Sneak Peek #1 is here. Sneak Peek #2. Sneak Peek #3. Sneak Peek #4. Sneak Peek #5. Sneak Peek #6. Sneak Peek #7. Sneak Peek #8.
These excerpts are from a Work In Progress and I can't promise the text will be the same as the final version.
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Releasing 2014. Pre-order at Apple. Pre-order at Kobo.
Jacob picked Beth up at her father’s house the following night since it was a midpoint between their residences. He was nervous, odd as that was after dating for almost four months, and held a single rose while he waited for someone to answer the door. He didn’t have to wait long.
Beth flung the door open. “Hi,” she breathed.
He handed her the rose. “You look beautiful.”
Blushing, she buried her nose in the petals. “Thank you.” Waiting while she grabbed her coat and locked the door, he took her hand to walk to the car. “You look nice, too,” she said.
Turtlenecks weren’t his usual style, but his voice teacher at university said to wear one, or a scarf, when sick. The advice stuck. Wanted to be healthy soon as possible.
He agonized all morning where to take her for dinner. Several places were guaranteed to be swarmed by paparazzi. It had to be romantic, but not too over-the-top. This was their first date in
he became famous, but she wasn’t the type for grand gestures. He finally decided on Lucques.
“I’ve only been here once before, but the food was excellent. And it was quiet.”
“I hope you didn’t go to too much trouble.”
Outside, the restaurant was quite unassuming, the name in simple letters above the double doors; inside, very elegant without appearing stuffy. He gave a name to the hostess and they were seated right away in a quiet corner.
“Wow, this is really nice,” Beth whispered.
“But not too nice?” he asked with a smile.
She shook her head. “Just right.”
Once their orders were taken, he asked, “How are you?”
“You look like your cold is better.”
He smiled. “Good drugs. How is work?”
“Alright. Did I tell you I’m still using Dad’s house for a dark room?”
“He must enjoy the excuse to see you.”
“Yeah…with how good it is now, I really regret avoiding him all those years. A lot of lost time.” A rift had developed between them when her mother died.
He squeezed her hand. “The important thing is that is in the past, hmm? Don’t beat yourself up about it, love. Would you like to have our Christmas later? Your gifts are in the car.”
Her eyes lit up. “Yours are at the house, too.”
The waiter interrupted with their plates, so conversation ceased for a while. Jacob finally had an appetite again, and Beth, well, she was always hungry. Over dessert, he was telling her a story from the tour when his cell rang. He let it go to voice mail, then got a text message: URGENT.
“What’s up?” she asked, seeing the look on his face.
He dialed Bob’s number. “I don’t know…” He held up a finger to signal her to wait. “Hey, I’m on a date—”
“Jake, it’s Aaron…he’s in the hospital.”
“What? What happened?”
“He got mugged outside a club tonight. They beat him up pretty bad. He’s going to recover, but he looks terrible. We’re all heading over.”
“Tell me where… Alright, we’ll be there soon.” He hung up and tried to get the waiter’s attention.
“Aaron got banged up. Sorry, love, we’re going to have to cut this short.” The night had been going so well, too.
“No problem. He’s family.”
Beth hated hospitals. The only time she’d been to one for something good was the birth of a cousin. The word “hospital” meant pain and death in her mind. As they sped to Cedars-Sinai, she tried to focus on this not being about how she felt. Jacob and the band needed her support.
“You okay? You look a little pale,” he said.
Realizing she’d been holding her breath, she let it out. “Yeah… I don’t like hospitals, for obvious reasons.”
He took one hand off the steering wheel to squeeze hers. “You don’t have to come in. I can drop you off before—”
“No. Of course I’m coming. You okay?”
“I’ll let you know when I see him.”
Aaron was already in a private room to protect his privacy. It wouldn’t be long before the paparazzi swarmed the place. Bob and Dylan were there, along with the new band manager.
“Where’s Mikey?” Jacob asked.
