Yes, I got weighed on Monday, and it’s paying off. I’m 2 kilos down. Just another ton to go. Heh.
I had a cheat meal yesterday evening (my nutritionist knew and had approved), and it was incredible meatballs and the best chicken salad sandwiches I’ve ever had. It should tide me over for the next couple weeks of dieting. Except for this Saturday, when we’re throwing a party for my kid’s 6th birthday, and I’m allowed to eat one plate of whatever.
And now that’s out of the way, let’s talk Under! Did you like the cover and blurb? I’m pondering making this story available to my NL subscribers, chapter by chapter, until the rest of the series is ready and I publish it properly. But for now, I have a teaser for ya. It’s the first chapter, unedited and not very safe for work, though nothing explicit—yet.
Chapter One – Halie
Ten more steps. She could take ten more steps. She wasn’t that out of it.
“You okay?” asked a girl in a black and white dress.
The colors twirled together, making Halie’s head spin. She should have stopped before the fourth martini—or was it the fifth? She didn’t even like martinis; Joss said they were sophisticated, and she needed Joss to love her.
No. She loved Joss. And he was behind his bedroom door. Nine steps away.
“I’m fine,” she said, only it came out mfine. The girl said something else, but it was drowned in the music. The loud beat thudded in Halie’s chest. It wasn’t an entirely unpleasant feeling—easier to focus on that, than on the swaying floor.
Her stomach lurched. Bile, alcohol, and cheese burned up her throat, and she swallowed it back down. Bleh. Not many things were more disgusting than throwing up after eating cheese.
She grabbed the door handle at first try, and things were looking up, because it turned easily.
A beam of red light from the party behind her sliced through the darkened room, illuminating the figure on the bed for a split second, before spinning to the right. The broad back and rounded butt were unmistakably Joss’s.
Halie’s drunken brain stalled. Was he doing push-ups? Naked?
No, idiot. He was fucking someone else.
Her stomach flipped in on itself and gave her heart a kick on the way.
It couldn’t be.
Joss was a gentleman. He took in damsels in distress and gave them shelter from the rain, and stayed up with them all night, talking about his hopes and dreams. He was patient and kind and understanding, and he didn’t push when she said wouldn’t kiss him after their third date—she wasn’t a prude or something; she just had to make sure he was The One before she gave him true love’s kiss.
His offer to wait for her seemed like less of a sacrifice when he was screwing someone on the side.
Halie opened her mouth to yell. To curse at him. To ask him why on earth he’d fuck another woman, when tonight was supposed to be their big night. He’d invited her to his party and suggested she stay the night. Granted, her reply was a drawn-out maybe, but she’d also given him that long, sideways look under her lashes. It was meant to be fraught with promise.
Tonight, he’d say he was falling for her, then they’d kiss, and…
She doubled over and emptied the contents of her stomach.
Joss tensed, looked at her over his shoulder, and jumped out of bed with that dancer’s grace she admired from the first moment.
“Halie? What—? I didn’t see you come in.”
His intellect wasn’t what she loved about him.
What was, then?
“Joss?” The naked woman in his bed sat up, but neither he nor Halie looked her way.
“Shit, Halie. My shoes,” Joss said.
Halie followed his horrified gaze to the floor. She’d barfed on his handmade Italian loafers.
Suited him right.
“You’re a piece of shit,” she spat out.
The woman on the bed called Joss’s name again. He kept ignoring her. Of course he did. She didn’t mean anything. Neither did Halie.
Joss was the wrong guy. Again.
“We only had four dates,” he said with a scowl.
“In just one week.”
“We never said we were exclusive.” His attention was fully on his shoes. Priorities.
“We never said we weren’t.” The accusation would sound more scathing if she didn’t slur the words. She spun, and so did the walls, but she didn’t let a little dizziness stop her from strutting out of his bedroom. The situation was unsalvageable, and she’d just wasted another month—three whole weeks of which were all about chasing him around until he noticed her. She was cutting it close, damn it.
