Thursday, November 8, 2012

TIDAL First 2 Chapters and a BIG THANKS (Giveaway)!

Last night, I found out Devoured made the USA Today bestseller list. You guys did that and you even managed to make me ugly cry. Though I've said this before, I love you all. Thank you for buying my book, thank you for pimping my writing, and thank you for welcoming me to the romance community. I'd planned to post the first two chapters of TIDAL (which releases in one month--on December 7th) this weekend, but I wanted to give something back. And psssst, there's totally a big giveaway at the end of the chapters because you guys rock my world! <3


PROLOGUE


August 13
My name is Willow Avery.
Yes, that Willow Avery—that actress. The one who went off the deep end three years ago. The one plastered all over the tabloids this morning. They don't give a shit if there's more to me than meets the eye, that there's so much more to my fall from grace, even if nobody—other than my parents and agent and manager—knows what that is. Well, at least nobody knew until a few hours ago.
And the thing is I’ve always cared what everyone thought of me, even when it seemed like I didn’t. No matter how hard it hurt—no matter what I gave up—there was a part of me that wanted approval. That still desperately craves it. It’s just that now, I’m not sure if I mind that everyone knows the truth about me. Now, there's this guy and he's not waiting for me to screw up. He doesn’t care that I have screwed up.
But I guess all good movies stories begin with that guy . . .


