By Stephanie Christensen All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Mystery


Some people weren't meant to love. At least, that's the only explanation Rosegold Reed can give herself when every man she kisses seems to slowly drain of life. Navigating her way through the summer before college was hard enough, but discovering her own Black Widow physiology is a curse beyond her belief. Entangled in mystery, Rosegold seeks out help to discover who--or what--she is, and how she can stop. And as she falls in love with her best friend George, she realizes her uncontrollable extraction of life forces just might end his life.

Chapter 1

Rosegold Reed felt the heat of emotion flush her cheeks as the outrageously handsome stranger ordered her a drink at the bar. She was at Atlas Atlantis—one of the most popular hotel nightclubs in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn—trying out her fake ID for the first time. She adjusted herself nervously in her short, skintight hot pink dress. Though she tried not to be, Rosegold was apprehensive about wearing it out. She had tried it on earlier that day while shopping with her best friends Vivian and Nicki and they nearly forced her to buy it.

“If you don’t buy it, I’m buying it for you,” Viv preened.

“Oh come on Rosegold, you’ve been working hard all summer. It’s reasonable to treat yourself to something cute.” Nicki gave her a shy, affirming smile.

“Okay, okay.” Rosegold laughed, caving to their demands. Nicki was right—Rosegold had been working nonstop since she landed an internship at St. Mary’s Hospital five days a week. She was mostly shadowing, running errands, and doing chart work for the labs, but she was supposed to start scrubbing into the Operating Room soon and she was beyond excited. It was her dream to start experiencing surgery in the OR, even if it was just watching from the sidelines.

Rosegold felt terrible about neglecting her friends since starting the internship, but she knew that it was important for her to work hard if she wanted to build a good career. Her parents were constantly reminding her to ‘do the right thing’ and be a good person. Of course, they were right. Rosegold built her foundation on these values. To her, it seemed like healing people was the highest calling. This moral upbringing made Rosegold a bit of a worrywart. She was a good girl. Almost never took risks. Feared the unknown. Everything a respectable, straitlaced daughter should be.

However, this Saturday night, she had finally agreed to chug a few energy drinks and hit the club with her two best friends. Vivian and Nicki really wanted a girls’ night out at Atlas Atlantis and who was she to disappoint?

The three girls had graduated from high school a month prior and were excited to begin exploring their new world. They were so excited to start at New York University that they actually moved in to their new apartment. Their parents didn’t mind because the rent was year-round anyways, and the girls were very insistent. And to Nicki and Vivian, freedom meant parties! All of their high school friends had already joined the college party scene, and a few of the ‘cool’ kids vowed that the nightclubs were the place to be. So of course, Vivian, Nicki, and Rosegold were eager to get on board. Vivian connected the girls with some fake IDs, and voila! It was already time for their first night out hitting the clubs. And for some unbeknownst reason, Rosegold found herself being wooed by one of the most attractive men in the club.

“Another round?” The mystery man smirked softly at her, sitting by her side. Rosegold looked him up and down, admiring him from head to toe. He looked much older than her—maybe 34—and well-accomplished… she could tell he was refined by the way he dressed and the way he ordered drink after drink with no much as a flicker of anxiety at the amassing tab. He held himself tall like a man with money, but relaxed, like a man with experience. He had such a natural charm about him, almost too smooth to be trustworthy. Rosegold had never met someone like him before, and found herself flustered and magnetized. He wore a tight navy button-down dress shirt that pressed against his figure with his every move. The sleeves were neatly rolled up just above his elbows and the shirt was delicately tucked into his fitted dark slacks. The pants were folded once at the bottom, exposing his ankles and navy socks. A slick black suit jacket accented with silver cuff links hung over the back of his chair.

The man’s smooth, silky skin was only a shade darker than Rosegold’s olive complexion and his hair was dark and soft-looking—begging for a beautiful girl to run her hands through it. He was clean shaven with thick dark eyebrows and his features were strong and defined: masculine carved cheekbones, sharp nose—not too long. Rosegold felt bad for analyzing his features so closely but she couldn’t find a single flaw. He looked like one of those GQ models who were too attractive to be up to any good.

