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First Star I See Tonight: A Chicago Stars Novel

Chapter 1

The city was his. Cooper Graham owned this town, and all was right with his world. That’s what he told himself.

A kitten-voiced brunette knelt before him, her long, dark hair brushing his bare thigh. “This is so you won’t forget me,” she purred.

The felt point of her Sharpie tickled his inner thigh. He looked down at the top of her head. “How could I forget a beautiful woman like you?”

“You’d better not.” She pressed her lips to the phone number she’d written in black marker on his leg. It would take forever for that ink to wear off, but he appreciated his fans, and he hadn’t pushed her away.

“Sure wish I could stay and chat with you,” he said as he politely drew her to her feet, “but I have to get my run in.”

She hugged the places his hands had touched. “You can call me anytime, day or night.”

He gave her his automatic grin and set off on the paved path that ran along the Lake Michigan shoreline beneath Chicago’s magnificent skyline. He was the luckiest guy in the world, right? Sure he was. Everybody wanted to be his friend, his confidant, his lover. Even the foreign tourists knew who he was. Berlin, Delhi, Osaka—made no difference. The whole world knew Cooper Graham.

Burnham Harbor slipped by on his right. It was September, so the boats would be coming out of the lake soon, but for now, they bobbed at anchor. He picked up his pace, making sure his running shoes hit the Lakefront Trail in perfect rhythm. A woman’s blond ponytail bobbed ahead of him on the running path. Strong legs. Great ass. No challenge. He passed her without altering his easy pace.

It was a good day to be Cooper Graham, but then every day was. Ask anybody. The colony of seagulls circling the Chicago shoreline dipped their wings to honor him. The leaves of the giant oaks that shaded the path rustled with frenzied applause. Even the horns of the taxi drivers racing by on Lake Shore Drive cheered him on. He loved this city, and the city loved him right back.

The man up ahead had an athlete’s build, and he was fast.

But not fast enough.

Coop passed him. The guy didn’t even look thirty. Coop was thirty-seven and banged up from a long football career, but not banged up enough to let anybody get past him. Cooper Graham: drafted out of Oklahoma State by Houston; eight seasons as the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins; a final trade to the powerhouse Chicago Stars where, after three seasons, he’d gifted the team with diamond-encrusted Super Bowl rings. Once that ring was on his finger, he’d done the smart thing and retired while he was on top. Damn right he had. He got out of the game before he became one of those pathetic old-man jocks trying desperately to hold on to his glory days.

“Hey, Coop!” A runner coming from the opposite direction called out to him. “The Stars are going to miss you this year.”

Coop gave the guy a thumbs-up.

The three years he’d spent with the Stars had been the best of his life. His roots might be buried in the Oklahoma dirt, Miami might have matured him, but it was Chicago that had ultimately tested him. And the rest was football history.

“Coop!” The pretty brunette heading in his direction barely kept from stumbling as she recognized him.

He gave her his patented female-fan smile. “Hey, sweetheart. You’re lookin’ real good.”

“Not as good as you!”

His body had taken a beating over the years, but he was still strong, with the same quick reflexes and winning attitude that had brought him national attention during his college days. That attention had only grown hotter as the years had passed. He might have retired from pro ball, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t still at the top of his game, except now, the game had shifted to a new playing field, one he was determined to conquer.

Another mile sped by. Then two. Only the bicyclists were faster. They were his courtiers, clearing the way for him on this September afternoon. No one could catch him—not the young Turks who manned the pits at the Board of Trade or the tattooed gym rats showing off their pumped-up biceps.

Coop hit the three-mile mark, and a runner finally passed him. Young. Maybe a college kid. Coop had been slacking, and he kicked it back up. Nobody beat him. That’s the way he was made.

The kid glanced over. He saw right away who was beside him, and his eyes nearly bugged out of their sockets. Coop nodded and ran on, leaving the kid behind. Old man? Forget that.

He heard feet coming up behind him. The kid again. Now he was next to Coop, looking for bragging rights. “I ran with Coop Graham today, and I kicked his ass.”

Not gonna happen, baby boy.

Coop sped up. He wasn’t one of those asshole players who believed he’d won that Super Bowl ring by himself, but he also knew the Stars couldn’t have done it without him because, more than anything, Coop had to win.

