This week’s teaser is from Chris Knight’s POV. This teaser also contains **MAJOR SPOILERS** for those who haven’t read Relentless. If you haven’t read Relentless, feel free to scroll down to the bottom of this post after you read the giveaway instructions.
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*****GIVEAWAY IS OFFICIALLY CLOSED******
The winners are Courtney (comment #24) and Erica (comment #53). Thank you to all who participated. Good luck in next week’s giveaway where I’ll be posting a teaser from Adam’s POV and giving away three ARCs!
Today I will be giving away TWO digital ARCS of Pieces of You (to be delivered on or about May 7th). To enter the ARC giveaway, leave a comment below telling me who’s POV the next teaser should be from: Claire, Adam, or Chris. Please include your email address in the comment or send your email address to me via the Contact page. After you comment, you can enter a second time by sharing the link to this teaser on Facebook and tagging me or my FB fan page in your post. If we’re not friends, feel free to add me as a friend so you can tag me.
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Now onto the teaser….
Chapter Six – Chris
Watching Claire and my mom comforting each other fills me with the worst kind of longing for the way things used to be. Claire should have spent the last year here, not bouncing around from the dorm to Senia’s house then to that apartment. She needed us and because of my stupid pride she suffered alone. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I never let her down like that again.
They finally release their grip on each other and my mom brushes the tears away from Claire’s face. Claire’s eyes are red as hell the way they get when she’s crying uncontrollably. I’ve seen that look on her too many times.
“I’m so sorry I didn’t come sooner,” she says.
“That’s water under the bridge. The important thing is that you came back and that you never, ever do that to me again.”
This gets a small, congested chuckle and a smile out of Claire, but the pain she’s hiding from my mom quickly returns to her dainty features.
“All right, that’s enough,” I say. “Claire has to freshen up so we can get going.”
“Oh, poo. You just got here,” my mom complains as she glares at me across the kitchen. “You can’t leave yet. You two can hang out later. Let me have some time with my girl.”
Claire looks at me and I can’t help but gaze at her for a moment. I love that Claire has never been good at hiding her emotions. It took almost a year after she arrived at our house for her to allow herself to be vulnerable in front of anyone. But once I tore down those walls I fell irrevocably in love with her. She’s so hard on herself, but I’ve never met anyone more loving than Claire.
I know she gave up Abigail for both of us. I have no doubt that she believed she was making the right decision. But I can’t reconcile the girl I fell in love with—the same girl who made me wait over two years to have sex with her—with this girl who fell in love with a guy she’s known less than two months. Is this guy better than me or did I just leave her heart wide open for him to get inside?
“Stop staring at her, Chris,” my mom says and I’m snapped out of my thoughts.
Claire looks down at the floor. She knows I’m thinking about something we can’t discuss openly in front of my mom.
“Sorry, Mom, but we have to go. I have to get Claire back to the dorm soon so she can study. I’ll bring her by another time. I promise.”
The disappointment in my mom’s face kills me. She nods, looking a bit defeated, then turns to Claire and grabs her hands.
“In case I don’t see you anytime soon—”
“I’ll be back. I—”
“Sh! I don’t want you to promise me you’ll be back soon. I know you’ve got classes and lots of studying and parties and all that college nonsense. I just want you to promise me you’ll come home for Christmas. It just wasn’t any fun without you last year. Right, Chris?”
Fuck. Knowing Claire, she’s going to think I set this up.
“Mom, Claire probably already has plans for Christmas. Let’s not put any more pressure on her.”
“Oh, come on. You were miserable without Claire here last Christmas.” She turns to Claire in full gossip-mode. “You should have seen him. He was a mess, brooding in the bedroom with his guitar for days.”
“Come on. She doesn’t want to hear that shit.”
Claire wipes the tears from her cheeks as she stares at me. She’s not thinking about how pathetic I am. She’s thinking of how sorry she is for not being here last Christmas. I want to tell her that she has nothing to feel guilty about, but I can’t speak openly about any of that stuff here.
She finally turns away to face my mom. “I’ll be home for Christmas if I have to crawl here.”
I try not to let this statement get my hopes up, but right now I’m just insanely grateful that my mom seems to be more convincing than I am. They embrace again and I give them a moment before I break up the love-fest.
“All right, all right. You guys can cuddle some more later. Claire and I have to get going.”
