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Authors: Lauren Smith

Catching Raven

BOOK: Catching Raven
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c a t c h i n g
RAVEN

 

 

l
a u r e n    m i c h e l l e    s m i t h

 

 

STORY
MERCHANT BOOKS • LOS ANGELES • 2016

 

catching
RAVEN

Copyright
© 2016 by Lauren Michelle Smith All rights reserved.

No part
of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any
information storage and retrieval system, without the express written
permission of the author.

Facebook:
Author Lauren Michelle
Smith                                                      

Goodreads:
www.goodreads.com/author/show/8184326.Lauren_Michelle_Smith

Email:
[email protected]

Story
Merchant Books

400 S.
Burnside Ave. #11B,

Los
Angeles, CA 90036

http://www.storymerchant.com/books.html                                                               

Editor:
Lisa Cerasoli

Interior
Design: Lisa Cerasoli & Danielle
Canfield                                                                         

Cover: Sarah
Hansen, www.OkayCreations.com

Take Heart
is Lauren Michelle Smith’s debut romance novel.

 

 

 

Amazon Five
Star Reviews

 

—Best Ever!!!—

“This is one of the
greatest books written by a first-time author. I cannot wait to read another
book from Lauren Michelle Smith. It took my heart!”

—Maggie
Brodeur

 

—Ready for
Book Number 2—

“It's hard to believe this
is Lauren Smith's first novel considering her writing style. I was quickly
connected to the characters and enjoyed every page!”

—H. Brown

 

—Great Read—

“It could almost be one of the best books I've read this year. I cried a
few times. My heart hurt for Mia and Chase but I also laughed during other
parts! Would love to read more from these characters. Would love to read more
from Eric and Raven.”

—LWimer

c a t c h i n g
RAVEN

 

 

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

e     r     i    
c

 

Four Years Ago…

 

I swear I’ve been here a thousand
times before.

Well, not exactly. I’ve only lived in Austin for a couple weeks now. But
generally speaking, self-destruction is a process I’m all too familiar with.
It’s second nature. And that’s exactly what I’m doing when I bring Nina back to
my uncle’s place. I’m not looking for companionship. I’m just looking for a
distraction. She’s the third one this week. If it weren’t for Max working
nights, I’d never be able to get away with servicing this much pussy.

Nina knows anything beyond sex isn’t up for discussion. I made that
abundantly clear when she approached me last weekend at Levi’s party. Since
she’s fresh off a breakup, she’s not looking for anything more than a quick,
meaningless rebound. Talk about a win-win.

“Your parents aren’t home, are they?” she asks.

“Nope.”

“Then you should take me to your room.”

“Already on the agenda.”

Her eager fingers work at my belt in between kisses. I slip her the
tongue and start walking us backwards. She kicks her shoes off at the bottom of
the stairs. Halfway up, my shirt is next to go. We stumble down the hall,
colliding with numerous walls, and barge into my bedroom. Bedsprings squeak in
protest when we collapse on the mattress. Impatient, I tug her shirt up and
over her head, then kiss her hard once more and pull away to stand up.

“Take your shorts off.”

Much to my appreciation, she does. And she makes a seductive show out of
it. I strip down to my boxers and grab a condom from my dresser, then walk back
over to the bed and slide her underwear down her luscious thighs, admiring the
view along the way. When they’re off, she unabashedly lets her legs fall open,
granting me full access.

Sex with no obligations. Is there anything better?

“It’s a great day to be me.”

“Yes it is, Eric.”

I grin at her lack of modesty and rip the foil packet open. Once I’m
ready, I crawl over her and spread her thighs even wider apart, moving in on
the target.

“Holy hell!” she gasps as I enter her.

She runs her fingers through my hair and grabs two fistfuls. I love how
shameless she is. So hot and refreshing. Her hips grind against the pressure. I
reward her by reaching down and focusing on her clit. She releases my hair and
starts playing with her nipples. The erotic view spurs me on even more.

“Ah, just like that. Don’t stop,” she instructs.

