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Bound by an oath to a secret society, Jackson Reid is used to someone else calling the shots. When the love of his life reappears after six years, he’s at odds with himself. So much was left unsaid between them and he’s desperate to get those answers now that their paths are intertwined again. But if he doesn’t do what’s requested of him, his entire world will collapse. Can he really risk letting Jenn get away again?

After leaving the Upper East Side behind her, Jenn Lowell finds herself back in that high society world. No one is making her return easy – least of all her ex-fiancé. She’s determined to get through a career-changing interview and then get the hell out of town, but fate intervenes in very unexpected ways. Jenn runs into the one person she least expected to see – Jackson. He still holds the key to her heart, but he’s also the one that broke it. Can she really give him a second shot with everything she knows now and all the secrets between them?

When high society rules are at play, all is fair in love and war, and the masters of manipulation pulling the strings know it…


Six years earlier in Cabo San Lucas…



Are you sure this is a good idea, Jenn? Last night was one thing. Crazy shit happens during bachelorette weekends all the time. You know we won’t say anything, but today is a tad different,” Victoria pointed out, grasping my arm so I’d face her.


My eyes drifted to the sky. Just thinking about seeing Jackson again sent an electric zing through my body. I’d never experienced anything like it—especially not with my fiancé. 


“It doesn’t matter if it’s a good idea. I don’t know how to explain it, but I need to do this. You know how many reservations I have about getting married. After what happened last night and how I still feel today, I owe this to myself to see what it is about him that has every cell in my body humming at a higher level. I’m pretty sure you’d do the same thing if you were me.”


She released a drawn-out sigh. “Yeah, I probably would. There are some things you can’t ignore. Just be careful. He’s probably the hottest guy in Cabo, but I’m positive he’s also a playboy.”


I gave her hands a gentle squeeze. “Thank you for not judging me. I knew you’d understand more than anyone else.”


A genuine smile spread across her face. “That’s why we're best friends. You’re the only one in our social circle who has some sort of moral compass.”


I snorted. “I haven’t had one in the past twenty-four hours.”


Victoria waved her hand. “And your fiancé hasn’t had one for years. You’ve earned a few free passes. I better get back to the condo before the others wake up. Take advantage of today. Not very many people get a man like Jackson thrown their way, let alone one you have an intense connection with right from the get-go.”


Without another word, she headed back to the others. Lukewarm sand squished between my toes as I neared the Spanish style mansion where Jackson was staying with his friends. The first rays of sunlight danced along the horizon, promising another magical day, and I wished the good angel and bad angel in my head would give it a rest. 


While they screamed louder than ever, I paced around in a circle. Seeing as it was still rather dark out, my body shouldn’t be acting like it was standing on the surface of the sun, but it certainly was with the beads of sweat dripping down my temples. Hearing the good angel scream this was a bad idea for the hundredth time didn’t deter me from carrying on to the mansion. I blamed those stupid dimples, deep blue eyes, and jet-black hair I enjoyed tugging repeatedly last night.


Who am I kidding? I loved more than a few things about our time together. Even stumbling drunk, Jackson is by far the best I ever had. Ugh! I’m not supposed to meet someone like him. 

I glanced over my shoulder to see I’d made one fucked up trail with the back-and-forth game I’d been playing. An ear-splitting whistle caught my attention. Jackson and several guys were on the terrace. His face lit up as soon as he saw me. 


Fuck! I’m actually here, and something leads me to believe that these guys lounging around and making lewd gestures know exactly who I am. That means they know what happened. OMG!!!


Slapping my forehead, I groaned inwardly at everything we did in a very public place. My face flamed to a shade that could rival the brightest red before I took off. 


“Jenn, wait! Please stop. Don’t listen to anything they’re saying,” Jackson yelled.


A sharp pain shot through my heart, but I didn’t stop. When he asked me to spend the day with him, he promised it wasn’t a booty call. There was no way I could go through with it now—not after hearing his friend’s obnoxious comments. Most of them seemed a little on the drunk side, but I didn’t need to add fuel to the fire.


