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One Shot

By:Laurie Roma

Chapter One

Chicago, Illinois

Someone needed to shoot her.

If her friends didn’t stop talking about flowers, color schemes, and, oh god, bridesmaid dresses soon she was going to scream.

Or more likely, she would hurt one of them…badly.

Tara Toshi was seated with her friends Bella, Liz, and Mikayla around the large antique table in Bella’s dining room in the penthouse suite of their building. A light fall of snow obstructed the view of the Chicago skyline that was usually seen out of the large windows, making Tara feel even more closed in. Just back from South Africa, Tara now found herself precariously at the mercy of her girlfriends and their excruciating wedding planning.

Tara didn’t give a shit about weddings. Just tell her where and when to show up and that was all she needed to know. Sighing, she tried to shake the glazed look off her face, to focus back on the conversation going on around her, but the truth was she would rather be fighting a group of hostile terrorists than sitting here with her three friends dealing with the current conversation.

In just under three weeks Bella Moretti was marrying the man of her dreams, Jason MacBain, who also happened to be Tara’s boss.

Almost a year ago Bella had been terrorized by a crazy stalker, Victor Dane, who had snapped and tried to kill her. Although she had survived the attack, Bella had been badly injured and traumatized from what he had done to her. Once she was released from the hospital Bella had moved back to Chicago, where she was closer to her family.

A few months back Bella had decided not to let what happened to her control the rest of her life. She couldn’t let one monster keep her from living. It was while she had been attending a charity event, one of her first public appearances since the attack, that she met Jason MacBain. From the way Tara heard it, it had only taken one look and they had fallen madly in love.

Shortly after, a picture of Bella and Liz had appeared in an article about the benefit. Even though Bella’s name had not been mentioned, the picture had allowed anyone with access to the Internet to know where Bella was currently living. That was when Victor Dane had come out of hiding. Victor made one final attempt on Bella’s life but Jason had killed the madman, ending the threat to Bella for good.

Now Bella had her life back and everything she had ever wanted was falling into place. She was also planning on opening a restaurant in the city with one of her best friends, world famous chef extraordinaire Giovanni Cossi. Both Bella and Gio were brilliant chefs, and with the help of Bella’s teaching assistant, Jenna Markham, coming on as their pastry chef, Bella Gio’s would be one of the hottest restaurants in the city.

But first, there was the wedding.

Jason hadn’t been happy about waiting to get married. If it were up to him, they would have gotten married months ago. He had all but begged her to elope the very day he had killed Victor and freed her from her past. But Bella wanted a big Christmas wedding and anything Bella wanted, Jason would give her. He would move heaven and earth if he could just to make her happy, but he put his foot down at waiting any longer than a few months for the wedding, especially now since they were expecting a baby. They were building a family together. A future.

Jason and Bella both exuded a contentment and happiness that few people actually achieved. It was almost difficult to remain in a room with them as it seemed practically voyeuristic when Jason was anywhere near Bella. Tara was happy for them, truly, deeply happy for the love they had found together, although it somehow made the loneliness she felt even more pronounced.

Tara wasn’t like her girlfriends. She had no idea how to be the type of female that men wanted to be with long term. Hell, who was she kidding, she didn’t know how to be in a real relationship at all. She had tried, really she did, but every time the subject of commitment came up she got…itchy.

Among her friends Tara was known as a man-eater. Her colleagues had named her T-rex, a name she was amused by most of the time, but what no one knew was that she secretly wanted the kind of love that Bella and Jason had found. To have a man who loved her as completely as she loved him.

A real partner.

Tara knew better, though. Her life was not the stuff of fairy tales and she was so far from anyone’s idea of a princess that it was laughable. Sadly to say, settling down just didn’t seem to be in the cards for her, so she told herself she was better off alone.

Half Japanese and half Italian, Tara was an exotically beautiful woman. She was petite and almost delicate looking. Her deep, dark-brown eyes held secrets and gave little away as to what she was thinking or feeling. Most people didn’t know the lethal strength that her small frame held until it was too late. She wore her straight, shoulder-length black hair in a razor cut with unique angles around her face. Tara had a way of wearing her hair in funky styles, but still made it look elegant.

But despite her beautiful features, Tara was a warrior.

Growing up in a volatile home, Tara learned at a very young age to protect herself. She was an army brat, always moving from base to base when her father had been restationed. Life had been better when he was away on a mission or when he was on tour. Her father had been abusive when he had been home and her mother had been no help. She was a meek, quiet woman who had lost her will to live years ago.

Looking back, Tara could never understand why her mother had stayed with him. Her mother always made excuses for her father’s behavior, even taking the blame for his actions and over the years Tara had learned to resent her almost as much as her father. When he had started to hit Tara, it had been casual slaps. Back then it seemed like he enjoyed the challenge of her defiance, but Tara had refused to be like