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Chapter One


Loud music boomed in my ears, the smell of alcohol and mixed perfume filling my nostrils as I carried my tray around, bringing our customers their drinks.

A noisy group in the back had been whistling and looking at me all night, and I was about to snap when Andy, my co-worker, pulled me back behind the bar.

“Just ignore them,” he told me, and I rolled my eyes.

“It really bothers me that I have to ignore their shit, and they just keep going.” I placed the empty glasses on the bar, loading a new set of orders.

I stumbled ever so slightly to the left, making a move to leave, I lost my balance for a second, before I regained composure, pretending I didn’t notice Andy’s eyes narrowing at me.

“Bella...” he started, but I walked away, ignoring him. I wasn’t in the mood for another lecture.

It took me about ten minutes to lose my shit.

After I had cleaned one of the tables, I walked back past the noisy group, keeping my eyes on my destination as much as I could. Maybe if I didn’t give them any attention, they would leave me alone.

“Hey, Mami,” one of them said, his hand leaving the table and landing on my ass. Oh, hell no.

“Excuse you?” I exclaimed, placing my tray with a loud thud on their table, knocking over a couple of glasses in the process.

“Feisty,” he added, wiggling his brows and making another attempt to touch me.

Before I knew what I was doing, I pulled back my arm and hit him hard in the face. I instantly shrieked from the contact, feeling like I broke my fingers on his boney cheekbones. Quickly, I took a step back.

“What the fuck?” the guy yelled, a few of his friends jumped out of their seats, ready to charge at me.

“I...” I cradled my hand in the other, looking from one guy to another. There was no way I could take on all of them.

“Powell!” I heard my last name behind me, and I closed my eyes with a sigh. Of course.

I turned as my boss, Will, walked up to me, her face almost as red as her hair and her glasses nearly leaving her nose.

“My apologies, gentlemen. Your drinks are on the house and I’ll personally make sure something like this never happens again,” she said sweetly, getting the guys back in their seats without protest.

Her smile quickly faded when she grabbed me by my arm, dragging me to the back.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she hissed after closing the door to her tiny office. It was more of a broom closet, but I guess she made the best of it.

“He touched me inappropriately,” I replied, crossing my arms over my chest and daring her to say that it wasn’t an excuse to punch someone in the face.

She looked at me, her brows furrowed, and I suddenly felt uneasy about the way she thought about her next move.

Justified or not, punching a customer—or anyone for that matter—wasn’t getting me into Will’s good books.

“Bellamy, I’ve given you a lot of chances over the last couple of months,” she finally said, walking around her desk and taking out the massive file with my name on it. “I’ve ignored your alcohol abuse for a while, but this is the final straw.”

I opened my mouth to say something, but she cut me off.

“You’re fired.”

Thinking about various ways I could try to turn this around, I stayed silent, but after coming up empty, I just scoffed. Fuck this.

“Whatever,” I mumbled, untying my apron and throwing it on the floor. “Goodbye.”

Was I bitter? A little.

I shot the group that just cost me my job a nasty look, shaking my head at Andy as I walked behind the bar to grab my shit.

“What happened?” he asked, drying a tumbler with a tea towel.

“She fired me.”

His eyes widened. “What, why?”

I pulled on my leather jacket, flipping my long hair from underneath the fabric and letting it flow in waves down my back. “Because I stood up for myself.”

At that, I walked out of the bar, the cold night air slapping me in the face as soon as I stepped outside.

With my keys between my fingers, I made my way home, my apartment pretty close to my former workplace. It was past midnight, and the streets were dark and empty, but I preferred it.

Most people were asleep, meaning they weren’t bothering me, and it was the only time I could think. If I wasn’t looking over my shoulder every second to see if I was being followed, that is.

A breath of relief left my lips when I entered my apartment building, and I slouched against my door when I closed it behind me, the remaining alcohol in my system making me nauseous.

Ok, maybe drinking on the job wasn’t the best idea.

After locking the door, I dropped my keys on the dinner table, and made my way to my bedroom, ready to pass out.

I woke up with the worst headache the next morning, my eyelids unable to fully shield me from the sunlight my room was currently bathing in.

Groaning, I rolled onto my stomach, burying my face into my pillow. I hate my life.

It took me about an hour to get my ass out of bed and into the shower, the water somewhat helping my mood and easing the pounding in my head.

I decided on some fruit for breakfast, mostly because I couldn’t keep anything else down, and turned on the TV for some background noise.

Checking my phone for the time, I realized that I didn’t have a job to be late for anymore. It was a good feeling, before all of a sudden, panic set in.

“Oh my god,” I breathed out, cradling my face in my hands. There was no way I could afford to lose another job.

I looked up when someone slid a piece of paper under the door. What now?

