Make Me Forget ~ by Jacqueline Anne

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Bestselling romance author, Paige Mattheson, is experiencing the worst case of writer’s block. She hasn’t written a word in weeks and is struggling with the intimate scenes in her book. With deadlines quickly approaching, she goes on a weekend getaway to the beach to clear her head. She promises herself she will relax and find her true self again, along with some inspiration to see past her heartache and complete her novel.

Fun loving, Tyler Barrow, is vacationing in Montauk, New York. He is passionate about his career as a teacher and about surfing. When Tyler misses his original flight home, a miscommunication with the owner of the rental unit finds Tyler staring at a beautiful woman in his kitchen. He is instantly drawn to her and eager to find out why, even if it is only for the weekend.

Paige is initially annoyed by the naked intruder who has interrupted her quiet vacation. She sticks to the promise she made herself and tries to let go and have some fun.

Will Tyler be able to make Paige forget about her past? Will fate prove to be more than just a weekend fling even though they live on different ends of the earth?

Only time and a bestselling novel will tell.

Excerpt:
He got up and sauntered out to the kitchen, stark naked. It was how he’d slept, how he always did. He made his way around the corner and froze.

Standing in his kitchen, lightly tapping her fingers on the countertop as she waited for the coffee to finish brewing, was the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes on. Her straight, light brown hair draped over her shoulders. She was wearing boy short panties, revealing the bottom curves of a sexy, plump ass and a matching tank top.

Damn.

The side view of her breasts looked amazing in her tight shirt. She stood on her tiptoes reaching for a coffee mug from the top shelf. Tyler’s eyes traveled from the top of her head all the way down to her pointed toes. His breath hitched at the sight before him. All thoughts went out of his mind as he took a step…and tripped over the rug in the hallway.

Her eyes darted toward him, and she let out a high-pitched scream. She pulled a knife from the wooden block on the counter. “Stay back,” she yelled, holding the knife away from her, preparing for battle. “Who the hell are you?”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” Tyler put his hands in the air to show her he was unarmed and harmless. He tried to speak calmly to her, but his racing heart and the excitement he was experiencing was making it difficult. A small smile found his lips. This gorgeous woman was holding a knife to him and yelling at him, and it was turning him on.

The woman’s green eyes nearly bugged out of her head as she studied him.

Just then, Tyler realized he was naked. His hands quickly covered his junk—or tried to. His morning wood, turned full-on erection from seeing a beautiful woman in her panties and a tight-ass shirt, was not helping.

“Why are you in my condo?” she demanded to know.

“Your condo? It’s mine. I have been renting it for the past few weeks.”

She vigorously shook her head. “No, no, no. I just rented it a few days ago because it was available this weekend. The owner told me the renter left earlier than expected.”

“I told him I needed it longer than expected because I missed my flight home. Shit. I’m sorry. I—” Tyler took a step forward.

“Oh for crying out loud! Could you please put some pants on? I can’t talk to you while you’re naked!”
Tyler nodded and scurried back to his room to put on a pair of shorts.

When he came back, the beautiful woman was frantically pacing the kitchen, waving the knife around. “This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening! I am supposed to be unwinding. I have work to do. I have a fucking book to finish,” she ranted.

Buy Links:
Totally Bound: https://www.totallybound.com/book/make-me-forget

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Make-Me-Forget-Jacqueline-Anne-ebook/dp/B0144QUKBO
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Make-Me-Forget-Jacqueline-Anne-ebook/dp/B0144QUKBO
Amazon Canada: http://www.amazon.ca/Make-Me-Forget-Jacqueline-Anne-ebook/dp/B0144QUKBO
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Other Books by Jacqueline Anne
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Website: http://www.authorjacquelineanne.com
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****
Get to know Jacqueline Anne…

Struggling through health issues, I discovered my love for reading romances. Writing then became my escape and in some ways, a depiction of my spirit. I enjoy creating strong female characters who overcome hardships, reflecting on some of my own adversities, trials, and triumphs. The relationships are sweet and sexy with characters who embody discovery, lust, trust, happiness, and love.

I lead a full and exciting life in Northeast Ohio. I love to bake, create, workout, dance, and read. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. My life can attest to that. Work hard. Play hard. Live life to the fullest each and every day, doing it all in a pair of 4″ heels ;). Who says you can’t have it all?

Bound for Nirvana by Kendra Leigh!!!

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The End is Here! Will Ethan and Angel Find Their Happy-Ever-After?

Title: Bound For Nirvana

Series: The Bound Trilogy, Book 3

Author: Kendra Leigh

Genre: Contemporary Adult Romance, Erotic Romance, Suspense

Release Date: September 29th

For readers 18 and over due to explicit sexual content

Relentlessly sexy. Emotionally deep. Tangled, twisted, intricately woven love story with romance and suspense.

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The bonds of their love saw them through the ravaging storm to the promise of peace and the chance to breathe …

Photo of the cover of Bound For Nirvana, an upcoming contemporary adult romantic suspense novel by indie author Kendra LeighAngel once believed her soul belonged to the Devil. Now she willingly gives every part of her—mind, body and soul—to the man whose love mends her a little more each day.

Ethan knows Hell is no place for an angel, especially not his Angel. He would sacrifice his soul every day of his life in order to save hers.

Fuelled by an almost obsessive desire, their need for each other ignites a passion that most couples could find destructive, but instead the flames of their possessive vigilance only seem to feed the fire of their insatiable hunger. The slaying of Ethan’s demons has made their fortress of love stronger than ever.

But Angel continues to paper over the cracks of her troubled past, running from the demons that chase her and the nightmares that plague her. When a twist of fate forces her to confront them, she finally begins to accept that her repressed memories need to be explored in order to attain the peace she craves.

But in her search for Nirvana, Angel discovers far more than buried memories.

What happens when the worst nightmare you’ve ever encountered is the one you wake up in?

When the past comes face to face with the present to reveal a web of diseased secrets and lies?

And the only road you can take leads to one destination … Hell.

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“Angel?” Ethan’s low, husky tones startled me.

He stood in the doorway wearing nothing but a pair of low-slung, faded jeans, the sight of him inciting my taste buds to drool desirously, like chocolate melting on my tongue.

“Come here,” he instructed.

Obeying instantly, I unfurled my legs and moved across the room toward him. He gazed at me, his expression still inscrutable, and then slowly he moved around to my back.

“Close your eyes.”

Again, I complied without hesitation. I felt something soft brush gently against my eyelids, a smooth, silky fabric blocking out all remaining light as it tightened against my skin. He was blindfolding me.

My heart struck my chest wall with a sudden instinctive foretaste of what was to come. The blindfold, his insistence that I wear my red shoes, his near-naked form in the doorway, suggested only one thing. But his talk of my needing to learn a lesson, his tone, and impenetrable mood hinted at something different. Nonetheless, my skin prickled with eager expectation as I waited for my next instruction in the darkness behind my eyelids.

Suddenly, his voice startled me. He was closer than I’d imagined, his breath warm against my ear, his smell … exquisite. “How does that make you feel?”

Misreading the question, I nodded to let him know I was okay.

“No, Angel. Tell me how it makes you feel.” His voice was slightly harsher than before, more demanding.

I thought about what he wanted me to say, trying to tune in to the sensations I was feeling, but struggling. “Restricted,” I said finally.

“Anything else?” He’d shifted, his lips grazing the lobe of my other ear now.

“Dependent.”

“Think beyond the blindfold.”

My mind searched for the answer, and then after a beat I whispered, “Aware. I feel more aware.”

“Of what?”

“You.”

“What is it about me you’re more aware of?”

“How close you are … Your scent.”

“My scent? And what does it smell like?”

Hesitating, I scrambled for words to try and describe it, eventually arriving at, “You.”

I felt him smile briefly against my cheek and then he was gone.

 

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Kendra Leigh fell in love with books and the wonderful world of reading from a very young age. She was at her happiest when Enid Blyton whisked her away up into the magical lands at the top of the Faraway Tree with Moon-face and the rest of the gang. Books have been her constant source of escapism ever since. Currently residing in the UK, Kendra devotes her life to her devilishly handsome partner, scandalously beautiful daughter and cute as hell Shih-Tzu. As well as writing and reading, Kendra loves great TV, especially Dexter, Homeland and Breaking Bad.

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Cover of Bound For Hell, Book 1 of the Bound Trilogy by Kendra Leigh

Ethan Wilde. Billionaire. Business Man. Passionate. Powerful. Persistent.

One of New York’s most eligible bachelors.

Angel Lawson. Photographer. Gallery Owner. Burdened. Beautiful. Broken.

A woman bound by the ropes of her sins and forgotten past, fearful of her future.

A chance encounter…

Consumed by guilt and tormented by the bonds of a tragic past, Angel Lawson’s life has been a solitary journey, condemned to live without love. In order to preserve her damaged soul from further rejection, sex is as close to a man as she ever plans to get. She was already hell-bound for her sins. One more wasn’t going to hurt … … or so she thought.

When a passionate encounter throws her into the world of Ethan Wilde, Angel is helpless to resist the irrefutable desire and depth of raw emotion he ignites in her. Ethan is as intense as he is sinfully sexy. Irretrievably captivated by Angel, he seems just as intent on understanding her naked soul as he is desperate to possess every inch of her naked body. Angel craves his touch like a drug and yearns for the love he promises, but surrendering to the feelings he’s unearthed will mean exposing her fears and releasing the demons buried for a lifetime. Exposing her heart will leave it at risk of being broken. Will Angel choose to leave her life of solitude behind, or is the choice no longer hers?

Ethan Wilde is used to getting what he wants … and what he wants is Angel.

$1.99 UK $2.99 US

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Cover of Bound For Salvation, an erotic romance-suspense novel by Kendra Leigh

Hell was hot, but the flames of deliverance might be the ones to burn …

For the first time in living memory, Angel Lawson feels cherished.