I didn’t make it very far before Jackson caught up with me. What shouldn’t have been familiar hands prevented me from taking another step. There really wasn’t much I could do to keep my heart from jumping into my throat or the butterflies from fluttering in my stomach. Jackson didn’t help matters when he brushed his lips across the back of my neck and turned me around to face him.


A charming smile spread across his face. My knees wobbled as he rested his hands on the small of my back and swept his lips across mine. When he deepened our kiss, a loud moan escaped. Each swipe of his tongue was like he was trying to reinforce his eagerness to spend all day with me. I was lost to his minty taste and the hint of musky cologne I swore had pheromones in it. His lip ring seared into the side of my mouth, amplifying every hot spark bursting through my body. 


When Jackson pulled away, I almost whimpered. Seeing the intensity of his gaze made my next breath catch. I’d been with my fiancé for what felt like forever, and I’d had plenty of boyfriends before him, but no one had ever looked at me the way Jackson was. He gazed at me like I was the missing piece to a puzzle he’d been trying to put together for years. 


Offering a reassuring smile, he tightened his hold around my waist. His damn dimples, coupled with the tenderness in his striking blue eyes, sent an onslaught of electric sensations throughout me. 


“Um…are you sure you want to go through with today? I don’t want you to feel like you have to spend the day with me because of…” I trailed off, embarrassed I was even trying to find the right words about everything we did without knowing a thing about one another.


He cupped the dark red spots covering both sides of my face. Resting his forehead on mine, a mischievous smile curled from his mouth. “Because of the mind-blowing sex we had last night? It’s okay to say it out loud, sweetheart.”


“I’ve never done that before…and I really don’t know what I’m doing here now…but I needed to…” 

Words aren’t hard for me to put together, but around him, I can barely manage a sentence without falling all over myself. 


“Needed to do what?” Jackson asked, his eyes curious as ever.


I dug my big toe into the sand. “I just needed to know what it is about you I can’t seem to walk away from.”


Tilting my chin back up, he teased, “Actually, you tried to run away from me, but I wasn’t having it. If it makes you feel any better, I’m just as in awe of you. I want a chance to learn more about you when I’m not completely wasted. I’m really sorry about that. Under normal circumstances, I’d never admit this, but time is of the essence, so I’m going to tell you one of my biggest flaws.”


I arched an eyebrow. “I can’t say I’ve had a guy start a date with admitting anything, let alone one of his shortcomings. I’m intrigued.”


Jackson laughed before he kissed my knuckles. There was a gentleness to his touch that had my body warming in an entirely different way than last night. It wasn’t like I hadn’t had a guy be tender with me, but there was something different about his touch. I wanted to know what it was about him that captivated my body in every way. 

As fine as he looked in his black-and-white board shorts and simple white t-shirt, I knew it went beyond the surface with him. There was something about the wonderment in his eyes and the softness to his smile when he looked at me that told me there was so much more to him than just his smokin-hot looks. I was desperate to learn as much as I could about him. 

On our way toward the boardwalk, Jackson intertwined our hands. “I’m sure you figured it out, but I’m what Mia and Bri refer to as a playboy.” 

With the way his hands and tongue moved along my body last night, I was well-aware he’d been to bed with more than a few women, but having him confirm it was like a swift kick to the stomach. 


He took in my reaction—or lack thereof. Forcing a smile, my eyes roamed over the bright blue ocean and the waves rolling ashore. Jackson squeezed my hand a little tighter before sweeping in for one of those quick kisses of his. “It’s not something I’m proud of. The reason I’m telling you is because I want to be open with you.”

It was already clear I was another notch on his bedpost. As much as that bothered me, I still wanted to be here with him. My heart confirmed that much when it sped up. A shy smile graced his face, making it clear he rarely opened up like this. My eyes grew wide and the butterflies in my stomach went wild. Not being able to come up with a coherent response, I got on my tiptoes and gave him a kiss that left him panting for once. 

