Next to Me
Allie EverhartPublication date: January 2nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
After losing her parents and brother in a car crash, Callie dropped out of college and went to live in the small town where her family used to spend the summers. A year later, and struggling to move on, she keeps to herself and wants to be left alone. So she’s not too happy when her new neighbor keeps knocking on her door.
Nash Wheeler, a 25-year-old construction worker from Chicago, inherited the house next to Callie’s and is living there while he renovates it. Outgoing, confident, and never one to back down from a challenge, Nash sets out to get to know his new neighbor, inviting her over for dinner and offering to fix things around her house.
As much as his persistence annoys her, Callie finds herself attracted to the tall, muscular guy next door. And the more time she spends with him, the more she realizes how much they have in common. Like Callie, Nash has experienced loss, but when he opens up to her about it, she’s not willing to do the same. It’s too personal.
Nash is just her neighbor. Just some guy living there for the summer. But is that really all he is? Or is he the one person who can finally help her move on?
“You’re holding my hand,” she says, her lips creeping up.
“I am,” I say, matter-of-factly.
Her eyes return to mine. “Why are you holding my hand?”
“You have nice hands.” I rub the top of it with my thumb.
“That’s why you’re holding it? Because I have nice hands?”
“You got a problem with that?”
“I guess it’s okay. Although your hands aren’t the greatest.” She tries to hide her smile.
“You’re making fun of my hands?” I hold up the other one that’s not connected with hers. “I do construction for a living. I work with my hands. I’m surprised they look as good as they do.”
She takes the hand I was holding up and inspects my nails. “You need a manicure.” She tries to be serious, but then laughs.
“I’m not getting a freaking manicure. I’m not one of those metrosexual guys or whatever the hell they call them. The guys who walk around with purses? You see them downtown Chicago.”
“There’s nothing wrong with those guys.” She sits back but keeps her hand in mine. “And by the way, it’s not a purse. It’s called a man bag. Or a murse. And a lot of guys get manicures. They’re not just for women. It even has the word ‘man’ in it. And cure.” She pauses, then smiles. “It’s a cure for manly hands. Get it?” She laughs at her own joke.
I scoot my chair over and lean in close to her face. Her smile drops, her breath quickens, and her eyes fix on mine. She thinks I’m going to kiss her, but I’m not.
Instead I say, “I don’t want a man bag. Or a murse. Or a manicure.” I look directly in her eyes. “I’m a man’s man. I like red meat. Football. A cold beer. Hard liquor. Pounding nails into walls. And women who challenge me.”
She’s looking at me with lust in her eyes, and God, I feel it too. The intense need to rip off her clothes and do her right here on this table. How the hell did this happen? How did we go from having a conversation to wanting to have sex? I’m not even trying to date this girl, and I definitely wasn’t planning to have sex with her.
I’m here to do a job. Fix the house. That’s it. Plain and simple. But suddenly it feels more complicated than that.
Allie Everhart is a hopeless romantic who writes books about love. Allie has authored fourteen novels, including The Jade Series, a college romance that follows the story of Jade and Garret as they deal with numerous obstacles trying to tear them apart. Her other series, The Kensingtons, is a romantic suspense series. After writing two series, she’s now working on several standalone books, including her latest book, Next to Me, a new adult romance.
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Book Title: Shattered Perfection
Author: Heather R. Guimond
Genre:Contemporary Romance/Women's Fiction
Release Date:August 30, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
Mimi Bishop found the man of her dreams when she met Vance Ashcroft in a chance encounter. During their whirlwind courtship, they learn they share a sparkling and dynamic chemistry, filled with humor, happiness and steamy sensuality. Their relationship is effortless and blossoms into a passionate love. Soon Mimi is living her happily ever after with Vance as his wife until his behavior mysteriously begins to change.
Vance grows cold, then hostile, finally becoming violent one fateful night. Her perfect life and heart shattered, Mimi attempts to move on to a life without Vance. Powerful memories of their love haunt her, making it almost impossible to heal and become whole again. Just when Mimi thinks she can finally put the past behind her, she learns a devastating secret about Vance that threatens to shatter her forever.
