A steamy, best friend’s brother, anti-hero romance is out this week from author Jaine Diamond, and I have the Prologue for you.
We all make mistakes.
We all fuck up royally from time to time.
We all harbor painful regrets, sorrows, and even secret shames.
Things we wish we never did.
And other things we only wish we never did because we know they’re wrong, even if they felt right. Things we’re so deeply confused about that the torment wedges deep inside, twisting like a knife between our ribs with every breath, until we fear that our boyfriend is about to find out.
Or, wait. Maybe that last part is just me?
Point is, we all make mistakes.
Some we hope to be forgiven for.
Some we don’t deserve to be forgiven for because… if we could do it all again…
We’d still fuck up.
The night I fucked up, all I wanted was a quiet place to make a phone call in the middle of a loud house party. So I stepped outside and walked across the grass, away from the house into the dark, alone, for just a moment. But all it really takes is a moment for the world to tip on its axis and crash into oncoming space junk.
I jumped a little at his voice floating out of the dark, a tidal wave of goosebumps running down my body. My heart lurched. My nipples pricked. My fingernails dug into my palm as I took a slow, deep breath and turned to find him sitting in the shadows.
“Hello,” I said softly. I sounded like a young girl. A girl so much younger than I was. A girl who was deeply uncertain, suddenly, of the place where her feet met the earth. I was only twenty steps or so from my boyfriend. And from my older sister. Ten steps from a house full of friends. Any one of them would’ve saved me in that moment, if they could.
But the door was closed. No one could see me. Or him.
No one could see us.
Instead, it was all left up to me, and I fucked up.
Crimson and gold flared in the night as he clicked his lighter and firelight danced across his gorgeous face. His name was Johnny. He was the older brother of one of my best friends.
He was a mistake, long before anything ever happened between us.
Nothing had ever happened between us. But I’d crushed on him so hard and for so long, just the sight of his face, flickering in and out of the dark as that lighter sparked the joint in his hand, turned my stomach to a mass of snakes. Because I knew. I knew something very, very bad was about to happen.
And I was going to let it.
“Angeline Delacroix.” He said my name slowly, like he was tasting it. Like he was really hearing it for the first time since we’d met, years ago. Every syllable so soft and sensuous on his lips in the dark.
Then he got to his feet, standing up to his full height, looming over me. I got a better look at his face in the moonlight. His eyes were wet with some emotion I couldn’t identify. He looked high or drunk, or both.
He looked tormented.
It took my breath away.
His hands slid up around my bare neck, so suddenly I didn’t even pull away. By the time his fingers had slid under my ponytail to cradle my skull, I’d gone almost limp. I dangled there in his hands as his watery eyes tripped into mine.
He was gone. Somewhere far away and somewhere deep inside me, all at once, as he looked into my eyes.
My heart fluttered like a trapped butterfly. My hands went to his waist, grabbing onto him, and his eyes flared. I didn’t pull him to me or push him away. I just held on. I didn’t even know what was happening except that in the utter chaos of this miraculous, fragile event called life, his orbit and mine had suddenly collided and locked together. And I couldn’t move.
“Wh-why did you call me Angel?” My voice shook. My fingers dug deeper into his waist. I could feel his heat through his T-shirt.
Despite my name, no one had ever called me Angel.
His watery, dark-aquamarine eyes dropped to my lips. “First time I ever saw you…” he said, his voice rough and dark as sin, “you were wearing a shirt with a kitten on it. With wings. A fucking sequined kitten. You remember that?”
But… he remembered what I was wearing the first time we met?
“And some short little shorts…” His eyes wandered down. “With bare legs. And high-heeled boots. And you know what I thought?”
He leaned in, until his lips were so close to mine I could smell him—all his rough and ready maleness and his sweet-smoky aftershave and the alcohol on his breath. I could smell the joint burning down between his fingers, so close to my face. I could taste him in the air between us like an instantly addictive drug. “I thought, I bet she’s even prettier when she begs.”
I sucked in a breath. I knew he was about to kiss me.
I didn’t move.
My core lit on sweet, heavenly fire as his lips met mine.
And yes, I kissed him back.
Because you know what? Life isn’t easy.
We don’t always get what we want.
We don’t always want what we get.
Inside, we are nothing like what others think we are when they look at us.
We are deeply misunderstood.
And we are complicated. We are so many things; more things than we are not.
I felt so many things in that moment as Johnny O’Reilly kissed me in the dark, with only the moon and stars as witness to our seeking tongues, our pounding hearts.
He broke the kiss, abruptly, and I held my breath, reeling. My hands dropped away from him.
What the hell did I just do?
He turned my head in his hands and kissed my neck. “I’ll take my time…” he rasped in my ear. “I’ll make you purr.” His tongue drifted up the curve of my ear and I shuddered.
“Don’t,” I whispered. I pressed my shaking hands to his chest and stepped back an inch.
“Don’t… what?” He looked amused, maybe. And for a split second in the shifting moonlight through the trees, as his eyes met mine again, he looked broken.
I didn’t feel amused. Or broken. I felt confused. I was reeling with emotions. So many feelings at once, I couldn’t lock onto a single one of them.
But I knew I didn’t owe him any explanation. I didn’t owe him anything. I had no idea if he knew I had a boyfriend, but in the end, none of that was his responsibility.
I wrapped my arms around myself as his eyes dragged over me, slow.
Then his hands released me, gently. He brought the joint to my lips. I took a small, hesitant drag, breathing in the musky smoke. He took a drag, too, his eyes never leaving mine.
“You should go back in the house,” he said softly, exhaling smoke into the air.
I should’ve. But for some reason, I lingered.
“I leave you out here all alone, in the dark…” He gestured into the darkness, his joint leaving a wisp of smoke and sparks in the air. “What kind of man would that make me?”
I wanted to tell him that I knew exactly what kind of man he was. But the words got choked up in my throat.
You kissed him.
It was sinking in, like teeth ripping into my heart. I cleared my throat and turned, forcing myself to walk back to the house as my body flushed with heat. And with hunger.
“Good night, Angel,” he breathed behind me, and a shiver ran down my back. I could hear the whisper of gratification beneath his words, and something strangely sad.
And for some reason, I felt bad about leaving him standing there all alone, in the dark. But I didn’t turn back as my insides churned, my emotions still reeling in a chaotic tumult as the world spun around me, upside down and inside out.
You kissed him and you loved it.
In one sudden, unexpected moment, the entire trajectory of my life had subtly changed. Though I wouldn’t know it until later.
I wouldn’t say that it was that single, broken kiss that ended my relationship with my boyfriend, Flynn.
But I would say it was the spark that lit the fire, that in the end, burned our whole house down.