Ethan Wilde has taught her that love is possible for all, even the sinners among us. The bonds of his love free her from the shackles of her guilt. Inch by inch, he’s slid under her skin, folding himself around her soul like a soothing blanket. His love nourishes her starving heart, and his passion fuels the scorching flames of her deepest desires, driving her to the blissful edge of sweet insanity.

Brick by brick, she tears down the protective wall she’s built around her heart, and the ice inside begins to thaw.

To Ethan, Angel is the sole reason he exists, the blood in his veins, the drug to his addiction. He vows to mend her, to help her confront her demons and come to terms with a buried past that continues to haunt her.

But what lies beneath the surface of Ethan’s past?

Pasts left hidden to rot become dirty secrets. Secrets that can tear even the strongest love apart.

And secrets have a habit of revealing themselves when least expected ...

£2.99 UK $2.99 US

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Raven’s Undoing has arrived!

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Title: Raven’s Undoing

Author: N. D. White

Series: Snowhaven, Book 2 (Conclusion)

Genre: Contemporary Adult Romance, Suspense, Thriller

“Tantalizingly Twisted…”

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In this sequel to Raven’s Innocence, we follow Raven Pierce to the jolting conclusion of her story as she tries to make sense of events that seem inexplicable. Working to put the past behind her and heal from Grant Alexander’s devastating disappearance, Raven finds comfort in her new and promising relationship with an uncomplicated and chivalrous man. But before she is able to completely overcome her heartbreak over Grant, the past catches up with her bringing new challenges and more dark secrets.

In this conclusion, we discover if Raven is willing to sacrifice her innocence by betraying her own morals and values and surrender herself to the past, or if all the lies, deception, and poisonous truths have catastrophic consequences for Raven, as she finds herself once again fighting for love in a confusing and dark terrain.

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Nicky grew up in a small town in the Midwest, where she still resides. She has her Masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She works part of the time in Kansas City and the other part in her hometown. Juggling between family, work, and writing, she stays very busy; never a dull moment. Writing has always been a passion and talent of hers. Her mother was also a writer, but of poetry. Nicky has written her fair share of poems, but the idea of writing a novel is what truly pulled at her heart-strings. She started writing Raven’s Innocence last fall, which launched June 27th. Raven’s Undoing concludes the story of Raven & Grant – but there’s more to follow as Nicky enters her writing cave again!

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Cover of Raven's Innocence, a romantic thriller by author N. D. WhiteRaven Pierce vowed to escape the hot and humid climate of Missouri and never look back. After completing her graduate program, she drags her sun-loving, winter-hating best friend to start a new life in Minnesota with its cold crisp air and blankets of snow. Raven’s main focus is her new career and truly establishing her own identity. The last thing she intends to do as she is building a new life is to fall in love. As her luck would have it, one evening a minor accident sends Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Handsome to her rescue. What starts out as the perfect relationship begins to turn challenging when tragedy strikes and pulls her grief-stricken boyfriend into a dark and unpredictable frame of mind. As a psychologist, it is Raven’s job to help her patients navigate through their own emotional journeys and she’s very good at it. However, when it comes to her own life, her feelings for this new man combined with the unforeseen affliction leave her feeling frustrated and emotionally exhausted. Raven finds herself fighting for love in an unfamiliar, confusing, and sometimes dark terrain.

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First Encounters by Charming Man is Now Available!

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Book Title: First Encounters

Author: Charming Man (aka A. S. Wilkins)

Genre: A Romantic-Erotic Story Collection

 

Synopsis

First Encounters offers a male insight into the realms of sensual romance, exploring the thought provoking world of liaisons between strangers.

On a hot summer’s night, a man awakes from a peaceful slumber, roused by a mysterious beauty appearing at his bedside. Is she real or merely a Night Vision?

Escaping the stresses of daily life to indulge in a little rest and recuperation, a weary businessman man unexpectedly engages a gorgeous exhibitionist in a voyeuristic Beach Encounter.

A chance meeting at a busy airport sees a young entrepreneur in the company of a seductive stranger for the duration of his flight to New York. She has a sexy secret to tell, but only if he shares one first; a Mid Air Collusion he’s unlikely to forget in a hurry.

Headmaster Peter Thompson is faced with a predicament when he summons a troubled sixth form student to discuss her latest misdemeanour. Refusing to accept her fate, Ariana takes control of the situation the only way she knows how.

While island hopping around the Cyclades, a backpacker is lured off the beaten track by a sexy local girl he meets on his travels. Was the need to satisfy his curiosity a good idea or A Greek Tragedy waiting to happen?

A college student embarks on a road trip, but didn’t envisage making the journey with a sexy hitch-hiker in tow. Two strangers find themselves thrown together in a slow-burning, tortuous tale of boy meets girl, set to the sounds of the new wave era. Will it be the end of the line when he reaches his destination or will The Hitcher lead him down another path?

Charming Man’s journey starts here; dare you join him?

 

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About Charming Man

Photo of author A S Wilkins, aka Charming ManCharming Man, aka author A. S. Wilkins explores the thought-provoking world of sensual romance through themes such as encounters between strangers, sexual fantasies, illicit relationships, voyeurism and more.

A S Wilkins has been writing sensual romance for over fifteen years. It all started quite by accident, following the tragic death of his wife in 1998, when he was left with two small children to bring up alone, as well as manage his own software consultancy.

While still in a state of shock and running on auto-pilot, he settled into a daily routine of dropping the kids off at day care, fulfilling his nine to five obligations, collecting the kids in the evening, feeding them, bathing them and putting them to bed with a night-time story, before collapsing in front of the television and crying into a large glass of red.

He had neither the opportunity nor desire to meet anyone new, yet he craved companionship. Posing as Charming Man, after the name of his favourite song by his favourite band The Smiths, he began to trawl online chat rooms, striking up conversations with anonymous individuals who may or may not have been who they said they were; it made little difference to him.

A S Wilkins wears his heart on his sleeve, and it soon became apparent he was able to engage openly with people from all walks of life, be they male or female; but mostly female it has to be said. Many of his early conversations on the net were innocent in content; he would pour his heart out to anyone who would listen, and in return he would provide a shoulder to those who were equally going through difficult times. He found the process very therapeutic and saved him a fortune in counselling!

Before too long, these intimate exchanges left him wanting more, such is the nature of making a new acquaintance. However, charming by name and charming by nature, he chose never to cross the line until encouraged to do so by others. This led to many a cat and mouse war of words with many a like-minded soul, which both intrigued and excited him. It was during this time he wrote his first short story, Night Vision, detailing his longing for the next love to enter his life.

The more he chatted, the more he became obsessed with the notion of sexual encounters between strangers. Still not in a position to embark on a new relationship in the real world, he continued to engage women in cyberspace, and together they would contrive a variety of scenarios from the respective comfort of their laptops. Many of these scenarios were later to become short stories; Beach Encounter, Mid Air Collusion, Ariana, A Greek Tragedy and The Hitcher, to name a few.

Fast forward several years and A S Wilkins has found happiness once more, having settled down north of London with a new partner and their combined family of four children. The release of Fifty Shades of Grey in March 2012 prompted him to dust off his short stories for his partner to read. She was impressed and managed to persuade him to publish them. Shortly after, charmingman.com was born.

Writing as Charming Man, A S Wilkins is always on the lookout for the next encounter to write about. When two individuals make eye contact across a room or on a crowded train, and a connection is made, this is often the green light that sets his imagination on fire. A knowing look is all it can take; a word might never be spoken. However, the minute an affinity is perceived, a scenario is hatched in his head, which is then honed over the coming days and weeks into a believable idea for a story.

And this final point is key; whereas it’s true to say that many of his works are clearly fantasies, it’s important to him that these fantasies are believable. The idea of a twenty-seven year old billionaire meeting a twenty-one year old virgin just doesn’t cut it for Charming Man.

Find out more about Charming Man by visiting his website at charmingman.com.

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Email – mail@charmingman.com

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777 Writers’ Challenge – Authors: I dare you to share yours!

This is my post for the 777 Writers’ Challenge. I’ve shared 7 lines, starting on page 7, at line 7 of my current Work In Progress…

When it comes down to it, he knows he can’t keep me here against my will. Not over something like this. He goes over the discharge papers with us and then sends in a nurse to unhook all these wires off of my body and remove the IV from my hand. After the nurse has set me free from all the wires and tubing, she and Kat leave me alone so that I can change out of this hideous hospital gown.

After I’m dressed, I do a once-over in the mirror. I look awful, as expected. But why should I care? I’m in the hospital. I make sure that I have my purse and everything that I need, and then I carefully creep out of the room.

Raven’s Undoing
Copyright ©2015 –ND White

Cover Reveal for Raven’s Undoing!

Title: Raven’s Undoing
Author: Nicky D. White
Series:  The Snowhaven Series
Genre: Romantic Thriller
Release Date:  September 26, 2015

Tantalizingly Twisted…


In this sequel to Raven’s Innocence, we follow Raven Pierce to the jolting conclusion of her story as she tries to make sense of events that seem inexplicable. Working to put the past behind her and heal from Grant Alexander’s devastating disappearance, Raven finds comfort in her new and promising relationship with an uncomplicated and chivalrous man.   But before she is able to completely overcome her heartbreak over Grant, the past catches up with her bringing new challenges and more dark secrets.
In this conclusion, we discover if Raven is willing to sacrifice her innocence by betraying her own morals and values and surrender herself to the past, or if all the lies, deception, and poisonous truths have catastrophic consequences for Raven, as she finds herself once again fighting for love in a confusing and dark terrain.





Nicky grew up in a small town in the Midwest, where she still resides. She has her Masters in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She works part of the time in Kansas City and the other part in her hometown. Juggling between family, work, and writing, she stays very busy; never a dull moment. Writing has always been a passion and talent of hers. Her mother was also a writer, but of poetry. Nicky has written her fair share of poems, but the idea of writing a novel is what truly pulled at her heart strings. She started writing Raven’s Innocence last fall, which launched June 27th. Raven’s Undoing is set to launch September 26, 2015.

