So Liz Reinhardt is coming out with the follow up book to Fall Guy (The Youngbloods). So excited. .. sorry got distracted by thoughts of Winchester! This next book is going tobe about Benelli– Winch’s sister. Liz decided to share a bit out the upcoming book…
And then he’s right there.
My secret. My love. My infuriating puzzle of a boyfriend. The one person who understands exactly what I want and could be my perfect match in life and love.If he would just take the next step with me.
“How the hell do you get more damn beautiful every time I see you?” he asks, his mouth closing over mine.
I fall deep into that perfect, delicious kiss, letting all the worries I’ve carried like a yoke on my shoulders ease away. “Damian?”
“Mmm?” His mouth drags from my lips and forges an urgent path down my neck and back up, meeting my lips again before I have a chance to say what I need to say. When he finally pulls back and I’m completely out of breath, he starts to undo the laces that hold the top of my shirt together. “What were you saying, princess?”
“It’s just…” I put a hand on his wrist and still his fingers. “It’s my father.”
His spine goes stiff, and he jerks away from me and sighs, running an irritated hand over his face. “This again?” He blows a long, aggravated breath out and holds his hands up at his sides. “Okay, shoot. I know you’re not going to let me rest until you get to say your piece. So say what you need to say.”
“You and I talked about announcing…about letting them know…if he knows our intentions, he’ll give us his blessing, and we can go ahead and start planning for a wedding. I mean, once we’re officially engaged and all.” All the words I want to say are perfect, ripe pieces of fruit dangling just out of my reach. I press on, desperate to get my point across no matter how clumsily I present it. “He needs help. And if you and I were married, he’d trust you to—”
“I’m not really sure why exactly we gotta wait on your dad’s blessing to start living our life, Benelli,” he interrupts, his words ricocheting out a little too loud. He corner-eyes the door and drops his voice. “See? This is what I mean. All this sneaking around is ridiculous. Why is it that we always need permission to do anything? You’re a grown woman, not a little kid. I’m a grown man. I’ve proven myself in the game, and that should be enough for your old man. I feel like once we go begging for his permission, he’s gonna have a leash around my neck that he’ll yank whenever he wants.”
“It’s not like that,” I protest, rubbing my fingers over the sensitive spot on the back of his neck that always soothes him. “What my dad will offer us after we’re married will eventually become our own piece of the business. Sure, we’ll have to help him for the first few years to pay back for the startup, but that’s not him having a leash around your neck. It’s just a business arrangement.”
He rolls his neck on his shoulders and presses his body closer to mine, possessively.
“So I’m not his slave, but I’m his indentured servant for life?” Damian’s hands reach up and grip my shoulders. “Benelli, run away with me. Tonight. Elope with me. I promise you, we’ll have to start small, but I’ll give you twice what your mother has in three years, if not sooner. You’ll live like a duchess, like you deserve. And I’ll be able to hold my head up around your father.”
My heart thunders in my chest, bolts of lightening spark through my brain, and the cold, clear downfall of this potential reality soaks through the skin of my conscience.
I break from his touch and put my hands on my cheeks, burning up with the exciting possibility of doing this, breaking out and flying in my own direction for once.
But I can’t. A decision this big is one I need to make with my family at my side. No question. I take a few controlled breaths and focus.
“Damian, I could never do that to my parents. My mother has been looking forward to my wedding for my entire life. It would be a huge slap in the face to just not include her. And my father is a very powerful man. He’s going to want someone as talented as you on his side, not competing with him. Don’t you see how if we do this together, with my family, it will be that much better?”
But, instead of my calm words arranging everything in neat little piles like I wanted, it’s like they’re a tornado ripping through the plans for our life. Damien is not happy, I’m not happy, and I know my father and mother will be completely unhappy if I even consider eloping.
They might even be furious knowing I’m dating Damien.
Because that’s not what we agreed to.
Because I was supposed to wait for them to begin arranging dates for me with eligible men, men who would understand all that I’m trying to explain to Damien without my having to deal with the issue of this frustrating angst.
But things got so crazy with my other siblings, and I was so lonely, and Damien seemed…like he would fit in. Like he was the right person. So I took a chance and started to see him behind my parents’ backs, and the more I knew about him, the more I knew they’d appreciate what a good, level-headed choice I’d made.
It’s just hard to get him to play by the rules. He always has a hard time seeing the bigger picture.
“I’m not going to be a soldier for the Youngblood family, Benelli.” He takes his hands off my arms and backs up, edging out the door, his mouth hard and pulled to one side. “You need to know when it’s time to cut ties with your family and start your own life on your own terms.” One of his hands is fisted around the doorknob, waiting for me to call him back, tell him I want what he wants.
“Damien, please stay.” I walk over to him, and he lets my body curve close to his, watches my fingers brush lightly over his chest and down to his belt-buckle. I keep my voice low and throaty, trying to seduce him back to a better place.“We can talk about this more. If you listen to what I’m saying, I know you’ll see—”
“There’s nothing else to say.” He cuts me off, his words sharp, his body twisting away from mine. “You need to make a choice. Me or them.” He holds his arms up and out at his sides.
I cross my arms tight over my body and pop one hip to the side as I watch him stalk backward out the door. “You’re being ridiculous. You call me when you’re ready to talk like a reasonable man. I don’t do ultimatums, Damien. Do you hear me?”
I watch his dark silhouette head back to his car, parked far enough up the street that the rumble of his engine won’t alert my parents to his presence, and I feel a mix of dread and despair that puts all my thoughts into a cyclone of jumbled confusion.
He’ll be back, I tell myself. He just technically proposed to me.
He’ll definitely be back.
I lie down on my bed and fold my hands over my stomach, watching the ghostly flicker of the candlelight on the walls until the first flame drowns in the melted wax and sputters to its smoky death. Shadows chase across my ceiling and more candles extinguish as I doze in and out of a choppy pseudo-sleep that’s interrupted by dreams that feel so real and ominous, I startle awake over and over.
Every time I jolt awake from another mini-nightmare, I’m shocked that Damian isn’t in my room, flowers in hand, a small smile of apology on his face. Somewhere between midnight and early sunrise, I fall into a dark sleep that’s mercifully dreamless and wake way too early. I welcome this new day with such an enormous leaden lump gathering weight in the pit of my stomach, no amount of concentrated Reclining Goddess pose can get rid of it.