“On his way, I hope. I left a message,” Bob said. “He’s in that room.”
Jacob glanced at Beth. She waved him ahead. Dylan hugged her before she sat down. She didn’t know the new manager.
“Is it really bad?” she asked Bob.
“So-so. Could be a lot worse. Couple of cracked ribs, lots of bruises…possible concussion. That’s why he has the bed.” He shook his head and chuckled. “Idiot tried to fight back.”
That made her crack a smile. “Sounds like him.”
Mike finally showed up. He got the story from Bob, then went in the room. The manager answered a call, leaving the three of us in the waiting room.
Dylan stretched and stood. “I’m going to get a soda. Either of you want anything?”
She shook her head. Bob said no.
“Sorry to interrupt your date,” he said.
“You were right to call. You guys are like family to him.”
“Were you with Celeste?”
“Nah, over at Dylan’s watching a game. Aaron called me before the ambulance arrived. I’m his emergency contact. He doesn’t have family.”
“Oh. I didn’t know that.”
Bob shrugged. “Just a fact of his life. Aaron doesn’t dwell on stuff like that.”
“He drove me nuts on that first tour, never taking anything seriously.”
“I chalked it up to him being nineteen. Best drummer we ever auditioned, though.”
“Has he talked to the police, yet?”
Bob nodded. “Yeah, down in the ER. Ah, there’s Jake.”
She stood to greet her boyfriend. “How is he?”
“The meds were kicking in, so he was gettin’ sleepy.” He looked over her head to Bob. “Thanks for not waiting to call me.”
“We’re a team, man. They’re probably going to kick us out soon, anyway. It’s already past visiting hours.”
Jacob nodded. “Tomorrow, then. ‘Night, mate.”
Jacob draped his arm over Beth’s shoulders and led her toward the elevators.
She glanced back and waved at Bob. “We should probably find a back way out. The cameras are probably out front by now.”
They stopped at a nurses’ station for directions, then made a roundabout way to the car.
Jacob was quiet during the drive. Figuring he would talk when he was ready, she waited. The scenery passed by without her taking notice, so she didn’t realize the route he’d taken until they paused at the gate.
He parked the car in the drive. “Sorry…auto-pilot.
“It’s okay, Jacob. I don’t have to rush home.”
The house was dark and quiet. Tense with anxiety and worry, he wrapped his arms around her as soon as they were inside. Please stay, he whispered. She barely heard the words, but nodded just the same.
When he was so upset, she couldn’t deny him anything. He let out a shuddering breath, then released her to take her hand and lead her upstairs to his room. While he rummaged in a couple drawers, she sat on the bed to take off her shoes.
He came back with a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. “Only thing I have with a drawstring.”
She smiled gently. “This is fine. I’ll be right back.”
Changing clothes in the bathroom, she adjusted the shorts so they went down far enough to conceal her scar, and found him sitting on the end of the bed, lost in thought and hands dangling between his legs. He’d changed into a pair of sweats without turning on the light.
She touched his shoulder. “You okay?”
“Not really.” He wrapped his arms around her middle and buried his face in her belly. “I really don’t like seeing people I care about in the hospital.”
“I’m sorry. You heard Bob, though. Aaron will probably go home tomorrow and he’ll be fine before you know it.”
He looked up at her. “Were you fine?”
“Eventually. You can’t feel guilty for that.” She stroked his hair. “Jacob, the accident wasn’t your fault, or mine. Blame the jerk that ran the red light.”
Sliding his hand under the edge of the shorts, he caressed her left leg. “Is there any pain?”
Don’t flinch, don’t flinch… “Nothing an aspirin can’t fix.”
His fingers traced the scar, feeling out the texture difference in her skin. “You don’t have to hide it from me, you know. Everybody has scars. You have this because of me, anyway.”
She raised his chin so he’d look at her. “It was not your fault. I was doing my job. And hey, without it, we wouldn’t be here.”
“Maybe…” The stroking became absentminded.