CHAPTER ONE

June 15

Our driver slammed on the brakes, squealing the SUV to a halt only a few inches from an orange Metro bus. Behind our Mercedes, someone laid down on his horn, hard, blaring it for what seemed like several minutes. I welcomed the sound because it was something other than the painful silence that had been my life for the last six months. Kevin, my agent, wasn’t so appreciative. He flipped his finger up at the rear window, even though the other guy couldn’t possibly see through the dark tint.
“Fucking idiot should get a ticket. Too stupid to see traffic is deadlocked,” Kevin muttered. Then, rolling his brown eyes, he sighed. “It never changes, does it?”
I leaned my head against the leather headrest, lolling it to the side so that the air conditioner blasted my face, and stared out the window. Next to us, a couple waited in traffic on a candy-apple red Ducati motorcycle. Both of the woman’s arms were tightly wrapped around the man’s waist, and she rubbed her fingertips up and down the crotch of his jeans. He was wearing a huge, shit-eating grin. If it weren’t for the cop in front of them, they’d probably be completely naked.
“Nope,” I sighed. “Never changes. It’s insane.”
And that insanity was what I loved about Hollywood. Somehow, during my 180 day stint at Serenity Hills, I’d forgotten just how hectic this place was, how it was all abuzz, even at ten in the morning. This past round of rehab was just the opposite. Serenity Hills was all peace, all therapy, and all “confront your personal demons to save yourself”—all the time.
I had hated it, but as of an hour ago, my six months were up. And freedom had never felt so good. This time, I wouldn’t let it go so easily. This time, I’d be smart enough to limit myself. Dull my senses just enough to forget, but not to the point of obliterating myself.
I quickly shook that thought out of my head, ashamed of myself. No, this time—this time I would be different.
“I am in control of myself,” I mouthed before I averted my gaze from the PDA-happy couple, and gave Kevin a sweet smile. I combed my fingers through strands of my long, chocolate-colored hair. “You’re taking me to my hotel?” I asked. I was dying to submerge myself back into the chaos and noise. For anything but silence. That moment wouldn’t come until I shook free of Kevin and the driver he’d hired, who he said doubled as a temporary bodyguard since my own had quit last year.
Kevin’s thin lips parted in surprise, and he stared at me like I was an idiot. My hands froze, tangled in a wavy kink of hair and my eyebrows and forehead knotted up into a frown. I sucked in my cheeks, waiting for his reply. Kevin closed his mouth and bit on the corner of his lower lip, like he was trying to figure out what to say. I never liked those looks because it always meant bad news for me. Like he was about to reveal the reason my parents hadn’t picked me up was because they were waiting for me in court.
Apparently, getting custody of your adult child is the new thing.
Yanking the collar of his bright yellow polo shirt away from his flushed neck, Kevin finally replied, “You’ve got a lunch meeting with James Dickson in forty-five minutes. Your dad said your mom wrote you . . .”
My parents had written me about lawsuits and judgments and more lawsuits, but not once had they mentioned anything about lunch with a director, on the morning I left rehab. The move was so typical of them that I wasn’t the least bit surprised, just angry. And hurt.
“Cancel it,” I said, pointing at Kevin’s iPhone; it was sitting between us in the leather cup holder.
He shook his head, dipping it a little so that I could see the thinning patch in the crown of his dark hair. When he first started managing me, ten years ago, he’d had a full head of curly hair, but now he kept it short-cropped.
“Not smart,” he said.
“I just got out.”
“People have gone back to work way sooner, Willow.”
“I went back to work like this last time and look what happened,” I pointed out. It had been a sitcom that was panned by critics and charred to a crisp by everyone else. There was nothing like reading about how hollow your acting was, how far you’d fallen. Green eyes as flat and lifeless as a creepy doll, or worse, like a pageant contestant, one of the trashy gossip websites had written. And then I’d relapsed.
The judge who sentenced me in December had flat-out said just about the same, but directly to my face.
“My mom wrote that you’d handle booking me a hotel, until I can find a new place to rent,” I added.
Sliding across the leather seat to come closer to me, Kevin said in a low voice, “You’re almost broke. And if you want to keep paying for your fancy hotels, you’ll meet with Dickson.” When I began to give him a pissy reply, he flicked his gaze up at the driver, whose eyes were glued to the deluge of traffic ahead, and whispered, “You’re on everyone’s shit list. You stand Dickson up and you can kiss any acting for this year goodbye, unless you’re into taking off your clothes and DP.”
“That’s disgusting,” I whispered, swinging away from Kevin. I gripped the edge of the leather seat and focused my attention on the hem of the fitted color block dress he’d brought me. I’d gained ten pounds while at Serenity Hills and was on the verge of looking like a sausage stuffed inside of a pink, white and brown wrapper, but I liked the summery outfit. Still, I should have realized when the rehab counselor brought me a Neiman Marcus bag, full of clothes to wear home with the price tags still dangling from them, that something was going down.
Like a meeting with a director.
But as much as I hated to admit it, Kevin was right. Dickson or sex was about it for me as far as acting went at the moment. I didn’t care whether or not I ever received a role again, but broke is broke. Acting was quick, easy money. And I already knew my parents weren’t about to give me any of the money they’d made off me over the years, or any of the money I was set to receive when I turned twenty-one—in thirteen months.