Jackson picked me up and buried his face into my neck. Dropping to the sand with me straddled around him, his lips made their way along my jawline and over to my mouth, capturing it in a kiss that had my body firing to its red-hot frequency. When his hands slid under my white cover-up and to the strings of my pink bikini, I didn’t give a damn. I wanted so much more from his magical fingers. 

He groaned before sealing his lips. His eyes had a twinkle to them as he softly asked, “Do you believe in love at first sight?”


I ran my nose down his. “Ask me again before we part ways.”


Jackson beamed. “I can certainly do that, darling. We have a lot of things to do before then, so we better get this date started.”


My body was torn at the idea of having to get off his lap, but I was more than curious to see what he wanted to do. Hearing him talk, having his arms around me, the way he looked at me like I was the only person he cared to even acknowledge, made being with him feel so incredibly right. 


I’ve never believed in the concept of love at first sight, but if anyone is going to change that perception for me, it’s Jackson Reid.


15 hours later…


Pin pricks attacked my heart as the sunlight slipped away. Laughter from people enjoying the games and rides on the boardwalk echoed in the distance, making me grateful we’d wandered to a more secluded section of the beach to savor our final hour together. The cove we’d settled in was one of the many slices of paradise we’d enjoyed today. I truly didn’t want it to end. I had a whole new appreciation for wanting time to stand still.

Pink and purple hues danced along the crystal blue water. Coupled with the light sounds of the waves rolling in, it was one of the most romantic settings a girl could ask for. I wished the beauty of it all eased the growing ache within me, but that definitely wasn’t the case. Hearing the sad sigh behind me spoke volumes. Jackson was just as unhappy as I was about our day ending. Just as the moon slid into its rightful place in the sky, Jackson rested his chin on my shoulder and tightened his grip around my waist. 


“This isn’t the end, Jenn. I’ll keep in touch. I want to see where this goes,” Jackson spoke up, his voice hoarse.


Fastening my hands around his, I took a few deep breaths to keep the tears welling in my eyes from cascading down my cheeks. I didn’t want to spend the last few precious moments I had with Jackson crying my eyes out. 


Trailing kisses along my neck, Jackson whispered, “It’s later, so I have to ask. Do you believe in love at first sight?”


He thumbed away a few tears that trickled down my face. My breaths were intermittent as I admitted, “Yes, I do.”


A few more escaped before I tilted my head to look into his mesmerizing eyes. Even in the dark, they sucked me into his hypnotic vortex—the one where he had complete control over me and all rational thoughts disappeared. I captured his mouth with mine in a kiss that carried more power than either of us expected. As our lips and tongues tangled together, equal waves of happiness and heartbreak flowed through me. 


Time would tell what the future had in store for us. At the moment, I didn’t want to think about it, and enjoyed the last few minutes I had with the man who’d stolen my entire heart in one day.




The July humidity blasted its way through my pores the second my feet hit the overcrowded sidewalk. Tightening my hold on my brown messenger bag, I glanced in both directions along the busy streets of Manhattan. It was so damn hot, the smog and heat created a hazy fog. Broadway was busier than ever as I turned right to grab a slice of pizza from my favorite vendor in Times Square. 

Steam from the sewers erupted into the air. My arms flew up in a flash to keep the vile smells from entering my nostrils. Sucking in a quick breath through my mouth, I picked up my pace. My gaze flickered between the throngs of people passing by me and my destination. Plenty were dressed in designer suits while others used newspapers and dirt to cover up. The vast diversity in the Big Apple never ceased to amaze me.


“Bleed It Out” sounded from my bag, and a slew of profanities flew from my mouth, turning a few heads.


“How did the meeting with your publisher go this afternoon? Will you be ready for your Calvin Klein shoot in the morning? Afterwards, you have an audition for a new Marvel series dropping next spring. They’re very interested in you, and it could lead to a regular role. That would be a tremendous boost for your career,” Dick exclaimed with so much fake enthusiasm, I had to prevent myself from gagging.

