Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sneak Peak
A Little Too Far Excerpt (A Little Too Far #1) by Lisa Desrochers

A Little Too Far

Sneak Peek of A LITTLE TOO FAR by Lisa Desrochers

Exclusive excerpt from the hot New Adult novel out September 17, 2013 from Avon Impulse!

Dear Reader, 

What if the thing you always thought was wrong turned out to be the one thing in your life that’s truly right? That’s the question at the heart of A LITTLE TOO FAR. 

I confess I’m not easy on my characters. I love to write angst and anguish. Twenty-year-old Lexie Banks did not escape my wicked ways. She finds her heart pulled in two different directions, but, unfortunately for Lexie, both directions lead to very off-limits men. So what do you do when your heart is taking you somewhere that the rest of you can’t follow? This is what Lexie spends nine months abroad in Rome trying to sort out. 

I adore Rome, and was able to relive my time there in Lexie’s Roman experience. Rome has a life of its own, which I tried to bring to the page in a way that would allow my readers to experience it even if you’ve never been. I hope you enjoy reading about Lexie’s journey as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

Happy Reading! 

Lisa Desrochers 

Chapter One
My ex is a douche. A point made all the more clear when I bump into Stacey 

McCarran at the Forever 21 in the mall.
“Lexie,” she drawls, flipping her long, bleached-blond hair over her shoulder and 

putting on a sympathetic pout. “I was so sorry to hear about you and Rick.” 

It’s a lie, and she knows I know it. She was after Rick the whole time we were in high school, and from the knowing smirk underneath that fake pout, I’m guessing they’ve already done the deed. I wonder if she even waited an hour after we broke up to call him. 

Sam steps away from the rack she’s perusing, holding a sheer, black tank top with beading around the low V-neck. “Stacey,” she sneers, stepping up next to me. Katie is next to her, glaring thorns at Stacey. I can always count on my friends to circle the wagons. 

I shrug. “Things happen.” Like your boyfriend of three and a half years turning into a cheating bastard when you aren’t paying attention. Yeah. Things happen. 

“Well,” she drawls, flicking through a rack of cotton shorts, “everyone was shocked. We all thought you two would end up married.” 

So did I. 

Rick and I had talked about marriage. When I came home for summer break after freshman year, he was the one who brought it up. He was the one who started talking about where we should live after we graduated from college. We’d been voted the couple most likely to make it in our senior yearbook. I’d scribbled my name on countless scraps of paper, trying to decide whether to hyphenate or just change my last name from Banks to Hamilton. 

So when Sam texted me she’d heard that Rick was seeing someone at school, I chalked it up to the rumor mill. 

It wasn’t the rumor mill. Or it was, I guess. It was a combination of my boyfriend being an asshat and the rumor mill. 

When I got accepted to Notre Dame, there was no question I was going there because, 1) it’s a great school, and 2) it’s Catholic, which my parents insisted on. But it’s also, 3) really far away. A whole bunch of our classmates, including Rick, went to San Jose State because it’s so close to home. I guess Rick was too stupid to realize that you can’t screw half the campus when the place is swarming with friends of your girlfriend and not have a single one of them notice. So the rumors spread. 

The stupid thing? Rick gave me a promise ring for Christmas. He did the whole spiel about how I was the love of his life, and he knew we’d spend the rest of our lives together, blah, blah, blah. 

The stupidest thing? I fell for it—until we were in his bed the night after Christmas. We were technically engaged to be engaged, so I felt justified reading through his texts when he got up to go to the bathroom and peel off his condom. 

Yes, it was a douchey thing to do, so maybe I’m a douche too, but it wasn’t just what Sam had said. People were looking at us funny when we went to a party at Rick’s best friend’s house the day after I got home. It was like they were all whispering behind my back, and some of my friends were shooting me sympathetic glances even though no one said anything. I was feeling super paranoid. 

So I looked. 