Twitter (@nickyd_white)

Raven Pierce vowed to escape the hot and humid climate of Missouri and never look back. After completing her graduate program, she drags her sun-loving, winter-hating best friend to start a new life in Minnesota with its cold crisp air and blankets of snow. Raven’s main focus is her new career and truly establishing her own identity. The last thing she intends to do as she is building a new life is to fall in love. As her luck would have it, one evening a minor accident sends Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Handsome to her rescue. What starts out as the perfect relationship begins to turn challenging when tragedy strikes and pulls her grief-stricken boyfriend into a dark and unpredictable frame of mind. As a psychologist, it is Raven’s job to help her patients navigate through their own emotional journeys and she’s very good at it. However, when it comes to her own life, her feelings for this new man combined with the unforeseen affliction leave her feeling frustrated and emotionally exhausted. Raven finds herself fighting for love in an unfamiliar, confusing, and sometimes dark terrain.
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Praise for Raven’s Innocence: 


There are three types of classifications of books I use 1) I’ll read it because I want to 2) I’ll read it because there is nothing better to do in Prison for the next few years and 3) I need something to start this fire with. This book is by far in the category of reading it not only because I want to, but because every human needs to or they may die a life never quite knowing what they missed.” – Patrick, on Amazon, 5 stars

“It’s full of humor, suspense and yes, even sex. 😉 You won’t be disappointed (except for when it’s over). You’ll want more.” – Dawn L. on Amazon. 5 stars

“Omg this was a awesome book that left me wanting more! It was well written with twists and turns and so much suspense! I could not put it down and I absolutely can not wait for Raven’s Undoing to be published so I can read more! Great job Nicky!” – Shauna on Amazon, 5 stars

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Raven’s Innocence ~ The first 5 chapters, here!

Raven’s Undoing is set to launch September 26th, and for those of you that have not read Raven’s Innocence (part 1 in this duet), I have decided to post the first 5 chapters of the book here! This story is “Intoxicating & Wickedly Delicious” … Grant Alexander, you’re either going to love him, or hate him. Why don’t you decide for yourself…

*****Copyright © 2014 ND White*****
(All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without express written permission of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.)

Chapter 1

“Would you please put down your phone and just relax? He will text or call you as soon as he gets the chance.” Kat sarcastically rolls her eyes at me and lets out a huge sigh. “He is probably just super busy and out having fun with his brother. You said they haven’t seen each other in almost a year, they probably have a lot of catching up to do.”

“You’re right, I’m sorry. I’ll put my phone away.” I lean down to slip it into my bag but Kat snatches it from my hands, turns it off, and gives me an annoyed look. I choose to keep my mouth shut though, I don’t want to argue with her. Instead, I lean back in my chair and dig my toes deep into the sand. “Gosh, it feels amazing out here! I’m so glad we finally made it down here together.” I give Kat a big smile and she smiles back. I can see the irritation leaving her face.

“I just can’t believe I finally got you here! I have been begging you for the longest time to take a vacation on the beach with me. I swear, Raven, you’re the only person I know who enjoys the freezing cold air, mountains of snow, and harsh winters that we live in nine months out of the year.” Kat rolls her eyes again and laughs. “A little sun will do you some good once in a while, you know.”

“Like you’re one to talk. You are just as pasty-white as I am. Have you seen yourself lately?” I wink at her, then close my eyes. She lets out a sarcastic laugh and relaxes back in her chair as well.

Kat is right, though. I really do prefer Minnesota’s cold, crisp air and blankets of white snow instead of the hot and humid climate where I grew up in Missouri. I always enjoyed the fall and winter…I welcomed them, actually. But when spring would start to roll around, I would start to complain. By the time summer would arrive and the humidity would kick in, I’d be miserable and bitch about it straight through to October. Once I graduated from college, I wanted to get out and never look back. And through weeks of begging and bribery, I also convinced my sun-loving, winter-hating best friend to move to Minnesota with me. Now it’s my turn to listen to her complain, and since the cold weather seems to last three times as long as the hot weather there, I feel like I hear her nag at me way more than I ever did. I guess she is making up for lost time. I laugh quietly and shake my head.

“What’s so funny?” Kat turns her head and peers over her sunglasses at me.

“Oh, I was just thinking about how much I hate the heat and you hate the cold, yet I moved you 700 miles away to a frozen tundra.” I laugh again, but at her this time.

“Well, I’m glad you find it so funny,” Kat says sarcastically. “You know, though, we’ve been friends since sixth grade. I don’t think I could have handled living so far away from you for very long.” She gives me her best pouty face. “And Snowhaven is starting to grow on me. Besides, I get to drag you down here to Florida for a vacation and make you sit in the hot sun on the sandy beaches of paradise.” She playfully kicks sand in my direction.

“Don’t get too comfortable, this is just a mini-vacation. I’m doing this all for you, not me. I’m too pretty to sweat.” I reach for my sunglasses and put them on. Damn, the sun is bright out here. And it is hot. Maybe I should suggest actually getting in the water; the same body of water where creatures that can swallow you in one bite also use as their giant toilet. Maybe I’ll just admire the water from where I am. “I can’t wait to get back to the cool northern air where I don’t feel like I’m going to melt into a puddle every time I walk outside.” I playfully kick sand back in her direction and reach into my bag with the intention of turning my phone back on. Knowing it’s completely shut off is driving me crazy.

“Don’t even think about it!” Kat snaps as she grabs my bag before I can get my hands on it. “Jeesh, Raven, I can’t believe how hung up you are on this guy already! How long have you been seeing each other now?”

“About two months, and I demand that you give me back my phone right now, Katriana Joy Eriks!” I reach for it, but she moves it to the other side of her chair, out of my reach, and to be honest, I’m too lazy to get up and take it from her. The sun is draining me of all energy right now.

“Exactly, only two months, at best. Therefore, in my book, you are still technically single and so am I. We are two hot women in South Beach. We have no one to answer to, unlimited access to the beach, all the alcohol we can drink, and hot men all around us. I do believe that you will survive a full day without talking to Grant. Oh, and using my full name doesn’t scare me, you know.”

There she goes again, using that snarky tone with me. This time I roll my eyes at her and sit back in my chair with a thud.

“Fine, sit there and sulk, see if I care. But you’re not getting your phone back until we are off this beach and back at the hotel.” Kat smirks at me, pushes her sunglasses back up, leans back in her chair, and continues to sip on her Mojito.

I know this, even though I am too irritated to admit it out loud right now. But I think I really am starting to like this guy, and I think he really likes me too. Well… I thought he did. I haven’t heard from him since early yesterday evening; not a phone call or text…nothing. I called him this morning and then again after lunch before we headed to the beach. I’ve texted him too many times in between calls to count. I hope he’s okay. Maybe he met someone on his trip and I am becoming a distant memory. Get a grip, Raven. No wonder he hasn’t called you back, he probably thinks you’re some kind of crazy stalker. Kat is right, give it a rest. He will call when he can, I hope he does anyway. Listen to me, I sound so pathetic.

I still clearly remember every detail about that miserable day we met. That day was morphing into a total day from hell and the last thing I had on my mind was meeting Prince Charming. Besides, I had not had much luck in the dating world in a while. Neither had Kat, so we both decided that we were taking a break from all the stress and drama that dating brought us. When we packed up and moved to Snowhaven, we vowed to give ourselves at least a full year of getting on our feet, focusing on our careers, and living life the way we wanted to, and we didn’t have to answer to anyone else other than ourselves. Eight months later, Grant Alexander walked into my life after I nearly broke my ankle in a fight with a treadmill.

Looking back at that night, I can laugh at it now. I think my ego was in more pain than my ankle, but at the time, I seriously thought my ankle was broken. The pain that I felt shoot through my foot and up my leg was like nothing I had ever felt before.

*******

I’d had a very long day at the office, and when five o’clock finally rolled around, I was ready to go home, drink a glass of wine or three, and totally veg out in front of the TV. Even Kat wasn’t going to be at our apartment because of some after-dinner meeting she had to attend. It was going to just be me, myself, and I at home for a few hours. I was walking out of the office when Janie, the office secretary, told me that I had a client on the phone who was crying hysterically and said it was an emergency. She really needed to see me as soon as possible. As much I love being a Licensed Professional Counselor, nights like these, when duty unexpectedly calls, really can suck. I was already mentally exhausted.

“Janie, will you please make me an extra-rich pot of coffee before you leave?” I’d asked. “This is going to be a long night.” I’d gone back into my office and waited for my “emergency” to show up.

Two-and-a-half hours and a once-full-but-now-empty box of Kleenex later, I had finally been able to lock up and head out. By that time though, my nerves were shot, and I’d drank that full pot of coffee. I had a lot of caffeine running through my veins and really felt like I needed to burn off some of that nervous energy and clear my head. I had stopped by the apartment, changed my clothes, and headed off to the gym for a late-night run.

I usually never went to the gym that late at night. I am more of a morning person, so I had been pleasantly surprised to find only a handful of people there. I’d picked a treadmill, hopped on, turned up the music in my ears, and took off. I’m not sure how long I had been running before it happened. What happened exactly, I’m not sure, but before I knew it, I’d felt a horrific pop in my right ankle and the treadmill was throwing me off the back end of it. I had let out a horrible cry that even I did not recognize, and was suddenly giving the floor a great big hug, flat on my face.

As I had rolled over grabbing my foot, all I wanted was for the floor to open up and swallow me, especially when a man that I didn’t remember seeing when I got there came running to my side. And I swear, the moment I laid eyes on him, the pain I was feeling had suddenly become a distant memory. He had the most stunning turquoise-colored eyes I had ever seen in my life. They were blue, yet they were also green. They were beautiful, and instantly I’d felt the chemistry crackle between us. Or maybe I was actually going into shock from the pain. It could have gone either way at that moment. He’d asked me if I was okay and tried to help me up, but the pain returned with a vengeance when I tried to put weight on my foot.

“You need to have that looked at. Are you here alone? Is there someone who can take you to a hospital?” he had asked.