When my books really took off, he pushed me to take small roles on television and tripled my modeling gigs. It catapulted me into a celebrity status I hadn’t been prepared for and wasn’t exactly comfortable with. I wasn’t huge by any means, but I’d had enough recurring roles on some high profile shows that walking on the streets alone in bigger cities got tricky. 


That was why I donned a pair of Ray Ban shades and wore a black White Sox cap as low as possible. To blend in even more, I threw on a pair of cream cargo shorts and a plain white t-shirt. As far as most people were concerned, I was the average Joe. 

“It was a complete waste of my time. They’re pushing for more of the same and I want to cross over into more relevant material. You better get them to listen to me or I’ll be less inclined to continue my deal with them—and you,” I snapped, scanning the crowd for anything out of the ordinary.


A couple chicks let their gazes linger on me. My heart sped up, and I darted in between a few people. I really wasn’t in the mood to be stopped or mauled today. I loved having fans, but in a city this big, it could turn into pandemonium, leaving me no choice but to call in the security team Dick keeps on standby. 


“Jackson, you’re still locked in for the rest of this year. If they want you to continue with one of your current series, do it. All it takes is one bad choice in this industry and you can be blacklisted for life. Modeling and acting won’t last forever, so it’s imperative you tread lightly with what topics you explore with your books. Just do what they ask,” Dick responded, not bothering to hide his impatience.


“Good writing should explore subjects that open our eyes to more things that matter, but I’m constantly being told to sideline those ideas. It’s bullshit. I want to write about issues affecting our world right now. I’ve earned the right to pen a few non-fiction pieces,” I fired back.


The constant pressure to put out my next novel in my mystery or mafia series had me working all the time on top of acting and modeling. I rarely had time for the little things, but I tried not to complain about it, especially since I worked with the best publisher in the business. 


As much as I reminded myself of that fact, I couldn’t ignore the side of me that craved to write something with more depth. There really was nothing better than creating a world outside of my reality, falling wholeheartedly into it, and reveling in all the places the characters took me. That fantasy world was about the only thing that made being away from my friends and family for most of the year easier. I just longed for more.


With my continued success, I wrote less about stories I wanted to tell and more about what had the potential to be a bestseller. I had so many relevant stories to share, but they were shot down every time for being too “risky.” Sure, exploiting the downfalls in our government or the corruption within it made us uncomfortable, but the best writing should do that to you.

What was life without some fucking risk? 

“If you do it their way a little longer, I’m sure they’ll allow you the freedom to explore some deeper topics. For now, stick to what they want. When your contract comes up for negotiation, these are factors I can use in your favor. If you push their hand before that happens, it’ll leave us with nothing to barter with down the road.”


I snorted. “I’ve got millions in the bank. I’m pretty sure I can make it on my own if that’s what it comes to a year from now.”

“That fades really fast. Write another book to appease them and leave the rest up to me at the end of the year. You’ve got to trust me on this. You’ve already pushed them on so many things, you’re skating on thin ice.”


Seeing the black-and-white skull on my left hand and the tribal symbols climbing up my right brought a shit-eating grin to my face. My publishing house and promotional group hated that I wouldn’t cover my tattoos. When a reporter or reader asked me about them, it downright tickled me, and I strung out the answer every time—just to piss them off. There was no fucking way I’d hide my ink. It was as much a part of me as my goddamn heart and one of the few things I had left that was still mine. 


When they approached me with the allure of making a lot of money doing what I loved, I was young and naïve, willing to do whatever it took to stay out of my father’s grasp. Law school and an uppity position at a firm of his choice was the furthest thing I wanted for my future.


It didn’t help that I’d gone through the year from hell. After losing Jenn, and almost losing my brother and Mia, I hadn’t thought twice about signing without reading the fine print. If I could turn back the clock, I wouldn’t have sold my soul to get my work into the over-saturated book market. I’d signed away more than I’d bargained for, and this conversation was one of my many reminders of it.


