Hey, my friends! My apologies, as I haven’t posted in a while. Life’s gotten in the way, but so has my computer (died) and my phone (also died). I’m managing and have worked my way around those issues, but let’s just say it’s been a tough few months.
Did you think that meant I hadn’t been writing? NO WAY!
For instance, the rest of the Matchmaker series will be coming in early 2019 as well as the rest of Nicki Sosebee. And I also have a couple secrets up my sleeve. All kinds of fun coming in 2019!!!
But…I’ve also been working on my next rock star romance book (which is the first in a trilogy). Book one will be in the upcoming SEDUCTIVE Anthology Series: Volume 1 (which comes out February 12). If you liked Bullet, I’m predicting right now that you will freaking LOVE the Rock Stars on the Rise series. Seriously. I know this!
To whet your appetite, I’m sharing the epilogue from Shake Me, book one of this series. Enjoy!
My eyes were riveted on the full-length mirror just two feet in front of me, ignoring the torrent of words rushing through my brain. Was that really me I was looking at? My breathtaking makeup was light and fresh, giving me the appearance of youth and innocence. The dress on my body, white lace and tulle, hugged my frame, and even though the style flattered my curves, it felt as though I were being embraced by a python.
I took as deep a breath as I could, feeling an underlying shake quivering the air exiting my body, thanks to the adrenaline coursing through my veins.
God, this was stupid…but I didn’t know if I felt dumb because I was making too big a deal out of this—or not big enough.
The knock on the door pulled me out of my musing. “Come in.”
I’d halfway expected mom on the other side, even though I’d already seen her a few minutes ago. But it was Roxy, grinning ear to ear as she peeked in the crack. “Are you ready, Dani?”
Swallowing, I forced the lie out of my lips. “Yep.”
“Don’t you look beautiful?” Roxy flew into the room then. Before she closed the door, the combined conversations of the crowd not far away hit me like a wave.
All those people were here to see me.
Well, not just me.
“You look pretty damn beautiful yourself,” I said. What I didn’t say was that the woman cleaned up well. She still had the purple streaks in her lovely black locks, but her makeup was toned down, soft and clean, much like mine this day, her hair loosely piled on the back of her head with wisps falling alongside her face. The two of us could have been in a shampoo commercial, running through green fields, a breeze blowing back the loose strands of hair as we smiled and reveled in the warm sun—or maybe a douche commercial.
Probably more appropriate.
Roxy’s sleeve tattoos might have felt incongruous against the mauve fabric of her dress but, instead, the ink felt like an adornment chosen to go with the outfit. Her simple silver jewelry—earrings, necklace, and rings—accented her pale skin and, even though it seemed as if she’d chosen them for their simplicity, they merely showed off just how gorgeous the woman really was.
I found that comforting in a way, because maybe all eyes wouldn’t be on me.
“Are you nervous?”
I tried to laugh but instead it seemed more like a pathetic stutter. “What do you think?”
She nodded and pulled me into a hug before I could protest. “Yeah, I would be, too. But if it’s any consolation, you look like you were destined for this.”
Oh, God, no, that was no consolation at all. In fact, I hadn’t known till she’d said it that anything could have made me feel worse than I already did. While I kept choking it down, I knew. Yes, in the back of my mind, I knew this was all a show. I was faking it, going through the motions, and to what end?
A stupid fear of someday dying alone? Of spending life by myself?
Would that really be so bad?
Digging deeper, though, I knew even that was a fucking lie I was telling myself, because I didn’t want to face the ugly truth.
If I couldn’t have the man I really wanted, I would settle for the man who really wanted me.
My throat constricted as if it wasn’t going to allow me to tell one more falsehood today but, as Roxy pulled away, she examined me again. “You look perfect, doll. Can I get you anything else before we do this?”
I shook my head, hoping the adrenaline would wear off before the urge to puke overtook me. “No, but thanks.”
Roxy’s striking blue eyes searched mine one last time. “Okay. Well, I’ll see you out there. I have to get my bouquet and then go wait with Dean.” She grinned, her white teeth glaring at me like headlamps, her raised eyebrows communicating a giddiness I should have felt. After all, it was my wedding day.
I forced a plastic smile on my face and hoped Roxy couldn’t tell. If she thought my odd behavior was due to nerves, she wouldn’t question me. She giggled as she left the room—actually giggled, strange because the woman surrounded herself with awe-filled moments day by day, interviewing celebrities, visiting new cities constantly, thanks to her work. But here she was, flooded with that Cinderella fantasy, turned into a silly girl just by the thought of true love forever.
And here I was, making a sham of the entire dream.
“You’ll be great,” she said, almost as an afterthought as she began walking out the door again. “Next time I talk to you, you’ll be a missus!”
I fought like hell to keep my stomach contents down as the click of the door felt like the bars of a cell locking me in.
I turned back to the mirror, glaring at my reflection. Hadn’t I chosen this? I’d willingly said yes to sweet Braden, the man who worshipped me as if I were the only woman on the planet. I knew there were thousands of women who’d kill to kiss the guy’s feet, and here I was thinking of him as second best.
Even though I was marrying him, he didn’t occupy my entire heart.
