Devotion

By: Alexa Riley

Prologue





Noah





I’ve never been a fan of the arts. Museums, plays, operas…all of it just sounds so exhausting. But sometimes they are a necessary evil. Especially in my line of work. A client and his wife are in town for a deal, and she begged for tickets to the ballet.

The ballet. Could that be any more pretentious? I want to roll my eyes at having to admit that I’m going along with them. But she wouldn’t take no for an answer since I got such good tickets.

I should have known better than to rent the whole box. Next time I’ll just get two tickets for an easy way out.

Tonight I have no choice, and I toss back another Scotch in the limo as we pull up to the front of the theater. At least if I’m going to be here I’m going to have a few drinks to get me through.

We are escorted to the box, and the couple sit close, looking over the edge and smiling at one another. I sit in the back next to the curtain hoping that if I fall asleep while the performance is going on, they won’t notice.

We order drinks, and I slip the waiter a hundred, telling him to make mine a double and don’t let it get empty.

By the time the curtains fall, I’m done with niceties and thankful for the darkness. I sit back in my chair and pray it will be over quickly. I can probably catch the tail end of the Mets game if I sneak out after the intermission.

When the music starts, the lights are still low, and a soft blue glow appears on stage. A lone ballerina stands with her back to the audience, with her hair down. It strikes me as odd, because they’re usually in those tight buns at the top of their head. But long dark hair falls down in waves as her arms slowly rise over her head.

The music remains low, almost chilling as only the strings are playing. The blue glow fills the stage now, and stars appear all around her. Twinkling lights shine against her long legs as she raises one leg above her head and holds it there.

Her body turns, and her chin is dipped down, so I’m unable to see her eyes. But the lights brighten and the music becomes louder as she unfurls her body and stretches her arms wide.

She raises her chin, and for a brief moment, I swear she looks right at me. Her piercing blue eyes bore straight into mine, and she pauses. It’s so fast, I don’t know if anyone noticed, but it was there.

The drums begin, and dancers from all around the stage join her now. The music grows and the lights brighten as the brunette beauty is lost in the crowd.

I squeeze the glass in my hand so hard it shatters, and I look down at the mess I’ve made. My client and his wife look back to me, but I grab a napkin and wrap my hand in it. I quietly tell them to finish the show, and excuse myself.

There’s a large cut across my palm which probably needs stitches. I knot the napkin tighter as I make my way down the back stairs and to the exit.

Several security guards try to stop my progress, but once I show them my injury they let me pass. Before long I’m at the stage entrance and off to the side in the shadows. From where I’m standing I can watch the dancers walk on and off the stage.

It doesn’t take long for me to pick her out of the crowd.

I spend the next two hours with my eyes on her as I try to keep my hand from bleeding. But as the show comes to a close, the rag I have around my hand is soaked and I’m too lightheaded to stand much longer.

I text my driver and meet him at the rear exit then have him take me to the emergency room. I have to let the frustration of not being able to see her go so that I can get this taken care of.

Besides, it’s not like I won’t see her again. I grabbed a playbill on the way out, so I’ve got her name.

Some people have told me I have an obsessive personality. That when I want something, I will stop at nothing to get it. That when something has my attention, I have tunnel vision.

I smile as the needle and thread go through my hand and think that everyone was wrong. One look at Aurora Adams and I was beyond obsessed.

But I like to think of it as devotion.





Chapter One





Aurora





Can a person love and hate something at the same time? How can something be the very misery of your life, but the thought of not having it is just as unbearable?

I slip down the stairs of my parents’ home, with one location in mind. But like always I pause when I look over at the refrigerator. The padlock is firmly in place.

My mother’s perfect kitchen looks odd, with big locks nailed into the wood cabinets and the looped chain that holds the refrigerator door closed. It’s sealed so no one can get in. No one but her. I don’t even know why she bothers. It’s not like she keeps much in there anyway. Anything worth wanting.

Still, the pang in my stomach reminds me that I’m hungry. It makes me feel like taking anything I can get my hands on. Grabbing the lock, I give it a little pull, but nothing happens. I feel the lump in my throat and I push it away. This isn’t new. I should be used to this. I release the cold lock from my hand, and the metal hits the stainless steel of the refrigerator. I cringe, praying it didn’t wake my mother.

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