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Before We Fall

Courtney Cole

  Life is scary and dreams get broken.

  This book is for anyone brave enough to put the pieces back together again.


  I always have so many people to thank. That’s because I’ve come to find out, over the years, that it takes more than just one person to write a good book. It takes a team. I have to humbly say that I have the best team in the world.

  First, my family. They are the best teammates anyone could ever ask for. My daughter, my littlest writing assistant, carries around a pen and paper just in case I have a great idea. My teenage sons let me pick their brains—to see how boys really think. And my husband is very patient with me when I clickety-clack on my laptop in bed next to him at two A.M. when I get a great idea that just won’t wait until morning. They also eat out a lot when I just can’t stop to make dinner. I’m forever grateful to them and I love them more than they’ll ever know.

  My BFF and partner in crime, M. Leighton. You probably know her from books like The Wild Ones or Down to You. She’s the best critique partner and BFF that a girl could ever ask for. She’s always on call and always a font of good advice. She talks me down from ledges and keeps me from pulling my hair out. I love her to infinity and beyond.

  My editor, Amy Pierpont, from Forever. Her insight is more than I ever hoped for in an editor. She can take a look at a scene and see three different things that I’d never thought to look for. Her knowledge and experience is a blessing to me, as is her ability to cut right to the important things. I’m lucky to have her.

  I’m lucky to have Madeleine Colavita from Forever, as well. She’s always so quick to help me, no matter what I ask of her. She’s cheerful and friendly no matter what. Her enthusiasm over my character Brand always makes me smile. I love her to bits.

  My agent, Catherine Drayton. She’s amazing and smart, experienced and awesome. I can’t say enough about her other than I’m so freaking lucky to have her. She knows what she’s doing and she goes about doing it in such a classy way. She’s the best agent out there, hands down.

  My beta readers… Autumn from The Autumn Review, Natasha from Natasha is a Book Junkie, Momo from Books Over Boys. You guys are amazing. Your insight and opinions helped make this book what it is today. You helped me polish it until it shone. Thank you!!!

  I have to say a special thank you to Autumn for being my sex guru for this book. When I was researching the… er… darker side to the sexual nature, Autumn’s input was invaluable. The girl knows sex. Thanks for sharing your wisdom with me! Hehe.

  My publicity team: Kelly Simmon from Inkslinger PR and Jessica, Marisa, Morgan, and Jane from Forever. You guys rock at what you do and I’m lucky to have you on my side.

  My assistant, Avery. Thank you for making my life easier, one task at a time. You’re awesome and you know it.

  And… YOU. My awesome, amazing readers. Without you, these books wouldn’t happen. I get to do what I do because of you. I’m grateful for you every single day of my life. Thank you for being so awesomely amazing.



  The slap can be heard all the way down the beach.

  The sound of flesh meeting flesh, sharp and loud, is unmistakable, and my head snaps up to find a skinny girl in a red swimsuit standing in front of the biggest bully of the beach, a sixth grader named Heather.

  The summer sun is blistering hot, but my cheeks flush even hotter when I see the ugly expression on Heather’s face as she towers over the smaller girl. A girl who can’t be more than nine or ten and who is even now cradling her cheek with her hand.

  I look around, but there are no adults in the vicinity, and Heather knows it. Her leer gets even wider as she leans down into the younger girl’s face, intent on doing even more damage than a handprint on a cheek.

  That’s all it takes to send me rocketing up from my towel and down the beach toward them, my heels flipping sand in the air as I run. I reach them just in time to see Heather snatch some money from the girl’s small hand.

  A tear slips down the girl’s cheek, which causes Heather to grin. “Go cry to your mommy, little girl,” she sneers, in the ugly way only a middle-school bully can.

  The sheer sight of it makes me see red and I forget all logic as I rush toward the pair. I forget that Heather has tormented me every day of every summer and I forget that I can’t be any older than the skinny girl in the red swimsuit.

  In this moment, it doesn’t matter.

  “What the hell, Heather?” I demand as I skid to a stop in front of them. The other girl, the skinny one, sucks in her breath at my bad language. It’s a groundable offense, but my Gran is all the way down the beach, sitting in the shade. “Give her the money back.”

  Heather stares down at me and sweat glistens on her plump chin. “Or what, shrimp? What will you do if I don’t?”

  I lift my chin and look her in the eye.

  “I’ll tell everyone, including your friends, what you were doing with Jamie Rawlins under the pier a while back. I saw you. I saw what you did. And if you don’t give her the money back, I’ll tell everyone.”

  Heather’s eyes widen, then narrow. “You wouldn’t.”

