Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Chapter One of "Duality of Surrender"

Seeing as that I've had people ask to read the begining of my romance novel, I thought I'd post the first chapter. Obviously it's not completely edited...but its a good start to the story, and introduces you to both characters: Courtney and Topher. I hope you like it! (Psst...I've been told by people who don't read romance that they like this story so...even if Romance isn't your "thing"...give it a read, see what you think.) And as always, feel free to comment about it below.


- Tamsin :)

Dear Topher, my love,

Why have you not written me back? I am anxious to hear your response to my idea. I know you are a busy man, but seeing as our connection is more than other fans, I’m sure you will reply…I just hoped it would be sooner rather than later, as plane tickets are cheaper if we get them now. I’ve done so much to finally bring us together, I’m sure you appreciate that.

I go to all the cons, buy all the picture opportunities, and go to every movie premier. You've hugged me and told me I'm beautiful. We’ve spent so much time together, yet no response as to my request. I can only wait patiently for so long.

I await your reply.

Desperately yours,



Courtney Behrent, which was the name most people knew her by, grunted while lifting her suitcase up onto a bed located in the fifth time zone in six weeks. Once in place, she flopped, face first next to it, her feet hanging off the side of the bed.

"Are ya dead then?"

"If I say yes will you cancel the reading for tomorrow afternoon?"

"No. I'll just have Callie read it."

Courtney turned her head to glare at Malcolm, between red curls that covered her face. "That's just cruel."

"To her or your adoring fans?"

"Yes,” Courtney said, wishing she could sleep for twelve hours.

She had spent the past month and a half attending conventions in the U.S. to promote her run away, bestseller, The Guardian of the Guild. However, this leg of the trip, which fell between conventions, was simply a reading in London to launch a new cover for the book here in the UK.

Inhaling the lightly floral scent of the comforter she’d face planted into, she sighed with exhaustion. If she were honest, Courtney would have to admit she was close to regretting her agreement to this trip. With no idea as to what time or day it was, she was punchy, cranky, and desired to be back at her apartment in New York.

Her Personal Assistant and friend, Malcolm, glided over to sit next to Courtney, hand on her calf. "Just think. We'll be home in a few days. Then you can hug the dog, sleep in your own bed, and see that hot man you've been talking to."

Courtney looked at him with a start, scooping hair out of her face. "Wait, what hot man?"

Feigning innocence, Malcolm placed an open palm on his chest. "Oh, sorry, that would be me, not you. How I ever could mix that up, I have no idea."

She playfully slapped his arm. "Love life dig noted, Mal. Now go away."

"Lack of love life dig, darling. It's been how long since Trent?"

"I have no idea."


Speaking more into the bedding than to him, she said, "One year, six months, and ten days if you wanna be a bitch about it."

He patted her ass in a brotherly way. "See? That's just unhealthy. You're a famous author now. Go get someone. Anyone, for God's sake. Before you have cobwebs down there."

Courtney laughed. "I'm not famous, Mal. I’m just getting started. I got lucky and this book took off like gangbusters. I never thought I’d really be in this place. Sure, I talked about it, but I really didn’t expect to get lucky enough. Hell, in my mind, I still feel like I’m the girl working at the medical lab, going to conventions on my vacation days."

"But you’re not. You finally write for a living and I predict you will be known worldwide. This UK contract is just the beginning of introducing you to the other side of the globe. Specifically to those who usually don’t pick up Young Adult Urban Fantasy.

“Now, let's blow off unpacking and go get a drink at that place we saw from the cab on our way here. It’s just down the street. I Googled it. It’s a snazzy, high-end club that appears to be frequented by celebs. British celebs. Mmmm…how yummy." This time he spanked her ass once with a bit of effort behind it, causing her to yelp. Standing, he added, "Put on something classy, and let's go."

"I don't wanna," Courtney whined, rubbing her ass.

"Yes you do. You love London. You love British men. Let’s find one!"

