Date Published: August 2013
Cover Design By: Razzle Dazzle Designs
The Blurb:Kate Bell isn't perfect. Not even close. The things she got up to in college would cause her parents to fall off their pedestals in shock. Home for the summer vacation, Kate settles in for a long, boring break in the tiny backwater of Winter with folks who still treat her like she's twelve.Then Ben Parker arrives and suddenly Winter gets interesting. He's hot, mysterious and good with his hands. Kate falls for him instantly, but her cop father warns her to stay away. But how can she stay away from someone as compelling as Ben? Someone who thinks she's perfect just the way she is?
When Ben's secrets catch up to him, not only is Kate's heart in danger of being broken, but Ben's entire future could be ruined.
RUIN is a new adult contemporary romance intended for mature readers. It contains strong language and sexual situations.
We sat in the wicker chairs, glasses of wine in hand, not speaking. Just looking. Breathing. It was peaceful. It didn't feel like I was at the old Merriweather place with its flaking paint, creaky floorboards and a crazy old lady upstairs. Hard to believe that Winter was less than a mile away and that my parents would be sitting in front of the TV, watching something they found amusing, but I found dull."I can imagine what it must have been like to live here when this place was built," Ben said, breaking the silence. "It would have been busy during the day and dazzling at night with all the lights blazing. But at twilight..." He breathed deeply. "At twilight it would have been a calm oasis.""Your imagination is more vivid that mine," I said. "I can't see it as anything other than a derelict building set amid an overgrown garden.""No?" He leaned closer to me, his hand on my chair arm. "Those trees would have been shorter, so you would see more of the sky. And the river would be visible through there." He pointed at a bank of tall bushes covered in pretty white flowers. "The sun would be glinting off it about now.""You describe it beautifully," I said."That's because it is beautiful." His voice was a low rumble in my ear. I could feel his breath on my cheek, which meant he was looking at me.I turned to him, and my heart stopped. His face was close, his eyes intense. I wanted to fall into them and wallow in their depths. I wanted to feel his breath on my body and his mouth on mine. As if he could read my mind, his gaze lowered.Jane yawned loudly.I jumped back, pressing myself into my seat. Ben stood and strode to the end of the porch. He kept his back to us and ran his hand through his hair."I'm going to bed," Jane announced."Already?" My voice sounded a little squeaky so I cleared my throat. "It's so early."She held up her empty wine glass. "This hasn't helped.""Okay. Goodnight.""Um, Kate," she whispered. She glanced at Ben then back to me. "You do know what you're doing, right?"F*** no. "Of course I do.""It's just that...he's leaving tomorrow.""I know.""And we don't know much about him." She was sounding a hell of a lot like my dad."I know that too," I said."Okay. Good. Um...have you got condoms?""Jane!" I thumped her shoulder lightly.She bit her lip and gave me a sheepish shrug. "Just looking out for my best friend." She hugged me. "Thanks for staying the night.""My pleasure.""Let's hope so!"We both giggled. "Goodnight, Ben," she called out to him.He turned and waved. "Goodnight."She left. Ben and I were alone. I got up and joined him at his end of the porch since he didn't look like he was coming back to me. He didn't watch me, but turned around and leaned on the railing."I think she did that deliberately," I said. F***, why did I say that? It made me sound like I thought us having sex was a foregone conclusion when it clearly wasn't if his body language was any indication."Kate." He blew out a breath and dipped his head. "Kate, I'm sorry. I really, really am sorry."The porch beneath my feet tilted. At least that's how it felt. It took me a moment to regain my equilibrium. I leaned my elbows on the railing next to him, my hands clasping my glass of wine. "I was going to tell you it's okay. But that would be a lie."His head lowered further. He closed his eyes. "I'm sorry—""Don't. Don't apologize. Just tell me why. Do you have a girlfriend?""No. Nothing like that."Some of the balance came back to me with his answer. It gave me strength to push on. "I know I can be clueless sometimes."He smiled sadly. "You're not the only one.""But I think I know when a guy wants me."The smile vanished. He closed his eyes again and breathed deeply."I also think I give out clear signals," I said. "I don't like those girls who can't make up their minds. Mine's made up already."His swallow was audible."So Ben Parker, if I want you and you want me...what's the problem?""You don't like to beat around the bush, do you?""We don't have time for that. We only have one night.""Yeah," he said softly. "Don't I know it."I turned so that I was fully facing him, one elbow on the railing. "Is that why you're reluctant? Because