The light touch caused goose bumps to break out on her thigh. “We both would’ve stayed stuck in our ruts, never saying what mattered. We needed a catalyst.”
“I should have said something sooner. I kept hoping the next girl I met would look at me like you did.”
“With affectionate annoyance?” she quipped.
“Like a person. I’ve lost count of how many times Maria said ‘I told you so’. Seeing Aaron laying there, black and blue and vulnerable…”
“Brought up memories.”
He sighed. “Yeah.”
The darkness made it easier to reveal thoughts, say things daylight would chase away otherwise. A little moonlight managed to shine through the curtains, enough to allow her to see the outline of his shape, his eyes when they looked up at her. Figuring he’d dwell on this stuff unless something distracted him, she kissed his forehead, the space between his brows, the bridge of his nose, his lips…
Seeking solace, he drank up her affection. She crawled onto his lap. His arms tightened around her almost to the point of making it hard to breathe.
“Shhh,” she soothed him. If asked, she never would have said he would be the one needing reassurance. Would have laughed at the thought. Perhaps those two months of separation were harder on him than she thought.
After several minutes, he broke off the kiss to cough. “Sorry.”
“Your medicine’s wearing off. I forgot about your cold. You should sleep, honey.”
He nodded. The fact he didn’t argue said how drained he was. She got up and let him slide all the way back on the bed. He opened the drawer in the nightstand and grabbed the bottle of cough syrup, took a swig, and put it away. She set her glasses on the table on her side and slid under the covers.
He pulled her close and wrapped around her. “Thank you, love.”
She kissed him in response, then closed her eyes.
In the middle of the night, she woke up feeling too warm.
She tried to roll away from the source of heat, but she was stuck, a heavy arm keeping her trapped. The hand attached cradled her left breast under her shirt. Squirming, she tried with no luck to get his arm to move. It only tightened around her.
Jacob’s breathing was slow and even. Not surprising, considering he usually slept like the dead. She tried nudging him with her elbow. Wiggling didn’t help. He made a happy “mmm” noise and flexed the naughty hand.
“Jacob…” she whined. This was so not fair, getting felt up when the guy wasn’t even conscious. His hand was warm, and soft enough, and her boob fit pretty well in his palm. It had been so long since she was touched. What to do…? If she woke him up, he’d feel guilty for touching her without permission, and it’d be awkward all day. If she waited for him to move, it would drive her insane.
One by one, she tugged on his arm hairs. He mumbled something like “ow” and rolled onto his back. Free, she turned on the big bed to her other side, putting a few inches between them. He started to snore.
She’d never fall back to sleep now. Five minutes of that noise was too much. Pushing on him, she rolled him away from her to his side where he could breathe. He muttered a complaint, then fell silent again.
The next time she awoke, the sky was lightening and she was draped over Jacob’s chest, her leg thrown across his. Guess they gravitated toward each other still no matter what.
Felt nice, though, using him for a pillow. Comfy. His body wasn’t so thick it gave her neck a kink, and his skin was silky. Was his chest naturally smooth, or did he have to maintain it? Didn’t matter, either way, but she was curious. Men got hairier as they got older, didn’t they?
He smelled good, too, with a faint hint of the Obsession he used before their date. Same cologne since senior year. God, it did all kinds of things to her fluttering teenage hormones.
She drew little invisible patterns on his abs while she mused.
“Wouldn’t mind if you moved that hand a couple inches south…” His voice was a bit rough from sleeping. She glanced up. His eyes were still closed.
“Didn’t mean to wake you,” she whispered.
He smiled. “Wasn’t complainin’. I could get used to this.”
He opened his eyes. “Waking up to you again.”
“It’s barely sunrise. You should go back to sleep. If your cold got worse, I’d have to feel all guilty.” Okay, that ended up flirtier than she intended.
He brushed her hair behind her ear. “Couldn’t have that…”
As good-morning-kisses went, this one was probably at least a nine. It curled her toes and sent heat straight to her center. She slid further on top of him, making it easier to kiss. He wrapped his arms tightly around her again, sliding one hand under the back of her shirt. One of them moaned; might have been her.
