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Authors: Courtney Cole

Before We Fall

BOOK: Before We Fall
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Before We Fall
Courtney Cole

 

 

Life is scary and dreams get broken.

This book is for anyone brave enough to put the pieces back together again.

Acknowledgments

I always have so many people to thank. That’s because I’ve come to find out, over the years, that it takes more than just one person to write a good book. It takes a team. I have to humbly say that I have the best team in the world.

First, my family. They are the best teammates anyone could ever ask for. My daughter, my littlest writing assistant, carries around a pen and paper just in case I have a great idea. My teenage sons let me pick their brains—to see how boys
really
think. And my husband is very patient with me when I clickety-clack on my laptop in bed next to him at two
A.M.
when I get a great idea that just won’t wait until morning. They also eat out a lot when I just can’t stop to make dinner. I’m forever grateful to them and I love them more than they’ll ever know.

My BFF and partner in crime, M. Leighton. You probably know her from books like
The Wild Ones
or
Down to You
. She’s the best critique partner and BFF that a girl could ever ask for. She’s always on call and always a font of good advice. She talks me down from ledges and keeps me from pulling my hair out. I love her to infinity and beyond.

My editor, Amy Pierpont, from Forever. Her insight is more than I ever hoped for in an editor. She can take a look at a scene and see three different things that I’d never thought to look for. Her knowledge and experience is a blessing to me, as is her ability to cut right to the important things. I’m lucky to have her.

I’m lucky to have Madeleine Colavita from Forever, as well. She’s always so quick to help me, no matter what I ask of her. She’s cheerful and friendly no matter what. Her enthusiasm over my character Brand always makes me smile. I love her to bits.

My agent, Catherine Drayton. She’s amazing and smart, experienced and awesome. I can’t say enough about her other than I’m so freaking lucky to have her. She knows what she’s doing and she goes about doing it in such a classy way. She’s the best agent out there, hands down.

My beta readers… Autumn from
The Autumn Review
, Natasha from
Natasha is a Book Junkie
, Momo from
Books Over Boys
. You guys are amazing. Your insight and opinions helped make this book what it is today. You helped me polish it until it shone. Thank you!!!

I have to say a special thank you to Autumn for being my sex guru for this book. When I was researching the… er…
darker
side to the sexual nature, Autumn’s input was invaluable. The girl knows sex. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with me! Hehe.

My publicity team: Kelly Simmon from Inkslinger PR and Jessica, Marisa, Morgan, and Jane from Forever. You guys rock at what you do and I’m lucky to have you on my side.

My assistant, Avery. Thank you for making my life easier, one task at a time. You’re awesome and you know it.

And… YOU. My awesome, amazing readers. Without you, these books wouldn’t happen. I get to do what I do because of you. I’m grateful for you every single day of my life. Thank you for being so awesomely amazing.

Prologue

Then

The slap can be heard all the way down the beach.

The sound of flesh meeting flesh, sharp and loud, is unmistakable, and my head snaps up to find a skinny girl in a red swimsuit standing in front of the biggest bully of the beach, a sixth grader named Heather.

The summer sun is blistering hot, but my cheeks flush even hotter when I see the ugly expression on Heather’s face as she towers over the smaller girl. A girl who can’t be more than nine or ten and who is even now cradling her cheek with her hand.

I look around, but there are no adults in the vicinity, and Heather knows it. Her leer gets even wider as she leans down into the younger girl’s face, intent on doing even more damage than a handprint on a cheek.

That’s all it takes to send me rocketing up from my towel and down the beach toward them, my heels flipping sand in the air as I run. I reach them just in time to see Heather snatch some money from the girl’s small hand.

A tear slips down the girl’s cheek, which causes Heather to grin. “Go cry to your mommy, little girl,” she sneers, in the ugly way only a middle-school bully can.

The sheer sight of it makes me see red and I forget all logic as I rush toward the pair. I forget that Heather has tormented me every day of every summer and I forget that I can’t be any older than the skinny girl in the red swimsuit.

In this moment, it doesn’t matter.

“What the hell, Heather?” I demand as I skid to a stop in front of them. The other girl, the skinny one, sucks in her breath at my bad language. It’s a groundable offense, but my Gran is all the way down the beach, sitting in the shade. “Give her the money back.”

Heather stares down at me and sweat glistens on her plump chin. “Or what, shrimp? What will you do if I don’t?”

I lift my chin and look her in the eye.

“I’ll tell everyone, including your friends, what you were doing with Jamie Rawlins under the pier a while back. I saw you. I saw what you did. And if you don’t give her the money back, I’ll tell
everyone.

Heather’s eyes widen, then narrow. “You wouldn’t.”

I nod, calmer now than I probably should be. “I would.”

