:: “You alright?” Destiny asked quietly, still stroking his shoulders, using both hands to massage his back.
He nodded quickly, mostly out of habit.
“So she’s staying at her friend’s house, right?”
“Well, Lexi usually listens to you. I’m sure they’ll be fine, Brian.”
She kissed his jaw and resumed her light massaging on his shoulders.
“And hopefully she’ll have a really bad hangover in the morning. So bad that she never wants to drink again.”
He released a short, humorless laugh. "That never worked for you.”
She chuckled softly. “Shut up, Brian.” He shook his head, his smile fading as he released a sigh.
“We used to drink sometimes at that age too,” Destiny offered. “You and Dorian were bad influences on me.”
“Yeah, but that was different.”
“How?” she asked, her hands stopping for a moment.
“Me and D were with you. We never let you actually get drunk and we watched you. We were older. You thought you were doing something, but your environment was always controlled by us.” Her hands were working again and she stayed silent.
“I dunno,” he sighed. “It seems like she’s starting to slip up more often. Like this shit is becoming a habit. Staying out past her curfew, getting drunk, not telling Clara and Alfred where she is.”
He must’ve tensed up because he felt her fingers working a bit more firmly on his neck and shoulders. He tried to relax under her touch, even though his mind was working overtime. He stared blankly at the black and white pictures of the sky in its various elements decorating the wall above his small desk. He was used to fixing things. If there was a problem, he analyzed it and figured out the best solution to solve it. But being so far away, he felt helpless. And guilty. Always guilty.
Before he left Phoenix, he was the one who made sure Alexis stayed on track—dropping by Clara and Alfred’s almost every night to check up on her, attending her games, taking her to get physicals and whatever other random things needed to be done. But it felt like his hands were tied now.
“I’ll call and talk to her,” Destiny said. “You know, see where her head is.”
He sighed, running a hand over his head even as she massaged his back.
“She’s a smart girl, Brian,” she asserted. “She’ll be okay.”
She leaned and kissed his jaw again. Even though he didn’t really want her having to deal with his shit, he appreciated the offer. Alexis looked up to Destiny and it might help for her to have some girl talk, or whatever women did with each other. She sure as hell wasn’t getting it from their mom.
“Have you…” she paused. “I guess you haven’t found any leads about where your mom might be?”
She asked the question tentatively. He knew she didn’t like bringing up Teresa or her whereabouts because she understood that it was a source of stress and tension for him.
“Nah,” he answered, hoping she would drop it.
She sighed audibly. “Do you think…” she hesitated, her fingers pausing in their movements. “Do you wish you would’ve stayed in Phoenix? You know, so that you could watch over Lexi more?”
He could tell she was trying to keep her voice casual when she asked the question. Her fingers were working on his neck again but he heard the hitch in her breathing. His chest tightened and he turned, easily repositioning her so that she was lying on her back as he hovered over her.
“Where do you live?” he asked, looking down into her eyes.
"Here,” she said softly, fidgeting a little under the intensity of his gaze.
“There’s your answer.” His eyes trailed briefly to her mouth as she chewed on her lip. She smiled slightly but concern still clouded her eyes, so he kept talking.
“I was suffocating in Phoenix, honestly,” he admitted, leaning down next to her on one elbow. “I wanted to do something different. I needed to feel something different.”
She turned her head slightly so that she could study his face.
“I think you were the something,” he said grinning crookedly.
“So you just wanted me?” she asked, some of the seriousness finally leaving her eyes as she smiled.
“And what would’ve happened if you didn’t get me?” she teased. She was starting to lighten up and he grinned again.
“We both know I’m the shit, so that wasn’t even an option.”
“Conceited much?” She asked, struggling to suppress a grin.
“I got you didn’t I?” He arched an eyebrow and looked at her pointedly.
“What makes you think you got me?” she asked, breathily as he ran his hands under her tank top, his rough fingers tracing over her abdomen. Her skin was warm and smooth and he inched his hand further up, just below her rib cage, watching the brown specks in her eyes darken a fraction as her breathing increased.
“Oh, I definitely got you,” he said, his voice low and dark.
He trailed his hand back down her stomach to the waistband of her jeans, fiddling with the button. She sat up abruptly and leaned over him, throwing her leg over his hips, straddling him.
“No, I got you,” she murmured, grinning.
She pecked his lips and his body immediately responded to her weight on top of him.
“Say it,” she whispered against his mouth.
She kissed the dent below his bottom lip and he ran his hands down her waist to her hips, pulling her tighter against him, already aroused.