I place my hand on the small of Claire’s back, something I’ve done a million times, but this time I expect her to push my hand away or shoot me a severe look. She doesn’t do either. She allows me to lead her out of the kitchen and up the stairs to her old room where she can fix her hair and makeup. I open the bedroom door and wait as she stands at the threshold for a moment.
I take a few steps inside and turn around. “We didn’t change anything. It didn’t feel right since it’s still your room.”
She steps inside and gazes around. “Maybe I shouldn’t have come here.”
“Don’t be silly. Just brush you hair and we’ll get out of here.”
She takes a few tentative steps toward the white desk and sits down in the rolling desk chair. She slowly pulls open the top drawer on the right and pulls out a purple brush. I can’t help but feel nostalgic as I watch her run the brush through her soft, blonde hair.
I can’t stop myself as I spin her chair around and place my hands on her knees as I kneel before her. “I know that everything seems awkward and fucked up right now, but this is your home. Whether or not we’re together. Don’t let that Christmas shit make things weird. You know my mom is just being pushy.”
“It’s not awkward or fucked up and I think that’s what’s getting to me. I expected it to be weird, but it’s not. It’s just… home.”
She looks me in the eye as she says this so I know she’s telling me the truth. I want to kiss her so fucking bad that my whole body aches for it, but I can’t. Claire is not the cheating type and I don’t want to be the source of any more of her misplaced guilt.
“Hey, I know you’ve seen me play a million times, but I’m doing this jam session with Neil Hardaway at a blues club in Durham a week from Saturday. It’s the final stop on this fucking ‘Home Sweet Home’ tour Xander set up for me. I know you have a boyfriend, but it’s fucking Neil Hardaway. You know this is a dream of mine and I’d love to share it with you.”
The pained expression on her face tells me she’s about to let me down. “I can’t. I’ll be with Adam that Saturday. I’m sorry.”
Just hearing his fucking name come out of her mouth, the same lips I’ve kissed for hours, makes me want to punch something. I take a breath to calm myself because this isn’t like me. Only Claire can get me this worked up.
“Don’t apologize,” I say as I let go of her knees and stand up. “Come on. We gotta get going.”
We make it downstairs into the hallway where I open the door to the attached garage and flip the light switch. The stale smell of gasoline and rubber is stagnant in the late Summer warmth. She enters ahead of me and immediately walks toward the Porsche.
“You got a Porsche?” she asks incredulously as she runs her hand over the shiny, black hood. “Could you be any more flashy?”
“Hey, I don’t spend money on a lot of shit. I don’t even have an apartment in Raleigh. Let me have my cars and my bikes.” I make my way to the driver’s side of my mom’s Volvo. “We’re taking the Volvo. I have to at least pretend to be responsible.”
We both climb into the Volvo and sit for a moment in silence as I slide the key into the ignition and adjust the radio station.
“Pretend to be responsible?” she says. “But you are responsible, Chris. You don’t have to pretend to be anything. I’m the one who should be worried about looking irresponsible.”
I open my mouth to speak when my phone vibrates in my pocket. “Hold that thought.” I slip the phone out of my pocket and see Tasha’s name. “Hello?”
“Chris, I’ve got bad news.”
I let out a deep sigh because I already know what she’s going to say.
“They backed out?”
“Yeah, but this is normal. This is the way these things go. They’re good people, as far as I can tell, but she got cold feet. I guess she’s a big fan of your music and she got a little nervous about meeting you. Then her husband got freaked out about the whole rock star thing.”
“Hey, it’s just a minor setback. We’ll give them a few days to cool off then I’ll call and try to set up another meeting. Don’t get discouraged.”
“What happened?” Claire whispers.
As soon as I say her name, Claire’s face falls. I tuck the phone into my pocket and we sit in silence for a moment. I don’t know how much more heartache Claire and I can take. All I know is that this was not the homecoming I had planned for today.
“Hey, did I show you this tattoo,” I say as I pull up the sleeve on my right arm and show her the shattered heart tattoo I got on New Year’s Day.
It’s just a two-inch red heart broken into a bunch of pieces, but some of the shards are colored black and spell out the one word that I think of when I think of Claire: home. She gazes at my arm for a moment before she looks up at me.
“This is really hard for me, too,” she says. She doesn’t have to say anything more.
Another teaser and ARC giveaway coming next Tuesday! Good luck, everyone! 🙂