Not only were there texts from at least three different girls, but a few pictures too. The pictures were mostly of him sitting with girls in his lap, or dancing. In one, he was kissing a blonde with big boobs, but it didn’t look like more than just a peck on the lips. Bad, 

but not totally incriminating. But the texts ... some of those were pretty raunchy. I didn’t have time to read them all, but I scanned enough of one conversation to know that the rumors were true. 

My heart scrunched itself into a tiny knot, and my chest was so empty, I didn’t even hurt right at that second. The hurt came later and stayed for a really long time. Just then, in Rick’s bedroom, humiliation filled the empty space instead. I was sitting on the edge of his bed, holding his phone in my hand when he came back from the bathroom. “You fucked her in your chemistry lab? Seriously?” 

His eyes went wide, and all the blood drained from his face. “It’s not what you think.” 

Adrenaline rushed my bloodstream at his denial, and I shook with rage. “Really? That’s the best you can do?” 

“Lexie, she’s psycho. She, like, stalks me all the time.” 

I turned the phone and swiped through the texts. “Which one? Becky? Gina? Or is Helena the stalker?” 

He grimaced and rubbed a hand down his face. “Shit.” 

I hurled the phone at him, and it hit his shoulder and ricocheted off. He didn’t even grab for it on its way to the floor, where it bounced off his foot onto the carpet. “You son of a bitch,” I growled, yanking my clothes on. 

“Lexie, wait!” he said as I pushed past him to the door.
I spun and flung his ring in his face. “Screw you!”
And that was the end of three and a half years with Rick. 

He called and texted almost every day during the spring semester, but I deleted them all without looking. My friends from home were good about avoiding the topic in their texts, 

so it became easy to pretend Rick had never existed. I was two thousand miles away, and he couldn’t just pop by and surprise me, so I felt reasonably safe. But when an opportunity to get even farther away and spend my junior year abroad in Italy came up, I jumped all over it. 

By the time I got home for summer break a few months ago, I felt pretty good. I was over Rick. I’d thrown myself into my studies and was going into my junior year at Notre Dame near the top of my art history class. That had won me the scholarship for the year abroad in Rome from over thirty applicants. 

Still, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of spending my summer watching Rick screw his way through our old classmates, so I’ve spent my days since I got home absorbed in my Rosetta Stone software and feel pretty confident I’ll be able to 1) find a bathroom (Dove passo trovare il bagno?) or 2) tell someone to go to hell (Va ’al diavolo!). My friends have been cool about avoiding the parties we knew he’d be at, so I’ve managed to make it all summer without so much as a glimpse of him. 

And now I’m two days away from heading to Rome for my junior year, with the possibility of staying the summer for an internship if they like me. 

Life is good, and I’m not going to let Stacey rub my face in the parts of it that aren’t. 

“Yeah, well ... see you later,” I tell her as I turn for the register. 

“Bitch,” Sam mutters as we walk away, just loud enough for Stacey to hear, and I can’t help smiling. She hands me the top and a short, black skirt she’s holding. “These are a mandatory purchase. The beading around the neckline will draw attention to your best assets,” she says, cupping my boob in her free hand. 

“Will you please not feel me up in public?” I mutter, taking the clothes and shoving her away. 

“My job, whether you like it or not, is to be sure you don’t come home without experiencing all Rome has to offer,” she says with raised eyebrows and a knowing smile, “and this outfit will guarantee it.” 

Sam and Katie are two of a revolving group of about ten of us who hung out together all through high school, but they are the ones I’ve kept in closest touch with after we all left for college. Sam is deceptively feminine, with long, auburn waves and ivory skin. And she’s curvy in a way that turns guys’ heads. What you’d never get from her appearance is she’s totally kick-ass. Confidence wafts off of her like a strong scent. She’s put her brown belt in karate to use teaching self-defense classes at the women’s shelter for the last few years and is by far the most outspoken of the three of us. But she also isn’t great at keeping confidences confidential. I love her but don’t really trust her, if that makes sense. 