“Look, I saw right through everyone in the room today. All they want is to keep capitalizing on their royalties. That’s all any of you want because you get a huge piece of that pie. I don’t, which is why I don’t understand why they can’t give me a little creative freedom,” I disputed, curling my freehand into a fist to curb my growing ire.


Dick released a drawn-out sigh. “Jackson, they’ve given you plenty. I think it’s in your best interest to punch out a couple more books in your current series.”


Welcoming the scorching fire blazing through me, I snarled, “Did you just say punch out?” 


“Calm down. You know what I mean,” Dick defended, his voice cracking.


“I’m not so sure I do. You make it seem like I sit down at a computer and rattle off a story like it’s no big deal. What it sounds like is you’re undermining the hand that feeds you,” I bit back, seriously contemplating chucking my cell across the busy street. 


Arching my arm back to do just that, I forced it down at the last minute, reminding myself I’d just be out a phone. The last thing I needed was to add an errand to my never-ending schedule. Until I could get rid of him without violating my contract and costing me a small fortune, I’d have to deal with his parasitic ass.


“That isn’t what I meant. You’re very talented and work extremely hard to give your readers captivating stories,” Dick mumbled.


Seeing the walk sign, I stalked my way through the people moving at a snail’s pace before snapping, “If you had said that with a shred of confidence or had even read one of my books, I’d believe you.”


My stomach rumbled with another vicious growl. I’d missed breakfast and lunch due to a photoshoot early this morning and meetings with various departments at my publishing house this afternoon. Usually, Mia accompanied me on book tours. She always told the vultures to back off when I’d had enough. Meals were never missed on her watch, and she made sure I didn’t run myself ragged. I pushed back the heaviness spreading throughout the rest of my body, like rocks cascading down a steep mountain, creating another hill on top of my chest. 


“Do a couple more books to their liking and I promise I’ll get you the freedom you desire with your writing.”


“Fine. I’ll do it their way a little longer, but if I don’t get what I want by the end of the year, I’m done with them and you,” I sneered.


“Before you get too drastic with your threats, remember who has kept you in a positive light the last five years,” Dick shot back. 


A wave of well-deserved shame coursed through me. I had no idea people would love my work let alone track me down. Dick had helped me out of quite a few morally questionable incidents that would’ve ruined me. I’d become a target early on and it had stuck because of some really dumb decisions on my part. I’d learned the hard way how ruthless the press could be when they caught you banging a girl in a public place. 


“I haven’t made headlines in a very long time. Believe me, I’d rather jump off the Brooklyn Bridge than have the damn paparazzi follow me everywhere to get their next story.”


“The only difference between back then and now is it gets to my desk before you realize it’s front-page news. Do us both a favor and keep your dick in your pants,” Dick demanded. 


I snickered. “Yeah, I make no promises there.”


“I’m serious, Jackson. You just said you don’t want to live out here because of how easily people can spot you, yet you put yourself in scandalous situations where anyone can snap a photo of you and make a dime off it. If you’re going to get wild with some women, keep it discreet. I don’t need things blowing up with a holiday weekend on the horizon. That’s like catnip for the paparazzi.”


My temper returned in full force. “I need to get going. Not that you care, but I haven’t eaten a damn thing today and I’m about to pass out.”


“I’ll call you tomorrow after your audition,” Dick snapped before hanging up.


Sweat trickled down my temples, reminding me I’d forgotten to cut my hair again. I cursed under my breath before removing my baseball cap and running a hand through my shaggy black hair. A fresh bout of panic coursed through my veins as I spotted myself in a sharp black Gucci suit flashing across one of the many monitors in Times Square. Gawking from people passing by tripled, and I zigzagged my way through the gridlock traffic. 


On my way across the packed street, “I Miss You” rang from my cell. I prayed everything was okay with Mia. I fucking missed her so much. She was the best friend a guy could ask for. There wasn’t a thing she wouldn’t do for me. It sucked when she couldn’t be here to help me deal with the bloody-thirsty assholes at my publishing house and Dick before I embarked on my next book tour, but I understood. Her journalism career with The Times was on the fast track. She was their go-to girl when it came to getting the hardest stories nailed down. 


