Here's a little sneak peek of the first chapter from my upcoming book, To The Steadfast.
Preorder today before it releases on August 31st.
Resolute. Firm. Unwavering
That was my love for him.
Steadfast for as long as I can remember.
As my best friend's brother, he ignored me before noticing me. He protected me, bought me my first beer, but eventually became my undoing.
There was a time I would have died to get him to notice me, now I'd do anything to forget him.
I'm not the one who can tame him, and he's not the guy who will change for me.
This isn't a story about falling in love, this is a story about falling out of love.
And finding the strength to move on.
Here's to the steadfast.
*This is a standalone story that crosses years from YA into NA genre, due to HEAVY subject matter this book is for ages 16 and up. This is not your typical love story.*
I SWING MY LEG OVER the edge of the windowsill, almost hitting the nightstand before landing on the hardwood floor below my feet.
“Shhh!” Violet hisses from behind me. It’s barely audible over the pounding of my heart, but my adrenaline allows me to figure it out and soften my steps as I tiptoe away from the window in her older brother’s room. Tonight ranks in the top ten of things I’m sure I’ll go to hell for. Right up there next to lying, cursing at my mom, and that one time when I was ten and stole a candy bar from the drugstore.
I’m not entirely proud of myself at this moment, but it’s not as bad as most of the things I do. It’s just sneaking out to an all-night party. All teenagers have to try it at least once, right?
Normally we don’t need to sneak out, but Violet’s parents grounded her and nailed her window shut after they caught her climbing out it a few months ago. Funny thing is, she wasn’t so much trying to climb out of it as she was trying to sneak in one of her many conquests. That’s Violet for you. A devil in the disguise of a sixteen-year-old girl. Her parents are obsessed with making sure she doesn’t get pregnant before she turns eighteen. Just another mouth to feed, they say. It’s not like they’re the best role models anyway. Some might even say they have a jacked up sense of morals.
“A little help here?” Violet asks, her body straddling the window with her black mini skirt riding high up on her hips. I move to grab her hand to help her in, but her brother, Mischa, gives her a boost from outside, causing her to go flying forward. I try to grab her, but the drunk aren’t the most coordinated, and she lands head first on the ground.
“Dammit, Mischa! Are you trying to wake up Mom and Dad?”
“Sorry,” Mischa says, climbing in after his sister. He swoops in feet first, followed by his torso before turning and shutting the window behind him.
“Don’t breathe just yet, we still need to make it to my room,” Violet says before putting her ear to the door and listening to make sure no one is out in the hallway. I do the same, hearing nothing but the static of the old television that’s left on twenty-four hours a day.
Her parents have a tendency to roam the halls at all hours of the night. It’s not unusual for strangers to appear on their doorstep in the middle of the night. They knock until Violet’s father, whom everyone refers to as Crumb, gets out of bed, cursing the entire time, and gives them what they want. A fix is a fix, and an addict doesn’t have manners. At least, the ones I’ve met.
“Okay, I got you back in, now hurry and get to bed.” Mischa pulls his shirt over his head, flips his MP3 player on, and flops onto the bed still wearing his shoes and jeans.
“Shut up, Mischa. I’m not spending the entire summer grounded,” Violet slurs, but this only makes him laugh. When he catches me staring, I divert my eyes from his smooth chest and pretend to be staring off into space.
She throws a random dirty shirt at the bed before sliding to the floor with her back against the door and puts her face in her hands. I bend down beside her to feel her clammy forehead and place a wastebasket in front of her.
“Please don’t puke,” I beg as I pull pieces of her purple streaked hair away from her face. Violet’s had a lot to drink, but not enough to cause alarm. She’ll be fine.
“Did you have fun tonight, Cody?” she asks me.
“So much fun.” I press a kiss to her cheek as her eyes close and stand. I’ll give her a few minutes to get her stamina back and then we’ll go back to her room.
“I’m tired,” Mischa mumbles. “You wanted to go to Driller’s party; I snuck you out for a ride. Now for the last time, it’s almost morning, so get back to Violet’s room before my parents wake and figure out you’ve been out all night.”
I give him a slightly frazzled look, but decide to egg him on by refusing to leave.
“Did you have fun tonight, Mischa?” I ask, repeating his sister’s drunken words from a few seconds ago.
“Just as much as you did.” Mischa groans. “And I saw how much fun you were having making out with that bowtie guy.”
Bowtie guy has a name, but I can’t remember it. I think I may have had a class with him freshman year. It doesn’t really matter though. He was cute, available, and in the right place at the right time. Putting my hands on my hips, I wink. “A little jealous are we?”
He isn’t amused. Instead, the muscles in his face tighten up, and he straightens up as if he’s trying to make a very serious point. “I don’t get jealous, especially not over you.”
I do the normal teenage eye rolling and pull a half-empty bottle of cheap vodka off his dresser. I don’t want to go.
“Let’s play a game,” I say. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
His eyebrow raises, a cheesy grin taking over his face.
“Get your head out of the gutter, Mischa. It’s more of a show and tell. I’ll show you some random amazing talent, and if you can do it too, I have to take a shot. If the other person can’t do it, they take a shot. Got it?”