Katie, on the other hand, has always struggled with her weight, and, therefore, her self-esteem. I think she’s beautiful, but she always lets her dark hair hang and dresses a little frumpily. She’s generally quieter and more reserved than Sam and tends to blend into the woodwork. I feel like I could talk to Katie, except she’s best friends with Sam, and I’m not sure which loyalty would prevail if push came to shove, so I don’t. 

We make our purchases and head to the Applebee’s for lunch. The hostess seats us at a booth near the bar. 

“Here,” Sam says, reaching across the table for the bags I’m trying to wrestle into my side of the booth. “I’ll put some over here.” 

I hand the big Neiman Marcus bag over the table to her and keep the smaller ones. She takes it and wedges it against the wall as Katie slides in next to her. 

“Can I start you ladies off with something to drink?” 

Suddenly, all the oxygen is sucked out of the atmosphere, and spots flash in my eyes. I can’t even look at the end of the table where the waiter stands, but I hear Katie’s gasp and know it’s him. 

Oh, God. 

“Hi, Rick,” Sam says, her voice dry. “Give us a minute, okay?” 

There’s a long pause where no one says anything, but I feel the weight of everyone’s gaze. I hate that the first thing to flit through my mind is an inventory of my appearance. I showered this morning without shaving my legs, then pulled my wet, dirty blond hair back into a high ponytail with a mother-of-pearl clip—by far the nicest thing I’m wearing. I rubbed a little foundation over a few zits on my chin and threw on some mascara, not really caring too much what I looked like. My layered tanks are old and stretched, and my khaki shorts are too baggy in the butt. 

I look like shit. 

I don’t want to care what Rick thinks. But, damn it, I do. 

“Yeah ... okay. I’ll be back in a few,” he answers after a beat. 

“Damn, Lexie,” Katie hisses when he’s gone. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know he worked here.” 

I thought I had this. I thought I was past him. So why, when I glance up and see him walking away, does my heart skip a beat? 

Sam grabs the bag she had just stuffed near the wall. “Let’s go.” 

I force myself to stop chewing at the inside of my cheek and breathe a shaky breath. “No. I’m not going to let him do this to me. I’m not going to keep living like I’m the one who did something wrong.” 

Katie’s expression is all sympathy. “Everyone knows it was him, Lexie. You don’t have anything to prove.” 

“I’m fine,” I say, glancing up to where Rick stands at the bar. “I’m not going to be able to avoid him forever.” 

Sam sets the bag down, giving me the skeptic’s squint. “You’re sure.” 

I nod and pick up the menu. “I had my heart set on the turkey club croissant, and I’m not going to let my dirtbag of an ex deprive me of it.” 

We peruse the menus, and, a few minutes later, Rick is back. I look him in the eye this time, and damn, he’s still gorgeous. His straight blond hair is longer than when I saw him last, naked in his bedroom, and partially covers his amazing blue eyes. He looks really classy in the white button-down and thin black tie they have him in. “Are you ready for drinks?” 

I clear my throat. “Iced tea with—” 

“—extra lemon,” he finishes for me with that sideways smile that always sets off butterflies in my stomach. “I remember.” 

“Diet Coke.” Sam’s voice lashes out like a whip, and Rick turns to her and Katie on the other side of the booth. 

“Anything for you, Katie?” he asks.
“Just water.”
He nods. “I’ll be right back for your order.”
Katie leans across the table as he walks away, and whispers, “That wasn’t so bad.” “Speak for yourself,” I mutter. 

“I say we order a bunch of stuff a little at a time ... you know, to make him work for it, then stiff him on the tip,” Sam says, glaring at his back as he steps up to the bar. 

“Nope,” I say. “He’s just any other waiter. I won’t give him the satisfaction of knowing he even gets to me anymore.” I straighten up in my seat and look at him. “Because he doesn’t ... mostly.” 