I pulled in a deep breath. “Do you know what the part is for?” I couldn’t imagine it being something big. Nobody in their right mind would offer me a lead. Late last year, right before I checked in to Serenity Hills, I had bailed on a project that was based on some huge bestselling fantasy book.
I’d never read it, but there was a copy being passed around rehab. Some of the girls had ignored me for days when they found out I was the reason filming was delayed.
Kevin scratched his chin, cocking his head to the side. “Your dad told me they sent you the script.”
Of course Dad did. I twisted my head back to the window, glanced down at the PDA junkies, and resumed raking my fingers through my hair—this time so forcefully it burned my scalp.
“Well, he didn’t,” I said.
“With that attitude, it’s no wonder you’re on so many shit lists.”
Pressing my forehead hard against the cold glass, I considered my agent’s words. My attitude had nothing to do with my lack of parts over the last years, but I was on the verge of being blacklisted. “Fine, I’ll go.”
Kevin was already sighing in relief before I finished getting the first syllable out.
***
We arrived at Junction, one of my favorite restaurants, ten minutes late. The hostess escorted Kevin and me to a square booth adjacent to a towering wine rack. Dickson was already there, sitting next to a guy with tousled blonde hair, whose head was down as he focused on the menu.
His new assistant, maybe?
No, that couldn’t be it. James Dickson was always pretty adamant about his staff dressing professionally for business meetings, especially his assistants. The guy beside him wore a slightly faded, lime green Hollister t-shirt. Gorgeous would be the appropriate word for him. I stared at the top of his head, wishing he’d stare up so I could get a good look at him, but he didn’t budge.
Junction’s menu couldn’t be that interesting.
Dickson stood, grinning broadly, and he placed his hands on either side of my shoulders, giving them a little squeeze. “Willow, it’s so good to see you again,” he said earnestly as the hostess sat our menus down at the table. She murmured that our server would be with us shortly before walking away.
“You too,” I told James, returning his smile. “Really, it is.”
Out the corner of my eye I saw a flicker of light—a camera phone. I didn’t even blink. The flashing was the one thing I hadn’t missed while I was holed up in rehab, but it was something that never changed. That picture would show up on gossip sites before I was finished eating lunch.
What Not to Wear
Willow Avery: The Post Rehab Files
Ten Pounds and Counting as She Dines at Junction
The world would feed off my downfall, savoring every morsel, and there wasn’t a thing I could do to stop it.
Still, I shuddered inwardly as I pulled away from Dickson’s grasp to slide into the booth. Kevin came in right behind me, grinning like the cat that ate the canary.
“You haven’t changed a bit,” Dickson said, sitting down across from me. I allowed his words to register and fought to keep from flinching, to keep the look of defeat out of my green eyes. I have changed. In more ways than just the tiny frown lines between my eyes and the thin, silvery scars on the inner elbow of my left arm (from an escape, a drug, I’d only tried a couple times, over a year before).
The last time I worked with Dickson was five years ago, when I was nearly fifteen. I’d played the lead in a modern day Sleeping Beauty, minus the creepy magical fairies. Last time I worked with Dickson, I had been box office gold and the only thing I’d wanted to do was act.
But now . . .
“Except I’m not popping gum,” I said in a high-pitched voice, and Dickson chuckled. I compelled myself to laugh along with him. The winter we shot Sleepless, he’d stayed on my ass about chewing gum during scenes. The guy sitting next to Dickson released an exasperated sound, and my attention wavered back toward him. He was still focused intently on his menu.
As if he finally remembered that we weren’t alone, Dickson’s eyes widened and he said, “Ah, I’ve been rude. Kevin, you’ve already met Cooper, right?”
Kevin nodded his balding head. “Last week, at the meeting with Tiff and Jason,” he said, shooting me an apologetic look.
My parents and my agent had met with Dickson already. Which meant Kevin lied to me in the Mercedes when I asked him about the lunch date. I pinched the inside of his thigh under the table. He winced, but never dropped the sleazy smile.
“Willow, meet Cooper,” Dickson said, motioning to the blonde. “Cooper—”
“Everyone knows who Willow Avery is,” Cooper said, in a quiet voice that had a blatantly sardonic undertone. Holy hell, he had an accent. A deliciously sexy one that I suddenly wanted to hear more of, so I could properly place it. “I’m Coop Robinson.”
Australian. Definitely Australian.
Extending his large hand across the table, he finally looked up from the menu to take me in. Even though he was mocking me seconds before, I was mesmerized by his eyes. Fringed in sooty, dark lashes, they were blue. Electric.
I took his hand, sucking in a tiny breath of air through my nose as his fingertips closed around mine, as our flesh intertwined together. Both our eyes dropped to our hands. When my lips parted to speak, he quickly jerked away from me. Tilting his head to one side, Cooper gave me a derisive flash of straight white teeth.
“I’m Willow Avery,” I said, stupidly.
“Yeah, I already knew that. Good to know you.”
“Cooper is a surf coach,” Dickson said, in a voice that made me feel like a second grader.
Cocking an eyebrow in an effort to look nonchalant, I asked, “A surf coach?” I locked my hands between my knees in hopes that the pressure would erase the memory of his touch from my skin. It didn’t, and I felt Cooper’s eyes burning into the side of my face.  It’s only because I’ve been in rehab, I reasoned with myself. That’s the reason why I’m reacting this way toward him.
“And a damn good surf coach,” Dickson answered.
 “One of the best,” my agent piped in.