Heather looks out over the lake and thinks about it for a minute before she tosses the crumpled up bills at my feet.

“I hope it was worth it,” she tells me hotly. “Because I’m going to make your life hell.”

“Whatever.” I sniff, trying to appear unconcerned. “It’s not like you don’t try already.”

Heather glares at me and walks off, and I bend to pick up the money, handing it to the skinny girl. I smile at her.

“Here you go. I’m sorry she’s so mean. I think someone pees in her cornflakes every day.”

The girl seems speechless and she stares at me for a minute with wide blue eyes before shyly handing me a white shell.

“Thank you for getting my ice cream money back,” she says so softly that I have to strain to hear her. “I collect these. The big nice ones are hard to find in the lake.”

I smile again. “You’re right, it’s hard to find them. Thank you! I’m going to swim out to the buoy line. Wanna come?”

The girl stares out at the battered line of buoys that bob up and down in the current a hundred yards out. She looks a little uncertain, a little scared.

“I can’t,” she finally answers. “My mom would kill me. The current’s too bad.”

I nod as if I understand what it’s like to have a mother that cares. My own doesn’t even know that I can swim.

“Okay,” I tell the girl. “I’ll see you around.”

She watches me as I jog back and drop the shell on my towel before I dive into the current, swimming over and under the frigid waves like a seal. When I finally reach the buoys, I grab onto one, clinging tightly as it bobs, while I push my hair out of my face with cold fingers.

Glancing back toward the beach, I hunt for the girl in the red swimsuit, but I don’t see her anywhere. She’s gone, and I realize something.

I didn’t even ask her name.

Chapter One
Dominic

Now

I like to watch.

I know that I shouldn’t, but I don’t really give a shit. I like the flash of skin, the sweaty limbs, the sex smells, the
fucking

Watching makes me feel something. It’s one of the only things that does.

“Some things never change, Dominic,” Kira murmurs as her hand splays across my open shirt, her long brown hair moving in the breeze, tickling my chest as she watches with me. “You’re just the same… a freak. I love that.”

I don’t answer because she’s right. I’m a fucking freak. She knows it and I know it, and neither of us care. If anything, Kira likes it. She must, because she’s stuck by me for a long time. She knows me better than anyone… and she definitely knows what I like.

Even though she’s beautiful and familiar, I ignore her fingers as they trace across my skin, graze the tips of my nipples, and trail down to my crotch. My dick is resistant to her touch tonight and remains soft inside my pants. Not because she’s not hot or sexy, because she is.

But because familiar and normal don’t stir my blood. I’ve seen pretty much everything once and have done it twice. Normal doesn’t do it for me anymore.

Forbidden
things are what lift my dick. Dark things, bad things.

I stare down from the balcony, looking past the shimmering pool below, past the rippling water that sheds blue light on everything around it, at the images that waver in the night. The images of two people fucking.

Knowing that I
shouldn’t
watch is what excites me about it, and so I don’t take my eyes from the couple having sex next to my brother’s pool.

I take another drink of whiskey, letting the fiery liquid sit in my mouth before I swallow it, letting it curl its fingers around my stomach, warming my gut.

Watching the couple, I lean against the railing, half-hidden by the shadows, enveloped by the night. It’s just how I like it.

In front of me, the scene turns rough.

And my dick turns hard.

The girl’s teeth sink into the guy’s neck, then she whispers something unintelligible into his ear, words that hiss as she drags her teeth across his skin. Hard, aggressive, rough. I can see the red trail of pain she leaves behind from here.

“Did she just bite him?” Kira asks in amusement, her hand frozen at my waistband.

I nod. She did. And it made me hard as a rock. I love watching pain. It distracts me from my own.

The guy smiles, liking it too. He lifts her legs onto his shoulders as he thrusts into her. Hard. Then he frees one hand to grab her neck. Hard. His fingers dig into the delicate skin there, cutting into the flesh, leaving red marks that just might turn purple by morning.

But she likes it.

I can tell by the way she scratches his back and moans for more. I can tell by the way she draws him even further into herself, bucking her hips to take him even deeper. I can tell by the way she doesn’t even try to take his hand away from her throat.

It always fascinates me when I see women that like getting debased, the ones who like it rough, the ones who want to be dominated or humiliated.

It doesn’t make any sense, but I see it all the time, more and more, especially here at my brother’s place at one of his endless parties. Around his pool, in his hot tub, on his lawn. People seem to lose their inhibitions when they pass through these gates, which doesn’t make any sense, either. Most of them don’t know him, not really. But it doesn’t stop them from making themselves
very
at home here.

Suffice it to say I’m always entertained when I come to visit.