“Ugh, no one is here with me. My roommate is tied up tonight and I don’t want to bother her. I can call a cab and go to the hospital. I’ll manage.” I had tried to fake a smile and failed miserably. Damn, my ankle was killing me!

“Oh no, I’m not letting you crawl into a cab with some creepy stranger. I’ll drive you myself. Stay put and I’ll get my stuff.” He had flashed me a genuine smile. Oh, he had a beautiful mouth!

“How do I know you’re not some creepy stranger?” I had no idea who this guy was, I had never seen him in there before.

“My name is Grant, and you are…?”

“I’m Raven. Raven Pierce. Do you have a last name, Grant?” I’d smiled when I said his name.

“Alexander,” he’d responded.

“Well, Grant Alexander, it is a pleasure to meet you. I wish it could have been under different circumstances.”

“As do I, but I have to say, the pleasure is all mine.” And with that, he’d hurried away to gather his stuff.

Luckily, during my visit to the ER, I had learned that my ankle was not broken, only sprained. And that I was a big baby with a very low pain tolerance, and that I wasn’t going to be doing any more running anytime soon.

By the time we had left the ER, it was late enough that I knew Kat would be home, so I had Grant drop me off at the apartment. I would worry about getting my car home later. After he’d insisted on helping me to the door, I’d asked if there was anything I could do to pay him back for spending his entire evening taking care of a damsel in distress. That was when he told me I could give him my number.

Grant had called me the next day to see how I was doing. I’d been so excited when I heard his voice over the phone! I wasn’t sure if he was going to actually call me or not. He’d asked if I was seeing anyone and if he could take me out to dinner. I’d accepted his invitation but wanted to wait a couple of weeks, until I could walk on my own, before going out with him. Although he insisted on seeing me before our first official date, I held him off, but only from in-person contact. We’d started texting and talking on the phone practically every day after that.

*******

“Hellooo, earth to Raven. Is anyone in there?” Kat is leaning over and waving her hand in front of my face.

“Yes, sorry, I was thinking about something.” It’s a good thing I have my sunglasses on because I’m sure I have that glazed-over look in my eyes…I have no idea what she has just said to me.

“More like someone,” Kat says sarcastically. “What were you daydreaming about? Or do I even want to know?” She giggles and shakes her head.

“Well it’s not what you are thinking! Jeesh, you are such a perv, Kat. I was just thinking about the night that Grant and I met and how that had to be one of the most embarrassing nights of my life. I bet I looked like a hot mess. Besides, he and I haven’t actually “done” anything yet anyway. But God knows I want to. I really, very badly, want to.”

It’s true. I have not slept with Grant yet. I told him I was not looking for a serious relationship and he seemed okay with that. He told me we could take things slow and see where we end up. We have definitely enjoyed some heavy make out sessions, but he hasn’t once tried to push me beyond that. Although now, I’m beginning to wish he would go ahead and start pushing. Push me right over the edge into an orgasmic world of bliss! Okay, cool your jets, Raven, before you need a cold shower. I have to say, though, he really is a true gentleman.

“I can see that. You have ‘horny’ written all over your face.” Kat arches an eyebrow at me. “Anyway, I asked if you were ready to get off this beach and head back to the hotel. We need to get ready for tonight. Looking this good is a process, you know.”

“Oh thank goodness! I am so ready to get out of this sun. Let’s go!” I’m the first one to jump up out of my chair, grab my bag and sandals, and start heading back towards the hotel. Luckily we don’t have too far to walk. Our hotel is right on the beach and our room has an amazing ocean view. It really is too bad that I’m more of a snow bunny, because this place really is beautiful.

It’s just not for me.

Chapter 2

Hot Tamale, Plum Passion, or Cherry-Bomb Red? Yes, I am truly having a hard time deciding on my lipstick color. You would think this is a life-or-death decision I’m having to make. I can be so indecisive sometimes. Or all the time. Well, part of the time. When I am given too many options, it takes me three times as long as the normal person to make one simple decision, like what color lipstick I should wear tonight. How about all three? I can mix them together and make my own color. I’ll call it Hot Cherry Passion.

I smile at myself in the mirror after all three colors are applied. Not too bad, I think to myself. My naturally curly chin-length bob is actually cooperating tonight. The light is reflecting off my dark, shiny curls. My plum eyeliner is making my hazel eyes pop. An old friend once told me that my eyes reminded her of Obsidian. They really are pretty. Often times they look more green than hazel, but I think it depends on my mood too. I can’t believe I let Kat talk me into buying this extremely tight, body-hugging, turquoise dress. If I even attempt to bend over, my breasts will fall out the front while my butt pops out the back. Since it’s something I would never normally buy for myself, it took some serious convincing on her part. And these shoes. I can already tell that I’m going to need to slip a pair of comfortable flats into my purse and change shoes before the night is over. I haven’t worn a pair of heels like these since I had that embarrassing treadmill accident. I told Kat I didn’t need the extra height either. I’m already 5’7”. These heels shoot me up to at least six feet.

“Look at you! I’d jump you myself right here and now if you’d let me.” Kat is standing in the doorway. Her sudden enthusiastic entrance makes me jump. I’d been too consumed with checking myself out in the mirror to notice her approaching the door to the bathroom. I giggle and even blush at her comment. We joke around and say things like that to each other all the time, but it really is only innocent teasing.

I turn around and I am immediately swooning over how hot she looks, as well. She’s wearing a red strappy dress that hangs just above her knees with black peep-toe heels that give her an extra couple of inches in height, which she feels she desperately needs. Kat wears heels with everything she possibly can.

She has always been downright gorgeous. She has these big eyes that are almost the color of a crystal blue sky and her eyelashes are so long and thick that she rarely uses mascara. When she does, she looks like she glued on false eyelashes. Her nose is perfectly pointed with a slight tilt, and she has a set of lips on her that I would pay to have, if I wasn’t so scared of having a needle jabbed into my face to plump them up. She is petite, yet curvy. Snow-white skin that glistens in the sun. Hair the color of gold. And she totally rocks that pixie haircut she got when we moved to Snowhaven. She and I both cut off our long locks. A new beginning, in a new place, with a fresh new look.

But don’t let her 5’3” frame fool you into thinking she is sweet and petite. Kat is a pretty powerful woman and a force to be reckoned with if you get in her way. She and I are a lot alike and we understand each other. I think that’s why we stay so close and can actually live as roommates without killing one another. We know how to pick our battles, and we’re always there for each other to pick up the pieces when life tears us apart.

Kat’s eyes are glistening as she grins and says, “You look stunning, as always.”

I smile. “I’m almost ready to go. I just need to grab a couple of things and shove them in the clutch you bought me for my birthday, which I love, by the way.” I really do love it. It’s red and black and screams “sassy.” Kat has great taste. She can look at clothing and accessories and throw them together to create a masterpiece. I, on the other hand, am lucky if my socks match. When it comes to fashion, my style is lacking…and very simple. I rarely go shopping without Kat by my side.

I grab a few things from my purse and locate my cute little fold-up flats. Whoever invented these shoes was a genius. Hmmm, I feel like I am missing something. I stand in the middle of the hotel room looking around. “Have you seen my phone?” I call out to Kat.

“It’s probably still in your bag.”

I dig my phone out of my bag and realize that it’s still shut off. Great. I hope I didn’t miss anything important, like Grant calling me. I haven’t talked to him since before Kat and I hit the strip to go shopping and he was heading out to have a few drinks with his brother last night. At least I don’t have to worry about it not being charged. I turn it on and impatiently wait for it to power up.

“Shit!” Five missed calls, two voicemails, and three text messages, all from Grant. “Kaaat! No thanks to you, I missed all these calls and messages from Grant! It looks like he has been trying to get in touch with me all afternoon!” Un-freaking-believable!

“That’s what voicemail is for…chill!” she snaps back at me. I love her to death, but right now I want to slap the snarky right out of her. I look at the text messages first. ‘I’m trying to call you, please call me as soon as you get this.’ ‘Have you gotten any of my messages?’ ‘Raven, where the fuck are you?’ Okay, that last text message was a little uncalled for. Grant could have omitted the f-word. I get it, he needs to talk to me. Jeesh! So unlike him…I don’t think I’ve ever heard him swear once. I decide to skip the voicemails and just call him. I’m glaring at Kat while I wait for Grant to pick up on his end.

“Grant Alexander,” he snaps when he finally answers the phone.

Why is he answering his phone like that? He should know it’s me.

“Grant, it’s Raven,” I say softly.

“It’s about damn time you called me back…I’ve been trying to reach you all damn day! You have a mobile phone. Why didn’t you have it on you? Hence the word MOBILE.”

Wow, I can’t believe he is actually yelling at me right now. I am still glaring at Kat through clouded vision. This is all her fault that he is this angry. I can’t believe she took my phone and shut it off. She is looking at me with sincere confusion. I have to turn around because I don’t want her to see the tears starting to pool in my eyes. I have yet to see Grant angry, and I have never heard him talk like this. Ever. Now I’m on the receiving end of an asshole attack and I am a few seconds short of jumping off this ride.

“Well, hello to you, too.” I hope he doesn’t detect the quivering in my voice. “Look, I don’t know what has suddenly crawled up your ass and died, but I don’t deserve you barking at me like that! So until you can stop throwing your mantrum and talk to me like an adult with the respect I deserve, this conversation is over.” I barely spit out those words through gritted teeth before the floodgates open. Damn it, there goes my makeup.

I go to hit the End button on my phone when I hear Grant call out “Raven, wait! Please don’t hang up.”

“Oh, you’re hanging up all right! I don’t know what’s going on but that asshole is going to have to answer to me.” Kat’s on my heels, trying to take the phone. I shouldn’t be surprised that she could hear him yelling from across the room. I shoo her away and ask her to please wait because I want to hear what he has to say. After that outburst, I should have hung up the phone, but I can hear the desperation in his voice. This behavior is so out of character for him.

“What do you want, Grant? What is so horrible that will justify your adolescent behavior towards me?”