"I’m not going if you’re even thinking about trying to hook me up with one. Last time you tried, it was just embarrassing."

"You? Oh no, I meant me! I need a British man to play with." He laughed and headed to the door.

"What about that hot man you're talking to at home?"

"That's at home. I'm not there now, am I?"



“Love you.”

“I know.”

She paused and decided. “Fine, ok, one damn drink. Then I'm getting some sleep."

"Excellent! You won’t regret it! Knock on Room 524 when you're ready. It's just next door.”


"Don't you fall asleep!" He shouted back to her, shutting the door.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah..." she muttered as she stood, catching a glance at herself in the wall mirror and cringed.

Courtney unzipped her suitcase, noting the words on its tag: Alissa O’Brien. Lately she tended to forget that name, which she found funny since it was the one she grew up with. Yet, since she had been "hocking her wares" as a writer for so long using her pen name, Courtney Behrent almost felt more real than her birth name.

Opening the suitcase, she selected the item she always grabbed first: a picture of her black and white Cardigan Corgi, Trooper, named after one of her best friends back home in Michigan who’d helped her get him, Trooper Paul Butterfield. Ritualistically she hugged it and set the silver frame by the bed before picking out something to wear.

Facing the music, she stepped into the brightly lit bathroom to see how tired she looked after the long flight. Her skin seemed an extra shade of pale and there were bags under her dark green eyes. "Lovely. Why am I going out again? Oh yeah, cause I'm single, spend too much time by myself, my dog is the best man in my life, and Mal will harp on me like my Irish grandmother if I don't." She grabbed some concealer & attempted to correct what lack of sleep and multiple time zones had created.

She finished rubbing tinted moisturizer onto her face, snagged the next item, and spoke to her reflection as she applied minimal mascara. "Of course I'm single. I'm never in a city long enough to know anyone unless I'm home. Hell, even if I am, dating in New York is shit for women." She paused and put the makeup down. "Why am I even bothering? Screw this. I'm not in the mood.”

She barely attempted to tame the red curls, pulling them into a loose, low riding ponytail, got dressed, and headed out. When she knocked on Mal's door, she felt justified...until she saw the look on his face when he took in her outfit.

With one hand on his hip, and an eyebrow raised, he said, "What the hell are you wearing?"

"What I want to wear; comfy combat boots, shorts, a t-shirt, and my VF hoodie. It’s still misting outside. Gotta love London. Are you coming or not?"

“It’s not that kind of club, Court.” Mal sighed when he saw she wasn’t budging. "Fine. As long as you don't tell people I dressed you. This fashionista can't blemish her record." He shut the door. "Let's go."

Feeling vindicated, Courtney strode down the hall with him.

* * * *

"Are you out of you bloody mind?"

"According to you, always."

"Seriously, Topher, with the crazy fan mail you have been receiving, I don't want you going out."

Topher Matthews calmly perused his collection of elegant wristwatches. "What you want and what I do are completely different things, Bradley."

"As you often like to prove," Brad said under his breath as he inspected his short, thick, blonde hair in the mirror by him.

"I heard that. Now, the Rolex or the Patek?"

"Can you not just listen to me for once? Just once, Christopher?"

Topher's head snapped up, catching Brad’s eye in the mirror. "I don't go by that anymore, and you know why. Please refrain from it."

"Oh, for the love of God!" Brad started, turning around. But he stopped after seeing the look on Topher's face. "Fine. Go. Wear the bleeding Rolex for all I care. But I damn well am coming with you." Brad grabbed his jacket. "And call me Bradley again and I'll find every chance to say Christopher in public that I can. Wear a coat, its raining." He crossed to the door of Topher's elegant flat and with a hand on the doorknob, he sighed. "Shagging hell, where are we going?"

"Dstrkt." Topher whirled his black trench coat on over his new Hugo Boss suit, which he wore without a tie, and grinned as Brad cringed. "I already checked. Marisol isn't working tonight so don’t worry. He stopped and walked into the hallway. “Shan?” When there was no answer he raised his voice. “Shannon? We’re heading out.”

