Here is an excerpt of the first chapter of Regret Me Not. Because of mature content, I am only posting a portion of the chapter suitable for all ages.
Brayden looks at me with the same intense longing I’ve seen in his eyes all night. Every touch lasts a moment too long, making me want to taste the sweet warmth of his delicious lips. Every look smolders, bringing color to my cheeks, as he pairs a look with a stroke of my exposed skin. His hand moves from the top of my back, slowly, straight down to the bottom, pressing me against him, making my body tingle, my insides quiver. He knows what he’s doing, that he’s creating a fierce desire inside me, that’s what he’s counting on.
He inches in a bit closer as we move in perfect precision to the music, slow music that seems to want to keep us on the dance floor, locked in each others arms. Holding me close, he brushes up against me. In an attempt to escape the look in his soft brown eyes I lean into his chest, and rest my head there, bringing me right up against the warmth of his body. The familiar smell of his cologne comforts me, but only for a moment before it feeds the growing fire burning deep inside.
I want him.
Each beat of my heart, every breath, brings me closer to succumbing to this unyielding desire. Every sweet caress only serves to convince me we belong together. No matter how I try to convince myself its wrong, that we’ll only end up hurting each other in the long run, I keep getting lost in the pleasure the present promises. A soft moan passes his lips, and I hold him tighter, my fingers dig into the hard muscles beneath his clothes. I know I don’t have the strength to fight the cataclysmic pull that keeps me drawn to him, that keeps me unable to move out of his arms.
I look around the the large dimly lit room, but only for a few seconds. I don’t care about anything else in here, not the decorations hung on the walls, or the bubble machine chugging away somewhere on the side. I don’t care to see what the other girls are wearing, or even if they’re pretty. The only thing I want, the only thing my brain could wrap itself around is Brayden; Brayden’s brown eyes and award winning smile. The feel of his arms holding me against him. The fresh clean smell that hangs on him no matter the time of day or night.
All I know is Brayden.
“I miss you,” He whispers, his breath tickling my ear. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
I give myself the benefit of the doubt, thinking I could chance a look in his eyes and not be captivated by their intensity.
I’m wrong. There’s heat in his eyes. They’re smoldering.
Unconsciously I lick my lip before answering. “I miss you, too.”
He takes a chance, I knew he would eventually. He leans in, and presses his lips against mine. They’re soft and warm, just as I remember. I don’t pull away, I want more. My mouth opens, inviting him in as my hips press against his. I want this kiss. I’ve wanted it since Brayden picked me up. I didn’t initiate it because I wasn’t sure one kiss would satiate me. I’m not sure one night will either.
His eyes trail from my head, down, all the way down. I don’t miss how they hesitate at the neckline of my dress. I know he wants to bring his hands there, they always seemed to gravitate to that area. But Brayden being the perfect gentleman resists the urge to cross boundaries he’s not clear on. He waits and feels me out. He can read my reactions. He knows my body inside and out, almost as well as he knows my heart.
“Do you feel that?” He brings his mouth beside my ear and speaks in a soft, velvety tone. “Your pulse racing, the swirling of your stomach? Do you feel the heat between us? It’s a wild fire burning out of control. It’s getting bigger and hotter by the minute.” He kisses me again. This time there’s hunger and need in his kiss. One hand gets lost in my hair, the fingers on the other hand press into my flesh. He wants more. He wants all of me, and I want to give it, give in. I swallow hard, still delusional that I have an ounce of control over what I’m doing or where things are leading.
“Kenzie, I love you. And I want you back.”
That’s the final straw. It’s the reason I came. I want to make sure its still there. Not just the attraction, that never left, but the love, the desire, the all out need for each other. I feel it all night. I see it every time he looks at me. But hearing his declaration, I’m lost, prisoner to his every whim.
Trying to do theimpossible, I transformed myself into a female version of Speed Racer. The pursuit: finding a place to park. I fought through the heavy traffic, cutting off before being cut off. Head first I ducked my car into a spot a block away from the all-night grocery store.
