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Forever Right Now
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***STANDALONE new adult romance from the author of The Butterfly Project and the Full Tilt Duet***
Darlene Montgomery has been to hell and back…more than once. After a stint in jail for drug possession, she is finally clean and ready to start over. Yet another failed relationship is just the motivation she needs to move from New York to San Francisco with the hopes of resurrecting her dance career and discovering that she is more than the sum of her rap sheet. As Darlene struggles in her new city, the last thing she wants is to become entangled with her handsome—but cranky—neighbor and his adorable little girl…
Sawyer Haas is weeks away from finishing law school, but exhaustion, dwindling finances, and the pressure to provide for himself and his daughter, Olivia, are wearing him down. A federal clerkship–a job he desperately needs–awaits him after graduation, but only if he passes the Bar Exam. Sawyer doesn’t have the time or patience for the capricious—if beautiful—dancer who moves into the apartment above his. But Darlene’s easy laugh and cheerful spirit seep into the cracks of his hardened heart, and slowly break down the walls he’s resurrected to keep from being betrayed ever again.
When the parents of Olivia’s absentee mother come to fight for custody, Sawyer could lose everything. To have any chance at happiness, he must trust Darlene, the woman who has somehow found her way past his brittle barbs, and Darlene must decide how much of her own bruised heart she is willing to give to Sawyer and Olivia, especially when the ghosts of her troubled past refuse to stay buried.
For readers 18 and up
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August 15, 10 months ago
I barely heard the doorbell under the pounding music and the laughing conversations of a hundred of my closest friends. Jackson Smith jerked his head at me from across the room, a shit-eating grin on his face. He was dressed as Idris Elba’s Roland the Gunslinger, to my Man in Black. Across the crowd of costumed guests—each dressed as a villain from movies or comics—he mouthed the words, Your turn.
I widened my eyes and inclined my head at the beautiful redhead in the Poison Ivy costume beside me. She was a second year at Hastings, asking me for advice about which professors were the hardest in Year Three, my year, but I don’t think she was listening. Her gaze kept drifting down to my mouth.
Jackson shook his head and made eyes at the pretty Nurse Ratchet beside him, then held up his hands in an exaggerated shrug.
I sighed at my best friend, and scratched my eye with my middle finger.
“I gotta get that,” I told Poison Ivy. I think she said her name was Carly or Marly. Not that it mattered. Her name wasn’t what I wanted from her. I flashed her what my friends called my trademark panty-dropping smile. “Save my spot?”
Carly-or-Marly nodded and tilted her own approving smile back. “Not going anywhere.”
“Good,” I said, and the way our eyes met and held was like a pact being sealed.
I’m going to get laid tonight.
I shot Jackson a triumphant smile, which he answered with a two-finger-gun salute. I laughed and wound my way through our place.
Jackson, myself and two other guys lived in a rented Victorian in the Upper Haight neighborhood. There were no frats at UC Hastings College of the Law, so our three-story house had become the next best thing. Our parties were infamous, and I was happy to see this one was no exception. Guests swayed to “Sex and Candy” playing on Jackson’s state-of-the-art sound system. They smiled at me, thumped me on the back, or leaned in to shout drunkenly above the music that this Evil-Doer party was “The Best Party Ever.” I just smiled back and nodded.
Every party of ours was “The Best Party Ever.”
I opened the door; a charming smile and an excuse on my lips should it be one of my neighbors complaining about the noise. My smile dropped off my face like a mask and I stared.
A young woman with dark hair tied in a messy ponytail, strands falling loose to frame her narrow face, stared back at me. Her eyes were shadowed and bloodshot. She wore faded jeans, a stained shirt, and she struggled under the weight of an enormous bag on her shoulder. Old alcohol oozed out of her pores—the stench of someone who’d got plastered the night before.
The vision before me warred with a hazy memory of this same girl, wild and laughing next to me at a bar; tossing down drinks like they were water; kissing me in a cab. The taste of vodka and cranberry came to my lips, and then her name.
“Hi, Sawyer,” she said, and shifted a baby in her arms.
My stomach tightened and my balls tried to crawl back into my guts. The hazy memory became stark and vibrant, with brutal clarity.
A little more than a year ago. A summer trip to Vegas. A kiss in the cab had led to a drunken night of lustful tumbling on Molly’s bed in her tiny apartment and a half-heard assurance that she was on the pill. And then I was inside her without a fucking care in the world.
The words fell out of my mouth. “Oh shit.”
Molly barked a nervous laugh and shifted the huge, overstuffed nylon bag on her other arm. “Yeah, well, here we are,” she said, and stood on tiptoe to peek over my shoulder. “Having a party? Looks epic. Sorry to just show up like this but…”
I stepped into the hallway and closed the door behind me. The music and laughter cut in half, became distant. My eyes darted to the baby bundled in a faded blanket with yellow teddy bears on it, stained and grimy. My heart panged against my chest like a heavy drum.
“What…What are you doing here?”
“I was in the city,” Molly said, swallowing hard, her eyes not meeting mine. “I wanted to introduce you.”
Molly swallowed again and looked up at me as if it took effort. “Can I come in? Can we…talk? Just for a minute. I don’t want to ruin your party.”
Shock had turned me stupid. I’d been valedictorian of my class at UCSF, now a straight-A law student at Hastings, reduced to repeating the last thing I heard like a parrot. My glance darting to the baby whose face was bundled out of sight.
Introduce me. Holy fuck.
I blinked, shook my head. “Yeah, uh, sure. Come in.”