“It’s your show, Lexie,” Sam says, “but after what he did, if it were me, I’d leave scorched earth. There’d be no mercy.” 

I slide out of the booth. “I’m going to wash my hands. If he comes back, order me the turkey club croissant, light on the mayo.” 

The bathrooms are next to the bar, so I have to walk past Rick on my way. His back is to me, and a petite blond waitress is standing next to him, rubbing her arm against his. 

“... tonight if you want. I can promise you a good time,” she says as her fingers curl against his thigh and squeeze. 

My stomach lurches, and I take a wide berth and walk faster, but before I make it to the bathroom door, he calls my name up the hall. I’m tempted to pretend I don’t hear him, but I know he’s coming up behind me fast. He’s close enough he’d know I’m pretending. Which means he’d know he still affects me. 

“What?” I say, spinning on him. 

He stops a few feet short of me and jams his hands in his pockets. “How have you been?” 

“Great, Rick. I’m just fabulous,” I spit. “Are we done?” 

“Look, I know I was a jerk,” he blurts as I spin for the bathroom. 

I don’t turn around. “You weren’t a jerk. You were an asshole. There’s a big difference.” 

“Fine. I was an asshole. I’m really sorry.”
I start moving again. “Sorry doesn’t cut it.” 

“I still love you, Lexie. I can’t get past it.” 

There’s a desperate hitch in his voice that claws at my heart and stops me cold. 

“Those girls ... I was a moron.” I hear him moving closer as he talks, but I don’t turn to look at him. “I haven’t touched anyone else since winter break. I don’t want anyone else, Lexie. I want you.” He lays a hand on my hip, and I swear at myself when I shudder. He gently spins me and tips my face up with a finger under my chin, so I’m looking into his eyes. “I always will.” 

He leans in very slowly, watching me the whole way. I can’t even tell you why I don’t pull away from him, but as he presses my body between his and the wall, not only don’t I pull away, I kiss him back. 

Chapter Two
His fingers thread into my hair as his other hand grasps my hip and pulls me into the 

curve of his body. It feels so good. So familiar. So easy. 

It was always easy with us. I want that back so badly that I let myself get lost in the feeling ... until someone brushes past us on their way into the bathroom, snapping me out of my fantasy. Because that’s what it is, a fantasy. He took what we had and threw it away. There’s no way I can ever trust him again. 

He leans in again, but I splay a hand on his chest before his lips reach mine. “Don’t, Rick. I can’t do this again.” 

His fingers glide down my cheek and trace my lips. “Just think about it, Lexie. Please,” he says, letting me go. “I still have the ring. It and my heart will always be yours.” 

“But your heart wasn’t always mine. You gave it away to Helena and ...” I throw up my hands, frustrated, when I can’t remember the other girls’ names, “anyone else who wanted it.” 

“They never had my heart. It was just sex. That’s it. It didn’t mean anything.” His face scrunches, pleading with me to understand. 

My heart climbs up my throat at his words. “How can you say sex doesn’t mean anything? We lost our virginity together. I’ve never been with anyone but you because it means everything.” 

He purses his lips and hangs his head. “I was so stupid.” His eye flick to mine again. “Tell me what to do to fix this. I’ll do anything.” 

“I just need to think.” This time, when I turn for the bathroom, he doesn’t stop me. 

I wash up and splash some water on my face, then stare at my shaking self in the mirror. How can I still have feelings for him after what he did? How is there any part of me that isn’t totally repulsed by him? 

“Hey,” Sam says when I get back to the table a few minutes later. “You okay?” 

“Have you ordered yet?” I ask. 

Her gaze flicks across the restaurant, and I’m guessing she’s looking at Rick, but I don’t follow it to find out. “Prince Charming hasn’t been back. I think he was waiting for you.” 

I throw a ten on the table to cover the drinks and grab my bags. “You were right. I can’t do this. Let’s go.” 

We collect all my stuff and head to the parking lot. Katie pushes the button on her key fob to unlock her battered, yellow Beetle, and the alarm starts blaring as all the lights flash. 

