Twenty-three-year-old Milo McLaren hates Valentine’s Day for the simple reason that his girlfriend of three years dumped him on this day just as he was about to propose to her. A year later, he meets the mysterious Kazuhiko Takefumi, a handsome Japanese businessman with cool blue eyes who is the sponsor for a designer featured in the fashion magazine he works for. There is a magnetism about Kaz that is both attractive and intimidating.
When Milo finds out his ex is already engaged to someone else, he drowns his sorrow in a bottle of tequila that he shares with Kaz. This leads to them spending one hot night together, leaving Milo confused and a little more than terrified. This is his first time with a man, and he liked it. A lot. Maybe even a little too much. More than all the women he’d slept with in his life.
Denying his feelings, Milo convinces himself the night in Kaz’s bed is nothing more than a fling caused by poor judgment. But when their paths keep crossing, he is confronted by his attraction to the guarded Kaz. More and more Milo can no longer ignore the truth he has been repressing, that his feelings extend beyond just sex. Only it’s not that simple. Kaz has secrets that go beyond his talents between the sheets. Secrets both deadly and cruel that plunges Milo into a world he isn’t willing to be a part of.
First 1000 Words
Milo McLaren hated Valentine’s Day. The morbid commercialization of love made him sick. It was the time of year when flowers, chocolates, and cheesy greeting cards became depression triggers for the currently unattached. Ah, good ol’ Singles Awareness Day. The only reason he wasn’t wallowing in a self-imposed pity party was because—
The elevator doors to the Rebel offices opened. The reception area and glass-walled bullpen where the cubicles were located were bedecked in every conceivable Valentine’s Day paraphernalia. Love vomited all over the place. No surface of the most popular fashion magazine’s office space was spared. Cupids shooting love arrows hung from the ceiling. Hearts clung to the walls. And red roses everywhere. Each employee table seemed to have a vase of them sitting among the cluttered surface. The cloying scent stung his nostrils. Even the racks of clothing weren’t left alone as red ribbons were tied at each end. The urge to run in the opposite direction consumed him. But to miss work because of his personal issues was unforgivable. So instead he prayed.
Unfortunately, his prayer for a swift death was interrupted by a wave of confetti and the shouted words of “Happy Valentine’s—”
The greeting cut off at about the same time the toxic scowl Milo reserved for magazine layout day and uppity diva models manifested, contorting his usually handsome features into a demon mask only a handful of people were immune to. The two standing before him weren’t included in that group. They immediately paled and took several steps backwards as he excited the elevator.
“Who died?” Kasey, the top-knotted, hipster-glasses wearing receptionist asked, referring to his black on black vintage inspired Marc Jacobs suit.
“My dignity,” he said, sliding his scowl toward the Art Director’s assistant.
The always colorful Garret, whose hair was currently pink, cringed before he leapt forward and began dusting gold and red shiny squares off of Milo’s shoulders. “I’m so sorry,” he muttered repeatedly. “Please don’t fire me.”
His confetti shower chilled Milo to the bone. He took a deep breath and enunciated each word he spoke. “Please don’t tell me you haven’t been throwing confetti at each person who comes out of this elevator?” He narrowed his gaze at the naughty culprits who thought they were being cute. The idea that their boss walked out to this in her couture was enough to have him draw blood.
Kasey shook her head so hard Milo was afraid her top-knot would fly off. “Only you. Promise!” She waved her hands in front of herself for emphasis.
He swatted Garret’s fretting hands away. “And why did you two think I needed glitter rain this morning?”
Clasping his hands together, Garret said, “You’ve been gloomy. Valentine’s Day should be a happy occasion.”
A long and protracted sigh left Milo’s lungs once the realization hit that his two friends were just looking out for him. He willed the annoyance away as he ran his fingers through his thick chestnut waves, dislodging several more foil squares.
“Clean this up before Cassandra gets here.” He pointed at the mess.
“She’s already here,” Kasey said as Garret scampered away to, Milo assumed, fetch a broom.
“What?” His heart leapt into his throat while he checked his watch. “She doesn’t usually get it at this hour.”
“She’s been here since six.”
And it was already eight. A different kind of annoyance ignited in his chest. He always got here before the boss. Always.
“Did she tell you why?” he asked, not bothering to mask the rising panic in his tone. Rebel had no set working hours. Everyone’s schedule varied. Depending on the task assigned, from editors down to assistants, staff came in when they needed and left when they were done. Days could start as early as six, sometimes earlier, and could end as late as midnight. There were special circumstances, such as a double issue layout, where no one went home at all for two to three days straight. The longest anyone ever stayed in the office was a week, and that was because a virus got into the network and ate up everything needed for the coming issue. Milo blocked out most of that incident and still experienced facial tics when remembering it.
“She’s been on a conference call…”
The second the words conference and call were uttered, Milo didn’t bother listening to the rest of Kasey’s sentence. He hurried to his desk located outside Cassandra’s frosted glass office. The door was closed. The dark silhouette inside indicated her presence. Shit.
Dumping his bag onto the floor, he didn’t bother removing his coat and scarf as he bent over his computer and cued up today’s schedule. He cursed under his breath and inhaled sharply, his lips disappearing into a tight line. At the top of the list was the conference call. He’d been so distracted this past week that he’d completely forgotten about the prep. Paris Fashion Week in March was one of Cassandra’s biggest events of the year.
Instant disappointment at himself dropped his shoulders. He bowed his head and massaged the back of his neck, gathering his courage to enter the lion’s den. His hatred for this day of hearts got him into this mess, and like the confetti Kasey and Garret were cleaning up, he must sweep his way out. He clicked print and straightened as the printer spat out the schedule. He pulled off his scarf and shrugged off his coat, composing the appropriate apology for being late. Much groveling may be involved. Maybe even some self-flagellation.
Milo swallowed and tugged on the lapels of his suit jacket before he grabbed the schedule and rounded his desk to stand in front of the door to hell, as many of the interns called it. Many an onion-skinned person had run out of this office in tears over the years. Even Milo had shed a drop or two when Cassandra was feeling particularly vicious. An angry editor-in-chief meant a tense staff. Lives...
Happy writing, everyone!
Write Without Fear!