I wince as I watch the gravy drip down the stark white wall and leak between it and the baseboard, before pooling onto the floor while Vance rants and raves about how inedible my cooking is.
“All this time and you still haven’t learned to serve anything at the proper temperature. Your potatoes are lumpy and the broccoli tastes like it was steamed with a sweaty gym sock,” he sneers. “I don’t know why I continue to put up with you. Everything about you is inferior. The way you dress, the way you behave…you’re a total bitch to my coworkers and friends…hell Mimi, even the way you fuck. You're absolutely worthless.”
I sit there calmly, listening to words I have heard dozens, maybe hundreds of times before.
“What are you waiting for?” he asks in a mocking tone, that infuriating smirk on his handsome face.
“Go on, clean up this mess.”
I take a few seconds to indulge in the fantasy of grabbing him by his wavy dark hair and driving my index and middle fingers into his piercing blue eyes. It’s gruesome, I know. However, I’ve spent the last six months of our year and half marriage enduring scenes like this. I think anyone would be driven to graphic, if not homicidal, imaginings by now. I know it’s crazy to put up with the abuse, but there are a couple of reasons why I do. First, he wasn’t always like this. He used to be attentive and caring. He was kind, loving and generous. He is intelligent, has always had a playful sense of humor that never failed to make me laugh before, and we almost never disagreed. Until recently, I still saw snippets of that man. The second, I suppose, is my pride. I married Vance only a few short months after meeting him in a chance encounter at Los Angeles International Airport. We had an intense, passionate love affair, both of us falling head over heels from almost the moment we met. Logic told me not to rush headlong into things, to back off and take my time getting to know him before making such a serious commitment, but he was the one. I don’t want to admit to myself that I was wrong.
Sighing, I rise and move to the closet by the sink and grab the mop and the dustpan.
“No. I want you down on your hands and knees with a sponge, like the dog that you are,” he spits out.
I can't take anymore. The anger flares inside me, rising like a tsunami of venom. Months and months of suppressed emotion bubbles up and out of me, seemingly spilling onto the tile floor, splashing over every surface of the room and coating us in its hatred.
“I am not a dog, you vicious mother fucker. Nor am I lazy, stupid, or worthless. You have been right about one thing recently, though. I am a real bitch.” Lost to the emotions flooding my system, I grab a glass from the drain board on the counter and pitch it at his head. He swiftly dodges it, lunges out of his chair and is on me in an instant. The breath rushes out of my lungs as my back hits the floor and stars burst behind my eyes as my head slams against the tile. His hand presses against the base of my throat and he squeezes tightly.
“Do you think you can smart mouth me, Mimi? Throw things at me? You must have lost your mind. I should kill you for this.” His grip tightens, causing my vision to dim around the edges. For the first time, I am genuinely afraid. I clutch at his wrist, my nails scratching futilely at the skin. I writhe beneath his heavy body, my legs trying to find purchase on the slick tile floor, but his weight keeps me pinned.
Suddenly, he releases my neck and I gasp in heavy gulps of air. His hand twists into my blonde hair, wrapping it around his fist and tugging my head to the side. He buries his face into my neck and bites down hard. I cry out at the sharp pain as his other hand grabs ahold of the collar of my blouse and rips it down the front. I pummel his shoulders and back with my fists, trying to get him to stop, but he is completely out of his mind. He raises up off me slightly and reaches for the front of my pants, tearing those wide open too. In desperation, I drive the tips of my long fingernails into his ear canals.
His full weight crushes me as he drops down, gasping in pain or surprise, I’m not sure which. His breaths come fast and hard, but he is no longer savagely pawing at me. He inhales deeply and rolls off, sprawling out on the hard floor, his arms and legs splayed wide. I curl away from him into the fetal position, my body shaking from the adrenaline pumping through my veins. We lay like that for five, ten minutes, an hour. I don’t really know. Eventually, my trembling subsides, but I’m afraid to move. Vance finally stands and nudges me with his foot.
“Clean this room up.” He says quietly, before exiting the room on soft feet.