“When are you going to get that thing fixed?” Sam yells, slapping her palms over her ears. 

Katie clicks the key fob again, and the shrieking stops. “Sorry.” 

Sam looks the Beetle over with disdain. “We definitely need a new ride.” 

“You don’t like it, you can walk,” Katie says defensively, patting her car on the roof like a dog as she pulls open the driver’s door. “So, what happened?” she asks me as we climb in. 

I slouch into the backseat. “He says he still loves me.” 

“Don’t do it, Lexie,” Sam warns, strapping herself in shotgun. 

I tip my head back into my seat and stare at the stained roof of Katie’s car. “Why did he have to turn out to be such a douche?” 

Sam slouches deeper into her seat. “The sad truth is, I think it’s in the DNA— somewhere in that Y chromosome is the douche-bag gene.” 

I lean my head into the window and close my eyes, focusing on making the twenty minutes to my house without crying. I know it’s over. I’ve known it for months, but 

somehow time isn’t making it easier. Whoever said time heals all wounds was a big, fat liar. My heart still remembers what we had and how it felt to lose it. 

When Katie drops me at home, Trent’s motorcycle is in the driveway, but the house is quiet. 

“If that stepbrother of yours is looking for an end-of-the-summer fling,” Sam says, flicking a glance at the bike as I get out, “you know where to send him.” 

I roll my eyes at her. 

She leans out her window. “You think I’m joking, but I’m going to jump that boy’s bones sooner or later.” 

“He’s probably out with his friends,” I say, waving a hand at the house. “Go find him and jump away.” 

She bangs the side of the car with her palm. “Go fuck some Italian boys and forget about your dirtbag ex.” She grins. “And send pictures!” 

I lean in and hug her, then move around to Katie’s side, where she’s out of the car, waiting. “Thanks for taking me shopping,” I say, looping an arm around her shoulders. 

She hugs me back. “I’m so jealous.” 

I pull away and smile. “I’ll be in touch.” 

She climbs back into her seat. “You better.” There’s a waver in her voice, and I realize she’s tearing up. 

“I will. And I’ll see you when I’m home for winter break.” 

“Bring home a hot Italian!” Sam calls from across the car. 

I can’t help cracking a smile as I turn for the house. I slide my key into the front lock and pushed the door open, then wave at Katie and Sam. Katie gives a bleep of her horn, and they pull away from the curb. I watch until they disappear around the corner, then head upstairs. 

I climb the stairs to my room two at a time and dump my bags on the floor near my closet. But what Rick said keeps cycling through my brain. 

I still have the ring. It and my heart will always be yours. 

I thought we’d be together forever. But then he ripped my heart out in the most humiliating way possible. I don’t think I love him anymore ... but what if I never find anyone else? What if that was my one shot at true love? We were so happy. Why did he have to fuck it all up? 

“Damn you!” I grab a picture frame off my dresser—one that has a picture of me, Sam, and Katie at graduation that I put in over the top of a portrait of me and Rick at prom— and heave it at the wall between Trent’s room and mine. It shatters, leaving a gash in the blue paint next to my collage of favorite sketches. 

I sink into a sobbing heap on the carpet, glad I have the house to myself. I don’t need an audience for my meltdown. 


Trent’s voice comes through the door, but I can’t catch my breath to answer. So much for no audience. 

The door hinges creak as he pushes it open and pokes his head through the crack. He has a minor case of bed-head—his chocolate brown curls smashed on one side—and his wrinkled gray Loyola Wrestling T-shirt and well-worn jeans look slept in. “Hey, you okay?” 

“Yeah ... great,” I heave between sobs. 

“That was stupid. Sorry.” He comes into the room and crouches next to me, rubbing my back. 

I wipe my forearm under my nose. “Sorry to wake you up.” 

His deep brown eyes are all concern. “No biggie. What happened?” 