The door to his spare room opened and a pretty brunette stepped out. She wiped her hand on her jeans, depositing a green color onto them, while blowing a stray hair out of her face. “What are you goin’ on about now, Topher?”

He smiled at the look of his sister. She was splattered with paint and her long hair was twisted up and held in place with a chopstick she very likely found in his kitchen’s junk drawer. This was her norm, and he’d have her no other way. “How is it coming?”


“Can I see?” He playfully attempted to peer into the room, knowing she’d block him. When she did, he laughed. “I’ll take that as a no.”

“You know I never let you see.” She punched his arm lightly, her big brown eyes jovial. “Thanks again for letting me paint this here. I’d never surprise mum for her birthday if I tried to do this at home. She’s over way too often.”

“So we should be happy she doesn’t visit me here in the city, is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes. That and your spare room has room for my lights,” she said, absentmindedly scratching her right cheek, depositing more green there.

Saying not a word about the paint, he asked, “Are you going to crash here? You’re welcome to stay.”

“And deal with city traffic tomorrow morning? Bugger that. I’ll head back to my flat tonight, but thanks! I’ll probably be gone before you get back.”

“Then I’ll trust you to lock up.” He leaned down and kissed the top of her head, as it appeared to be the one spot without a smear of paint. “Don’t work too hard.”

“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be me.”

“Too true. Love you, monster.”

“Love you, too. Brad, don’t let him get into any mischief.”

“Now you’re just trying to take my fun away,” Topher said with a wicked grin. “Come on, Brad, trouble calls!”

Shannon sighed, “Men,” then walked back into the spare room.

Brad opened the front door and headed into the hall. “And you’re sure Marisol isn’t there tonight?”

Topher followed him out, shutting the door behind him. “I called. You’re safe.”

"No one is safe from that woman.”

Topher adjusted his coat collar. “How a bloke can keep his man-card while running away from a woman is beyond me. Just face her, mate. She won't eat you whole."

"I wouldn't bet on that."

* * * *

Walking into the club, Courtney swallowed hard. Maybe she should’ve cared about her appearance more. It was very upscale and elaborate inside the English club. Turning back to Mal, she began to suggest they find a pub instead, but a sassy looking man approached them, giving Mal a once over.

“Hello, and welcome to Dstrkt, London. My name is Quinto, how may I assist you, sir? Are you meeting anyone?”

“No, we’re together.”

“With who? Her?”


Quinto gave her the stink-eye. “She’s with you?”

“Do you hear that tone, Mal?” Courtney said before she could stop herself. “Look, Quinto, I don’t need to be dressed like I shop on Fifth Avenue to come have a drink in your establishment.”

“Excuse Ms. Behrent, she’s been on tour for two months and is rather exhausted,” Mal said, using the word “tour” to make her sound more important than she was. “I wanted her to see something other than a pub before we headed home to New York. Might you have anything available in the club?”


“She’s an author.”

“Nothing he’d have read, I’m sure, Mal.”

“You don’t know that,” he said to her before turning to face the maître d'. “Anything you have available would be lovely. Thank you.”

Quinto’s glare at Courtney, softened. “I have room out on the back patio. Would that suffice?”

“Of course. Please, show the way.”

Once Quinto’s back was turned, Courtney flipped him off and lightly smacked Mal’s arm. “Excuse Ms. Behrent? Really, Mal?” she whispered, as they wandered through the establishment packed with men who wore suits the price of her entire wardrobe and women in fancy summer dresses paired with platform sandals. Seeing this, she added, “It’s not too late, we can go somewhere else.”

“No we cannot,” Mal whispered back, straightening his expensive tie, as Quinto led them across a black, glossy, zig-zag patterned floor, and past black rectangular iron poles that ran from floor to ceiling. There were scattered white high-backed couches with coffee tables for décor and white barstool chairs surrounding a curved black bar so shiny it looked wet.