I began my short walk with a deep breath. The rank smell of dead fish brought to mind all the things I missed most about Brooklyn. Aside from the obvious convenience and constant motion, I couldn’t understand why bouts of home sickness had me longing to blanket myself in the haze of exhaust fumes and the deafening noise of the city.
I enjoyed coming home. Especially since graduation. It was lonely in my apartment. Just me, myself and I. I didn’t make the long lasting friendships in college some of my friends back home made. I chose a different route. Sometimes I gave serious consideration to living with a roommate. Unless I wanted to move, there was nothing I could do about it now. Instead I made a point of visiting my parents at least once every two weeks.
Loud, thumping music I could feel in my throat blared out of passing car windows. A red light turned green, which brought with it the sound of screeching tires; that, I didn’t miss: the immature guys cruising down the avenue trying to impress girls with their way-too-loud-base-heavy-music.
Last night had been the first time in months that I stayed overnight. I hadn’t partied like that in ages. Tired and hung over from a night of club hopping with my high school friends, I hoped to get home and in bed early. I certainly didn’t plan on reminiscing with my family. But tonight nostalgia took over.
Once my mother pulled out the old photo albums I knew I wasn’t going anywhere. And the truth is, I didn’t want to. Even my sister put her social life on hold for the evening. The four of us poured over old photographs of life before our digital cameras. I wanted to stay and laugh with my family as each memory captured in the snapshots was brought back to life.
Only now, I wasn’t sure I could make it back to the apartment. Trying to keep my burning eyes open, I decided to stop and grab a snack packed with enough sugar and caffeine to keep me awake for the drive. You’d think just being around the noise and bright lights of Brooklyn would be enough to wake me, but I kept yawning.
I looked around at the stores and shops, most of them were closed, with metal grates covering the windows. That was something you didn’t see much of in Jersey, at least not where I lived. That and the attached stores packed so close together, one on top of the other. The stores and restaurants on the main streets tended to be close, but only for a few blocks. All of Brooklyn had this tight squeezed-in feel.
I’d gotten my fill. I found myself looking to get away from the noise of the cars beeping, buses screeching and music blaring. I wanted to go home. Yearning to feel my cool, crisp sheets cradle my bare skin, I walked faster, looked down at my watch, and yawned.
“Son of a bitch!” a male voice barked as I felt myself bounce off what felt like a brick wall.
I shook it off realizing there are no walls in the middle of the sidewalk. The hard object I bumped into was a man.
“Sorry,” I said, before even looking at him.
The striking young man shook his head annoyed. He looked down at his chest to assess the damage. I followed his gaze, and gasped as I made out the egg carton against his chest oozing with gook.
Without thinking, I reached into my pocket, pulled out a tissue and dabbed at the eggy spot on his suit jacket. I hesitated, embarrassed at the liberty I had taken. With heat filling my face I looked up, and met his eyes for the first time. My stomach tumbled. I stood frozen, mesmerized by his steely grey eyes. In an attempt to hide my awkwardness I pulled my hand away from him.
“Forget it,” the handsome stranger said.
“The yolks on you,” I recovered.
“Very funny,” he snapped.
“I didn’t mean . . .” I looked away, disappointed he didn’t get my humor. Why should he be any different than the rest of the guys I’ve come across? Especially since I left my mark on him.
“Yes, you did,” he said soberly. After a moment he continued. “Good thing I like my eggs scrambled,” the corners of his lips turned up ever so slightly.
I felt as if time stopped. Captivated by the gleam in his bright eyes, I tried to speak. No sound left my mouth. I pulled my eyes from his, once again self-conscious.
It took an instant for me to realize how close we stood. Only a few inches separated me from a very handsome man I had never before laid eyes on. With the return of my senses I realized we were much too close for strangers on a Brooklyn street corner.
I retreated. I thought if I could create a bit of space between us I could catch my breath and regain my composure. The distance helped. But he still unnerved me. Just a quick glance at him through the corner of my eye had me hovering six feet off the ground.
I opened my purse and reached inside, “The least I can do is pay for the dry cleaning.”
