"It's not the events of our lives that shape us, but how we respond to those events." ~ Cynthia Kersey


"All right, class. Pencils down please," the professor called from behind the metal desk. "Leave your exams on my desk on your way out and have a fantastic summer." Victoria scribbled the last few words of her essay, and then tucked a strand of her chocolate brown hair behind her ear. She smiled with pride as she read over the words, knowing she would ace the exam. She aced every exam she took. School had been easy for her from day one, and it was no different now. This being her psychology exam was just a perk, since it was her favorite subject. At the age of sixteen, she was well on her way to having her bachelor's degree and she was certain she would be working on her masters by the time she was eighteen. Education was her life. From the moment she was born, her mother had drilled it into her brain to get as much education as possible. Reading and writing were daily practices in the St. James household and had given Victoria the motivation and edge she needed to jump-start her learning.

She packed up her books and made her way down the aisle of flimsy student desks to turn her paper in. "Hey Victoria," she heard the young man call from behind her. "How do you think you did?" She recognized the voice immediately. Chase Langford was present in more than one of her classes and though she had a sizable crush on him, she was careful to keep things strictly platonic. She turned to look into his deep blue eyes, even though he stood several inches taller than she did.

"I aced it," she smiled brightly and confidently, letting her soft Texas drawl peak through her words. "How about you?"

He flashed his devilish yet charming grin, "Oh, I'm sure I did just fine. So, what are you up to this summer?" She placed her exam on the professor's desk and paused just inside the classroom door to wait as Chase did the same.

"More and more classes for me. As many as I can stand. If I keep this pace up, I can start on my masters by the time I turn eighteen and I'll be able to transfer to the Austin campus." It had always been her dream to graduate from the University of Texas. The Dallas campus was nice, but it wasn't the same as Austin. Chase continued walking out the door and into the hallway while Victoria talked and followed. "I might take a couple of days off and go to Corpus with Mom and Dad though." They strolled down the hall and stepped through the double doors and into the blistering summer heat.

"Well if you transfer to Austin, who's going to walk to my classes with me?" he playfully chided. Victoria looked up at him, admiring his dirty blonde hair that was just a little too long and unruly on his head. With his tan skin, she would swear he was a surfer if they weren't completely land locked in Dallas.

"Chase," she sighed. "That's about two years from now. You'll be well on your way by then and besides, don't you have friends your own age to hang out with?" she teased. He was four years her senior, which was the one and only reason she never allowed herself to be anything more than a friend to him. Before meeting Chase, she had never even thought about having a crush on a boy. Her studies and education were far more important to her and occupied most of her time. She had thought more than once about what it would be like to kiss Chase though.

Chase stopped in his tracks and turned to meet her, face to face. He reached up and lightly grazed her cheek with his thumb, then tilted her chin up so she was looking straight into his eyes. Her dark hair and eyes were a stark contrast to his light features. "Are you crazy?" he asked softly. "I would much rather spend time with you than anyone else." Victoria felt her heart speed up and do a little flip-flop in her chest. Every instinct in her body told her to reach and out touch him, kiss him, but her brain restrained her. Suddenly, as if reading her emotions, Chase leaned in bringing his lips closer to hers and placed his hand behind her neck to guide her to him.

"Chase…I," she started in protest. "I've never kissed anyone before." She felt her cheeks redden with embarrassment as soon as the words left her mouth. He brought his other hand up and cupped her cheek as he searched her eyes with his.

"If you don't want me to, I won't," he whispered roughly and she felt his breath skim across her lips. She set her hands out to touch him and placed them on his stomach, feeling his muscles contract from the sensation.

"No, I…I want you to," she finally murmured, giving in to her body for the first time in her life. Slowly and gently, Chase covered her lips with his. He took each of hers between his, tasting each one individually. At first, she stood motionless, unsure of what to do. Then, gradually she began to respond, mimicking his movements. Every nerve and sense in her body was alert and tingling with desire as his hand moved behind her back and pulled her even closer to him. With each passing second, she found herself wanting more and more of him.

"Ms. St. James," she heard from some distant place and ignored it, focusing only on Chase. Suddenly the voice was right behind her and she heard the man clear his throat to get her attention. "Excuse me, are you Ms. St. James? Victoria St. James?" Reluctantly she tore herself from Chase's lips and arms and turned to face the intrusion. Standing stoic in front of her were two fully uniformed police officers.

"Yes, sir. I'm Victoria St. James. Is something wrong?" She couldn't imagine any reason why the police would be looking for her.

"Are your parents Daniel and Sarah St. James of Fort Worth? Owners of St. James Oil and Refinery?" The officer had a grim look on his face that sent Victoria's stomach spiraling. She felt Chase's had grab hers and squeeze an offer of support for whatever the officer's reason for finding her.

"Yes, sir," she replied hesitantly and tightened her grip on Chase.

"Miss, we are going to need you to come with us."

"What's wrong? What did I do?" she asked feeling herself become frantic. Her parents would be so disappointed if she had gotten into trouble.

"There's been an accident," the officer started, glancing to his partner as he spoke. "I'm sorry Miss, but both of your parents have been killed." She felt Chase's arm circle around her as the darkness crept in and covered her eyes.