Author: Michelle Warren
Published by Self-Published
Release Date October 18, 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
More Info: Goodreads
Purchase From: Amazon US
Purchase From: Amazon UK
Purchase From: Amazon CA
Purchase From: Amazon AU
Five years ago an unthinkable tragedy slashed Cait London’s life into two parts: before she had amnesia and after. Determined to keep her past hidden and start over, she moves to Chicago and plunges into a new job—all while keeping a walled distance from everyone she meets.
It’s not long before Cait reconsiders her solitary existence, and soon she’s stepping beyond her boundaries and taking unthinkable chances, like crushing on her impossibly sexy landlord, Evan Wade. He’s flirty, annoying, and with him living in the same apartment building, she can’t stop thinking about him. If she can sleep with him once, perhaps she can get him out of her system. The problem is, Evan seems bulletproof to her advances. As the two develop a connection, it becomes clear Cait may not succeed before her heart remembers what it feels like to love.
Ten Thousand Points of Light is an immersive contemporary romance about the intensity of first loves, the heartache of loss, and the power of forgiveness.
Title: Ten Thousand Points of Light
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cover Design: Indie Book Covers
Author: Michelle Warren
Release Date: October 18, 2017
Aggie’s everything I’m not. Short. Blonde. Adorkable. Outgoing. She knows who she is in every fiber of her being. Whereas I’m a tall brunette with a serious case of high-functioning depression. And let’s not forget the identity issues. But I remind myself retrograde amnesia will do that to a girl. This, at least, is one thing I’m sure of.
Tonight we’re drinking. A lot.
I’d like to say it’s not a normal thing, but that would be a lie. At least this time there’s a reason—a breakup. Hers, not mine. I try to care, but I despise the guy. When I consider her ex-boyfriend Brad’s weasel face and condescending personality, my lips draw tight at the corners.
Still, I’m doing what I sense is my part, being a good friend and helping her forget “that bastard.” He is one, no doubt about it. But I’m not drinking to forget their existence as a couple. I drink to do things I wouldn’t normally. Like hanging out in a park after hours when there’s clearly a sign stating this section closes at dark, or worse, sitting on the hood of a car that doesn’t belong to either of us. Nothing too crazy. But under normal conditions, breaking these little rules would make me nervous, give me anxiety, and make my shoulder twitch, twitch, twitch.
And then there’s my highly irrational sense of hope. No matter how small, its dangerous whispers suggest alcohol might have a revealing effect, releasing my lost memories from a black hole of intoxication.
Aggie doesn’t know about my past. No one in Chicago does, which is how I’d like to keep things. Five years ago I woke up in a hospital, scared and near death. When I opened my eyes that terrible day, a line was drawn. The violent slash divided my life into two parts.
Everything in the before was severed. The life I had was erased, leaving a nearly blank slate. I was a twenty-one-year-old newborn starting over in the after. But it’s been a long time since before, and I’m ready to move on. I think.
I blame Aggie. After knowing her, she’s changed something in me. I long to be like her. Worry free. Anxiety free. Just… free. She pinwheels through life with her arms spread wide and chin lifted skyward. Even after suffering a breakup she exudes happiness. She can’t help it. She’s unrelenting luminous sunshine, and I’m just rain. Dark, cold, pelting rain. That’s how I know she’ll be okay. Me? I’m not so sure.
Tonight we’re at North Avenue Beach at my favorite spot. From this vantage point across a wide cove, we view the spectacular, long-reaching Chicago skyline. Window lights shimmer and sparkle, reflecting on the waters of Lake Michigan.
Aggie trekked here from her condo in Lincoln Park after another disastrous texting marathon with Brad. I supplied the two bottles of champagne we’re inhaling, but only after Aggie decided her breakup was cause for celebration, rather than the pout festival she hosted the prior seven days. If it were anyone else, I think there would have been some crying involved, but I’m honestly unsure if the word crying exists in her vocabulary.
“I need Mr. Right Now.” Aggie takes a deep chug from the champagne bottle, winces, and hands it to me.
“Maybe you only need you for now.” I take a swig and finish it off with a shiver. I balance the empty bottle on the roof of the car.
“Gross, no. I get bored with me.” She flinches. “I need to find a new someone to forget the old someone. It’s better to line them up, one right after another.”
