By: Katy Evans

“Zero,” the rest of the men in the room say, almost reverently. Because I have zero identity, and leave zero traces. I run through cell phones like I run through socks. I am a nothing, a number, not even human. “Maybe I don’t respond to that alias anymore,” I mutter, curling my fingers inside my leather gloves before I stretch them out and open the list.

“You will respond to it because you’re my son. And you want to see her. Now get changed, and work your way down the list.”

I scan the names, top to bottom. “Forty-eight people to blackmail, scare, torture, or simply rob in order to get my mother’s location?”

“Forty-eight people who owe me, who have something that belongs to me that needs to be retrieved.”

A familiar chill settles deep in my bones as I grab the suit by the hanger and head to the door, trying to calculate how long getting pertinent information about each of these debtors will take me. How many months it’ll take me to meet with them, try to bargain the nice way—then the hard way.

“Oh, and son,” he calls, his voice gaining strength as I spin around. “Welcome back.”

I send him an icy smile. Because he’s not sick. I’d bet this list on it. But I want to find my mother. The only thing in my life I’ve ever loved. If I have to kill to find her, I will.

“I hope your death is slow,” I whisper at my father, looking into his cold slate eyes. “Slow and painful.”


* * *



Sometimes the only way to stop a pity party is with a real party.

Expectation hums in the air as warm bodies jostle, my body straining in between the other dancers. I can feel the fun around us spinning like whirlwinds at my sides, intoxicating me.

My body’s slick from dancing, my silky gold top and matching skirt clinging to my curves in a way that tells me I should’ve probably worn a bra. The brush of damp fabric only causes my nipples to poke into the silk and draw several discerning male eyes in my direction.

But it’s too late now, and the crowd is high on the music, the dancing.

I stopped by tonight when one of my clients, for whom I decorated this small little bar/restaurant, invited my boss and all my colleagues over. I said only one drink, but I’ve had a couple extra, and the one half empty in my hand is now seriously the last one.

A guy approaches.

I can’t miss his sudden, I-want-to-bang-you smile. “Want to dance with me?”

“We already are!” I say, moving a little with him, swinging my hips harder.

The guy wraps an arm around my waist and pulls me closer. “I meant if you want to dance alone with me. Somewhere else?”

I look at him, feeling a little high and dizzy. Do I want to dance with him?

He’s cute. Not sexy, but cute. Sober, cute is no way, Jose. But drunk, cute is completely doable. I try to find the answer in my body. A tingle. A want. And nope. Today I still feel . . . hopeless.

Smiling to ease the blow, I edge away from him but he presses close to my body and blatantly whispers in my ear, “I really want to take you home.”

“Of course you do.” I laugh, declining the drink he offers with a playful, but firm, shake of my head.

I think I’m a little too drunk already, and I have to drive myself home.

But I don’t want to aggravate a possible client, so I kiss his cheek and say, “But thanks,” and head away. He takes me by the wrist and stops and turns me, his eyes hot and lusty. “No. Really. I want to take you home.”

I give him another once-over. He looks rich and just a little bit entitled, the kind who always uses me, and I suddenly feel even more hopeless, more vulnerable. In less than a month, my best friend is getting married. The effect of that wedding on me is not bad, it’s worse. Far worse than anyone could have imagined. My eyes burn when I think about it, because everything my best friend, Brooke, has—the baby, the adoring husband—has been my dream for so long, I cannot remember having another dream.

Here’s a man who wants to have sex with me, and once again I’m tempted to fall. Because I always fall. I always wonder if he, maybe he, is the one for me. The next thing I know, I wake up alone with a bunch of used condoms around me and feeling lonelier than ever, and I am once again reminded I’m only good for one-night stands. I’m no one’s queen, no one’s Brooke. But god, will someone just tell me, when do you stop kissing frogs? Never, that’s when. If you want that prince, you have to keep trying until one day you wake up, and you’re Brooke, and a man’s eyes are shining on you and only you.

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