Stepping through a wide opening with sparkling black, thick material slats hanging down to keep the A/C indoors, Courtney found herself in the most stunning covered patio she’d ever seen. The bar here started on the right, ran along the wall, curved and then continued along the back of the rectangular space. The décor here was black with purple and green to give it depth in the dark. Japanese lanterns in the two colors hung to give extra light to the small, round, inset, ceiling lights of a soft white glow.

“Look who is over at the bar,” Mal sing-songed quietly to her as they were led to wooden framed couch with purple cushions and green pillows.

Courtney glanced quickly. “Honey, Daniel Radcliff is straight. I’m so sorry to burst your bubble on that.”

“I so do not care, I just want to look.”

Laughter from Daniel’s group erupted as they took seats, Mal out-maneuvering her to sit where he could see the actor.

“Slick. That wasn’t obvious at all,” Courtney said dryly.

“Shush you, I’m enjoying the view.”

“Why am I here then?”

“Wing woman, darling. Wing. Woman.”

“Of course.”

“If you’d put on a dress―”

Courtney cut him off by making a gagging sound and took the drink menu Quinto handed them before excusing himself.

“And you wonder why some people think you’re a dyke.”

Courtney lifted the menu to cover her face and read. “What is the point of dressing like someone I’m not? A man would just be disappointed when he learned it was the only dress I own. Sure, I have skirts…but even those I save for professional engagements.” She watched four inch platforms walk past and added, “And I’d end up in the hospital if I wore those types of heels.” She shuddered.

Mal laughed. “You have a point. What do you want to drink? I think the Making Waves drink looks fantastic. You?”

“The Ka-Boom is more my style I think.”

“That’s a strong drink for someone who didn’t eat.”

"I'll only be having one, I'll be fine." Courtney saw a cocktail waitress coming their way and gave her a polite smile and wave.

Once they ordered, she and Mal chatted about her UK schedule as he kept an adoring eye on Mr. Radcliff. Being someone who enjoys things to be planned out, Courtney felt more settled after they discussed her itinerary for their time in England.

"I like this place. Good ambiance." Courtney crossed her legs, a combat booted foot hooking under the short table between her and Mal. As discretely as she could, she began to do one of the things she enjoyed best; people watching as she surveyed the people and the room.

“Writers are a nosy bunch, you know. I see you inspecting everything and taking stock in how the place feels. Will you kill some poor girl here?”

“Ummm…who had the Ka-Boom?” asked a different waitress asked, her nametag said Ella, and she was obviously attempting to hide the look of shock at Mal’s last sentence.

Courtney laughed deeply and raised her hand. “I’m the Ka-boom. And don’t worry, Ella, I’m a writer. I’m not actually going to kill anyone here.”

“Of course, ma’am.” Ella put their drinks down with a nervous smile and quickly left.

He leaned toward Courtney. “You should’ve just let her wonder.”

“That’s mean…but I probably should’ve.” With another laugh, she took a drink of the Ka-Boom. “Oh, this is amazing!”

"Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!” Mal said in his best Marvin the Martian impersonation.

Courtney laughed loudly again and took a drink as Quinto led two men onto the patio and past them to a couch to her right.

* * * *

The room was filled with no-names and known ones, plus, very likely famous names whose faces were not as recognizable. Topher followed Quinto into the club just in time to hear a smoky laugh that tingled his spine for no particular reason, coming from the patio.

"Your usual spot, Brad?" Quinto asked with a beaming smile.

Yet as Brad nodded, Topher placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. "No, Quinto. I'd like to be out on the patio tonight, if that would be all right?"

"Yes, of course. But Mr. Matthews, I think that―"

"Wonderful. Please lead the way."

Without room to argue, Quinto nodded and led them outside, away from Topher's usual spot at the bar.

Eyes searching, Topher found the source of the unusually boisterous sound for Dstrkt, quickly. She was tiny for the sound made. So much so that he questioned if he'd pinpointed the noise correctly. Then she laughed again and he couldn't help but grin at how people turned toward the sound. Some in distain, some entertained, some clueless as usual.

The young woman had almond shaped eyes that slanted oh so slightly up on the outside and her hair was barely tamed flame. She wore little to no make-up, was dressed unlike anyone else there, and seemed not to care a wit: black combat boots, ripped tights, jean shorts, a black T-shirt, and a black zip up hoodie over it.

"What are you up to?" Brad whispered.

"Just a change."

Brad shrugged as he took a purple chair across from the green loveseat Topher sat on. "If you say so. Quinto, I'd like my usual. Topher?"


"To drink? Your usual?"

"Of course, thank you, Quinto."

"Where's your head? Oh dear God, did you see Marisol?" Brad's head whipped about, scanning the room with utmost haste, causing Topher to chuckle.

"No, just thought this might prove a more interesting spot." Sparing a glance toward the goth-dressed ball of fire, he listened to her conversation with an attractive, well-dressed man who had the skin the color of dark roasted coffee with a touch of cream. That's when he noted her accent and realized she was American, piquing his interest even more.

Leaning back in his seat, he pulled out a cigarette, since they were on the patio, and hunted for a lighter.

* * * *

Smoke wafted toward Courtney's face and she coughed. Ugh. This was one of the things she hated about sitting outside. She desperately wished to move but anyone else could light up as well, and inside was full, so she grinned and bared it.

"Is that ok by you?"

Shit. She'd let her mind wander. "Sorry, I missed that. Will what be ok?"

"Really, Courtney? Can you not stay focused for five minutes? I said, we could go from the reading/signing tomorrow to your meeting at your British publisher, to lunch with your Agent, Jenna. She wishes to talk to you about something special."

"Can't she just use the phone like everyone else? Why did she come all the way to London?"

"No idea. She wouldn’t say. It was very cryptic. Even I have no idea what this is about."

"Fine. We can do that. As long as I get to go to see the Grundy’s before we leave. I’ve not seen Jan and Peter in over a year."

"Of course."

Smoke wafted over again and this time her mild asthma slapped at her, causing her to cough hard. "You'd think the Brits would have discovered the e-cigs before the Americans since they claim to be so ahead of us."

"It's just not as satisfying," came a beautiful, British man’s voice from her right. "If I'm going to misbehave, I should do it right."

Almost swallowing her tongue, she set her shoulders to confront who’d spoken to her. Turning, she found herself face to face with a handsome man with short black hair, well-defined cheekbones, and light blue eyes that had a lazy yet sharp look to them.

He seemed familiar but Courtney couldn't place him so she spoke frankly. "Satisfying? So causing asthma to flare up on people around you, polluting the air, and causing cancer in both yourself and those around you is satisfying. Good to know."

"Courtney―" Mal warned.

She put a hand up to cut him off and thought she say him cross himself. She'd been looking for a fight with someone, anyone, for days for no particular reason except for the fact that she was exhausted, homesick, exasperated with men, and tired of being on someone else's schedule. And here she was being handed one.

"It's all well and good if you wish to kill yourself, but the rest of us would like to live a long life where we can breathe, thank you very much."

The man inhaled on his cigarette and blew smoke up into the air, blowing rings at the end.

"Oh lovely, death by a talented mouth. Cause that makes it all ok."

"Ma’am, if you wanted to discuss my talented mouth all you had to do was ask..."

The blonde man, who had obviously come with the smoking gentleman, laughed and attempted to turn it into a cough when Courtney’s gaze nailed him like an icepick.

She heard Mal mutter, "You walked into that one."

Courtney flicked her icy glare to him for a brief second. She refused to back down or be embarrassed, though she was sure her cheeks were a bit pink. "Ha ha. And darlin', I'd not want anything to do with a mouth that tastes like an matter how talented the owner thinks it is."

Mal, looking a bit green, leaned over toward them. "Mr. Matthews, I'd like to apologize for Courtney's lack of tact. We'll just be going."