“Do you think they know we’re watching?” Kira leans up on her tiptoes, murmuring with hot breath into my ear as she strokes my balls.

I glance back down at the couple, watching the guy’s face contort and twist, and watching the girl moan and writhe beneath him. They have no clue we’re here, but I have a feeling they wouldn’t care even if they did.

“I think that girl served me champagne earlier!” Kira exclaims, leaning closer to look.

“You’re probably right,” I answer, staring at the girl’s skimpy server’s uniform. I briefly wonder where her boss thinks she is. Surely he has no idea that she’s fucking a party guest next to the pool.

But that’s not my problem.

The bulge between my legs is my problem now. It’s grown thicker and heavier and I shift, easing the pressure of my jeans away from my dick. I brush my hand against the denim covering my crotch, stroking myself. Just a little. Quickly and efficiently.

I’m not going to get off right out here in the open. Because of how I make my living, I’ve learned not to do
anything
out in the open. The press would have a fucking field day if pictures of me jacking off leaked out.

Kira takes care of the situation for me, just as she always does when I’m in town. She pushes me backward into the shadows, where she steps out of her shorts in front of me. She’s not wearing underwear.

She’s right. Some things never change.

“Fuck me with your hand while you watch them,” she instructs me softly, her green eyes gleaming. “Do it, Dom. And then I’ll let you come on my face, the way you like to.”

I reach for her. She stands limply in front of me, her head resting on my shoulder as I slide two of my fingers in and out of her. I know exactly where to touch her. She sucks in a breath and I have to smile. I know every inch of her. There are some things to be said for familiarity.

She’s soaking wet, as though she’s been waiting for this since I’d seen her last. She hasn’t, of course. Kira and I have an arrangement of convenience. It’s convenient because we know each other, we trust each other. And there are no feelings involved. She and I are the same in that way.

I can hear the girl by the pool moaning loudly and it makes my fingers move faster, working Kira harder, in time to the guy’s sweaty thrusts. Kira moans with the girl by the pool and I close my eyes, listening to the fucking sounds. With my hand buried in Kira’s crotch, the sounds are all I need now.

If I were decent, I’d back away from the balcony and give the couple some privacy and I’d give Kira more coverage from the shadows… just in case someone happens upon us.

But fuck that. I’m not decent. Not anymore.

After a few more minutes of rough fucking, the guy pulls out of the waitress and grasps her hard, yanking her off the chaise and forcing her down in front of him, onto her knees. I can see her skin graze the bricks, just as I can read his lips.

Suck me.

I pause as the girl shakes her head, trying to scramble away, but he holds her fast by her hair, making her take him into her mouth. Making her suck her own taste off of him.

She’s definitely not into it now. She swings her arms at him frantically, but he holds her hair tightly, wrapping it around his hands, refusing to let her go.

I watch the fear wash over her face and my gut tightens in reaction.

Fuck.

Kira lifts her head as my hand stills. “What?”

Her eyes are glazed as she stares at me. I nod toward the pool, at the struggle going on down there, at the girl trying desperately to get away from the asshole’s grip.

“Hell,” Kira sighs. “Ignore it, Dom. It’s not your problem. We’re not done here.”

I sigh too, because I know I can’t ignore it.

This has been happening way too much. People come here and get wasted and out of control. It’s not worth the trouble, but Sin keeps having the parties anyway. He says it keeps him relevant, whatever the fuck that means. I don’t seem to have a problem with being
relevant
, and I don’t host a single party.

I shake Kira’s grip off of my wrist, gulp down the rest of my drink, and head down the stairs, ignoring her calls of protest.

It takes a minute to weave discreetly through the masses of people scattered through the house and to make my way across the lawn and onto the stones leading to the pool. But I reach the couple within two minutes, and without even pausing I grab the guy from behind, ripping him backward. He hisses as the girl’s teeth scrape his dick.

It serves him right. The fucker interrupted me.

He yelps and I toss him on the ground, watching in satisfaction as he scrapes his face on the stone bricks before he rolls into the lawn.

“Get the fuck out,” I snap at him. “No one gets forced against their will here.”

“That bitch wanted it,” he protests as he climbs to his feet. “She was asking for it.”

I shake my head. “The last time I checked, no means no. It’s not a new way of
asking for it.
Get the fuck out of here.”

The guy looks at me again, recognizes who I am, and then stalks away without another word. I grab a pool towel and wrap it around the girl’s shoulders.

Her skimpy uniform, which was barely there in the first place, is hanging around her waist now, apparently ripped in their scuffle. She seems self-conscious, but honestly, I barely notice. She’s young and has perky tits, but so do thousands of other women. She doesn’t do much for me. Mostly because I know she’d offer herself on a platter if I wanted her to. I briefly consider inviting her to join Kira and me, but don’t. She’s drunk, and even if she’s too drunk to remember it, she’s just been almost violated.