  I nod, calmer now than I probably should be. “I would.”

  Heather looks out over the lake and thinks about it for a minute before she tosses the crumpled up bills at my feet.

  “I hope it was worth it,” she tells me hotly. “Because I’m going to make your life hell.”

  “Whatever.” I sniff, trying to appear unconcerned. “It’s not like you don’t try already.”

  Heather glares at me and walks off, and I bend to pick up the money, handing it to the skinny girl. I smile at her.

  “Here you go. I’m sorry she’s so mean. I think someone pees in her cornflakes every day.”

  The girl seems speechless and she stares at me for a minute with wide blue eyes before shyly handing me a white shell.

  “Thank you for getting my ice cream money back,” she says so softly that I have to strain to hear her. “I collect these. The big nice ones are hard to find in the lake.”

  I smile again. “You’re right, it’s hard to find them. Thank you! I’m going to swim out to the buoy line. Wanna come?”

  The girl stares out at the battered line of buoys that bob up and down in the current a hundred yards out. She looks a little uncertain, a little scared.

  “I can’t,” she finally answers. “My mom would kill me. The current’s too bad.”

  I nod as if I understand what it’s like to have a mother that cares. My own doesn’t even know that I can swim.

  “Okay,” I tell the girl. “I’ll see you around.”

  She watches me as I jog back and drop the shell on my towel before I dive into the current, swimming over and under the frigid waves like a seal. When I finally reach the buoys, I grab onto one, clinging tightly as it bobs, while I push my hair out of my face with cold fingers.

  Glancing back toward the beach, I hunt for the girl in the red swimsuit, but I don’t see her anywhere. She’s gone, and I realize something.

  I didn’t even ask her name.

  Chapter One



  I like to watch.

  I know that I shouldn’t, but I don’t really give a shit. I like the flash of skin, the sweaty limbs, the sex smells, the fucking…

  Watching makes me feel something. It’s one of the only things that does.

  “Some things never change, Dominic,” Kira murmurs as her hand splays across my open shirt, her long brown hair moving in the breeze, tickling my chest as she watches with me. “You’re just the same… a freak. I love that.”

  I don’t answer because she’s right. I’m a fucking freak. She knows it and I know it, and neit
her of us care. If anything, Kira likes it. She must, because she’s stuck by me for a long time. She knows me better than anyone… and she definitely knows what I like.

  Even though she’s beautiful and familiar, I ignore her fingers as they trace across my skin, graze the tips of my nipples, and trail down to my crotch. My dick is resistant to her touch tonight and remains soft inside my pants. Not because she’s not hot or sexy, because she is.

  But because familiar and normal don’t stir my blood. I’ve seen pretty much everything once and have done it twice. Normal doesn’t do it for me anymore.

  Forbidden things are what lift my dick. Dark things, bad things.

  I stare down from the balcony, looking past the shimmering pool below, past the rippling water that sheds blue light on everything around it, at the images that waver in the night. The images of two people fucking.

  Knowing that I shouldn’t watch is what excites me about it, and so I don’t take my eyes from the couple having sex next to my brother’s pool.

  I take another drink of whiskey, letting the fiery liquid sit in my mouth before I swallow it, letting it curl its fingers around my stomach, warming my gut.

  Watching the couple, I lean against the railing, half-hidden by the shadows, enveloped by the night. It’s just how I like it.

  In front of me, the scene turns rough.

  And my dick turns hard.

  The girl’s teeth sink into the guy’s neck, then she whispers something unintelligible into his ear, words that hiss as she drags her teeth across his skin. Hard, aggressive, rough. I can see the red trail of pain she leaves behind from here.

  “Did she just bite him?” Kira asks in amusement, her hand frozen at my waistband.

  I nod. She did. And it made me hard as a rock. I love watching pain. It distracts me from my own.

  The guy smiles, liking it too. He lifts her legs onto his shoulders as he thrusts into her. Hard. Then he frees one hand to grab her neck. Hard. His fingers dig into the delicate skin there, cutting into the flesh, leaving red marks that just might turn purple by morning.

  But she likes it.

  I can tell by the way she scratches his back and moans for more. I can tell by the way she draws him even further into herself, bucking her hips to take him even deeper. I can tell by the way she doesn’t even try to take his hand away from her throat.

  It always fascinates me when I see women that like getting debased, the ones who like it rough, the ones who want to be dominated or humiliated.

  It doesn’t make any sense, but I see it all the time, more and more, especially here at my brother’s place at one of his endless parties. Around his pool, in his hot tub, on his lawn. People seem to lose their inhibitions when they pass through these gates, which doesn’t make any sense, either. Most of them don’t know him, not really. But it doesn’t stop them from making themselves very at home here.