“Nothing.” But then Rick’s face when he said he still loved me flashes in my mind, and I heave another sob. 

“Come here,” Trent says, pulling me off the floor by a hand. He tows me to the bed and sits, pulling me down next to him. I tuck my head against his solid chest, and he wraps me in his strong arms and rocks me like a baby. He hums as he rocks me, and I know the tune instantly. My heart melts a little, remembering the first time he ever sang it to me, four years ago. 

Trent’s thing, like his mom’s, is music. Julie teaches piano, and by the time I met Trent the summer before his freshman year, he could play almost anything. When our parents got married two years later, Julie tried to teach me, but I don’t really have the patience for sitting at the piano for a half hour each day to practice, so after about a year of trying, she finally stopped forcing it on me. But Trent couldn’t get enough. He taught himself guitar and started his first garage band that year. They played together all through high school. Now he’s a music performance major at Loyola. With my fetish for the visual arts and his for music, between the two of us, we have the arts pretty well covered. 

All my tight muscles begin to soften as his fingers knead my shoulders. This is what only he can do for me. What he’s always done for me. 

Dad and Julie started dating the summer before I started eighth grade. By the time they got married, when I was fifteen and a half and Trent had just turned sixteen, we all knew each other pretty well. 

Trent and I got comfortable around each other pretty quickly, even before we were officially a family. We’d hang out and play Warcraft when our parents were on dates, and one or the other of us would just start talking. A lot of the time it was about our parents. I’d 

gone through a rough patch around that time, missing the mother I never knew and blaming myself that she was dead—which the shrink said was partly because there was a new mother figure in my life and partly because of my raging hormones and my growing awareness of my own mortality. Put whatever psychobabble label you want on it, all I knew was I hurt. I’d tell Trent how I thought I killed my mom by being born and how I wondered if that made me a murderer. He said it didn’t, but I always thought he only said it to make me feel better. I’d usually end up curled around him in his beanbag chair after I started crying. 

Other times, he would talk about how his dad and his new wife wanted him to go live there with his twin half brothers. I begged him not to, and he said he never would. He told me how his father used to take him to his peewee baseball games on Saturdays when he was little, and how there was a “friend” that he always met there while Trent’s team played. And how he’d tell Trent to stay put with the other kids while he helped his “friend” with something at her car. And how he left for work the day after Trent’s seventh birthday and never came home. And how all Trent really remembered was Julie’s crying all the time. And how his dad and his “friend” had the twins just a few months later and got married as soon as the divorce was final. 

From there, we just started telling each other everything else. He’s the only one who knows all the sordid details of my love life—things too embarrassing for even Sam and Katie. I’ve confided all of it to Trent, in detail. Like how, graduation night of our junior year, when Rick and I were in the backseat of his dad’s car in the process of trying to lose our virginity, he couldn’t figure out the condom in the dark and ended up tearing it. And how we’d done it anyway, without protection. When my period was three days late, Trent had been right there with me, sweating out each day until it came. He had gotten in Rick’s face when we started dating at the end of sophomore year and gave him the standard brotherly warning about treating me right. And when Rick screwed around on me, Trent made good on his promise and decked him. 

But that’s just the kind of guy Trent is. 

With effortless charm, classic good looks, a quick wit, and an impeccable sense of style, he’s basically a six-foot, two-hundred-pound people magnet. I doubt there’s anyone who’s ever spent more than five minutes with him who doesn’t consider him a friend. 

He graduated from high school the year before me and left a wide swath of broken hearts in his wake. I’m convinced that more than half of my friends in high school were only friends with me because they hoped I’d hook them up with him. “I can’t believe you’re related to Trent Sorenson! He’s so hot!” is all I ever heard, even from Sam and Katie. Hell, I’d even crushed on him a little when our parents first started dating. 

Though he’s not one to kiss and tell, I get the solid sense that the trend of endless friends and countless broken hearts has continued into his first three years in college. But what I know that no one else does is that things aren’t as easy for Trent as he makes them seem. 