She hoists her petite frame onto the car’s hood. She lies down with her back angled against the windshield, hands settled in her lap. I do the same, gaze pointing skyward, searching for one twinkling star to wish upon. But this is an impossible task with all the light pollution from the city. Not that it matters. All my wishes after seem impossible. My arms settle heavy at my sides.
“That’s crazy talk. You only need you,” I say.
“You’re so right. I need to get out and sow my wild womanly oats.” Her arms flail. It doesn’t take much to animate her melodrama. And when she drinks, her cute Southern twang emerges. But the crazy? That’s twenty-four seven.
“That’s not what I said. Not at all. Pay attention.” The sound of my own laughter surprises me. She makes me smile, though she’s never given me much choice in the matter.
“I didn’t know women had oats to sow,” I confess.
“Of course we do. I need to explore more. Bypass all the relationship bullshit for the main event, you know?” She winds herself up and kicks the air with her foot before sliding off the car’s hood to the ground. “And you should too.”
“Not likely.” It’s been a long time since I had a relationship. Before. Back in high school or so I’ve been told. I twist the hem of my shirt.
“You can, Cait!” Aggie continues ranting about her new plan. “We’ll both do it. We’ll march right up to hot guys and tell them we want them. We’ll write a blog about our adventures, start a YouTube channel, host our own talk show and get famous. The usual stuff.”
“Isn’t there already an app for that?”
Aggie’s incoherent declaration continues without answering. “We’ve been programmed to fit into this stupid virginal-Suzy-Homemaker mold where guys sleep around and people call them studs, but when girls do it they’re called sluts. It’s an epidemic. No, it’s bigger. It’s an international crisis of double fucking standards.”
She does a cheerleading jump, arms and legs spread wide. Her blonde hair bounces and hangs midair before she surprisingly nails a solid landing. She gracelessly hikes her leggings around her waist.
“It’s an intergalactic injustice.” I punch my fist into the air to egg her on.
“Don’t be ridiculous. The point I’m trying to make is there’s nothing wrong with sampling the goods. I could say we should explore our sexuality or some politically correct bullshit, but what I’m saying is we need to have fun.”
She giggle-snorts with a drunk sway, stumbling to the car’s hood. The car catches her fall, and her waves spill over her jean jacket dotted with artsy enamel pins. With a squeak she lifts herself, joining me again. The weight of the alcohol makes her slump heavy at my side. She’s winding down. Even the sun needs to sleep.
She continues, her words slowing. “With your job at the agency, you meet a ton of hot, eligible men. I’ve seen you parade them around the office. They can’t help but flirt with you.”
“They can’t?” I can’t recall any man ever flirting with me.
“Don’t act like you don’t know. And if you don’t, start paying attention.” She pokes my arm as if to drive in the demand. “The point is, why not have a little naughty time with them in those empty properties you’re trying to lease?”
“Because I could lose my broker license.”
“It would be consensual sex.”
“In a client’s property.”
“Making it even hottterr,” she slurs. Even though I helped her land a job as our new office assistant, she’s been quick to make her own rules.
In my recollection I hadn’t noticed a guy in, well, ever. Not in that way. Not after. Since I arrived I’d been slammed at my job and recently preparing to land an important client. There’s been no time for a guy in any capacity, not that I would want one.
“How do you get over a guy so fast?” I ask.
“Sometimes I don’t think you know anything. How did you make is this far in life, looking like you do, and have no experience with guys?” She gives me a suspicious glare.
I give her my standard answer, the one I always use when I can’t make sense of social dating conventions. Ones I probably understood before. “I don’t know. Late bloomer?”
Aggie’s face scrunches like she’s unconvinced, but always unwilling to leave me unschooled on important issues such as these, she continues with her fast-talk. “There are basic rules to the romance universe every woman should know. Brad and I dated for three months. The acceptable equation for getting over a breakup is two days for every month we were together. I should have been over him by day six and it’s already day eight. So see, I’m behind schedule and wasting precious flirting time.”
“Makes sense. I think.” I pause and my thoughts find their way back to where this conversation started. “Aggs, there’s someone amazing out there for you, but in the meantime, maybe you should enjoy time by yourself?”