Oh, I looked the part. My light brown hair had been styled by the artist we’d employed to make me look like a dream, piled on the back of my head, crowned with a veil, but my makeup, though stunning, created my face into someone I wasn’t. Maybe it was better that way. Then people wouldn’t know the lie I continued to create and reinforce with every action.
If they knew—my friends, my loved ones—what would they think? More importantly, what would my future husband think?
The dress, purchased by said fiancée, would have been the envy of wealthy and poor alike, celebrity or fan—because it was elegant without being too much. In traditional white, the skirt was overlaid with cascading ruffles, the top embellished with diamond-like jewels. The back laced up and between it and the halter on the front, I showed a lot of skin. Like Roxy, I was fortunate that my friends and loved ones already knew I was adorned in tattoos. While the color popped more because the dress was stark and devoid of such, I wouldn’t have chosen a different dress in another hue. I’d fallen in love with this one and had committed to it from the moment I’d decided.
My future husband hadn’t been afforded that same sort of loyalty, and if he’d only known…
Snap out of it, Danielle. I’d already made this commitment. Made my bed, so to speak. It was too late to back out, not with all the guests having arrived, all the money we’d sunk into the ceremony, all the time and effort I’d made to convince myself. Braden was a nice guy, a good guy, one who would always love me and take care of me. He’d have my best interests at heart every time. If I asked him to jump off a cliff for me, he’d do it. From what I knew of him, he’d be an amazing father and giving husband. Who cared if I thought he wasn’t perfect? I could think of this as if it were an arranged marriage.
I’d have to make it work.
My head was there. Logically, I knew Braden was good for me, and I’d be a fool to run from him. It was my damn heart causing all the problems. But I knew from past experience that my heart was often wrong. Making decisions based on my emotions was one of the worst things I could do.
When I heard the knock on the door, I knew it must be time. The piano continued to play, and there was no gearing up for the bridal chorus, but that didn’t mean a thing. If I recalled correctly, they’d only start playing that when they saw me in place. I knew it was probably my grandpa outside the door, ready to walk me down the aisle.
Which meant I needed to wipe the look off my face, the one that gave away the doubt and hesitation swirling inside. Grandpa would expect me to look as young and innocent as my makeup did, as elegant as my dress appeared, and as happy as the occasion called for. Just thinking about my grandfather made it easier to smile as my hand touched the cool brass knob before opening the door.
But it wasn’t grandpa.
It was Zack.
“What the hell are you doing here?” I hissed, ready to slam the door in his face. As if I wasn’t struggling enough.
“Five minutes, Dani. That’s all I want.”
“It’s time for me to walk down the aisle. You’re too late.”
“Bullshit. We have time. Three minutes.”
As usual, I couldn’t say no to Zachary Ryan. Sighing, I opened the door farther, indicating I would let him in for a bit. I closed the door slowly, afraid to turn around, afraid to look him in his green eyes, to take in his towering frame, to feel the energy oozing off his body.
To hear his thoughts.
Zack coming to my door couldn’t mean anything good. And he knew I knew that. So the clock was ticking, and I gave my best impression of impatience.
I crossed my arms over my chest, but I held out hope that he was either going to wish Braden and me luck or he was going to apologize for his behavior last night—although I was as guilty a party to last night’s proceedings as he was.
Another sign that this was a bad idea.
But I knew he might be there for good rather than evil, because he was wearing the tux tradition required. After all, he was the best man, so he might have come to wish me the best in my new life.
“So what do you want, Zack?”
“Tell me what last night was all about.”
“I need to ask you that.” I wanted to slap his face until the smirk fell off it.
He arched an eyebrow and half sat on the table. “I’m not the one getting married today.”
“No, but you have claimed to be the groom’s best friend.”
“I’m your friend, too.”
“I’m starting to doubt that. In fact, I think you need to leave. All you’re doing is upsetting me, and I need to focus on being calm and happy.”
“You’re missing the point, Dani.” He stood and walked over to me, enough that I could feel the electricity between us once more. “If you really love Braden, why were you in my bed last night?”
He wasn’t going to let it go—so I had to hit him with every weapon I had. “It was a last hurrah, Zack—so I hope you enjoyed it. It’ll never happen again.”
His eyes narrowed but his breathing remained steady. “How can you be so sure?” As he took another step toward me, I could feel the heat radiating off his body.
It was almost like last night.
“Because I said so. You and me? We’re done. This is it.”
But then, as if my body would betray me forever, I froze at the key moment. Zack touched my cheek with the back of his fingers, the ones with RIOT tattooed on the knuckles, and my eyes closed, taking me back to last night, remembering how he’d touched me both with gentleness and passion, taking me to places I knew Braden never could, even if we lived to be one-hundred. There had always been something between Zack and me, something I couldn’t deny.
But how could I be so sure that things would be different now? I loved Zack with everything in me, everything I was, but I also knew, had known even when we were younger, that people don’t change. Leopards don’t lose their spots; zebras’ stripes don’t disappear; the sun never comes up in the west; and the tides never stop rising and falling.
So how could Zack evolve from being the bastard to me he always reverted to when we pursued romance? Because even though I had no doubt that he loved me, I also had every reason to believe he couldn’t change—and there was too much evidence to support my theory.
He called my bluff. “I don’t believe that. Not for a second.”
And neither did I.
So what do you think? Are you as freaking excited about February 12 as I am? 🙂 What other books are you eagerly awaiting in the new year?