A Bleeding Stars Stand-Alone Novel
Coming May 22nd
She sits quietly as I eat, and shakes her head when I offer her a sandwich section. Because I’m hungry, and because I don’t like the idea of her having to wait for me to eat, I wolf down my food. The brownie follows with a few, quick bites.
Wiping my hands on a napkin, I set the plate and empty can on a side table, and then let out a contented sigh. “Thanks. I needed that.”
Her smile is small and quick. “I should have fed you as soon as you got here.”
“I’m good now.”
Chess braces her hands on the seat and leans forward to watch her feet as we slowly rock the swing. Silence descends, thick and awkward, and for the first time in her presence, I’m at a loss for words.
I don’t know this girl. Not really, and yet I’ve inserted myself into her life with a determination I usually reserve for winning games. Except I have no endgame here. I told her I want to be friends. But how does that work for us?
Our friends and lives couldn’t be any more different. Parties for me are self-congratulatory events, filled with people whose one focus seems to be bolstering my ego, followed by me searching for a quick hookup. And my friends are all part of football in some way. We talk football or sports. It’s a narrow focus life, but it’s my comfort zone. That chafes too, knowing I live a life that seems wild and free to outsiders but is actually small and structured on the inside.
The silence has stretched too long. I should go. But I don’t move. If I go, I know it will be the end of whatever this is. Embarrassment will have me avoiding seeking her out again. Likely, she’ll do the same. And that will be that.
The knowledge sits like a stone on my chest.
“I’m sorry about my friends,” Chess says. “They can be uncomfortably brazen.”
“So can mine.” I shrug. “Your friends are…fun.”
Her lips pull tight. “They can be. But they were definitely giving me—and by extension—you shit tonight.” She bites her bottom lip. “I don’t think they know what to make of you.”
“So I wasn’t imagining things.”
The novel sensation of being a fish tossed into the wrong pond grows. I’ve taken away Chess’s fun by coming here, and I’m sorry for it.
“I shouldn’t have asked you to come here,” Chess says in a low voice.
She’s only echoing my thoughts but the stone sitting on my chest pushes harder against my ribs.
Chess makes a small sound, as if she’s trying to laugh but can’t. “Parties suck when you arrive halfway through and don’t know anyone.”
“I know you,” I point out quietly.
She turns and the porch light illuminates her face. Green eyes met mine and hold, as a slow, true smile curls over her cherry lips. Something inside of me shifts and slides. I want to kiss Chester Copper. Haul her onto my lap and make out with her like we’re teenagers hiding out at our parents’ party. But that’s not what she invited me here for.
“I wanted to see you,” she confesses in that husky morning voice that goes straight to my cock. She turns away and stares out into the darkness. “It’s weird, you know? But hanging out with you was so unexpected it kind of felt like I imagined the whole thing.”
I know exactly what she means. My hand settles next to hers, close enough that our pinkies touch. That small point of contact sparks along my skin, makes me want to move closer. I hold steady because I don’t trust myself not to act. “I wanted to see you too,” I tell her. “It’s been a long fucking day.”
I hadn’t planned to admit that, but it feels good to tell her.
Chess eases back against the seat and then curls her fingers over mine with a light squeeze. The unexpected touch holds all my attention. It’s nothing more than a simple offer of comfort, and here I am twitching in my seat as if she’d cupped my dick instead. I’m in so much trouble here because this woman is getting to me in ways I don’t know how to navigate. But I don’t pull away. Not one fucking chance of that.
Chess speaks, pulling me attention back to our conversation. “So tell me about it.”
I can’t remember the last time anyone asked me to tell them about my day. Likely, no one ever has.
So I do. And with every word that leaves my mouth, a little bit more of my stress eases. No, I don’t yet truly know Chess. And yes, our lives are different. But there’s no way I’m ending this. Because when it’s just her and me, everything else falls away. I’m not going to let myself forget that again.
Kristen Callihan is an author because there is nothing else she’d rather be. She is a three-time RITA nominee and winner of two RT Reviewer’s Choice awards. Her novels have garnered starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and the Library Journal, as well as being awarded top picks by many reviewers. Her debut book FIRELIGHT received RT Magazine’s Seal of Excellence, was named a best book of the year by Library Journal , best book of Spring 2012 by Publisher’s Weekly, and was named the best romance book of 2012 by ALA RUSA. When she is not writing, she is reading.
