Rachel Van Dyken
Book One: Capture
The elevator jolted to a stop. With sweaty fingers, I pounded the button to the penthouse floor.
A groaning noise filtered in from somewhere outside the elevator.
I gripped the side railing, then slowly sunk down until I was on my haunches, breathing in and out and telling myself it wasn't a big deal. Elevators stall all the time, right?
I'd pretend to laugh.
And we'd forget about it.
Or they'd forget about it, and I'd have nightmares later that night about being stuck in an elevator while it plummeted twelve stories.
Two minutes went by, maybe three, and the elevator still wasn't moving.
Please let there be no weightlessness.
Logically, I knew I was fine. Knew I would be fine.
But logic had taken a long vacation from my brain — and had yet to return ever since my parents' death a year ago.
Because logic was that thing that kept me sane, the voice in the back of my head that said, “Hey, it's fine.
Logic would have asked about the odds that I got in a car accident? Furthermore, what were the odds that I'd be the only survivor? Apparently, my odds were pretty damn high.
Just like I'd done with every other paranoia I had.
Anaphylactic shock via bee sting? Forty percent.
Getting trampled by a hippo? Higher than getting eaten by a shark. Yeah, let's just say I'm not going to be going on an African safari anytime soon, no matter what my sister's husband thought.
And that was another thing. What were the odds, out of all the people for my straight-laced sister to marry, she'd fall for action hero Jamie Jaymeson?
Yeah, you couldn't Google that crap.
Not that it would matter.
The odds of that were next to one in a billion.
So it made sense that my parents were dead, right?
I mean logically?
I hated logic.
I shivered as the elevator made another weird warning alarm. The lights were still on, so at least we hadn't lost power — yet.
Another jolt, like the elevator was caught on something, and then it moved fast, too fast for my comfort, nearly sending me toppling forward into the doors.
It made a dinging noise, then stopped at the top floor.
With a strangled cry, I leapt mindlessly from the elevator.
And made contact with warm, muscled flesh.
The doors closed swiftly behind me, the air tickling the back of my bare legs.
But, of course, the words died on my lips.
Because in a world full of odds, mathematics, calculations, and logic, I'd just managed to accost Hollywood's newest heartthrob.
Smoldering gray eyes, wild reddish-brown hair that reminded me of that Outlander guy, and a body that you could sharpen knives with, all matched together making the perfect male specimen.
And… I was still clinging.
With jerky movements, I released my hands and tucked my long blonde hair behind my ears.
He towered over me.
I took another cautious step back. At this rate, I was going to end up back on the elevator from hell.
His smile was wide, friendly, totally unaffected by my clammy fingers and trembling body. “Dani, right? Your sister's been looking for you.”
Ha, so she sent a movie god after me?
Thanks, Pris. Really. It's not like I've been having trouble having complete conversations with a shrink or even our mailman. You had to send him?
My tongue felt thick in my mouth as I managed a weak whimper and a nod. His attractiveness had nothing to do with my inability to speak. It was me. I was at fault.
Speaking meant attention, attention meant people would ask me about my feelings, ask why I didn't smile, or why I looked tired all the time.
Pris had sent me to so many shrinks I was starting to feel like nobody could help. It wasn't normal for a girl at seventeen to suddenly stop talking.
But I had.
A woman walked up behind him and wrapped a possessive arm around his chest. “Oh good, baby, you found her!”
My eyes honed in on a perfectly sculpted, model-thin Barbie doll with bright blonde hair and hypnotic green eyes. Red nails tapped against her chin as she tilted her head in mock amusement.
I might not talk, but I wasn't stupid. She was staking her claim.
If I did talk, I would have told her not to waste her energy or whatever tiny brain power she had left.
I wasn't a threat.
Maybe a year ago I would have been.
“Does it speak?” She giggled.
Lincoln continued to stare at me. “Why don't you give us a minute, Jo-Jo?”
What the heck kind of name was Jo-Jo? And why did I suddenly want potatoes?
Jo-Jo huffed out a breath that made her hair scatter around her face before she pounded the elevator button, sashayed in, blew him a kiss, and disappeared.
Maybe we'd all get lucky and that would be the time the elevator really would plummet.
I inwardly winced. When had I become such a bitch?
“So…” Lincoln's voice jarred my attention away from the elevator doors.
Slowly, I met his gaze, my eyes blinking slow enough to take in his gorgeous smile.
It was one of those smiles that showed both rows of teeth — a smile that by all intents and purposes should have actually looked frightening but was endearing instead, like his whole face lit up with that one simple gesture.
He was happy.
And immediately I was stabbed in the chest with jealousy because he had what I had somehow lost.
And had never been able to get back. No matter how hard I tried.
I didn't speak. He probably thought I was a freak. But embarrassment had gone out the window long ago when it came to my speech.
The words formed; I could feel them rolling around my tongue, but it was impossible to blurt them out. An invisible wall kept me from saying hi.
I blinked twice.
“Why don't I walk you back into the suite? Since this involves me too?”
Curiosity piqued, I frowned and walked with him to the door. He didn't knock, simply let himself in.