There was the kid again. Pulling up. He was scrawny, with toothpick legs and arms too long for his body. Coop must have him by fifteen years, but he didn’t believe in making excuses, and he dug in. Anybody who said winning wasn’t everything was full of it. Winning was all that counted, and every loss he’d suffered had been toxic. But no matter how much he’d seethed inside, he was always the sportsman: self-deprecating, gallant in his praise of the opposition, never complaining about bad calls, inept teammates, or injuries. No matter how bitter his thoughts, how poisonous each word tasted in his mouth, he never let it show. Whining made losers into bigger losers. But, goddamn, he hated to lose. And he wasn’t going to lose today.

The kid had a long, steady stride. Too long. Coop understood the science of running in a way the kid didn’t, and he reined in his tendency to overstride. He wasn’t stupid. Stupid runners got hurt.

Okay, he was stupid. A searing pain crucified his right shin, he was breathing too hard, and his bad hip throbbed. His brain told him he had nothing left to prove, but he couldn’t let the kid pass. He wasn’t made that way.

The run turned into a sprint. He’d played through pain his whole career, and he wouldn’t cave in to it now. Not in the first September of his retirement, while his former teammates were busting their asses running drills to get ready for another Sunday. Not like other retired players content to get fat and lazy living off their money.

Five miles. Lincoln Park. They were side by side again. His lungs burned, his hip screamed, and his shins were on fire. Medial tibial stress syndrome. Ordinary shin splints, but there was nothing ordinary about this kind of pain.

The kid fell back and caught up. Fell back. Caught up again. He was saying something. Coop ignored it. Blotted out the pain as he always did. Focused on his pumping legs, on grasping whatever molecule of air his lungs could suck in. Focused on winning.

“Coop! Mr. Graham!”

What the hell?

“Could I . . . have a . . . selfie . . . with you?” the kid gasped. “For . . . my dad?”

All he wanted was a selfie? Sweat dripped from every pore of Coop’s body. His lungs were an inferno. He slowed, and so did the kid, until they both came to a stop. Coop wanted to drop to the ground and curl up, but the kid was still upright, and Coop would rather shoot himself in the head.

A drop of sweat trickled down the little shithead’s neck. “I guess I shouldn’t . . . interrupt your workout . . . but . . . it’d mean a lot . . . to my dad.”

The kid wasn’t breathing nearly as hard as Coop, but with the discipline of fifteen years in the NFL, Coop mustered a smile. “Sure. Be happy to.”

The kid pulled out a cell and fussed with it, talking the whole time about how he and his dad were Coop’s biggest fans. Coop struggled to keep his lungs working. The kid turned out to be a Division I sprinter, which made Coop feel a little better. Sure, he’d have to keep his hip iced for the next couple of days, but so what? Being a champion was his birthright.

All in all, it was still a good day to be Cooper Graham.

Except for one pesky woman.

He spotted her on the Museum Campus right after he’d cabbed it back to get his car. There she was, sitting on a bench, pretending to read a book.

Yesterday, she’d been dressed like a homeless person with scraggly gray hair. Today her black shorts, leggings, and long T-shirt made her look like a student at the Art Institute. He couldn’t see her car, but he had no doubt it was parked somewhere close. If he hadn’t happened to notice a dark green Hyundai Sonata with a broken taillight parked near him one too many times in the last four days, he might not have realized he was being followed. He’d had enough of it.

But as he headed toward her, a city bus pulled up. Maybe she had ESP, because she jumped on, and he missed his chance. That didn’t bother him much, since he was fairly certain he’d see her again.

And he did. Two nights later.


Piper crossed the street to the entrance of Spiral, the nightclub Cooper Graham had opened in July, six months after his retirement from the Chicago Stars. The light September breeze feathered her bare legs and blew up under the skirt of her short black sleeveless dress. Beneath it, she wore her next-to-last pair of clean underwear. Sooner or later, she’d have to do laundry, but for now, all she cared about was recording Cooper Graham’s every move.

Her scalp itched from where she’d tucked her short, chopped hair under the long brunette wig she’d picked up at a resale shop. She prayed the hair, along with the scoop-neck dress, cat’s-eye liner, scarlet lipstick, and push-up bra would finally get her past the primitive life-form who passed for Spiral’s door manager, an obstacle she hadn’t been able to overcome on her past two attempts.

The same doorman was on duty tonight. He was shaped like a nineteenth-century torpedo: fat warhead, thick tank, feet splayed like fins. The first time, he’d grunted his dismissal of her at the same time that he waved a pair of swishy-haired blondes through the club’s double brass doors. She, of course, had challenged him. “What do you mean, you’re full? You’re letting them in.”