“Another round.” She raised her glass and gave him a small smile in return. She felt her heart beating violently, and caught her breath. As the man turned to call the bartender for two more glasses of vodka, Rosegold flipped around to her friends in a panic. Even talking to him was out of character for her, and she felt so nervous that she might puke. Her eyes flickered anxiously and she considered getting up and running back to the safe haven of the booth where her friends were hiding. Nicki and Vivian were sitting across the club in a spacious corner, giggling and watching their friend be hit on by a gorgeous stranger.

“Go! Have a drink with him!” They had urged when she had received a Gin and Tonic ‘courtesy of the man at the bar’. He had winked and waved teasingly at her and Rosegold had felt as if she was blushing a brighter pink than her dress. Honestly, if she hadn’t been so nervous, she might have found the cheesy gesture kind of hilarious. A handsome man sends you a drink from across the room. It had seemed like a set up. Or a game, at least.

Rosegold wasn’t used to this much attention. Since graduation, she lived in her scrubs and never really had time for boys. Heck, before graduation, she had never seemed to find time for boys either. Not that she hadn’t gotten any attention from them. Rosegold was a strikingly beautiful girl, especially dolled up with makeup and hair product. She was Greek, with a little bit of Turkish heritage. She was fairly tall—about 5’9’’—and looked slender and powerful in her tight dress and 3 inch heels. Her long ombre hair draped down her back and shoulders in gently styled waves. The top of her hair was mocha brown, dark like coffee with barely the lightest touch of creamer—a color that matched her thinly shaped eyebrows— and the bottom half of her hair was a gold-blonde color that complimented her skin tone and boldly contrasted the aforementioned mocha. She had bright eyes (hazel with little flecks of green) that were highlighted ever so slightly by delicate, far-reaching lashes. It was as if her eyes were the sun and her eyelashes were brilliant rays emanating from the brightest star. She had traces of cute freckles along her nose and cheeks. There were some random ones scattered across her face along with a few blemishes that Vivian had fruitlessly tried to disguise with foundation and sneaky contour. Apparently, some things were just too stubborn to be hidden. Altogether, Rosegold’s beauty was astounding and unique.

But if anything, her natural presence was most enticing. The combination of glowing kindness and sharp wit that seemed to radiate from her was what made Rosegold truly stunning. She was introverted, and had almost solely female friends because it seemed that guys only cared to be around her when they were looking for a cheap hookup. The drunk ‘cool’ guys were the worst perpetrators of this crime. Rosegold didn’t blame the pretentious kids for being ‘done’ with high school house parties… she felt as if she had been to enough high school parties to last a lifetime. Despite the occasional attempts, she had never really been with a boy, not once during her whole high school experience. Maybe it was the civility her parents had instilled in her. Maybe it was lack of a reasonable option. Eighteen-year-old Rosegold had never had a boyfriend or even a cheap drunk kiss, though she felt a little embarrassed to admit it.

The mystery man turned back to her and Rosegold flashed him a I-totally-know-what-I’m-doing smile. She decided to be brave for once and to stick with what she had started.

“So, Rosegold… did I get that right?” He asked.

“You did! Very impressive,” she teased shyly.

“What do you do for a living?” He leaned in close to her and smiled, encouraged by her flirting.

“Well, Josh…”

“James.” He laughed, confused, and Rosegold couldn’t tell if she’d offended him or not.

“Oh no!” She grimaced, ready to give up and retreat. James smirked, knowing he was dealing with an amateur. He couldn’t help but crack a wicked smile as he leaned in.

“You can call me whatever you want,” James whispered.

Rosegold’s eyes widened. She felt a rush of adrenaline run through her at the danger and novelty of it all. She regretfully though to herself that she should’ve given him an alias as well. Be someone else—someone mysterious, sexy, different… just for one night.

“Do you want to dance with me?” He asked.

“Yes.” The word practically flew from her mouth and James’s catlike eyes lit up. He seized her hand and dragged her onto the dance floor. She laughed nervously as they moved closer to the booming speakers and vibrating bass. The fast paced drumming of the music guided their hips together in sync to a thrilling Reggaeton song and James led Rosegold through the moves. Pressed against each other, the two laughed and stumbled across the dance floor. Rosegold felt intoxicated in every sense of the word. She knew she was playing a part for the night. This wasn’t her and she didn’t want it to be. But in the moment, it was everything she wanted. James pulled her close, their sweaty bodies only inches apart. He held her there, frozen. They both breathed heavily, catching their breath from the dance.