With a light touch he placed his hand on my wrist. My whole arm tingled. I never felt anything like that before. I’d read about it in romance novels that suck you in and keep you up at night, but I didn’t know anything like that was real. I looked up and met his eyes.
“I don’t want your money. How about a cup of coffee?”
“You want me to buy you coffee?”
He smiled, showing off his deep dimples, “I want you to join me for a cup of coffee in the café across the street.”
I looked away and shook my head, “I shouldn’t. I have a long drive.”
“You do owe me,” he reminded me with a raised brow.
I pressed my lips into a thin line contemplating the offer. A nervous rumbling in my belly made it clear to me that I wanted to go, really wanted to go with him. But he had me off balance. My heart fluttered like mad. It was late. And I was tired. Or was I?
My nerve endings leaped and swirled since we touched. Not only my nerve endings, my entire body. What better than a cup of Joe to wear off some of the surging adrenaline?
Seeming to understand my hesitation he tried to coax me. “Just a cup of coffee.”
I found myself unable to resist. I broke down. What harm could come of one cup of coffee? I needed caffeine. Caffeine was my friend. That was why I bumped into him in the first place.
“Sure,” I said with a smile, “I’d love to.”
To My Hero: A Blog of Our Journey Together
It would’ve been different if I had courage, even an ounce of it. But I was a coward from the day I met you, Ryan Crowley. I still am. In the end it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is the same. It’s my fault.
After walking past the ringlets of cigarette smoke outside and into the house, the smell of alcohol hit me hard, like someone used a spray can to scent the air. I needed a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the dim lighting. The beat of the music came alive inside me, like a second heartbeat.
The house teemed with people, laughing, dancing, and hooking up. Red cups filled with beer, and other alcoholic drinks, were in every hand.
“I’m going to go blend,” Marianne shouted in my ear. I looked behind me to find her already on the prowl, lost in the ocean of people.
My eyes zeroed in on you. Out of everyone there, you were the first person I spotted. My heart raced in response. Seeing you there unnerved me more than I’d care to admit. As usual, I pulled my eyes away so you wouldn’t catch me staring.
Seeing you shouldn’t have surprised me. Of course you were there. Everyone from Woodbridge High School was at Will’s party. He wanted it to be epic, the exclamation point on our high school career; four long, fabulous years.
We met on the first day of high school. I entered homeroom, hoping to find a familiar face, but as I walked through the door, I saw only one face, yours. Laughing like you ruled the world, you sat backwards on top of your desk facing the entrance to the room rather than the board, your dirty blonde hair falling into your eyes. You launched a paper airplane that fell at my feet.
I would have bet my dog you threw it at me on purpose. Taking a deep breath I looked up, ready to lecture you about how lame and immature you were. Our eyes met and I froze. My heart skipped to beat in rhythm with yours. It’s been pulsating on that frequency ever since.
“Sorry,” you said, a slight smirk playing at the corners of your mouth as you hopped off the desk and sauntered over. I watched you bend down in front of me, your eyes never leaving mine, to retrieve your awe-inspiring creation. “I saw my buddy in the hall. I thought he was coming in,” you explained.
I nodded, unable to find my voice.
You smiled, your blue eyes twinkling. And I was hooked.
“Hey beautiful,” Will said, sliding an arm around my waist, pulling my attention from you to him. I only hoped he didn’t follow my gaze. “You’re late.”
“Just a little,” I smiled hoping to ease the tension I felt oozing off his body. “Marianne drove. You know her,” I rolled my eyes. “It’s all about appearances. I had no choice but to be fashionably late.”
“There’s fashionably late, and then there’s this,” he sounded annoyed. “I thought you weren’t going to show.” He pressed his lips hard against mine. I tasted remnants of the alcohol he’d already consumed.
“I wouldn’t miss it.”
“Good,” he smiled, his eyes falling from my face to my chest. “You staying over tonight?”
“I don’t know . . .”
With a roll of his eyes he shoved a bottle of vodka at me. “Catch up.” He ordered then headed back in the direction of the bar.