He’d taken in her cropped dark hair, best white blouse, and jeans with his squinty little eyes. “Just what I said.”

That had been last Saturday night. Piper couldn’t do her job unless she was inside Spiral, but since the club was open only four nights a week, she hadn’t been able to make her next attempt until yesterday. Even though she’d combed her hair and put on a skirt and blouse, he hadn’t been impressed, and that meant upping her game. She’d picked up this dress at H&M, traded in her comfortable boots for a torturous pair of strappy stilettos, and borrowed an evening clutch from her friend Jen. The clutch wasn’t big enough to hold more than her cell, fake ID, and a couple of twenty-dollar bills. The rest—everything that correctly identified her as Piper Dove—was stashed in the trunk of her car: laptop computer; a duffel containing the hats, sunglasses, jackets, and scarves she used as disguises; and a semiobscene-looking device called a Tinkle Belle.

Spiral, named after Cooper Graham’s long and deadly accurate spiral passes, was Chicago’s hottest club, and a line had predictably formed at the velvet rope. As she approached Torpedo Head, she held her breath and drew her shoulders back to push up her breasts. “You’re busy tonight, gov,” she sort of cooed in the fake British accent she’d been practicing.

Torpedo Head noticed her breasts, then her face, then dropped his chin to take in her legs. The man was a pig. Good. She cocked her head and gave him a smile that revealed the straight white teeth her father had spent thousands of dollars on when she’d been twelve, even though she’d begged him to use the money to buy her a horse. Now that she was thirty-three, the horse still struck her as the better deal.

“I cawn’t get over how big American men are.” With the tip of her index finger, she pushed up the bridge of the retro-trendy eyeglasses she’d added at the last minute to further disguise her appearance.

He leered. “I work out.”

“Obb-viously.” She wished she could choke the son of a bitch with his Spiral lanyard.

He waved her through into the club’s luxurious black-and-bronze interior.

She’d never liked the club scene, not even when she was in her early twenties. All that purposeful merriment made her feel somehow apart, disconnected. But this was business, and Spiral, with its megacelebrity owner, was no ordinary dance club. Two levels of smart design allowed for a great dance floor but also places to talk or troll for hookups without having to scream over the music. The movable leather banquettes and the more private nooks with their softly illuminated, cube-shaped cocktail tables were already filled with the Thursday-night crowd. Tonight’s DJ spun from a booth perched above a dance floor where muted colors blended and reformed like horny amoebae.

She bought her one drink of the night, a six-dollar Sprite, at the central bar. Over it, a suspended ceiling of LED rods hovered like a golden UFO. She watched the bartender for a while, then made her way through the crowd to a recess between a pair of icicle-shaped bronze wall sconces, where she planned to observe the host as soon as he appeared.

A skinny guy with waxed hair and a bottle of Miller Lite stepped in front of her and blocked her view. “I’m not feeling good. I think I’m missing some Vitamin U.”

“Get lost.”

He looked so hurt.

“Hold on,” she said with a sigh.

His expression was pathetically hopeful. She adjusted her glasses and said, more kindly, “Most of the pickup lines you find on the Internet are cheesy. You’d do better if you’d just say hi.”

“You for real?”

“Only a suggestion.”

He curled his lip at her. “Bitch.”

So much for trying to be nice.

The guy went off in search of easier prey. She took a sip of Sprite. Torpedo Head had exchanged his door manager position for bouncer duty. His specialty seemed to be chatting up leggy blondes.

The club’s VIP lounge was located in an open mezzanine. She scanned what she could see of it for her quarry, but he wasn’t visible among the guests sitting near the bronze railing. She needed to get up there, but a blond bulldog of a bouncer had been stationed at the bottom to keep out the riffraff, which, unfortunately, included her. Frustrated, she worked her way through the well-heeled throng to the other side. And that’s when she spotted him.

Even in a crowd, Cooper Graham stood out like a beacon in a candle factory. He was ridiculously masculine. Beyond ridiculous. He was the Holy Grail of men, complete with thick brown hair the color of burnt toast topped with a drizzle of honey. He had a square jaw, broad shoulders, and a cleft in his chin that was such a cliché he should have been embarrassed. He wore his customary uniform: perfectly fitted button-down shirt, jeans, and cowboy boots. On most people, cowboy boots in Chicago were an affectation, but he’d been born and raised on an Oklahoma ranch. Still, she didn’t like the boots; the long, muscular legs rising above them; or—as a lifelong Chicago Bears fan—the team he’d played for. Piper had to work hard for every penny, unlike this arrogant, egotistical, overly privileged ex-Stars quarterback and his stable of movie star girlfriends.