I shifted a strand of my long hair behind my ear, pausing to rub my fingers back and forth across my earlobe. “And I’m guessing him being here has something to do with a part?”
Dickson grinned. “You always were one to cut to the chase, but yes. We’re in pre-production and set to begin filming at the end of the month in Hawaii.”
“So it’s a surfing movie?” I asked.
“We prefer calling it a beach drama.”
“And I’d be what—the supporting actress who surfs?” I questioned. Kevin made an awkward, grunting noise beside me because I was probably getting into his territory, but I gave him a look. Dickson missed the exchange, but Surfer Boy caught it, quirking his eyebrows and lips at the same time.
“Lead, my dear,” Dickson said. His answer knocked the breath out of my lungs. I didn’t get the opportunity to immediately reply because our server arrived to take our order. Numbly, I asked for a chopped salad and water, and waited impatiently for everyone else to order. The only person I found myself listening to was Cooper, who wanted a Coke and a burger.
My stomach growled, and I wished I’d asked for the same.
 “And we would start filming at the end of this month?” I asked, mentally doing the math in my head. I was looking at twelve, maybe thirteen days. That would give me time to see my friends and immerse myself into my old life before I was needed in Hawaii. If I was lucky, Kevin would negotiate enough money in advance, for me to spend those days happy.
And if the dreams became bad enough—like they always did—it might be enough money for me to spend those days buzzed. I immediately shoved the thought away.
“Well, yes, but you’d be going to Hawaii tomorrow evening,” Dickson said.
My mouth dropped open. I looked from him to my agent, from Kevin to the surfer. “I have . . . other obligations,” I muttered, placing an emphasis on the last couple words. Obligations meaning the community service I was supposed to start immediately, now that I was out of Serenity Hills. Fifty hours, and it would take me at least four or five days working at breakneck speed.
Kevin shook his head. “Already taken care of. Your parents’ attorney filed a motion to transfer your community service to O’ahu.”
Angrily, I curled my fingers around the napkin in my lap. My mom and dad had had enough time to file motions and attend meetings, but they had sent my agent to pick me up this morning. Unbelievable.
“Looks like you have it all figured out,” I said.
Cooper snorted. “Right down to you scrubbing graffiti off park benches, when you’re not with me,” he said under his breath. For some reason, the taunt sounded so much harsher coming from him, in his soft-spoken accent. I flipped my eyes across the table at him, doing my best to maintain a clenched smile. His face was red from holding back laughter.
And this was who was going to train me for my role? He could barely get through lunch without laughing at me.
“Back. Off,” I snapped. Then, to Dickson, I demanded. “Is he going to do this while he’s training me?”
“Of course not, he’s only being facetious,” Dickson said consolingly. Then his voice turned serious. “You’re really the only one for the part.”
His words were what every actress wanted to hear, even reluctant ones who didn’t want to return to work. James Dickson was a fair man; making Sleepless with him had been a breeze. And most importantly, I was broke. Kevin was right—if I wanted to be able to dull away those memories I tried so hard to get rid of, I needed this part.
“You two will iron out the details?” I asked. The question was aimed towards Dickson and Kevin, but for some reason, my eyes were locked on Surfer Boy. His head was cocked just slightly, golden strands of hair falling just above his eyebrows. I didn’t like the way he was staring at me. It was unsettling and intense and it made me feel exposed.
And this will be my coach.
“Already working on it,” Dickson assured me.
Dragging my gaze from Cooper, I faced my new director. I tried to think of everything I would gain from doing this job, and not the beautiful guy I was already uncertain of working with. Cooper was still there, though, a golden, bronze and startling blue haze in my peripherals.
 “I’ll do it,” I said, my voice shaky. Then, Dickson and I clasped hands.
But later that afternoon, once lunch was over and Kevin dropped me off at a hotel for the evening, I searched for Dickson’s newest movie. It took two clicks to discover that a starlet—of the mouse ear variety—had dropped out of the lead role recently, due to a scheduling conflict. Staring at the screen until her picture and the adjacent picture of Dickson became a blur, I dialed Jessica, one of my best friends. I caught her voicemail.
“Jess, it’s me. I’m out, so call me back,” I said. Then I set about contacting everyone else I knew, with no luck, including my parents. Their shared voicemail picked up and my mother’s newscaster voice answered.
“This is Tiffany and Jason Avery. We’re vacationing in Paris, but we’ll get back to you . . .”
Frustrated, I punched the button to end the call and tossed the phone on top of the nightstand next to the king-sized bed. Mom and Dad would be on vacation. I flipped on the TV and settled for reruns of a reality show on MTV, waiting for one of my friends to call me back.
But when I drifted off to sleep a few minutes after midnight, curled into a tight coil of flesh and bone and thinking of blue eyes and an endless blue sea, my phone hadn’t so much as vibrated once.
“It’s better this way,” I said, as I hugged myself. If my friends had called me back, I would have gone out—I would have gotten high. I couldn’t let myself do that anymore. I needed a different escape.
But saying those words, and thinking those thoughts, did nothing to stop the tight pain in my chest.
I had dreams—no, nightmares—about soft, blue blankets.
And when I woke up several times throughout the night, all I found myself wanting was more blue—Roxies—to numb all of that away. Each time I cried myself back to sleep, hating my weaknesses.
 