“Hey, Mia. How’s it going?” I asked, picking up my pace.


“Fuck. That is definitely going to bruise,” Mia grumbled in between grunts.


“Are you okay?” 


“I’m fine. I thought Bri exaggerated about how much these kids kick in the womb, but she didn’t lie. This kid is destined to be a soccer player. If that’s not the case, I’m asking for a damn refund because I’ve taken way too many shots to the ribs.”


“Bri loves to blow things out of proportion, but I’m guessing she was spot on with this one. It sounds like this little guy is giving you a run for your money. I wish I was there to help.” 


My heart dropped, and the ache eating away at my chest like a fungal infection morphed into an entirely different pain. Razor blades scraped away at my insides and I took a deep breath to get somewhat of a hold over the unwelcome sensations coursing through me. 


Several months had passed since I’d been able to get together with any of my friends. I knew our lives would change after we graduated from college, but nothing could’ve prepared me for where I was now. Between writing, modeling, and acting, I was gone three-fourths of the year. Keeping in touch electronically just wasn’t the same as watching their faces light up when they shared what was new and exciting in their lives. 


“You sound like you’re a step away from panting. Are you okay?” 


“Um…I’m fine. Starving. I’m making my way down Broadway to grab some pizza,” I replied, sticking to the brisk pace I’d set to keep people at an arm’s length regardless of how winded it made me in this heat.


Mia scoffed. “Bullshit. You’re getting recognized, aren’t you? If you’d just get a bodyguard, you wouldn’t have to worry about outrunning a mob of crazed girls who want to rip your clothes off.”


“Don’t start, Mia. You know how I feel about it.”


“And you know how I feel about your safety.”


Not wanting to risk her having hormonal breakdown, I relented, “I’ll think about it. How are you doing?”


“I have some great news for you.”


“What’s going on? I thought you were supposed to be at the Capitol this week.”


“I wrapped up my research a lot sooner than expected and sent my article to my editor a couple hours ago.”


“Then what’s your big news?”


“I’m headed to New York. Now, I can help you with vultures before your tour starts,” Mia squealed.


My heart surged higher than it had in a while. “That’s awesome, Mia, but how did you wrap up your piece so fast?”


Mia snorted. “You know when I want a story I won’t take no for an answer. I got more than I needed to produce another eye-opening article on Congress, and now they want me to handle an interview for a columnist who could be a huge asset to our team. Even though I can’t fly, I couldn’t turn down the chance to grill…I mean, meet this woman.”


“How are you pulling off another trip out of Chicago? Who are you interviewing?” 


“A fashion columnist from Vogue. She’s spent the last several years in Europe and is looking to come back home. She’s one of the best and the Times is taking this opportunity to steal her,” Mia drawled.


“Wait. What? Why would you interview anyone in the fashion industry? That’s so not your forte. You shouldn’t be traveling when it’s not even something you’re interested in. I’m baffled Ethan will allow it,” I interjected.


“Over the last five years, and certainly with this pregnancy, the man has learned when not to push me. Besides, he couldn’t argue with my travel companion,” Mia retorted.


Just hearing the bite to her tone made me a tad nervous for Ethan and her unborn child. She definitely had the mom voice down. “Who’s coming with you? It’s got to be someone pretty damn significant for Ethan to allow you to travel across the country.”


“That would be why Bri is coming. She’s going to assist me with the interview. My superiors know she’s the best and her opinion matters more to them than anyone else. Plus, I’m not due for another month. I’ll be fine. Ethan is seeing to that by renting us a bus that rivals what Taylor Swift rolls around in,” Mia explained around another grunt.


Bri had given birth to five kids and built a fashion empire—all from her home and without a dime of her parents' money. I thought I accomplished a lot after college but looking at her life made me feel like I had so much more to do. Bri turned her back on everything that was normal to her and embraced the unknown with the courage of a warrior. Her clothing brand, Eternity, was well-known on fashion runways, but also just as huge in households across the world. 