This seems like the reasonable game plan. The safe plan. That’s my plan.
“What’s that app called again?” She slides her finger across a list of icons on her phone. “You should download it too.”
“I’ll think about it,” I say, hoping she’ll drop the subject.
Seconds pass before Aggie’s arms loosen in her lap with her fingers easing off her phone. Her heavy breathing simmers into a purring snore. With her losing consciousness, I rest my head against hers and exhale.
What would it be like to let loose and be different—be like Aggie? I may not want to be serious with someone but why not take Aggie’s suggestion? Bypass the crap and have a little fun. My lip quirks, and I soften at the hazy thought. Under the influence the word fun sounds nice.
“Hey! Get off my car!” The command pierces the silence. Now alert, I whip my head to the voice and spot a chubby man charging in our direction. I suck in a sharp breath and jab Aggie with my elbow.
“What?” She jolts awake with a grunt and looks around with an annoyed expression. She rubs her eyes and yawns.
She’s moving at sloth-speed, so I hook my arm with hers and drag her from the car’s hood. When my feet hit the ground, Aggie stumbles at my side. Every distasteful name she growls fades into the background when the approaching man steps under a streetlamp and a beam of light catches the gleam of his police badge. Pure fear shoots through my veins as the terrifying thought of breaking the law sobers me.
“Run!” Aggie yells, finally comprehending my urgency.
My heart beats rapid-fire as I fall into step, sprinting behind her. Mr. Police follows in pursuit, but when I glance back a few minutes into our chase, the poor guy’s doubled over with his hands leveraged on his knees, heaving. Aggie spots the same and pumps her arms and yowls with a victorious whoop. She seeks my hand for a high five but misses and smacks my face instead. I blanch at the pain and rub my burning cheek. Clumsiness ignites her raucous laughter. Nervousness releases mine. Like bumbling idiots, we weave beneath Lincoln Park’s canopy of green trees.
Outside Aggie’s condo building with the late summer air hugging us, I thank her for cheering me up. I’m relieved and exhilarated by our escape.
“I thought I was the one who needed cheering,” she says.
“You know your down in the dumps is equivalent to my happy.”
“Aww, my poor Princess of Darkness. Try to put on a happy face.” She pats my arm. “You sure you don’t want to stay?”
“Nah, running will help burn off the alcohol.”
“Or make you throw up.” She makes a barfing gesture.
“You’re such a child.” I wave her off with a conspiratorial grin. When she vanishes into her building, I jog into the darkness of the tree-lined street.
My apartment sits a mile south near the city center. It’s a restored six-story brick walk-up in River North. When I reach the top floor out of breath, I stop at the landing and zero in on my apartment door. It’s cracked open.
My entire body stands alert, and I glance around to confirm I’m alone. I didn’t leave it open. In fact, I remember locking it before I left. At least I think I did. I rub my head. With champagne bubbles floating through my mind, my recollection’s blurry.
Holding my breath, I step forward with caution. Standing two feet away from the door, I press one finger to the wood, easing it wider. It whines, and I freeze at the sound, half expecting someone to jump me. When nothing happens, I continue my visual inspection of the living room. The room is tidy. Quiet. Nothing seems out of place. My purse sits untouched on the coffee table. I exhale and inch one step closer.
“Hello?” My voice shakes. I’m poised to run back down the stairs if need be. When there’s no response, I become bold and say it louder, “Hello?”
I step over the threshold, and the floorboards creak beneath my weight. My gaze swings from the kitchen to the living area and down the hall to my darkened bedroom. On tiptoes, I step farther inside.
A loud clanking noise causes me to jerk back with a startled heart. My shoulder hits the wall before I stumble backward through the door and into the hall with a tight scream lodged in my throat.
“Back here!” someone yells. I place my hand over my hammering heart when I recognize the husky voice. I immediately want to kill that voice. I roll my eyes and exhale to calm my useless alarm. After gathering my wits, I follow the continued ruckus.
In my bathroom, a man kneels on the floor inspecting a gigantic hole of exposed pipes with the roaming beam of a flashlight. I fold my arms and lean into the doorframe.