“Wow…” she said.
“…Are you trying to look down my shirt?”
“Huh?” He raised his eyes to hers. “What?”
“That’s a yes.”
“What’s a yes?” he asked, his brows meeting in the middle.
Grinning, she shook her head. “Never mind.”
Her turn to kiss him until he had to come up for air. It was easy enough to fantasize about a hot guy putting all the right moves on you. The real prize was in witnessing yourself putting all the right moves on him. Making the stud putty in your hands? Priceless. He was so pretty when “thoroughly snogged”, as he would say.
“All mine, aren’t you?” she whispered in his ear. He flipped them over and went for that spot on Beth’s throat that made her say “guh”. “…Not…an answer…” she moaned.
If that’s how he wanted to play…
She attacked his ribs with her fingers. He burst out laughing and jerked away from her hands, giving her the chance to roll him over and get back on top. That started a play-fight for dominance that ended with them completely tangled in the sheets and gasping for breath.
“I think we’re stuck,” she said, giggling.
He tried moving his feet. “Yup. I’m exhausted.”
“Gettin’ outta shape, old man.”
“Brat. It’s this bloody cold.”
“I love hearing it.” They kissed, slow and sweet. “Nap?”
“If you need it,” she teased.
“You’re lucky I can’t move right now, love.”
“Oh, bite me.”
Jacob awakened first the next time. Watching Beth sleep, he remembered the first time they slept in the same bed, when he was a senior in high school in 2000.
Beth’s parents were away for the weekend for some such thing and she snuck into his room in the middle of the night, carrying her pillow. “Hey. Can I take your floor?” She climbed in through the window.
He paused the Nintendo game. “Beth? What are you doing here at this hour?” She was never outside past curfew and even preferred getting to bed by ten.
“The house makes weird noises. Do you mind?”
He shrugged. “Whatever.”
Bethie was the only girl allowed in his room because she respected boundaries. She stretched out on the hardwood floor and placed her pillow under her head. “Don’t tell anybody on Monday.”
He rolled his eyes. “I wouldn’t do that. Just go to sleep.”
He waited for her to complain about the game noise. Three. Two. One.
“Can you mute that?”
Sighing, he shut it off, then stretched out on the bed, propping his bleached head up with his hand. “There’s enough room, you know.” No motive behind the offer—it was just the hospitable thing to say.
Her eyes bugged out of their sockets. “Share a BED? I-I…”
“Bethie, it’s not a big deal. I’ll even sleep on top o’ the covers, if you like.”
She thought about it, squirming all the while because his floor was hard as a brick. “Fine…” She stood and waited for him to scoot over. “No monkey business.”
He made a crossing motion on his bare chest. “Cross my heart and hope to die.”
She got under the covers, her back to him, and sighed. The mattress was a double, so there was plenty of room.
He played the game a while longer, being a natural night owl.
When the sun shone through his window in the morning, he awakened before she did. He was still on top of the covers with his arm wrapped around her, their heads sharing her pillow. Their fingers were laced together. He inhaled the sweet smell of her soft hair and went back to sleep. The next time he woke, she was gone. It was the first time he’d wondered what it would be like to wake up next to a girl every day.
Couldn’t change the past, but ever since they got together in September, he’d been pondering different scenarios. Maybe if he’d stayed in
L.A. instead of going to London for
university. He knew her father wouldn’t
let them date while she was a minor, but they could’ve stayed close, and then
when she was eighteen… But it wasn’t
being apart before they first kissed
that was the problem, it was the distance afterward that got in the way.
It was hard not to regret all the lost time of so many years.
He hugged her tighter and placed a kiss behind her ear. She sighed happily in her sleep and sought his hand, lacing her fingers with his.
“Sorry it took me so long, love,” he whispered.
