Seeking Her

Losing It #3.5


Cora Carmack

For my parents, who taught me not just to dream, but to dream big.

And for Patrick and Shelly,  for all of your help that allows me to keep on dreaming.


THEY SAY WRITING a book takes a village, and in part that’s because writing a book is never just as simple as putting words on a paper. The stars have to align (and a lot of ­people have to help) to turn those words into a finished project.

First, I have to thank Harper­Collins, in particular my editor, Amanda, and my publicist, Jessie, for being 100% behind me and my books. Thanks also to Molly and Pam and every person whose hand touches my work—­from copyediting to cover art. I’m glad to have found such a terrific home.

Second, thanks to my agent, Suzie. I say it all the time—­to family and colleagues and even the eighty-­year-­old man sitting next to me on a plane who asked me about writing—­signing with you and New Leaf was the best decision I could have possibly made. Thanks for handling all my crazy.

A giant thank you to Kelly for being so invested and so awesome at what you do. You know I’m a control freak, and I have trouble handing things over to others, but I have never, not once, hesitated to trust your skills and opinions. You’re that awesome.

Thank you to Patrick and Shelly for attempting to help bring order to my chaos and for being fantastic friends. Thank you, Lindsay, for always being there when I need to vent or text for hours in caps lock. Bethany, thanks for always badgering me to name characters after you (and for taking care of Kitty Katniss while I’m off at signings).

Thank you to my family. I’m a hot mess most of the time, and somehow you guys manage to hold the pieces of me together even when you’re a thousand miles away.

And to my fantastic readers and all the amazing bloggers who have supported me—­I could not do any of this without you. I will always do my best to make it up to you guys with more books and posts of cute boys with cats. Sarah, Johana, and Christine, I hope you like your cameo appearances. And to all the readers that I’ve met at signings this year, I cannot even begin to express the ways in which you all have touched me—­to all the kick-­ass girls in Miami; to Antonella in Houston; to Ria, that I see everywhere; to Vilma; who is awesome; to Jeanne, who I shared HP and margaritas with; to my tattoo ladies in Oklahoma—­I could probably go on forever. I’ve met so many wonderful ­people in so many wonderful cities, and every time I am humbled and amazed at the support and love you show me and books in general. Love you all!


I’D SPENT BLISTERINGLY hot days in the desert, followed by achingly cold nights. I’d been shot, nearly blown up, and sprayed with shrapnel like it was water. Now I was a glorified babysitter.

The universe has a strange sense of humor.

The pretty blonde stood a dozen rows ahead of me on the airplane, her nearly identical picture burning a hole in my back pocket. She was trying to shove a large backpack, not unlike the pack I had in the Marines, into the overhead compartment, and I was getting a long look at her body while she did it. Her baggy cotton T-­shirt rode up to show a slim tanned waist. I cast my eyes down, but then they got stuck on hips covered by short denim cutoffs that gave way to long, equally tan legs. I looked away.

For a second.

What the hell. I was getting paid to look after her. In my book, that counted as permission to look. Plus, if I was going to be following her around a continent, I needed to be able to recognize her at the slightest glance.

That was a good enough excuse as far as I was concerned.

Her clothes reminded me of something you could find at a garage sale, but somehow on her, they worked. She appeared effortlessly beautiful, radiant in that way that you can’t help but take a second look. But knowing her father and the world she came from, I’m sure that look was both purposeful and pricey.

With some girlie magazine tucked under her arm and a drink from Starbucks, she took a seat, and I couldn’t see her anymore.

I sighed, already antsy, and we weren’t even in the air yet. My knees pushed uncomfortably up against the seat in front of me. The old man next to me had already taken the armrest, and I leaned on the remaining armrest tilting my head against the seat back.

I was bored, and boredom and I did not mix well. I needed action and adrenaline and excitement. But I knew I was likely to be stuck with stuffy museums and tourist traps and prissy little European cafés.

The info her dad had given me said she just graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts, so I’d expected her to choose Paris or London—­some place known for its artistic side.