Kat approaches me with a box of Kleenex.

“Thank you,” I whisper to her.

“It’s my brother. He’s dead.” Grant’s voice is barely a whisper. Then, silence.

All I can hear is his breathing. I have to sit down, and slowly lower myself onto the bed. Kat sees my face fall and instantly knows something is very wrong. She rushes over and sits down by me and takes my hand.

“Oh my gosh, Grant….I….what happened?” I am at a total loss for words.

“It was suicide. He fucking killed himself.” Grant’s voice cracks, and my heart starts to break for him.

I don’t even know what to say. Nothing I can say will take away the hurt he is feeling right now. What I wouldn’t give to be able to wrap my arms around him and hold him together in this moment! He needs me. I need to get to him.

“Suicide? Grant, tell me where you are, exactly, and I’ll take the first available flight to get to you.”

Kat gets a panicked look on her face as she searches mine for answers.

“No!” he quickly snaps.

“But why? You need someone to help you right now.”

“Just don’t, Raven. I don’t need you here right now.”

Ouch, that was yet another unexpected reaction from ‘Prince Charming.’

“Okay….” I pause. What do I even say to that? Wow. A long, awkward silence fills the space between us. Kat is still looking at me, her eyes full of questions.

Grant lets out a huge sigh. “Raven… look, it’s not that I don’t need you here. That came out the wrong way.”

Another long pause, but I don’t say anything. I am waiting for him to explain what the hell is going on.

“It’s a long story, and I honestly don’t know all the details yet. I’m still processing this whole thing myself. I need some time to think, and to figure all this out. Maddy is flying in from Boston. She will be here tomorrow morning. I’ll be okay, I’ll have her here with me. You need to stay put.”

I’m glad he’ll have his sister there, even though I don’t really know how close he and Madelyn are. I hope she is enough support for him.

I don’t understand this. If the tables were turned, I would be devastated, and begging for him to get to me as soon as he could.

“I don’t understand.” That’s the only thing I can think to say, and it’s honest. I really don’t understand why he’s rejecting me and why he doesn’t want me to be with him right now.

“Raven, I know that you think coming up here will help me, but it won’t. There is a lot to this that I don’t even understand yet. I need to work through this with my sister and I’m sure other family and friends will be here with us, as well.” Grant is speaking slowly, and sounds like he is on the verge of losing it. “Besides, I don’t want to ruin your trip with Kat. You two have had this planned for months and you were really looking forward to your vacation. You two need this.”

“But….” I interrupt him.

“No buts, Raven. Do what I say and let it go.”

This time I let out a huge sigh. I can tell that this is an argument I am not going to win, not without having a huge fight with him. He doesn’t need the added stress.

“Now what? Are you planning a funeral? When will you be back?” I really want to ask him why he’s shutting me out.

“I don’t know the answers to any of that right now. Look, I need to go. I have a lot to take care of. Try not to worry about me. I’ll be okay. I’ll call you tomorrow after Maddy gets here.”

“Fine,” I sharply reply. I should be more sensitive, but I admit, my feelings are hurt, knowing he doesn’t need me.

“When I get back, I’ll explain everything. Right now, please respect my wishes. I’ll be in touch. Good-bye, Raven.” And with that, he hangs up.

I slowly let my phone slide out of my hand and onto floor, while tears slide down my cheeks.

“What in the hell happened, Raven? His brother committed suicide?” Kat’s eyes are wide with fear and concern and she looks like she is about to spring a leak.

All I can do is look at her and nod my head.

“Oh honey…” She wraps her arms around me, hugging me tight.

I grab more Kleenex and start dabbing at my cheeks and eyes. I really have to pull myself together. “He didn’t even really tell me what all happened,” I sniffle.

Kat gives me a puzzled look.

“And he was so hateful. He takes my head off for not getting back to him earlier, then when he does tell me something, he tells me he doesn’t need me. He is completely shutting me out.” Oh great, the floodgates are re-opening. Here I go again. I recap the short conversation between heavy sobs.

Kat looks at me with sympathetic eyes. “Well, my first reaction is to tell you what an asshole he is, but he just experienced a huge tragedy and is feeling a lot of different emotions right now. He really probably doesn’t know how to process all this, and he was projecting his anger out on you. If he’s as great as you have been saying he is, then you have to know he probably didn’t mean what he said.” She squeezes my shoulders and smiles.

“You’re probably right.” I just sit there and stare at the floor.

“Hey, if you want to just stay in tonight, we can order room service, maybe soak in the hot tub later, and watch some sappy chick flicks on TV.”

I snap my head up. “Oh no, not a chance! I didn’t make myself look this good to just stay here and not show off my assets tonight. We are going out.” I get up off the bed.

Kat and I only have a couple of days left before we have to fly back home. I’m not letting this ruin one night of my vacation. If he doesn’t need me, then fine, I don’t need him… and yes, I know I sound petty. We are going to make the best of this night. However, I am afraid to look in the mirror. I really hope I don’t have to start my makeup routine completely over.

“I’m all for staying in and you showing off your assets to me,” Kat responds, winking at me.

“Maybe you’ll get your own special viewing later tonight.” I wink back and giggle.

“That’s what I’m talking about.” Kat jumps off the bed, grabs my hand and drags me towards the bathroom. “Now, we just have to do a quick face-fix. The smoky eye is totally in right now, so we may be able to make this work.” She waves her hand in a circle in front of my face for emphasis.

I look in the mirror and whine, “Oh look at me, I’m a mess!”

“I’ve got this. You’ll be a hot mess soon enough.” Kat grins at me and bites her lower lip. She knows how to make everything better. She’s right, she’s got this. I hand her my makeup bag and she gets to work.

********

Kat and I really did have a lot of fun that night, despite what had happened. I really did not want to put a damper on her fun. She was so elated that I agreed to come down here in the first place, and things had been going so well. I was not going to let Grant ruin this for us.

We started our evening out eating Cuban cuisine, and we were not disappointed. I ate way more than I should have. Our next stop was a pub, just down the street. Both of us partook in alcoholic beverages, which really helped us loosen up, and my mood was getting better with each drink. We finally ended the night at a club. It only took two winks and a tight squeeze of my ass, courtesy of Kat, of course, to get us moved up to the head of the line and right through the doors. We danced and drank and then danced some more.

A couple of extremely cute guys kept hitting on us and buying drinks for us. Kat was having way more fun soaking up the attention and turning up her flirtatious heat than I was. Even though I was enjoying myself very much, I couldn’t get Grant out of my head. The moment the hot blond who had eyes the color of emeralds tried to cup his hand on my breast, my fun quickly started to come to an end. I was hit right in the gut with a huge feeling of guilt. This was a man, as I watched him approach me the first time tonight, who had women practically tripping over their own tongues as he passed them by without a second look, because his eyes were set on me. What is wrong with me? I’ll tell you what is wrong me… Grant Alexander is what is wrong with me.

I politely asked Blake, I think that was his name…I was too drunk to care to remember… to excuse me while I pulled Kat off the dance floor. I told her all the alcohol was starting to make me feel a little crummy and I was ready to call it a night. She was totally cool with it, although I’m pretty sure she saw the exchange between me and Blake and knew the real reason why I wanted to leave. We thanked the boys for a very entertaining evening, said our goodbyes, and went back to the hotel.

Kat and I spent more time on the beach just relaxing over the next couple of days. We did a little shopping and enjoyed the seafood that we would never get to eat in Snowhaven…not fresh like this, anyway.

I didn’t speak to Grant on the phone during that time either. I sent him a text the day after we spoke to see how he was and if he had time to talk. He replied back that he was fine but busy, for me not to worry about him, and that he would call me when he could. He never did call. Kat tried to reassure me that everything would be okay, that we all grieve in our own way and to not take Grant’s behavior too personally. I couldn’t help it, though. I felt like he was completely shutting me out and it really did hurt.

The morning Kat and I got up to head to airport, I sent Grant a text telling him we were flying back to Snowhaven and asked if he knew when he would be back. He texted me back and told me to let him know when I had arrived home safely and that we would talk soon. I guess his wanting to know I made it home safely made me feel a teeny tiny bit better. He didn’t answer my question as to when he would be home, though…maybe he just didn’t know that yet.

*********

Kat and I do a last check of our room to make sure we are not leaving anything behind, and head to the airport, which, fortunately, is a short trip. We locate our terminal and get in line.

“I had so much fun, Raven. Thank you for you coming here with me. I know you’re not Florida’s biggest fan, but I’m really glad we got to spend our vacation here together.” Kat wraps her arms around me and hugs me tight.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else with anyone else, Kat. I had a lot of fun too. I’m glad we came.” I smile at her. “We’ll have to come back here again soon.”

“Ooh Ooh! How about we spend some time here for the holidays? Wouldn’t that be amazing?” Kat is beaming with excitement.

“Okay, not that soon. And no, spending any part of the holidays on a warm sandy beach in Florida is just not right. Talk about sucking the spirit of Christmas right out of you.” I sarcastically roll my eyes but end up grinning at her anyway.

“Flight 177, service to Minneapolis, is now boarding,” we hear announced over the intercom.

“Come on, snow bunny. Let’s get you back home before you melt,” Kat says, and we laugh like school girls as we board the plane.

I can’t wait to get back home.

Chapter 3

I collapse onto my bed the minute Kat and I arrive home. I feel so jet-lagged right now. I look at my suitcase, which is in the middle of my bedroom floor exactly where I dropped it. I really should start unpacking now and get it over with. I have so much crap to put away. I think I came back with twice as many clothes as I took with me. Well, a couple of adorable new sundresses, three necklaces, five bracelets, and a pair of strappy sandals that were just way too cute to pass up.

Oh, I almost forgot, I need to let Grant know we are home safely. Should I text him or call him? I really would like to talk to him, but I’m really not in the mood to hear his hateful tone of voice again. I haven’t talked to him in four days, not since he told me his brother died. Maybe he has had some time to process some of this and not act like such a jerk. I really should let that go. His brother died, for Pete’s sake! If I were in his shoes, I probably would have gone bat-shit crazy myself.