CHAPTER TWO


A pounding noise outside my hotel room door jarred me awake, pulling me from my fitful sleep the next morning. For a moment, I remained still, with my eyes squinted at the sunlight pouring through the window across the bed. There was no window in my room at Serenity Hills, which I’d shared with another girl—a rocker’s kid who was spending a year in rehab. For six months I’d missed waking up to the light because it burned the edges away from the darkness, at least for a little while.
The door shook again and this time a muffled voice called out my name on the other side. Groaning, I rolled over, stumbled out of bed, and tracked across the paisley print carpet. As I wiggled my arms and legs to shake the stiffness from them, I leaned forward to glance out the peephole.
Kevin stood in the hallway, with his hands in his pocket, glaring and tapping his foot impatiently. I knew better than anyone that my agent spent more time dealing with me than most of his other clients, but it still made my chest clench each time I realized I was that client. The nuisance who didn’t want to cooperate, despite everything he’d done for me.
Of course, not all of Kevin’s suggestions and efforts had had the effect he wanted them to.
Sucking in a long breath to force down the painful burn in my chest to the pit of my stomach, I flung the door open. Kevin walked right past me, carrying a folder under his arm and lugging a rolling luggage bag behind him. I shut the door and counted to ten to calm myself, so I wouldn’t say anything I’d regret. When it came to Kevin and my parents, I was infamous for doing that. At last, I turned around to face him.
“Good morning to you, too,” I said. I hugged my chest and relaxed my body against the wall as I waited for him to respond.
Dropping the bag on the center of the bed, Kevin started, “I’m guessing you—” When he glanced up at me, taking me in, he stopped mid-sentence. “Is everything alright, Willow?”
So he wouldn’t see how much his surprise stung me, I rolled my eyes dramatically and shoved myself off the wall with the back of my foot. “I don’t always have to get high.” But I’d wanted to, I silently added, feeling my body flush with humiliation. And nobody called me back. I slid onto the edge of the bed, curling my toes into the carpet.
“Sober looks good on you,” he said, shaking his head approvingly.
I chose to ignore what he said. Instead, I flicked the bag’s silver zippers with the tip of my thumb. They dangled back and forth, making a tinkling noise as they knocked against each other. “What’s this for?”
“Tiff wanted you to have some of your clothes to carry along with you. She’s arranged for everything else you’ll need, to be sent ahead to your hotel in O’ahu.”
“Fun. My mom can call you, but can’t even leave me a voicemail saying she’s glad I’m out of rehab?” My voice broke on the last few words.
“Their phone hasn’t been getting them half their calls.”
It was a horrible excuse, especially for someone like Kevin who could come up with a smooth lie without so much as twitching, but I reluctantly brushed it off. He’d only try to maintain the lie, and I’d just get irritated. Our cycle of butting heads would begin way too soon.
“What about—” I began.
“They gave you a fifteen thousand dollar advance on the two-fifty you’ll be paid when filming is complete,” he said, walking over to the armchair and sitting down. “After I took out my percentage that left you—”
“Just over 12 grand,” I said. I’d been doing this for so long that the fifteen percent math was permanently ingrained in my mind. “And it’s in my account already?”
Kevin shook his head. “No, but by the end of the week.”
I felt my heart sing a little, felt my body come alive. Everything would be better soon, as soon as I was in Hawaii. With Surfer Boy. Gorgeous and completely hostile Surfer Boy. I swallowed hard, hoping that the brief flicker of lust I’d felt yesterday when we touched was nothing, hoping he wouldn’t be an obstacle.
“I see the wheels in your pretty little head turning. Don’t do anything stupid to ruin yourself,” Kevin said, whipping me out of my thoughts. There was a pitying edge to his voice that matched the look in his eyes. He’d been looking at me like that for years now, but today when I was so clear-headed, so raw, it rubbed me the wrong way. Today, it was impossible not to vividly imagine the warning Kevin had given me three years ago.
“You’re not responsible enough for this, Willow. Any other choice and you will ruin yourself.”
And somehow, even after I’d taken his advice, I’d done just that anyway.
“Pretty when she drowns and ruined when she resurfaces,” I whispered under my breath. Kevin cocked an eyebrow, but I shook my head. “What time does my flight leave?”
He reached out the folder he was holding. When I didn’t immediately get up to take it, he jiggled the manila folder a few times. Groaning, I walked over to him and took it, sifting through the contents as I returned to my spot on the bed. There was information about my community service in Hawaii, the probation officer I’d need to report to, and the address of a personal trainer. Even at my smallest—late last year when I wasn’t eating because I’d always forgotten to—I was never Hollywood’s definition of “thin.” I was tall and C-cupped and wide-hipped.
“Got to make sure I get rid of the ass fat. Let me guess—it’s going to be a part of my final contract?” I asked sarcastically and Kevin made a strangled sound in the back of his throat. “No need to lie to me about this, too. We’ve been doing this way too long.”
Thankfully, Kevin opted to keep his mouth closed. I flipped the personal trainer’s information over, reaching the last document in the folder.  I studied my ticket carefully, in silence. In less than three hours, I would take off from LAX, and I was nowhere near ready. As if on cue, my stomach rumbled.
Kevin waved his hand to the suitcase. “I’ll settle your bill while you get dressed?”
“Thanks,” I murmured, watching him as he quietly left the room.
I showered and dressed quickly, in a pair of tiny denim shorts that constricted my thighs, a white tank top that was too tight across my breasts, and an oversized flannel shirt. As I yanked the brush, that I found in the front pouch of the bag, through my wet, tangled hair, I forced my feet into a pair of high top black Converse shoes. For a long time, I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, studying my reflection. It was the look I’d always sprung for before rehab, but it didn’t seem so careless anymore.
Suddenly, I felt like I was trying too hard to be myself.
“Suck it up,” I whispered to the girl in the mirror with the wide green eyes and pale, drawn skin. “Everything will be better soon.”
Then, grabbing the bag off the hotel bed, I left the room and went in search of Kevin.
***
When I asked to go to lunch at Junction, Kevin quickly complied. I wasn’t sure if it was because he wanted to keep me happy or if he just wanted to get rid of me as easily as possible. He had driven himself today, in a sleek metallic Audi sports car that I didn’t remember him having before. I couldn’t help feeling a little jealous when he opened the car door for me—I’d lost my license over a year ago and getting it back was nowhere in my near future.
After lunch, which felt rushed and only managed to irritate me because I couldn’t finish my burger, Kevin and I went back to his office so I could sign paperwork. We were halfway through the documents when a giant of a man showed up. As I gazed toward the front of the office, watching him interact with Kevin’s assistant, I already knew he was a bodyguard hired for me. My new babysitter, though my agent soon introduced him as the man who’d keep the rabid fans off.
Which was translation for camera-happy tabloids.
“Tom Miller,” the man said, and I stared up at him and nodded a hello.
Towering over me by several inches, Miller was bearded, as orange as the cast of that skull-grating show about the upper east coast, and probably roided out of his mind, with what Jessica had always called “bear shoulders.”
“Willow,” I said at last, half-expecting Miller to give me Cooper’s smart ass “everybody knows Willow Avery” remark. He didn’t.
