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Lisa / January 6, 2015

Countdown to The Farther I Fall (3/5)


Just two weeks until The Farther I Fall can be in your hands (or at least, on your e-reader). I hope you’re even as a tenth as excited I am, cause that’d be pretty excited. 🙂 Starting out the new year with an almost-bang–yes, today you finally meet Lucas Wheeler, rock star and all-around bad boy. Too bad Gwen doesn’t recognize him…

Also, just announced: come join me at the official Facebook release party for The Farther I Fall, January 20th at 7:30PM eastern! I promise an evening of music and fun–a few prizes, and appearances from the guests of honor themselves, Lucas and Gwen. 😉

“Are you sure this is necessary?” Gwen leaned in the doorway to Sam’s room. “I’m really not in the mood.” She was in sweatpants and slippers and had every intention of staying that way. “And I don’t have anything to wear.”

“I’ve got things you can borrow,” Sam said. “You can’t stay cooped up in my flat all the time.” She bent towards her mirror, jaw dropped as she tilted her head and applied mascara, her burnt orange minidress threatening to ride up her thighs. “Come on. Just for an hour. I want to introduce you to some people you might be working with.”

“I haven’t said yes yet.”

“Just for an hour.” Sam capped her mascara and turned to her. “If you’re not having fun, we can leave.”

That was how Gwen wound up waiting in a line outside of a busy LA club wearing her sister’s slinky white dress. The dress’s neckline hid her scar, but its sides had cutouts and it was frighteningly short. Between that and the heels—which she was woefully out of practice wearing—Gwen watched each step. She’d let Sam mess about with her makeup and her hair—shaggy as it was, growing out of her short desert haircut. In the end, Gwen was forced to confess that she looked pretty cute.

The bouncers knew Sam—as a junior vice president for R & E Music’s tour management division Sam knew a lot of people—and they got to bypass the main area of the club for the VIP lounge.

Gwen had never seen such a collection of beautiful people. Sam walked right in like she owned the place, but Gwen hung back, watching in awe as her little sister led her through the room, waving and yelling greetings at people left and right. If she took this tour manager job, this might become her world too. There was no way. She’d never fit in.

The music thumped in her chest, and every breath she took was tinged with the heat and scent of so many people drinking and dancing. Sam pulled her through the crowded dance floor, looking back at her with an encouraging smile. She stopped at one of the seating areas, a set of low-slung chairs.

“I’ll get us some drinks,” Sam said in her ear. When Gwen arched an eyebrow, she said, “Just club soda for me, I promise.”

Gwen considered how best to sit down in the low seats without flashing anyone. She perched on the edge of a seat and glanced around.

“Is this seat taken?” Gwen looked up and it was like a punch to the solar plexus. The man standing there was stunning: long dark hair falling in messy waves just past his shoulders, pale skin. His features were clean and masculine, a sharp nose and strong jawline, a slightly pouty mouth. He wore deep tan leather trousers so tight Gwen was surprised they hadn’t split open and knee-high black boots laced three-quarters of the way up his calves. With that and the loose, billowy white shirt and short leather jacket, he looked almost . . . piratical. Wordlessly, she shook her head, hoping her mouth wasn’t hanging open.

He sat down and leaned over to close some of the space between them. “Haven’t seen you here before.”

“I’m just—visiting,” said Gwen.

His eyes widened, and at this distance she could see they were deep blue. He smiled. “So I hear. Are you staying long?”

“It’s . . . up in the air for right now.” She’d never be able to go back to the RAMC, much less Afghanistan, and the thought of spending the rest of her life teaching part-time soldiers how to bandage a wound was hard to bear.

“Well, as much as I’d love to listen to that accent of yours all night, that wasn’t why I came over here. Want to dance?”

As if on cue, the song changed, a little slower—the steady, undulating pulse of drums with an overlay of bass and a low growling voice. Oh what the hell. Gwen nodded, and he held out his hand and helped her to her feet. Even in heels, she barely came up to his shoulder. God, she was probably grinning like an idiot, but the back of her neck prickled at his touch.

The beat of the drums got louder, and a second voice joined the first in a hollow harmony. Other couples formed around them as they found a spot on the dance floor. He kept his eyes on hers and they started circling together, not touching.

Slowly Gwen got pulled into the music. She closed her eyes and raised her arms overhead, letting the beat carry her. When she opened them again, her partner was closer than before, the warmth of his body radiating against hers. He wrapped an arm around her back and pulled her in. She hesitated before slotting her body against his, hip to chest. He was taut and lean, muscled but not bulky. Gwen had to resist the urge to bury her face against his chest.

They were moving in slow, steady circles, hips pressing tight. He dipped her backward, and caught by something she didn’t understand, Gwen tangled her hands in his sweat-damp hair. She could feel his breath against her throat, so close she thought his lips might be barely brushing against her skin. As he bent her over further, his hair spilled around her, caressing her arms.

He lifted her back to an upright position, and her hands slid away from his scalp to rest on his shoulders. Gwen’s heart raced, her blood roaring in her ears. His eyes, dark and wide, made him look almost as dazed as she felt.

He lowered his mouth to her ear and took a deep breath. “Come back to my hotel with me. Right now.” His voice rumbled in her ear, and she couldn’t hide the shiver. She didn’t do this—she didn’t pick up strangers in clubs—but she wanted to say yes.

She backed off and shook her head. “I came with my sister, and I should—”

He growled and buried his face against her neck, brushing his lips over her skin as he murmured, “I’d rather you came with me. Screaming.”

Gwen whimpered, the sound buried under pulsing bass and drums. Her heart was pounding hard enough that it must be about to crack her ribs. This was bloody mad. She needed to put a stop to it. His lips dragged up the side of her neck, brushing hot and wet against her earlobe. “Well?” he purred.

“I can’t.” She shivered as she shrugged away his mouth so it couldn’t tempt her further.

“Sure you can.” He trailed one finger down the side of her face.

It felt like blood running from her scalp. “No, sorry, I really can’t.” The music was too loud. It thudded in her ears like artillery fire. A woman’s high-pitched laughter prickled her scalp like a scream. She backed away from him, disoriented. Faces blurred, too many, too much sound, too much everything. She turned and fled, heart hammering in her chest and in her temples now, sweat making her skin clammy. The sensation of a thousand ants marching over her skin made her want to run screaming.

She found Sam and a small group of other women tucked in a quiet corner. “There you are!” Sam said. “I was starting to get worried. I didn’t know what you wanted, so I got—”

Gwen took the drink out of her hand and swallowed half of it at a gulp, welcoming the burn in her throat. She smiled at Sam’s friends then leaned down and murmured in Sam’s ear, “I have to get out.”

Sam gave her a worried look, then smiled at her friends. “We’ll be back.”

Everything was a blur until they made it outside. Sam pulled her down the street to a quieter area. “Are you okay?”

The tightness in Gwen’s chest was starting to ease, making it possible to take a breath deeper than a shallow gasp. “I’m sorry. I just—the noise.”

“Your hands are ice-cold.” Sam rubbed them between hers. “Come on, let’s get you home.”

“Sorry I ruined your night.”

Sam steered them towards the parking attendant. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Just as well.” Gwen let Sam guide her, leaning on her a bit. “I made an arse of myself in front of the guy I was dancing with.”

“It’s fine. It’s not like you’ll ever see him again, right?”

Thank God for that.

Come back next week for part four, or sign up for my newsletter for even longer excerpts.

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