I placed my lips around the bottle’s rim, brought my head back, and chugged. I took too much into my mouth. My first instinct, was to spit it out on the floor. I fought the urge and swallowed hard. I hated the taste, the burning sensation as it travelled from my mouth, down my throat, and into my stomach. It was a trade-off, feel like I’m drinking poison in exchange for the light headed, carefree buzz the alcohol promised.
The last major party of the school year, it was supposed to last all night. Will’s parents were across the country. His father owned a chain of clothing stores, Langdon’s Clothiers, and traveled two weeks out of every month. In an attempt to save their marriage from what looked like an inevitable divorce, Will’s mother decided to go with him. We had the house to ourselves to party hard.
“So, you’re still with Mr. Wonderful.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. I felt a burst of adrenaline shoot through my body. I spun around and stared speechless for a nanosecond as I looked into your deep, blue eyes. I’d never seen eyes like yours, so striking and intense. Like a deer caught in headlights, I couldn’t fight the power you held over me.
It had been months since we’d spoken and here you stood in front of me, looking as good as ever, like nothing ever happened. You smiled, showing off your deep dimples and softening the look of your strong square jaw. I swallowed hard before throwing my arms around you.
Being that close to you, feeling the warmth of your body, inhaling the spicy cedar scent that hung on your clothes; there wasn’t anything better. Maybe I could think of a few things, but they all involved you and me, flesh pressed against flesh, and I wanted to keep my thoughts G rated. I lingered in the embrace a moment too long, enjoying the warmth and feel of your body. I hoped no one noticed.
“What are you doing here?” I asked, over the loud music. “I thought you hate Will.”
“I do,” you smirked, “But Lanie wanted to come.” I followed the trail of your eyes back toward a small group in the corner from where you came, all the way to Lanie Millano, captain of the cheerleading squad. She embodied everything from All American good looks with her blonde hair and perfect body, to school spirit.
Every time I thought of her I felt a twinge of envy. I couldn’t find one flaw in Lanie, hard as I tried, and boy did I try. I hated her. I especially hated how perfect she looked with you. You made the perfect couple.
“And I knew I’d get to see you.” Your voice was heavy with emotion, your eyes burned into mine.
I forgot about Lanie. Forgot all about Will. Forgot everything, but you.
When I didn’t respond, unable to utter a word, you filled the empty space, “I just wanted to say hi. Unless he has a problem with that.”
It had been a long time since we spoke. Much too long. I’d given up hope that you’d want to talk to me again. And finally, there you were, in front of me. I had a golden opportunity. But first, I had to think of something to say.
“So, you and Lanie huh? You guys looked amazing at the prom.”
“Thanks,” you looked away, uncomfortable. “She’s probably too good for me.” You smiled, flashing your dimples, “Like you and what’s his face.”
“What do you have against Will anyway?” I knew I shouldn’t have asked, the words flittered passed my lips as if I didn’t have a filter on my brain, but I said it, and I could do nothing about it. Maybe subconsciously I just wanted to hear one last time you still had a lingering interest in me.
Your lips drew up into a resigned smile, “You chose him over me.”
I dropped my eyes to the ground feeling awful, like the Grinch, when he realized what a horrible thing he did stealing Christmas.
“Hey,” you attempted to lighten the mood, “It’s all good. We’re both happy, right?”
Something in the way you asked didn’t have me totally convinced you were happy.
I felt I needed to say something in my defense. “It’s not like you were sitting around waiting for me.”
“Because that would’ve made a difference,” I caught a trace of bitterness in your voice and it put me on the defensive.
I don’t know why I said it, what did I expect you to do? Even as you stood there in silence I couldn’t help but wonder, did it spark a light of hope for you, for us, or was anger still the main emotion you felt toward me? These thoughts raced through my mind as I took another long swig of vodka.
Lies. Lies. Lies. He was covered in lies. They oozed off him like slick, goopy slime. As if I didn’t already know Steve couldn’t be trusted. I always thought of him as a pompous ass, especially after our one and only date.
But that was years ago.
Steve wouldn’t meet my eyes. I hadn’t spoken to him since my freshman year of high school. I wondered if it he even remembered me. I remembered him all too well, Mr. Captain of the baseball team with the perfect smile. The thought of his cold, wet lips and octopus arms still made my skin crawl.