After I finished signing the paperwork, Kevin volunteered his assistant to drive Miller and me to the airport. We were quiet the whole ride over to LAX, and once I was alone with him, I couldn’t help but feel intimidated. I should have been as used to strangers being hired to protect me as I was to paparazzo cameras flashing in my face, but it was impossible. It always would be.
Miller and I sat side by side in the terminal, both of our bodies tense. I looked at an old fashion magazine someone had left in the airport, trying my best to be inconspicuous, but when Miller’s phone rang and he answered, talked, and hung up in thirty seconds flat, I glanced up at him.
“My mom. Had to tell her the password to my bank,” Miller said, shrugging sheepishly. He gave me a relaxed smiled, showing off a tiny gap in his top teeth, and I felt a weight lift from my chest. He wouldn’t hover once we reached Hawaii, so long as he was receiving a steady paycheck.
One down, I thought. An image of Cooper flashed in my mind. One to go. God, one mocking, confident, asshole-ish—
“Careful, Wills, overthinking is dangerous,” someone said behind me. In that soft voice that sounded like the sexy love child of a British and a Southern accent. I inhaled a sharp gasp of air and every muscle in my body went taut.
Speak of the blue-eyed devil.
My new bodyguard didn’t budge, but I turned sideways in my seat so I could get a better look at Cooper. He stood a few feet away, with a black duffle bag slung over his shoulder, looking confident and relaxed in a black t-shirt that accentuated his long, toned body and frayed jeans. And he was smiling—a beautiful, heart-stopping, panty-dropping smile. I was torn between popping him in the mouth and kissing him until our lips were numb so I could get this damn attraction thing out of the way.
One taste before I decided whether or not I needed to dull my reality.
I dug my fingers into the wrinkled hem of my flannel shirt, wishing I could pinch myself instead. No, no, no—I didn’t need to dull my reality. I just needed to get my work done and get on with my life. I could have the chaos I craved without getting fucked up.
Cooper continued to stare at me expectantly and I managed a sarcastic smile. “You could try not to be a dick,” I said sweetly. His full lips quirked up even more, and I felt something sharp twist in the center of my chest, between my ribcage. God, why were all the good-looking ones complete assholes?
“Why? I think I like you when you’re all flustered,” Cooper replied, winking. “You’re less inhuman much more . . .” His voice drifted off, as if he couldn’t quite find the right word to describe me.
Right now, I needed him to say it. Wanted to know what he really thought of me. “I’m much more what?
He cocked his head to one side, sizing me up. Beside me, Miller snorted, but said nothing. At last, Cooper said, “Beautiful.”
I’d been a performer, a liar who could mask her emotions, for as long as I could remember and yet his words made me flush from head to toe. As he came to sit across from Miller and me, slamming his duffel bag on the tiled airport floor, I gave myself a mental shanking for having yet another knee-jerk reaction to Cooper.
He is an ass. He is your coach. Slow the fuck down, hoebag, before you get in trouble again.
I decided to focus on the negative in what he said. “Glad to know I’m not quite human,” I said in an icy voice.
Cooper’s smile faded into an apologetic look. “Maybe I worded that wrong. You don’t seem so . . . mechanical.”
I released a tiny groan from the back of my throat. Where had Dickson found this guy? Narrowing my green eyes into tight slits, I leaned forward, resting my forearms on my bare thighs. Cooper lifted an eyebrow and blew a stray strand of golden hair from his blue eyes. “Maybe you should just stop using words, period,” I suggested.
He made a strangled sound and raked his hand through his floppy blonde hair. “Ah, Wills . . . . Why don’t we just start over?” he asked, his voice sincere. He bent far over in his seat and reached his hand toward me. “I’m Coop Robinson. I’m a Scorpio. I enjoy gorgeous women, long walks on the beach, and my roommate says I use girly shampoo. Oh, and I generally hate anyone in the film industry because they’re total assholes.”
It was another compliment rolled in with an insult to my profession, but for some reason, the tease in his voice made me smile. I slipped my hand in his.
“Willow Avery. Actress, Cancer, and according to my team, on my last leg before porn.”
The moment the words jumbled from my lips, I realized they were a mistake. I glanced down at a scar on my right knee, but I could feel Miller’s curious stare burning into the side of my face and Cooper’s unreadable one directed at the top of my head. Cooper cleared his throat and I braced myself for a screwed up comment.
I swallowed hard because as much as I tried to tell myself it didn’t matter what people thought of me, it did matter. The choice I made a few years ago was evidence enough of that.
“I’ve seen your movies. The way you are in them,” Cooper said gently. When I lifted my head, he gave me an unashamed look. “Guess you can say I like to study up on my clients.”
“Let me guess—inhuman?” I asked roughly.
He stroked the pad of his thumb across the top of my hand, and I pulled a rush of air through my nose. “No, insanely talented.”
When I saw a flash, I dragged my hand from his reluctantly. Our heads—Cooper’s and Miller’s and mine—all turned toward the camera wielder. I was expecting to see paparazzo, but it was a kid, probably twelve or thirteen, with her parents. I heard the loud squalls of a baby and dropped my eyes to the covered stroller her dad was pushing. For a second, the blood drained from my face, from my body, but I quickly composed myself, forcing my attention back to the girl. She was bouncing on the balls of her feet excitedly and saying something to her dad. He gave me an apologetic look as she dashed forward.
“Oh my god, I loved Sleepless!” she gushed. The sound of her voice intermingled with the squealing of the baby, and I just wanted to cover my ears. When I didn’t immediately respond, the girl withdrew a little. “Wait, you are Willow Avery, right?”
As if on cue, my face moved into a tight smile. “Yes! So stoked to hear you love Sleepless—it was my favorite to make. What’s your name?” My voice sounded sweet and chipper, but inside—inside, I was cringing. I sounded mechanical, just like Cooper had pointed out not even fifteen minutes ago.
“Lizzie,” she said. She held up a wide, thin phone, jiggling it around. “Will you . . .”
A few feet away from me the baby squealed. Again and again.
I answered too quickly, too happily. “I’d love to!” Though I was staring right at Lizzie, I saw Cooper’s mouth turn downward, into a frown. I would ignore him. I would ignore him and the baby and get this over with. Gently, I took the phone from Lizzie and jutted it out at Miller. He took it in his giant hand, and I flicked my eyes up to him pleadingly.
“Can you take a pic of us?” I begged. So they can go away. Please?
Miller gave me a gruff nod, standing up and coming around. He stood beside where Cooper was sitting. When he held the camera in front of him, Lizzie threw her thin arm around my shoulders and grinned wide. “This is so awesome,” she said, casting a beam over to her parents. Through the haze in my head—the one that was still there because of the baby and the conversation I’d had with Cooper only moments before—I wondered how they felt about this. If they were disappointed their daughter idolized someone like me.
“What should we say?” Lizzie asked turning to me, and I just looked at her, dumbfounded.
“How about Sleepless?” Cooper suggested in a tight tone.
“Yes, Sleepless,” I murmured.
 It took Miller a few times to get the picture right—his giant fingers kept exiting out of the camera app or showing up in the photo itself—but finally he snapped a few good pictures. I sat on the edge of my seat as Lizzie talked excitedly about my movies for a few more minutes. Then, finally she left, humming happily, with her mom and dad and the baby right behind her.
I sighed in relief as our flight was called to board. When Cooper stepped past me, avoiding my eyes, he said, “Nice going, Wills.” His voice was hard and unreadable.
I didn’t have the balls or the heart to tell Cooper that being so close to Lizzie’s brother or sister, or any baby for that matter, did me in every time.
That it reminded me of what I’d given up three years before.

