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Power and Possession

By:C.C. Gibbs

Chapter 1

Monte Carlo, Monaco, August 1

Nicole Parrish squinted against the sun pouring in through the bedroom windows, her uncle’s penthouse apartment curtainless for some ungodly reason. Or more practically because it was forty stories above the ground. “I’m up, I’m up, okay. I heard you.” Her friend, Fiona, was standing at the end of the bed, looking fresh and bright, every golden hair in place. “Seriously, you’re sure it’s not a problem?”

“God, no. It’s a mega yacht. I Googled it. Two hundred fifty feet, six decks, helipad, swimming pool, hot tub, gym, spa, crew of thirty-three, built two years ago of aluminum for speed and fuel economy—how’s that for an oxymoron. And the guest list is always huge, the invitations allow for escorts, partners, friends—whatever. So it’s not a problem.”

“Still.” Nicole pursed her lips. “It feels like party crashing.”

“You’re too sober. That’s your problem. My cousin says this is a not-to-be-missed party.” Fiona Kelly, dressed in a green shimmering bikini that matched her eyes, lifted her mimosa. “Want some of my breakfast? Your uncle has one kick-ass champagne selection.”

Almost lost in the huge bed, Nicole lazily stretched. “It was a late night—actually morning, by the time I got home. I need food.”

“The buffet is set up in the dining room as usual thanks to the food fairies.” Nicole liked her privacy so Dominic Knight, her uncle, had given his staff orders to be discreet.

“Any breakfast tortillas?”

“Of course. Your uncle runs a tight ship. Or maybe you’re his favorite niece.”

“He’s good to all of us. Did Mom call?” While her uncle was laissez-faire in his oversight, her mother wasn’t.

“Only three times.” Fiona grinned. “She must get up at dawn.”

“Yoga at sunrise,” Nicole muttered. “I didn’t inherit those genes.”

“Don’t I know it, Miss Night Owl. Anyway, I didn’t tell your mom you rolled in at seven. I told her you were busy Skyping with your new grad counselor at Columbia. A mix-up with your fall class schedule.”

“Which isn’t entirely untrue.”

A lift of perfectly sculpted brows thanks to the spa at the Hôtel de Paris. “Only because you haven’t actually registered yet.”

Nicole groaned. “We’re not all programmed for a career path from birth,” she grumbled. “Some of us—”

“Want to be a screenwriter with a chem degree. Or work with that gorgeous Yash on his happiness research in Singapore. Which has more to do with your happiness than research.”

“Hey—I’m trying not to think about any of that this summer.”

Undeterred, Fiona said, “The summer won’t last forever and you’re going to have to deal with it. Just saying.”

A mocking glance. “Thanks, Mom. Now be nice,” Nicole murmured, still not fully awake. “Or you’ll go mega-yachting alone.”

“You be nice or I won’t tell you what that lovely boy you were with last night sent in the way of a thank you for”—Fiona flashed a wide smile—“your charming company.”

“I already know. I smell the roses. And he was lovely.” A hint of pleasure echoed softly in her voice. “Andre right?”

“With a whole lot of other names after that—don’t forget.”

“You’re the one who likes titles. I just like to have fun.”

“I try to combine the two since we’re in Europe. So how was darling Andre? Scale of one to ten.” The proverbial female question the morning after.

Nicole thought for a moment. “An eight. He was a little too sweet. Not my favorite thing. We went clubbing, dancing, had a last drink at some little bistro on the beach. He wasn’t trying to score right out of the blocks. I liked that.”

“Sometimes you like that.” Fiona and Nicole had been talking boys since grade school. Nothing was sacred. “And sometimes you don’t—a few occasions, one in a bar bathroom—come to mind.”

“So?” Another lazy stretch.

“So nothing.” Fiona drained the flute, set the glass on the dresser, and strolled to the windows overlooking the Mediterranean. “Wow. This isn’t Kansas, Dorothy. Even more yachts in port than yesterday.” She spun around, her long blond hair swinging in a silken arc, and threw her arms open wide. “Come on—it’s almost one. Get up or the party’s going to start without us.”

Nicole glanced at the bedside clock and made a grumbly noise.

“Look, we have only a month left of summer break. That’s thirty more days to rub shoulders and other more interesting body parts with the rich and famous before we’re back to the academic grind. Or at least, I’ll go back to the grind. Slackers like you, who knows?” Fiona walked to the bed and pulled the covers back. “Go take a shower. Vite. Vite. I’ll pick out a bikini for you.”