Regardless, he looked past me, around me, like I wasn’t good enough to look at. I could feel his apprehension so I knew I’d get him. I’d get him good. Call him out for being the jerk he was and embarrass him in front of his friends. I just needed to concentrate.
I closed my eyes, focused on blocking out the music and clarifying the image in my mind. I fingered the gold bracelet interpreting the words and images flowing from it.
“You just came back from someplace warm,” I declared.
With a snide look on his face the muscle-bound jock shook his head and spoke skeptically to the crowd of onlookers, “Like most of the country isn’t warm in July. This is bogus,” he chortled, still trying to best me.
He thought his wise cracks were enough to intimidate me, to make me feel stupid and insecure so I would shut up. He wanted to end it here and now. Better to make me look bad before it went any further. Not going to happen. Not tonight. If I had to be miserable, so did he.
“I see a beach and water . . .”
“Hard one. Like we don’t live at the Jersey shore.”
“Not here.” I said a bit forcefully. “The water is clear blue, so it’s not in this state.”
“Oooh,” I heard someone jeer. “She’s onto you.”
“Shut up,” Mr. Macho snapped at his buddy while reaching for the bracelet I wasn’t ready to release. “You probably told her.”
“You’re there with a beautiful girl,” I continued. “Long blonde hair. Her name begins with the letter E.”
“You were with Emma?” A petite brunette bellowed while pounding her fist into his arm.
“Busted!” someone shouted before bursting into a fit of laughter.
“You don’t believe this bull do you?” He pleaded.
With tears in her eyes, the girl rushed off, “You’re a shit!”
Steve snatched his bracelet and rushed after her, “Shari, wait. I haven’t seen her in months. She must be a friend of Emma’s or my shit-head friends are playing a joke. When I find out which one of you set this up . . .” the rest of the threat trailed off.
“That’s what you get for two timing,” I called watching him push through the sea of people. If he didn’t remember me before the reading, he’d never forget me now. I brought my hands together, “All right, show’s over.”
A few moans and grumbles, then suddenly I could breathe. A wave of relief washed over me as the oppressive group surrounding me thinned. My right eye burned, and the aching in my head had already begun. I knew I had to stop before the sharp blinding pain ensued.
I turned and looked for my best friend Grace. No sign of her. I shook my head. I didn’t even want to come to Mike’s stupid party, let alone be the entertainment, but she insisted.
What exactly she found appealing about Mike was beyond me, but Grace had been crushing on him all through high school. She would do just about anything he asked; only before tonight he never did.
Earlier in the day, while life was still bliss, we were just two best friends laying in the sun with lemon juice in our hair (Grace’s attempt at natural highlights) listening to music. When Mike sauntered over poolside to extend the invitation, Grace turned into groupie girl, and it took her approximately one second to accept. I was biding time until I could convince her to leave.
“One more,” the voice caught me. Stopped me dead in my tracks. For a moment the room went silent, the people disappeared. All that existed was the soft soothing voice.
“C’mon, please.” He spoke again, and I wished he’d never stop talking so I could forever hear the sound of his melodious voice.
Before I could refuse, a small, gold ring was placed in my hand. I stood frozen, feeling as if someone connected a live wire to my heart. White electricity surged throughout my body.
I looked up to see what creature bore such exhilarating energy. His soft, golden-brown eyes captivated me. They were alive with laughter and mystery. I closed my eyes, barely able to focus and stroked the ring with my thumb. I took a deep breath, taking in the scent of his cologne. Fighting the sudden lump in my throat, I blurted out, “Romeo and Juliet.”
“Excuse me?” He smiled confused.
“It’s like Romeo and Juliet,” I recovered, tracing the diamond chip initial on the ring. “You believe you are in love.”
“She’s my Juliet?” He asked with a suspicious look.
“No, she’s your Rosalind,” I felt the need to explain, hoping to keep him nearby, “the girl Romeo thought he loved. Remember though, it was unrequited.”
“Really?” He asked egging me on, seeming to enjoy the conversation.
