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Loving War

By:C.M. Owens

Chapter 1

KODE

Maverick and Corbin are completely wasted, and while I’m entertained, I’m also incredibly annoyed. They’ll end up in jail tonight. No doubt about it.

I laugh as one of the girls rolls her eyes and walks away from Maverick after whatever he whispers in her ear. He holds his hands up innocently, seeming genuinely confused by her walk-off response.

He recovers quickly and finds a new girl to stalk, so I return to sipping my beer and scanning the scene. I came out tonight to have fun, and all I’ve done is think about Rain being with Dane. I know he’s the one she wants, but it doesn’t make it any easier to fucking swallow.

We drove all the way to come to a bar where the women didn’t know the two idiots I call cousins. Their reputations are steadily growing. If they keep screwing over the women in Sterling Shore, not even Rain will be able to save them anymore.

Rain. Fuck. I have to stop thinking about her, and everything I think about is somehow tied to her. There’s nothing I can say, do, or even think that doesn’t trigger some sort of connection to the girl I chased for too many years. I need to get drunk. And I need a distraction—a female distraction. Someone who doesn’t look the least little bit like the girl who refuses to leave my dreams.

As the beers keep coming, I get a little drunker. The drunker, the better. It’ll numb my mind.

My distraction serves itself up on a mouthwatering platter. Dark hair touches a small waist, crossed tan legs are beautifully exposed, and a tight little short dress catches my eyes.

That’ll fucking do.

She looks to be alone, which is perfect. That means I won’t need a wingman to distract her friend, and I won’t have to deal with some guy she might be with.

She’s all the way at the bar, and I’m in the far back. This booth is perfect, because I can view her sexy profile. I can’t see her face from this angle because her hair is in the way, but judging by the way every guy in here keeps glancing her way, trying to gather the courage to approach her, I’m confident she’s going to be just as hot from the front as she is from the side.

She dismisses the first guy who finally has the balls to take a shot, and I grin. She’s not going to be easy prey. All the better.

The bartender slides a drink in front of her—from one of her admirers most likely, because she shakes her head to refuse it, and he carries it over to a sulking man. My grin only grows.

This is going to be fun.

***

TRIA

Why did I come here? I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to be out of Sterling Shore and away from everyone who knows me. It’s fun to be someone mysterious instead of the girl everyone associates with Dane and Rain.

I love my sister, and I’m so thankful we’re getting along—finally—but I’d like for someone to talk to me about something other than the beautiful couple. I get it. I really do. They are a dream match, and she wrote an entire book about him. Several, actually. I doubt there’s ever been a romance she wrote where Dane wasn’t the lead role in her mind. But still... It would be nice if someone was genuinely interested in just me.

“Is this seat taken?” a deep voice asks from beside me.

I barely turn to see the guy who doesn’t even come close to being my type. Is that... makeup? There is definitely mascara on his lashes. He looks like he spends more time getting ready than I do.

“It will be when I find someone I want to talk to,” I mutter, refusing to grant him any more of my attention.

“That’s rude,” he scoffs.

“It’d be ruder to lead you on, let you waste your money on drinks for me, and then leave with someone I would rather be with. Don’t you think?” I ask, feeling somewhat bitchy. Old habits die hard. I’ve been the Ice Queen for too long, but damn... How can I play nice with wolves?

He walks away—after several attempts to try a new angle—and I’m left in peace once more. I want someone to be interested in me, not just what I look like naked. Of course... this dress and this bar probably weren’t the best ways to get that sort of interest. In all fairness, I’m probably judging too harshly.

“I need another Corona with lime on the Sterling tab,” a waitress says, making my breath catch in my throat and my heart stop in its tracks.

No. Surely not.

“Which one? I have three. Maverick, Corbin, and... Kode Sterling,” the bartender says, unaware of the three devils’ names he just spoke aloud.

How in the hell did this happen? How did I come this far away and still end up in the line of fire? No. It has to be a mistake.

“Kode Sterling. Can you get Missy to take it to him? He’s in the corner booth near the back. It’s time for my break.”

I cut my eyes in the direction they’ve warned me about, and I peek out around my hair just barely. Sure enough, the devil is there, and he’s staring this way.

I whip back around, desperately trying to think of a way to get out of here without any of them seeing me. I spot Corbin and Maverick when I turn the other way. They are hounding girls on the dance floor, which is perfect, because I won’t have to worry about either of them noticing me while they’re prowling.

I wish they’d hurry and get Kode his drink so he’d quit staring this way. With my new, darker locks, he most likely has no clue who I am. I can still get out unscathed.

Think, Tria. Think escape.

I stand, but a warm body is suddenly very close behind me, and I stiffen. Please don’t let it be—

“You can’t possibly be leaving so soon,” a deceptively seductive voice murmurs close to my ear, making me all the more tense as his warm breath fans my cheek and leaves unbidden chills in its wake. Shit. He knows it’s me. “Because it’d be a shame if you left before meeting me.”

Oh. My. God. You’ve got to be kidding me. Kode Sterling is hitting on me? How much has he had to drink?

I clear my throat, but I refuse to turn around. “I’m pretty sure I’m not your type,” I say, but my

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