“You okay?” I ask gruffly. She nods, sniveling, just as another girl, a gorgeous blonde in a matching uniform, rushes up.

“Holy shit, Kaylie. What the hell happened?”

The blonde is obviously alarmed, concerned, and while Kaylie explains about the asshole, I turn to disappear back into the shadows. Regardless of my profession, I try to stay out of the spotlight when the cameras aren’t rolling. Unfortunately, I only make it partway before Kaylie grabs my arm, then wraps herself around my waist.

“Thank you,” she tells me shakily, her arms like thin bands, not giving me room to even squirm. I stare down at her, looking past her tear-smeared eyeliner to look into her panicky eyes.

“It’s not a problem. But you need to stay out of situations like that. There won’t always be someone to step in and save you.”

From her shocked expression, I decide that I might’ve been a little too hard on her. But shit. Women have to be more careful. She can’t parade around in barely any clothes, have rough sex with a stranger, and just expect him to be a gentleman. Men, by and large, aren’t gentlemen. We’re assholes.

Kaylie stares at me, too drunk or high to even respond. But her friend isn’t so silent.

Big brown eyes snap at me angrily. “Why are you lecturing her? She was just assaulted, in case you didn’t notice.”

I roll my eyes.

“Is that what you call it? She was having rough sex with that asshole right out in the open. When she was supposed to be working, I might add. It looked to me like it was an incident that just got out of control. I stopped it for her. You’re welcome.”

Gorgeous Blonde stares at me dumbfounded. “Are you trying to insinuate that she’s not a victim, that it was her fault this happened?”

I sigh. “Of course not. I’m saying that she shouldn’t have been encouraging a drunk stranger to be rough with her in the first place. Good night.”

I start to walk away, but apparently she’s not done.

“Who the fuck do you think you are?” she demands. “You might not have heard, but you really shouldn’t blame the victim.”

“I’m not blaming—” I begin, but I’m interrupted by her gasp as I step fully into the light and she sees my face.

“Holy shit.” She breathes. “You’re Dominic fucking Kinkaide.”

I can’t help but smile, just a little, just enough to pull the corners of my mouth up. “Dominic will do. I tend to drop the ‘fucking.’ Unless of course, I’m
actually
fucking.”

She smiles a breathtaking smile that should affect me. The girl is stacked, has legs that go on for miles, and she’s wearing next to nothing. She should affect me. But she doesn’t. Because nothing affects me anymore. I’m jaded as fuck.

“I’ve heard you’re trouble,” she announces matter-of-factly, eyeing me up and down with a slow gaze and fire in her eyes. “That’s lucky, because I happen to like trouble.”

“I bet you do,” I answer back, trying to ignore the way she’s acting now that she knows who I am. They all act like this. Every one of them. It gets monotonous. Just once, can’t someone surprise me? “Nice to meet you.”

I turn around and walk back toward the house, but she takes two steps and grabs my arm. I pause.

“But you didn’t,” she says hesitantly, a bit unsure now. “You didn’t meet me. My name’s Jacey.”

I sigh. “Your name doesn’t matter.”

I keep walking, ignoring the way she sucks her breath in, the way she calls after me in agitation, the way she gives up and stops in defeat.

I might be an asshole, but I don’t lie.

Her name doesn’t matter.

Not to me.

I leave the entire situation behind, out of my sight and out of my mind. Within a few minutes, I’m standing in front of Kira again.

“All taken care of?” she purrs, reaching for me. I nod, burying my face between her heavy, naked tits as she unbuckles my belt. “Bind my hands with this, and come on my face.”

She doesn’t have to ask me twice.

“You’re such a dirty girl,” I whisper in her ear as I push her onto the couch and bind her hands above her head, just tight enough for the leather to bite into her flesh. Just the way she likes it.

And then I grasp my dick in my hand and fuck my fist, just the way
I
like it.

For just a second, for some strange reason, the blonde chick’s face pops into my mind, her eyes wide and brown. I have no idea why, but I shake my head to clear it. I focus instead on the matter at hand.

Within another two minutes, I come on Kira’s face, spurting in a cream-colored arc that spatters onto her tanned skin. She licks a drop from her lips and grins at me.

“Welcome home, lover.”

“Don’t call me that.” I shake my head as I pull my jeans back on and collapse next to her. She rolls her eyes.

“Why? It’s what we are. You always come back to me, Dom. You know that.”

I unbind the belt wordlessly, tossing it onto the floor. I might always come back to her whenever I come home, but I don’t fuck her. Not really. I haven’t actually fucked someone in years.

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