“Where do you come up with these random drinking games?”
I tap my pointer finger against my skull. “I’m an amazing drunk.”
He nods at the spot next to him. “Let’s play then.”
Opening the bottle, I pass it to him before sitting down on the old, lumpy mattress.
“Okay, me first. Can you do this?” I grab my lipstick from my pocket and balance it between my breasts.
“Hell, no.” Mischa chuckles as I apply a smudge free application.
“Tada!” I smack my lips at him.
He gives a slow clap. “First off, you did not just Breakfast Club me,” he says referring to our favorite movie. “ Second, I don’t have breasts so that was completely unfair.” He tries to hand me the bottle, but I push it into his chest.
“Drink up, loser.”
He takes a long swig, his first all night since he was our designated driver.
Prying the drink from his fingers, I lean back against the headboard and kick off my heels to await his retaliation. Mischa is such a quiet mystery. The only talent I’m aware of that he possesses is making half the town fall in love with him. He gathers his dark hair into a ponytail, the front strands falling out of his grasp, and cracks his neck a few times like he’s preparing for a big fight. Reaching into the top drawer of his dresser, he pulls out a Rubik's Cube. “Speaking of fads from the eighties, I can finish this puzzle in fifteen seconds.”
“No way,” I shriek softly, crossing my arms in front of my chest.
He responds by putting his hand over my mouth and nodding towards the door. Mischa and I have gone to the same school our entire lives, and even though, at seventeen, he’s only a year older than me, I know that Mischa Cromwell is not a prodigy. He’s one of the guys who sits in the back doodling in a notebook, making wise cracks every time the teacher asks him a question.
“Believe it, but this stays between me and you,” he says, giving the cube to me. I mix it up the best I can, even hiding it behind my back so he can’t memorize the moves. Satisfied, I give it back to him and grab the old brass clock on his nightstand to time the seconds. Before I begin counting, he inspects all the sides and gives me this slightly evil grin like he knows the secret to life or something.
“Ready, set, and go!”
Mischa begins spinning the pieces so fast I can hardly keep up. It’s like he doesn’t even stop to think as his fingers spin the sides into place. Suddenly, he throws the cube on the bed and sits up before hitting his chest in a victorious man thump. I pick up the cube, all the colored pieces back in their original spots.
So caught up in the glory of his secret, I’d forgotten to time him, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind he did that in less than fifteen seconds. “You should be in the Guinness Book of World Records or something.” I take a swig of the vodka because there is no way on earth I will be able to do that. Now I’ve been a straight-A student my entire life, until recently that is, and I have never been able to solve a Rubik's cube, not even close. I can barely finish a Sudoku puzzle.
“Why haven’t you ever shown anyone?”
He shrugs, pulls the bottle from my hands, and empties it in one long chug.
“What other things have you been hiding from the world?” I ask. Five minutes ago, I was pretty positive Mischa was a borderline idiot. All I’ve ever seen him do is goof off in class, skip school, and flirt with half the girls when he is there.
“I can pretty much solve any equation in my head.”
“Quick, what’s the square of 987?”
Mischa’s eyes close for a brief moment as he calculates the number. “I’m a little tipsy, but I believe it is 974,169.
My mouth drops in amazement. “Hell if I know, but it sounds right. Why in the hell are you not already in college or something? You’re like Doogie Howser with better hair. I bet you could get any scholarship you wanted.”
His mouth tightens as he opens another bottle of alcohol from his nightstand and flops down on the bed beside me. He drinks about half the bottle before speaking.
“Teachers don’t care about me. They take one look at my name and automatically dub me as a troublemaker. I’m expected to fail before I even begin. Everything I know comes from experience or the local library. I’m pretty much a self-proclaimed autodidact.”
“It doesn’t help that you never come to class,” I point out.
“School is boring. I’d rather learn what I want to learn. Besides, not all of us get the privilege of having parents who support our education.”
“You think my parents support me?” I scoff. Boy does he have it all wrong.
Violet snorts from her spot by the bedroom door before mumbling something. I completely forgot she is passed out over there. Suddenly feeling hot, I lift my long brown hair that’s stuck to the back of my neck and fan myself.
“I guess we better get back to Violet’s room.”
All I want is to pass out before her parents start blasting Rush on the record player. God-forbid teenagers sleep in on a Saturday morning.
“Can I have my keys back?” I hold out my hand. He gives me a mysterious grin before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small gold keychain. He dangles them above my head, beyond my reach.
“Can you say please?”
I swipe at them once, remembering why I find him so irritating at times. “You’re drunk. Stop messing around.”
He lowers the keys a bit. When I reach out, he lifts them higher just to spite me. “Now come on. No reason to act that way. You know you love me.”
My face heats, which I hope he doesn’t notice in the dim moonlight. If he only knew.
“I hate you, Mischa Cromwell.”
“No, you don’t. You love me. All the girls love me.”
Now there’s the Mischa I know, the Mischa the whole town sees, not the polymath from a few moments ago. “That’s disgusting. You’re Violet’s brother.”
“So?” He lets the key dangle down further near his crotch, but this time allows me to snatch it from his hand.
