, so if you wanted to go ahead and make plans for June, you could.”

“And?”

“That’s it.” Keelie leaned a hip against the counter, pinning him with a steady look. “You going to stop pining after her and make a fucking move now?”

Instead of answering her, he turned around and headed for the door. “I’m going to call Javier, see if he can help out for a while this afternoon. I need to go see her.”

“You think you might want to wait a while?” she called out after him.

“She just called off her wedding.” He stopped in the door and looked back at her. Their gazes locked and he said softly, “She’s my best friend, Keelie. Where do you think I should be?”

* * *

It was a bit of a drive from his shop to her place on
Swan. He’d quietly relocated to Tucson within six months of her setting up her catering business. It hadn’t been entirely easy convincing her that it had been pure luck that he’d found the ideal spot for the business he wanted to open right in the exact city where she’d chosen to call home . . . but he thought maybe she’d been relieved to see him.

Happy to have him around again.

They’d spent most of their childhood around each other, and nearly all of their teenaged years. They were best friends, and time, distance, and her impending marriage hadn’t changed that. Neither had the gut-wrenching need he had for her.

Hopefully she’d be glad to have him there now, and she wasn’t going to pack up and disappear again now that the wedding was off. He’d have a hard time convincing her that he’d
accidentally
ended up in the same city as her again, he figured.

Of course, it wouldn’t stop him from doing it. Wherever Abby went, that was where he’d go.

Her car, a restored ’69 Mustang, sat in the driveway. It was the one thing that didn’t fit the practical life she’d laid out for herself—he got why she needed the routine and structure. He really did.

Even when her mom had been planning her entire life down to the nth degree, Abby’s life had been sheer chaos. Early morning calls, the insane hours, not to mention her mother herself. It only made sense that Abby wanted to settle down and just have something . . . normal.

But sometimes he thought she’d gone a little too crazy with it. She was so focused on her plan, she never let herself live.

Abby hadn’t ever really had a chance to live. That bat-shit crazy mother of hers had seen to that. Back when they’d been doing the show, they’d worked their asses off, that was a fact, but he’d still gotten to have a life. His mom and dad had been damned determined about that. Hell, he suspected most of Abby’s
good
memories came from the times she’d spent with him and his folks. And there hadn’t been enough of those times, he knew.

BOOK: Wrecked
8.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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