It takes a great deal of effort to drag myself off the bed. I swear my big, soft, purple comforter is beckoning me to wrap myself up, and let sleep take hold. But if I do that, I’ll never get anything done and it’s already 3:00 in the afternoon. I think I’ll just send Grant a text, let him know I’m home, and ask him to call me when he has a chance to talk. Besides, I need to unpack and start doing all this laundry.

I grab my suitcase, toss it onto my bed and unzip it as Kat comes bursting into my room. I jump…I startle easily. “Jeez Kat, you scared the crap outta me!”

“Sorry. I heard your phone go off, it’s a text message. Thought you’d want to know.” Kat hands me my phone and turns around to leave my room. She stops in the doorway and looks at me. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starved. I was thinking we should grab an early dinner as soon as we are unpacked.”

“Yeah, sure. I’m getting pretty hungry too,” I agree.

“Great, have fun with that.” Kat heads back to her own bedroom, to unpack, I assume.

I check the text message on my phone. It’s from Grant. ‘Have u made it home ok? It’s getting late in the day and I haven’t heard from u. I didn’t know when your flight was, exactly.’

“Well that’s because you didn’t ask,” I say under my breath. At least he is texting me first. He really is worried or he wouldn’t have sent me that, right?

I respond back, ‘Yeah, just got home a little bit ago. Getting ready to unpack. So glad to be home.’

After I hit Send, I wonder if I should have asked him how he was doing or if he knew when he was coming home. I text him again. ‘How are you doing? I miss u & have been worried about u.’ I feel uncertainty brewing in my stomach as I hit Send. I wonder how long it will take for him to respond to that, if he even does. I’m almost afraid to ask how he is, but I want to know. I really do care about him. I can’t imagine what he is going through right now. I need to stay distracted, so I drop my phone onto my bed beside my suitcase and start unpacking.

My phone rings, I pick it up. It’s Grant. He is actually calling me. My stomach starts to knot up again while I stare at his name flashing across the screen. “Hello…” I finally answer.

“Raven…hi, it’s Grant.” His voice is so soft, almost a whisper.

“I know who it is.” I sound annoyed, and that was probably a little too obvious.

“So, how was your flight home?” He sounds as if he’s afraid to ask.

“It was good. I slept part of the way. You know how much I hate flying.” I laugh nervously.

“Yeah…” is all he says. Here comes the awkward silence between us. I want to ask him how he is doing when he starts this very uncomfortable conversation back up again. “Raven, look, I uh, I owe you an apology for the way I acted the other day on the phone…”

“Grant, don’t. You don’t have to apologize. I just—”

“—didn’t deserve that,” he interrupts me and finishes my sentence. The sincerity in his voice makes me relax a little and I feel some of my hurt feelings evaporate. I inhale a deep breath and sigh.

“I was such a wreck when I finally got you on the phone,” he continues. “So much was happening and it was happening so fast. I think I went into shock or something, and I just didn’t call you the night it happened.”

Good, he’s finally talking to me, telling me what happened. I don’t interrupt him, I just let him keep talking.

“Then my phone died after being on it all night talking to family. The next morning I was so consumed with trying to make flight plans for everyone, but was also upset that I couldn’t just take the time to sit down and talk to you when you were trying to reach me.”

Well, that doesn’t make me feel too good, I think to myself.

“I had already told the story over and over again to the coroner, to the hospital, to the family, and to the police. I was sick of talking about it.”

My turn to interrupt him. “Wait, the police? Why did you have to talk to the police? What exactly happened?”

Grant doesn’t say anything.

“What happened to your brother? Why did he commit suicide?” I hate having to repeat myself and I am growing impatient now.

“It’s a really long story, Raven. Not one that I want to get into right now.”

“Well when then? Why are you shutting me out, Grant?”

“I don’t mean to be doing that. This is just really painful to talk about. I’ll tell you everything when I get home, I promise.”

“Which is when?” I ask.

“I’ll be back tomorrow. My flight leaves at 8:30am. I’ll call you as soon as my plane lands. Once I get home and settled, I can come see you, or you can come to my place.”

The thought of seeing him tomorrow makes me smile. “Okay. Good. I guess I can wait until tomorrow. I’ve really missed you. And I’m just really sorry I couldn’t be there for you during all of this.”

“I missed you too,” he responds. “I need to go. I’m having dinner with Maddy, and then seeing her off at the airport. She has a late flight back to Boston.”

“Okay, I understand.” I pause. “Thank you for calling me. I feel so much better after hearing your voice. I can’t wait to see you.” I’m smiling again.

“Same here,” he says. “Try not to be mad at me. I’m sorry I handled it the way that I did. I should not have been so hateful to you when I finally got hold of you.”

“Well, that was Kat’s fault. She shut my phone off after she took it from me,” I say through gritted teeth.

“Why did she take your phone from you?”

“Because I had been trying to reach you and I was worried and about to lose my mind because you weren’t calling me or texting back. I wouldn’t put my phone down, so she took it from me.” I’m still just slightly irritated at her for that. “Then, when I called you back after you had been trying to reach me, you lashed out at me and I was completely caught off-guard by your reaction.” I think I might cry again, just thinking about it.

“I know, I know. I was way out of line. And practically out of my own mind, too. When I finally had the chance to breathe and call you to tell you what happened, you weren’t answering me, and I just snapped. I was overwhelmed, and shouldn’t have talked to you like that.”

“You’re forgiven,” I interrupt him. Yes, it still stings, but I really don’t want to talk about this anymore. “I won’t keep you any longer, I know you need to get to dinner with Maddy.”

“Yes I do. I’ll see you tomorrow, Raven.” I love how he says my name. I’ve heard him say it a bazillion times before, but something about the way he said it just now…

“Tomorrow. Safe travels,” I say.

“Yes, safe travels,” he repeats, and then hangs up.

“Was that who I think it was?” Kat is peeking around my bedroom door at me.

“Were you eavesdropping?” I try to sound irritated and scowl at her, but it doesn’t work because I really don’t mind that she was standing outside my bedroom door, listening.

“Of course I was. I’m not even going to try and deny it.” Her devious grin is adorable. “Well, how did it go? From what I could hear, things sounded a lot less tense.”

I fill her in on our whole conversation. By the time I’m done, I can’t help but smile. I really can’t wait to see him again. I’m not exactly looking forward to hearing about his brother’s suicide, mainly because I am going to hate seeing Grant in that kind of pain. However, I am hoping I can help him forget about some of his pain, even if it’s just for a short time. I grin at the thought. I really need to get my mind out of the gutter. No…I need to get laid. That is what I need. I need Grant to sweep me off my feet and take me in a way I have never been taken. Soon. I hope it’s sooner than later. But with his brother’s suicide, I figure sex with me is the last thing on his mind right now.

“I don’t know about you, but I am starving, and we have nothing in this place to eat. Do you want to go grab something, then we can finish unpacking later and start our laundry?” Kat asks, giving me a pleading look. That girl is always thinking about food. I wish I could eat like she does and still look that good. Even thinking about food makes a fat deposit right on my thighs.

“Might as well. I’m pretty hungry too, and after talking to Grant, I’ve lost my motivation to unpack right now. In the morning, we can get up early and run to the store and re-stock our kitchen. I want to try and get as much done as we can before I see him tomorrow.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Kat says. “And then back to work Monday. So not looking forward to that.”

“Me either.” I roll my eyes. I’m going to need a vacation to recover from my vacation. “So what sounds good?” I ask.

Kat taps her finger on her chin while looking at the ceiling….her “deep thought” look.

“I could really go for a greasy cheeseburger, curly fries, and a shake right now,” I say.

“Raven, you read my mind.”

“The Sizzler,” we both say practically in unison.

“I’ll call it in and we can just pick it up and bring it home, if that’s okay,” I offer.

“Fine by me,” Kat says. “While you’re calling it in, I’ll go start a load of laundry, and then we’ll go pick it up.”

I grab my phone. My mouth is watering just thinking about that greasy cheeseburger. I can’t dial the phone fast enough.

*******

I don’t want to even think about how many miles I will have to put in on a treadmill to burn off that meal. Guess it doesn’t really matter though, because I don’t have the all-clear to take up running again anyway. It will be salad all day tomorrow for me. And probably every meal after that for the next month. I really did over-indulge while we were in Florida. I’m afraid to step on a scale right now.

Kat and I spend the rest of our evening unpacking, doing laundry, and lounging around on the sofa talking about our favorite parts of our trip. We had such a great time. Florida is not a destination vacation hot spot for me in any way, but spending it with Kat made it so worth almost every minute of it. Yes, I did say almost. There were some parts of it that sucked, like the heat. We end our evening with a glass of wine around 10:00pm.

I lie in bed under the cool breeze of my fan, staring at the ceiling. I was so exhausted, but now that I’m in bed, my mind won’t shut off. I am feeling overwhelmed with a combination of excitement and anxiety. I can’t wait to see Grant tomorrow! I have missed him so much.

I know we haven’t known each other for very long, but there was something that drew me to him from the moment we met. Well, other than the fact that I couldn’t walk and literally needed him to get me from the gym to the hospital and then back home. But even after he dropped me back at my apartment that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I couldn’t stop talking about him. Kat said she thought it was the painkillers talking, especially since I was also glassy-eyed and practically drooling all over myself; but when I woke up the next morning, he was the first thing I thought about.

And when he called me the next day to see how I was doing, I remember the butterflies fluttering around in my stomach all day after that.

And they have continued to flutter ever since.

Chapter 4

I’m not sure what time I eventually fell asleep last night, but once I did, I slept like a rock. I roll over and look at my clock. It’s already 7:45am. Damn it, I hate sleeping in this late! I must have forgotten to set my alarm. It doesn’t matter how late I go to bed, I still like to get up early. When I sleep in this late, I feel like I have wasted half my day.