I give him an appalled sigh. “Thank you. And for your information, you’re too old for me.”
“Now come on. I’m seventeen, you’re sixteen, and you know what they say about girls maturing faster.”
“Are you asking me out?” I ask, only half-serious. There’s no way he’s serious. We’ve only ever been friends, if you can even call us that.
He stills, thinking over what I said. “No, I don’t date.”
It’s surprisingly painful to hear, but I keep a still expression. Violet is territorial over her brother, having been used in the past by girls just trying to get close to him. “Violet would kill you.”
I attempt to walk over to where my best friend lay passed out on the floor, but he grabs my hand. My blood pressure quickens. The hormones pulse through my veins, begging me to slap him and jump him at the same time. Ten minutes ago, I would have jumped him with no hesitation. The problem is, this is just a game to him. Flirting with all of Violet’s friends. We’ve attended dozens of parties, spent hours in the car together, and even slept in the same bed, but I’ve always been sexually invisible to him.
Since I was fourteen, I’d spent every waking moment trying to get Mischa Cromwell to notice me. I’d parade around in cute little clothes and walk past his locker. For years, I lived in the shadows of every other prettier, skinnier girl. I’d see him on the street, at the diner, at the fair, and wish he’d look my way. He was the town bad boy. The guy all the parents warned their daughters about. Last year, the greatest thing happened. Violet was assigned to me for private tutoring in the after-school program and suddenly we were best friends. I had my in, and we stayed friends long after she stopped needing help in Algebra.
“I can’t help it you got so hot. What happened to your...” He puts his fingers to the bridge of his nose.
“I got contacts.” I instinctively reach up and run my fingers across my eyebrows.
“And the…” He nods to my chest with a look of hunger in his eyes.
I cross my hands in front my low cut shirt and take a slow, deep breath to keep myself from fainting.
Don’t pass out.
But he’s flirting with you. Really flirting with you.
“I’ve obviously grown up.”
“You sure have.” He wiggles his tongue at me in a way that makes my insides molten hot. He grabs my arm and pulls me onto the bed with him. As we hit the mattress, I can already feel him hard against my thighs.
“You’re drunk, Mischa,” I say, pretending to play hard to get. Violet being passed out in the corner is the only thing stopping me from kissing him right here and now, just to see what it’s like. I think with my heart, he thinks with his dick. It’s a messy situation if you ask me. A ticking time bomb for failure. He pushes my brown hair off my face and looks me in the eyes.
“I’ve always admired you, Cody.”
I push off of him into a standing position and walk over to Violet and kick her with the edge of my shoe.
“Violet, wake up. We’re in Mischa’s room.”
She stirs and opens her eyes slightly. “How did we get in here?”
“We just got home, remember? We need to get in your room before your parents wake.”
I bend down and throw her arm over my shoulder. She’s smaller than me by almost five inches and at least four sizes. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and beautiful. All the things guys go crazy for.
“Driller’s having another party tomorrow night. You guys wanna go?” Mischa says, hopping off the bed and sprinting across the room towards me.
“Yes!” Violet’s eyes pop open and she smiles as if she’s been awake for hours and not recently passed out.
“Whoa!” I cry out.
“Shhh!” She sprays my face with the smallest bit of spit, and I wipe it away with a look of disgust.
“Say it, don’t spray it.”
Her eyes are glassy, but she still manages to slur out some words. “Let’s go.”
“Come on.” Mischa sticks out his bottom lip causing the cutest dimple to show in his left cheek. I can’t say no to that face. His eyes sparkle with amusement as if he knows exactly what he’s doing to me.
“Mischa…I have a date tomorrow night.”
“With who? Some little boy? This will be more fun.”
Violet joins in with him by placing her arms in front of her in a pleading pose. “Is it with that jerk, Aaron? Why do you put up with him?”
With an exasperated sigh, I drop my shoulders. “Because my dad won’t let me date unless he picks out the guy, you know this, Violet.”
“Well, he picks entitled assholes. Did you know that?”
Mischa spins around and falls back on his bed. “Well, bring him along.”
“We’ll see.” There’s no way I’m putting Aaron and Mischa in the same car. That would be weird.
Violet and I sneak back to her bedroom, locking the door behind us. After lying down on her twin-size mattress, I curl up next to her and close my eyes.
I can’t open my eyes. Sleep is so close. “Huh?”
“Do you wanna sleep with my brother?”
I’m not sure what to tell her. She knows I’ve had a little bit of a crush on him since middle school, but she doesn’t know the extent.
“Why do you ask?”
“You two were flirting back there.”
“I thought you were asleep,” I accuse. “Why? Would you be mad?”
She doesn’t answer right away. “Not really, but it would be weird.”
She’s lying, I can tell. I decide to ease her mind. “Don’t worry. I’m not about to become another notch on his bedpost. I don’t know why everyone thinks he’s so hot.” Lies, all lies. I know exactly why all the girls love him.
“I know, right?” She makes a gagging noise.
“He’s average.” Maybe I’m trying to convince myself more than convince her. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter. And with those last words, I roll over and try and savor the one solid hour of sleep I’ll probably get.