She’d been following him for nearly a week, so she knew he was on the floor at his new nightclub every night, but she doubted that would last for long. Celebrity nightclub owners tended to fade away under the grind of real work.

Graham was doing the rounds—slapping men on the back and flirting with the women who were lined up around him like jets on the runways at O’Hare. She didn’t like judging other members of her sex, but that was part of her job now, and none of these girls looked as though they were future CEOs—too much hair swinging, eye-batting, and boob-thrusting. Watching them made her grateful that she had zero desire to hook up with anyone right now. All she cared about was her job.

The crowd surrounding him was growing. She looked around for a bouncer but the only ones she spotted were busily engaged in deep conversations with the female guests. So far, no client had hired her as a bodyguard, but she’d taken a lengthy training course, and she could see that Graham’s  lack of security was irresponsible, although it might let her get closer to him.

Graham seemed at ease despite the crush, but she noticed him occasionally scanning the crowd, as if he were looking for a pass receiver. His gaze flicked in her direction, then moved on.

As the crowd around him approached a dangerous level, he somehow managed to work himself free and head up the stairs toward the mezzanine and the VIP lounge. Now that she was inside the club, her inability to follow him there was maddening.

She made her way to the ladies’ room where she heard nothing more interesting than gossip about who’d made it as far as the fur-covered bed he reportedly kept in his office. Someone touched her shoulder as she came out. Torpedo Head.

Like the other bouncers, he wore dark pants and a white dress shirt that must have been specially tailored to fit the thick neck that marked both him and his fellow goons as former football players. “You have to come with me.”

Other than offering Miller Lite Boy some much-needed advice on improving his pickup game, she hadn’t done anything to draw attention to herself, and she didn’t like this. Rearing back on her unwieldy heels, she brought out her fake accent, “Oh, gawd. Why?”

“ID check.”

“Crickey! I already showed it at the bloody door. And I very much appreciate the compliment, but I’m thirty-three years old.”

“Spot check.”

This was no spot check. Something was up. She was about to refuse more forcefully when he jerked his big head toward the steps that led to the mezzanine, inadvertently giving her the chance she’d been waiting for to get closer to the VIP lounge. She gave him a blazing smile. “Right, then. Let’s move along and settle this.”

He grunted.

At the top of the mezzanine steps, a pair of bronzed pillars marked the entrance to VIP, but as they got close, he grabbed her arm and herded her around a corner and through a plain door off to the left.

It was an unimpressive office where folding wooden shutters covered the lower half of a pair of windows, and a wall-mounted television silently broadcast ESPN. An iMac sat on a streamlined desk across from a two-cushion couch. Above it was a framed Chicago Stars jersey with the name Graham on the back. The Stars aqua-and-gold team colors had always looked girly to her in comparison to her beloved Chicago Bears no-nonsense navy blue and orange.

“Wait here.” The goon stepped out and closed the door behind him.

VIP was only a few steps away. She counted to twenty and reached for the doorknob.

The door swung open in her face. She tripped backward, focusing so hard on keeping her balance that the door shut again before she realized who’d walked in. A whoosh roared through her ears.

Cooper Graham himself.

She felt as if she’d been struck by a supernova, and she hated that. After following him for six days, she should have been better prepared. But seeing him from a distance and being ten feet away were completely different animals.

He’d sucked up all the air in the room, and the good ol’ boy grin he turned on his customers was nowhere in sight. This was his face at the line of scrimmage. One thing was certain. If Graham wanted to see her, this wasn’t about a simple ID check.

She mentally ticked off the possible reasons she’d been detained and decided she hated every one of them. But she told herself Graham wasn’t the only one in the room who knew how to fake a play, and unlike him, she had everything at stake.

Even though her heart was pounding so hard she was afraid he’d see, she tried to look as if this was the thrill of her lifetime. “Brilliant! I say, I’m quite gobsmacked.”

His eyes, a shade darker than his burnt-toast hair, swept over her, taking in her long wig, pushed-up breasts, and okay legs. She wasn’t a beauty, but she wasn’t a dog, either, and if she had a shred of vanity, she would have been demoralized by his obvious disdain. But she didn’t, and she wasn’t.