The phone rang, shocking her awake. He cursed and stretched to grab it—Caller: Bob. It was set to go to voice mail after two rings, so it beeped to tell him there was a message.
“Sorry ‘bout that, kitten. Thought I set the bloody thing to silent.”
She yawned and stretched her arms above her head. “’S okay. Must be getting late, anyway.”
“Anything on the schedule today?” he asked casually.
“Only the usual—open the gallery, pick up my dry cleaning… You’re going back to the hospital, I presume.”
He nodded. “Stay as long as you like, though. Maria can take you home.”
“You don’t want me to come with you?”
“You don’t have to go back in there for my sake, love. ‘Sides, the cameras will be in full force, and I’ll probably make a statement.”
“It’ll be expected of you.”
“Right. I’m much better than last night, thanks to you.”
She put on her glasses to see him clearly. “You don’t have to hide me, you know. I thought that was clear when I asked to go to a public restaurant.”
“It was. It is. All the same, do you really want to come out of the closet at the hospital?”
“No… It’s Aaron’s day. I only want to know we’re on the same page.”
He slid his arm around her and smiled. “We are. Want the first shower?”
“And you wouldn’t?”
She rolled her eyes. “Does every conversation with you have to touch on nudity?”
He grinned and kissed her shoulder. “Not every conversation. But at least once a day.”
He sighed. “I better go, before I keep you here all day.” He drew away and slid out of bed. When he stood, his pants revealed a particular morning condition. Chuckling at her pink cheeks, he blew her a kiss and walked into the bathroom.
Using the opportunity to grab clothes, Beth went out to the bathroom in the hall and heeded the call of nature, then dug around in her purse for mints and came up with a small toothbrush still in plastic. Celeste… She needed to have a talk with her roommate about boundaries, but for now, she was grateful to have it.
Glancing in the mirror, she grimaced. Her hair was a tangled mess and mascara had smudged under her eyes. The comb got used before the toothbrush and a damp tissue cleaned up the smeared make-up. “There. If I had a change of clothes, I’d be golden.” Well, her car was still at Dad’s, so that could be taken care of, as well. Maybe she could convince Celeste she stayed overnight in her old room. Not that she had anything to hide…it just wasn’t Celeste’s business.
Uh-huh…you know you’d blab if you had something to tell!
“Great, now I’m arguing with myself.”
“Love, you in here?” Jacob asked outside.
“I’ll be out in a sec.” Beth slicked on a swipe of gloss, put everything back in her purse, and opened the door. “Hi.”
He’d put on jeans and a long-sleeve tee that hugged his muscles. His hair was still mussed. “That was quick.”
She held out the clothes he loaned her. “Where do you want these?”
“Toss them on the bed.”
“Okay.” She did. “Mmm, I smell eggs.”
“Maria has a sixth sense about knowing when I’m awake. I’m sure she’ll be happy to cook for two.”
Beth took his hand and let him lead. Would Maria think they slept together? Well, they slept, but…was it obvious when someone didn’t get laid? Did she care what Maria thought? The short answer was “yes”. It was like getting caught by her mom. Yeah, as an adult it was her business, but it still wasn’t comfortable.
She shouldn’t have worried. Maria didn’t bat an eye at seeing her there in the morning. She was paid for her discretion and very good at her job. Smiling at Beth, she made omelets for two.
Jacob dropped her off at Dad’s house on the way to the hospital. “Will he be home?”
“On a Wednesday? Nah. Only need my car, anyway.” She opened the garage and kissed him goodbye. “Let me know how it goes today.”
“Of course.” Normally, he opened doors for her, but not in a residential neighborhood in broad daylight. She got out of the car and waved. It was smart to take the black Mercedes today. They were a dime-a-dozen in
“Celebrity News Zone has it from a reliable source that Jake Lindsey arrived at Cedars last night with a young woman. The mystery girlfriend, perhaps?
In related news, drummer Aaron Short was released in good condition today. We wish you a swift recovery, Aaron, and hope to see you guys play again soon.”