Authors: Mia Castile
Copyright © 2012 by Mia Castile and Entwined Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Entwined Publishing P.O.Box 1240 Brownsburg, Indiana 46112,
Visit our website at www.entwinedpublishing.com
First edition: November 2012
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
ISBN-10- 0983510881 ISBN-13- 9780983510888
Nyla stepped out onto the stoop. The door swung abruptly behind her and smacked her in the butt, jolting her forward. Stunned, she looked around to see if anyone had noticed, but no one noticed the tall, thin brunette standing at the top of stairs in front of the apartment building. It was late enough in the morning that the few people who were out were probably running late. They bustled past her standing above them without a single glance. She straightened her blazer and fixed her jeans at her ankles. It was a nervous twitch, but she knew she had to do it before she took that first step. Sure, the actual first step was applying to Roosevelt College at the beginning of her senior year. Then the first step felt like packing up the things she wanted for her new apartment. Again, it felt like the first step walking to her car after it was packed up and telling her mom and sister goodbye. Once more it seemed like the first step when she parked on the curb and unloaded the first box into her studio apartment two weeks ago. But this was the first step, the first step of many walks to the college campus eight blocks away. She was terrified, crazy scared, but scared happy. She had escaped. Her older sister, Nadia, attended Indiana University and still lived at home. It was just a thirty-minute drive from their home in Morgantown, Indiana. But she was free; she had escaped the small town and felt brave. She’d never been the brave one. She was the one who wanted to be the last one picked for the team; she wanted to be in a class with an odd-number of students, so that when they had to pair up, she was on her own. So here she stood, hundreds of miles from home, in one of the biggest cities in America, the brave one. She took that first step, assuring herself that it was the best decision she had ever made. She walked along the street taking in the scene around her quietly. Trees bordered the street and sidewalk. It seemed to be a quiet neighborhood, despite the fact that her apartment building housed a lot of college students. The whole area seemed to be saturated with college students. This made sense as there was a cluster of schools near Roosevelt, but when she reached the campus,
it seemed like it was the only one there. It was a spacious campus with many large buildings. She’d managed to schedule her classes three days a week, most of them on Monday and Wednesday. She had a three-hour lecture class on Friday though. She’d also taken a part-time job answering phones at a local gallery. Between that income, and the grants, scholarships, and student loans, she was covered financially. Her mother had given her access to the college fund, though it wasn’t much, and dividing it over four years had left funding herself as the only option. But being on her own gave her a sense of pride, and she planned to dive head first into her studies. She had never failed in the past and always made the honor roll. When most students went to college to find themselves, she was a step ahead. She knew who she was and who she wanted to be. She wanted to make a difference in the world; she just had yet to declare a major. That hadn’t been decided yet.
Nyla made it through her classes that first day and loved the feel of the campus. She instantly found a few study groups, which made her feel less overwhelmed with the homework load, and by the end of the day, she had all her books and the lay of the land. She returned to her studio apartment close to five. It would be dinner time if she was at home, and no doubt her mom was warming up one of her pre-made meals from a weekend of cooking for Nadia and herself. Nyla, on the other hand, went to her small freezer and took out a personal pizza. She threw it in the microwave sitting atop the refrigerator and surveyed her new home. A Murphy bed took up a closet in the living room area. The couch sat across the room. It was a tight fit when the bed was down; however, when the bed was put away, she had a nice, comfortable living room. In the corner at the foot of the bed was her twenty-four inch flat panel TV. She had brought her DVD player and boom box. That was the extent of her entertainment center. In the kitchen nook, a small wooden table could seat four; instead, the side flaps were always down and she used only two chairs. The bathroom housed her dresser and a closet. When she had looked at the apartment, she expected everything about it to be small, but it was surprisingly spacious. She’d fallen in love with the scenic bay window behind the couch that overlooked the streets. She had painted the walls soft blue and yellow to contrast with the dark brown of the wood floors and trim molding. Nyla was pleased with the overall look of her place. It was just that, hers. Her laptop sat open on her kitchen table, and when the microwave beeped, she took her plate and sat it beside her computer. She then attacked her homework. She knew she’d be working for eight hours the following day and was not looking forward to having to come home to hours of homework. She was up well into the night, and at some point she changed into her pajamas and continued. But after midnight she lowered her bed and fell into it. She didn’t even crawl under the covers, but she slept soundly.
She awoke the next day as her alarm sounded too loud, and after cleaning up, she surveyed her wardrobe. At the gallery she was expected to wear only black. The first week she had shown up in a black cotton sundress and was immediately sent home to change. Since then she had thrift store shopped and actually found a few high end, name brand clothes that seemed to pass the dress code of chic and cool. She pulled her long brown hair back at the base of her neck in a ponytail. Her bangs fell perfectly, parting just to the side of her face. She applied her makeup minimally. Surveying herself in the mirror, she approved of her dress slacks and thin black linen button-up shirt with a black camisole under it. She put on her black skinny-heeled peek-toe shoes. Even her toenails were painted black. She’d done that the week before and actually liked the look of it. She grabbed her lunch, stuffed it into her oversized purse, and descended the three flights of stairs to her stoop. She then made her way to her new favorite coffee shop,
It wasn’t the trendy chain coffee place; instead, it was a quaint little family-owned shop that had a lot of regulars. After two weeks she was one of them. Their coffee was really good, and their prices were very reasonable. She stood in line quietly as some familiar faces chatted among themselves. When it was her turn to order, she stepped up to the register.
