By: Skye Jordan

Troy forced himself to stop. To shut his mouth even though he could go on and on about Giselle's voice and the individual singing and performing talents that made her truly one of a kind. He lifted his glass toward a man in a black uniform and maroon half apron, who nodded in acknowledgment of his silent request.

When he glanced at Z, her mouth had edged up into a sly little grin. “If you say so, Kanye.”


“Where'd a white girl like Giselle get a flare of gospel?”

“One of her foster homes. The mother sang in a Baptist choir and heard Giselle singing while she was folding laundry. Hauled her to church and signed her up. Giselle said she never did another chore because she spent all her time at choir practice. She would have broken out a lot sooner if her biological mother had left her the hell alone.”

“Where'd you grow up?”

“Memphis.” The bartender delivered his drink. Troy took the glass, held his hand up in a silent request for him to wait, and downed the whiskey in one swallow. Grimacing against the burn, he set the glass on the tray with a rough “Another, please.”

Zahara waited until the server was out of earshot before she asked, “All the charity she does is for foster care. Is that how you two met?”

He nodded. “Ryker and I were seventeen when she came to our home.”

Z made a soft sound in her throat. “Man, you two got a rough start.”

“Rougher for her, a beautiful little white girl raised by addict trash in the armpit of Tennessee.” Giselle had been fourteen at the time, with more scars than any one person should carry in a lifetime. “She's lucky the state took her away before her mother got a chance to sell her for a fix. That's where it was headed.”

Z shook her head. “How long were you together?”

Troy took the third drink from the waiter and thanked him, then sipped. “Best friends for two years, lovers for three.”

“Wow, long time. And so young. What happened?”

“Nashville.” And my own stupidity. The memories knifed him in the gut. “Nashville happened.”

Z waited for more, but when silence thickened between them, she asked, “And you haven't talked to her since?”


“Long time to be carrying a torch. Why don't you contact her? You know, reconnect? The film is the perfect excuse to start a dialogue.”

“I'm not carrying a torch,” he lied, scowling at Z. He just hadn't realized how hot it still burned until he'd gotten here. “How would you like it if your ex was plastered all over Vegas while you were trying to work?”

She lifted a shoulder, her gaze going distant. “Mmm, don't know. I've never been that much in love.”

“Well, take it from me, no one needs that kind of heartache more than once in a lifetime. Besides, she wouldn't recognize me if we passed on the street. I'm a completely different person now-inside and out.”

“Really.” Z crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes with a sassy smile, lightening the mood a little. “I was under the impression you were born a bad boy.”

“Bad, yes. But I was white-trash bad. Not bad-ass bad. And our worlds are light years apart now.” He gestured out the window. “Look at her, splashed across the fucking Mirage, for God's sake.” He shook his head and smiled despite the stab of loss. “Man. She really made it.”

“So have you,” Z said with a little scolding in her voice. “Not too many people can say they've got stupid-ass selfies with just about every Hollywood blockbuster star. Or that their phone numbers are programmed into the speed dial of every big producer in Hollywood in case of a freak problem with rigging on a set. You're equally as famous, just in a lower-profile way.”

Troy laughed. “There's an oxymoron for you.”

“You're not that different,” she insisted, serious again. “You're both in entertainment. You're both here. You're both involved in the same movie.” She tipped her head with a devilish glint in her eye and lowered her voice. “Don't you wish she could see who and what you've become?”

Only every fucking day.

“Nope. Like I said, rejection isn't my thing.” He sought out Becca and Casey and found them watching his conversation with Z. With a single nod, they sauntered toward him. And even the sight of two twelves on a scale of one to ten coming at his beck and call left him lukewarm. “That is my thing now.”

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