I sighed audibly. Are we even moving? It was seriously the slowest elevator I’d ever taken. Frustrated, and maybe a bit anxious to get the interview over with, I took another shot at the elevator panel. Again, pressing the button repeatedly, I groaned, “Come on. I’m already freakin’ late.”
I breathed a sigh of relief when the car seemed to finally pick up speed. But then, it jolted to an abrupt stop, and the elevator went pitch black.
“Well now you’ve gone and broken the damn thing,” a deep voice said from behind me. Startled, I jumped and bobbled my cell phone in the dark, which resulted in it falling. From the sound of it smashing against the floor, I knew it had broken.
“Shit! Look what you made me do.” I bent over and patted the floor, but I couldn’t find it. “Can you at least give me some light so I can find my phone?”
“It would be my pleasure.”
“Thank you,” I huffed.
“If I had a cell phone on me.”
“Are you kidding? You don’t have a cell phone on you? Who walks around without their cell phone?”
“Maybe you should try it. If you weren’t so obsessed with yours, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.”
I stood, and my hands went to my hips. “How so?”
“Well, you were so busy typing away on your phone, you didn’t even notice another passenger was in the car with you.”
“Had you seen me, you wouldn’t have jumped hearing my voice and broken your phone. Then we would have had light, and you would be able to see that elevator panel well enough to push that button another twenty or thirty times. I’m sure that would’ve helped.”
I felt the man moving around behind me.
“What are you doing?”
When he answered, his voice came from a different place. It was to my left and beneath me. “I’m on the floor looking for your cell phone.”
It really was pitch dark. I couldn’t see a thing, but I felt the air move, and I knew he must have stood back up.
“Put your hand out.”
“You’re going to put my phone in it, right?”
“No, I’ve taken down my pants and I’m going to stick my dick in it. Christ, you’re really a bitch, aren’t you?”
Thinking he couldn’t see me, I smiled at his sarcasm and put out my hand. “Just give me my phone.”
Wow. My little ball player was quite the fox.
I’d only seen her from the back before the lights went out. Now, I was staring into her beautiful, big brown eyes, feeling like this elevator mishap wasn’t such a bad thing after all.
She cleared her throat. “The lights came back, but we’re still stuck.”
I clicked on some of the buttons. “Seems that way. But this is a step in the right direction. I bet this thing will be moving in no time.”
And by this thing moving, I do not mean my dick, although I could have sworn I felt it twitch when she just licked her beautiful full lips.
Do that again.
She is beautiful.
My eyes travelled down the length of her body then back up again, loving how the small buttons on her conservative blouse formed a path up to her delicate neck. I wouldn’t have minded sucking on that skin.
Maybe I could entice her to play hooky with me.
“Where are you headed once we get out of here?” I asked.
“The thirty-fourth floor,” she said.
What is she doing going up to my floor?
I know she doesn’t work for me. I would have remembered that face, those eyes.
“What kind of business you have going on up there?”
“I actually have the pleasure of interviewing Mister Moneybags himself.”
My stomach sank.
This didn’t bode well for me.
I swallowed then cocked my head to the side and played dumb. “Who?”
“The elusive Dexter Truitt. He’s the CEO of Montague Enterprises. They occupy the entire top floor.”
Trying to seem like I was not seriously about to lose my shit, I asked, “Why do you call him Mister Moneybags?”
“I just picture him to be this crabby, money-hungry asshole, I guess. Sounds like a fitting name. Of course, I don’t actually know him.”
“Why do you think that way about him, then?”
“I have my reasons.”
Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times Bestselling author. With more than a million books sold, her titles have appeared in over fifty Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twelve languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.
Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. She’s a fifteen-time New York Times bestseller of twelve novels.
Having grown up in Boston with five older brothers, she spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor, before switching to a more family-friendly career. She is the proud mother of a beautiful 12-year-old girl with autism and a 10-year-old boy. Penelope and her family reside in Rhode Island.
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