Mr. Matthews? Where had she heard that name before? It was on the tip if her tongue.

"Please, call me Topher. And no worries, she’s just speaking her mind. It's refreshing."

A string of swear words whipped through her head as she realized who she was being snarky with. Only one of the most well-known British actors out at the moment. His hair was different, which is why she'd not recognized him. He was known for brown curls he wore a touch long, so his current short, straight, black hair, caused him to look completely different.

Courtney downed the rest of her drink. "Mal, I am ready to―"

"Have another drink,” Topher said with a wink. “Ella, excellent timing as always. Courtney seems to be out of her drink. If you'd be so kind to get her another on my tab?"

With a nod, the waitress disappeared.

Courtney fumed. "I don't need another drink. I am going to head back to my room, where I can let you die of cancer in peace." She stood, but found a long leg propped on the low table, blocking her best route of escape.

"I'll put this out if you'll stay for the drink. Deal? Besides, I do not have a taste for the Ka-boom’s; it would be a waste of alcohol."

Courtney grinned. "Oh, I'm sure any of the women in here who would be happy to have you buy her a drink."

“Maybe, but I don’t want their company, I want yours.”

An involuntary stomach jump at this compliment took her off guard as Ella handed the drink directly to her versus setting it on the low table. Topher took a last hit on his cig and hovered it above the ashtray, raising an eyebrow at Courtney in challenge.

She had the power here now that she looked at it. She could cause him to put out a cigarette by just drinking a beverage bought for her. So she held his gaze just long enough to make it appear as if she may not comply, stepped back, sat, and took a drink.

Topher put out his cigarette, blowing the smoke out away from her. "There then. Now, tell me, Courtney...?"

"Behrent," Mal said before she could lie.

"Tell me, Miss Courtney Behrent, why are you so adamant against smoking?"

"Common sense."

He laughed. "Touché. Other than that, then."

"Why does there need to be another reason?"

He sipped his scotch and said, "Because, like your hair, you are on fire about it. It's not a passing issue. Which begs the question, is it real, by the way?"

"Of course my hate of smoking is real."

Topher genuinely laughed loudly. "No, firecracker, your hair color. Though, temperament as proof, I should have no wonder...unless it’s just you being a woman―"

"Because I'm a woman? Seriously? Screw you and your sexist attitude, Mr. Mathews." She drank of her drink heavily.

"No need to get your knickers in a twist, red...I was simply stating how women have a tendency to speak out more rashly about things they are passionate about. I do so love passion in a woman, don't you Brad?"

"Oh, how I do," his blond friend said, playing along.

"Maybe women near you just can't help but get pissed off," Courtney countered.

Topher leaned into her space, making her already elevated pulse, jump. He was so beautiful in person and his blue eyes were so intent on her, that she had to focus on settling her elevated heart rate.

"Or maybe," he said, "I just have you feeling passionate. I can see you're flushed, attracted, and pent up. I sincerely would like to help you out."

"Oh. My. God!” Courtney said, standing up, switching her drink to her left hand so she could motion at him with her right, as it was closest. “Did you if I'd...with a man who obviously thinks so much if himself he can just ask me to bed and I'd go."

He stood as well, slowly, as if taking her in before his tall frame loomed over her, just barely into her personal space, making it slightly intimate. “I think the lady doth protest too much,” he said with a wink and a grin as he reached out and played with the ends of her hair at her shoulder.

Courtney placed her free palm on his chest to hold him back, or so she told herself, and drank more because, damn him, he was right. Yet, before she could retort, a group of young women advanced upon them. All of which were tall, Barbie-like, and they took over the small space before Courtney could collect herself.

"Is this whore giving you trouble, Topher? We could make sure she's removed."

"Bloody hell," Topher muttered, stepping away and taking a seat. "Victoria, this is none of your business. Please go play with your Daddy's money elsewhere." He crossed one leg over the other, shooing her with one hand, as he took a drink with the other, trying to look nonchalant. If not for a noticeable tightness around his eyes and mouth giving him away, he’d have pulled it off.