“It,” he replied, enjoying her teasing. He pushed any lingering thoughts of his sister out of his mind, as he concentrated completely on Destiny, relishing the calm she provided him. It wasn’t hard to do, especially with her curves pressed flush against him.
“Say it.” She kissed his jaw, trailing her lips up to his ear.
“It.” His voice was husky and he pulled her tank top up over her belly button but she pushed his hands away.
She shook her head and leaned down again, tracing her tongue along his bottom lip before nipping it. He grinned, his groin tightening as his hands automatically returned to her hips to draw her closer. But she pulled back slightly, looking down at him, a trace of a smile on her full lips.
“Say it,” she whispered.
He met her eyes, his hands on her hips as he held her still.
“You got me, baby,” he said, his eyes serious. “Completely. ”
More Than Always, Coming Winter 2015 (Book 2 of the the Love Always series)
Better Than Okay, Available Now (Book 1 of the Love Always series)
A couple of weeks ago, I got a beautiful email from a reader about Better Than Okay that literally made me cry.
She said, in part: "Basically, people like me need this book. People who still believe in true love but have no evidence of it yet. I know the story isn't real but I felt like I was in love."
That line is seriously the reason why I write romance books. When things are heavy as they've been, it's nice to be able to able to escape to love and let it wrap itself around you, even if it is in the form of a book.
My books may not do that for you, but in these times, I truly hope you find a story that does.
Anyway, check out the book trailer for my upcoming release, More Than Always (Book 2 of the Love Always series). If you still haven't read Book 1, Better Than Okay, you can purchase it here.
:: It was, of course, scorching when Brian and Destiny arrived, the heat seeping its way into Brian's skin and immediately irritating him. He’d almost forgotten how stupidly hot it was in Arizona.
As excited as Brian was to see his family, he was happy as hell he didn’t live there anymore. He had his issues with Miami, but he’d outgrown Phoenix and that realization settled on him the second he’d stepped off of the plane. Sure, it was familiar, but it was the same. Nothing ever moved. Nothing ever changed. For him, the city was stagnant. Like the heat that was now filling the cheap factory rental he was currently navigating down I-10.
He frowned, kicking himself for not renting something a little more high-end. The Ford Fusion he’d ended up with sounded like a damn go-cart. He reached to turn the air up higher and Destiny immediately reached and cracked the window.
“Baby, I just turned up the air,” he said, shooting a look at her. She was in the passenger seat, fiddling with her phone.
“Yeah, but you know I like the combination.”
She didn’t look up when she said it and he rolled his eyes and shook his head, deciding not to argue with her. He turned the cheap air vent so that it was directly blasting on him, idly listening to the overly animated radio DJ spout out useless information about whatever pseudo-celebrity fight had gone down last night at some nightclub in Atlanta.
He looked over at Destiny again, his eyes automatically lingering on her chest for a beat, because she was wearing a black sundress that subtly showed off her curves. Her hair was in loose curls hanging over her shoulders. She didn’t wear it down often but when she did he caught himself running his fingers through it frequently. It seemed to soothe her as much as it did him. Brian reached and pushed his fingers through her hair now, the thick, silky strands caressing his fingertips, before letting his hand fall to her knee. He rubbed it with his thumb and she looked up from her phone long enough to smile at him. As usual, he felt her smile like a slight ping in his chest and he grinned back.
Fifteen minutes later they were pulling into his aunt and uncle’s old neighborhood. Destiny’s mom wouldn’t be home until later that evening, so she’d wanted to come with him. He tapped his thumb on the plastic steering wheel as he made the familiar left turn onto Clara and Alfred’s street. It looked exactly the same. The lawns were impeccably manicured, though some of the houses were obviously worn, hardened by weather and time. It was as if the residents took pride in what they had the money to take care of—their lawns.
His aunt and uncle bought their three-bedroom ranch house back in the early eighties, long before Brian was born and the housing market crashed. The neighborhood was old—full of elderly people who had held onto their homes and weren’t eager to relinquish them, despite the steadily creeping gentrification of the area. Brian had noticed a few younger families sprouting up here and there before he’d moved.
He paused at a four-way stop, noting the house where Mrs. Evans had lived had been completely renovated. He remembered her place clearly because he’d helped Alfred stain her back deck and repaint her house his first semester of college.
Destiny laughed loudly, her fingers rapidly pushing the buttons on her phone. She giggled again and he tossed her a questioning glance.
“Jason just said Eric Clapton is overrated,” she offered, with a grin, her eyes still on her phone. “He called him a bottle of Tylenol.”
She burst into laughter again.
“What?” he asked wrinkling his brow, shooting her a look as he accelerated. That shit wasn’t even funny.