Trey rounded out their power couple status. He busted his ass after getting his degree and was one of the best engineers Chicago had ever seen. People fought to have him on their projects about as much as they flocked to the stores for his wife’s latest fashion line. 


Bri and Trey were more in love than when I’d met them. They had everything I wanted, and it was painful to watch at times. And that was all it took for the ache inside me to grow even more.


“Is Ethan coming with you guys? I’m still a little floored he’s allowing you to go anywhere without him.” 


Ethan had sort of grown on me in the past five years. There wasn’t anyone else on earth who could make Mia as happy as he did. His adoration and deep love for her seemed to grow even more each year. He always stared at her like he wouldn’t be able to take his next breath if she wasn’t by his side. 

“No, he’s going to be on the west coast. I’m pretty sure that’s why he gave in to my plans. He’s determined to get through an insane number of meetings before the baby comes,” Mia clarified, a slight edge to her voice. 


“What’s Bri doing with her kids? Trey’s an awesome dad, but that’s more than any sane male is able to handle without some reinforcement.”


“Lillian’s going to help watch them during our trip. We’ll be in New York next Wednesday. Trey plans on joining us by the weekend. I left a message for Shane so he knows we’ll be in town. We’re staying for at least a week and a half, but it’ll boil down to whether or not Bri can be away from the kids that long. I tried reaching Jayden but haven’t heard back. It’d be great if he could join us. It’d be like a mini-reunion.”


Shane’s accounting company was on the verge of going global. He was overseas to woo some new clients he’d recently picked up in Italy. Lately, our jobs left very little time for us to hang out, and FaceTime just wasn’t the same. I hoped he’d be able to fly back and spend some time with the rest of us, even if it was only for a few days.


Jayden didn’t really have an excuse for ghosting Mia. Lately, he’d been secretive and flaky, and neither sat very well with me. I didn’t buy the company line that he’d been trying to get some new software clients. I’d been trying my best to figure out what he was up to from a distance, but it wasn’t easy with my chaotic schedule. 


“Jackson, you zoned out on me. Did a bunch of fans catch up to you?” 


“Sorry. My mind wandered. This is incredible news. I can’t wait to see you guys.”


The line beeped, and Mia cursed under her breath. “I’m sorry to cut this call short. Ethan is calling me. If I don’t answer, he panics and ends up doing irrational things like hiring bodyguards. Poor bastards don’t even make it into the house before they’re let go.”


I chuckled. “It’s all right. I should get going too.”


“I’ll call you when we reach the city to get your location for the day. Try to behave yourself until we get there. I don’t want to have to slap you before I give you a huge hug,” Mia replied, her voice sweet yet scolding.


“My schedule is pretty packed, but I’ll have my phone on me and stop whatever I’m doing to answer your call. Talk to you soon,” I said around a chuckle before hanging up.


As I weaved my way in between people, my arms blazed, but it wasn’t the sun causing them to burn. A raging inferno swept through me every time I thought about Jayden getting himself into some sort of trouble, and today was no different. I didn’t want to believe he was back to his hacking ways, but his sketchy behavior led me to believe otherwise. 


“Oh. My. God. That’s Jackson Reid!” a girl shrieked.


“Ah, fuck. That’s what happens when I stop paying attention to my surroundings,” I grumbled, turning my jog into an all-out sprint.


“Please, Jackson, just one autograph,” a different woman squealed.


More people caught on, and before I knew it, a dozen women were running full speed at me. I ran into the first alley I spotted, looking for places to hide, but didn’t have very many promising ones. 


There weren’t a lot of entrances to stores back here. Fuck! Footsteps grew closer. I had no choice but to squeeze in between a dumpster and a brick building. Crouching down, my heart pounding like a jackhammer gone wild, I sent a prayer to the big guy upstairs that he’d work some magic to get them to keep running. If they didn’t, I’d have a whole new set of problems.



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