you're leaving tomorrow?""No. Yes. Partly." He shook his head. "It's complicated. I'm complicated.""You're a guy. You can't be too complicated." I smiled and he smiled back sadly. "I'm listening if you want to explain all your complications to me."He shook his head. "I can't.""Look," I said. "I get that stuff has happened in your past that you want to forget."He straightened. "What makes you think that?""You're traveling around the country with only one bag and no money. Not only that, but you got off the bus in a place with no jobs. If I wasn't mistaken, I'd say you're trying to lose yourself."He leaned on the railing again, his hands dangling over into nothing. He looked out to the garden, but it had grown darker in the last few minutes, and it was difficult to make out more than just shapes. "You'll be a great criminologist, Kate. I have no doubt you'll go far in whatever you decide to do.""Thanks. That's very sweet of you. But it has nothing to do with the question at hand.""The question?"I leaned over until my lips were near his ear. My breath fanned his hair. "Will you kiss me, Ben?" It was the wine talking. It had to be. I'd never been so brazen with any man before. I never made the first move, never took a chance on being rejected.But I knew Ben wanted me. I just didn't know why he pushed me away.His shoulders tensed. He closed his eyes again, as if he was trying to control his emotions."Just a kiss," I said. "Then I'll leave you alone."He gave me a sad smile. "I'm not a monk, Kate. If you kiss me...I can't stop there."His words probably had the opposite effect to what he wanted. It spurred me on, because now I knew he was on the brink of giving in. On the brink of falling into the abyss with me.I touched his face. His jaw was rough from his stubble. A small muscle pulsed against my fingers."Kate, please," he whispered. But he didn't pull away. Didn't stop me getting closer.I stroked his lower lip with my thumb, and he groaned deep in his chest."Ben," I murmured.He brushed my hair off my shoulder. His fingers caressed my neck, sending tiny tingles racing down my spine. My heart hammered against my ribs to the tune of kiss me, kiss me, kiss me. I wanted this man. Wanted to know him intimately.My head told me it was impossible that I could feel this way after such a short time, but my heart was ignoring it, lost in a mad, chaotic rhythm of its own.Ben's hand cupped my hip, his other pressed against my back. It was all the encouragement I needed. I closed the final small gap between us until I was crushed against his body. It was hard and ridged, warm.Our lips met in a kiss that turned my legs to jelly. My knees buckled, but Ben's arms circled my waist. He held me there, firm yet gentle, like I was something precious. I felt dizzy and weightless. The world spun one way and I the other, out of control. I didn't care. It was exactly what I wanted to feel. Exactly how I'd always imagined a kiss should feel.Yet I wanted more. The kiss filled me with longing that clawed at my heart. It wasn't enough. Not nearly enough.I didn't want to break the kiss, but I did. He lowered his hands, setting me free. His face was shrouded by shadows; his hair fell across his eyes. I couldn't see how the kiss had affected him, but I could feel vibrations of desire coming off him in waves. His need was palpable.I set my glass down on the little wrought iron table and turned back to Ben. I sidled closer and went to put my arms around his neck.He pulled away and backed into the wall of the house. His chest rose and fell with his hard breaths. He swore softly.A fist closed over my heart and squeezed until it bled. "Why?" My voice shook and the word came out as a whisper, but it was all I could manage."I..." His own voice sounded distant and thin. "We can't. I can't. Not with you.""Why?" I asked again, softly. I was afraid that if I spoke louder, I might shatter. "Give me a good reason, Ben, and I won't bother you again."He crossed his arms over his chest. "You and me...we're wrong together. I'm so sorry.""I said a good reason." My brain was beginning to work again, but my body still felt numb from the rejection."You, this place, everybody...it's all too...perfect.""What?" It didn't make sense. He was pushing me away because he thought I was perfect. "For starters, I'm so not perfect.""You are to me."My breath left me in a whoosh. I blinked at him, tried to work out if he was joking. But he didn't laugh. His eyes twinkled like stars, and then he looked down at his feet. In the instant our gazes had connected, I could tell that he seemed surprised that he'd said it too."You don't know me well enough," was all I could manage."Yeah," he said. "What's with that?" It wasn't an answer, but I didn't think I was going to get a better one out of him. "Look, Kate. I may not know everything about you, but I can see that you're a good person. You offered me this opportunity without judging me first. Most people would have just let me pass on through. You're funny and kind, not just to me but to Jane and even Mrs. Merriweather.""So?""So...you