Maybe Kiev was artsy.

I knew as little about this city as I knew about her.

Kelsey Ann Summers.

Twenty-­two years old.

Recent college graduate.

Traveling around Europe. Indefinitely.

Which meant I’d be following her indefinitely.

In the grand scheme of things, it was a pretty great gig. Certainly better than the landscaping job I’d had (and been fired from). Beat that shitty office job that I wasted two weeks on, too. Boring or not, I’d be on the road. For whatever reason, I couldn’t stand staying in one place right now. My father had been the one to negotiate this “job.” He was tired of helping me out, and I was damn tired of needing him.

So Sorority Girl Stalker it was. Put that shit on my résumé.

The money sure as hell didn’t hurt either.

I’d keep watch while she did her girlie stuff. I’d scan for pickpockets and make sure she stayed safe; and I’d get to see some of the world not through the windshield of a Humvee for once.


I only met her dad once, to sign the contract and pick up the thin file with Kelsey’s information and his contact numbers. The whole thing was like some weird Bond movie, only with far fewer explosions and government secrets.

Mr. Summers was surprised he’d never met me, seeing as how our families ran in the same circles. I didn’t tell him that that was because I was the black sheep of the family. Then he would have found someone else to follow his daughter, probably worried that I’d corrupt his little angel.

Speaking of Mr. Summers . . . I fished out the phone he’d given me, and sent him a short text to let him know we’d both made it onto our connecting flight in New York and were about to take off. He didn’t respond before the glaring flight attendant told me to turn off my phone. I turned on airplane mode, pretended like I pressed down the power button, and then laid it facedown in my lap.

A few hours into the flight, the cabin had grown dark and the man next to me had been trying unsuccessfully to find a comfortable way to sleep for what felt like ages. Maybe it was cruel, but I sort of hoped he would remain unsuccessful. Just looking at him you could tell he was one of those guys that would accidentally snuggle up against you in his sleep.

He also had drooler written all over him.

No thank you.

On the edge of sleep, I leaned as far away from my restless neighbor as I could manage, my elbow on the outside armrest and my head on my hand.

Something bumped my arm, jostling me out of my almost-­sleep. I looked up to see a familiar face. Her eyes were heavy with sleep and her hair was mussed. I wondered briefly if this was what she looked like first thing in the morning, then her eyes swept up toward mine. Cursing myself for my slow reaction time, I pulled the baseball cap on my head down lower and turned away as she mumbled, “Sorry.”

I didn’t answer, pretending to fall back into sleep.

I made sure to keep my limbs out of the aisle and my head down. A few minutes later, I recognized the strappy sandals on her feet as she shuffled back toward the front of the plane.

I glanced up, careful to keep my hat down. The old woman sitting next to her had taken advantage of Kelsey’s absence to get something out of her bag, and was now struggling to return the bag to the overhead bin above her.

Normally, I would have stood up to help, but I couldn’t risk drawing any more attention to myself. I was banking on the darkness of the plane and Kelsey’s obvious sleepiness to negate our earlier interaction.

Instead, I watched as Kelsey took the bag from the woman and lifted it up above her head. Her shirt rode up again, and this time my eyes didn’t hesitate to search out the smooth skin of her waist.

Damn. I needed to reel that in ASAP.

I leaned my elbows on my knees and pressed my forehead into my knuckles. This didn’t bode well for my self-­control on this trip. It had never exactly been my strong suit. The Marines had helped with that, but I still had my weak points.

And a pretty blonde was definitely one of them.

Lust made men do stupid things.

Okay, me. Lust made me do stupid things.

­People tend to notice when you openly stare at them. That particular stupid thing could send me packing on the first flight back to Houston in no time.

My father had already threatened me with a job at his company if I didn’t shape up and stick with something, and that was something I’d never had any desire to do. Sooner or later, I would run out of jobs willing to take a chance on someone with my track record, and I’d be forced to accept it. Then I’d be right back on the track that had sent me off the deep end nearly a decade ago. But this time, I wouldn’t have the Marines to pull me out of it.