“Because he’s not really that innovative, but he’s good enough to be the standard,” she explained.
“That doesn’t make sense,” he returned. “Clapton is an okay player with great technical skills. I don’t get what that has to do with Tylenol.”
She laughed again and finally dropped her phone into her purse.
“I guess you had to be there. We were talking about it the other day at lunch.”
He turned to look at her. “You went to lunch with him?”
She raised her head, meeting his eyes, her brow slightly pinched at his tone. “Yeah, he was in the area and we both were heading to this listening session anyway, so we stopped and had lunch and then just rolled to the studio together.”
He took his hand off of her leg and scratched his chin, still holding the wheel with his other hand. “Ya’ll do that often?” he asked evenly, his eyes on the road.
Destiny shrugged, eyeing him. “I mean, no. We’ve been to lunch a few times since I’ve been at Volume, but not often.”
“You’ve only been working there for a month and you've been to lunch with him a few times? I’d say that’s often.”
Brian glanced at her, watching as she furrowed her brow, fidgeting in her seat. He released a breath and turned his attention back to the road, trying with effort to swallow his real response to that news, which was that Jason needed to back the fuck off. He didn’t appreciate them having inside jokes and going to lunch together because he was “in the area.” He knew what that shit was about, even if Destiny was acting like she didn’t.
He felt Destiny’s eyes on him but he didn’t look at her, he just twisted his lips, glancing in the review as he switched lanes. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. He looked pissed—even behind the aviator shades he was wearing and two-days worth of stubble it was apparent, so he quickly cleared his expression. He needed to be cool. Jealousy wasn’t his thing. Never had been. He learned early that people were going to do what they were going to do, no matter how worked up you allowed yourself to get. Being jealous was a waste of energy. His control, his calm had been his saving grace in too many situations for him to lose it now over some punk ass dude sweating his girl.
He glanced at Destiny again. She met his eyes, chewing on her lip, probably waiting on him to say something. But he was finished talking and thinking about Jason. Finally, she sighed and looked out of the passenger window.
A few minutes later he slowed the car as they pulled up to Alfred and Clara’s brown and beige house. Theirs had the freshest paint job on the block because when he wasn’t fixing cars, Alfred was the neighborhood painter. He spotted his uncle’s dark blue F-150 in the driveway, a gift Alfred bought for himself a couple of years ago. Brian automatically grinned, remembering what Alfred had said when he’d bought it.
“A good truck is like a good woman, boy.” His cigarette-scarred voice scratched over his words. “Take care of her and she’ll purr like a kitten. Treat her bad, she’ll break down and end up costing you a shitload of money.”
Alfred was always spouting out euphemisms that weren’t profound enough to be life-altering but weren’t simple enough to be totally ignored.
He parked on the street because Alfred hated for his driveway to be blocked and cut the ignition, feeling a mixture of emotions. He was glad to be home but he had an unsettling vibe that he hadn’t been able to shake since they boarded their flight early that morning. The heat was slowly spreading through the car with the air conditioner no longer on but he made no move to get out.
“It’s always weird coming back here after you’ve been gone for a while,” Destiny said as she studied him, her voice breaking through his thoughts, filling the small confines of the car. “Like it’s home but it isn’t.”
She abruptly leaned over and kissed him, then pressed her forehead to his.
“I love you, Brian,” she said softly, instinctively knowing what he needed to hear, before he’d even realized it.
“I love you too, baby,” he said quietly.
He brushed his nose against hers and exhaled then pushed his door open, stepping out of the tinker-car into the heat.
More Than Always, Coming Winter 2015 (Book 2 of the the Love Always series)
Better Than Okay, Available Now (Book 1 of the Love Always series)
I'm excited to announce that my next book, More Than Always, is coming very soon! This is the second part of Destiny and Brian's story and Book 2 of the three-part Love Always series. The third and final installment will center on Dorian and Raven. In the meantime, check out the synopsis for More Than Always.
MORE THAN ALWAYS
Brian Jace only had one purpose when he left Phoenix for Miami—to convince Destiny Michaels that there was more than just a lifetime of friendship between them.
His calm and steady approach worked—Brian finally got his girl, and he’s never been happier. But just when Brian and Destiny think they’re finally free to enjoy each other on a new level, a fresh set of challenges that Brian wasn’t prepared for arise, and their love is, once again, put to the test.
Is love always enough? Will Brian be able to hold on to Destiny, when he’s still fighting his own demons?
Or this time, will he be the one to walk away?
More Than Always, Book 2 of the Love Always Series, Coming Winter 2015
• Better Than Okay, Book 1, Available now