She dug her toe-numbing heels into the carpet as he came farther into the office. His thick brown hair was a little disheveled. Not fashionably rumpled—more the dishevelment of a man who couldn’t be bothered with bimonthly haircuts or a shelf full of grooming products.

Stay calm. Keep your focus.

Without warning, he snatched her clutch away, and she gave a little hiss of dismay. “Bugger!” she cried, a few beats too late.

She stared at his oversize hands—ten inches from thumb to little finger. She knew this because she did her homework. Just as she knew those big hands had thrown more than three hundred touchdowns. The same hands digging in her clutch and pulling out her fake green card.

“Esmerelda Crocker?”

A good investigator had to improvise, and the more detail she could give, the more convincing she’d be. “I go by Esme. Lady Esme, actually. Esmerelda is a family name.”

“Is that so.” His voice rolled from his lips like deep water over a parched Oklahoma prairie.

She gave a shaky nod. “Passed down through the generations to honor the second wife of the fifth Earl of Conundrum. Died in childbirth, the poor cow.”

“My condolences.” He looked inside again. “No credit cards?”

“They’re so vulgar, don’t you think?”

“Money’s never vulgar,” the cowboy drawled.

“How very American of you.”

He began rummaging in her clutch again, something that didn’t take long, since she’d left her wallet safely stashed in her car—a wallet that held her fresh new private investigator’s license as well as half a dozen business cards.

Est. 1958
Truth brings peace

The original business cards had read: “Truth brings piece.” Her grandfather had been a brilliant investigator, but a lousy speller.

Graham smelled like money and fame, not that she could exactly describe what either one smelled like, but she knew it when she sniffed it, the same way she knew that the future of her business depended on what happened next. She pulled in the few molecules of air his presence hadn’t already burned up. “I don’t really mind you mucking about in there like that, but I am curious what you’re looking for.”

He shoved the clutch back at her. “Something that’ll explain why you’ve been following me.”

She’d been so careful! Her mind raced. How had she given herself away? What rookie mistake had she made that had sunk her? All her hard work was for nothing—sleeping in her car, living on junk food, peeing into the Tinkle Belle, and—worst of all—spending her life savings buying Dove Investigations from her cheating, detestable stepmother. Dove Investigations—the detective agency her grandfather had founded, her father had built, and the one that should have been hers from birth. If only her father hadn’t been so bullheaded. Every sacrifice she’d made would be useless. She’d be forced back to life in a cubicle, right along with having to live with the knowledge that a pampered jock like Cooper Graham had gotten the best of her.

Acid churned in the pit of her stomach. She arranged her forehead in a confused frown. “Following you?”

He stood silhouetted against the framed Chicago Stars jersey displayed on the wall behind him. His blue, button-down shirt made his already formidable shoulders look even wider, and the rolled-up sleeves showcased the lean muscles of his lower arms. The expert fit of his dark jeans—neither too tight nor too loose—exhibited the long, powerful legs that had been designed by God to be steady, strong, and quick—much to the disadvantage of her Chicago Bears.

His gaze was as grim as an Illinois winter. “I’ve seen you parked outside my condo, following me to my gym, to here. And I want to know why.”

She’d thought she was being so inventive with all her disguises. How had he managed to see through them? Denial would be futile. She sank onto the couch and tried to think.

He waited. Arms folded. Standing on the sidelines watching the enemy’s offense fall apart.

“Well . . .” She swallowed. Looked up at him. “The fact is . . .” She released her breath in a whoosh. “I’m your stalker.”


A rush of adrenaline spread through her. She wouldn’t go down without a fight, and she shot up from the couch. “Not a dangerous one. Lord, no. Merely obsessed.”

“With me.” A statement, not a question. He’d been here before.

“I don’t make a habit of stalking people. This . . . quite got away from me, you see.” She didn’t know exactly how this tactic could possibly save her, but she plunged on. “I’m not full-out barmy, you understand. Just . . . mildly unhinged.”

He cocked his head, but at least he was listening. And why not? Lunatics were always fascinating.

“I assure you, I’m only a bit of a nutter,” she said breathlessly. “Absolutely harmless. You don’t have to worry about violence.”

“Only that I have a stalker.”

“Not the first one, I daresay. A man like you . . .” She paused and tried not to choke. “A god.”

The hard look in his eyes indicated he wasn’t easily swayed by flattery. “I don’t want to see you anywhere near me again. Got it?”

She got it. It was over. Fini. But still, she couldn’t give up. “I’m afraid that will be impossible.” She paused. “Until my new medication kicks in.”