“You’re amazing,” he said breathlessly. He spoke with a confidence that revealed he had played this game with many other girls. Naïve to this poised breed of man, Rosegold didn’t notice. Her eyes lit up and she told herself: Do it. Be crazy for one night. Mantra in mind, she grabbed the back of his head and pulled him in to kiss her. In the flash of a second, their lips locked and she grasped his messy hair. They breathed each other in, enjoying the moment of isolation from the commotion around them. As she kissed him, Rosegold felt an energy fill her that she had never felt before. When she pulled away from James, she was brimming with a completely novel form of euphoria. Did everyone’s first kiss feel like this? She was radiating. Her body was shaking with energy. James shook his head momentarily, seemingly dazed, and taken aback by the strength of the kiss.

“Wow.” He said in awe. He seemed tired, and drunkenly stumbled a bit. His skin was a little gray, and he looked dizzy… maybe nauseous? She nodded in agreement, though she felt more alive than she had ever felt before. Her eyes flickered to Vivian and Nicki, who’d made their way on the dance floor and were still spying on the pair of them. But not even their hovering could dent Rosegold’s feeling of elation.

“Let’s go to your room,” she told James, feeling out of character.

“Okay,” he said eagerly, still looking lightheaded.

“Wait, I don’t mean it like that. This is not me. I’m sorry, I don’t—” she rambled. She took a step back, trying to replace her inward electricity with her deep-seeded logic. But every logical thought seemed overpowered by the feeling of kissing him. She tried to focus her head, to stay grounded in reason.

“Are you okay?” he asked. “We don’t have to…”

“No, it’s okay.” Rosegold’s doubts crumpled to the adrenaline spreading through her body like oxygen. She tried to excuse this impulsiveness with a half-hearted lie. “I want to go up, but just for some privacy,” she said.

“Okay,” he said with a look of triumph.

From there, the two of them quickly made their way up to James’s room suite 211.

James shakily unlocked the door and Rosegold bounced up and down impatiently behind him, feeling a unique hunger. He pushed it open with unbelievable force and wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her in. She followed him inside with irrepressible excitement.

Bzz... bzz…

Her phone vibrated. Rosegold distractedly unlocked the screen as James ran his hands through her hair and down her body. She giggled at his eagerness.

Text us if you need saving. We’ll be downstairs when you’re ready. XO Nicki.

“Who’s that?” James asked as he pushed Rosegold up against the wall and began kissing her neck down her chest. He had one hand pressed against the wall and the other cradling her chin.

“Nobody,” she said, shoving her phone into her purse and accepting his shower of kisses. He moved his lips back up to her face and pulled her chin closer to him, giving her a long, passionate kiss. Rosegold inhaled as their lips met. She kissed him back hungrily, feeling stronger and stronger. This was the part she liked. She felt resilient as she wrapped her arms around him and breathed in his love. He began to collapse to his knees with the weight of the kiss and she allowed herself to take control, lifting him back up from the ground. She kissed him with passion, pushing him away from the wall and over to the living room couch. She threw him down on the couch as they kissed. He submitted to her touch.

“Tell me you love me,” Rosegold heard herself murmur. Rosegold pulled back in surprise—she didn’t know what made her demand this proclamation of love. It was crazy. Embarrassing. She didn’t feel love. But something inside her screamed for his submission. She glowed, soaking in his… lust?

“I love you,” he mumbled half-heartedly and too quickly, as he began to wrap his mouth around more promiscuous parts of her body. She wanted to laugh at how easily she made him say it. He would say anything. But to be fair, she was using him as much as he was using her, and wow… it felt like ecstasy.

She went back to kissing him. Kissing and kissing and kissing—she felt as if she was stranded in the desert and had found an oasis of ice cold rainwater. The more she felt his energy fill her, the more she wanted. She couldn’t get enough. Rosegold craved more, more, more. She continued to kiss him until he slumped over unconscious. His glazed-over eyes began to flicker. Letting her mind go blank, she pressed against his body. She never wanted to stop.

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