“Hiya, Nyla, the ussh?” a perky twenty-something named Tina asked from behind the counter. She had blond hair that was always in a ponytail and hidden under a visor. Her tan looked like it was store bought, and she wore a lot of make-up, but Nyla didn’t judge her. Tina was always super nice to her. That was the thing about Nyla; she didn’t judge anyone.
“Yeah, heavy on the whipped cream.” She flashed her friendliest smile.
Tina marked the cup and added under her breath to her co-barista,
“And the chocolate.” Tina returned the smile, winking at Nyla.
As Nyla stepped to the side to wait for her coffee, she heard, “Jamison? Jamison W?” When Barry, the other barista called this out she froze. She knew a Jamison, Jamison W. from her home town, Jamison Wilson to be exact. But hadn’t he said he was going to Notre Dame? He wouldn’t come all the way from South Bend to Chicago to get his coffee. She exhaled slowly, satisfied with her reasoning. Then there he was, taking his coffee, saying thank you to Barry, and winking at Tina. He looked so grown up in his dark jeans and button-up shirt. His blond hair was a lot shorter than it had been at graduation, but was still styled in a Ryan Seacrest, sort of messy but fixed sort of way. He still had the same, annoyingly, perfectly sculpted face as he always had. She tried to scoot back and immediately put herself in the middle of a conversation between two businessmen. They looked at her awkwardly as she stepped back to untangle herself from their bantering; however, it was too late. As he turned to leave, he looked right at her and raised his eyebrows, acknowledging her presence. Then he did the most shocking thing of all. He smiled a wide grin right at her. It only lasted a second, and he didn’t say anything to her, but he looked right at her. He took a sip of his coffee and waved goodbye to Tina and Barry, like HE was a regular.
“Nyla? Nyla A,” Barry called out. She stepped around the two men, still engrossed in their conversation, and moved back toward the counter.
“Who was that?” she asked as innocently as she could muster.
“Jami; he’s so dreamy,” Tina said, leaning on the counter conspiratorially.
“Is he in school?” Nyla asked, looking toward the door.
“Yeah, he goes where you go, Roosevelt. I’m thinking of transferring myself.” She giggled and ignored the huff from the heavyset man standing beside Nyla at the counter waiting to place his order. Tina continued unfazed, “He just got here last week but has come in every day. I’m thinking of asking him out.”
“Hell, I’m thinking of asking him out, and I’m straight,” Barry said over his shoulder as he mixed the next drink. They laughed, but Nyla’s face was stoic. Tina finally took the man’s order and returned to Nyla and ignored the next person in line.
“He’s from Indiana too; maybe you two know each other?” she asked hopefully.
“I doubt it; he doesn’t look like he’d run with my crowd,” Nyla said, remembering exactly who he ran with.
“Well, he’s yummy.” Tina paused as if she were lost in thought. “That’s it. Now you know what I know.” She watched the door, almost willing him to come back inside. Nyla sighed again.
“I’m going to be late. Thanks, you guys; I’ll see you on Thursday.” She waved goodbye as cheerfully as she could. She walked the rest of the way to the gallery with her head in a fog. She had made it out with no mortal injuries. Yet here he was. If she had a nemesis, his name would be Jamison (not Jami) Wilson.
Nyla arrived at the gallery and took her place behind the tall receptionist’s desk. It was stark white in front of a blood red wall that went up to the second floor ceiling. It was the only wall with color in the entire show room. The rest of the walls were white, as was the concrete floor and the stairs leading to the offices upstairs. She checked the voicemail and forwarded the necessary ones to Veronica and Angela. She returned the other calls with the information they were requesting. Then she settled in and began her daily work. She was Veronica’s assistant’s assistant. There were two of them. One worked Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. She worked Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. It was a cush-job that had really good pay, and it didn’t take her long at all to get the hang of it. She stayed out of the way and did what she was told. She was pleasant to anyone who came in, and she had no problems with it until now. In walked Jamison. If she hadn’t known better, she would have thought he was stalking her. He walked up to the counter and casually leaned on it.
“Good morning,” he smiled, not removing his sunglasses.
“Good morning; how may I help you?” She didn’t bother to return his smile.
“I was hoping to tour the art work; I’m looking for something for my new apartment.” He still smiled and still didn’t remove his shades.
“One moment.” She picked up the phone and rang Angela. All business, she explained that there was a gentleman (she wanted to add that she used the term loosely, but refrained from saying that) who wanted to preview the art work. She hung up the phone and pointed her hand toward the sitting area.
“Angela will be with you momentarily.” She went back to her computer screen, hoping he got the message. He didn’t. He continued to lean on the counter and watch her, the smile falling from his face causing him to look stoic. After a few moments of typing, she paused and looked back up at him. He didn’t say anything, but that stupid, annoying smile crept back into the corners of his mouth.
“So, how long have you worked here?” he asked.
“Two weeks, and I like it here so don’t do anything to ruin it for me.” She went back to her computer again, this time just doing anything to keep from looking at him.
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he said with mock sincerity. She tapped the corner of her eye twice and looked at him with a no-nonsense look. He quickly removed his glasses and leaned up from the counter as Angela descended the stairs. She was a gorgeous redhead. She wore a skintight high-necked mid-calf pencil dress from the front, but in the back it dipped suggestively below her waist, and her stiletto heels could easily be used as a weapon.
“I’m Angela. Nyla said you were interested in previewing some of our art.” She reached out and shook his hand. Angela liked saying Nyla’s name because it sounded exotic. She had all but said so in the interview; in fact, if Nyla thought about it, she probably got the job on her name alone.