As I reach for my phone, I see that Grant has texted me, not very long ago. ‘Good Morning. I thought I would text u so that I didn’t wake u in case u were sleeping in. I’m going to airport now. I’ll call u when I land.’ His text makes me smile. He thought of me this morning and wanted to let me know he is getting ready to come home. This makes me feel even better.

I decide to send him a quick message back. ‘Can’t wait 2 C U.’

I get no response, but I shrug it off because he is probably busy boarding his plane. I wander through the apartment to find that there is no sign of life anywhere. Kat must still be passed out cold. Unlike me, she is a night owl. If she could, she would stay up half the night, sleep until almost noon the next day, and then start her work days right after lunch time.

I start a fresh pot of coffee and mentally start picking apart my wardrobe. What am I going to wear tonight? Why do I care so much? It’s not like this is our first date. But Grant and I haven’t laid eyes on each other in so long, and even though I am not quite sure what to expect tonight, I still want to look appealing to him. I could wear one of my new sundresses I bought in Florida. Nahhh, I’m not exactly in the beachy mood right now. Maybe I should wear that pale pink dress that nips at my waist, hugs my hips, but falls loosely over my thighs and lands just a couple of inches above my knees… with a pair of flats to match. Wait, I wore that dress on my first real date with him, I can’t wear it again. Not yet. It’s too soon.

The coffee pot beeps to let me know it’s done. I find the biggest coffee cup we own and fill it. I try not to make too much noise for Kat’s sake, but if she doesn’t get up soon, I’m going to drag her butt out of bed. We have stuff to do this morning and I’m not one for wasting time. Most important, we need food. I hate going to the grocery store. I make Kat go with me as often as I can. Like they say, misery loves company.

I curl up on the big white sofa with the turquoise pillows and matching throw, sip my cup of coffee, and enjoy the peace and quiet. Just me and my thoughts. I look around our cozy apartment and admire the colorful and contemporary look of it. When Kat and I were picking out furniture, we went with the white sofa because it would be easy to change colors and pieces without having to change all of our furniture too. We have the same taste in decorating, which makes shopping for new décor fun and easy. I think about how I’m going to have to ask her to help me put together an outfit for tonight. I’m fresh out of ideas on what to wear, and I want to wear something Grant hasn’t seen yet. I want him to look at me like he did that night we went out on our first date.

*******

I was one hot mess the couple of days leading up to our first date. Grant and I had been texting and talking on the phone every day. He had called to check on me the day after my trip to the emergency room the night before. He had asked to take me out to dinner that Saturday night after the accident, but only three days would have passed and I could still barely walk. I declined politely and asked for a rain check. He then tried to persuade me to let him bring me dinner. He even offered to bring dinner over for Kat and me so all of us could just hang out together and get to know each other. Again, I turned him down. I did not want my first date to also include my best friend. What about that does not scream awkward?

The day before we finally went out, I was in my bedroom tearing apart the closet and dressers trying to find that perfect outfit for our ‘first date.’ I was really wishing I was the same size as Kat because I would have loved to raid her closet. Instead, Kat took me on an all-day shopping trip. I almost drove the poor girl crazy. I tried on so many dresses and skirts, and was ready to call it a day when she spotted a pretty pale pink silk and chiffon dress on a mannequin towards the back of the department store. I was giddy with excitement when they had it in my size. It was a perfect fit and I already had the perfect pair of flats to match at home. Score!

I could hardly sleep that night and the next day I had felt like I was living in panic-attack city. Kat did my makeup for me and then curled my already naturally curly hair, but with a bigger iron to create big loose curls. I remember pacing the floor for the last hour before Grant actually arrived at the apartment. Kat told me I wasn’t going to be able to walk by the time he arrived because I was making up for lost exercising time by nervously pacing back and forth from my bedroom up the hall through the kitchen and living room, and making another full circle back around again. And she had been right because I was going for the bottle of ibuprofen when he arrived.

I heard Kat let him in, tell him I went to take something to help with the foot pain and that I would be right out. Then I heard Grant respond that he would make sure I didn’t overdo it and end up injuring myself again, which I thought was so sweet of him. He really was genuinely concerned about my well being. After I swallowed the ibuprofen, I took a deep breath and walked out of the bathroom heading back towards the living room.

When I stepped into Grant’s view, I almost forgot to breathe. He was so much more handsome than I had remembered and he cleaned up quite nicely. When he looked at me, his eyes lit up and his smile revealed a perfect set of white teeth. Teeth and hygiene are the second things I notice next to a man’s eyes; and if his teeth are bad, I can’t look past that. It’s an immediate deal breaker. I remember looking at his smile and thinking how badly I just wanted to taste those beautiful lips.

His dark jeans, dark green button-down shirt, and black jacket were a perfect complement to his deep turquoise eyes and his black hair. Grant was drop-dead gorgeous and he was mine, well…for the evening, anyway. But I was really thinking how much I hoped he would be mine very soon. And the cologne he was wearing almost drove me wild in itself. He had this rich clean scent with a slight touch of musk, my favorite smell on a man. I don’t think there was one thing about him I didn’t like. And when he looked at me, he started at my eyes and worked his way down and back up again, as if I was the most beautiful thing in the world.

*******

“I need coffee.” Kat’s groggy voice interrupts my early-morning daydream.

“Good morning to you, too, sleepy head. Coffee’s ready.” I get up to top off my cup again. “I was wondering how long you were going to sleep. I was thinking about coming in there and waking you up. We need to get to the store, clean this place up, and then I need your help picking out my clothes for my date with Grant tonight.”

“Raven,” Kat grumbles, “…please just let me get my coffee and wake up and then you can tell me everything you just said, again.”

“Well, aren’t you just a ball of sunshine?” I reply.

She gives me a dirty look as she’s pouring herself a cup of coffee. I don’t take her grumpy mood personally, though. Kat is not a morning person, and trying to have any sort of conversation with her before she has her coffee and is really awake is a total waste of time.

“While you wake up, I’m going to get dressed and make myself look halfway presentable before we head to the store. I’m going to shower later before I see Grant.”

“Whatever,” Kat moans.

“Do you think you can be ready to leave in 30 minutes?” I ask as I’m disappearing back to my bedroom, coffee in hand.

“Forty-five. I need to dilute last night’s wine with my coffee first,” Kat hollers.

“Whatever,” I holler back, sarcastically.

*******

Kat’s mood dramatically improved once she increased her blood caffeine level. We manage to get all our shopping done, laundry washed and put away, and the apartment cleaned up by noon. This leaves me enough time to get cleaned up and somewhat mentally prepare myself for seeing Grant.

He sends me a text just as Kat and I finish cleaning and are sitting down to have some lunch. He says his plane has landed and he’s getting a cab to take him home, will call me as soon as he walks in the door to finalize our plans. I’ve been so pre-occupied this morning that I haven’t even noticed the time passing.

After lunch, Kat helps me pick out some clothes, which ultimately results in my favorite pair of skinny jeans, a pink t-shirt, and a pair of simple black flats. Kat reminds me that even though I have not seen Grant for two weeks, this isn’t exactly going to be an evening of fun. His brother has committed suicide and he’s still grieving and he needs me to be there for him as his friend, or girlfriend. Even though we’ve been seeing each other for a while, I realize that we haven’t officially declared ourselves as being in a monogamous relationship. That, in itself, is a mood killer. It makes my more casual clothing choice a much simpler one to make.

Along with my casual look, I keep my make-up simple as well. I go for more of a natural look: mascara, a dab of blush to give my milky white complexion some color, and a clear lip gloss. My chin-length, inverted bob curls up naturally on its own with very little frizz, for which I’m thankful.

I’m checking myself out in the full-length mirror in my bedroom when my cell phone rings. It’s Grant. I ask if he wants to meet somewhere private. I don’t really want him here because I don’t know if he will open up to me about what happened to his brother with Kat around. He says he wants to talk to me alone without an audience and would prefer that I come to his place. I tell him I’m ready when he is. He asks that I give him another hour before arriving; he has to make a few phone calls and wants to be off the phone before I get there.

After we hang up, my anxiety level starts to rise. I really need to relax. I inform Kat of my plans and that I will text her later and let her know when I think I’ll be home. I’m hoping I won’t be at Grant’s too late because we have to get back to our normal lives tomorrow, which means back to work early on Monday morning. After enough time passes, I grab a jacket and my purse, and head out to make the twenty minute drive to Grant’s house.

Chapter 5

The drive to Grant’s house doesn’t seem to take as long as I remember, not that twenty minutes is a terribly long time to drive. I have only been to his house three times since we started seeing each other, or whatever you want to call it right now. Two of those times were for dinner and a movie, and the third time was to go back and pick up the jacket I accidentally left behind when I was there the night before. The rest of time we’ve spent together has been either at my apartment or out at other places, meeting each other after work.

As I get closer to his house I start to feel my anxiety levels rising and the knots in my stomach feel like they’re pulling tighter and tighter. My palms start to sweat as I grip the steering wheel. I really shouldn’t be so nervous, but after Grant talked to me the way he did when I was in Florida, all my feelings of being on cloud nine have somewhat dissipated to be replaced by anxiety and uncertainty. I’m hoping, after tonight, things will start to feel like they did before he went to see his brother in Washington and Kat and I headed to Florida.

I turn into Grant’s long driveway that leads to his beautiful modern home and drive slowly, taking it all in. His home truly is breathtaking, something you would see in one of those rich home magazines that I don’t even look at because it’s just too depressing. It’s only two stories, but has soaring ceilings, an open house plan on the first floor, and a timeless simplicity that truly embraces Grant’s pure modern style. I can’t even begin to guess the amount of money he spent on this property, but since he works for one of the largest law firms in the state, it’s very apparent that money doesn’t matter. He doesn’t look like he is struggling financially in any way.