Once I know he is in the back of the house and well away from me, I rise and test my muscles. I’m bruised in spots, there is a knot at the back of my head, and I know I will most likely be sore as hell tomorrow morning. Given the gravity of the situation, things could have turned out a lot worse.
I walk through the kitchen to the adjoining laundry room and sort through the basket of clean clothes I have not yet taken to the bedroom. It’s a stroke of good luck, under the circumstances. I quickly shed my ruined clothing and don a pair of leggings and a sweatshirt from the load that I folded earlier in the day. I find a pair of flip flops by the back door and slip them on. Traveling back into the kitchen, I grab the mop and dustpan once again and head to the sink.
I fill the sink with warm water and absently watch the bubbles form after I add a few squirts of dish detergent. I look down at my unsteady hands, wringing them together in an effort to still them. I know I provoked him, but Vance has never been violent before. I don’t even want to think about where he was headed before I was able to stop him. What if I hadn’t? What if…what if…what if… It doesn’t bear thinking about.
I can’t stay any longer. Suffering the verbal abuse was enough to make any sane person leave long before now. I know I shouldn’t have tolerated it for as long as I have already, but there is no way to delude myself into believing there is a reason to endure physical confrontations between us. Physical abuse, possibly attempted rape, and death threats? Even my love and pride can’t overcome those things.
I set about mopping up the now congealed gravy, chicken and other detritus from my failed meal and push it into the dustpan. I dump it into the garbage can, along with the cold contents of my plate. I rinse out the mop, drain the sink and scour it out well, all the while making a plan to start a new life. Sure, I had considered leaving him before. I’d be lying if I said I’d never thought about it, but I’d always somehow convinced myself that the good outweighed the bad, or that things would magically get better.
Assuming that were even possible, I can't stick around and wait for it to happen now.
First things first. I need a place to go. A hotel would do fine for a couple days, but I'm going to need an apartment. I have a good job as a corporate paralegal, but Vance’s salary from his work as a mergers and acquisitions attorney paid all our bills. I don’t have a realistic perspective as to how far my wages will go to support me in Los Angeles anymore. I had done fairly well before I married Vance, so I suppose I shouldn’t worry too much. It would only mean saying goodbye to our charming bungalow in the Fairfax District, a quiet enclave flanked by West Hollywood, the Miracle Mile and Beverly Grove. It was Vance's house, where he had lived before I met him. Prior to our marriage, I had been living in a small studio apartment in the San Fernando Valley. I wasn’t much of a social climber or status whore, so this would be no great loss to me. I didn’t have a problem doing a little extra driving to my job downtown again.
As I finish cleaning up the kitchen, I make a list in my head of things I need to do the following day. I plan to call work and take a week off. I have plenty of time off stored up, so even though it is short notice, it shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll pack up my clothes after Vance has gone to work and find a hotel over the hill to stay for a few days. I could go to my friend Grace’s house. I’m sure she’d let me stay in her spare bedroom, but I know Vance will come looking for me and that’s the first place he’ll go. I don’t want to involve her in this mess any more than crying on her shoulder, if I can help it.
After I get settled, I’ll start my search for an apartment. No, wait. I have to apply for a restraining order. As I realize this, that's when the night's events truly hit me. He attacked me. He bit me, he choked me and it seemed like he was getting ready to rape me. This man, the man who once swept me away on a wave of passion and overwhelming love, threatened to end my life tonight. My chest expands and contracts involuntarily, forcing a heavy sob out of my throat. I hang my head and cry tears I have not allowed myself in all this time. I cry for all the suffering I have refused to acknowledge, for all the humiliation I have endured through his words, but mostly for the death of my love for him. I know all this must make him seem like a monster but it wasn’t always this way.
Heather R. Guimond has been writing short stories for fun and entertainment since her teen years, but Shattered Perfection is her debut novel. She is a self-professed bibliophile, with a Kindle library larger than her wardrobe has ever been (and that’s saying something). She is notorious insomniac with a well-known coffee addiction.
She resides in a small enclave just north of Los Angeles with her husband, aunt, 3 children, and their cat, Syndi (with whom she has a tenuous relationship).
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