The cleft in his chin deepened as he set his jaw. “What you’re doing is illegal.”

“And mortifying. You can’t imagine how humiliating it is to be in this position. Nothing is more painful than . . . unrequited love.” The last two words came out as a croak she hoped he’d attribute to adoration, because everything about him got her hackles up. His size, his good looks, but most of all, the arrogance that came from a lifetime of people kissing his taut butt just because he’d been born with natural talent.

He didn’t show even a flicker of sympathy. “If I catch sight of you again, I’m calling the cops.”

“I—I understand.” She was done. This had been a futile tactic from the beginning. Unless . . . She nodded at him with manufactured sympathy. “I understand how terrifying this must be to you.”

He leaned back ever so slightly on the heels of his cowboy boots. “I wouldn’t say that.”

“Rubbish.” Maybe she’d found the chink in his manly armor. “You’re terrified I might suddenly pop out at you when you’re walking down the street. That I’ll be armed with one of those odious handguns you insane Americans insist on carrying around like chewing gum.” And like the Glock in her car trunk. “I’d never do that. Good gracious, no! But you don’t know that for certain, and how would you defend yourself?”

“I think I could handle you,” he said dryly.

She managed to look puzzled. “If that’s true, why would you be concerned about a harmless twit like myself following you around for a bit?”

He no longer seemed quite so laid-back. “Because I don’t like it.”

She tried to appear both sympathetic and adoring. “So terrifying for you.”

“Stop saying that!”

“I understand. It’s a dreadful dilemma.”

His eyes flashed lethal golden sparks. “It’s not a dilemma at all. Stay the hell away from me.”

She plunged on. “Yes, well, as I believe I mentioned, it’s not that easy—not until my medication takes effect. The doctor has assured me it won’t be much longer. But until then, I’m quite helpless. Perhaps a compromise?”

“No compromise.”

“A week at the most. In the meantime, if you spot me, you’ll simply pretend I’m not around.” She brushed her hands together. “There. That’s done.”

No surprise. He wasn’t buying it. “I meant what I said about the cops.”

She twisted her hands, hoping the gesture didn’t look as theatrical as it felt. “I’ve heard terrible things about Chicago jails . . .”

“You should have thought about that before you started your stalking gig.”

It could be the stress of so many sleepless nights, or even a spike in her blood sugar from all the junk food. More likely it was the threat of losing everything she’d worked for. She dipped her head, slipped off her glasses, and dabbed at her dry cheeks with her knuckles, as if she’d started to cry, something she’d never do in a thousand years no matter how horrible things got. “I don’t want to go to jail,” she said on a sniff. “I’ve never even had a traffic ticket.” Now that was a lie, but she was an excellent driver, and the speed limits on the city’s expressways were moronically slow. “What do you think will happen to me there?”

“I don’t know, and I don’t care.”

Despite his words, she detected a hesitation, and she dove for it. “Yes, well, you might as well call them now because no matter how hard I try, I know I won’t be able to help myself.”

“Don’t say that.”

Did he sound the slightest bit rattled? She managed another sniff and dabbed at her eyes with her index finger. “I wouldn’t wish the pain of this kind of love on anyone.”

“It’s not love,” he said with disgust. “It’s craziness.”

“I know. It’s absurd.” She swiped her perfectly dry nostrils with the back of her hand. “How can you possibly love someone whom you only met today?”

“You can’t.”

Until he threw her out, she wasn’t giving up. “Couldn’t you reconsider? Only for one week until the new pills restore my sanity?”


“Of course you couldn’t. And I do want the best for you. I can’t tolerate the idea of you cowering in fear, afraid to leave your condo because you’re terrified you’ll see me.”

“I’m not going to be terrified—”

“I’m sure I’ll be able to survive jail. How long do you think they’ll keep me? Is there the slightest chance you would— Never mind. It’s too much to ask you to visit me while I’m behind bars.”

“You’re completely nuts.”

“Oh, yes. But harmless. And remember, it’s only temporary.” She’d gotten this far. She might as well go for broke. “If you were physically attracted to me . . . You’re not, are you?”


His outrage was reassuring. “Then I won’t offer to . . . sexually satisfy you.” Gleckkk! She was going to wash her mouth out with soap when this was over.

“Get some help,” he snarled.

He went to the door and called in his goon. A few minutes later, she was on the street.

Now what?

First Star I See Tonight: A Chicago Stars Novel
by by Susan Elizabeth Phillips