I don’t. We go at it until we both feel equally raw and thoroughly used.
I kick up the pace, itching to receive the ultimate sedation. Anything to shut
my brain off. I thrust hard and fast until she shudders and cries out my name.
Stuck in my own fantasy, I make a catastrophic error. “Oh, God, Rave,” I say,
upon reaching climax.

Nina freezes.

Everything stops, minus my body still trembling uncontrollably inside
hers. Even though the lights are off, I can feel her intense gaze boring into
mine, stripping me bare.

“What did you just call me?”

I groan and run a free hand through my hair, exhaling my discomfort. What
the hell do I say to her? Hate feeling exposed.
What the fuck, Eric?
“Nina,
I’m so sorry. It was a slip up.”

She pushes me off and stands up, shielding her body protectively. “Don’t
ever call me again you piece of shit.”

I wince. Before I can apologize further or find some lame way to explain,
she’s gone.

How’s that for a night of self-destruction?

I punch my headboard and roll off the bed, then remove the condom and get
dressed. No idea what to do next. All I know is I desperately need another
distraction. One to offset tonight’s disaster. One to make me feel a whole lot
less shitty about myself than I do right now.

 

* * *

 

Levi and I are busy marking up an old
cement wall when a couple of voices in the distance interrupt our creative
flow. We stop spraying and listen, trying to decipher if the unexpected company
is a threat or not. A twig snaps, followed by crunching debris. My heart starts
pounding ferociously. Beads of sweat trickle down the sides of my temple and
free fall into shadows of darkness. I attempt to swallow, but my throat is too
dry. Aerosol and paranoia swirl in the air; an unwelcome reminder of home.
My
gut’s already telling me what I need to know. These aren’t random passers-by.

Breathe in; breathe out.

Another twig snaps.

They’re trying to be sneaky, but failing miserably.

I squeeze the spray can as hard as I can until my fingers ache. Anything
to help dispel the rising panic.
Must concentrate, Eric.
I smother the
flashlight against my hoodie and lean forward to listen for the faintest of
noises, trying to gauge how close they are. It always comes down to this. The
thrill. The chase. The underlying sense of danger.

Us versus them.

Levi peers around the corner of the cement wall and attempts to spot them
from above. His jet-black hair shields him from detection—a stark contrast from
my pale blond. Blending in with the night is crucial during times like these.
It can mean all the difference between getting caught and barely escaping. To
our advantage, we’ve been doing this for years. We know the drill. Flipside,
there are one too many streetlights for my comfort.

Levi ducks back down under the overpass and points upward, indicating
that the cops are on his side of the bridge. I nod and reach down to grab my
backpack. I slip the paint and flashlight inside, then zip it closed and sling
it over my shoulder, extra mindful not to make a sound. The two of us backtrack
and crawl up the opposite side, away from the voices.

Once we’re out of view, we rest our backs against one of the pillars,
bracing ourselves. A few moments later, we hear them approaching. I glance down
below at the spot where we were just standing and notice a solid beam of light
traveling along the gravel. We’ll have to wait until they’re completely under
the bridge before we make a run for it. Otherwise, we don’t stand a chance.

Hushed voices capture my attention. I lean over, straining to hear. One
pig tells the other one we’re close by. The graffiti is still fresh and the
fumes are potent.

Suddenly, their conversation comes to a halt.

The panic inside me flares, thinking they’ve found something. I glance
over at Levi and give him the oh-shit-we’re-totally-fucked look. His features
remain impassive—a strong testament that he’s the one who does better under
pressure.

My mind scrambles to think of an exit strategy.

Maybe it’s less risky if we stay put?

Negative. They’ll scan the entire area. They’d be stupid not to.

Taking the lead, Levi crab walks up the hill. I follow suit. Once we
reach the pavement, we’ll be able to make a break for it. Levi’s car is only a
block away. I just hope we can make it there without getting caught. It’d be
nice to have my record remain jail-free.

We’re almost in the clear when my left foot slips against the gravel,
sending loose chunks of rock and dirt cascading down the hill. Two flashlights
instantly zone in on it, getting brighter and brighter.

Levi and I wrestle to our feet and take off running.

“Hold it! Stay right where you are!” one of them shouts.