(End of chapters)


Now . . . for the GIVEAWAY!

As a second "Thank You" I'm giving away not one but two $50 gift cards to your choice of vendor (in addition to the Kindle giveaway that ends at the end of December). The Rafflecopter widget is below, and you can get extra entries for commenting and tweeting! Thanks so much again, guys, for making my wildest dreams come true. You are amazing!
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46 comments:

  1. Ahh I can't wait!! Nov. 20th can't get here soon enough :) Your an amazing author...I loved Devoured and I know I'm going to LOVE this one!

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  2. Love it..ohhhh the ending to that chapter good one :-). Cant wait to read it. Amaze balls.

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  3. Had a great time this summer with my family at the beach!

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  4. The book sounds great, thanks for the giveaway!

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  5. Hmmm favorite summertime memory. Probably when I was younger. Summer with no school. Freedom and friends!

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  6. Another amazing book from a very talented amazing writer! Can't wait! :)

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  7. My favorite memory was when I was 9 and I lived in Coos Bay, Oregon, during the summer of '90 with my mom and stepdad. We went to the Botanical Gardens. I was able to witness the most enchanted Wedding. The bride was so beautiful in her white flowing gown and tiara which made her look like a princess, and the groom was just as stunning. I thought they were royalty. After I watched them kiss, my mom, stepdad, brother, sister, and I went down to the hidden beach at the Botanical Gardens and swan for hours. It was such a beautiful day.

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  8. My dad passed away 3 years ago after fighting cancer for years. My favorite summer memories are of him cooking he was a grill master. He always invited everyone and cooked for days.

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  9. My favorite summer memories from my childhood are swimming in the pool at my parents with my sister and playing in the shades as night came!!

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  10. My favorite memories of summer was escaping the heat by swimming and competing with our local swim team.

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  11. Summer memories have to include walking the boardwalk in Point Pleasant NJ. The breeze from the ocean, the smell of salt water and the sounds of people laughing. Then a stop at Martell's Tiki Bar for a margarita, life was good.

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  12. wow wow wow... This looks so intriguing! I cannot wait to read the rest! Thank you for capturing my attention once again! <3

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  13. I think my favorite summer memories are the trips that I took with my grandparents as a kid. We use to go out west (to Alberta) and we would go to lots of interesting places like the Edmonton Mall, the Museum of Paleontology, and Lake Louise. There are many reasons besides the attractions that remembering these trips is important to me--they are one of the (many) ways through which the memory of my grandfather, who passed away in 1996, stays alive.

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  14. My MOST favorite summertime memory has to be from the time I was 12 until 18 my parents flew me out to my grandparents in Missouri! They had a pool and we would spend the summer swimming visiting my Aunts & Uncle's!!! We would go to Lake of the Ozark's and spend time with my great-grandparents at their cabin.. Oh I'm teary-eyed now, My grandfather, passed away December 22, 2011- I can't believe it's almost been a year! He was the best! He lived a full life and I'm blessed to have had the time I did with him! Out of his 34 grandchildren I'm was the first and my son was the first great grandchild out of 42.. Okay now I'm crying at work LOL

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  15. My best summers have i been in recent years where as a family (sisters, nephew and nieces,mom/dad) we have gone on summer trips to Puerto Rico and Wahington D.C....I have loved this trips because we are together as a family and really because we have a great time being together...the added bonus is that we get to see new places...

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  16. One of my favorite summers was when I was 10. It was the first time I met my extended family - all my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. My parents left their country when my mom was pregnant with me. Then we immigrated to the states when I was 3. We officially became US citizens the spring before I turned 10. My parents booked tickets to go and visit. What a blast! We had a huge family reunion with a big bonfire and partied until 3am. I'll never forget that summer!

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  17. Favorite summer memory is definitely jet-skiing with my Dad in Puerto Rico. We fell off of our Jet-Skiis TWICE...but that was probably the best/most fun part of the entire experience. It was so exhilarating and like nothing I'd ever done before. Incredible. I'm dying to go back and do it again.

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  18. My favorite summer was the one my family and I spent a week a VA beach, Virgina. We camped. My whole family. My mom and our family, four of her sisters and their family. It was AMAZING!

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  19. My favorite summer memory is when i met my husband and then 3 months later i knew he was my soal mate... Oh the summer of 1999....My summer love turned into my lifetime love....Loved the 2 chapters and i am a gready person so I WANT MORE.....lol

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  20. My favorite summer memory is laying on the North Shore of Oahu 10 years ago. . No beach feels or smells as good!

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  21. My favorite summer memories all consist of spending time with my family at the lake or the beach while we were all out of school.
    Can't wait for TIDAL :)

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  22. favorite summer memories were of going camping with my family, growing up.

