Holly brought this book to my attention and reading the blurb had me all curious about the series as a whole so I read the first book, Before I Fall and that book was great. It made me so excited to read this book. Josh is one of Noah’s (hero of Before I Fall) friends and I was intrigued by his background, especially when he gave Beth shit for the way she turned her back on Noah. It made me want to read his book even more. He showed great potential as lead and I’m excited to see his story play out.
I don’t know why I couldn’t find something funny to say. Something to break up the tension and make her laugh. I used to be good at making people laugh. My buddy Mike used to tell me I could make everyone laugh in the middle of a roadside bomb.
I’m fiddling with my phone when Abby steps out of the Baywater. I should have left. Should have gone home and slept everything off. Got up and done it all again tomorrow.
Except that when I’m around her, I feel…alive.
And as she walks toward me, I feel it again. That slow draw back to the light.
I like watching her walk. It’s a stupid thing to enjoy, but there is a gentle sway of her hips, a confidence in her steps that is at once feminine and strong. I wonder if she realizes how stunningly beautiful she is. She’s not some soft-spoken little mouse, asking for permission to be who she is. There’s something about how she walks with her head high, her chin lifted. I love the way the light from the streetlamp bathes her skin in a dusky glow. I can’t explain it but I’m drawn to her. Have been from the moment I saw her.
Maybe it was my time in the Army, but I find a woman with confidence sexy as hell, even when I’m wishing that I was crawling back into a bottle instead of losing the faint buzz I’d managed earlier. All these little girls walking around campus in damn near nothing couldn’t hold a candle to Abby with her quick smile and sharp mind.
I wonder what she’d say if I told her that. She’d probably knee me in the balls. And despite them being completely useless, I’m rather partial to them remaining where they are.
She approaches slowly. Almost like she’s trying to figure out what she’s doing. A tiny silver hoop earring catches the light. I’m not sure why I notice it but I do. It curves around the edge of her earlobe and I’m suddenly tempted to nibble on it.
Yeah, that’s called sexual assault, last time I checked. At least it was according to every mandatory sexual assault prevention class I ever attended. There’s something wrong with the world when we need a class to teach soldiers how not to rape each other.
And how is that for a buzz killing train of thought?
She slows as she approaches. Hesitant now.
“I have to admit, I’m kind of surprised.” Her voice is husky and dark. She looks tired and beautiful.
“That you’re here.”
“I…” I rub the back of my neck. “I can’t really think of anything cool or insightful to say that isn’t going to make me look like a stalker.”
That’s mostly true. I don’t know why I’m here. Why I’m drawn to her like I am.
I should be honest with her. I should tell her that I’m damaged goods. That I’m unfixable and unfuckable. Maybe I’ll see if she wants to cuddle and offer to draw her a puppy or something.
The reality of my world squeezes my throat and makes it difficult to breathe.
“Hey?” There’s caution in her voice now. A wariness that I never expected from her. She is too strong, too confident. The hesitation in her voice is at odds with everything I like about her.
I swallow and find my courage. Because I’ve come all the way here and I’m not going to surrender to the past and slink away like a fucking coward.
“So I just…I guess I just wanted to see if you wanted someone to walk home with you.” I didn’t plan on asking her that. I didn’t actually plan on showing up at all.
But anything is better than letting the walls of my apartment close in on me in the long hours between midnight and dawn.
She tips her head and studies me, her eyes curious. Her lips are soft and curved, and I have a stupid desire to touch her there, to feel if they’re as soft as they look. Maybe I’ll make easy conversation by asking her what she uses on them. Because I’m trying to get in touch with my inner-metrosexual.
“You came all the way here to ask me if I wanted to walk home with you?”
I lift both eyebrows. That wasn’t the response I was looking for, but I suppose it’s better than go fuck yourself. “Um, yes?” She’s laughing at me. I’m almost certain she’s laughing at me. “Why is that so hard to believe?”
“You’re a healthy, red blooded American male in an eligible dating market, and instead of being out looking for the future Mrs. Douglas, you’re here to see if I want to walk home? Like there’s no ulterior motive of trying to get me into bed?”
“Well, stalking is always a course of action for the try-to-get-you-into-bed thing.” I honestly can’t believe I just said that, but she laughs so maybe it wasn’t a disaster. “But it’s generally frowned upon, so hopefully I won’t have to resort to that.”
Her eyes sparkle a little and her lips are quirked at the edges. “That’s really not funny.”
“Not even a little bit?”
She cocks her head at me, and yes, that’s a cautious smile on her full, dark lips. “Have you ever been stalked?”
“Yeah, actually I was once. This girl gave me her number, and like the dumb horny jackass that I was, I called her. Little did I know that she had a history of, ah, being a little clingy.”
That’s putting it nicely.
“I found her in my room, stark naked, one morning after I’d gone for a run. The guys on the hall were less than impressed when she ran down the hallway screaming that she couldn’t live without me.”
Abby’s smiling now, the last trace of uneasiness drifting away. “You’re making that up.”
“Do I look like I’m making that up?”
“Mighty high opinion of yourself if you expect me to believe you have skinny little white girls throwing their naked bodies at you and you’re upset by it,” she says dryly.
“What can I say? I’m a great catch.”
She shakes her head but she’s smiling. “Did you really come here to walk me home?” Her words are quiet, sliding through the darkness to caress my skin with a promise of pleasures that I can no longer feel.
“Maybe I just wanted your number and was too afraid to ask for it outright.”
She tips her chin in that way she does. The way that makes me think she sees through all of my bullshit and the lies that I’ve been hiding behind since I started trying to pretend to be a normal college student.
She surprises me and takes a single step into my space and cups my cheek. Her palm is warm and smooth against my jaw, her fingertips brush against my skin. “You’re not like everyone else around here, are you?” she whispers.
“I like to think I blend in.”
“You most assuredly do not blend in.” Heavy words, laced with potential. I capture her hand beneath mine, holding her there. She’s the softest thing I’ve touched in…I can’t remember.
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” I can barely breathe.
She’s standing a little too close. I want to reach out and pull her against me and feel her softness surround me.
In a way I haven’t wanted in a very long time.
I want the normalcy of this moment, the normalcy of life untouched by war and violence and hate and regrets.
I should let her go. Walk away and pretend that this was a mistake.
But the soft warmth of her skin draws me closer. I’m like a man coming in from the cold, seeing the warmth of a glowing fire.
A better man would walk away.
But I am not a better man.
Oh man, that was a great excerpt. I’m all antsy to get my hands on this book and get to know all of Josh’s secrets, find out more about Abby and even see Noah and Beth again. I’m super stoked to dig into this book that I probably look like this: