Midnight Heat (Firework Girls #2)

By: J. L. White

Chapter 1

After a nine-month separation, my dearest girlfriends and I have been reunited for a mere twenty minutes when Sam already starts in on me.

“Okay girls, we have a mission,” she says. “We’re finding Chloe a date for the reception.”

I roll my eyes.

Isabella’s wedding is in exactly five days. Only Sam would think that’s still plenty of time to find me a date. Never mind that the wedding has practically already started.

It’s the Monday afternoon before the marriage actually takes place this Saturday. The guests have been arriving at the Rivers Paradise Resort in spurts all day long. It’s the most luxurious resort in California, hands down, located on the central California coast in Swan Pointe. Hartman College (where we all met) is just an hour and a half inland. We made various excursions to Swan Pointe all through college and I actually moved here after I graduated. I was only here for a few months, but I used to see the Rivers Paradise Resort, perched up on the hill overlooking the ocean, every day on my way to work.

Isabella’s family are the only ones I know who are rich enough to not only have the reception here—which is common enough I suppose—but to also host the wedding party, family, and several friends and their guests for a freaking week-long extravaganza of activity for their only daughter’s wedding. I think some thirty people are here already.

I was the last of the four of us to arrive and joined the girls at one of the resort’s restaurants. We’re sitting on the patio, sharing a platter of bruschetta and the most delicious bowl of calamari I’ve ever had. It’s a spicy mango mix and it’s damned awesome.

So, like I said, the wedding is more or less underway. To the normal person, the task of finding a date for the reception would seem to be out.

But not Sam. Oh no. Unless I’m misjudging that glint in her eye, she’s pretty damned determined to find me a date for Saturday.

By the way, when Sam says “date,” she means “a guy to fuck.” Just to be clear.

Of course, there is this one little fact. I would’ve had a date for the wedding if all had gone as planned. As a matter of fact, I would’ve been bringing my freaking husband to the wedding. But things have been sort of a disaster for me in the love department lately. Now it’s Isabella, not me, who’s going to be the first Firework Girl to get hitched.

That’s what we called ourselves when we were still in college. The Firework Girls. Maybe I’ll tell you the story behind the name some other time, or maybe it’ll suffice to know it involved a box of illegal fireworks, the frat boys famous for the most rowdy parties, and damn near getting ourselves suspended freshman year.

Allow me to introduce you.

By day, Ashley is a laid-back hippy at heart. She even has the long blonde hair that hangs past her waist, which she wears in a single braid almost all the time. By night, she’s a brilliant pianist who knows how to capture any heart listening. Sometimes it does seem she has an alter ego because every time she’s on stage I think, I can’t believe that’s our Ashley. We all graduated from Hartman College last year, but she stuck around to work on her Master’s in Music. I think she’s a genius.

Isabella is every bit the Greek goddess her name suggests. She’s a gorgeous Mediterranean brown beauty, has long legs that won’t quit, and possesses a sense of self I envy. She tends to shock men (and women) who don’t know better with her sharp intellect. To look at her, you’d never guess she’s working on her Master’s in Microbiology at Harvard. People have a way of underestimating Isabella. It only figures she ended up snagging her professor. I guess the college boys just weren’t up to snuff.

Sam is the Anti-Isabella. We’ve said as much to her face and she rewards us with a bold, brash laugh that makes us giggle. She’s not quite five feet four inches, has short blonde hair with a mind of its own, and says exactly what she’s thinking all the time.

No matter what.

This may be a weird thing to say, given that I’m only twenty-two myself, but Sam keeps me young. She’s going to be one of those spunky old grannies who makes people say, “You’re only as old as you feel.”