Only I know how deep his father’s leaving cut. He hated his dad so much that, when our parents got married, he wanted mine to adopt him, but his dad wouldn’t let that happen. Trent feels like his father made him an accomplice in his mom’s undoing. No matter how many times I tell him it wasn’t his fault, he beats himself up constantly for not having seen what was going on. And he’s never told anyone else, including Julie, what happened during all those peewee baseball games. He feels that guilty. 

Only I know that the reason he’s never panned out to be the college wrestler everyone thought he would be is that his heart just isn’t in it. He’s wanted to quit since freshman year to focus on his music, and the only reason he hasn’t is because he’s afraid to disappoint Dad. 

Only I know that since sophomore year at Loyola, he’s wanted to quit school altogether, but he knows how much that would disappoint Julie, who thinks any musician worth his salt needs classic training. 

He’s miserable, and only I know it. 

But our big secret—the one we spit swore to each other we’d take to our graves? We were each other’s first kiss. 

It was the day after my fifteenth birthday, about five months before Dad married Julie, and it was one of my bad days. I was in Trent’s lap in his beanbag, crying over how I’d killed my mother fifteen years earlier, and he wiped the tears off my face and told me everything was going to be okay. He rubbed my back and pulled me to his shoulder, and the next thing I knew, we were kissing. The kiss was tender and sweet, and it lasted for a long time. I still remember how gentle his hands felt as he hugged me closer and that his lips tasted like bubble gum. But the instant it was over, we knew it was wrong. He just looked at me for a minute, then cleared his throat, and said, “We can’t do that anymore.” 

I nodded, we spit in our palms and shook on it, and that was that. 

It’s always been easy to talk to Trent. Just knowing he loves me unconditionally— that he’ll never judge me, and I don’t have to hide who I am from him—it makes me feel understood. And he’s never stopped holding me when I’m upset. Like now. 

“I’m guessing this is about Rick,” he says, and I hear the edge to his voice. I hiccup and nod.
“What me to kick his ass again?”
I snivel. “Would you?” 

“Anything for you, Lexie,” he says with a squeeze of my shoulders. “Tell me the whole sad story.” 

I love how my name sounds when he says it. When he sings, his voice gets a little gravelly when he gets to the really emotional parts, and he says my name like that, with just a hint of gravel. 

I breathe deep to get my thoughts straight. “Sam, Katie, and I went to the Applebee’s at the mall. I didn’t know he was working there this summer.” 

“Hmm ...” With my cheek pressed against his muscled chest, I feel Trent’s hmm more than I hear it. “Let me guess: He’s sorry and he wants you back.” 

“He still has the ring.” 

He combs his fingers gently through my hair, and goose bumps prickle my scalp. “And you’re thinking about it.” 

“Does that make me totally sick?” 

“Yes. I think it does.” 

I shove away from him but then see the smile in his eyes. “I miss being with him ... the feeling like we belong together. I miss being that close to someone.” 

“You still have me,” he says with a wink. 

I narrow my eyes at him. “And I miss the sex.” 

His eyebrows go up. “He was that good?” 

I shrug. “I don’t have anything to compare him with, but when we were together, I knew he loved me. I guess that’s what I miss.” 

He pulls me back into his strong arms. “Love pretty much blows, but, for what it’s worth, I think you’ll regret it if you take him back.” 

“What if it was just a mistake? He says he won’t do it again.” Part of me is desperate to believe it, but as I say it, I realize I don’t. 

“Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
I pull away and look at him. “Have you ever cheated on anyone?” 

He contemplates that for a second. “I’m not going to say I haven’t pissed a lot of girls off, but I prefer to do it honorably. If it’s just a hookup, I make sure they know that before anything happens, and if I’m with someone and I want to hook up with someone new, I break up with the one I’m with first.” 

I roll my eyes. “So chivalrous.” 

