The Way We Fall
From New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo comes a twisted and passionate love story about secrets and lies.
Five pages. A letter holding a secret buried for more than five years. A secret neither of them wanted to know.
Five years after their messy breakup, Houston and Rory are forced to work together opening up a new wine bar. Despite their tragic past, they find themselves once again drawn to each other, unable to deny their potent attraction.
But the secret of the letter hangs like a guillotine over their heads. And soon, Houston finds himself in the same position he was in five years ago, choosing between the truth and the only woman he’s ever loved.
Lies are comforting. Soft blankets we wrap around our hearts. We roll around in them like fat, happy pigs. Gorging on their decadence. We prefer lies, though we claim otherwise. Trust me. If ignorance is bliss, believing lies is orgasmic.
I should know. I’d subsisted on a steady diet of lies and orgasms while Houston and I were together. And now that he was standing before me, five and a half years after the breakup, six-foot-four inches of solid muscle and caramel-brown hair, offering me my first dose of reality, part of me wondered whether my body would reject it.
Houston sighs as he looks me in the eye. “Rory, I came here because I told you I would tell you the truth and I intend to keep my word.”
“The truth about what?” I spit back, imbuing my words with caustic venom, hoping he’ll feel just a fraction of the agony he’s inflicted on me. “It’s over Houston. There is no truth that needs to be spoken anymore.”
He shakes his head, his blue eyes filled with regret. “I wish that were true.”
He reaches into his back pocket and my stomach drops out. My limbs becomes heavy as I watch him retrieve a white envelope. I think part of me knows what’s inside that envelope. Has always known. But lies are powerful. And it seems Houston’s lies had the power to make me stop looking for answers when they were right in front of me, tucked away in the warmth of his back pocket.
“She left a note.”
My eyes are locked on the envelope as memories swirl in my vision. The first night Houston and I slept together. The hours that came before. I begin ticking off the lies one by one, but when I move past our first night together, the lies mount up too quickly. A mountain of fiction too high for me to see over.
“Not Tessa. Hallie,” he says, mistaking my horror for confusion.
The anger sets my blood on fire. I land a hard shove in the center of his chest. “I hate you!”
“I didn’t want you to read it until you were strong enough.”
Skippy barks as I pound on Houston’s chest, half-expecting to hear a hollow thump where his heart should be. He drops the letter and grabs my wrists to stop the onslaught of violence.
“That’s not for you to decide!” I shout, my voice strangled by the force of this truth. “How could you keep that from me?”
“I was just trying to protect you.”
A primal roar issues from deep in my throat. “I wish you would stop protecting me! If it weren’t for your stupid protection, I wouldn’t be picking up the pieces of my life again.”
His jaw tenses at my accusation, the muscle twitching furiously. “I need you to read it while I’m here. I… I won’t leave until you’ve read the whole thing. Then you’ll understand why.”
Yanking my wrists out of his grasp, I shoo Skippy away so I can grab the letter off the floor. But he follows me as I sink down onto the sofa, hopping onto the cushion next to me, his sixty-pound black Labrador body pressed against my side. As if he can sense that I’m going to need him there.
Houston sits on the edge of the coffee table facing me, our knees inches apart, his gaze locked on the letter in my hands. I try to read his expression, try to see beyond the hardened grief and obvious regret for any indication as to what I’m about to read. What did Hallie confess in this letter that would make him think he had to lie to me for more than five years? But I see nothing.
He looks up from the envelope and our eyes meet. My heart thumps loudly, a riotous drum heightening the sense of foreboding that grips me. The anticipation crackles in the air and Houston’s blue eyes narrow as he hardens himself against the intensity of the moment.
I let my gaze fall to the name scrawled on the outside of the envelope: Houston. The shaking begins suddenly, my hands trembling as if the letter I’m holding is as heavy as the Earth. But it’s not heavy, it’s just real. It’s his name in her handwriting. In her final moments, she turned to him, not me.
I clutch the letter to my chest as tears burn hot streaks down my face, my throat a hard painful mass of anguish. Carefully, I slide the folded letter out of the envelope. The moment I see the words Dear Houston, the room seems to tilt on its side, throwing me off balance. But I swallow my nausea and keep reading, ripping my way through five pages, front and back, the sentences feeding into my heart like a never-ending news ticker, getting bleaker and more vile with each passing moment. Until I finally reach Hallie’s parting words and magma explodes in my belly, searing my throat.
I leap off the sofa, racing for the bathroom, slamming the door behind me. The meager half-cup of oatmeal I ate this morning launches from my mouth as I grip the porcelain. More retching as milky liquid spews forth, my arms shaking as sweat sprouts over my neck, sending a chill through me.
A knock at the door, followed by more retching until I’m empty of everything. All the warm, comforting lies replaced by a single cold, empty truth.
Another knock at the door.
“Go away!” I wail, my voice a shrieking rasp.
The click of the knob turning. The tick of Skippy’s nails against the tile floor as he comes to me. My diaphragm compresses angrily in my chest, attempting to rid my body of the truth. A few deep breaths and the dry heaving finally stops. I fall back, my shoulder blades pressed against the hard bathtub as I try to catch my breath.
Skippy is gone, but Houston is still there, as solid and real as the aching truth gnawing at my insides. He looks down at me, his eyes filled with regret so fiercely tangible, I could probably use it to carve out my heart. If I hadn’t already given it to him thirteen years ago.
This is not the way the story of us is supposed to go.