We'd been in Portland for the weekend while Pris and Jaymeson did publicity over the second movie in his latest blockbuster series — one that also starred my sister.
It was as if Christmas had thrown up on them and missed me completely. Jaymeson had helped Pris get over our parents' death.
And he'd tried to help me.
Along with Demetri and Alec, the rock duo of AD2. Honestly, if there was any hope of me coming out of this, my money was on Demetri saying something ridiculously out of line and me responding.
They were also in Portland shooting the music video that went along with the theme song for the movie.
“Dannae Garcia!” Pris charged toward me, her hands on her hips. She looked like my mom so much it hurt.
Pain washed over me brand new as I braced myself against the granite counter and hung my head.
“I was worried sick about you! You said you were going to go for a walk four hours ago!”
I winced then offered a shrug.
“Dani…” She licked her lips and touched her softly rounded stomach. ”… you have a phone. Use it.”
Guilty, I reached for my phone and quickly typed in a message.
I added a smiley with a halo for good measure.
With a laugh, she lifted her head. “Yeah? Well you better.”
Jaymeson sauntered out of one of the back rooms, his cell pressed against his ear as he made sweeping gestures with his hands. “Just get it done!”
Pris eyed Lincoln, who I'd conveniently ignored but hadn't forgotten about. “Directing your own movie is harder than he originally thought.”
Pris smirked as Jaymeson made his way over to me slowly, then picked up speed.
I backed up, holding my hands in surrender and shaking my head violently as a no built up in my chest.
He said he'd charge me like a bull until I was man enough to yell stop.
And since I still wasn't speaking…
I laughed as he lifted me into the air and twirled me around. At least I still had that, my laugh.
“How's my favorite sister-in-law?” Jay set me back onto my feet.
I licked my lips and shrugged, then held up my finger and typed out a message to him.
He was already reaching for his phone before anything had been sent.
The emoji that followed was a picture of Pris doing the exact face I'd been talking about.
Jaymeson burst out laughing. I'd always loved his sense of humor, and his slight British accent paired with his newly shaved hair just made him look too attractive for his own good.
“She gives it to me all the time.” He winked then nodded once toward Lincoln. “You tell her yet?”
My skin started tingling.
“No chance,” Lincoln said smoothly as he crossed his large arms and leaned against the wall. “Not with Pris scolding and you attacking.”
Jaymeson rubbed his hands together. “Oh good, because I want to see her face.”
I itched to ask what they were talking about.
“Dani, meet your new job.”
I felt my eyes go wide as Lincoln took a step forward. “I don't think we've been properly introduced. I'm Lincoln Greene, and Jaymeson offered me your services during filming.”
I shook my head a few times. Services?
“Words,” Jaymeson challenged.
Jerking away from him, I typed vigorously on my phone, making sure that the smiley I sent also had a middle-finger salute.
“See, that's just it.” Jaymeson shrugged. “You can't hole up in the house forever, especially since Pris and I are going to be on set so much. It's not healthy.
“You finished your GED, and you refuse to do anything but work out, watch Bravo, cook, and stare at the ocean like it's going to eat you. Therefore, I got you a job.”
I threw my hands into the air and typed.
“Oooo.” Jaymeson showed his phone to Lincoln, “You're going to love her colorful language.
“She also has an affinity for every emoji on the planet, though none of them make sense with whatever she types. She just likes sending them. Her number should already be in your phone.
I stomped my foot to gain Jaymeson's attention.
He didn't look.
I stomped again.
“Never drops the F-bomb though.” Jaymeson showed Lincoln my next text. “Pastor's daughter and all that.” He hesitated, then seemed compelled to add, “You'll know when she wants to say it though.
“So, I think this is going to go really well.” Jaymeson let out a breath and eyed Pris. “Don't you, love?”
She grinned. “If they don't kill each other first.”
I raised my hand.
Jaymeson's eyebrows rose as I quickly fired off another text.
“Nope.” He was smiling, but it was one of those smiles that was laced with concern… pity.
I hated them.
“But if it makes you feel better, neither does Lincoln.
“She can do laundry, right?” Lincoln asked.
“Could have operated her own dry cleaners in another life.” Jaymeson nodded encouragingly.
“Great.” Lincoln looked relieved. “And she can keep her cool on set?”
I added a doctor sign.
“Ah…” Jaymeson waved in my direction. “She's used to being around celebrities. Hell, she puts up with me. She'll be fine on set.”
Lincoln rubbed his hands together. “Well, great!”
No. Not great! Not great at all!
“I'll just text you later then.”
I stared down at the counter, trying to figure out how to actually maneuver time, space, and matter so that I could jump into the small crevices and make myself one with the granite.
“Dani?” Jaymeson repeated.
My head jerked up.
“Lincoln was talking to you, not me.”
My mouth dropped open. I managed a tight nod in Lincoln's direction, then held up my phone as if to say, “Yeah, text me.
I must have looked convincing because that devastating smile was back, and then he was gone.
“This will be good for you,” Pris whispered in my ear, giving my body a tight squeeze. “Promise.”
That's what she had said about cheerleading.
And look how that had ended?
Our parents' death — all because I'd wanted to compete.
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