With hesitation in my step, I walked up to my front door, grabbing the letter and flipping it over. Oh, how I wished it was a letter.

My eyes widened at the words eviction notice, and I felt my chest tighten. I knew I was behind on rent, but surely it hadn’t been that long, right?

What was I going to do? I couldn’t possibly call my parents, especially since I was the one who insisted on moving out while I hadn’t finished college yet, and Maria’s apartment was barely big enough for the tiny Latina herself, let alone two people.

Sure, my best friend would let me stay a couple of nights, but I honestly didn’t want to bother her with my shit. Which leaves me with one option.

My brother it is.

Reading over the piece of paper in my hand one more time, seeing that I really couldn’t fight this, I sighed.

Maybe it was a good idea to take a few weeks anyway. I’m only twenty-two, I have my whole life ahead of me.

I let out a long breath, adjusting the messy bun on my head, and went to grab my phone. Here goes nothing.

Pacing through my small apartment, I waited for Isaac to answer. I loved my brother, and we had a good bond, but would he let me stay with him? Would he be annoyed that I asked?

Ugh, since when was I such an overthinker?

“Hey, Bella.” I smiled when I heard his voice, my worries instantly disappearing into thin air.

“Hi. How are you?” I asked, interested to hear what he’d been up to these past two weeks.

“I’m alright. Are you ok? You sound nervous,” he questioned, and I rolled my lower lip between my teeth. Straight to the point then.

“I...” Why was it so hard for me to admit that I was wrong? Admit that I messed up? That I needed help?

“Bella, you can always talk to me, you know that right?” he reassured me, and I nodded softly.

“I got fired yesterday,” I admitted, sitting down on the couch and turning the volume of the TV down. “And this morning I received an eviction notice.”

He stayed silent for a bit. “When do you need to move out?”

I threw the eviction notice on the floor, rolling my eyes. “End of the week. I’m sorry, Isaac. I didn’t want to bother you with this.”

“You never bother me, especially when you need help. Besides, I have plenty of room.”

I smiled in relief, relaxing back into the couch. “Thank you.”

“What about I pick you up today? Give you some time to settle and get everything over here?”

Thank god.

The drive to Isaac’s was short, and even though I’d been to his before, I was still impressed by the massive house. I was proud of him, and honestly not surprised that he was able to buy this house from his work success.

“Here we go,” he said as we drove up the driveway. “Welcome home.”

I smiled at him, giving him a hug before we stepped out of the vehicle. “Thank you so much.”

He chuckled a ′you’re welcome’, tightening his arms for a second before he let me go and we made our way up to the house to carry in my stuff.

“So,” he said, placing a suitcase in one of the large bedrooms upstairs. “This is your room.”

I looked around the light space, white walls and big windows making the room look even bigger and brighter. Walking around the bed, I went to look out the window, overlooking the large garden. I noticed a pool I hadn’t seen before. Hello.

“Since when...” I started, but Isaac interrupted me.

“I had it built like two weeks ago. Especially for summer, I thought it would be nice.”

My hangover completely vanished when I saw the massive smile on his face. Was I jealous? Definitely. But more than that, I was happy for my brother. He deserved all of this.

“And the bathroom?” I asked, turning to him.

He beckoned me to follow him to the hall, where he showed me another large space, complete with a bathtub and separate shower. “I have my own, so you don’t have to worry about me walking in on you.”

I gave him a painful chuckle, before nudging him with my elbow.

“What’s this?” I questioned, pointing to the used towel and the toothbrush on the vanity.

“Oh, yeah, Noah is staying here as well—you remember, Noah Taylor?” I nodded, already hating where this was going. “So, I’m afraid you’re going to have to share this bathroom with him.”

Before I had the opportunity to object, he walked away, and I was left at a loss for words. Was he joking?

I hadn’t seen Noah in years, but I remembered his nasty attitude and insulting comments all too well. Apparently, he wasn’t too fond of his best friend’s younger sister, and I was an easy target.

Good thing I couldn’t stand him either. This was going to be incredibly annoying and a huge inconvenience, but I had to remind myself that Isaac was doing me a favor, and at least I had a roof over my head.

I closed my bedroom door behind me and plopped on the massive bed to make a phone call.

“Hey, bitch,” Maria answered, making me roll my eyes.

“Good to hear your voice too, Herrera,” I bit back, smiling at the ceiling.

“What’s up?” she asked. “We never call.”

I closed my eyes for a second before I answered. “I moved in with my brother.”

I could almost hear her think about what I just said before she squealed. “That means you finally moved your ass closer to me!”

“I got fired and evicted, Maria.”

“Oh, fuck.” That’s about right. “Well, how about we go out for drinks tonight? You can explain everything then.”

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