The closest young woman to her, the woman Courtney assumed to be Victoria, suddenly whipped her head back as if struck and screamed like a stuck pig, pointing at Courtney. "She punched me! Did you girls see that? She hit me! Bouncer!"

Courtney’s mouth dropped open for a second in shock before saying, "I didn't even touch you! What are you talking about?"

The young woman waved at something to Courtney's left. Turning, she saw Quinto and two enormous men, dressed in black, coming her way.

Mal moved close enough to protect Courtney from the approaching security, as people began to stare, and slid an arm between the girls and her. “I think it would be best if―”

"This whore punched me! I demand she be removed," Victoria said, holding her right cheek as if it pained her.

Courtney sighed. "You have quite an imagination, Blondie. Anyone other than your posse will tell them I didn't touch you. Besides, if I'd punched your right cheek, as we stand now, it would've had to be with my left hand. First off, I'm right handed. Secondly, I have a drink I my left. I'd have spilled my drink, and as you can see, I have not. It's all in the details. You really ought to learn to pay attention."

This evoked a squeal of rage from Victoria as she attempted to reach for Courtney, Mal being the only thing keeping them apart, as more people around them began to pull out smart phones.

Quinto looked to Topher, who still sat in his spot, looking frustrated. "Mr. Matthews, did you see Ms. Behrent strike this girl?"

"Sadly I did not. I was sitting and was blocked by Victoria’s flock of followers. But I bet it would've been excellent. God knows Victoria deserves it," he said, his tone like acid on his last sentence.

Victoria, with a hand on her supposed injury, said, "As a regular celebrity who spends a lot of money here, and draws business, who are you going to believe, me or this fashion travesty from America?"

Quinto didn't hesitate. He looked at Courtney and said, "Let's go, ma'am. You need to leave the establishment."

"What? I didn't hit anyone!"

Topher set his drink down and stood. "Quinto, this isn’t necessary. There's no proof she hit her. You know Victoria just likes a scene."

Quinto paused in his decision, as if reconsidering.

"Courtney, let’s just go," Mal suggested.

"If you don't toss her out," Victoria spat, "I'll take to social media like it’s my religion." When Topher opened his mouth, she added, "About all the secrets."

Courtney saw heated anger spread across Topher's face so she appealed to him. "Tell them I wouldn't have hit her and I had no reason to."

He held Victoria's eye for a moment, then, with a sort of resignation, he picked up his smokes. With a grimace, he lit a cigarette, and said to Courtney, "She did call you a whore...twice."

"You son of a bitch," Courtney said, almost privately, just before a guard grabbed her left arm. "Get your hands off me!"

Courtney pulled away as the bouncer let go, causing the contents of her drink to launch up, out, and into Topher's face, dousing his cigarette in the process, and causing Victoria and her fem-bots to lose it. Brad stepped up to get involved and a security guard grabbed her. Pulling her away, Courtney used a swift defensive move she'd learned from her research fight work and training, freeing herself from his hold. She dashed under his reaching arm and walked back for her purse.

Snatching it up, she made sure her steely stare slammed into Topher for a second, and then she spun to leave on her own. Once her back was to them all, Courtney heard Victoria call her a coward and a whore again. Knowing she was at just the right distance, she freed up her right hand, and with the swiftness of training, spun about, the back of her open hand stopping just inches before landing a blow to Victoria's right cheek.

Lowering her hand, the room went silent. "That's how I'd have hit you if I stooped to your level. Thing is, I just feel sorry for you." Courtney turned to let the guards take her, one on each arm and switched her focus to Topher. "I'm sorry about the drink." With a pause and a sly grin, she added, "Sorta."

He opened his mouth to say something, but the guards turned her away before she saw or heard what he said.

As they hauled her out, she laughed, and said to Mal, "Well, you wanted an exciting night with celebrities."

"Lovely. Just lovely, Court.”

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