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  23. favorite summer memory is that year where my parents surpriced me and my siblings that we were going to Disneyland!
    It was the only thing that I had wished for all my birthdays and christmases - I wanted to see Donald Duck, and go fishing with Pocahontas lol
    It was the best summer ever

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  24. Favorite Summer time memory for me is every summer we go to visit my husbands family in Georgia! It's a yearly tradition and seems like the only time me and my husband get a little alone time anymore ;)

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  25. My favorite summer memory is every summer escaping Kansas to beautiful Hawaii. We go tithe beach EVERY day and have the tradition on BBQing every Wednesday and Saturday. I love visiting with my family there and catching up on all the stuff I missed during the cold harsh Kansas winters. Pulling out the surf boards, paddle boards and boogey boards

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  26. My favorite summer memory was a vacation to Hawaii! We went on so many nature hikes and the beaches were stunning!
    Loved the excerpt! Can't wait for Tidal :)
    Lacey T

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  27. My favorite summer memory is the joy that we had when my mother and father in law visited from Albania this summer. It was their first time in the U.S.

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  28. My favorite summer memory is when my boyfriend took me on a train ride to a nearby city for a date to the aquarium. On the train ride over the told me he wanted to marry me :) BEST DATE EVER! He has been my husband for almost four years now.

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  29. i have a couple of favorite summer memories. One of them is going to Albania to vist family. i really enjoyed hiking alot along the mountains. Cant wait to do that again. LOVED THE FIRSST BOOk cant wait for this one :)

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  30. Firstly, HUGE CONGRATULATIONS on Devoured making the USA Today bestseller list and THANKS for sharing the first 2 chapters of Tidal - I can't wait to read it!!

    I wish we had 4 seasons in Singapore, but over here it's mostly sunny and very humid. It's like summer all year round :( Lately, it's been getting hotter... up to 35° Celsius (95° Fahrenheit)!!

    Keen on a holiday? Visit Singapore and write Tidal :) There's plenty of warmth and I could show you around!

    Thanks for the giveaway! tess_halim(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  31. Laying in the beach with my boys playing in the sand- reading listening to the waves. sdylion(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. My fav summer memory is fishing with my dad...even though i only ever caught sticks!!! Lol!

      Can't wait for Tidal...so excited!!!

      andieleah78@gmail.com

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  32. My all time favorite summer memory is from my childhood. We would spend time at a family friends camp on a river just north of New Orleans. They had a old dugout (small canoe made by hand out of wood) i used to paddle it up and down this small river by myself for hours. The solitude combined with the physical exertion and the feeling of accomplishment at being able to control this dugout by myself was so liberating.
    I just loved the first 2 chapters of Tidal cannot wait for it to be released thanks for that
    also thanks for the trip down memory lane
    pegdo@myviscom.om

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  33. Cannot wait for this!

    Favorite summer memory... hmm... family vacation, for sure! We weren't rich, but my parents made sure that we got to see a lot of neat things. We took the train across the country and went to Yellowstone National Park one summer. Hated it at the time, but so glad to have that experience!

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  34. My favorite summer memories are my family vacations, since I live away from them I highly look forward to them every year. Sometimes its hard because my husband cannot come along with us as his job is seasonal

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  35. I think I'm favorite summer memories are just hanging out or camping with my family. We always find something to laugh about until one or all of us are crying. Great giveaway, can't wait for Tidal.

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  36. My favorite memories are camping and fires with friends and family! Sharing old storys laughing so hard you cry! Amazing give away! Cant wait for Tidal! :-)

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  37. hmm.. NO SCHOOL! lol I don't have many fun memories growing up but now with my kids I would have to say making trips to the beach!

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  38. My fav memories are hanging out all the kids from the block in the front of my steps all night long and playing kick the can. Ha! the good ol' days ;)

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  39. Loved the excerpt and I'm definitely interested in seeing what happens next. I can't think of a favourite Summer memory right now (which is slightly worrying and possibly a little bit sad) but I do know I used to love the Summer holidays from school where we would get a six week break. I must make more good memories!!!

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  40. As an adult I don't enjoy the summers as I did when I was younger. Just too damn hot! But when I was young the memories of summer that I recall that make me smile are those days spent at the beach, at the park, or days bicycle riding. Looking forward to reading Tidal and the sequel to Devoured.

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  41. One of my favorite summer memories so far is when we took our 18 month old son at the time to the splash pad and watched him running and playing with other kids and having a great time.

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  42. One of my favorite summer memories is when my entire family went on vacation to Lake George for a week. It was the first time all of us went on a vacation together. We rented a house right on the beach, went shopping, went on a family raft ride, went on a huge boat to watch fireworks. It was awesome. =)

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  43. My favorite summer memory is spending time on my Grandparents farm.

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  44. I can't wait for Tidal! I have so many great summer memories. As a kid I would be out all day riding my bike, hanging out with my friends. Or I would spend the day devouring an entire book. As a late teen I would practically live at my friend's house. We had bonfires, went to the beach, just had fun everyday. Some of my favorite memories are from that time. :)

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  45. My favorite summer memory is when I went to meet my husband at a port call In Boston. He is active duty military and his ship was pulling in for 4 days. Being a mom of two young children, I was never able to meet him at a portcall before due to school schedules, and was very excited to surprise him! I drove 4 hours to drop the kids at my moms and then another 5 to Boston. I called him when the boat was pulling up and told him to describe the view to me , cause I always wanted to see Boston! The look on his face when he saw me on that pier will stay in my memory forever! :)

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