We ignore them and bolt toward the car. Adrenaline races through my veins
as my feet pound the pavement. I’ve never run so fast in my life. The officers
continue barking orders, but all I can hear is my heartbeat hammering in my
ears.

“Go, go, go!” I yell to Levi.

We make it to the car and jump inside. One of the officers breaks off and
runs across the street to his squad car. Levi’s Grand Am roars to life. He
slams his foot on the gas and the car lurches forward, forcing my back against
the seat. We speed off toward the interstate. I yank the seatbelt across my
chest and strap myself in.

Levi nervously glances in the rearview mirror. Lights and sirens alert
the sleeping neighborhood.

“He’s gaining on us,” I tell him.

“It’s two in the morning. There’s nobody else on the road to throw him
off our trail. We’re screwed.”

“Not necessarily. Hop on Mopac.”

Without missing a beat, he swerves onto a side street, taking a shortcut.
The cop mimics our every move, hell bent on catching us. I don’t even know
where his partner went, but I know it won’t be long before others show up.

“Damn it!” Levi smashes his fist against the dash. “I told you downtown
was too risky to tag.”

I brace myself against the seat and keep my eyes trained on the side
mirror. “Calm down, man. Now’s not the time to be losing your shit. We have
bigger problems to deal with.”

“You don’t say?” he snaps, making a sudden hard left.

“Aye, how many times have you thrown us into a fucked up situation and
I’ve had to be the one to bail us out? Return the favor.”

His fingers grip the steering wheel tightly. He clenches his jaw and
accelerates onto the onramp.

“We have to try to lose him at an exit. Wait until the last possible
second before you swerve off. Let’s hope his backup doesn’t show up before
then.”

“Doesn’t matter anyway. He’s probably already run my plates.”

It’s my turn to glare at him. “We’re not going down without a fight. You
hear me? It’s too late to surrender.”

He speeds up, the car matching the frantic rhythm of my heart. Deep down,
I know we’re screwed. I knew from the moment we heard them on the bridge. We’ve
dodged the cops before, but this time it’s different. We didn’t think far
enough ahead, or allow room for error. We started getting too comfortable in
the routine—a rookie mistake.

“Grab onto something,” Levi orders.

I grip the seat belt strap across my chest and suck in a deep breath.
Before I can exhale, Levi swerves to the right to catch a last-minute exit. He
overestimates the amount of force needed and the entire car shifts sideways.

A blur of events sweep by. The cop behind us slams on his brakes and
swerves to the left to avoid hitting us. Four sets of tires screech against the
pavement, rivaling the pitch of the sirens. Levi and I both shout profanities
as the back end of our vehicle crashes into the concrete barrier. Shards of
glass explode in the backseat. My head is propelled directly into the passenger
window, the impact making me see bright, vivid, translucent colors.

In the blink of an eye, it’s all over.

My ears are ringing. I’m fighting to stay conscious. I shift around in my
seat, my muscles aching in protest. My head rolls to the side, assessing Levi’s
condition. His face is buried in a bloodstained airbag. Panic seizes my chest.
Mine didn’t deploy. Why didn’t mine deploy?

With shaky hands, I feel around for the seat belt buckle and release the
strap. I lean over the console, spots blurring my vision, and grab onto Levi’s
shoulder.

I give him a gentle shake. “Levi, wake up.”

No response.

I place two fingers below his jaw on his neck.
Thank God, there’s a
pulse
. Relief floods my chest, but that feeling dissipates the instant the
cop opens my door. He ushers me out of the car. I stumble around as if I’ve
been drinking, my weight counter-balanced by his grip. Off in the distance, I
hear more sirens.

The officer helps Levi out of the car and makes us both sit down as he
proceeds to take stock of our injuries and search our belongings. My head is
fucking killing me. I press my sleeve to the side of my temple—the hoodie is
blood soaked. Everything’s so bright. Why is everything so bright at night?

An ambulance arrives shortly after, along with backup and a tow truck.
Normally, I’d refuse to go to the hospital, but given the current situation,
ditching Levi is out of the question. Why can’t I seem to stop fucking up
lately?

As we leave the scene, a wave of guilt washes over me. And all these
colors are still coating my vision. Scarlet being the most prominent one.

 

BOOK: Catching Raven
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