First Fight Excerpt:

"Let's go." Cord took Mia's arm again and they went across the street, the sides densely lined with parked cars. The air had an icy edge and he tried to take note of it. See, Brain? No more desert. Just friendly, calm Manhattan. Be the chill.

"Why did you ask to go to the coffee shop if you don't do well there?" Her face looked elfin as she tilted it up at his greater height. Her coat remained unbuttoned and he could see her shiny shirt. It was thin enough to tell she wore her lace bra. The weak streetlights muted the colors around her, icing her face to a pale gleam. "Please be honest with me, Cord. I prefer to go where you're comfortable."

She'd told him that several times and he generally took the latitude she gave him, taking her out to places that didn't set him off. But tonight... Had he done it for penance? To prove something? If so, he'd failed. "I wanted to go back where we started. I saw their poster for that performer and looked him up on YouTube. He was good, wasn't he?"

She frowned and faced forward again. "I liked his music, but not at your expense. Let's turn on his channel when we get home."

Oh... wow, what a great idea. He would totally do her to those intricate grooves. "Yeah, let's." The van was coming up. He walked faster, scanning it carefully, checking the plate, the defining rust, knowing it wasn't a regular. Moving even with the driver's window, he made sure it was empty, and as they cleared it, he turned briefly, making sure there was no movement now that it was at their backs. Forced to turn forward, he took Mia's arm in a higher grip.

Her mittened-warmth covered his fingers. "All clear, baby."

He hoped so. She didn't know for sure.

"Cord." She stopped. Shoved on his shoulder until they both faced the van. "Take it in and settle. Be sure." Looking over at the closest apartment windows, she smiled at a menorah. "It's such a still, fresh night. I don't mind waiting." She exhaled, playing with the plume of her breath.

He couldn't believe her wisdom, her beautiful spirit. His heart squeezed through his ribs and splatted right at her camel-brown-leather-covered feet.