She weaved her way through the dancing crowd and outside, to the beach. The cool night air cleared her head a little. She was in no condition to walk to her hotel. She’d call a cab there, pack her meager belongings, and then—
As if with a sharp tug, the thread holding her sense of self together snapped. Panic clawed at her gut. Where was home?
She had one. She didn’t always live in a hotel room. Maybe it was the alcohol muddling her thoughts? Head trauma? She gingerly touched her head. No pain, and she didn’t remember bumping it anywhere. Plus, she recalled every detail of her time with Joss, from meeting him on the beach last Sunday afternoon, to all the handholding and soul-gazing and strolling in the moonlight, to seeing him fucking someone else.
Selective amnesia? You’d think her subconscious would delete the useless, Joss-related bits, if his betrayal had the power to erase memories. But no. What eluded her was where she was before that.
Worse—who she was. She knew seconds ago; she remembered remembering. She was part of a whole. Had a family.
But what did they look like? Where did they live? Would they come looking for her if she didn’t call them in the morning?
What was happening to her?
Maybe someone spiked her drink. Was a would-be rapist watching, waiting for her to collapse before he pounced? One glance toward the large screen windows showed nobody was coming after her. Not a mystery drink-spiker, and definitely not Joss.
Salty air tickled her nostrils and made her lungs expand. The breeze caressing her face soothed her nerves, and the sound of waves breaking on the shore lulled her.
Her memory lapse was due to stress. She’d relax, and it would all come back to her.
A sense of longing washed over her and made the emptiness inside more pronounced. It felt like she was mourning a lost love, but it had nothing to do with Joss. Was she forgetting someone important?
The logical thing to do was call 911 and have an ambulance take her sorry ass to a hospital, so they could assess her for brain damage.
But she’d left her clutch at Joss’s, and the sea called to her. A splash of cold water might shock her back to normal.
She slipped off her platforms, and sighed with relief when her feet made contact with the cold, wet sand. She’d walk to the edge of the water and let the foam tickle her toes. Then she’d do the logical thing.
She didn’t realize she’d waded into the water until her mini dress clung to her thighs, heavy and soaked.
And she kept walking.
She trailed her fingertips along the surface, caressing the water. She didn’t want to die. Joss didn’t have the power to make her want to end her life. Come to think of it, he didn’t mean that much to her—there went that true-love prospect. The farther behind she left him and dry land, the starrier the sky was. The better she felt. It was past midnight, and she should be freezing, but she felt warm and loved and comfortable, even when the water brushed her closed lips and her long hair swam around her in blood-red tendrils.
She blinked, and she no longer saw the stars above.
“Another failure, huh?” The deep male voice came from behind her.
Halie kicked her legs, to turn toward the sound. When had her feet stopped touching the bottom of the sea?
A man’s face hovered a couple feet away, pale and gorgeous. He arched an eyebrow. His eyes looked like gems, but it could be the water washing them in green-blue hues.
Had he spoken? How could she hear him, underwater?
He smirked, and Halie tilted her head and watched his full mouth. He was about to speak, and whatever he said next would be important.
The gorgeous man shook his head, and long dark-green tresses swirled around him. “Found her,” he yelled, without moving his lips.
How? And who was he talking to?
Halie didn’t linger on the thought, because she had more urgent things to worry about. Like her urgent need for air. She turned her face up, following the bubbles that escaped her nostrils. She was fully submerged, but not by much. Her legs stuck together when she tried to scissor them. She kicked hard, but the man closed the distance between them with a long stroke and wrapped an arm around her waist.
He buried his face in her hair and somehow whispered, “Relax.”
She couldn’t. Her chest ached for a breath. Get me out of here, she wanted to scream. She tried to move her legs again, to help him to the surface, but his grip was made of steel and anchoring her in place. Killing her.
Her lungs constricted painfully. She had mere moments before she blacked out and drowned. Her arms were pinned between her and the man. She tried to dig her nails in his leg—anything to loosen his hold—but he wore something slippery, and she couldn’t find purchase. He didn’t budge.
She resisted taking a breath, until the burn was unbearable. Until her head swam, and the world darkened, and the man’s sparkling eyes were all she could make out. Until she lost the fight against her body.
And then she inhaled.
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