“Yes,” I continued with a nod, “then he met Juliet, and Rosalind turned into nothing more than a distant memory. I’m sure you know the rest.”
“Do you know who my Juliet is?” he asked with a smile. “Have I met her yet?”
“Yes.” I answered.
“Hmm. Someone I know.” He looked around the crowd mischievously, a delicious smile on his lips, “Will we get married and live happily ever after?”
I shook my head sadly. “No.” I paused a moment, and found my breath. “You’re going to break my heart.”
I reached for his hand, his strong, warm hand, and took hold of it. I didn’t want to ever let go. I placed the ring in his palm, closed his fingers around it, turned and walked away.
I entered the world with a massive defect. I attracted death. Like a magnet. I could feel it all around me. It wrapped its icy fingers tight around my chest, leaving me no room for escape. It enveloped me, draped over my shoulders like a heavy dark shroud.
The day I was born my cousin died in a car accident. Eight days after my birth, while holding me in her arms my mother’s mother closed her eyes, bowed her head, and breathed her last breath. At four years of age, while sleeping at her house, my mother’s sister suffered a cerebral hemorrhage caused by an aneurism.
The gurgling sound of retching woke me. I opened my eyes to see my aunt on the other side of the bed, eyes open and rolled to the back of her head, vomit oozing out of her mouth. I ran around the bed and brought the small garbage pail to her bedside. I shook her shoulder trying to wake her, to get her attention. She didn’t speak or move. I called my mother. And then I dialed 911.
I brought bad luck to all around me. Pets only reinforced my beliefs. Dogs died prematurely. One suffered a heart attack at only three years of age. Another suffered smoke inhalation.
The candle’s flame danced and burned on the kitchen table, holding me mesmerized in front of it. I’d been drinking water and spilled some. I reached for a paper towel on the other side of the candle to wipe up my mess.
The paper towel seemed to slice right through the orange, flickering flame. I never saw anything so amazing! As if it were a magic trick that needing perfecting, I tried it again and again and again, until I felt the scorching heat move with me and the smell of fire tickling my nose. I didn’t know what to do with the paper towel. It was burning so fast and the flame kept growing.
I looked around quickly wondering what to do. I had only an instant to decide. My mother lay on the living room couch, napping in front of the TV. I didn’t want to wake her, afraid she’d be mad I played with the candle. I threw the blazing paper into the plastic garbage pail next to the table.
The fire grew and now large flames shot out of the pail. I blew on the fire, trying to put it out like a birthday candle. It didn’t help. The smoke detector sounded, chiming in a steady rhythm of loud beeps, like an obnoxious car alarm.
I felt arms pick me up and spin me away from the shooting flames and melting pail. My mother screamed for me to get out of the house as she ran for the hose attached to the kitchen sink. I stood frozen in place. I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t leave her to die trying to fix my mistake.
Once the fire was under control Mom poured huge pots of water into the garbage, and eventually picked up the pail and placed it in the sink with continuous water running over it. We didn’t even look for Lucky, our five year old pug, until well after the fire had been extinguished. She hadn’t come out at all. Not to go for a walk. Not for a drink of water. Mom called Lucky. She didn’t move from her spot under the kitchen table.
Small dog, small lungs.
There were others, too. We had a gerbil, Frisky. I took Frisky out and held him in my hands, petting him gently with my pointer finger while my mother cleaned his tank. I held Frisky up near my nose.
“Who’s the sweetest little gerbil?” I asked.
Frisky, living up to his name liked to move a lot. I didn’t want to drop my squiggling ball of fur, so I tightened my grip just a bit.
Frisky bit me. I yelped as I dropped him on the floor. Mom, squeamish around him to begin with, panicked and dropped the twenty gallon glass tank squarely on him. Gerbil pancake.
The most devastating loss of all came at eight years old. My father left for work in the morning and never came back. He suffered a massive heart attack on the train. No pain. No warning.
The only constants in my life were my mother, my best friend Maria, who saw past my defect, and the great black cloud of despair that ruled my world. It was the only thing I could count on to never leave me alone.
Until Jordan changed my life.