have this stupid, blind belief that I'm more than I am. I'm not, and I'm not right for you. Not even for a night. Especially for a night. Besides, there are people worrying about you and expecting me to treat you like a gentleman would treat a lady.""Are you talking about my parents?""And Jane. I'm sure the waitress in the diner is worried too, and maybe dozens more townsfolk.""You're rejecting me because of Winter?"He pushed off from the wall. I could just make out the flash of anger in his eyes, the grim set of his mouth as he came toward me. "I'm trying to be the good guy here. I gave my word that I wouldn't hurt you, and I'm trying to keep it. Don't make this any harder than it already is.""Having sex with me doesn't mean you're going to hurt me, Ben.""Maybe not, but I don't want to destroy the trust everyone has put in me."I threw up my hands. "It shouldn't be about anyone else! It should be about you and me.""I can't, Kate. I've come too far to break that kind of promise now, even to virtual strangers.""What the hell does that mean?"He shook his head and looked away."Okay, Mystery Man, I get it. You can have secrets. Fine. I have no right to ask what they are. We're just two adults attracted to each other, nothing more, so I don't see why we can't act on it. We have one night, Ben. One night to have a little fun together." I poked my finger into his chest. "And another thing. I'm not perfect. Not by a long shot. If my parents knew what I got up to at college, they'd be horrified. I've slept with more guys in the last three years than I care to talk about. I've smoked God knows what, I've skipped class, and last month I woke up in the gutter without any underwear. See? I'm not fucking perfect!"My tirade was followed by complete silence. Even the birds must have gone to sleep. Then Ben laughed. His chuckle started low in his chest and became a full rumble bubbling out of him."You woke up without your underwear?" he said. "What the hell happened to it?"I tried to contain my smile. My little tirade seemed ridiculous all of a sudden. "I don't know. I never found it. There's a good chance I wasn't wearing any in the first place."He laughed so loudly I worried he'd wake up Jane and Mrs. M. "Okay, I'll agree that you've got a few personality quirks. But I still think you're perfect."Tears stung my eyes. "Well," I said, breathing deeply. "I've never been rejected so nicely before. It sucks, by the way.""Hey," he murmured. "Are you crying?""No." I bit my wobbly lip."Look, I better go to bed.""It's early.""Yeah, but being here alone with you...I know I'll do something I'll regret."I watched him walk away, my blood throbbing in my veins. I didn't get it. I just didn't. There had to be something more to it than him giving my dad his word. And how did sleeping with me for one night constitute hurting me anyway? I was a goddamned willing partner.My head ached too much to think. I gathered up the glasses and washed them in the kitchen before heading upstairs too. Jane was breathing softly, and I could hear Ben's footsteps lightly padding across his floor next door.I read with the lamp on for a while then switched it off. I spent the next few hours tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable. Sleeping in a strange bed always takes time to get used to, but this was different. My senses were on heightened alert, aware that Ben was just on the other side of the wall. I could almost believe that I could hear him breathing, but that was crazy.Then I did hear something. Moaning? I sat up and pressed my ear to the wall."No," he said. It was muffled, but I was sure that's what he'd said. "No!" he said again. Who was he talking to?I glanced at Jane, but she was still sound asleep. I got up and crept out of our room. I was about to knock on his door when he said "No" again. I opened the door and peered in.He lay on his side on top of the bedcovers in nothing but shorts, his arms folded over his bare chest. A tattoo of a small bird in flight decorated one shoulder. I drank in the magnificent sight of all that muscle and smooth skin, resisting the urge to trace the tattoo wings. My attention was quickly drawn to his face as he murmured something in his sleep. His eyes were squeezed shut and his mouth twisted as if in pain. He was having a nightmare.I couldn't let him endure it a moment longer. I gently touched his arm. "Ben, wake up."His eyes flew open, and he shoved my hand away. Then he seemed to relax as he registered who was with him. "Kate! Did you...what are you doing here?""This." I kissed him.
C.J. loves reading stories that take her away to another world. If she’s in the middle of an amazing book, she’ll keep reading while cooking or cleaning (when she can be bothered doing either).
She likes interesting artwork but can’t paint, sketch or make anything more complicated than a snowman from plasticine. She enjoys beautiful gardens but hates gardening. She also hates housework, cooking (see above) and writing about herself.
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