I see Grant’s brand new 2014 black Volkswagen Touareg come into view. I pull up beside it in my 2008 silver Jeep Compass, which I bought pre-owned, by the way. This really is embarrassing. Maybe I should back out and park directly in front of his house instead of in the driveway of his four-car garage right next to this beautiful piece of steel on wheels. Or maybe I should just chill out and let it go. So far, not once has Grant made me feel like less of a person because I don’t make the kind of money that he does or because I can’t spend what I do make on expensive, luxurious things. He may look like he screams rich and powerful, but on the inside, he is as genuine and down-to-earth as they come. I really admire that about him.

I turn the engine off and take a deep breath. I am so worked up over this visit. I should have called my Aunt Hope and talked to her on my way over here. Besides Kat, Aunt Hope has been my rock since my mother passed away. She has become a friend, a confidant, and a mother figure to me. She is one of the most level-headed, honest, and realistic people I know. And when I feel like life is spiraling out of control, she always knows what to say to slow me down and bring me back to earth. I have been so caught up in the unfortunate turn of events these past few days that I haven’t even had time to call her and fill her in on anything. She doesn’t even know what happened with Grant’s brother and how Grant treated me. I wouldn’t have had enough time to fill her in anyway, I guess. Note to self: call Aunt Hope tomorrow after work and get her up-to-speed on my life.

I’m startled when my cell phone rings. As I dig it out of my purse, I see that it’s Grant. “Well, how long do you plan on sitting in my driveway?” he asks before I even have time to say hello. I look to my left and I see his silhouette peeking at me out of the big picture window beside his front door.

“Oh, sorry. I was just thinking about something. I’m coming,” I respond as I slide out of my Jeep and start up the walkway to his front porch. I hit the End button on my phone and drop it back in my purse as I approach the house.

“Thinking about me, I hope.” Grant is standing in the entryway already holding the door open when I step up onto the porch. Our eyes lock and I stop walking, maybe even breathing, and just look at him. His beautiful lips are just slightly turned up in what I would call a devilish grin, and his turquoise eyes look as if they are staring right through me. He is wearing a dark gray t-shirt, jeans, and a pair of tennis shoes. He makes casual look so damn sexy. Was he this sexy before he left town? I get that same breathless feeling that I did the first time I laid eyes on him.

“I see that whatever you have on your mind has rendered you speechless,” he says, grinning.

I let out a nervous laugh. “I was just thinking how gorgeous you are and how much I’ve missed you.” I step forward and start to wrap my arms around him for a much-needed hug when he shoves his hands into his pockets and steps aside. I nearly fall through the front door from being completely caught off-guard by his rejection.

“Alrighty then. Come on in,” he says. He just stands there looking at me and his devilish grin has been replaced by a cold, distant look I don’t recognize.

“Okay—” What the hell? I am shouting in my head. I don’t even know how to react to what he just did. I haven’t seen him for two weeks and this is the reaction that I get when I try to hug him? This is so not what I expected.

I stand there and hold his gaze until he finally shifts uncomfortably and clears his throat. “I don’t—” he pauses, “I don’t know why I just did that.”

“Maybe I should go.” I turn around to leave and he grabs my arm.

“No. Stay. I’m sorry.” Grant starts to stumble on his words. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I didn’t mean to step away when you tried to hug me. You just—” He stops, and I can see that he is searching for the right words to finish his thought.

“I just…what, Grant?” The hurt is very apparent in my voice.

“You just caught me off-guard, you know. I didn’t expect you—”

“To hug you?” I interrupt him and I am almost shouting when I do. “Really Grant? Since when am I not allowed to touch you? Especially when I haven’t seen you for two weeks. Especially after what happened with your brother! Especially since I thought I was your—” I can’t even finish the sentence. I am choking back the sobs now. I can’t believe I haven’t been here for five whole minutes and this is happening. What is this anyway? What, exactly, is happening here?

Grant lets go of my arm and crosses his arms in front of his chest. “You’re my what?” he asks.

I stare at him in disbelief that he just asked me that. Maybe I have completely misread the last few weeks we have spent together. No, we haven’t officially said that we are boyfriend and girlfriend, but we’re also not in high school either. Do people even really say that to each other at our age? Hey, will you be my girlfriend? How ridiculously cheesy does that sound?

“Apparently I’m not what I thought I was,” I say through gritted teeth. I turn once again and walk out the front door and head down the steps of the front porch. I am angry and hurt, and I feel like a complete fool. I am also so confused by what just happened that I need to get out of here and away from him before I cry in front of this jerk.

“Raven, stop. We need to talk about this!” Grant calls after me. I ignore him and keep walking towards my Jeep. I hear him coming after me and I pick up my own pace. Just as I grab the door handle, Grant grabs my arm, whips me around, and pins me to the Jeep. “I said stop, Raven.”

He is leaning into me with all of his weight so that I can’t move, his face just inches from mine. His jaw is locked tight and his eyes are so dark that I can’t even see his pupils. I am completely stunned by his behavior and, quite honestly, just a little bit scared too, but I refuse to let him see that.

“Grant, you are squishing me. Please. Back. Off.” I try to push him back but he doesn’t budge. I can’t move him either. Just when I feel the anxiety starting to rise deep within me, I feel his body relax and he steps away from me, but only far enough back for me to be able to breathe.

“Thank you.” I let out a heavy sigh. “What the hell was that all about? Have you lost your mind?” I am no longer feeling the need to sob. Now I’m just pissed off.

“I’m quite sane right now, if you really need to know.”

“I’m seriously doubting that.” I glare at him.

Grant looks at me with cold, dark eyes and then I see the corners of his mouth turn up before he lets out a wickedly sexy laugh.

There is nothing about this that I find funny, and I am fighting the urge to slap him senseless.

“I’m glad that you find this so funny because there is not one thing about any of this that is even slightly amusing!” I snap at him. I’ve had enough of this shit and I’m done. I turn to open my door and he slams his hand down on it so hard that I jump. Now I’m really ready to let him have it. I whip around to tear into him and he grabs my face with both hands and brings his mouth down onto mine before I have time to even think about what he is doing. He forces his tongue into my mouth and weaves his hands into my hair, kissing me like he needs this to breathe.

He stops for a second and looks into my eyes as if he’s searching for confirmation from me to keep going or to stop, but my head is spinning with uncertainty and I don’t even know what I want. I’m just trying to breathe. He brings his mouth back onto mine a second time and presses into me until I fall back into the side of my Jeep. He kisses me deep and hard, his tongue tasting mine.

He continues to kiss me until he apparently starts to taste the salt from tears that have sprung loose and are streaming down my cheeks. Damn it! I was not going to let him see me like this, but I am so overwhelmed by hurt, anger, and confusion, that crying is the only release I have right now.

He pulls back. “Why are you crying Raven?” His voice sounds so earnest. He gently touches my cheek, caressing it softly as if he is wiping away my tears. I close my eyes and continue to let my tears fall.

“Please, talk to me.”

“Grant, how can you even ask me that?” I reach up take his hand off of my cheek. He doesn’t say anything in response to my question, so I keep talking. “Before you left, things were good. They were really good. Then you leave to go spend some time with your brother, and you come back, and now this!” I throw my hands in the air in exasperation. “Look, I get that you have suffered a major loss and it is affecting you, but you completely shut me out. You chew me up and spit me out while I’m in Florida, then you apologize and I give you a free pass because I know that you are hurting and you have a lot to process. Then you finally make it back home, ask me to come here, and I was so excited to see you. Realistically, I knew this night wasn’t going to be all happy and perfect because you have suffered the loss of your brother, but I did not expect you to be like this! You look like you are undressing me with your eyes when you see me, but then you dodge me when I try to hug you like you think I bite or something.”

My anger is coming back, rearing its ugly head, and the more I talk, the louder I get. But Grant isn’t trying to shut me up. He lets me finish. “This just gets me all confused inside because I really thought we had something. I thought maybe we were an ‘item,’ but apparently I thought wrong. Then I try to leave, but you won’t let me. You don’t want me to touch you, but then you throw yourself on me and shove your tongue down my throat. For shit’s sake, Grant, you’re all over the place! I don’t know what to think right now! I’ve never seen you like this and I’m trying really hard to understand your behavior right now and be sympathetic to your situation; and I should, because after all, I am a therapist. But damn it—” By now, I’m just a couple of octaves away from screaming at him and I’m pacing back and forth in front of him, rambling on and on and secretly wishing he would say something to shut me up already because I can’t seem to shut my own self up.

“You’re right.” Grant interrupts my rant, thank goodness! I stop pacing and cross my arms in front of my chest and look at him. “You’re right, Raven. I am all over the place.” He steps towards me again and places his hands on my arms, but gently this time. I refrain from jerking away from him.

“Lately, I don’t know who I am anymore. After the loss of Grayson, I can’t seem to get a grip on reality.” Grant drops his head but doesn’t let go of my arms. “I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. When I close my eyes all I see is his lifeless body just hanging there.”

I immediately tense. His lifeless body was just hanging there? Grant didn’t tell me about that. In fact, he hasn’t told me anything about his trip to Washington or that night his brother committed suicide. It is painful to even think he carried out such a horrific act. I feel Grant’s hands tense up on my arms and start to slightly shake. His whole body is shaking and I realize he is fighting his emotions, trying not to lose it in front of me.

“It’s okay if you need to let go,” I softly whisper. “It’s just you and me…no one else will see. Let. It. Go.” I barely finish my sentence before Grant breaks and falls to the ground on his hands and knees. He starts rocking back and forth and sobbing uncontrollably. I don’t react to him because I know that in this moment, the best thing I can do for him is to be silent and let him release all of this built-up pain that he has held onto so tightly.

Minutes pass while Grant continues to cry. Finally, I slowly kneel down beside him and place a hand gently on his back to let him know I’m here. I say nothing while tears slide down my own cheeks and my heart silently breaks for him…….

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Thank You for taking the time to read the first 5 chapters of Raven’s Innocence. If you want to find out what happens next, you’ll find the purchase links below. And remember, you don’t have to wait very much longer for Raven’s Undoing.

Much Love,
~N~

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0990389103 Paperback
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L9I45N0 Kindle Version

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