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By´╝ÜSosie Frost

Zach Harden.

Oh, sweet merciful Jesus, he was a beautiful mistake.

I knew he would be a perfect blending of pride and shame. I realized it as soon as he flashed that bad boy grin. I felt it in my core when our hands brushed. The mistake seared forever into my memory the instant our lips touched in that bar.

We crossed six blocks to his apartment in record time, collapsed on the bed, and our instincts took over. Our night was one animalistic, wild experience so crazy I didn’t recognize half of the things I demanded of him. Kiss me here. Touch me there. Fuck me where?

When I was little, Gran used to swoon and beseech Jesus’s mercy when she came across something that offended her sensibilities. I wished I had the luxury of fainting to avoid thinking of the contorted and sinful acts we committed.

Instead, I had to look myself in the mirror and admit—yes, I did love every minute of it, even if I could never tell another soul what a freak I was.

At least my first and last one-night stand was the best night of my life. And thank God it’d be the last time I saw him.

I didn’t get his number. I could never face him again. Not after what we did. How he took me. How I reacted…multiple times, hoarding orgasms like I stockpiled canned goods for an apocalypse.

I exhaled. I didn’t have time to worry about my wild indiscretions…of which there were many. The wake concluded, and my relatives claimed their centerpieces—won from a very morbid game of who has the birthday closest to the funeral. My feet ached, but I had one last errand before I could plunk them down in a bubble bath.

I buzzed over my apartment, grabbing a respectable skirt, sensible pantyhose, and a modest blouse. They cloaked me like a schoolmarm but the outfit did not reveal that I was a wide-eyed harlot who let a stranger have his way with her.

Three times. Or was it four?

Well, one of those ways couldn’t be classified like the others.

But people couldn’t tell that a nice young lady did those sorts of things.

…Could they?

It wasn’t like I was wearing a sign that read Ask me where I put a stranger’s penis. No one ever had to know. Still, I styled my hair in a low ponytail to manage the curls that took too much influence from my newfound free-spirit. Then I changed into a pair less-racy panties. Once I felt innocent enough, I head to the last place I wanted to go so soon after the funeral.

The family lawyer’s office.

I was only twenty-one. Sometimes I forgot it, especially after taking care of Momma when she was too traumatized by her and Dad’s separation to function. I loved her to bits, but I’d never let a man rip out my heart like Dad did to her.

All his money and gifts didn’t help heal me or Momma. I saw how it ruined a good wife, and I experienced how it hurt a daughter. I wanted nothing to do with Dad after he left us, and where did I end up?

Front row and center to his will, earning a posthumous apology from a cold letter. Too little too late. My family wasn’t just broken. We voided the warranty.

“Come on in, Shay.” My father’s accountant shook my hand. William was an older man with a waistline that grew as quickly as the hair in his eyebrows. He sported a gold Rolex on his wrist. No doubt one of Dad’s gifts. “Thanks for coming on such short notice. The sooner we get this settled, the better.”

“Of course.” I agreed even though I didn’t have a clue what to expect. After Momma died, the only things of hers I settled was finally throwing out her creepy little salt and pepper shakers in the shape of demonic-looking children. I never dealt with wills or trusts or money. “Let’s get started.”

“Can I get you coffee?”

“No thanks,” I said. “I think we’ll be in and out pretty quickly.”

At least I knew how to bluff, even when I was supremely uncomfortable. I didn’t want any of this. My goal in life was to make it through college, find a nice teaching job, and be a force of stability for the kids I taught. I’d be that someone who would listen to them, help them, and comfort them, especially if they didn’t have it at home.

Instead? I faced the attorney instrumental in my parents’ divorce. Still, I smiled as I stared at the listing of assets Dad hid to avoid alimony.

To my surprise, most of Dad’s fortune was in a trust for me. I never asked how much I was set to inherit if only because it sent Momma into a spiral, calling on the Lord to cast the devil of greed out of me. But I knew I’d be more than comfortable, especially since Dad was good with his money and investments.

“Shay,” William took my hand, though the southern gentleman was just consoling himself. “Let me tell you, I am so sorry for your loss.”