Sometimes it takes someone else to show us what we are truly capable of becoming. Suffering from years of violent abuse, Ryan Campbell has learned how to keep people from getting too close. But when you shut yourself off, people get hurt along the way. Never caring much about others, Ryan creates a world in which he doesn’t have to feel. When Ryan meets Candace Parker, all of his walls slowly begin to crumble. Not sure of the truth of who she is, he feels his mind is playing tricks on him. Unable to force out the thoughts that consume him, Ryan is haunted by visions that torment him every time he looks at her. He finds himself swallowed by guilt and blame, but he’s unwilling to turn his back on the one person that could possibly save him. You’ve heard Candace’s story in Fading, now hear Ryan’s.
“Babe, what the fuck happened in there?” I ask, when we get to my car, her whole body shaking. “Who the fuck did you see?”
She falls with her back against the side of the car and grabs on to my shirt as she’s crying, gasping for a decent intake of air.
“Jack is in there. We have to leave.”
“Him! Jack is . . .” Her cries are strained when I see Jase approach, asking in shock, “Candace, what happened?”
“Who the fuck is Jack?!” I scream, confused as fuck with what’s playing out in front of me.
“The guy that attacked her,” Jase tells me.
Grabbing on to Candace’s shoulders, I demand, “Get in the car. Now.” I pull my keys out of my pocket and hand them to Jase, yelling at him, “Get her in the fucking car!”
Everything tunnels as I turn from everything good in my life and walk away.
One second. That’s all it took.
Suspended in a false reality where actions and consequences no longer exist. Where rage boils so deep inside your veins that you’d do almost anything to drain them. I’d bleed it all out for her.
Chaos. I’m in it when I slam through the doors and bark out, demanding only the way a feral animal would, “Where’s Jack?!”
When the guy to my left points him out, I come unleashed.
I drop my head in my hands and let it out. It’s a haze of unrecognizable emotions beating through me. To look past this and let her continue to sit and do nothing is something that I don’t think I’m capable of. But Jase is right. My girl is so damn fragile even though she’s so damn strong. It’s a paradox that’s hard to deal with. She’s gonna break one way or another.
Irritation boils inside, and the longer I sit here it starts to eat away at me until it takes over and I stand up, kicking over the stool, screaming, and smashing my glass against the brick wall behind the bar followed next by the bottle. The blast of glass shattering and sprinkling to the floor is all I hear through the ringing in my head. I grab my keys, leaving the mess, and head to my jeep.
I drive. Making my way back to my loft and upstairs to find Candace standing in my closet, slipping on a sweater.
“Why didn’t you do anything?” I ask, unable to control my frustration.
She turns to look at me, confused, when she asks, “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t make me say it.”
“Ryan, please. Don’t,” she says and then walks past me to sit on the edge of the bed.
“Who is he?” I press, emotions getting the best of me.
She keeps her chin tucked down. Avoiding.
“Candace, tell me his fuckin’ name!"
I sitback on the couch and wonder about her, remembering what Jase told me the other day before I saw how upset she was after talking with her mom.
“Her parents are assholes to her. They treat her like shit and she doesn’t deserve it.”
I wonder how she’s doing. I wonder how bad her parents really are. I wonder if they’re the reason why she’s so closed off. I wonder why I’m wondering so much, but I can’t shake the fact that I need to know. For some reason, it bothers me, and I can’t let it go.
I pull out my cell and go back and forth on whether or not I should take this jump. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never done this before. I’ve never wanted to. But now . . . Fuck it, I’m jumping.
Punching out a text, I send it to Mark.
Can you send me Candace’s number?
She sniffs and I know she’s crying. Having her like this, in my arms, is an intimacy that’s completely foreign but comfortable. I’m sure she can hear my heart pounding, but I need her to hear it. I need her to feel it as it thuds in my chest because I need her to hear me falling for her, ‘cause that’s what’s happening here—I’m falling. I never wanted to before, but with her, all I want to do is fall. Fall into her. Fall so deep inside of her heart so that I never have to be without her. That’s what this girl does to me. That’s how powerful she is even when she thinks she’s at her weakest. She’s broken. I see it clearly, but whatever it is that’s haunting her, I wanna make it fade. I wanna make it fade and make her fall too—with me.
When she begins to pull away from me, I selfishly want to tighten my hold on her and keep her like this for a little longer. I worry this was just a random need for comfort from her, that I won’t get this again, that she doesn’t feel what I know I’m starting to. Fuck, this
Sitting there, I continue to hold her. We don’t talk at all. It’s quiet and peaceful, and having her warm body tucked in close with mine gets my heart racing. All I can think about is how I want to kiss her, touch her. Pick her up and make good use of her bed. But I know once that happens, I’ll never want to leave that bed. The thoughts alone turn me on, and I need to get control of myself.
“Hey,” I whisper, looking down at her. When she tilts her head and peers up at me, she’s close. So close, that if I lean down slightly, I could kiss her. Maybe I should. But I know myself. I won’t want to stop. I don’t think I could with her, so instead, I say, “I should get going.”
She nods her head, and feeling the movement against my jaw makes leaving so difficult, but that’s what I do. I stand, and she walks me to the door.
“You okay?” I ask.
She doesn’t answer, she just shakes her head and after a second begins crying again, wetting my shirt as she nuzzles into my chest. I strengthen my arms around her and let her cry without saying anything.
The hurt coming out of her is hard to listen to, but I do, and it breaks me. Breaks me in a way that even though I hate it, I find myself savoring it. The connection. Her need for me right now and the contentment I find in being the one to give it to her.
Author Bio and Links:
Twitter: @EK_Blair_Author or https://twitter.com/EK_Blair_Author
FALLING BOOK TRAILER CODE:
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