  Suffice it to say I’m always entertained when I come to visit.

  “Do you think they know we’re watching?” Kira leans up on her tiptoes, murmuring with hot breath into my ear as she strokes my balls.

  I glance back down at the couple, watching the guy’s face contort and twist, and watching the girl moan and writhe beneath him. They have no clue we’re here, but I have a feeling they wouldn’t care even if they did.

  “I think that girl served me champagne earlier!” Kira exclaims, leaning closer to look.

  “You’re probably right,” I answer, staring at the girl’s skimpy server’s uniform. I briefly wonder where her boss thinks she is. Surely he has no idea that she’s fucking a party guest next to the pool.

  But that’s not my problem.

  The bulge between my legs is my problem now. It’s grown thicker and heavier and I shift, easing the pressure of my jeans away from my dick. I brush my hand against the denim covering my crotch, stroking myself. Just a little. Quickly and efficiently.

  I’m not going to get off right out here in the open. Because of how I make my living, I’ve learned not to do anything out in the open. The press would have a fucking field day if pictures of me jacking off leaked out.

  Kira takes care of the situation for me, just as she always does when I’m in town. She pushes me backward into the shadows, where she steps out of her shorts in front of me. She’s not wearing underwear.

  She’s right. Some things never change.

  “Fuck me with your hand while you watch them,” she instructs me softly, her green eyes gleaming. “Do it, Dom. And then I’ll let you come on my face, the way you like to.”

  I reach for her. She stands limply in front of me, her head resting on my shoulder as I slide two of my fingers in and out of her. I know exactly where to touch her. She sucks in a breath and I have to smile. I know every inch of her. There are some things to be said for familiarity.

  She’s soaking wet, as though she’s been waiting for this since I’d seen her last. She hasn’t, of course. Kira and I have an arrangement of convenience. It’s convenient because we know each other, we trust each other. And there are no feelings involved. She and I are the same in that way.

  I can hear the girl by the pool moaning loudly and it makes my fingers move faster, working Kira harder, in time to the guy’s sweaty thrusts. Kira moans with the girl by the pool and I close my eyes, listening to the fucking sounds. With my hand buried in Kira’s crotch, the sounds are all I need now.

  If I were decent, I’d back away from the balcony and give the couple some privacy and I’d give Kira more coverage from the shadows… just in case someone happens upon us.

  But fuck that. I’m not decent. Not anymore.

  After a few more minutes of rough fucking, the guy pulls out of the waitress and grasps her hard, yanking her off the chaise and forcing her down in front of him, onto her knees. I can see her skin graze the bricks, just as I can read his lips.

  Suck me.

  I pause as the girl shakes her head, trying to scramble away, but he holds her fast by her hair, making her take him into her mouth. Making her suck her own taste off of him.

  She’s definitely not into it now. She swings her arms at him frantically, but he holds her hair tightly, wrapping it around his hands, refusing to let her go.

  I watch the fear wash over her face and my gut tightens in reaction.


  Kira lifts her head as my hand stills. “What?”

  Her eyes are glazed as she stares at me. I nod toward the pool, at the struggle going on down there, at the girl trying desperately to get away from the asshole’s grip.

  “Hell,” Kira sighs. “Ignore it, Dom. It’s not your problem. We’re not done here.”

  I sigh too, because I know I can’t ignore it.

  This has been happening way too much. People come here and get wasted and out of control. It’s not worth the trouble, but Sin keeps having the parties anyway. He says it keeps him relevant, whatever the fuck that means. I don’t seem to have a problem with being relevant, and I don’t host a single party.

  I shake Kira’s grip off of my wrist, gulp down the rest of my drink, and head down the stairs, ignoring her calls of protest.

  It takes a minute to weave discreetly through the masses of people scattered through the house and to make my way across the lawn and onto the stones leading to the pool. But I reach the couple within two minutes, and without even pausing I grab the guy from behind, ripping him backward. He hisses as the girl’s teeth scrape his dick.

  It serves him right. The fucker interrupted me.

  He yelps and I toss him on the ground, watching in satisfaction as he scrapes his face on the stone bricks before he rolls into the lawn.

  “Get the fuck out,” I snap at him. “No one gets forced against their will here.”

  “That bitch wanted it,” he protests as he climbs to his feet. “She was asking for it.”

  I shake my head. “The last time I checked, no means no. It’s not a new way of asking for it. Get the fuck out of here.”

  The guy
looks at me again, recognizes who I am, and then stalks away without another word. I grab a pool towel and wrap it around the girl’s shoulders.