Without any blinds on my east-facing window, I was up hours too early, when the sky was still pink with promise. My head hurt a little bit and I wasn’t sure if it was because I woke up too early, needed caffeine, or a handful of aspirin. Or probably all of the above.

The fourth-floor bathroom in The American Hotel was all the way at the other end of the hall. I splashed cold water on my face, rinsed my mouth out, and finger combed my hair. I wasn’t surprised at the dark purplish ring around my eye from getting slugged the night before. Rummaging in my bag, I tried on my sunglasses and squinted in the mirror.

Of course when I opened the door, that band boy stood there—with only a towel around his waist. I tried not to stare at his smooth bare chest. His fingers were wrapped around a beer bottle.

“It’s eleven in the morning,” I said, jutting my chin at the bottle.

“My schedule’s a little different than yours,” he said and took a big slug of beer. “Obviously.”

I scowled. “Whatever.”

We sat there in silence for a few seconds staring at each other. He was standing right in the doorway. Right in my way. But he just stood there half naked watching me with this look in his eye. Like he wanted to laugh.

Finally, I raised my eyebrow. I have serious Brooke Shields eyebrows. They usually do the trick and they didn’t fail me this time.

He swallowed. “Sorry about last night. That girl I was with … God, I don’t know. She only cares about . . . I don’t know . . . stupid stuff. And she doesn’t get my passion for music . . .”

It was my turn to shrug. “It is obvious that we can no more explain passion to a person who has never experienced it than we can explain light to the blind.”

His forehead creased for a second. I wasn’t going to help. But he came through. “So . . . T.S. Eliot, huh? You like poetry?”

I didn’t point out that T.S. Eliot wrote more than poems or that his anti-Semitism was a huge turnoff.

“Not really. Remembered that line about passion. I’d rather read a real book.”

“You don’t think poetry is real?” That small smile crept back across his face.

“Sometimes it’s . . . affectation.” I peeked up at him through my bangs and saw his smile growing wider. “Some guy can scribble down a bunch of stream-of-conscious nonsense and then read it out loud in a theatrical voice and everyone around him will attribute some deep, philosophical interpretation to his rambling.

“Meanwhile, the audience — trying to seem cool and hip and with it — transforms it into some profound observation of life itself. So, yeah, poetry really doesn’t do much for me.”

Band boy burst into laughter, revealing that sexy gap, which immediately made my face grow warm.

“What?” I fidgeted and looked away.

“I just declared poetry as my minor in college.”

“Figures.” I rolled my eyes. “How old are you anyway?”

“Eighteen next month. Started kindergarten when I was four. My dad was a teacher and had me tested and stuff and I guess my IQ was off the charts, like 160 or something whatever that means.”

He stopped talking when he saw the look on my face. I decided not to mention that my IQ would give his, a run for his money. There’s only enough room for one overinflated head in this building.

“Jesus, I sound like an egomaniac,” he said, backpedalling. “I never tell anybody this kind of shit. I have no idea why I told you all that. Seriously, it doesn’t mean anything because now my IQ is back down to idiot range, which I’ve pretty much proved by acting like such a moron with you.”

I tried to hide my smile. “So, if you never tell people all this, why did you decide to tell me?”

He grew serious and looked away like he was embarrassed. “I don’t know.” He ran his fingers through his hair and took a deep breath. “Yeah, I do. I guess something about you makes me feel like . . . Well, I guess I don’t want you to think I’m just some dumb guy in a band.”

I looked at him suspiciously. Why would he care what I thought? I didn’t have time to figure it out. “I’ve got to go. I work today. Unlike some people.” I gave another pointed look at his beer.

I was halfway down the hall when he spoke again. “I broke up with her, you know. That girl. From last night.”

I kept walking.

“In case you care. Which of course you don’t,” he called after me. I heard him swearing softly and then mumbling something about what an idiot he was.

I didn’t turn around, but I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face.

You can read more about Nikki in City of Angels, a young adult novel.

Nikki Black, 17, a self-imposed lone wolf since her mother died, fled suburban Chicago to escape her painful past. But when her so-called boyfriend reveals why he really lured her to Southern California — to star in child porn flicks — she ends up on the streets of L.A. with only the clothes on her back and a twelve-year-old addict named Rain trailing in her shadows. The girls seek refuge at a residential hotel above a punk rock bar in downtown L.A. a few months before the city erupts into chaos during the 1992 riots. At The American Hotel, Nikki makes friends and for the first time in years feels as if she has a real family again.

All that changes when Rain disappears. Everyone except Nikki, including the police, thinks Rain succumbed to the seductive allure of addiction and life on the streets. Nikki finds herself fighting for her own life the closer she gets to unveiling a sinister cover-up by a powerful group that secretly controls the city of angels. City of Angels is an edgy, gritty, mature Young Adult mystery about a teenager’s struggle to not only belong — but survive.

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About the author
Kristi Belcamino is a Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Award-nominated author, a newspaper cops reporter, and an Italian mama who makes a tasty biscotti. She writes books featuring strong, fierce, and independent women facing unspeakable evil in order to seek justice for those unable to do so themselves.

Her first novel in the Gabriella Giovanni Mystery Series, Blessed Are The Dead, was inspired by her dealings with a serial killer during her life as a Bay Area crime reporter. She is also the co-author of Letters From A Serial Killer, co-written with the mother of the girl kidnapped and killed by the serial killer who inspired Blessed Are The Dead. Her first YA novel, City Of Angels (Polis Books) was released on May 9, 2017.

Find out more at kristibelcamino.com. Find her on Facebook, or on Twitter at @KristiBelcamino. Sign up for her newsletter here.

All comments are welcomed.

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