When I left to meet Aggie everything was functioning. My gaze examines the small room, picking out details: my expensive towels soak up a deluge of water pooling on the tiled floor, there’s a large pile of powdery, crumbled drywall, and then there’s the issue of ass crack—in my face. It is toned and tight, but still, it’s connected to my landlord, Evan Wade.
“Pipes burst, leaking a damn waterfall into 5A,” he says, not bothering to glance my direction.
“Did you have to use my good towels?” I purse my lips.
“I thought about using your sexy lingerie.” He eyes the laundry basket of delicates now sitting on top of the sink. “But the fancy towels seemed like a better option.”
“Thanks, appreciate it.” I sidestep him, snatch the basket, and carry it to my bedroom, hiding it in my closet. If he had scrutinized it closer, which he probably did, he would have found an embarrassing amount of granny panties and more sports bras than a Lululemon.
“How long before it’s fixed?” How long before I can get rid of you?
“A week,” his muffled voice answers.
“What?” I race back only to find his sharky grin. Two vertical dimples slice beneath a permanent, mocha-colored five o’clock shadow. They punctuate his bronzy sun-kissed skin, making his caramel eyes gleam with amused delight. My gaze intensifies.
“Just kidding. And you forgot this one.” Evan tosses me a ball of fabric. I catch it and glance at it. My mouth drops open. A smiling kitten stares back from the crotch of a pair of panties. Pussy panties. My cheek temperature flickers between sweaty hot and icy cold.
“Meow.” He chuckles.
I shove Aggie’s gag gift into the pocket of my running pants. “Funny.” I deadpan to appear unaffected.
Still, Evan seems thrilled for tormenting me. It’s something he’s excelled at since the day we met. It may be I’m still tipsy from drinking, but at recalling his history of irritating jokes, I pause. I cock my head and stare at him in confusion when a doubtful revelation hits me. Is this what Aggie was talking about? Is Evan flirting with me? Has he been flirting all this time?
I shake my head. Impossible.
“It’s too late to get the parts I need. So tomorrow.” He wipes his dirty hands on one of my towels, leaving a dark streak. I bite the inside of my cheek to stop from scolding him.
“That’s not going to work. I have an appointment first thing in the morning and I need a shower.” I gesture to my sweaty T-shirt.
“No kidding, Cat, I can smell you from here.”
“It’s Cait, you ass.” I kick off my loose sneaker, tossing it with my toe in his direction. I aim to nail him in the head but he dodges away. The shoe ricochets off the wall, tumbling to the floor.
His grin widens. “I’m kidding, Miss London. You smell like roses, as always.”
“Seriously, what am I going to do?”
“Can’t you use Gusterson’s shower?” He quirks a surly lip because he already knows the answer—no. Mr. Gusterson lives across the hall, but I’ve never seen the man. I’m unsure anyone has.
For this comment, I kick my other shoe in his direction.
“Ow!” This one smacks his sizable bicep, protecting his handsome face. I suppress a triumphant smile.
Evan crouches and stands in one fluid motion of sinewy muscle. He meets my gaze, and then rakes a hand through his tousled chestnut-colored hair. “Fine. You don’t have to beg, Kitty Cat, you can use mine.” He puffs his chest and flashes his brilliant white grin.
Definitely flirting. Though I shouldn’t be surprised. How many times in the last year had I seen him at Mr. Moon’s Coffee House, sitting at a table and flirting with some girl? There were too many times and too many girls to count.
Evan takes his time sliding past, I think, purposely brushing the heat of his body near me. I pin myself against the wall, unwilling to allow our skin to touch. When will he grasp how annoying I find him?
“I’ll pass.” I latch my hands on my hips. This is me sending a clear message. I’m not flirting.
“Suit yourself.” Unswayed, he lumbers for the door.
“What about these tools?” I gesture to his mess.
“I’ll be back tomorrow.” He turns, arms wide, palms skyward and strolls backward with a confident teeter. He’s hitting me with his smile again and those damn dimples, like they’ll make this situation better.
My teeth clench. If I had something else to throw at him I would. When he disappears, I remove my cell from my pocket and text Aggie.
ME: Coming back.
AGGS: Did u barf? I knew u would.
ME: No, but I want 2.
Thinking of Evan, I glance at my front door, which he left wide open. His footfalls descend the stairs to his apartment on the first floor.