“Say what you will, but I’ve never been anything less than straight up with any girl I’ve ever been with. I’ve never lied or gone behind anyone’s back. Ever.” 

As much as it sounds like it would suck to be one of his many hookups or dumpees, it’s hard to argue his point. 

He pulls away from me, and I shiver, suddenly cold. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” He stands and moves to the door, then gives me his signature lazy smile before disappearing into the hall. 

I grab a tissue from the box on my nightstand, blotting my eyes and smearing off my ruined mascara, and a few minutes later Trent is back with two tumblers, each with about an inch of dark amber liquid in it. 

“Drowning sorrows this big calls for a double shot of Randy’s scotch,” he says, handing me a glass. “Good thing your dad springs for the good stuff.” 

We both knock it back, and my face pinches involuntarily. But once I’m past the initial burn, I feel my insides start to warm. 

“Warcraft?” he asks with a nod at my TV. 

“Yeah, sure.” 

“Nothing like a good troll slaughter to help you forget all your shit.” He gets the game all queued up, and, by the time he hands me my remote, I’m starting to feel all warm and gooey inside from the scotch. I slide back and lean into the stack of pillows on the headboard. 

Our first quest involves more blood than usual. My avatar, Galidrod the elf, powers through a troll barrage easily. I imagine Rick’s face on each one as I shoot them, and they explode in a shower of purple guts. It’s totally therapeutic. But then Trent’s avatar, who he for some reason made human and named Jethro, is wounded as he takes out the last orc, and Galidrod, who, through my unparalleled Warcraft prowess, has accumulated massive healing powers, has to save him. 

“So, what should I do?” I ask once Jethro is up to full strength again. 

“Run like hell.” 

“But I miss him.” 

Trent shakes his head and pauses the game. “You don’t miss him. You miss the idea of him.” 

I set my remote on the nightstand and turn on my hip, facing him. “What does that even mean?” 

He lifts my legs and loops them over his, rubbing his palm against the grain of the three-day stubble on my calf. “You were together for a long time. You thought you’d be together forever. It was what you knew, and now you’re out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to want to go back to the safety net.” 

He just so totally hit it on the head. I want the safety net. But the problem is, the safety net has a huge freaking hole in it now. It’ll dump me on my head if I trust it. 

But it still hurts. 

“You’re right. I miss the idea of him.” 

“It sucks,” he says with a small nod. 

I sigh and shift deeper into the pillows. “But what if he was supposed to be The One?” 

“He wasn’t.” 

“How do you know?” 

His hand pauses on my leg, midstroke. “Because he never deserved you.” 

“What if I never find anyone else?” 

He stares into my eyes for what has to be a full minute before saying, “You will.” 

An electric tingle zings through my insides, and the next thing I know, his lips are pressing against mine. I don’t even know who made the move. 

But it doesn’t stop there. 

Kissing Trent is like sticking my toe in the ocean and suddenly being in over my head. I’m drowning in him. I don’t know whether it’s him or the scotch, but as his tongue edges my mouth and slips through my lips, desperation like I’ve never felt before swells inside me. Years of suppressed desire rear up, and, suddenly, I’m starving for him. The only thing I know for sure is, if I don’t have him right now, I’ll die. 

My heart gallops in my chest as I slide down on the bed and pull him down with me. 

“Shit, Lexie,” he breathes between kisses. “What are we doing?” 

I grab fistfuls of his thick brown curls and pull him to me, smothering the question on his lips with another kiss. 

He doesn’t resist when I pull off his shirt, then mine. He doesn’t try to stop me when I wiggle out of my shorts and thong and kick them to the floor. He moans deep in his throat as my fingers trail over his cut abs and pop the button of his jeans. And when my hand slides in under his waistband and finds his erection, he stops breathing altogether. 

Never during any of it, even once we’re both naked on my bed, does any part of me feel like we shouldn’t be doing this. All of a sudden, he isn’t my stepbrother. He’s everything I’ve ever needed.

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